John Marshall

Revolution in West Africa

(Winter 1958)

Source: International Socialist Review, Vol.19 No.1, Winter 1958, pp.29-30.
(John Marshall was a pseudonym of George Novack.)
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2006 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: George Novack Internet Archive 2006; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

GHANA, The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah
Thomas Nelson & Sons, New York 1957. 302 pp. $5.

The establishment of the independent state of Ghana in March 1957 has been the outstanding success so far of the continent-wide struggle of the African peoples for self-goverment. Here the first Prime Minister of the new Negro republic tells the story of the independence movement in connection with the events of his own life.

The two are inseparable because this village boy rose from the ignorance of a goldsmith’s son to become the father of his country. He acquired a college degree as well as his early education in socialist ideas during a ten-year stay in the United States from 1935 to 1945. He acknowledges a debt to the Trotskyist movement, among others, for what he learned during his wanderjahre.

For two years in England immediately after the war he carried on organizational work in the African national revolutionary movement. There he founded the Circle, “a stable organization of trained, selected and trusted men” who were “engaged in political revolution as a profession.” Its aims, as set forth in the charter reprinted in this book, were to be “the Revolutionary Vanguard of the struggle for West African Unity and National Independence” and “to support the ideas and claims of the All West African National Congress in its struggles to create and maintain a union of African Socialist Republics.”

Nkrumah returned to the Gold Coast in 1947 resolved to devote his life to the liberation of his people from imperialism. He served first as Secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention, a timid reform movement headed by merchants and lawyers. Recognizing its futility, he broke away and launched the Convention People’s Party in 1949. This radical intellectual saw the necessity for organizing and mobilizing the energy of the people as the only force capable of throwing off British domination.

“A middle class elite, without the battering ram of the illiterate masses, can never hope to smash the forces of colonialism,” he writes. “Such a thing can be achieved only by a united people organized in a disciplined political party and led by that party.” Nkrumah advocated and practised “non-violent” methods under the heading of Positive Action. This involved the use of all kinds of mass struggle from boycotts, demonstrations and strikes short of armed insurrection.

This unrelenting pressure of the masses, in the setting of victorious colonial revolutions in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa and the weakening of British imperialism, culminated in the granting of self-government for Ghana within the British Commonwealth. Having arrived at national unity and political freedom, the new nation now confronts the still more difficult problem of attaining economic independence from imperialism.

The Convention People’s party of which Nkrumah is chief is a highly interesting political phenomenon. Among many distinctive features is its combination of revolutionary nationalism and Pan-Africanism with a socialist ideology and outlook. Another is its fusion of the matriarchal customs of ancient tribal life with the needs of political struggle. Thus Nkrumah pays tribute to the role played by the women of Ghana in his movement.

“Much of the success of the Convention People’s Party has been due to the efforts of women members. From the very beginning women have been the chief field organizers. They have travelled through innumerable towns and villages in the role of propaganda secretaries and have been responsible for the most part in bringing about the solidarity and cohesiveness of the Party.”


Last updated on: 11.2.2006