Reading Class Struggle in Africa

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Reading Class Struggle in Africa

Kwame Nkrumah’s writing reads like a text book designed to inform any learner of African studies. Whether the learners are the African workers and peasants to whom the book is dedicated, African pupils or international scholars such as Spelman ADW undergraduates they gain a clear understanding of class struggle in Africa relevant to the time period when the book was published as well as the contemporary context. Much in keeping with the concept of fact making discussed last semester in ADW 111, given the myths and fabrication designed by so-called scholars who embrace a Eurocentric point of view Nkrumah the Ghanaian griot sets out to “write a tale of hunting that glorify not the hunter but the lions and lionesses.” (African Diaspora 4) Chief among the untruths propagated that Nkrumah is bent on dispelling is the notion that compared to the rest of the world Africa is a stand-alone entity. She had no history prior to colonialism in light of which principles that apply to other nations does not apply to her. On page 10 Nkrumah states: For too long, social and political commentators have talked and written as though Africa lies outside the main stream of world historical development-a separate entity to which the social, economic and political pattern of the world does not apply. Myths such as “African socialism” and “pragmatic socialism”, implying the existence of a brand or brands of socialism applicable to Africa alone, have been propagated; and much of our history has been written in terms of socio-anthropological and historical theories as though Africa had no history prior to the colonial period. One of these distortions has been the suggestion that the class structures which exist in other parts of the world do not exist in Africa

Therefore, scholars have denied the existence of class struggle in Africa. Nkrumah sees one chief reason to this state of affairs. He says: “class divisions in modern African society became blurred to some extent during the pre-independence period, when it seemed there was national unity and all classes joined forces to eject the colonial power.” (Class 10) As a result, researchers concluded that traditional African communalism and egalitarianism cancelled out any concept of class struggle.

But Nkrumah is quick to point out that the post-independence era favored the resurgence of class cleavages that had been set aside in the interest of national sovereignty. In his opinion the reversal can best be explained by the fact that the individuals who benefited from the post self-determination movement also called neocolonialism belong to the same class who prospered during colonialism, namely the African bourgeoisie. Nkrumah explains: Its (the African bourgeoisie) basic interest lies in preserving capitalist social and economic structures. It is therefore, in alliance with international monopoly finance capital and neocolonialism, and in direct conflict with the African masses, whose aspirations can only be fulfilled through scientific socialism.

Nkrumah concludes his introduction by offering a summary from which the reader can extract the table of content of the book. The document reads as follows: Although the African bourgeoisie is small numerically, and lacks the financial and political strength of its counterparts in the highly industrialized countries, it gives the illusion of being economically strong because of its close tie-up with foreign finance capital and business interest. Many members of the African bourgeoisie are employed by foreign firms and have, therefore, a direct financial stake in the continuance of the foreign economic exploitation of Africa. Others, notably in the civil service, trading and mining firms, the armed forces, the police and in the professions, are committed to capitalism because of their background, their western education, and their shared experience and enjoyment of positions of privilege. They are mesmerized by...
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