[Michael Kidron]

The Gold Coast – II

(May 1955)

From Socialist Review, Vol. 4 No. 9, May 1955, pp. 7–8.
Transcribed by Ian Birchall, Nina Kidron & Richard Kuper.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The first part of this article in last month’s Socialist Review showed that “the people of the Gold Coast have very little to say in determining their own welfare. Whoever controls the Gold Coast State controls the economy of the country and the standard of life of its inhabitants.” It then asked “who controls the Gold Coast State? What of the famed progress towards independence that we hear so much about?”

Constitutional Reform – Labour

The Gold Coast Constitution, prepared and implemented in 1949 and 1950 under the Labour Government, was a direct sequel to the Gold Coast “riots” of 1948 in which 29 people were killed and 237 injured. Although much was made of the “progress towards self-government” at the time a brief glance at some of its clauses will show that the Colonial Office in the person of the Governor held all the important strings in its hands. One example must suffice: Section 58 of the Gold Coast Constitution reads as follows:

“If the Governor considers that it is expedient in the interests of public order, public faith or good government, which ... shall include the responsibility of the Gold Coast as a territory within the British Commonwealth of Nations, and all matters pertaining to the creation or abolition of any public office or to the salary or other conditions of service of any public officer that any Bill introduced, or any motion proposed, in the Assembly, should have effect, then, if the Assembly fail to pass such Bill or motion within such time and in such form as the Governor may think reasonable or expedient, the Governor, at any time which he shall think fit may, notwithstanding any provisions of this Order or of any Standing Orders of the Assembly, declare that such Bill or motion shall have effect as if it had been passed by the Assembly ...”

Not only did the Labour Government Coussey Constitution give the Governor more powers than the Assembly itself, it also forced on the Gold Coast Cabinet three ex-officio British Ministers – those for Defence and External Affairs, for Finance, and the Attorney General.

Constitutional Reform – Tory

The next step towards “independence” came under the Tory Government. The Tories introduced a “reform” which, as the Economist said, was “far removed in spirit from the slogan of ‘self-government now’ which echoed through Accra (the capital) three years ago” (1/8/53). The Economist gives us the essentials of the reform:

“The three European officers in the Executive Council are to be replaced by African Ministers. But the Attorney General is to remain an official apart from the new Minister of Justice, while the new Finance Minister will have an economic advisor, presumably also a European official or officer on special duty. The Governor is to remain responsible for external affairs and defence, and is to share responsibility for police, security and public services with an African Minister ... the Governor would have reserved powers as at present.” (27/6/53)

Even after such a mite of window-dressing, the Gold Coast Government had to pay. After the elections held at the beginning of last year, when Dr. Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party came in with a large majority, he told the Assembly that:

“the Government did not envisage any limitation on the present freedom to transfer without restrictions profits arising from non-resident capital investment, or to repatriate foreign capital invested in the Gold Coast.

“The present Government had no plans for nationalizing industry ... and it did not envisage any such proposals arising.” (Times, 2/3/54).

No wonder British business thought that “the most satisfactory outcome of the Gold Coast elections is undoubtedly the comfortable working majority achieved by Dr. Nkrumah and his Convention People’s Party.” (Economist, 15/6/54)

The State in the Gold Coast is controlled from London. All this constitutional juggling is “independence” as seen from Whitehall. As seen from the Gold Coast, it is a model carefully dressed in the shop-window of British Imperialism, to be looked at, but not touched.

Last updated on 16 February 2017