Great Lessons from Dr. Yaw Nyarkos Work (ll)

Posted: March 23, 2014 at 6:49 am


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Feature Article of Sunday, 23 March 2014

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis

In principle, Marxian materialism essentially elevated the material world above spiritualism, thereby rendering the collectivized products of human mind, in other words, human thought, a mirror image of the material world. The roots of these ideas arose from the embers of Greek material culture. Importantly, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels uprooted this concept from its European historical silt then extended its materialistic interpretation, based on European society, to the European condition, proposing it as an alternative model to the internal structural contradictions occasioned by two powerful forces, the Industrial Revolution and capitalism. However, unlike Nkrumah and Nyerere, two hardworking individuals, Karl Marx came across as extraordinarily lazy, failing to apply his revolutionary ideas to neutralize the entrenched forces of dialectical materialism, internal contradictions, so-called, in his own personal life.

Ironically, Marx hated work and relied on the extensive wealth of Friedrich Engels capitalist family for sustenance, while, he and Engel, literally, and, even theoretically, plotted to destroy the same capitalism which fed them both. Then again, it was the synthesized ideas in Capital: Critique of Political Economy, by Marx, and The Communist Manifesto, by both Engels and Marx, which crucially came to underline the ideological basis of African socialism. In other words, Nkrumah, Nyerere, and all the other major proponents of African socialism imposed this utopian world of a foreign culture, excavated via the intellectual archeology of Marx and Engels, on Africa, without probably taking cognizance of the enormous historical, cultural, epistemological, developmental, material, and spiritual discrepancies inhering between the two worlds, Africa and Europe, granted, that its partially, if not mostly, the internal dynamics of a societys natural evolution which drives as well as resolves, admittedly, into its anamorphic temperament. Of course, dialectical materialism induces change but, more importantly, the factors, natural and social, undergirding societal evolution and outcomes of the evolutionary process itself may not necessarily inhabit the same space of epistemological mutuality.

Emphatically, change itself is a variable and societal physis may enjoy a mutual legroom of inverse or direct relationship. Against this background, the uncritical transplantation of Marxian utopia into Africa may have necessarily, if partially, stifled her internalized natural evolution. Meanwhile, the problem is further exacerbated by the knowledge that neither Marx nor Engels harbored any deep or intimate intellectual familiarity with African societies, much less close familiarity with her vastly rich historical and intellectual traditions as well as with her cultural psychology and time-tested cultural institutions. Regrettably, the little they knew about and of Africa, if we may put it at that, mostly derived from the ideational ejaculations of dislocated, misinformed, splintered psychologies, of which European intellectuals like Friedrich Hegel led the way. Yet, though we are quick to fault Nkrumah and other African socialists for transplanting classical Marxian thought to Africa, we are also equally quick to add that Nkrumahs consciencism philosophy, African Personality, intellectual cosmopolitanism, and Afrocentric thinking more than theoretically compensated for the intellectual deficiencies of Hegelian epistemology vis--vis historical Africa.

In fact, George Orwells Animal Farm, which one commentator, a reviewer of the book, possibly, aptly characterized as a more powerful critique than the atomic bomb, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, both depict the humiliating failure of communism as an alternative creative response to capitalist totalitarianism. However, we may have to grudgingly accept the fact that Nkrumahs African socialism did not blossom into full-blown politico-economic adolescence prior to the CIA-inspired putschism that toppled his progressive government. Admittedly, his brand of economic system was more appropriately a smorgasbord of socialism, African communalism, and liberal market capitalism, particularly democratic capitalism. Nkrumah insisted there was no discrepancy between socialism and private enterprise, notes Ama Biney (p. 107). Thus, he surrounded himself with men and women whose expertise traversed capitalism, socialism, communism, and African communalism. As well, its probably in the public domain that he openly dismissed communists in the CPP to assure the British of his intentions not to countenance communism or to allow his government to be manipulated by the exploitative prehensility of Soviet communism. In fact, Nkrumah publicly denied being a communist to his audience when his alma mater Lincoln University conferred an honorary doctorate on him.

Ama Biney writes: With these economic achievements behind him, Nkrumah presented to parliament on March 4, 1959, the CPPs Second Five Year Development Plan. While the plan was ambitious, it was by no means a departure from the laissez-faire policies of Professor Arthur Lewis nor was it what scholars have described as the shopping list approach of former colonial development plans (Ama Biney, The Political and Social Thought of Kwame Nkrumah, p. 100). Elsewhere Ama Biney maintains: There are Marxist scholars, such as Mohan and Fitch and Oppenheimer, who dismiss Nkrumahs economic developments in the post-1960 period as having little to do with socialism(Ibid: p. 106). Its important to recall that socialism and communism are not the same. Ironically, that is because many ideological opponents of Nkrumah have no clear understanding of these basic concepts and, therefore, miss the philosophical differences between them. On the other hand, the British needed this assurance to deactivate their suspicions of Nkrumah to sink Ghanas public assets in a political ocean of nationalization.

Understandably, nationalizing South Africas industries, corporations, and mineral wealth had represented Nelson Mandelas and the ANCs restorative projective, a moral political formula to address pressing issues of social injustice, prior to the eventual demise of Apartheid, only for him to turn around and accommodate free market economics at the expense of Black South Africa. Julius Malema has since demanded a re-excavation of nationalization to address South Africas racial disparities. That said, how exactly did Marxian thought help the world? How many people did Pol Pot, Mengistu Haile Mariam, Nicolae Ceau?escu, Josef Stalin, Kim ll Sung, and Leon Trotsky put to death because of communism? Again, lets state here for historical emphasis that Kwame Nkrumah did not kill any individual political opponent or a group of political opponents, this, according to the political scientist Prof. Irving Markovitz (See Ghana Without Nkrumah: The Winter of Discontent). Having said that, the alternative questions is, how many people have had their lives snuffed out thus far since capitalisms formalized institutionalization? Is egalitarianism the answer to class conflict? Is classism the answer to egalitarianism? What did the moral philosopher Adam Smith had to say about these questions?

Yet we may also want to pose this question: Is capitalism any better? At least, not if we look at history and contemporary events through a critical lens! Argumentatively, the institution of slavery itself had all the hallmarks of incipient capitalism, though the theoretical formalization of capitalism materialized after thinkers such as David Ricardo, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Thomas Malthus, to name a few, had appeared on the scene. Further, Aparthied, racism, colonialism, ozone depletion, wars, imperialism, environmental pollution, and neocolonialism are arguably reflective appurtenance of capitalism. As an illustration, Mazowers Dark Continent: Europes Twentieth Century has more to say about some of these moral and political questions. In fact, Africa still reels from the ideological stupefaction of the Cold War, a war of which a tangential Africa has become a well-known collateral victim as well as a casualty of philosophical foreigness. Thus, both systems, capitalism and communism, are exploitative paradigms.

Any reasons? Pointedly, in Chapter Two, otherwise titled Laws Governing the Evolution of Societies: Motor of History in Societies of AMP and the Greek City-State, of Cheikh Anta Diops influential work, Barbarism or Civilization: An Authentic Anthropology, we are exposed to a panorama of scientific, historical, and sociological reasons explaining why societies are the way they are based on how and why they evolve the way they do. Simply put, the cultural temperament or philosophical complexion of a given society, African or non-African, is a creative product of a scatter-gun collision among a system of evolutionary factors, a prior acknowledged fact. However, this fact may not be so obvious at the crown of a given society or polity in question. This therefore calls for a close evaluation of the political demography of a nation-state, city-state, etc. To put it more succinctly, the cultural charaterology of a social, ethnic, racial, political, religious, and economic collectivity determines the normative sociality of a polity. In another sense, proponents of African socialism should have seen Diops critical analysis on the evolution of human societies before considering whether or not to have imposed socialism on Africa in the first place.

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Great Lessons from Dr. Yaw Nyarkos Work (ll)

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March 23rd, 2014 at 6:49 am