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Opinions of Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Columnist: Agbodza, Kwami

Our Socialist History and Confusion

On 18 February 1961, Nkrumah, having pronounced that "only socialists can build a socialist society," founded The Kwame Nkrumah Institute of Economics and Political Science, commonly known as the Winneba ideological Institute to indoctrinate people in socialism. The purpose of such a center in Nkrumah's words was "to propagate firmly the essence of African unity in Ghana and throughout the Continent of Africa." He said that trainees should be "made to realize the Party's ideology is a religion and should be carried out faithfully and fervently." Its mission was described by a staff member in the following unequivocal terms: "Since practically all the positions in the State machinery, all the executive positions, were occupied by high officials trained by the British and/or bourgeois mentality, it is quite obvious that in order to implement its programme of socialist construction, the C.P.P. has to train men and women who support the principles of socialism and who can occupy the key positions of the State machinery as well as those in industrial and agricultural enterprises."

Although socialism is not synonymous with communism, its Director, was Kodwo Addison, then honorary president of the Ghana Soviet Friendship Society and a self-avowed Communist. The staff of the Institute was either communist or pro-communist including Professor Abraham and two Communist Nigerian exiles Bankole Akpata and Samuel G. Ikoku. It was therefore staffed by communists and pro-communists for several reasons; one of them was that Nkrumah had to work with what was available; what are desirable, possible and achievable are not always the same things.

The CPP’s ideology as a party, as settled by 1963, was socialism. Socialism was also to be the ideology of Ghana under the CPP. The ideology of the party and the State became intertwined and the same thing. In The Kwame Nkrumah Institute of Economics and Political Science, commonly known as the Winneba ideological Institute, students were taught to see the Party’s ideology as a religion and so they came to see it as also as the religion of the One-Party State. Thus, in the minds of its students, the theoretical notions of a ‘political party’, ‘the state’, the ‘one-party state’ and ‘socialism’ were intertwined and easily came to mean the same thing.

By 1964 when the one-party State had been proclaimed, Consciencism: the Philosophy and ideology for De-Colonisation and Development with particular reference to the African Revolution had been published. It acknowledged the one-party system in both of its editions as “A peoples parliamentary democracy with a one-party system is better able to express and satisfy the common aspirations of a nation as a whole, than a multiple-party parliamentary system, which is in fact only a ruse for perpetuating, and covers up, the inherent struggle between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'.” In that sense therefore, the book was seen as a book that affirmed the proclaimed one-party state and the one-party system. The multi-party democratic state under the current Ghana 1992 constitution would have been dismissed as bourgeois politics of “multiple-party parliamentary system” which is not suitable for Ghana.

The “Program of the Convention People’s Party for Work and Happiness” published before Consciencism laid the basis for such ideas and went as far as even stating that Nkrumaism was based on scientific socialism although it was logically impossible as Consciencism itself was to make clear when it was later published. This version that Nkrumaism is based on scientific socialism is even today still proclaimed, as recently as 24 September 2002, by notables like K.S.P. Jantuah, a veteran Nkrumahist and one time Minister in Nkrumah's CPP government; they still state, false though this is, that Nkrumaisim is "but an ideology within the general concept of socialism and therefore all true Nkrumahists must recognize it as such". Thus, Consciencism as philosophy and ideology is rejected and any notion that Nkrumaism is a way of life is also rejected.

The dismantling of the ‘one-party state’, the ‘Convention People’s Party’ and ‘socialism’ after the 24th February 1966 anti-constitution coup easily came to mean the same thing for all three categories. Thus, the objective to indoctrinate people in socialism came to be achieved as many of that generation still demonstrate in their beliefs; but its effect on the Convention People’s Party itself was pervasive, conceptually confusing and fundamentally destructive to the psyche of its leading intellectuals and members and their ability to rethink and separate an Nkrumaist party’s ideology, from scientific socialism, from the ideology of Nkrumaism itself, from the ideology of society where it is not a one-party state, and vice versa, and how to clearly identify itself in a multi-party electoral contest for power and office dismissed as bourgeois politics.

The inability of the Nkrumaist Political Family to unite, fight an election as a unified political force, win and govern Ghana again, derives its sustenance from this theoretical confusion and ideological minefield, located deep in its family psyche, of which some of the older generation are guilty, while many of the younger generation are simply lost. Indeed, this was responsible for the destruction of the Nkrumaist Government under the Limann Presidency as socialist ideologues amongst the old and younger Nkrumaists went out to self-destroy a constitutionally elected government in December 1981 because it was not “socialist” enough, while illogically proclaiming it is impossible to achieve socialism in Ghana alone; thus asserting their own permanent demise as a political force.

In 1985 the Institute of African Studies organised a symposium held at Legon from May 25-June 1. That symposium brought together the leading Nkrumaist intellectuals within Ghana at the time. They included K. Afari-Gyan, George Hagan, Takyiwah Manuh, Kwame Arhin, E.A. Haizel and Kofi Agyeman amongst others. This was before the resumption of multi-party democracy in 1992. The papers presented at the symposium and two others, were all published, by Africa World Press, Inc, in one volume as The Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah, edited by Kwame Arhin in 1993. That symposium, just under five years after the PNP debacle, and about two years after the mass ejection of Left intellectuals and activists from the PNDC, however failed to provide an ideological breakthrough for Nkrumaists and for the National Convention Party (NCP) which identified itself as an Nkrumaist Party a few years later from the ashes of the PNP. The result is that from 1992-to date, Ghana has had no Nkrumaist Government rooted in an alternative philosophy, ideology, social theory, politics and economics, which makes it distinct from the conservative NPP and the liberal NDC in Ghana.

This inability to provide an ideological basis for the take-off of an Nkrumaist Government for Ghana can be traced to the destructive effect that socialist indoctrination such as taught in the Winneba ideological Institute has had on the psychic well-being of the Nkrumaist Political Family and leading Nkrumaists drawn from that family today. The collective failure of that Nkrumaist symposium to arrest the political situation is exemplified by K. Afari-Gyan’s paper entitled “Nkrumah’s Ideology” which was later published unchallenged. In line with the teachings of The Kwame Nkrumah Institute of Economics and Political Science, commonly known as the Winneba ideological Institute, he stated its doctrinal position which taught that “a socialist one-party system is the best framework for achieving social justice”; and that this was Nkrumaist ideology. Again in line with doctrinal teachings in The Kwame Nkrumah Institute of Economics and Political Science, commonly known as the Winneba ideological Institute, he told the symposium that “the ideology of philosophical Consciencism is socialism,” and went on, “for Consciencism seeks to end exploitation and the solidifying of class divisions, and to promote planned, egalitarian development and social justice”. This was why he explained, “the popular tendency to regard Consciencism as an ideology” was wrong because “it is not.” For Afari-Gyan and members of the Nkrumaist Political Family, Consciencism, if they accept it at all as some do not, is only a “philosophical statement which gives the theoretical basis for an ideology”. That ideology, for others, as had been stated was socialism, thus making statements in the 1980s that were in line with the purposes of indoctrination in The Kwame Nkrumah Institute of Economics and Political Science in the 1960s. Any hope that the ideology of socialism as stated and collectively believed, could help rejuvenate Nkrumaists was dashed when the socialist states collapsed within 5 years of the symposium, which was a brave response to what seems at the time to be the neocolonisation of Ghana under the military regime of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC). Thus, the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) deepened the ideological crisis of the Nkrumaists.

These events dented any ideological confidence that Nkrumaists had of resuscitating an Nkrumaist socialist project and led to the rejecting of Marxism and socialism among some of the leading intellectuals and activists. It even led to denial in some quarters that socialism had ever been the ideology of the CPP or that if it was the CPP was never a socialist party. These have led to the lack of confidence among Nkrumaists to even talk of an Nkrumaist Government for Ghana and to divisions and factions. So the division and sub-division of Nkrumaists and Nkrumaist parties continues and the Nkrumaist Political Family is unable to see the way forward in terms of ideological clarity, political leadership, a political programme and unification for an Nkrumaist Government in the shortest possible time. Unable to confront its ideological collapse from the 1966 onwards it settled on simply stating in its constitutional documents that its ideology was Nkrumaism. It could not however define Nkrumaism in its constitution. To make matters worse, in the face of complete ideological collapse as a result of both liberal and conservative onslaught, the platform document that was supposed to unite Nkrumaist parties joined by other Nkrumaists from the National Reform Party amongst others simply cut out of the platform document any explicit references to ideology.

But the idea, that socialism is the ideology of philosophical Consciencism, as taught in The Kwame Nkrumah Institute of Economics and Political Science in the 1960s by Kodwo Addison, Bankole Akpata and Samuel G. Ikoku amongst others was simply incorrect. Nkrumaist ideology is not socialism and never has been. Nkrumaist ideology has always been ‘Consciencism’. The ideology of philosophical consciencism has always been consciencism. The philosophy of Nkrumaism has always been philosophical Consciencism. Moreover, “socialism” in Nkrumaism is a social-political theory and practice derived from materialism in the same way that capitalism is also a social-political theory and practice derived from idealism. Thus, both capitalism and socialism are understood as social-political theories of development in Nkrumaist ideology. This correction of the ideological position which is overdue is necessary to build the confidence of Nkrumaists for Government Now.

Note on Writer: Kwami Christian Agbodza is the Regional Education Secretary of CPP UK & Ireland. But he writes in his personal capacity.