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An ‘upful’ nation in deadly times: lessons from liberation history

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Amilcar Cabral’s three principles for nation building. In St Vincent and the Grenadines today, a quiet terror is stalking the society and stealing our joy. It is more than the naked celebration of violence and festival of assassinations that we tolerate, if not enjoy, as media stories; it is deeper than our social surrender to manipulation and mamaguy by our processes of governance; it may even be more depraved than the studied evil of our moral and religious stalwarts, who hear cries of oppression, see the havoc wreaked by criminal taskmasters, smell the odours of cancerous effluent from the structure of our economy and vent their spleen on trivial partisan ‘commess’ and partying.

The terror is the rot inside us. The terrorist is our leaderships that have fed themselves on the blood of our colonial consciousness and left us with zombie solidarities, running behind fig leaves and figments of an empty future. The terror is quiet, but the weakness of our backbone is a sign that it is real. I’ve checked my own several times and yes, my backbone is shrinking. We are not a nation. We stand together on no ground, neither the matter of government accountabilities, the breakdown of agriculture… there is no agriculture week, is there? Or the protection of our fish resources and employment incentivisation for young people. We are heading to become a graveyard ecosystem.

And yet the option that we face is not simply to muster a recovery of our national spirit, because the colonial structures and mindset are still in force. What we are called to do is launch a careful nation building crusade or revolution that will inspire the liberation of various sectors. It will not work if we try to pour new wine into old colonial wineskins. And this is where we need to get guidance from our history of struggle, its triumphs and failures, as well as from those who have walked this way before us. We must not fight the terror with counter-terror, colonialist whitewash with anti-colonial blackwash. The times demand more from us. In these deadly times, the raising of an UPFUL nation that is both an uplifting and upbuilding of our people, our nation-space, our intellectual and ethical culture and our place in the region and world, cannot be an election manifesto proposal. It begins in deep community resurgences, beyond the reach of existing political parties and, as Amilcar Cabral postulated, it is such a liberation process and personnel that become the nation building power.

In fact, Cabral, that exemplary West African thinker and liberation strategist, who was assassinated by a Portuguese agent months before his movement became the independence governors of Guinea Bissau, is a reliable theoretical and visionary mentor for our purposes. Three of his principles seem to me to be worth our close attention, especially as they are transparently violated in our SVG. I hope to return to them when Round Table reopens next week. The three fundamental precepts are as follows:

1. The nation building movement or party must be a student, teacher and practitioner of democratic governance. In other words one cannot build a free, democratic nation unless the vehicle leading the independence struggle practises transparent, participatory democracy itself.

2. The independent (UPFUL) nation is the vision ethics and policy of the liberation movement exercising democratic governance.

3. The most severe contradictions or conflicts that the nation building movement and governing apparatus faces come from inside/within the movement, not from the enemy outside.

At the funeral of Kwame Nkrumah, Cabral concluded that “Betrayal” is the cancer destroying the nation building process.

Let us look at these ideas for our resistance to the Vincentian Terror.

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