NKRUMAH’S CONSCIENCISM AS PHILOSOPHICAL TEXT MATTERS OF CONFUSION
John H. McClendon
Journal on African Philosophy Issue 3, 2003
In this paper, “Nkrumah’s Consciencism as Philosophical Text: Matters of Confusion,” I am principally concerned with clarifying the philosophical character of the text, Consciencism. Such a clarification requires an explication that discloses its essential philosophical telos, the structure of the text, the audience addressed, the nature of discourse and the varied interpretation rendered. Such interpretations seek to give a determinate classification and hence provide meaning to the text within the spectrum of African philosophical thought and tradition. I attend to what I conceive as matters of confusion in such interpretations.
In this paper, I am principally concerned with clarifying the philosophical character of the text, Consciencism.1
Such a clarification requires an explication that discloses its essential philosophical telos, the structure of the text, the audience addressed, the nature of discourse and the varied interpretations rendered. Such interpretations seek to give a determinate classification and hence provide meaning to the text within the spectrum of African philosophy.
A tremendous amount of confusion persists over the philosophical nature of Consciencism. The level of abstraction and the intensive investigation into history of Western philosophy instead of African philosophy leaves some readers puzzled and bewildered. More substantially, the nature of Nkrumah’s arguments, claims and theses are rather complicated and intricate; not to mention that it appears to be removed from the immediate concerns facing Africa. For others, at best, it is a complex philosophical work that displays Nkrumah’s erudition, philosophical profundity and intellectual adroitness.2
I have encountered, in my own discussions with a broad range of people over the course of thirty years, a wide spectrum in the comprehension of and reaction to the book. I discovered there are different levels of understanding extending from almost complete ignorance, as to the nature of the text, to serious study circles that digested the book page by page. I have met and taught students who claimed they were Nkrumahists, yet had failed to read Consciencism. This, I think, is most lamentable in light of the fact that arguably Consciencism constitutes the philosophical core of Nkrumahism.
The late Kenyan philosopher, Henry O. Oruka, presents us with a typology of African philosophy where he posits four trends/schools in African philosophy namely: ethnophilosophy, philosophic sagacity, nationalistic-ideological philosophy, and professional philosophy. If we are to follow Oruka’s classification of African philosophy, then I submit that Consciencism is best described as ‘nationalistic-ideological’ with respect to African philosophical texts.3
Such a description would be most helpful, for after all, the subtitle of the text, “Philosophy and Ideology for De-Colonization and Development with particular reference to the African Revolution,” is nearly a restatement of Oruka’s category. Consciencism is self-consciously written with specific reference to African national liberation and with the notion of ideology as pivotal to decolonization. It is clear from the subtitle that Nkrumah’s paramount intention is to formulate an African text in socio-political philosophy.
Nkrumah’s scope is rather extensive, for he examines a wide continuum of philosophical sub-fields, which include ontology, ethics, epistemology, history of philosophy, philosophy of law, and social/political philosophy. But it is preeminently a work of socio-political philosophy. To the extent that Nkrumah delves into the history of philosophy or addresses critical questions and issues emanating from ontology, his overriding principle is to draw from such sources what are the needed resources to construct a socio-political philosophy. In that regard, Oruka’s schema proves to be a valuable heuristic instrument.
Yet, it should not be concluded that the history of philosophy, epistemology, ontology, ethics, etc., are in any way merely incidental aspects that are auxiliary to the text. In fact, they are essential to the corpus of his socio-political philosophy. For Nkrumah, there is no rigid demarcation that separates the various sub-fields of philosophical inquiry. Socio-political philosophy gains its nutriments from the vast field of philosophical compartments. Nkrumah thinks that philosophical sub-fields ought not to be the narrow domains for restrictive specialization as commonly found with and in the professionalization of philosophy. Hence, he thinks that professional philosophy is often far removed from the social realities that ground philosophy.
Nkrumah explains, In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the social contention in philosophy became explicit, especially as law, politics, economics and ethics came to be publicly founded on philosophy . . . It is therefore not a little amazing that in the twentieth century, Western philosophers should largely disinherit themselves and affect an aristocratic professional unconcern over the social realities of the day. Even the ethical philosophers say that it is not their concern to improve themselves or anybody else . . . They say their professional job begins and ends with the elucidation of the meaning of moral terms and principles, and the source of moral obligation.4
Nkrumah’s training, research, writings, and experience in teaching philosophy, squarely places him in the nationalistic-ideological camp of Oruka’s classification scheme.5 Categorizing Consciencism as nationalistic-ideological captures only one part of its character. While it meets Oruka’s adequacy test as a nationalistic-ideological work, the text actually surpasses that particular requirement. For we must not neglect the fact that it is also concurrently the work of an African with training in the professional philosophical tradition i.e. one who was trained in and who possessed legitimate credentials in academic philosophy.
Nkrumah’s formal education in philosophy included study at Lincoln University, the University of Pennsylvania and in London under the logical positivist, A. J. Ayer.6Hence, the work also meets classification requirements for professional philosophy under Oruka’s schema. The difficulty that people have had in classifying the text may in part be due to its belonging to more than one philosophical category. I contend that what is the root problem, for those trying to apprehend the philosophical locus of Consciencism, emanates from the distinctive and different normative requirements adjoined to these respective modes of classifications.
The norms that govern how African socio-political philosophy is usually executed contrast greatly with what is expected when ‘doing’ African professional philosophy. This ultimately leads to the formulation of different kinds of philosophical discourse that have significantly divergent audiences in mind. This is at the base of Oruka’s differentiation. African professional philosophy, like most professional philosophy, addresses primarily an audience made up of professional philosophers, all of whom speak the same language (jargon) and preeminently engage in what is the common discourse with various branches and schools of professional philosophy.7
African socio-political philosophers generally attempt to speak to a wider audience, the African public or masses, in an attempt to influence social, political and ideological opinion. Nkrumah’s rather unique position came from his choice of not eschewing the language of professional philosophy, while at the same time his intended audience was not professional philosophers but rather the African public or masses. Consciencism presupposes that the reader has some background in philosophy. It is not a work that can be digested by the philosophically illiterate.
Yet, unlike most professional philosophy texts, one discovers immediate socio-political and intellectual exigencies being addressed in Consciencism. The text is not consumed by the academic mandate of pursuing knowledge for the sake of knowledge. It is more than an exemplar of academic philosophy. At base, it is not a work written for purely academic purposes, albeit its language seems to give that impression.
Any determination of the nature of Consciencism as philosophical text obliges us not only to interpret the written text, but as well confers the responsibility of disclosing its historical situatedness. By historical situatedness, I mean the intellectual and political context that gives rise to the very need to philosophically address certain social issues and concrete political questions. The very need for philosophic reflection is inextricably riveted to the presupposition that previous philosophical reflection and inquiry, in some manner, fall short in addressing what is presumed to be the most pressing philosophical question(s). Subsequently, philosophical inquiry often finds in previous philosophy intrinsic inadequacies or erroneous visions that, in turn, must be either refined or refuted. This is particularly acute when previous philosophical studies are in substance apolitical and/or are immersed in philosophical hair splitting and ‘language games.’8
Nkrumah’s philosophical stance is not solitary and self-subsistent; it is intrinsically dialogical and polemical. The socio-political and intellectual exigencies giving rise to Consciencism are dialectically interconnected. The socio-political precondition was the adoption of scientific socialism as the path for Ghana’s development in 1962.9 Such an adoption necessitated the rejection of notions of a distinctive African socialism. This intellectual injunction was furthermore an ontological one, i.e., to move away from idealism, which previously characterized Nkrumah’s ontology before Consciencism.
Nkrumah’s philosophical sojourn, the dialectical unfolding from his anterior positions, was marked by successive stages of philosophical maturation in which he forged his way from a theoretical symbiosis between African traditionalism and Western thought to its apogee in dialectical materialism.10 Indeed, Nkrumah’s earlier stage of philosophical inquiry was marked by close attention to how traditional African values and practices sustained themselves not only in Africa under colonialism but also during the conditions of slavery in the Diaspora.11
With the advent of Consciencism, Nkrumah understood that he could no longer stand on contradictory ontological grounds, on the one hand, proclaiming to be a Marxist—which philosophically meant adherence to dialectical materialism—and, on the other, a non-denominational Christian, that is to say ontologically committed to idealism.12
Where previously, in his autobiography, he could see no contradiction between the two, with the advent of Consciencism, the resolution of the contradiction was indispensable to framing a materialist ontology. And where before it was African traditionalism that was an ontological component of his philosophy, in the new context it was jettisoned from the realm of ontology because of its idealism.13 And, although Nkrumah retained African traditionalism in the socio-political realm of his philosophy, its status therein had to change in view of his refutation of African socialism. How and where it is placed is part and parcel of the problematic at the heart of Consciencism as socio-political philosophy.
CONSCIENCISM: A DUPLEXIVE DISCOURSE
Nkrumah’s dialogue and polemic took place on two quite distinctive planes. In part, a central aspect of the confusion concerning Consciencism, as a philosophical text, emanates from the duplexive character of the dialogue and polemic. I use this neologism ‘duplexive discourse’ to capture not only the dual nature of Nkrumah’s mode of presentation but also its dialectical dimension. Nkrumah’s duplexive encounter entails, on the one hand, an open, explicit commitment to a philosophy of particularity, and on the other hand, an implicit, never ostensibly articulated, polemic against ethnophilosophy and its attendant socio-political philosophy of African socialism.14
This is confusing for those for whom particularity entails a transition to African metaphysical exclusivism. If particularity is assumed to be African exclusivism then philosophically, on both the ontological and socio-political planes, the accent on African uniqueness and difference becomes a paramount aim. Ontologically, there are implications for formulating and elaborating a distinct worldview that is exclusively African. An indigenous African metaphysics becomes critical; when and if and only if any claim to exclusivism is erected on firm metaphysical grounds that are in turn antithetical to Western philosophy. Such a philosophical stance would have to assume a foundation in and on an African metaphysics that is not only different from European metaphysics, but also appears irreconcilable and incommensurate with the latter. This project toward establishing an exclusive African metaphysics Paulin J. Hountondji describes as “ethnophilosophy.”
I contend that in Nkrumah’s estimation African exclusivist metaphysics has an attendant socio-political philosophy corresponding to African socialism. African socialism is thus anchored in an exclusively conceived African metaphysics (ethnophilosophy) and subsequently its socio-political expression of African socialism is also an exclusivist denoting of a philosophy of history resting on exceptionalism. African exceptionalism, like all forms of exceptionalism, transforms the principle of difference from its correct theoretical locus of irreducibility to the ontological status of incommensurability. The point is that African exclusivism, qua exceptionalism, therefore, assumes both metaphysical and socio-political forms.15
I stated earlier that Consciencism is preeminently a work in socio-political philosophy, and it stands as the antithesis of African socialism. This socio-political clash mirrors a broader polemic against the tendency of identifying African particularity with African exclusivism. However, Nkrumah’s adherence to scientific socialism (Marxism) and his refutation of African socialism are never explicitly articulated in the text. One cannot observe any open statement to the effect that African socialism is a myth, or that Consciencism is a refutation of African socialism and African metaphysics. The nearest hint we get in the text is the statement: “Socialism in Africa today tends to lose its objective content in favour of a distracting terminology and in favour of a general confusion. Discussion centres more on the various conceivable types of socialism than upon the need for socialist development.”16The polemic is implicit here. What is this “distracting terminology” and what are “the conceivable types of socialism” Nkrumah is referring to in the quotation? We have no answer to these questions in the text.
Later, in 1966, the implicit critique was made explicit. The same quotation is cited in his “‘African Socialism’ Revisited” in an open attack on African socialism.17 Nkrumah lets the reader know in that piece that his criticism of African socialism was contained within Consciencism. The “distracting terminology” was African socialism. The “conceivable types of socialism” were the various forms of African socialism inclusive of Kenneth Kaunda’s ‘Humanism’, Julius Nyerere’s ‘Ujamaa’, or Senghor’s just plain old ‘African Socialism’. In Consciencism, we have only an implicit critique; there is no open battle or frontal assault on African socialism. Though we will shortly see, in other media, Nkrumah made his open assaults on African socialism. Moreover, we discern that these particular skirmishes come both before and after the publication of Consciencism.
And just as there is no head to head confrontation with African socialism, as the socio-political expression of African metaphysics, likewise we find no direct polemic with African exclusivist metaphysics qua ethnophilosophy. Instead, Nkrumah embarked on a mode of presentation concomitant with professional African philosophy. Consciencism took on the family resemblance of African professional philosophy, it did not engage in the same manner of presentation akin to texts in the ethnophilosophical tradition. Now we can capture why, in our prior discussion, we noted that Consciencism is a socio-political text, one that belongs to Oruka’s nationalistic-ideological type, and given its philosophical language, also simultaneously located in professional African philosophy.
Nkrumah’s demarcation of Consciencism from ethnophilosophy is implicit and rests on a particular mode of presentation. What we discover is that his style of discourse shapes the text. The reader views a different species of text than what typifies ethnophilosophy. I opt to use the notion of family resemblance to refer to texts in ethnophilosophy rather than give an essentialist ascription to ethnophilosophy. This provides a more flexible approach to the matter of textual presentation. The family resemblance, among texts in ethnophilosophy, is the host of discursive practices, wherein descriptions and/or explanations given are thought to be distinctive and exclusive African conceptions, for example, pertaining to being, becoming, force, space, time, ethics, epistemology, etc., that stand in contrast to the Western or European prototype.18 Though Nkrumah made reference to certain traditional African conceptions, they were not central to his arguments for a materialist ontology or scientific socialism.
Moreover, Nkrumah’s conception of African particularity does not warrant the presumption that African and European cultural differences are mutually exclusive. Oruka insightfully observes, “one remarkable characteristic of this [African professional] philosophy is that it employs techniques commonly associated with European or Western philosophy. Yet, contrary to the general claim, such techniques are not unique to the West.”19 Oruka is clear, although African professional philosophy shares certain commonalities, e.g., definitive techniques, with European/Western philosophy, yet these techniques are not unique to Western philosophy. Nkrumah’s philosophical practice, from an ethnophilosophical assessment, more approximates the Western prototype albeit it assumes the character of a Marxist philosophical text, and hence stands in opposition to bourgeois academic philosophy. His professional philosophical outlook has a dialectical relation to ethnophilosophy. Nkrumah’s adoption of the Marxist philosophical problematic over and against African metaphysical exclusivism was the tour de force that sustained his particular professional mode of discourse.20
The duplexive discourse of explicit particularity and implicit critique of exclusivism demands our reshaping of the category of particularity. Consciencism is a philosophy of particularity that recognizes the dialectical connection of particularity to universality. Rather than presuppose any mutually exclusive opposition between philosophical trends and schools emerging from Africa and Europe, Consciencism seeks to both affirm the particularity of African philosophy and, at the same time, uncover what is objectively binding or universal in philosophy more generally. The objectivity/universality embedded in philosophical thought is unearthed via Nkrumah’s social contentional reading. Although African and European philosophies emerge from different cultural and political milieus, they are not incommensurable on the account provided in Consciencism. Nkrumah’s method of approaching philosophy from the standpoint of its social contention constitutes his acknowledgement of the objectivity and universality endemic to all philosophical inquiry.21
Although there is this universal element that runs through all philosophy, Nkrumah’s method of reading philosophy via its social contention is not proffered as a universal method. Rather it is conceived in terms of it being one particular method that proves to be especially relevant for African philosophers and African students of philosophy. This is especially the case when the task at hand is the interpretation of Western philosophy.22 Rather than take recourse in an ontological principle of mutual exclusion or a historical principle of exceptionalism, his method of social contentional reading preserves and sustains African particularity.
Nonetheless, when particularity is conflated with African exclusivism, we discern that texts in African philosophy assume the determinate character of ethnophilosophy. For instance, W.E. Abraham’s The Mind of Africa and/or Julius Nyerere’s Ujamaa are closer to ethnophilosophy. Nkrumah departed from this philosophical tradition and its idealist ontological foundation. Those readers who identify a philosophy of particularity with ethnophilosophy are bound to be lost when approaching his text. For in Consciencism, rather than describe how the Akan conceptualizes the nature of being as pivotal to philosophical practice, Nkrumah instead scrutinized and inquired into such philosophical problems as the contradiction between materialism and idealism and the dialectical process of categorial conversion.23 The quest for particularity, the explicit side of this duplexive encounter, is both in terms of form and content qualitatively different from an African philosophy that appropriates an ethnophilosophical modus operandi grounded in African exclusivism. This explicit side of particularity, in Nkrumah’s duplexive polemic, also assumes an ostensible expression when, in the ‘Introduction’ to Consciencism, he announced his intentions.
As readers surveying the ‘Introduction’, we are immediately struck by the fact that Nkrumah boldly confronted the conception of philosophy, held by colonial minded African students, where the cardinal telos is stripping philosophy of its dynamism and social significance, particularly in regard to historical change and context. Such prodigal students became enmeshed in a “vague universalism” and thereby negated their own African particularity. Lastly, there is the socio-political outcome of their approach, namely their reduction of the revolutionary philosophy of Marxism to “arid abstractions [and] common room subtleties.”24
At the heart of Nkrumah’s polemic is the issue of how we must address the question of the value of philosophy? And more specifically, what is the value of philosophy for Africans in their quest for decolonization and development? The problem of the value of philosophy is in actuality a metaphilosophical issue. And it has specific import when it confronts the African under colonial rule. For the African possessed of the colonial syndrome we find that the intrinsic value of philosophy is uppermost. Their clarion call, “Philosophy for the sake of philosophy” means philosophy should not be lowered from the cultural clouds of speculation into the contaminated terrain of material practice. Philosophy is a purely cultural product not to be used as a means to any other ends, moreover, it is a product of a specific cultural heritage—that of the colonial masters.25 Given that they are bereft of African social and political conditions, such conceptions of philosophy can only assume an alienated form. Furthermore, these perspectives on philosophy are shorn of the humanist values that are so vital and foundational to African traditional society and which constitute what Nkrumah defined as “the African Personality.”26
Philosophy in Africa must function as a theoretical guide that supports and assists the exploration for solutions to African oppression.27 When Africans embrace these alienated forms of philosophy, the results are most detrimental for African identity.28 Undoubtedly, for Nkrumah, there persists a close relationship and association between African philosophy and theories of identity, which are suitable and adequate for African decolonization and development.29 From the very start, Nkrumah was an antagonist, fiercely fighting such an alienated view of philosophy. For Nkrumah, the value that philosophy has for Africans, as it has historically been for Europeans, is constituted by what are three elements that are negated by the intrinsic value approach to philosophy. First, philosophy’s social dynamism simply means that it is subject to historical change and development. Second, it follows from the fact that philosophy is subject to history that it is necessarily concrete and eschews false universality which tends to negate particularity and, more specifically, African particularity. Third, revolutionary and combative philosophy i.e., Marxist philosophy, is necessary to achieve liberation.30
Nkrumah, instead of relegating Marxism to the scrap heap of “arid abstractions,” suggested that it must be a guide to action not just in terms of its socio-political theory but also via its function as an ontological foundation. This emphasis on the latter, rather than only on the former, is an indicator of Nkrumah’s advancement and progression as a Marxist philosopher. Nkrumah’s conception of Marxism expanded to include the crucial aspect of Marxist ontology, i.e., dialectical materialism, along with its political, economic, and social analyses. While Nkrumah argued that there is an extrinsic value to philosophy, he did not, in turn, deny philosophy any intrinsic value. He only asserted that that which constitutes the overriding principle (with respect to how we ought to place our priorities about the value of philosophy) is extrinsic. For him, philosophy is born from the material conditions which give rise to the need to answer certain pressing questions we confront in material practice, i.e., in real, social, historical life.
For the colonial African student (and the neo-colonial as well) the material conditions of imperialism and neo-colonialism give rise to philosophical questions that must be answered if liberation is to be realized. Given our overriding principle, the extrinsic value of philosophy, then philosophy is necessarily instrumental, i.e., it is an ideological instrument of which practice is a cardinal principle.31 He concluded his “Introduction” by accenting the extrinsic value of philosophy. In an autobiographical mode, he stated: “There were the vast number of ordinary Africans, who animated by a lively national consciousness, sought knowledge as an instrument of national emancipation and integrity. This is not to say that these Africans overlooked the purely cultural value of their studies. But in order that their cultural acquisition should be valuable, they needed to be capable of appreciating it as free men. I was one of this number.”32
The extrinsic value approach to philosophy was very much a part of Nkrumah’s philosophical perspective prior to Consciencism. The symbiosis of African traditionalism with Western philosophy is anterior and the core of what is Nkrumah’s philosophical sojourn to Consciencism. “How can Western philosophy serve as an instrument of liberation?” was always the foremost question for Nkrumah even before Consciencism. With his ontological evolution to materialism, Nkrumah embarked on a more comprehensive apprehension of philosophy and he retained what are more deeply critical insights into Western philosophy.
ON CONCRETE AFRICAN PARTICULARITY AND PHILOSOPHICAL UNIVERSALITY
We must move beyond the ‘Introduction’ to apprehend Nkrumah’s proposal on how to read or interpret philosophy. It is in the presentation of his proposal on how to interpret philosophy that Nkrumah moved not only to declare that philosophy has an extrinsic value but additionally demonstrated that particularity is mediated by the concrete. Why is the connection between particularity and the concrete of significance? On the one hand, because Nkrumah explicitly upheld particularity and challenged false universality and, on the other hand, he implicitly considered African exclusivism a wrong approach to particularity since in principle it deems that universality is false. The import of this proposal is that Nkrumah upheld particularity without lapsing into African metaphysical exclusivism. It is important to keep in mind that there is a compelling reason behind the resort to African exclusivism by its proponents. They view the issue of particularity as an either/or proposition which derives from a principle of mutual exclusion. Either particularity is African exclusivism or, if not, then it is simply that one necessarily comes under the influence of the Western/European hegemonic framework. In the latter case, it is presumed that such a choice patently falls victim to false universality and hence the negation of African particularity.
Nkrumah’s argument for reading Western philosophy for its social contention means that what is of value in and through Western philosophy must be linked to African social relations, conditions and practices. By social contention, I think, Nkrumah meant what I had earlier identified as historical situatedness. When viewed within the African social context, Western philosophy serves better what are African interests. The social contentional reading is necessarily an extrinsic value approach to Western philosophy. Western philosophy’s value is tied not only to the specific European text under consideration but as well emanates from the African context, i.e., for the African philosopher, and/or the African student of philosophy, it is the compelling intellectual concerns, political issues, social questions and ethical problems facing Africa, which are in need of concrete answers that may be derived from the study of Western philosophy. Thus, for instance, the substance of Nkrumah’s critique of analytic philosophy rests in analytic philosophy’s rejection of how the social context holds in dialectical connection to philosophical texts.33
Nkrumah differentiates conceptually between the categories of particularity and the concrete. While undoubtedly there are links between particularity and the concrete neither is reducible to the other. The concrete mediates the transition from particularity to universality i.e., true objective knowledge. The concrete is not identical with the particular (an error of empiricism generally and pragmatism specifically) for the concrete is an ensemble of many determinations. The concrete also appears as immediacy but its essence resides in its mediated character. This is due to its multiple determinations, which, on the one hand, can be abstracted as (self-subsistent) particularities in their immediacy and yet, on the other, can only be apprehended as concrete when the many-sided determinations of the concrete are grasped in their unity.
The concrete can assume the form of particularity but the essence of the concrete is more general, complex and objective than mere particularity. Particularity as form finds its objective content in the concrete.34 Metaphysical exclusivism disallows this dialectical relationship between the particular and the concrete. Under it, the particular is made identical with the concrete. The import of Nkrumah’s dialectical distinction and unity of particularity and the concrete is that it fosters the retention of universality. Thus, for example, the value of Thales’ monistic materialism and how it inaugurated an intellectual revolution, for Nkrumah, inhered not in its being an Ionian particularity. Instead it embodies a concrete manifestation of how a naturalistic account of nature brings forth an intellectual revolution—an intellectual revolution in a social order where previously a supernatural or mythical rendering (an idealist explanation) was considered sufficient. The very basis for the emergence of a materialist explanation of nature is itself the product of certain social dynamics. An African studying Thales’ monistic materialism, Nkrumah thinks, can find value in such study if and only if its social basis and implications are taken into account. By comparing the Africans’ historical situatedness (in this instance the struggle to overcome idealism) with the Ionian experience, one can grasp some critical insights for waging an intellectual revolution, in the African setting, against various forms of idealism.
The relationship between abstract and concrete, as well as universality and particularity, is not one of mutually exclusive opposites; on the contrary, it is dialectical. To speak of concreteness separate from abstraction is an instance of vulgar empiricism and, in turn, to talk of particularity apart from universality is ontologically speaking a matter of metaphysical exclusivism. Empiricism limits knowledge to observing what is immediately apparent and consequently overlooks the essence behind the appearance. A materialist stance upholds the scientific process of cognition, which is not the mere act of observing and recording facts, i.e., merely the pursuit of a phenomenalist undertaking. As Marx so cogently put it, “all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided.”35 The process of cognition, where thinking, categories, and concepts are involved, requires abstraction. The movement from the sensuously apparent to the essence of phenomena entails abstraction. Even the general laws of dialectics are abstractions from concrete dialectical motion in nature, society and thought itself. Nkrumah’s dialectical materialism does not deny the universal; it comprehends it in its interconnection with the particular. Nkrumah’s rejection of “vague universalism” and “arid abstractions” must be taken as a rejection of idealism and not of universalism and abstraction.
What must be kept in mind is that the reflected object in thought (cognition) becomes a concrete concept in the ascent from the abstract to the concrete. The failure to move from the abstract to the concrete concept, one-sided (metaphysical) abstractionism is a salient feature of bourgeois philosophical thought. Inasmuch as the universal is the product of abstraction, the propensity for metaphysical (one-sided) abstractionism means the assertion of the universal’s independent existence from the particular. This assertion of the independence of the universal (concepts, ideas) is the substance of all objective idealism. Lenin states, “From the standpoint of dialectical materialism . . . philosophical idealism is a one-sided, exaggerated . . . development (inflation, distention) of one of the features, aspects, facets of knowledge into an absolute, divorced from matter, from nature apotheosized.”36
I want to return to Nkrumah’s methodological premise concerning a social contentional reading of philosophy vis-à-vis “vague universalism” and “arid abstractions.” Nkrumah’s call for a social contentional approach to philosophy is not a dismissal of universalism and abstractions tout court. He instead viewed these categories from the standpoint of a mediated existence. Universality is mediated by particularity. Particularity thus functions as an instantiation of the universal. African particularity, as an instantiation of universality, links Africa to the worldwide context of human history. Unlike the ethnophilosophers and Afrocentrists, Nkrumah did not discard universality as false but instead he focused on the dangers of false universality. He argued: “Our philosophy must find its weapons in the environment and living conditions of the African people. It is from those conditions that the intellectual content of our philosophy must be created.” Then, he stated: “The emancipation of the African continent is the emancipation of man. This requires two aims: first, the restitution of the egalitarianism of human society, and, second, the logistic mobilization of all our resources towards the attainment of that restitution.”37
Nkrumah’s materialism is humanist in scope and Africanist in its source. Africa is the focal point but not the only realm for Nkrumah’s philosophical practice. This is a very significant caveat if we are to grasp the dialectical link between African particularity and world (international) universality. Carole Pearce in her article, “African Philosophy and the Sociological Thesis” unfortunately ascribes to Nkrumah’s social contentional approach the sins of ethnophilosophy and its ancillary notions of sociological reductionism, cultural relativism and metaphysical exclusivism. She states:
‘Nkrumah’s thesis in Consciencism is a primary source for the development of [a distinctive] African philosophy. It is based on the notion that ‘Western’ philosophy must be understood in terms of social context in which it arises . . .The major intellectual error of philosophers, says Nkrumah, is to imagine that philosophers can be divorced from the actualities of human life. But philosophical inquiry is not to be understood in its own terms. Philosophical systems can be explained by their origin in social conditions and may be understood as reflections and as justifications of those systems. Philosophical systems may even be suggested by the social conditions in which they originate. Philosophical systems are mainly important in that they generate an ideological basis for political practice.’38
I quoted Pearce extensively to amplify how she renders Nkrumah’s call for a social contentional reading of philosophy. First, I must say before I begin my response to Pearce’s claims that much of what she says regarding ethnophilosophy (also applicable to its diasporan cousin, Afrocentricity) is informative and useful. Nonetheless, I would argue that her critique of Nkrumah is unwarranted and misplaced.
First, she conflates Nkrumah’s social contentional method with the effort to formulate a distinctive, metaphysically exclusive, African philosophy. Yet we find throughout Consciencism no elaboration of African metaphysical exclusivism. As I pointed out earlier, Nkrumah differentiated his text from the tradition of ethnophilosophy. And we find as late as 1994, Tsenay Serequeberhan, in his The Hermeneutics of African Philosophy, a work saliently in the ethnophilosophical tradition and by no means sympathetic to Nkrumah’s Consciencism, the following. “By unreservedly employing the abstract and worn out language of Marxism-Leninism, the language of ‘scientific socialism’ and ‘means of production’ and by framing the problematic of African freedom in these terms, Nkrumah occludes the foundational and grounding character of the question of freedom in Africa.”39 Serequeberhan, a proponent of an African hermeneutics, surely does not see in Nkrumah’s philosophy “a primary source” in founding a distinctive African philosophy of an exclusivist sort. In contradistinction to Pearce’s claim he holds: “Nkrumah implicitly universalizes and surreptitiously – without even the semblance of an argument – assumes the historic ground of European modernity that the ground of ‘scientific socialism’ is the universal ground on which and not of which economic questions are posed. Thus, the specific particularity of the African situation is relegated to oblivion.”40
What we get from one of the most recent works in the genre of ethnophilosophy (or African metaphysical exclusivism) is the charge that Nkrumah’s philosophy (Marxism) is antithetical to the tradition of a distinctively exclusive African philosophy. So, while Pearce attempts to locate Nkrumah in that tradition, those within the tradition (such as Serequeberhan) are well aware that he does not belong to it. Why is there such a divergence between Pearce and Serequeberhan in their assessment of Nkrumah’s locus within the history of African philosophy or philosophy in Africa? My answer is that while they occupy different (polar) positions on the scale regarding an African philosophy or philosophy in Africa, they share the same fallacy of false dichotomy.
For both of them, the relationship of particularity to universality is an either/or proposition. For Pearce, universality is the true essence of philosophy. When universality is divorced from particularity then, she concludes, one is exclusivist. This correct proposition is conflated with the idea that any philosophy of particularity is by virtue of its particularity necessarily not universal. It follows that since all philosophies of particularity are not universal and Nkrumah propounds a philosophy of particularity then Nkrumah’s Consciencism fails because it is not universal.
Pearce’s argument rests on five key but problematic assumptions. First, it assumes that all philosophies of particularity are divorced from universality and, therefore, exclusivist. Second, Nkrumah’s philosophy of particularity is divorced from universality. Third, universality is not a matter of social context. Fourth, and most significantly, Pearce presupposes that Nkrumah’s social contentional reading reduces the universality of philosophy to particularity. Fifth, given that Nkrumah starts from the social context of philosophy, his particularity, like all philosophies of particularity, is unavoidably exclusivist. Serequeberhan, in stark contrast, argues that particularity requires “the historicalness of the African situation,” and Marxism stands outside those boundaries.41 Nkrumah, on the contrary, did not embrace the fallacy of false dichotomy (metaphysical one-sided abstractionism) but upheld the dialectical unity of particularity and universality mediated by the concrete (individual). Since he cannot fit into the straitjacket that results from the fallacy of false dichotomy, Nkrumah is found wanting by both of our interlocutors.
The crux of Pearce’s claim is the social contentional reading that Nkrumah implored us to follow. While Pearce cites segments of Consciencism to bolster her argument that Nkrumah commits sociological reductionism, it is important to note that she misquotes certain parts of the text. Where she quotes, “there is a social contention implicit or explicit, in the thought of all philosophers,”42 Nkrumah actually wrote: “there is a social contention, implicit or explicit, in the thought of the philosophers.”43 I want to bring to the fore this discrepancy because the difference between “all” and “the” is important to Nkrumah’s argument. Nkrumah’s reference to “the” philosophers, is a reference to those he variously tagged “university philosophers,” “great philosopher,” “venerable philosophers,” and “titans.”44 What Nkrumah set out to establish was not that the Western philosopher and philosophy are without value to Africa and African philosophy; on the contrary, his aim was to discern what constitutes their value. His question is simply, ‘what value does Western philosophy have for African colonial and neocolonial realities?’
What Nkrumah means by “the” philosophers denotes precisely those European men whose works have been selected as the canon of Western philosophy. Given that the study of the history of philosophy is usually presented only in reference to Western philosophy and philosophers, the ethnocentric bias therein can and does play a critical role in Western cultural hegemony over Africa. Colonial and neo-colonial African students, when undertaking the study of philosophy, are subjected to this hegemonic condition. For the colonial African student of philosophy, this issue of canon was no small matter. By signifying “the” rather than “all” philosophers, Nkrumah committed the Western canon to critique. Nkrumah, by means of his critique, carried out a leveling process. Nevertheless, this leveling process is not just the act of transferring philosophy from Mt. Olympus to Mt. Kenya.
Nkrumah is reminding us of the fact that what is presented as canon has a determinate social character. What is designated “the” philosophical canon does not fall from the sky. Better yet we discover Nkrumah’s insistence on this vital function of social contention, adjoined to philosophy, simply means that philosophy is born of concrete, historical, social relations and conditions. The social contentional interpretation brings philosophy’s concrete social context and implication into bold relief. For Africa and Africans such concrete conditions contain valuable, objective lessons, but if and only if the African student can make concrete connections with his own African realities.
The critique of “the” philosophers is an instantiation of Nkrumah’s dialectical movement and method. Unlike the ethnophilosophers, the movement from the abstract to the concrete is a methodology and not simply a metaphysical formulation. This method is a conceptual transition, wherein one moves from the level of the abstract to that of the concrete. For one to arrive at the concrete, it is not merely a matter of a change in subject matter viz., substituting the hegemonic European philosophers/philosophy and the affixed historical realities thereof, with that of African philosophers/philosophy and realities. Universality, the putative aim of any pretense to achieving the status of canon, thus contains both the particular and the individual in their dialectical relationship as the concrete.
The formulation of any notions about philosophical canon is a dialectical process with anchorage in concrete African realities. Nkrumah’s demarcation must be understood not in terms of devaluing the Western canon in philosophy but instead must be seen as an act in re-evaluating it in light of African interests. The wider implication of Nkrumah’s method is that it raises the more profound question of whether the history of philosophy is a history of predetermined formulations from which we derive ‘the’ philosophical canon or is it more substantially a history about and of philosophically significant ideas? If it is the latter then we are obliged to take into account the very process of how we are to determine what it means to talk about ‘significant ideas’ in the history of philosophy.
Can we say that our notions of philosophical ‘canon’ derive from a priori prescriptions arising from the cultural dominance of Western intellectual imperialism? Or rather are they constituted in ideas whose significance entails emergence out of concrete circumstances; circumstances on which we can establish our measuring rod and standards of evaluation for ‘significant ideas’ in the history of philosophy? If the latter prevails then the possibility exists for the formation and formulation of new notions about what is prescribed philosophical literature; for what functions as our prescribed literature becomes our philosophical rudiments. This is precisely what the term ‘philosophical canon’ entails and means viz., the philosophical rudiments that function as prescribed literature. Nkrumah insisted that the notion of philosophical canon must have relevance to Africa and Africans. Nevertheless, this possibility will always be aborted as long as the ethnocentric presuppositions and national chauvinism that underpin the Western academy remain hegemonic. Such hegemonic power need not be restricted to the academies in the West, but it is a reality that must also be attacked in Africa, especially given its neocolonial educational system and intellectual culture.
Pearce takes Nkrumah’s social contentional method as presuming that “philosophical inquiry is not to be understood in its own terms.” Mind you, this phrase expresses Pearce’s assumption and not Nkrumah’s. What is significant to ask is ‘what are philosophy’s own terms?’ Nkrumah’s perspective is pluralistic; he said, “It is of course possible to see the history of philosophy in diverse ways, each way of seeing it being in fact an illumination of the type of problem dealt with in this branch of human thought.”45 Philosophical inquiry, for Nkrumah, can start from abstract systems of thought or it can be anchored in social realities. Although Nkrumah understands that both approaches are actual and possible, he nevertheless recommends that we choose the latter. The African social context, in Nkrumah’s vision, should be inextricably bound to how Africans set out to do philosophy and is integral to evaluating philosophy as a historico-philosophical process. Social context, from the social contentional viewpoint, is not external to philosophizing; it is what nurtures and shapes what we presume to be philosophical discourse.
Pearce, however, confuses Nkrumah’s proposal for a social contentional reading with sociological reductionism. This, of course, derives from her metaphilosophical conception of what constitutes philosophy. Indeed, it is important to point out that this metaphilosophical question—What is philosophy?—has attracted as many responses as there are philosophical schools of thought. One must be aware of the fact that the very attempt to answer the question, ‘What is philosophy?’ is itself a philosophical problem. Yet for Pearce, the meta-question ‘what is philosophy?’ is not considered, in any way, problematic. She states, “Philosophers believe that they have a field of inquiry quite distinct from any other. Their methods are proper to this form of discourse, which contains, in its turn, problems specific to those methods. Philosophical self-understanding thus stresses the idea of philosophical inquiry as formal discursive practice.”46
However, a cursory glance at the history of philosophy reveals very little of such instances where “philosophical self-understanding” is a monolithic principle. Our survey of philosophy would immediately bring to the surface; for example, that the positivist’s claim that much of what passes as philosophy, namely speculative metaphysics such as Hegelianism, is not philosophy at all. In fact, all speculative metaphysical claims, according to the positivist principle of empirical verification, are merely nonsense or pseudo questions masquerading as philosophy.47
Since there are fundamentally different notions concerning the very nature of philosophical inquiry, aims and tasks, what criteria must we use to adjudicate such differences? If our linchpin is ‘philosophical self-understanding’ then it, in view of our survey of the history of philosophy, stands on questionable grounds and at best begs the question. The very search for such a linchpin is at the core of meta-philosophical differences and conflicts. ‘Philosophical self-understanding’ sui generis can not serve as a measure and point of departure, when the question of ‘what is philosophy’ is at stake. Hence, I must repeat that at best Pearce’s putative solution of ‘philosophical self-understanding’ is at best a pseudo-solution and only begs the question.
Consciencism is preeminently a socio-political philosophy. It is a philosophy that addresses specific socio-political problems on the African colonial/ neo-colonial horizon. Particularity, in Nkrumah’s perspective, must derive from socio-political realities because socio-political philosophy, qua philosophy, aims to confront such problems. Inversely, Nkrumah’s ontological commitment to materialism, something Pearce absolutely declines to discuss, is derivative of Nkrumah’s adoption of Marxism (from below) and for him, as with any Marxist philosopher, this implies universality—the point recognized by Serequeberhan in his criticism of Nkrumah.
Pearce’s interpretation of the social contentional method as ethnophilosophy, unfortunately, pushes her to distort both Nkrumah’s treatment of Western philosophy and his observations on the African Islamic experience. She emphatically states:
‘The thesis is complete when Nkrumah finds the source of identity, ideology and revolution in African experience and history, which is distinguished from both indigenous Islamic African and Christian African experience. The root of African ideology (where ideology means philosophy) is thus, necessarily, traditional African culture from which the African personality emerges. This has the methodological consequence that all foreign (i.e., all Islamic and Christian) influences must be excised as ‘non-African’.’48
Here we find Pearce adamantly committed to putting Nkrumah in an ethnophilosophical box despite the fact that Nkrumah’s objective in Consciencism was not to ‘excise’ or jettison Islamic and Christian influences but rather to synthesize them in dialectical fashion. Pearce’s interpretation should be contrasted with Nkrumah’s actual statement. He said:
‘With true independence regained, however, a new harmony needs to be forged, a harmony that will allow the combined presence of traditional Africa, Islamic Africa and the Euro-Christian Africa, so that this presence is in tune with the original humanist principles underlying African society. Our society is not the old society, but a new society enlarged by Islamic and Euro-Christian influences. A new emergent ideology is therefore required, an ideology, which can solidify in a philosophical statement, but at the same time an ideology, which will not abandon the original humanist principles of Africa.’49
Nkrumah speaks not of excision but of “enlargement” and “harmony” in reference to Islam and Euro-Christian influences. Although we find Pearce is inaccurate about Nkrumah’s specific philosophical formulations her differences are more basic and global in their domain. Pearce’s notion of philosophical inquiry, with its differentia specifica resting in “formal discursive practices,” excludes social conditions. Pearce attacks Nkrumah’s view of reading philosophy in terms of its social content and assumes that this method is a sufficient condition to render the judgment that Nkrumah is committed to sociological reductionism. Pearce does a disservice to the facts when rendering her charge. Surely we are not to take this as representative of how “philosophical training provides access to wide range of techniques by which to adjudicate philosophical arguments.”50 Adjudication is a far cry from distortion. Perhaps, for Pearce, precise citation is too empirical for philosophical inquiry. After all, she argues, “sociologists have consistently failed to grasp the fact that philosophical discourse centers on abstract problems whose relationship with the actual world of lived experience is merely contingent.”51
Now it is most apparent that Pearce’s conception of the philosophical enterprise is diametrically opposed to Nkrumah’s. Where Nkrumah views philosophy as inextricably bound to one’s lived experience, she, in turn, sees philosophy as merely contingently connected to existential conditions and real world problems. Nkrumah tells us that his proposal to read and interpret philosophy in terms of its social contention is the result of his study of Marx and Engels. Their philosophy is instrumental to African liberation.52 Prior to Consciencism, Nkrumah grasped only the political economic analysis of Marxism and not its ontological underpinnings. Nkrumah’s extensive discussion of materialist ontology throughout the text and his attempt to anchor socio-political philosophy in materialism is directly tied to his break with his earlier idealist ontology. Thus his insistence upon materialism as the foundation for socialism in Africa becomes his line of demarcation from African socialism. Nkrumah’s mode of presentation is to attack African socialism by affirming materialism against idealism and by justifying materialism as the basis for socialism.
Pearce fails to comprehend the complexities and subtleties of Nkrumah’s duplexive discourse. This approach has escaped many commentators on the text. Indeed, some have read Consciencism as a text of African socialism. Such an interpretation is the correlative reading to Pearce’s claim of African metaphysical exclusivism.
CONSCIENCISM AS AFRICAN SOCIALIST TEXT: ANOTHER MATTER OF CONFUSION
I earlier pointed out that in 1966 Nkrumah engaged in an open polemic on African socialism. This was not the first time he was disposed to do so. Nevertheless, since there does not appear in Consciencism a similar polemic, one may conclude from just reading the book that Nkrumah arrived at scientific socialism (Marxist socialism) at a point after publishing the text of Consciencism.53 Some commentators argue that he rejected African socialism and embraced scientific socialism only after the February 1966. But claims of this sort ignore Nkrumah’s prior statements on African socialism and scientific socialism, which came long before the February 1966 coup. They neglect the context in which the text was written.54
Beginning in 1962, Nkrumah publicly stated that he was behind the organization of the left wing of the Convention People’s Party (C.P.P.) and its ideological struggle to propagate scientific socialism.55 Moreover, Nkrumah’s “Address at The First Seminar at The Winneba Ideological School” in 1962 clearly pronounced the Marxist character of his conception of socialism.56 The Spark, which was the ideological journal of the left wing, named after Lenin’s Iskra, made a frontal assault on the idea of an African socialism.57 The Spark along with the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute in Winneba (founded in 1961) functioned as the political/ideological center for scientific socialism in Ghana.
Samuel Ikoku, a leading member of both The Spark and the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute, pointed out that there were intense political struggles between the left and the right of Nkrumah’s Convention Peoples Party.
There was the Winneba Ideological Institute with Kodwo Addison and the teaching body made up of Africans and professors from socialist and western countries. There was the Education Bureau of the party’s headquarters, headed by Kweku Akwei. Finally there was the party press. But when it comes to the dissemination of Nkrumah’s ideology, one has to face the impact of the party’s internal conflicts. The Education Bureau, managed by a member of the Kofi Baako’s faction, was striving to not disseminate Nkrumah’s ideas, but to destroy the “Ideological Institute.” The members of the right wing of the party were using all tricks to prevent any ideological action in the regions.58
Consciencism was the theoretical/philosophical guide for this ideological campaign. The ostensible materialism throughout the text is salient because the break from idealism necessitates accentuating the ontological spectrum, which had been so sorely neglected in the past. And in fact, shortly after the publication of Consciencism, Nkrumah again let it be known that he was not only opposed to African socialism but was also a proponent of scientific socialism.59 We discover that in November 1964, a few months after the release of Consciencism in March, Nkrumah published an article entitled, “Why I Founded The Spark”, which was a public proclamation of Nkrumah’s views on scientific socialism and preceded the post-coup period by three and a half years. He declared:
‘The many erroneous and deceitful concepts of socialism currently put out have to be exposed and destroyed. Concepts like African socialism, pragmatic socialism, traditional African socialism Arab socialism, etc., will have to be analyzed and carefully explained so as not to confuse African people as to the real meaning of socialism and the correct way to set about achieving it. Here we have had to wage an unflinching battle for the general acceptance of the principles of scientific socialism. Socialism, in its basic principles, is a science.’60
Now we have the explicit expression of what was implicit in the text of Consciencism. What we see is that Nkrumah was as fierce in the battle then as he had been when he attacked the colonial minded African student, the prodigal student absorbed by the “arid abstractionism” of Western philosophy. Again in a 1965 interview, he stated clearly that there was “no such thing as African socialism. There is only scientific socialism which is valid the world over, and we are building our society on the basis of scientific socialism.”61 This statement gives voice to what is implicit in the text of Consciencism. Nkrumah has no need for African exclusivism and subjectivism. The validity of scientific socialism cannot rest on metaphysical exclusivism. It must of necessity have a philosophical foundation in dialectical materialism. In Consciencism, Nkrumah was satisfied with giving an explication and justification for this foundation. He took for granted the reader would comprehend the text’s duplexive discourse.
However, there are commentators on the book who missed its duplexive discourse as well as its context and interpreted Nkrumah’s text as if it advocated support for African socialism. For instance, Roger Genoud stated, in his Nationalism and Economic Development in Ghana:
‘If . . . Consciencism does represent the essence of Nkrumahism, the intimate political thinking of Nkrumah, then it is quite clear that, volens nolens, Nkrumah gives a most unexpected support to what he and his ideological epigone had until then so sternly fought, viz., “African Socialism” and its “specificities.” Quite obviously, the historical evolution of Africa has followed, and is still following, a pattern different from that of the industrial countries of Europe and America. But, with all the changes introduced in African societies by the intrusion of European capitalism, it is hardly possible to describe the African society as essentially homogeneous, “communalistic,” free from antagonistic contradictions, threatened by only external forces, and at the same time, present such conclusions as the result of a Marxist analysis.’62
I have quoted Genoud extensively because his comments are instructive in several ways. First, he was aware that Nkrumah’s critique of African socialism is anterior to Consciencism. The attack on African socialism is not a post-Consciencism development. Secondly, he read Nkrumah’s treatment of the relationship of communalism to socialism in the book as essentially the same claim tendered by the African socialist camp. Thirdly, and following the second point, he suggested that the class contradictions, as viewed in Consciencism, are not internal or indigenous to the African experience.
Paulin J. Hountondji makes a similar claim. However, Hountondji’s critique is more devastating because it is not only more sustained and thorough–he devotes two chapters of his book to Nkrumah—but, additionally, he claims that Nkrumah’s critique of African socialism and recognition of class contradictions in Africa is a post-Consciencism process or, at least, post-first edition of the book. Hountondji establishes that it was in 1965, with the publication of Neo-Colonialism: the Highest Stage of Imperialism, that Nkrumah advanced to deploying class analysis with regard to Africa. Hountondji contends,
‘The first edition of Consciencism took it for granted that traditional African society had been free of class struggle, being organized on a communal, egalitarian basis which Nkrumah, following ethnological tradition, called ‘communalism.’ This view is totally reversed in Neo-colonialism . . . .
Thus in the new edition of Consciencism Nkrumah totally recast all the passages in the original text which had exaggerated the uniqueness of African societies and had presented their functioning as independent of the universal laws governing the history of human society in general.’.63
So our two critics agree that Nkrumah overlooked internal class conflict in Africa and thus supported African Socialism in Consciencism. They disagree over when Nkrumah began his analysis of class conflict and his attack on African socialism. For now, I think it is sufficient that my documentation above of Nkrumah’s Winneba speech of 1962, his two speeches in 1962 on building socialism in Ghana, the article on the founding of The Spark, and his reference to African socialism there all undermine Hountondji’s insistence that Neo-colonialism was the turning point. It is not sufficient with regard to the argument that Consciencism ignored class contradiction and thus upheld communalism and African socialism, i.e., African metaphysical exclusivism.
The question before us is not whether Nkrumah made revisions to the text of 1964, but whether, as Hountondji claims, that there are “the two versions of Consciencism”, where he claims that the “effect of these revisions is to upset the original balance of the text.” Hountondji argues, “
‘Nkrumah might have avoided many inconsistencies if, instead of patching up the original text, he had simply scrapped it and written an entirely new book on the same subject—or rather, since it could not be really about the same subject, a new book designed to show exactly why such a subject was no longer viable.”’64
Before going into what Hountondji identifies as the object of Consciencism, let us review what the revisions are and if, in fact, there is a qualitative break between the original and revised text. At the heart of Hountondji’s critique is the revision of Nkrumah’s initial thesis concerning the connection between African communalism and socialism and if the transition from communalism to socialism is a matter of reform or revolution. Hountondji focuses, for example, on the following first edition passage written by Nkrumah:
‘Revolution is thus an indispensable avenue to socialism, where the antecedent social-political structure is animated by principles which are a negation of those of socialism, as in a capitalist structure (and therefore also in a colonialist structure, for a colonialist structure is essentially ancillary to capitalism). Indeed, I distinguish between two colonialisms, between a domestic one, and an external one. Capitalism at home is domestic colonialism.
But from the ancestral line of communalism, the passage to socialism lies in reform, because the underlying principles are the same. But when this passage carries one through colonialism, the reform is revolutionary since the passage from colonialism to genuine independence is an act of revolution. But because of the continuity of communalism with socialism, in communalistic societies, socialism is not a revolutionary creed, but a restatement in contemporary idiom of the principles underlying communalism. The passage from a non-communalistic society to socialism is a revolutionary one which is guided by the principles underlying communism.
In my autobiography, I said that capitalism might prove too complicated a system for a newly independent country. I wish to add to this fact that the presuppositions and purposes of capitalism are contrary to those of African society. Capitalism would be a betrayal of the personality and conscience of Africa.’65
In the revised (1970) edition Nkrumah stated:
‘Revolution is thus an indispensable avenue to socialism, where the antecedent social political structure is animated by principles which are a negation of those of socialism, as in a capitalist structure (and therefore also in a colonialist structure, for a colonialist structure is essentially ancillary to capitalism). Indeed, I distinguish between two colonialisms, between a domestic one, and an external one. Capitalism at home is domestic colonialism.
But because the spirit of communalism still exists to some extent in societies with a communalist past, socialism and communism are not in the strict sense of the word ‘revolutionary’ creeds. They may be described as restatements in contemporary idiom of the principles underlying communalism. On the other hand, in societies with no history of communalism, the creed of socialism and communism are fully revolutionary, and the passage to socialism must be guided by the principles of scientific socialism.
The nature and cause of the conflict between the ruling class and exploited class is influenced by the development of productive forces, that is, changes in technology; the economic relations which these forces condition; and the ideologies that reflect the properties and psychology of the people living in that society. It is then that the foundation is laid for the highest form of political action—when a revolution attains its excellence, and workers and peasants succeed in overthrowing all other classes.
I have explained how society’s desire to transform nature reflects itself in different social-political theories.’66
Hountondji argues that the original text has antithetical propositions in paragraphs one and two, and by revising the second paragraph, Nkrumah tried to resolve the antithesis between the two. So instead of a material transition from communalism to socialism, there is talk of a similarity of creeds or ideologies. Instead of “reform” or “revolutionary reform” the revised text excludes all such terminology. The revised text makes a point that communalism is not a part of present Africa and is relegated to the past. The deletion of the third paragraph, Hountondji thinks, is critical since, in his estimation, it both upholds a long-standing commitment to socialism, before any move to scientific socialism—Marxism—and accents the point that socialism is not a foreign ideology and a betrayal of African values. Hountondji posits, “The object of the book was to link socialism with the purest African tradition by showing that socialism far from being a betrayal of this tradition would actually be its best translation into modern socialism.”67
My point of contention with Hountondji is not that Nkrumah finds it necessary to revise and delete passages regarding his depiction of African communalism and its relationship to socialism. This is succinctly explained in the author’s note in the revised edition.
‘Since the publication of the first edition of Consciencism in 1964, the African Revolution has decisively entered a new phase, the phase of armed struggle. In every part of our continent, African revolutionaries are either preparing for armed struggle, or are actively engaged in military operations against the forces of reaction and counter-reaction.
The issues are now clearer than they ever have been. The succession of military coups which have in recent years taken place in Africa, have exposed the close links between the interest of neo-colonialism and the indigenous bourgeoisie. The coups have brought into sharp relief the nature and the extent of the class struggle in Africa. Foreign monopoly capitalists are in close association with local reactionaries, and have made use of officers among the armed forces and police in order to frustrate the purposes of the African Revolution.
It is in consideration of the new situation in Africa that some changes have become necessary in this edition. They occur principally in Chapter Three (Nkrumah 1970).’68
But it would be mistaken to argue that the “object” of Consciencism, first edition, was to link socialism to African communalism. Here Roger Genoud was closer to the mark, namely, in saying that for Nkrumah the pattern of African development is different in concrete detail from Europe’s. Nkrumah made quite clear how he disagreed with the idea of a return to communalism. Nkrumah, in an interview in 1965, (the year Hountondji sees as the critical turn away from the 1964 text), “What Ghanaians call Nkrumahism is scientific socialism applied to countries emerging from colonialism and specifically African countries where the Marxist capital-labor conflict is only one of a number of fundamental conflicts.”69 Here Nkrumah gave particular emphasis to the specificity of problems associated with a colonial background of pre-capitalist formations, such as superstition, supernaturalism, feudalistic carry-overs, and the persistence of former colonial institutions into post-independence. They are very specific to the African experience and entail a “number of fundamental conflicts” along with class contradictions.
Nkrumah in his “Address at the First Seminar at the Winneba Ideological School” accented the point “that Marxism is not a dogma but a guide to action.”70 Nkrumah’s adoption of Marxism and scientific socialism could not take the course of a search for the passe-partout of historical development. Marx himself made this same point in his critique of the Russian N. K. Mikhailovsky. Marx castigated Mikhailovsky for his dogmatism in the interpretation of all history on a Western model. Marx protested,
‘[Mikhailovsky] must by all means transform my historical sketch of the development of capitalism in Western Europe into a historical-philosophical theory of universal development by fate for all nations, whatever their historic circumstances in which they find themselves in order finally to achieve that economic formation which with the highest upswing of the productive forces of social work assures mankind its most universal development. (That [view] does me at the same time too much honor and too much insult).’71
Hence, neither Nkrumah nor Marx is bound by a mechanical approach to historical materialism where the Eurocentric paradigm is paramount. Nkrumah correctly understood that Marxism requires a concrete analysis of concrete conditions. Nkrumah did not argue that class contradiction was absent in Africa; only that it was one of a multiplicity of contradictions.72
In the original text of Consciencism, Nkrumah hinted at the presence of classes in Africa. He drew attention to the fact that present Africa is not traditional Africa where “there were no classes.”73 The notion that there were “no classes in traditional” Africa was deleted from the 1970 edition. However, the next three paragraphs remained the same. I shall quote them to amplify Nkrumah’s conception of classes and traditional Africa.
“In the traditional African society, no sectional interest could be regarded as supreme; nor did legislative and executive power aid the interests of any particular group. The welfare of the people was supreme.”74
Nkrumah was apparently giving expression to what he perceived as African traditionalism and what was so much a part of his earlier philosophy. The picture of traditional Africa as free of class contradictions and marked by the absolute social equality of all members was quite explicit. Nkrumah then added a caveat,
‘But colonialism came and changed all this. First, there were the necessities of the colonial administration to which I referred in the Introduction. For its success, the colonial administration needed a cadre of Africans, who, by being introduced to a certain minimum of European education, became infected with European ideals, which they tacitly accepted as being valid for African societies. Because these African instruments of the colonial administration were seen by all to be closely associated with the new sources of power, they acquired a certain prestige and rank [read class standing] to which they were not entitled by the demands of the harmonious development of their own society.’75
Nkrumah went on to say:
‘In addition to them, groups of merchants and traders, lawyers, doctors, politicians and trade unionists emerged, who armed with skills and levels of affluence which were gratifying to the colonial administration, initiated something parallel to the European middle class. There were certain feudal-minded elements who became imbued with European ideals either through direct European education or through hobnobbing with the local colonial administration. They gave the impression that they could be relied upon implicitly as repositories of all those staid and conservative virtues indispensable to any exploiter administration. They, as it were, paid the registration fee for membership of a class which was now associated with social power and authority.’76
We observe that Nkrumah, in the original 1964 edition of Consciencism, argued that classes are present in Africa. However, his presumptions about traditional Africa led to the argument that they derive not from indigenous stratification but from the imposition of colonialism. Now we can better grasp the above passages quoted by Hountondji. A reexamination of paragraphs one and two demonstrates that rather than being antithetical, they are, at best, ambiguous. “Revolution is . . . an indispensable avenue to socialism, where the antecedent socio-political structure is animated by principles which are the negation of those of socialism….” We can conclude, from this passage, that capitalism must be overthrown via revolution if socialism is to be established in Africa. Since colonialism is “ancillary to capitalism”, revolution is a social and political requirement. Africa can only move from colonialism to socialism via revolution. The next paragraph emphasizes not a material transformation but an affinity and continuity of principles. Nkrumah submitted, “in communalistic societies, socialism is not a revolutionary creed but a restatement in contemporary idiom of the principles underlying communalism.” What is of import here is that Nkrumah already made clear that Africa is not the traditional communal society. Since classes emerged under colonialism then one cannot assume that Africa in the period after colonialism is classless. Consequently, the last sentence of the paragraph that the “passage from non-communalistic society to socialism is a revolutionary one which is guided by the principles underlying communism” applies to present day Africa.
Nkrumah was not calling for a return to communalism, the essential thesis of African socialism; instead he envisioned a move forward, i.e., forward to what is scientific socialism. However, since the critique of African socialism, in Consciencism, is an implicit one, it is possible to misinterpret the above passage as a return to communalism, hence African socialism. This is precisely Hountondji’s error; he reads Consciencism as an affirmation of African socialism. It is why Nkrumah opted to revise the passage and eliminate any ambiguity regarding African socialism. For African socialism is premised on the assumption of a return to or reform of communalism. Moreover, and more fundamentally, Nkrumah came to reject the principle, affixed to African traditionalism that pre-colonial Africa was in any way classless. The deletion of statements to the effect that traditional Africa had no classes is at the crux of Nkrumah’s revisions. The object of Consciencism is not to link socialism to any intrinsic African characteristics, i.e., African metaphysical exclusivism; it is rather to embrace materialism as the grounding for scientific socialism.
I do grant, however, that the revised third paragraph does change the texture of the text. Now instead of an implicit critique expressed as multi-factored contradictions, Nkrumah made class struggle the premium and most prominent contradiction. This transformation, no doubt, reflects Nkrumah’s evolution as a Marxist-Leninist. With this revision, he not only gave explicit attention to class struggle, but called for workers and peasants to overthrow all other classes. Simply put, Nkrumah embraced the principle of the dictatorship of the masses/proletariat. I combine the theory of the “dictatorship of the masses” with the Leninist theory of the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Nkrumah kept a notebook, in 1967, of political jottings and wrote, “Not dictatorship of the proletariat, but dictatorship of the masses.”77 However, in his Class Struggle in Africa, published in 1970, three years later, he refined this formulation. He said that the “highest point of political action . . . is when the proletariat—comprising workers and peasants—under the leadership of a vanguard party the principals and motivations of which are scientific socialism, succeeds in overthrowing all other classes.”78 Here he subsumed the peasantry under the proletariat and then called for the dictatorship of the proletariat.79
In my estimation, this does represent an advance from the first edition; however, it is not a qualitative break from his previous position. I see it more along the lines of a refinement rather than abandonment of his previous stance. This transformation is more suitably a process of development, maturation, and evolution. To state my position more accurately, I claim that what we have is evidence of Nkrumah’s evolution as a Marxist-Leninist. This evolution, as we can see, with respect to the refinement of his theory of dictatorship, continued in the post-coup Guinea years. Class struggle and the dictatorship of the masses/proletariat ceased to be one of many threads of the tapestry of contradictions and with the revision became a salient feature in the text’s foreground. True, it does create a new texture, a shift in emphasis from the ideological superstructure to the material mode of production, but not a new text, diametrically opposed to the first edition.
Nkrumah’s defense of materialism is a reflection of the implicit side of his duplexive discourse. The antithesis between scientific and African socialism, in Nkrumah’s sight, is rooted in the contradiction between materialism and idealism. Nkrumah’s strategy is to confront the ontological foundation of African socialism. The most salient feature of the text is the ontological dimension. I must reiterate that while Consciencism is preeminently a socio-political philosophy it is precisely the dialectic between the socio-political and ontological exigencies which gives birth to it. Nkrumah took this dialectic as immediacy and hence identified a given socio-political practice with a definitive ontological stance. Nkrumah proclaimed:
‘[S]ociety’s desire to transform nature reflects itself in different socio-political theories. I wish now to suggest how the same desire reflects itself in philosophy. Just as social-political theories, to the extent that they deploy forces for the harnessing and development of nature, fall into two lots, so do philosophies. From this standpoint, the two real social-political alternatives facing society are either that one section should produce and another section batten thereon, or that all sections should produce and all sections should be fulfilled by the value created by labour.’80
The above quote accents the socio-political requisite, the choice between a society based on class exploitation—producers of value and non-producers extracting surplus—or one where all produce value, i.e., all are producers—socialism. Nkrumah went on to explain:
“In the same way there are two real philosophical alternatives. These alternatives coincide with idealism and materialism. . . . I explained how idealism was connected with a tiered society, how through its mode of explaining nature and social phenomena by reference to spirit, idealism favoured a class structure of a horizontal sort, in which one class sat upon the neck of another.”81
The ontological necessity facing Nkrumah prior to his arrival to the materialism of Consciencism is directly linked to a socio-political choice, the embrace of scientific socialism. Idealism not only directs one to a view of the nature of reality in distorted and false terms, but also compels one to make an incorrect choice of a socio-political philosophy. Thus idealism is adjoined to the wrong socio-political philosophy; in the African context this means African socialism, and herein we have Nkrumah’s implicit critique. Nkrumah further asserted:
“[M]aterialism, on the other hand, was connected with a humanist organization, how through its being monistic, and its referring all natural processes to matter and its laws it inspired an egalitarian organization of society. The unity and fundamental identity of nature suggests the unity and fundamental identity of man in society. Idealism favours an oligarchy, materialism favours egalitarianism.”82
Philosophy, Nkrumah posited, if read from the standpoint of its social contention; can lay bare the social-political value of an ontological position. Materialism has thus both an ontological and socio-political imperative, that is, if one hopes to arrive at scientific socialism. The ontological imperative is one side of the coin, for every ontological requisite there are corresponding socio-political imperatives. Nkrumah comes to the realization he could no longer inhabit a philosophical dwelling where Marxism and Christianity could peacefully coexist or where African traditionalism with its attendant idealism and Western philosophy could peacefully coexist in symbiosis.
Nkrumah chose to adopt Marxism from below, i.e., dialectical materialism, as his ontology, and this adoption of dialectical materialism is the flip side of the coin of adopting scientific socialism. Where previously Nkrumah grasped Marxism from above and not below; he later recognized the duplexive nature of his choice. From this recognition, he took the step to identify all socio-political philosophy with either materialism or idealism. And conversely all ontological stances, once they are categorically determined to be either idealist or materialist, correlate with a determinate socio-political philosophy or theory. Nkrumah’s materialist ontology points to a specific socio-political philosophy. This specific socio-political philosophy of Consciencism is formulated as a philosophy of liberation for the African revolution. Consciencism is then a particular application of dialectical materialism, scientific socialism (Marxism) to African conditions. Today, we can see that there still remains confusion regarding Nkrumah’s intention, viz., bringing Marxist philosophy to bear on the African experience.
Nkrumah’s method of extensive reference to the history of Western philosophy, rather than employing an ethnophilosophical account, is the outcome of a shift in the location of African traditionalism from the ontological to a socio-political sphere. The shift is significant and must be cognitively taken into account if one is to comprehend the meaning of particularity within the framework of Consciencism compared to that of ethnophilosophy. The problematic of universality and particularity is considered from the vantage point of a dialectical relationship involving social philosophy and ontology. Social philosophy gives expression to particularity—the concrete analysis of concrete conditions and ontology gives expression to universality—the general laws of social development manifested in the antithesis of materialism to idealism.
Consciencism, for Nkrumah, is a Marxist text in an African context. The African context differs from the Western (European) one, although, for each, the same principles apply. This is the import of Nkrumah’s proclamation, “There is only scientific socialism which is valid the world over, and we are building our society on the basis of scientific socialism.”83 The same principles, objective laws of development, nevertheless are manifested in a concrete way, i.e. particularized in a given context, in this instance the African context. Nkrumah attempted a specification of the universal, the general, by formulating a socio-political philosophy of particularity, which is not confined and restricted by African metaphysical exclusivism. One of the specific features of the African context is the co-existence of three ideological currents, all in juxtaposition to one another, where there are ideologies in competition. Consciencism as a socio-political philosophy of particularity aims to overcome the ideological crisis emanating from these competing ideologies.
‘Just as there can be competing ideologies in the same society, so there can be opposing ideologies between different societies. However, while societies with different social systems can coexist, their ideologies cannot. There is such a thing as peaceful coexistence between states with different social systems; but as long as oppressive classes exist, there can be no such thing as peaceful coexistence between opposing ideologies.’84
Ideological conflict is the product of class contradictions and exploitation. This ideological conflict reflects, expresses and envelops the internal contradictions within the capitalist system. Moreover, this ideological competition is attendant with the conflict and competition between the social systems of capitalism and socialism.
Nkrumah’s Consciencism is a Marxist philosophical text in the context of the African liberation movement.85 Consciencism is employed in the interest of the ideological struggle against African metaphysical exclusivism and African socialism. It is a text that affirms scientific socialism (Marxism) in the particular circumstances of African reality by the accentuation of the need to affirm materialism as the ontological foundation for scientific socialism. There is much to be harvested from this text that is of importance for us today. Given the collapse of many Marxist party formations, collectives and even full-fledged Marxist political parties in Africa, not to mention throughout the world, we now observe a corrosive form of ideological bankruptcy and defeatism.86 Thus, the return to the philosophical anchor of Marxism, as conceptualized in the African context, was most timely and relevant. The revolutionary practice of African liberation requires the serious study of revolutionary Marxist-Leninist theory. In conclusion, just as Lenin spoke of the fact there can be no revolutionary practice without revolutionary theory, Nkrumah in Consciencism extended to us his political paraphrase and transposition of Kant and said, “Practice without thought is blind, thought without practice is empty.”87
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1 Kwame Nkrumah, Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for De-Colonization with Particular Reference to the African Revolution (London: Heinemann, 1964/New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970).
2 See Jack O’Dell, “Kwame Nkrumah and the African Conscience,” Freedomways (Fall 1966), pp. 53-59; J. P. Heawood, “Consciencism” Race and Class, 6, 1965.
3 Henry Odera Oruka, “Four Trends in Current African Philosophy,” in A. Diemer, ed., Philosophy in the Present Situation of Africa (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1981).
4 Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. 54.
5 See Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah (New York: International Publishers, 1971); Panaf, Kwame Nkrumah (London: Panaf, 1974).
6 Nkrumah, Ghana; Basil Davidson, Black Star: A View of the Life and Times of Kwame Nkrumah (London: Allen Lane, 1973) 47; Marika Sherwood, Kwame Nkrumah: The Years Abroad 1935-1947 (Legon: Freedom Publications, 1996), pp. 49-70.
7 Oruka, “Sagacity in African Philosophy,” in Tsenay Serequeberhan, ed., African Philosophy: The Essential Readings (New York: Paragon, 1991).
8 For example we can observe that Aristotle and Hegel interpret the history of philosophy in light of their own philosophical projects. This I contend is not an aberration in the history of philosophy. For a rather substantive discussion on this question see the ‘Introduction’ to Richard Rorty, J.B. Schneewind and Quentin Skinner, eds., Philosophy in History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984). Oruka covers this point as it relates to the history of African philosophy in his “Sagacity in African Philosophy” in Tsenay Serequeberhan, ed., African Philosophy: The Essential Readings, Paragon Issues in Philosophy (New York: Paragon House, 1991), pp. 56-57. Here my use of the term ‘language games’ is distinct from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s and indeed is a play on the very sense he conveys within the tradition of analytic philosophy.
9 Nkrumah, Building a Socialist State (Accra: Ghana Ministry of Information, 1962); Toward Socialism: Message from the General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Committee of the Convention People’s Party (Accra: Ghana Government Publication, 1962); Robert Dowse, Modernization in Ghana and the USSR (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969); B. D. G. Folson, “The Development of Socialist in Ghana, 1949-59 Part 1” Ghana Social Science Journal 1, 2 (November 1971), p. 7.
10 Francis Nwia-Kofi Nkrumah, “Education and Nationalism in Africa,” Educational Outlook 38, 1 (1943); Nkrumah, Consciencism.
11 Miles Mark Fisher, the African American cultural historian and philosopher, acknowledges his debt to Nkrumah’s research on the African background to African American culture. See Miles Mark Fisher, Negro Slave Songs in the United States (New York: Citadel Press, 1990); Lenwood G. Davis, “Miles Mark Fisher: Minister, Historian, and Cultural Philosopher,” Negro History Bulletin, 36, 1 (1983), pp. 19-21. Also see Marika Sherwood, Kwame Nkrumah, p. 63.
12 Nkrumah, Ghana, p. 12; On “African Theologies of Indigenization” see chapter 3 of Josiah U. Young, Black and African Theologies (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis, 1986).
13 Previously Nkrumah was an ordained minister. On his ordainment see A. B. Assensoh, Kwame Nkrumah: Six Years in Exile (Elms Court: Arthur P. Stockwell Ltd., 1978) p. 57.
14 Paulin J. Hountondji gives a full elaboration of ethnophilosophy in, African Philosophy: Myth and Reality (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1983), chapters 1 through 3. There is a bit of irony in the fact that Nkrumah may have been the first to coin the term “ethnophilosophy” in the title of his proposed doctoral dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania. The title of Nkrumah’s proposed dissertation was “Mind and Thought in Primitive Society: A Study in Ethno-Philosophy with Special Reference to the Akan People of the Gold Coast, West Africa” see Marika Sherwood, Kwame Nkrumah, p. 65. The debate over ethnophilosophy involves an extensive body of literature. Serequeberhan’s anthology cited in note 7 contains a good selection of representative articles. Also consult V.Y. Mudimbe, The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), especially Chapter 5. Albert Mosley offers a selection of writings that are critiques of ethnophilosophy. Albert Mosley, ed., African Philosophy (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1995), Section 1B: “The Critique of Ethnophilosophy.”
15 Kwame Nkrumah, “African Socialism’ Revisited” first appeared in African Forum, 1, 3 (1966). It is reprinted in Kwame Nkrumah, Revolutionary Path (New York: International Publishers, 1973), pp. 438-45.
16 Nkrumah, Consciencism, pp. 105 – 106.
17 African Forum, 1, 3 (1966).
18 For an account of family resemblance see Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, G.E.M. Anscombe, trans., (New York: Macmillan, 1964), p. 32. For a prototype of ethnophilosophy consult W.E. Abraham, The Mind of Africa (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962) Chapter Two. For the link between ethnophilosophy and African socialism consult Jomo Kenyatta, Harambee (Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1964) and Julius K. Nyerere, Uhuru na Ujamaa (Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1968).
19 Oruka, “Sagacity in African Philosophy,” in Serequeberhan, ed., African Philosophy, p. 48.
20 The above criticism of ethnophilosophy is also applicable to the notion of Afrocentricity where African and European thought are seen as mutually exclusive. For a critique of Afrocentricity see John H. McClendon, “The Afrocentric Project: The Quest for Particularity and the Negation of Objectivity,” Explorations in Ethnic Studies (January 1995) 18, 1.
21 Nkrumah, Consciencism, pp. 56-7.
22 Nkrumah, Consciencism, pp. 55-6.
23 Safro Kwame, ed., Readings in African Philosophy: An Akan Collection (New York: University Press of America, 1995), especially the Introduction.
24 Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. 3.
25 Nkrumah, Consciencism, pp. 5, 55, 63.
26 Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. 79.
27 Nkrumah, Consciencism, pp. 1-5.
28 Ali Mazrui, Ancient Greece in African Political Thought (Nairobi: Afropress, 1967).
29 D. A. Masolo, African Philosophy in Search of Identity (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994).
30 Habib Niang, “The Concept of Cosmic Contrast: A Contribution to Marxist Dialectics,” The Spark (April 3, 1964).
31 Nkrumah, Consciencism, pp. 57-61.
32 Nkrumah, Consciencism, pp. 3-4.
33 Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. 54.
34 Nkrumah, Consciencism, pp. 6, 21, 31. Karl Marx defines the ‘concrete’ accordingly; “The concrete concept is concrete because it is a synthesis of many definitions thus representing the unity of diverse aspects.” See Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970), 206.
35 Karl Marx, Capital (New York: International Publishers, 1974), vol. 3, p. 817.
36 V. I. Lenin, ‘Philosophical Notebooks,’ in Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972), p. 363. For an idealist treatment of universals see W.T. Stace, The Philosophy of Hegel (New York: Dover Publications, 1955), pp. 4-18. The materialist treatment of universals can also be found in E. Wamba-Dia-Wamba, “Philosophy in Africa Challenges of the African Philosopher” in Tsenay Serequeberhan, ed., African Philosophy: The Essential Readings, Paragon Issues in Philosophy (New York: Paragon House, 1991), p. 242. For a distinctly different take on this topic from an African philosopher, also see Kwasi Wiredu, Cultural Universals and Particulars: An African Perspective (Bloomington: Indiana University Press 1996).
37 Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. 78.
38 Carol Pearce, “African Philosophy and the Sociological Thesis” Philosophy of Social Sciences 22, 4 (December, 1992), pp. 442-443. For another critique of Pearce see John Bewaji, “Critical Comments on Pearce, African Philosophy, and the Sociological Thesis” Philosophy of Social Sciences 25, 1 (March 1995), pp. 99-119.
39 Tsenay Serequeberhan, The Hermeneutics of African Philosophy (New York: Routledge, 1994), p. 33.
40 Serequeberhan, The Hermeneutics, p. 34.
41 Serequeberhan, The Hermeneutics, p. 34.
42 Pearce, “African Philosophy and the Sociological Thesis,” p. 443.
43 Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. 53. My emphasis.
44 Nkrumah, Consciencism, pp. 2, 6.
45 Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. 5.
46 Pearce, “African Philosophy and the Sociological Thesis,” p. 446.
47 Oruka, “Sagacity in African Philosophy,” pp. 56-7.
48 Pearce, “African Philosophy and the Sociological Thesis,” p. 443.
49 Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. 70. My emphasis.
50 Pearce, “African Philosophy and the Sociological Thesis,” p. 448.
51 Pearce, , “African Philosophy and the Sociological Thesis,” p. 452.
52 Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. 5.
53 Also see “Special Issue on African Socialism” Africa Report VIII (May 1963); William H. Friedland and Carl Rosberg, eds., African Socialism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1964); Léopold S. Senghor, African Socialism (New York: American Society of African Culture, 1959); Tom Mboya, “African Socialism” in Friedland and Rosberg, African Socialism, pp. 250-58. For a critique of African socialism please see, A. M. Babu, African Socialism or Socialist Africa (London: Zed Press, 1981).
54 For an interpretation of Consciencism as a text of African metaphysical exclusivism and pointing to African socialism, see Cedric X. Clark, “Some Implications of Nkrumah’s Consciencism for Alternative Coordinates in Non-European Causality” in Lewis M. King, Vernon J. Dixon and Wade W. Nobles, eds., African Philosophy: Assumptions & Paradigms for Research on Black Persons (Los Angeles: Fanon Center Publication, 1976), pp. 103-119. The authors Auma-Osolo and Osolo-Nasubo accent the connection between African traditionalism and African socialism. They argue, “We believe there are two African traditions which form an essential basis for African socialism: (1) political democracy and (2) mutual social responsibility.” A. Auma-Osolo and Ng’weno Osolo-Nasubo, “Democratic African Socialism: An Account of African Communal Philosophy” African Studies Review, 14, 2 (September 1971), p. 266.
55 Nkrumah, Building a Socialist State (Accra: Ghana Ministry of Information, 1962); Toward Socialism: Message from the General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Committee of the Convention Peoples Party, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (Accra: Ghana Government Publication, 1962); B. D. G. Folson, “The Development of Socialism in Ghana, 1949-59 Part 1.”
56 Nkrumah, Revolutionary Path (New York: International Publishers, 1973).
57 The Editors of The Spark, Some Essential Features of Nkrumaism (London: Panaf Books, 1970).
58 On the political and ideological struggles waged by The Spark and the Nkrumah Ideological Institute against the right wing of the CPP consult, Samuel Ikoku, Le Ghana de Nkrumah (Paris: Librarie Francois Maspero, 1971) especially chapter 5, “Problèmes Idéologique et Intrigues de la droite du C P P.”
59 Nkrumah, Why the Spark (Accra: The Spark Publishers, 1964).
60 For a summary document of The Spark see, The Editors of The Spark, Some Essential Features of Nkrumaism (London: Panaf Books, 1970). The Spark clearly indicates that Consciencism was conceived as a Marxist text. For a look at representative articles appearing in the April 3, 1964 issue of The Spark on Consciencism, see, Woungly Massaga, “On Consciencism”, Samuel Ikoku, “On the Application of Consciencism in Ghana and Africa”, Bankole Akpata, “Philosophical Consciencism: A New Development of Marxism in the Era of Imperialism and Colonialism in Africa”, and Habib Niang, “The Concept of Cosmic Contrast: A Contribution to Marxist Dialectics.”
61 The Ghana News, II, 8. Also consult Kwame Nkrumah, Toward Socialism: Message from the General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Committee of the Convention Peoples Party, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (Accra: Ghana Government Publication, 1962).
62 Roger Genoud, Nationalism and Economic Development in Ghana (New York: Praeger, 1969), p. 206.
63 Paulin J. Hountondji, African Philosophy: Myth and Reality (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983), p. 143. My polemic is directed at ‘chapter seven’ in Hountondji, “The Idea of Philosophy in Nkrumah’s Consciencism,” pp. 141-55.
64 Hountondji, African Philosophy, p. 147.
65 Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. 74. This passage that Nkrumah references in his autobiography Ghana is on p. xvi.
66 Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. 74.
67 Hountondji, African Philosophy, p. 146.
68 Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. vi.
69 Nkrumah, The Ghana News II, 8
70 Nkrumah, Revolutionary Path, p. 171.
71 Marx’s letter was written to the Editor of Russian (Petersburg) Otechestvennye Zapiski, November 1877. Consult Saul Padover, The Letters of Karl Marx, (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1979) 321. Later in 1894, V. I. Lenin tendered a critique of Mikhailovsky’s subjectivist interpretation of Marx’s materialist conception of history. See V. I. Lenin, “What The Friends of The People Are and How They Fight The Social-Democrats,” Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972), vol. 1, pp. 129-326.
72 Bankole Akpata, “Philosophical Consciencism: A New Development of Marxism in the Era of Imperialism and Colonialism in Africa,” The Spark (April 3, 1964).
73 Nkrumah, Consciencism (1964), p. 69.
74 Nkrumah, Consciencism (1970), p. 69.
75 Nkrumah, Consciencism (1970), p. 69.
76 Nkrumah, Consciencism (1970), p. 69-70.
77 June Milne, ed., Kwame Nkrumah, the Conakry Years: His Life and Letters (London: Panaf, 1990), p. 194.
78 Nkrumah, Revolutionary Path, p. 511
79 Milne, Kwame Nkrumah, the Conakry Years, p. 194; Nkrumah, Revolutionary Path, p. 511.
80 Nkrumah, Consciencism (1970), pp. 74-75.
81 Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. 75.
82 Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. 75.
83 The Ghana News II, 8 1965.
84 Nkrumah, Consciencism (1970), p. 57.
85 Habib Niang, “The Concept of Cosmic Contrast: a Contribution to Marxist Dialectics,” The Spark (April 3, 1964); Akpata, “Philosophical Consciencism,” The Spark (April 3, 1964).
86 Here considerations from a theoretical standpoint would involve surveying such journals as the Journal of African Marxists, which was based in Lusaka and headed by such important intellectuals as Ikenna Nzimiro, Ben Magubane and Samir Amin and the journal, African Red Family where in Issues 1 and 2 they offered a critique of Nkrumahism under the title, “Marxist-Leninist Analysis of Nkrumahism.” Lastly, there is The African Communist, which is the oldest of all the African Marxist journals and is a publication of the South African Communist Party.
87 Nkrumah, Consciencism (1964), p. 78.
John H. McClendon. “Nkrumah’s Consciencism as Philosophical Text: Matter of Confusion,” Journal on African Philosophy: Issue 3, 2003.
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