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Opinions of Monday, 29 December 2014

Columnist: Baidoo, Philip Kobina

Nkrumah’s Socialism, Full Of Ideals; But It Doesn’t Work

Most people trace socialism to Plato’s Republic, which after ploughing through its turgid pages is nothing, but a fantasy. If it had been put into practice it would have fallen flat on its face just after two generations like the Russian system imploded in the same time span. The closest example to Plato’s utopia is the model of the Jesuits run Paraguay, which according to historical evidence is not a model to emulate. Others identify it to the pre-Socratic socialist prophets of Israel. Their teachings were put into practice by the disciples of Jesus Christ; it ended in total disaster. St. Paul alluded to the fact when he wrote in one of his epistles that he had to take collection for the church in Jerusalem, which had hit hard times.

The modern concept of socialism was first echoed by Rousseau with his social contract in the 18th century. It was later fine tuned, and acquired its philosophical bedrock courtesy of Karl Marx in the 19th century. For a while, many thought it was going to be just a theory on paper. Then, the single place that Marx never expected communism or socialism revolution to flourish, thanks to WW1, it experienced its debut in Russia in 1917. It is important to note that it flowered in the midst of chaos.

Before I proceed I have to set the records straight. Many of my readers who object to my beliefs think that I am just an Nkrumah hater, and I have taken a lot of flak on the web for my position. Some may rationalise that, perhaps, I am an upstart who wants to use Nkrumah as a soft target to impress his peers. I have to make it known here, once and for all, that I was a true card carrying socialist. Though, I was going through convulsive transition some of my earlier articles published by The Evening News, a sister paper of Ghanaian Times, when the internet was not trendy, attest to my credentials.

I was a hardcore Nkrumahist who worshiped at his philosophical shrine. I celebrated his achievements, and made a minced meat out of those who came after him. I drank deep from his fountain of scientific socialism. I knew everything about him from archaeology to zoology. I read his books including those written about him by Ghanaians, Americans and Russians. I could quote from memory most of his memorable quotes. However, when I came to England I saw the affluence at close range, and I began serious analysis of the foundations of my beliefs. I came up with copious alibis to explain away the quagmire we find ourselves – colonialism, neo-colonialism, slavery, imperialism, globalisation and even intelligence. With time, it became obvious that they were not satisfactory.

The only option left was to plunge into studies. I examined South Korea and Ireland as ex-colonies and imperial cases. They couldn’t supply the answers. Then I shifted my attention to the British colonies USA, Australia, Canada and Hong Kong vis-à-vis Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the southern American hemisphere. After that the wealth of nations by Adam Smith became my second bible. Then finally, I adopted Occam’s razor to analyse socialism and capitalism side by side. The more I studied the system and digested the fundamental tenets the more all my certainties began to melt away. It was not easy leaving behind a belief I have held on for the most part of my adult life. I came out kicking and screaming desperate to hold on. However, after years of intensive studies and analysis I finally admitted defeat. I came to the realisation that socialism, without any equivocation, is the cause of Ghana’s poverty and for that matter African.

Socialism became the vogue after Africa was emancipated from colonialism. It was like sheep heading to the slaughter. All African countries, in exception of Ivory Coast, fell blindly under its mesmerising seductive spell like the charm of an irresistible African beauty queen. I have often queried why our leaders, en masse, put this terrible noose around the neck of their people. It’s quite obvious, the bitterness of colonialism, undoubtedly, drove us into the camp of the ideological enemy of capitalism – the economic philosophy of our colonial masters. To me, it wasn’t the right basis to take decision that will determine the future of a people, and Nkrumah got it spectacularly wrong, and we are terminally paying the price.

To start with, I have to declare my position. I am unashamed capitalist, and whatever time invested in this piece is to promote it as the only salvation to Ghana and for that matter Africa. And I have come to the conclusion that socialism or communism is the face of evil with a smile. Anthony Fisher, the founder of the Institute of Economic Affairs, captured my sentiments of socialism more poetically than I can. He used to say, ‘communism is the poison offered to the people; socialism is the cup in which it is given; and the welfare state is the tempting label on the bottle.’

The foundation of communism and socialism was built on flawed premise. They began with the notion that property ownership is the cause of inequality so family must be abolished. Therefore, without the idea of property man will not be acquisitive. Pierre Joseph Proudhon famously declared ‘property is theft’, which must be true during his time due to the European serfdom he grew up in. But can anyone confidently claim that Bill Gates or J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, stole their wealth? The developers of socialism effectively amputated the branch that society perches. It’s from the nucleus family that love is cultivated, and how can socialism thrive without love. The statement, ‘from each according to his ability to each according to his needs’ is nothing, but inspired nonsense. It is unbelievable that people still repeat this rot 140 years after it was first popularised in the Critique of the Gotha Program. It is only out of love that anyone with the ability can work his sinew to the bone to feed others, like we do for our children.

The communist manifesto is a wonder work of social engineering on paper, but in practice it is total complete utopian fantasy stuffed with a bag load of boyish twaddle. It should be the playground of boys who have not seen enough of the world, and still controlled by neurons, yet to effectively connect. Before the advent of capitalism man provided everything he needed by himself. And in that era the ordinary man lived in absolute poverty. For example, almost half of children born in England never lived to celebrate their fifth birthday. It was division of labour promoted by capitalism that liberated man and ushered in enormous prosperity. However, according to their high priest, Marx, it alienates the labouring class. Who in the real world will not prefer wealth to some stupid ideology called alienation?

The prodigious success of capitalism carried within it the seed of its destruction. The benefits of capitalism brought on population explosion in Europe. As a result, the agrarian economy that supported most of them couldn’t cope as land became scarce. Inevitably, the excess population emptied into the cities, which ultimately brought on the miseries of the 19th century. However, majority of the thinkers, including Marx, got the diagnosis wrong, and blamed capitalism. It was the basic laws of economics – demand and supply, which was at work. The excess population caused wages to tumble consequentially. Nevertheless, once the sickness was wrongly diagnosed the medication was bound to be wrong – hence socialism and communism.

Not a single nation benefited and prospered as result of socialism; they all wallowed in abject poverty and destitution. Even in Britain, before the Iron Lady came along, all their industries were on their way to vegetative existence. For example, it used to take three months to get a phone connected to a British home, and she stopped that through privatisation. Across the rest of the world the wake that socialism left is heart wrenching misery. India after independence bathed in penury until the 90s when they steered away from socialism. China was a basket case right up to Deng Xiaoping who painfully admitted let some people get rich first. Anybody who wants to know the harmful effects of socialism should study the under belly of the Kibbutz system in Israel. A lot of their members started voting with their feet years down the line. Some of the negative examples that came out of it should be an eye opener to all die-hard socialist. At a point, they realised that their food consumption was too high, because members were inviting their friends for free meals. So they decided to charge for food. All of a sudden food consumption plummeted. And the most telling of the examples was electricity. A lot of Kibbutzim will leave their houses with their lights on, because they don’t have to pay for it, yet it cost money to produce. However, when they started charging for electricity it was like magic. Its usage reduced dramatically. Do you see a correlation between the government use of electricity in Ghana?

It is clear that socialism breeds wastage and corruption. The British socialist system has turned a lot of British citizens into congenital liars. The fact is when you tell the truth you wouldn’t qualify for certain benefits. So people had to lie copiously spawning an army of disabled Britons. The destruction of the single most important industry in the country – cocoa, was brought to its knees due to our socialist policies. It turned Ghanaian farmers into criminals. Cocoa production plummeted from its peak of 550,000 in the 60s to 159,000 tons by 1984 when the population had more than doubled. Most of our civil servants are corrupt, because the socialist economic policies adopted by Nkrumah do not produce enough to go around. And worse, when they see ordinary people in the private sector without any academic qualification making it very big it becomes a festering source of jealousy. And of course, the pressures of families who are also suffering, due to the same stupidity goad them to plunder the state. TOR has been run to the ground. It used to be majority privately owned, and Acheampong, a pugilist socialist, bought all the shares and transferred it into government management. Currently, the only refinery in the country does not refine a single barrel of crude oil. Can you imagine the benefits at this time when oil prices have nose-dived?

Let’s simply analyse the recent development in the oil market. In 2008, in the midst of the global financial crisis oil peaked at $145 a barrel. It was painful for most people. In a socialist world they will argue for the capping of prices, which eventually leads to black market activities engendering criminal and gangster lifestyle and economic stagnation. However, America for example learnt their lessons from the debacle of the 1973 OPEC price hikes when they introduced price control. Now, as investors took advantage of the high oil prices American entrepreneurs invested in shale oil technology and the result is the abundant production, which is driving down the price on the world market.

Anytime I talk about socialism the example its apologist keep throwing at me is Sweden. The question is if out of the numerous examples around the world it is only one they can come up with it is a clear indictment in itself. Sweden rose to their feet because of the secret armament of Germany under Hitler. And obviously, they held out due to the prosperity of the rest of Europe fuelled by their quasi mixed economy. If the Swedish model is so wonderful why did the people kicked against it by voting with their feet. Statistics of the membership of the Swedish socialist party vindicates my argument, and you can google it if you doubt me. The success of the socialist Scandinavian countries is due to their population in relation to their natural resources. And that success is being replicated in the Gulf States like Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait where their citizens literally have fuel for free. The question that a lot of ardent African socialist will have to answer is why all the vibrant socialist countries are in Europe and not anywhere else.

When the modern seeds of socialism were planted in Europe there were warning signs from economist like FA Hayek via his book: The Road To Serfdom, but only a handful acknowledged. The EU common agricultural policy is a monument to the madness of socialism. Last year alone they spent £49 billion in direct payments to EU farmers. And the financial damage it causes to Third World farmers is incalculable. They are aware of this stupidity and they cannot stop, because socialism is like a drug, and when you get hooked it is extremely difficult to extricate yourself. During the 2nd half of the 20th century mankind had the privilege to witness uncontrolled laboratory experiment involving two sets of Koreans, Germans and Chinese. The results should be a source of shame to anyone who believes in socialism or communism. I need not comment on the Koreans and Germans, but the Chinese was revealing, because the 36 million Chinese living outside China at a point before they shifted from communism were producing more wealth than the billion living in the main land.

The sorry state of those with marinated socialist mind is that they don’t learn from history. When it was first tried on a national level in France it caused massive convulsions. It snuffed out the lives of many people when humanity experienced its first mechanised mass murder – guillotine. Obviously, the chaos paved the way for Napoleon Bonaparte who killed French people wholesale on the battlefields of Europe. The modern progenitors of the system murdered 20 million of their citizens in the Siberian Gulags in pursuit of that evil dream. China fertilised their land with the lives of 30 million of their citizens. Before Pol Pot triumphed, a conscientious lieutenant who had witnessed the atrocities of the Chinese became queasy about the path they had chosen. And it is alleged that Pol Pot answered his squeamish follower that the Chinese do not know how to practice communism, hence their inadequacy. Of course, he was given the chance, and history like clockwork repeated itself and nearly wiped his country out of existence.

There is no perfect system anywhere in the world, especially, if it is run by human beings there is bound to be flaws. Capitalism is not the best for the allocation of scarce resources, which have alternative uses, but it is much better than all the others available. Capitalism has its faults, but it is not anywhere comparable to the evils of communism and socialism. The disparity between the rich and poor in capitalist society is nothing compared to the misery and destitution that socialism and communism produce in their societies. Socialism has no capacity to regenerate itself without stepping on other people’s toes. It destroys superior ability and production suffers.

It is competition that brings the best out of man, yet socialism hates competition. Let’s just put the world of athletes under the microscope. The desire of each athlete to win the ultimate price is the catalyst that pushes them to train very hard, which human endurance does the rest to produce the likes of Usain Bolt, Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens. Again, let’s train our eyes on our primary government run educational system. It is falling apart due to lack of competition. However, the private sector, which normally does not employ trained teacher perform with distinction. It is competition in capitalism that brings prices within the budget of the ordinary man. When the telephone was invented it was the super rich who could afford them. Competition over the years has brought their prices so down that people living in small villages in a deep African jungle can now afford mobile handset.

Ivory Coast, the only African country that chose capitalism after independence performed very well, though they don’t have much resource like we do in Ghana. Their success was borne out by the number of Ghanaians who sojourned to make their home there. Sadly, in the eighties they also fell under its seductive charm at the first signs of correction of the system they rightly chose. Socialism nearly destroyed their country due to the fact that they were not used to the hardship it brought. Julius Nyerere, who used to head one of the poorest countries in Africa after surveying the unimaginable poverty that his socialist policies had wrought, said at least he prevented multinational companies from carrying the wealth of Tanzania away. Can you imagine if the wealth was coal, since the world is now shifting away from its usage? The best wealth is the two pound human brain, and not any natural resources in the ground.

Socialism is a system that doesn’t allow superior ability to flourish – the building block of human progress. Superior ability is what creates wealth. The difference between an earthquake in Haiti and Japan is wealth, and anybody who is against it when it is created by private individuals should be sectioned. Normal ability just provides resource for ordinary existence. Those who create the wealth must be allowed to enjoy the sweat of their superior labour and thought. Nobody should be fooled by the modern advocates of that huge swindle like Sam Okudzeto Ablakwa who believes government should be running businesses. We see capitalism as evil because it is the economic ideology of our ‘exploitative’ colonial masters, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. However, once we begin to accept the error of socialism all the aura that surrounds Nkrumah begins to fade into the night. And we don’t have to be grim about it. After all, to err is human and nobody is infallible.

I will part with this quote about the evils of socialism by one of their own. Nguyen Co Thach, the communist foreign minister of Vietnam admitted sorrowfully, ‘The Americans couldn’t destroy Hanoi, but we have destroyed our city by very low rents. We realized it was stupid and that we must change policy.’ In the minds of the militant socialist they genuinely want to help the poor, yet they end up aggravating it.

Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr