Not many would have predicted that Kwame Nkrumah’s essay on Class Struggle in Africa was a prophesy waiting to be exposed by a fortuitous event like COVID-19. Writing in 1970, Nkrumah prophesied:
“While there is no hard and fast dogma for socialist revolution, and specific circumstances at a definite historical period will determine the precise form it will take, there can be no compromise over socialist goals. The principles of scientific socialism are universal and abiding and involve the genuine socialisation of productive and distributive processes. Those who for political reasons pay lip service to socialism, while aiding and abetting imperialism and neocolonialism serve bourgeois class interests. Workers and peasants may be misled for a time, but as class consciousness develops the bogus socialists are exposed and genuine socialist revolution is made possible”
In class struggle, Nkrumah concedes that he had neither the idea what the “specific circumstances” (COVID-19) nor the “definite historical period” (2019) that will determine the form socialism would take. He was nonetheless firm that it would be an abiding universal principle underpinned by “productive and distributive processes”. On the latter, Nkrumah is vindicated by the fact that COVID-19 has covered nearly every nation, all of which have adopted and are pursuing the most socialist policies ever witnessed in history, in all cases, utilizing stored resources and exploitative profits.
The world is at its most giving and generous valour. The quintessential socialist state has seen ultra-capitalist United States handout direct cash to households. Nations GDPs have succumbed to the survival and basic needs of ordinary citizens, whilst we have seen the rare cooperation by feuding states-airlifting patients, distributing medical staff and equipment across the Atlantic and around the world. Wealth redistribution can be seen as many Billionaires outdo each other in making colossal donations of their riches.
Nkrumah’s scientific socialism has been achieved. Only the methodology and means differ. For Nkrumah, socialism was to be achieved via an ideological class struggle between, on the one hand, an enraged alliance of the proletariat and peasants farmers and workers against a stratified elitist bourgeois group whose significance and stay are underpinned by imperialist construction of the social and economic system. Through positive action, legitimate political agitation, educational campaigns, and as a last resort, ‘constitutional application of strikes, boycotts and non-cooperation based on the principle of absolute non-violence’, socialism was to be realized and anyone who thought otherwise was deluded.
For Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, revolutionary violence was fundamental law in revolutionary struggles, for the privileged will not, unless compelled, surrender power. These thoughts are alive and meaningful in 2020 within the wider context of the African condition in specific relationship with the global market space and attendant exploitation of African resources. In the same breath, the African ruling class continues to exploit social structures conceived, fed and protected by neocolonialism. This wider subject will be discussed on another day.
This fortuitous achievement of socialism must be a mainstay post coronavirus. First, socialism is solving a problem created by capitalism. Aside from the fear of retribution, capitalist consideration was responsible for the initial concealment of the virus by China. Globalization and capitalism must carry responsibility too, in the cross border spread of COVID-19 insofar as there was hesitation in placing restrictions on air travel and cross border travel aimed ostensibly to protect the airline industry, tourism and commerce. On hindsight, the total cost in international COVID-19 response far outweighs what could have been the anticipated losses in early decisive travel ban, restrictions and lockdowns. Not least, COVID has also shown us in the past couple of months that a nation that works through a socialist system of looking after the entire community interest, caring and feeding the vulnerable and collective protection of the neighbour principle will produce good results.
What are the lessons going forward? No matter how ephemeral, Ghanaian and other world citizens have had a taste of what it looks like to have a break in paying utility bills-water and electricity bills have been waived by the Ghanaian government for a period of three months for certain consumption levels. These same public goods will be fiercely demanded in the future as of right, with or without COVID-19. Desperate and willing politicians will exacerbate these demands by making unprepared promises. The promise by President Akuffo Addo to build a total of 94 District and Regional hospitals across Ghana-all to commence within a year, foretell what lies in the future rather than the exception.
If socialism is to be the new norm, Nkrumah himself prescribes the solution. The Intelligentsia and intellectuals must not only play a part in the revolution but must become conscious of class struggle in Africa and align themselves with the oppressed masses which also entail cutting themselves free from bourgeois attitudes and ideologies learned through colonial structured educational systems. In this sense, socialist political organizations like the NDC must first protect gains made through Covid-19 and redefine themselves to properly fit into the regime of scientific socialism. They cannot be ambivalent.
In post-COVID-19, the central role of regulation will become ever so important, in seeking to attain fairness- a proper balance between corporate profits and human needs and environmental integrity. The question is, what will be the essence to accumulate exploitative and unworthy profits only to redistribute to the exploited and vulnerable class whose conditions are themselves created by an unequal exploitative global market system?
Once again, and on the 48th anniversary of his transition to glory, a historical moment such as COVID-19 has exposed the consciousness-gap that existed between Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his peers and the continued relevance of his political thoughts.