Defending The Indefensible: Nkrumahism

Tue, 17 Jan 2012 Source: Baidoo, Philip Kobina

Marxism, better known as communism, and euphemistically called socialism, is the single worse political and economic ideology that ever happened to the world, and for that matter Africa. This cancerous ideology metastasized in the minds of our pre-independence leaders and succeeded in keeping two generations of Ghanaians poor and destitute. It shocks my imagination that we are still fighting over its legitimacy when it’s been long buried in its spiritual homeland. Before its death it mutated into an ideological virus that most youngsters succumb to, however, the majority manage to grow out of it. Even so, the few that surrender to its romanticism manage to cause huge untold damage to the larger society.

I am threading on this dangerous minefield due to an article I read in this forum a couple days ago on my random daily browsing of the site entitled ‘Our Socialism History and Confusion’ published on 22/12/2009 – it is chloroform on the web. I have never seen such semantics and intellectual gymnastics deployed by a writer to evade the obvious and paint the fundamental beliefs of Nkrumah in a favourable light. The confusion stems from how to continue with the brand vis-à-vis his perceptions and practice of the system for the creation of wealth, which collapsed in 1989. He strenuously argued that Nkrumahism is conscienncism and is poles apart from socialism, which is true. But the basic theme of consciencism has got nothing to do with what he tried to dodge; it is inherently the philosophy and the ideology for decolonization of Africa. The proof of Nkrumah’s economics and political thoughts is not found in what he wrote but what he practiced. The white elephants that litters the length and breadth of the country are evidence too numerous to catalogue.

Nkrumah without doubt is a captivating statesman. If you read or listen to his speeches, the sheer magnitude of his rhetoric and poetics, the cadence in his delivery style does not fail to mesmerise if words like colonialism and imperialism strike a chord. As a child I was enthralled by it and could memorise whole passages and drunk deep at his famous quotes. As a young adult I was a socialist personified; seasoned in leftist ideologies like most youngsters with precocious minds, but I grew and learned other isms.

To be honest socialism in theory is wonderful, beautiful, and almost godlike in its basic tenets, but the problem lies in its practice - it doesn't work. Even the beauty of its theory was exposed for its latent evil long before Marx came along by Jean Jacque Rousseau, the progenitor of modern socialism during the age of enlightenment with his Social Contract. He wrote: ‘whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be constrained to do so by the whole body, which means nothing other than he shall be forced to be free.’ And he fell flat to modern sensibilities when wrote that any person who doesn’t conform to his world must be put to death. Now, compare the following famous quote of Nkrumah: ‘capitalism is too complicated a system for a newly independent nation. Hence the need for a socialist society. But even a system based on social justice and a democratic constitution may need backing up, during the period following independence by emergency measures of a totalitarian kind.’ Here you have fragments of Rousseauian intolerance floating in the air. There is no doubt that socialism is what he believed in; what he chose to call it is immaterial. It was a British political and economic ideologist, Anthony Fisher, who said: ‘Communism is the poison offered to the people, socialism is the cup in which it is given and welfare state is the tempting label on the bottle. It is very tempting in the sense that when it is spelt out by a talented political demagogue it is almost heavenly in its theoretical state. And heaven is where it should be, because they that try to produce heaven on earth end up being demonic.

The first documented socialist community, and I stand to be corrected if I am wrong, was the early Christian church of Jerusalem. All the members agreed to share everything in common without any compulsion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and even that failed when the members began to cheat. They tried to solve it initially with lethal force when the first culprits were struck down dead by the Holy Spirit. In the end the community became so poor St Paul had to resort to beggary through offerings to support them during his missionary work. If such a community could not get socialism to work what makes anybody think that they can do it? Robespierre, the leader of the French revolution, adopted the socialist policies of Rousseau, which engendered terrible atrocities – inventing the infamous guillotine in the process. Just over a century down the line, Lenin knowing all the carnage the French revolution produced thought himself smarter. The best the Soviets could offer was the Gulag, which claimed the lives of 20 million of its citizens. The Chinese gave us the Iron Rice Bowl that ensured the murder of 40 million of its nationals when they implemented their communist ideology. The Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot murdered between 1.7 million to 3 million of their fellow countrymen though he had a firsthand knowledge of what was going on in China. Cambodia was a tragedy because the victims of Russia and China were a drop in the ocean regarding their population. The evil deeds of the Khmer Rouge claimed a fifth of the country’s population. At a point in time a third of the world’s population lived under a government that referred to themselves as socialist or communist. You can just imagine what all those people went through. Ghana did not experience anything comparable to the killing field of Cambodia or events behind the Iron Curtain, but ideas like the intolerable one party state is a pointer to what could have happened if events had not changed. How can anyone practice a system that requires the killing and maiming of their own people in order to get to their promise land?

The above refers to the extreme manifestation of that evil system. Now let us look at a more benign form of it. The phrase brain drain, which is as ubiquitous as the word politics in the Ghanaian media was first coined by the British when they started losing their intellectual to the United States and Canada. It was caused by the Labour party implementing their socialist agenda when they won power in 1945 fuelled by their mantra of creating the New Jerusalem. Their economy already beaten by war lost its remaining pillars and started deteriorating. In the end it was Margaret Thatcher, who is hated for nothing, that came to save the British economy amid pitch battles in coalfields. When the British people finally realised the insanity of Labour’s socialist policies they had to ditch their historical clause 4 in order to win back power after 19 years of conservative government. In our own backyard not many people know that there was a famous bet between President Nkrumah and Houphouët-Boigny as to which country’s economy will perform better with the latter knowing that Nkrumah was committed to government control of the Ghanaian economy. As I write there is a huge presence of Ghanaian expatriates in Ivory Coast. One does not need to write an essay to explain why. Before the unification of Germany the sharp contrast between the poverty in the East and the affluent West couldn’t be ignored. This should be an eye opener since these were the same people with common culture, history and technological advancement. The dividing line was the capitalist policies of the West, which brought them prosperity and the socialist policies of the East that grinded them at the wheels of poverty.

I am not going to bore you further with countless examples but my submission is socialism doesn’t work. The only times socialism have a meaningful impact are during times of emergency – for example, after a serious natural disaster such as flood. Even when natural disaster begins to occur with predictable regularity people begin to question why the victims constantly expose themselves to the elements.

Communism and socialism collapsed long time ago and it saddens me that we are still scavenging in its rubbles. CPP can do well to abandon socialism and build a party based on integrity with characters of sharpened determination and sterling political skill to shovel it away. We are all born with different talents and abilities. Some are sloppy and lazy others are intelligent and hard working and the latter are the crop that moves nations forward. And what socialism does is to destroy such superior abilities that build nations; the practice of socialism is like chasing a mirage – it is an unattainable ideal.

On a parting thought. The idea that we will have to admit that Nkrumah was wrong is the root of the confusion - but wrong he was. After all to err is human, and of course, he will not be the first smart guy to have erred spectacularly. The high priest of his ideology Karl Marx famously declared that communism will defeat capitalism. Yet it collapsed hopelessly in 1989 leaving a huge power vacuum that the world is still dealing with its reverberation. Isaac Newton one of the smartest man that ever lived thought he could manage social events like he did in his laboratory and failed when he became the Master of the Mint in England. The list is endless. The cult of Nkrumah will forever remain as long as there is a nation call Ghana. The position he occupies in Ghanaian political history cannot be wrestled away from him. Nobody can deny the fact that he had the interest of the nation at heart. The problem is the route he chose to get the country to its promise land. We have to celebrate him as a leader who selflessly fought for our independence and not retrogressively try to keep his name alive by implementing his dead economic and social policies.

Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr.



Columnist: Baidoo, Philip Kobina