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Kwame Nkrumah George Padmore The CIA 1

Thu, 8 May 2014 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

In “Kwame Nkrumah—The CIA Connection (2)” we advanced some bold general claims dealing with the question of why we believe internal conditions alone could not have resulted in the 1966 coup d’état that overthrew the progressive government of Kwame Nkrumah. Among other reasons given, we also suggested the question be thoroughly looked at within the broader context of the Cold War as well as of Western material interest in Africa’s vast mineral wealth. As regards the local factor, various scholars have hinted at artificial manipulation of Ghana’s economy via clandestine collaborative network linking the West and her local stooges, a condition which created artificial shortages of basic commodities in the local economy and, consequently, contributed to the overall contraction of the national economy. For instance, some scholars have speculated on the prize of cocoa, Ghana’s major cash crop, taking a sharp dip prior to the coup and then enjoying a relative surge in prize following the coup.

As we have already pointed out, however, it was a well-calculated strategy on the part of the West to create internal destabilization problems for Ghana in hopes of pushing the people to overthrow the government of Nkrumah. Mahoney P. Mahoney took great delight in the general success of Western-orchestrated politico-economic decisions making dent in Nkrumah’s popularity and markedly distorting Ghana’s economy (See Paul Lee’s “Documents Expose U.S. Role in Nkrumah Overthrow”; Robert Woode’s “Third World To First World-By One Touch: Economic Repercussions of the Overthrow of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah”). Alternatively, Ama Biney, one of Britain’s leading Nkrumah scholars, has also written: “The memoranda reveal that the plans between the three Western countries went back to February 1964 when the State Department proposed to its British counterpart a plan ‘to induce a chain reaction eventually leading to Nkrumah’s downfall’ (See her book “The Political and Social Thought of Kwame Nkrumah,” p. 155).”

Ama’s is a precise restatement of William P. Mahoney’s ulterior motives in carefully explaining his desire to see Ghana’s economy contract to the point where the masses would rise up against the government of Nkrumah and possibly overthrowing it. And like Paul Lee and several other scholars, Ama Biney’s conclusions are also based on US declassified documents. Thus, what this means is that attempts to get rid of Nkrumah by America, Britain, and France, the three countries Ama refers to in her close assessment of events, had been going in for some time before the actual the coup took effect. Lee confirms Ama’s interpretation of declassified documents and, of course, parenthetically, writes to that effect: “While Mahoney was satisfied that popular opinion was running strongly against Nkrumah and the economy of the country was in a precarious state…Nevertheless, he confidently—, as it turned out—predicted that one way or another Nkrumah would be out within a year.” Lee continues: “Revealing the depth of embassy knowledge of the past, Mahoney referred to a recent report which mentioned that the top coup conspirators were scheduled to meet on 10 March at which time they would determine the timing of the coup.”

The question is, why would the West want to overthrow Nkrumah? Recall, that human rights and governance issues may not have constituted the primary motivating factors, since the West, particularly America, staunchly backed the Apartheid Nationalist Government of South Africa, subjected Black America to Jim Crowism, and planted, propped up, or nursed dictatorial regimes around the world during the same period she was planning Nkrumah’s overthrow. It will do this essay some good to put America in the proper historical (and contemporary) context. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote poignantly of America: “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettoes without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today…my own government…Five years ago [the late John F. Kennedy] said, ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. Increasingly, this is the role our nation has taken’ (See Dr. King’s “A Time to Break Silence”).”

This bold statement on the moral indictment of America’s political and social waywardness is factually Chomskyan and undermines the variables of human rights and governance issues as useful or reliable explanatory causation of the coup. On the other hand, if these issues were the West’s central motivation for pursuing regime change in Ghana, then, in hindsight, as the ‘liberal” behavior of Western “democracy” has shown, Nkrumah should have been the West’s darling, since unconscionable social characters and political reprobates like KA Busia and JB Danquah had chosen to use terrorism, rather than democratic instruments of franchise and due process, to force their way to the corridor of power, an untenable, unacceptable, and unimaginable situation in the West, then and now. It makes a huge difference in terms of political morality when attempts on Nkrumah’s life began to take shape after 1957, the year of the Gold Coast’s independence.

Again, those important politico-historical considerations dealing with critical theories aimed at understanding Western dislike of Nkrumah cannot be sufficiently evaluated outside their immediate Cold War context. As well, according to Paul Lee, on March 11, 1965, a year before the coup took off, William P. Mahoney, the then-U.S. ambassador to Ghana, did take part in a discussion with John A. McCone, CIA Director, and the deputy chief of the CIA’s African division, in which “topic one” centered upon the “Coup d’état Plot, Ghana.” Lee relies on US declassified Document 251, Document 252, and Document 252 to make his case. Elsewhere, he quotes Robert W. Komer, a National Security Council Staffer, on May 27, 1965, in connection with a classified discussion Komer had with McGeorge Bundy, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, on “the anti-Nkrumah campaign.” Thus he writes of Komer: “The coup in Ghana is another windfall. Nkrumah was doing more to undermine our interests than any other black African.”

This give-away statement by Robert W. Komer goes to the heart of the debate: What exactly was Nkrumah doing to undermine Western interests? It should unequivocally be noted as well that the West essentially saw Nelson Mandela and Patrice Lumumba, to name just two, as stumbling blocks to accessing her geopolitical interests in Africa. In these contexts, Prof. William Minter dedicates Chapter 5 (“The Limits of Cold War Liberalism: Colonial Southern Africa in the Sixties”) of his book “King Solomon’s Mines Revisited: Western Interests and the Burdened History of Southern Africa” to US declassified documents vis-à-vis the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, among other important aspects of Central African politics in respect of the geopolitical context of the Cold War (See also William Minter’s “Invisible Crimes: U.S. Private Intervention in the War in Mozambique” and “Apartheid’s Contras: An Inquiry into the Roots of War in Angola and Mozambique”; Ludo De Witte’s “The Assassination of Lumumba”; Mahoney’s “JFK: Ordeal in Africa”).

Further, regarding the West’s dislike for Patrice Lumumba, his eventual dethronement and assassination with American and Belgian complicities, Prof. Minter sets up for us the historical background of Lumumba’s ideological collision with the West. He writes: “For most Belgians, the proof of unreliability was Lumumba’s speech at the independence ceremonies, when he roused the audience of Congolese legislators by recalling the sufferings and the racial discrimination under colonial rule…For many Belgians, however, the tone and the content of the speech were unforgivable insults.” Prof. Minter then goes on to elaborately explain using US declassified documents to show how the American CIA had collaborated with Belgian authorities, Mobuto Sese Seko, and other Lumumba’s internal enemies in the Katanga region to get rid of him.

Prof. Minter continues: “The intense response to the speech only makes sense when one sees that deference was expected. Here was a black man who dared to speak frankly and with dignity. Among conservative Belgian opinion-makers, and among Eisenhower-administration officials who shared their assumptions, a consensus quickly crystallized that Lumumba was unreliable, anti-Belgian and anti-white, perhaps a communist, and probably even crazy. In the ensuing months, such premises lay behind almost every Western act in the changing Congo drama.” It may be recalled that John F. Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower had harbored similar misgivings about Nkrumah, with both seeing Nkrumah and Lumumba as threats to their interests in Africa. Moreover, after this incident and Lumumba’s subsequent open overtures to the Soviets for military aid to stabilize the country, American foreign policy in Central Africa quickly took on a sudden tone of radicalism toward Lumumba, with the CIA going to work in collaboration with other Western powers, primarily Belgium, to get Lumumba out in order to pave the way for a stooge in his place.

It should also be recalled that Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba were very close and their closeness would incur the clandestine oversight of the West. Further still, both had shared similar ideas on the continental unification of Africa and using the natural wealth of Africa to develop her peoples and the continent, two major threats to Western collective interest, given that the so-called Hamitic Theory and “divide and rule” philosophy, ethnic divisiveness, and ethnocentrism had perpetuated, even reinforced, Western presence on the continent and, consequently, served her interest very well without so much as a hiccup of rebellion from Africans against the long-term economic interests of the Western in Africa. Then, suddenly came a transformative idea of African unification threatening to chip away at the West’s tight grip on Africa and of Nkrumah’s calling on other African leaders to mobilize forces to overthrow racist regimes in Africa.

Nkrumah’s call for an African High Command to defend Africa’s internal interest against foreign interferences may have sent quanta of political jolts down the spine of the colonial masters. These new developments may not have sat well with the metropoles. Admittedly, the late Muammar Gaddafi, the last person who tried so hard trying to bring Nkrumah’s dream alive, would suffer the same fate as Patrice Lumumba’s, Kwame Nkrumah’s, Nelson Mandela’s, Amilcar Cabral’s, and several others’. Having said all that, it is only proper at this juncture to acknowledge George Padmore’s contributions to the formation of the Organization of African Unity, a hardly known historical fact, this, according to Prof. Rupert Lewis, one of the world’s leading authorities on Marcus Garvey (See the book “Caribbean Reasonings, George Padmore, Pan-African Revolutionary,” co-edited by Rupert Lewis and the late Fitzroy Baptiste).

In the global scheme of things, George Padmore, the Father of African Emancipation, was intellectually and politically more influential than Adu Boahen, JB Danquah, and KA Busia combined, although he did not acquire any degree even after attending and taking classes at some of America’s best and elite tertiary institutions, including Columbia University, New York Law School, Fisk University, WEB Du Bois’ alma mater, and Howard University. It should be recalled that the late African-American public intellectual Amiri Baraka, one of 20th-century’s most prolific and influential writers, also attended and took classes at some of America’s elite educational institutions, of which we can mention the New School for Social Research (Mario Puzo’s alma mater; author of the international bestseller “The Godfather”), Rutgers University, and Columbia University, without obtaining a degree. Yet, unlike PhD holders such as JB Danquah, KA Busia, or Adu Boahen, Baraka’s literary works are known, appreciated, and studied the world over.

Interestingly, the life of George Padmore records more formal education than British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill, a Nobel laureate, and John Mayor, two famous politicians whose formal education never went beyond O’Level (high school). How much formal education did the Queen of England who ruled the Gold Coast have? Then again, George Padmore had more formal education than American Presidents Abraham Lincoln and George Zachary Taylor, to mention only two. As a matter of fact, Harry S. Truman went to college but never acquired a degree, so were a good number of American Presidents. Yet the lack of extended or extensive formal education did not prevent these men from impacting the world in significant ways. Michael Toussaint, for instance, writes of Padmore as “one of the foremost figures in the Pan-Africanist Movement of the twentieth century…As a journalist and author of published works on the challenges confronting African-descended people, he significantly influenced the consciousness and ideological orientation of many African-descended thinkers and leaders of his time.”

Again, according Toussaint, George Padmore played an important role in “the struggle for adult suffrage in self-government in Trinidad, the Gold Coast and India.” It also turned out that the British government would organize an “alternative forum,” between 1947 and 1948, to neutralize the political impact accruing from Padmore’s organized Fifth Pan-Africanist Conference (1945). Nkrumah was one of Padmore’s later friends whose presence would grace the conference. Reportedly, Padmore found himself in the company of brilliant thinkers the world over, including the leadership of the Soviet Union, leaders who sought his practical ideas on matters affecting the world. For instance, he headed the Negro Bureau of the Red International Labor Unions (1929) and the German branch of the International Trade Union Committee of Negroes Workers (1931). He also edited Harlem’s “Negro Champion (the Liberator),” the International African Studies Bureau (IASB)’s journal “International African Opinion,” authored a handful of influential books: “Life and Struggle of Negro Toilers,” “Africa and World Peace,” “How Russia Transformed Her Colonial Empire: A Challenge to Imperial Powers,” “Africa: Britain’s Third Empire,” “The Gold Coast Revolution,” “Pan-Africanism or Communism,” and wrote several articles for WEB Du Bois’ “Crisis.”

Once again, on the international scene, Padmore’s “Pan-Africanism or Communism” is more influential than any piece of scholarly work written by JB Danquah, KA Busia, or Adu Boahen. In fact, the British would ban his other influential scholarly work “Africa: Britain’s Third Empire” in the Gold Coast and Kenya. On a different note, the world also courted the creative ideas of his and Nkrumah’s friend, CLR James, a self-taught Trotskyite and brilliant thinker, whose text, “The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution,” is a classic, a standard scholarly work on the geographic history of Haiti and the Caribbean. Again, no single scholarly work by JB Danquah, Adu Boahen, or KA Busia has achieved similar international acclaim as James’. Padmore, on the other hand, also produced a magazine called the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUC-NW) as well as at least 20 pamphlets annually.

These outstanding intellectuals and political heavyweights, along with Thomas Hodgkin, WEB Du Bois, America’s first urban sociologist, Arthur Lewis, a Nobel laureate (Economics), Conor Cruise O’Brien, etc., men and women intellectually and politically taller than the dwarfy likes of Adu Boahen, JB Danquah, and KA Busia, would surround Nkrumah, because, again, unlike Adu Boahen, JB Danquah, or KA Busia, they stood as intellectually and politically tall as Nkrumah. In fact, it was the visionary and great Kwame Nkrumah who would give social meaning to the scholarly work of Adu Boahen and to set his career on a path of national recognition. For that reason, it will not be in the best interest of any ill-informed self-proclaimed intellectual to hang out in a village or community lottery kiosk, deceiving him- or herself into thinking that he or she can advance urban myths without their being vigorously challenged, for urban myths have no place in the analytic theatre of serious scholarship.

Let us also stress that the legacy of George Padmore has no peer in the legacies of JB Danquah, Adu Boahen, and KA Busia combined. Nkrumah is perhaps his only political and intellectual coeval. There is even a George Padmore Institute in Britain founded by Africans, Asians, and Caribbeans in honor of his sterling achievements and contributions to human liberation and human progress. Could we say the same of Danquah, Boahen, or Busia? Padmore, a prolific writer, died at the age of 56, Nkrumah 63, Busia 65, and Danquah 70, yet Padmore and Nkrumah achieved more for African peoples on the global scene as well as the local scene than Busia and Danquah achieved for African peoples on the local scene alone, excluding the fact that both Danquah and Busia were hardly internationalist in their intellectual and political outlooks. Is it any wonder that CLR James, like Africans, would rank Nkrumah as one of the world’s greatest leaders?

Finally, in the forward to Padmore’s book “Africa and World Peace,” Sir Stafford Cripps, a respected British labor politician, notes: “George Padmore has performed another great service of enlightenment in this book. The facts he discloses so ruthlessly are undoubtedly unpleasant facts, the story which he tells of the colonization of Africa is sordid in the extreme, but both the facts and the story are true. We have, so many of us, been brought up in the atmosphere of ‘the white man’s burden,’ and have had our minds clouded and confused by the continued propaganda for imperialism that we may be shocked by this bare and courageous exposure of the great myth of the civilizing mission of Western democracies in Africa.”

In the end Michael Toussaint notes in his review of Padmore’s biography: “Padmore and his colleagues used periodicals to build the Pan-African Movement. They tended to publish short, cost-effective periodicals, and to write in the magazines of other activists, thereby distributing their articles to the far corners of the world. In doing so, they created a global African and wider readership, and an international public sphere of debate and opinion which challenged establishment institutions and ideas worldwide (Ibid: 2, “History in Action,” Vol. 3 No. 1, September 2012, The University of the West Indies (St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, Dept. of History).

“One sees his influence on the Abyssinian struggle in the interwar years; the Algerian nationalist struggle; that of the Rastafarian Movement in Jamaica; the Indian Nationalist struggle of Nehru; and the All-Indian National Congress. The essays bring us to a global theatre of activism and influence: Africa, the Americas, Western and Eastern Europe, Asia and the South Pacific,” Toussaint writes of George Padmore.

Is it why some authors have put George Padmore on the same scale as Kwame Nkrumah, Mao Tse Tung, Mahatma Gandhi, and Vladimir Lenin? And who says one necessarily needs a degree to accomplish the great things Amiri Baraka and George Padmore achieved in life? How many of our PhD holders have achieved half of what either Amiri Baraka or George Padmore achieved in life on behalf of the world?

We shall return…

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis