Apr
28

Kwame Nkrumah

Ohio University Press has a series of "Short Histories of Africa". I recently decided to pick up most of the collection for potential use as reading materials for classes. This post covers "Kwame Nkrumah: Visions of Liberation" (2021), by Jeffrey S. Ahlman. The book is contextualized beyond biographical detail, with details of the events occurring while Nkrumah was in the US and UK. The book also unravels the "Nkrumahs" that exist in various narratives about him and his legacy. Recommended. Relatively longer for the series. A few more notes than usual:

"At the heart of Nkrumah's independence-day pronouncement was a political project aimed at the construction of a new Ghana, a new Africa, and, most expensively, a new world. This was to be not only a world in which Ghanaians and Africans alike would be accepted on their own terms, but, even more importantly, a world that they would also have an active voice in forging. However, it was also a project of destruction, for it was to be a project tied to the destruction of the world that colonialism had built. It was a project that, while building something new, also aimed to tear down the racism, inequality, and exploitation that, in the new Ghanaian prime minister's eyes, were fundamental to the colonial project in Africa and beyond." (p. 35)

"Nkrumah was not alone in detailing the political and cultural significance of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia for peoples of African descent living inside and outside the continent. In the United States, for instance, the invasion galvanized groups of African American communists fighting in the Spanish civil war to turn their fight against Spanish fascism into a proxy war against Italian fascism. Likewise, the Trinidadian pan-African Marxist C. L. R. James emphasized the role of the invasion in unsettling colonial governments in the British West Indies as it accentuated racial tensions within the islands during the mid 1930s. Furthermore, committees and activist organizations in cities ranging from New York to Paris and Accra to Lagos held meetings, collected money and other resources, demonstrated, and organized locally and internationally in support for the Ethiopian cause." (p. 64-65)

"Much like during the First World War a generation earlier, the question of self-determination dominated the Second World War. As viewed by the Allied powers during the early stages of the war, the Axis powers' foremost political crime was their disrespect for the sovereignty and political wishes of the territories they invaded. Accentuating this belief in their August 1941 Atlantic Charter, the American president Franklin Roosevelt and the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill - in many ways echoing their predecessors two decades earlier - declared the universality of a people's right to "choose the form of government under which they will live." However, shortly after the declaration, Churchill again followed his predecessors' lead as he quickly sought to affirm that the principles outlined in the charter did not apply to Britain's colonies. Almost immediately, however, West African newspapers, activists, and others had begun to push back against British attempts to read colonial peoples out of the charter." (p. 82)

"Much as Lenin had argued nearly three decades earlier, in Nkrumah opened his book by insisting that "the basis of colonial territorial dependence is economic." As outlined by Nkrumah, Europe's colonies fundamentally served as safety Nets for the European economy itself." (p. 85-86)

"As Nkrumah would also outline throughout his career, imperialism should not be seen only as a mechanism of territorial control. At its core, he would argue, it was the root of the global capitalist system and stood at the foundation of the twentieth-century international order. As a result, it not only created the political world in which colonized peoples lived, it also fundamentally shaped the ways in which colonized peoples interacted with one another as well as how they and colonizing peoples related to one another." (p. 104)

"Nkrumah took a chance and moved to the United States to attend the first historically Black college in the country, where he survived the final years of the Great Depression and the Second World War as a Black man in a country built upon racial subjugation, segregation, violence, and inequality. Radicalized from his time in the United States, Nkrumah returned to the British imperial sphere in 1945 with the goal of ending colonial rule across Africa and beyond. The fight in Nkrumah joined in post war London ultimately brought him back to the Gold Coast in 1947, where he would spend the next nineteen years imagining, re-imagining, and theorizing a world free from the exploitation and extractive processes of capitalist imperialism." (p. 175-176) 

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Aug
31

Nkrumah - The Struggle Continues

This is the third of Kwame Nkrumah's publications I have shared notes on. The first was the Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare (1968) and the second was Class Struggle in Africa (1970). This post shares some notes from The Struggle Continues (1973), a collection of short publications that were written between 1949 to 1968. A reprinted chapter "The Big Lie" should be required reading. Some notes:

"In our present vigorous struggle for Self-Government, nothing strikes so much terror into the hearts of the imperialists and their agents than the term Positive Action... The term Positive Action has been erroneously and maliciously publicised no doubt, by the imperialists and their concealed agent-provocateurs and stooges. The political renegades, enemies of the Convention People's Party for that matter of Ghana's freedom, have diabolically publicised that the C.P.P.'s programme of positive action means riot, looting and disturbances, in a word violence." (p. 5)

"In Africa, we thought we could achieve freedom and independence, and our ultimate goals of unity and socialism by peaceful means. This has landed us in the grip of neocolonialism. We could not succeed using non-violent methods. The same power structure which is blocking the efforts of African-Americans in the United States is also now throwing road-blocks in Africa's way. Imperialism, neo-colonialism, settler domination and racialism seek to bring us down and re-subjugate us." (41-42)

"The fact that our enemies decided finally on subversion and violence as the only effective way in which to achieve their objective of halting the Ghanaian revolution and bringing Ghana into the neo-colonialist fold, is a measure of the success of our economic policies. We had proved that we were strong enough to develop independently, not only without foreign tutelage, but also in the context of active imperialist and neo-colonialist resistance." (p. 73)

"Fanon did not mean non-commitment or non-alignment in the commonly accepted sense, though both have come to be associated with the term. The very mention of the "Third World" suggests to some a kind of passivity, a non-participation, an opting out of the conflict between the two worlds of capitalism and socialism. It is this concept which seems to have led to most of the misuse of the term "Third World", and renders its use so misleading. There is no middle road between capitalism and socialism...The expression first came to be widely used when two Conferences of Non-Aligned States had been held" [1961 and 1964] (p. 74-75)

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Aug
16

Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare

One of the great leaders and thinkers of the liberation struggle across Africa was Kwame Nkrumah, who would become President of Ghana. He has penned several works, one of which is "Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare" (1968). Reading this book makes clear why writings such as this are not as commonly on reading lists as are others, as pacifist and co-operative propaganda are tools in the neocolonialist enterprise. Nkrumah is notably absent from lists of African authors with the most mentions. A full copy of the book appears to be available here. Some notes:

"capitalism proceeded to introduce not only internal reforms, but external reforms designed to raise the extra money needed for the establishment and the maintenance of the welfare state at home. In other words, modern capitalism had come to depend more heavily than before on the exploitation of the material and human resources of the colonial territories." (p. 5)

"as far as the imperialists are concerned the real solution to the problem of continued exploitation through concessions and reform lies in the concept of "sham-independence". A state can be said to be a neo-colonialist or client state if it is independent de jure and dependent de facto. It is a state where political power lies in the conservative forces of the former colony and where economic power remains under the control of international finance capital. In other words, the country continues to be economically exploited by interests which are alien to the majority of the ex-colonised population but are intrinsic to the world capitalist sector. Such a state is in the grip of neocolonialism. It has become a client state." (p. 7-8)

"Psychological attacks are made through the agency of broadcasting stations like the BBC, Voice of Germany, and above all, Voice of America, which pursues its brainwashing mission through newsreels, interviews and other "informative" programmes at all hours of the day and night, on all wavelengths and in many languages, including "special English". The war of words is supplemented by written propaganda using a wide range of political devices such as embassy bulletins, pseudo "revolutionary" publications, studies on "nationalism" and on "African socialism", the literature spread by the so-called independent and liberal publishers, "cultural" and "civic education" centres, and other imperialist subversive organisations. The paper war penetrates into every town and village, and into the remotest parts of the "bush". It spreads in the form of free distributions of propaganda films praising the qualities of western civilisation and culture. These are some of the ways in which the psychological terrain is prepared." (p. 17)

"The problem is not whether one is born or is not born a natural revolutionary fighter. The problem is not whether revolutionaries are naturally suited to Africa, or Africa to revolutionary warfare. Predestination of this sort never exists. The fact is that revolutionary warfare is the key to African freedom and is the only way in which the total liberation and unity of the African continent can be achieved." (p. 20-21)

"The nationalist phase is a necessary step in the liberation struggle, but must never be regarded as the final solution to the problem raised by the economic and political exploitation of our peoples. For nationalism is narrow in its application. It works within the geopolitical framework produced by the colonial powers which culminated in the carveup agreed upon in 1884 at the Berlin Conference, where today's political maps of Africa were drawn. The various peoples of Africa cannot be, and historically never have been, confined behind rigid frontiers sealing off territories labelled "Nigeria", "Togo", "Senegal", and so on. The natural movements of the African peoples and of their societies have from time immemorial swept along extensive axes as for example from the Nile to the Congo, from Senegal to the Niger, and from the Congo to the Zambesi." (p. 25)

"The struggle will entail hardship and suffering, but it is a phase through which we must pass if we are to accelerate the achievement of a radical, qualitative transformation of the liberation movement." (p. 59)

"Instead of promoting hierarchic, coercive and follow-like sheep relationships, our training will seek to develop an intelligent, egalitarian, critical and self-critical outlook within the armed forces. Our fighters will be self-disciplined, revolutionary men and women." (p. 70)

"Discipline. There must be no abuse of power of any kind. A freedom fighter who steals, loots, rapes or commits any other crime against the community must be tried and severely punished. It should be explained that such a breakdown in discipline endangers the whole revolutionary movement. Discipline comes from inner conviction. It is not a gift, but can be acquired by education, exercise and life in the guerrilla unit." (p. 112)

"The fully-trained guerrilla is armed both ideologically and physically for the revolutionary struggle. The tactics of guerrilla warfare rest in the main with him. With the support of the masses, and with unified direction of the revolutionary party, he is invincible." (p. 122)

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