BRIEFING ON THE MIND OF KWAME NKRUMAH
Certainly a new wind is blowing over Africa. The spirit of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah is awakened. This renewed presence is acknowledged across the continents. Not only are academicians and intellectuals reviving their interest in Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. They have also questioned and are questioning the decades of neglect in the study of the ideas of the man. Agitations are on foot at centres of learning to incorporate such studies into the curriculum of university studies in Africa. The agitations do not resist the continued studies of Western philosophers like Thales, Plato, Aristotle and others. They make a just and positive demand that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah be added to them.
In the politics of Ghana today the spirit of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah looms large. Political parties which were even opposed to the policies of the man today seek a certain accommodation with his commitments. Not only does the current President remain unambiguous in his ideological commitment to the ideals of Kwame Nkrumah but also the flag bearer of the main opposition party has stated his commitment to the Pan-African project of the foremost Pan-African Proponent, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. No longer are the old folks of that opposition secure in their age-old condemnations of the Man of African Destiny in the face of the rising and increasing youth acknowledgement of that man in their own ranks.
This renewed and wide spreading interest in Dr. Kwame Nkrumah has occasioned discomfort, however, in the souls of certain persons who have taken the strategic option of attacking the very intellectual foundations of the man in the name of the man. This transparent mission to distort and revise Dr. Nkrumah’s fundamental ideas and commitments in favour of what he stands against is targeted at the youth of Africa and of the Diaspora. But the spirit of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, awakened by this wicked design of low political spirits, has invoked a quick response in THE MIND OF KWAME NKRUMAH: MANUAL FOR THE STUDY OF CONSCIENCISM.
This manual does not only simplify the reading and understanding of the statement of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s fundamental ideas in his book, CONSCIENCISM, through guiding the reader over its pages, chapter by chapter, but as well engages in a radical and militant combat of that distortionist and revisionist trend promoted by fifth columnists who have taken positions within what Kwame Afful calls the Nkrumah movement. Addressed to the youth of Africa and the Diaspora, this manual is the first of its kind to breakdown the technical philosophical language of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to easily accessible terms of ordinary language. It is to be read alongside the book, CONSCIENCISM, itself.
In its opening pages, the Manual addresses the youth and explains the necessity of reading Dr. Nkrumah’s book in the flesh rather than the second hand or interpretative versions of it. The Foreword traces a brief history of attitudes towards philosophy in general and particularly towards CONSCIENCISM within the public domain as well as within the intelligentsia. These are attitudes that have not facilitated the appreciation of the profundity of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s thought and practice. In the Preface, vital concepts of the book are explained prior to the in-depth treatment of the chapters.
This is followed with guiding the reader through the Introduction of the book, CONSCIENCISM. In this respect, a portion of Dr. Nkrumah’s quotation from Fredriech Engels’ letter that he leaves out is recalled to provide a better understanding of what he says. The importance of the Introduction rests in the fact of its revealing Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s anxiety to quicken the liberation and reconstruction of Africa through the conscious use or application of principles of thought to understand the dynamics of society in scientific terms in order to effectively change it. This special feature in Dr. Nkrumah’s intellectual attitude is well understood in comparison to the physical scientist’s attitude towards applicable research.
In the first chapter, the Manual explains the difficulties of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s presentation style and devices a strategy for following the presentation easily. In this way, it leads the reader along the themes that Nkrumah explores in his development of the history of Western intellectual thought. It identifies the main themes and then the sub-themes. The reader is then led to follow the development of themes and sub-themes individually all over the chapter and shows how they are connected with each other in a logical flow. This interesting pursuit of themes and sub-themes in the pages of the book is in the nature of hunting an animal and the unforgettable experience of landing at the catch makes the idea stick and memorable.
But if the first chapter explores the history of abstract thought in Western intellectual history, the second chapter shows the immediate concrete nature of those thoughts through illustrations of their social content. So that what had hitherto appeared as mind-splitting about nothing immediately comes alive with passions being aroused in this to that direction. Here, the themes and sub-themes are again in display and such themes as the concepts of egalitarianism and revolution are portrayed in their evolution within the demands of the struggles to free man from the clerical restrictions and then the clergy-oligarch diarchy that compromised increased production and freedom for the human spirit.
Chapter three then takes the reader through and focuses their attention on the role of ideology in the pursuit of the perfect society and therefore in the everyday life of the individual and society. The definition of ideology offered is innovative. Every society exhibits one or more. The Manual simplifies the explanation and, ideology, in Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s terms, is understood not essentially as a written statement but as the total set of values, written and largely unwritten, that man develops for the conduct and direction of all for the freedom and fulfilment of society and the individual. The need for such an ideology out of the historically-conditioned conflicting ideologies in Africa is then advocated.
The details of that ideology are outlined in chapter four. With the understanding that an ideology is displayed in and permeates every sphere of the socio-political life of a society and is exhibited in the philosophical system and theories in all studies, the Manual systematically shows those outlines. The book CONSCIENCISM finally emerges as a philosophical statement that elucidates and theoretically defends scientific socialist ideology to guide the African Revolution. The Manual, in this portrayal of CONSCIENCISM, sees Consciencism not as solely concerned with the fusion of the three dominant strands of African culture but as a complete thought system for every socio-political purpose.
The final chapter of the Manual portrays the combat against contemporary revisionism and neglect conducted in cyberspace. It is a defence of the principles of Consciencism by the author of the Manual against the revisionism and neglect of apparently influential figures in the Nkrumaist and Pan-African movement. The featured figures are Christian Kwame Agbodza, the self-appointed Professor of Consciencism, and Elder Chinweizu Chinweizu, respectively.
The author of the manual is Lang T.K.A. Nubuor, the General Secretary of the erstwhile People’s Revolutionary League of Ghana and a member of the National Defence Committee that attempted to build an alternative State to replace the neo-colonial state structure through a system of People’s and Workers’ Defence Committees upon the inception of the December 31, 1981 coup in Ghana. He is currently the Director of the Centre for Consciencist Studies and Analyses (CENCSA).
THE MIND OF KWAME NKRUMAH
Manual for the Study of Consciencism
Lang T.K.A. Nubuor
Copyright © 2011 Lang T.K.A. Nubuor.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage retrieval system, without the permission, in writing, of the publisher.
Eki Gbinigie who suggested the idea of a manual in place of a review
Explo Nani-Kofi who encouraged the idea
Beatrice Dedo Mate-Kole who remained with me when all had abandoned me
Patricia Teiko Nubuor (Sister Ghana) who never forgot a brother
And the Great
Alhaji Ali Anum-Yemoh whose wonderful friendship sustains my hope in humanity.
This manual has been written within very difficult circumstances. That it has been completed at all appears to be a miracle. That is why I express my heart-felt gratitude to God in the first instance for the courage that sustained me over the fifteen-month period that it took to commence writing and to complete it. For the four-year period that occupied me in preparations and writing, Beatrice Dedo Mate-Kole proved the most tolerant and helpful. Without her support, the assistance of Eki Gbinigie, Explo Nani-Kofi, Kwesi Pratt, Jnr, and Alhaji Ali Anum-Yemoh would have been in vain.
Encouraging comments from promising young men like Kosi Dedey, Duke Tagoe, Kwaku Dadzie and Abraham Allotey urged me on in no small measure. Kwaku Dadzie and Richard Abonie would rather this manual were presented in a direct book form. That was the extent of the enthusiasm of these gentlemen. It is my hope that explanations offered to them will satisfy them for the time being.
Ama Adumea Ohene made me feel that this manual had been awaited for decades. Her positive comments on the uncompleted manuscript assured me that sophisticated readers like her would likewise be pleased that at long last the younger generation will find Consciencism accessible.
For all the material assistance, like Explo Nani-Kofi’s purchase of the copy of Consciencism used for this writing, financial assistance and spiritual support of all the above-mentioned persons I remain forever grateful.
May the good Lord bless all of them in Jesus’ name.
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin on the eve of the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia was compelled to re-state and defend the philosophy of Marxism, i.e. dialectical materialism, against the attempts of some Russian intellectuals who falsely claimed that they had revised and perfected Marxism – Bankole Akpata (March 28th 1964).
For Marx, the doom of the capitalist system was axiomatic, but the nature of its successor depended on far more than a change in the mode of production. The revolutionaries had to know what they were doing, or the state would not wither away. And unless the state withered away, the real history of humanity would not begin.
For Lenin, however, the heresy-hunt for idealists and metaphysicians in the ranks of the revolutionary socialists became a matter of supreme importance, for achieving the revolution itself. Accusing Bukhanin, Zinoviev, Trotsky and other leading theoreticians in his party of God-seeking*, he was prepared to break with them utterly unless they renounced their views.
The first World War proved Lenin to be right. Only the tempered dialectical materialists of his own party could withstand the full blast of imperialist duress and propaganda. All the other socialist parties voted war credits for their governments and led the workers to the slaughter.
But the understanding of reality cannot spread as fast as illusion and error in human societies …
Socialists who differ philosophically about the nature of reality may travel a long way together politically. But part they must, eventually, and the bitterness in which they part will bear a direct ratio to the length of time during which their differences have been concealed. In philosophy as in war the sudden strife between kinsfolk can be the most destructive, and therefore the socialist movement should remain in continuous philosophical debate.
Even the point of revolt against capitalism need not necessarily be the point of parting between socialists who accept an idealistic or materialistic explanation of reality; but the first essay in building the new society will bring irreconcilable conflicts to the surface. The gods which die in every revolution will not lie quietly in the grave. The believers who wait for their resurrection will contend with the unbelievers who want to burn the remains and scatter the ashes. – H.M. Basner (April 2, 1964).
* That is, seeking to be God.
To The Younger Reader
ON THE INTRODUCTION TO CONSCIENCISM
CHAPTER ONE On Philosophy in Retrospect
CHAPTER TWO On Philosophy and Society
CHAPTER THREE On Society and Ideology
CHAPTER FOUR On Consciencism
CHAPTER FIVE Consciencist Flights in Cyberspace
Appendix One The Kingdom of God
Appendix Two The Christ Concept of Faith
Appendix Three Justification by Faith and Works
TO THE YOUNGER READER: WHY YOU MUST STUDY CONSCIENCISM
I would … ask you to study this theory from its original sources and not at second-hand; it is really much easier. Marx hardly wrote anything in which it did not play a part.
Adapting this quote to Consciencism and Kwame Nkrumah, we would ask you to study Consciencism from its original sources and not at second-hand; it is really much reliable. Kwame Nkrumah hardly wrote anything in which it did not play a part.
In the light of some disturbing publications on Consciencism in recent times it is deemed of utmost importance that we go to the text of its statement in the original form. In the unwarranted effort to show the continued relevance of the 1964 publication, some rather less careful writers have tried to revise it. The essence of the current revision is the rejection of the book’s mono- ideological thrust in favour of an ideological mishmash.
The danger is that some people, who have clearly not read the book or failed to read it entirely, are taking in the revisionist’s stuff. The inevitable consequence is that these people are bound to be ideological liabilities unto themselves in the worldwide effort to eliminate neo-colonialism, the last stage of imperialism. This is certainly what they would not wish for themselves but are slowly and surely becoming.
Experience has shown that even great writers sometimes misinterprete their forebears. It is for this reason that it could take new theories decades or even centuries to be understood and accepted. It is also for this reason that reading an original text from a secondary source without the consideration of the original text itself is not only injurious to the academic or intellectual health of the victim but also portrays that victim as one big bundle of laziness.
This author once had the opportunity of critically commenting on a friend’s draft doctoral thesis. He found that the entire work done thus far was not only based on inaccurate secondary sources but more seriously the friend had never gone to the original texts that had been misinterpreted so badly. Upon heeding the advice to study the original texts he came out with a new draft that refreshingly reflected the texts.
Consider the massive embarrassment that such a person would have exposed himself to if he had presented that thesis to a panel only to be exposed as being very ignorant of what he was talking about. To avoid that kind of embarrassment in front of an even greater audience you need to study Consciencism in the flesh and not a caricature of its apparition.
The benefit from studying Consciencism in the flesh is not merely the understanding of it at first hand. More importantly, it arms one with a world-class outlook that enables one to see issues clearly and quickly. The constant application of such a world outlook assures consistent thoughts over many African and other issues. And consistency is the very essence and definition of greatness. Apply yourself to this book, Consciencism – Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonisation, on your way to becoming one of the next most influential persons in the Pan-African anti-imperialist struggle for African Unity and Scientific Socialism. Yes, you can!
ON THE NEGATIVE ATTITUDE TOWARDS PHILOSOPHY AND CONSCIENCISM
Here is a personal case to illustrate the difficulties that philosophers go through in being heard. The general attitude towards philosophy tends to close the public mind to profound thoughts throbbing in the hearts and minds of philosophers. Such thoughts, however, enable us to get to the depths of the minds of significant action takers whose activities play a large role in the fashioning of a nation’s destiny. In the deeper recesses of the mind of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah lies a system of ideas that forms the immediate and remote context within which he considered and took every action directed at the liberation and development of Africa away from foreign control and exploitation. The proper understanding of the man can only be deeply grasped in a serious study of his philosophy.
And yet before and after his death the general negative individual, public and institutional attitude towards philosophy has denied the African conscience all opportunities to reach the depths of the mind of that great and foremost African thinker and actor. We are talking about the man whose voice continually booms this axiom across African time and space over the generations, born and this yet unborn: ‘Practice without thought is blind; thought without practice is empty’. While this first part illustrates this negativity at the level of public and institutional reactionary prejudice against philosophy and the philosopher, the second takes the illustration to the level where even sympathetic men and women of the intelligentsia prove to be a contributory factor … in their neglect.
It happened first at the auditorium of the School of Administration at the University of Ghana, Legon. Prof. Kwasi Wiredu was the chairman at the symposium. It was question time and I had raised my hand to make a contribution. I started with a comment on the State in an attempt to briefly define it and relate it to the contribution a panelist had made. Before I could proceed with my second sentence after the first, the auditorium virtually broke into a pandemonium with shouts of ‘Abstract! Abstract! Abstract!’ My voice drowned out. I had to quietly sit down in surprise. This happened in 1978. During that time Professor Wiredu was also supervising my long essay on The Marxist Philosophy of History.
Professor A. Adu Boahen had rejected that long essay project on the grounds that he was expecting me, like all others, to go to the villages for oral traditions from the aged for the construction of the history of Ghana. He was disappointed that I had chosen a project that would confine me to the analysis of texts in libraries. I was also disappointed that he had no faith in the course, Aspects of Intellectual History, under which I was offering to undertake that project. Mr. E.D.G. Sprigge, a Senior Lecturer of the Department of History who had once taught both Adu Boahen and Kwasi Wiredu, handled that course. As fate would have it I met Mr. Sprigge a few metres away in front of Adu Boahen’s office when I came out from there in my disappointment.
Mr. Sprigge asked me whether I had presented my project. I told him that I just did but that Prof. Adu Boahen had also just rejected it. He asked to know what the project was and I told him. He was surprised and said he would have accepted and loved to supervise it. He also appeared disappointed. So that at the Department of History those who were responsible for my development in the sphere of intellectual history, that is, Prof. Adu Boahen, Mr. Sprigge and my humble self, were all disappointed in one way or the other. So also was Prof. Kwasi Wiredu when I went to find out from him whether the Department of Philosophy would accept the project for presentation. By God’s grace, he accepted it and elected to supervise it himself. I was relieved.
Upon self-reflection a few years later I understood why Prof. A. Adu Boahen had nearly frustrated my intellectual confidence; and confidence it was, otherwise without the presentation of that project I might not have had the confidence of ever thinking that I could write and be read at the highest levels of the intelligentsia. I sincerely owe this to Prof. Kwasi Wiredu in the first instance. But what did I say I later understood of Adu Boahen’s reaction? A few months before I submitted that project to him, I had denounced his philosophy of history in his own class and in front of my own mates as being atomistic. Uproar from my mates greeted this as had happened at the auditorium. This time it was not meant to shut me up. It was as if I had said ‘psychological gbengbentus’. That was the second time that the use of a philosophical turn of speech drew a loud reaction.
Prof. Adu Boahen had since regretted ever giving me the opportunity to read and defend my essay in class in answer to his question as to whether the Anglo-Ashanti wars could have been avoided. He had expected me to read and repeat his view that those wars could have been avoided. I did nothing of the sort. I rather subjected his view to a Marxist1 critique and held that those wars were inevitable. He graded my paper ‘F’ and challenged me to present it to a full session of my class for my mates’ response. My mates responded with applause to his embarrassment upon my presentation. His own response to my classroom presentation was that I had based my paper on some theory of inevitability which Sir Isaiah Berlin had refuted. He had never known that,in favour of the Marxist conception on that subject, I had read and refuted in my heart the effusions in Sir Isaiah Berlin’s book, Historical Inevitability.
In the light of all these events that showed my special interest in both the history of philosophy and the philosophy of history it became a further relief when I came into contact with a number of lecturers at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Nigeria. Today, I can remember them as Ahmed Siddique Mohammed, Raufu, Jibo, Sanusi, Seidu and Dr. Bangura. They were then all young lecturers, who, except the latter, were pursuing their Master’s degrees. They urged me to seek admission to the Department of History, since there was no Department of Philosophy at that university, to pursue a Master’s programme. Thereafter, I went to see Prof. Kwasi Wiredu at the University of Ibadan for a letter of recommendation which he gracefully gave me.
But, once again, Prof. K.B.G. Forson cited my philosophical credentials as an objection to my admission to the Department of History. He was then lecturing at the ABU. He was my first year lecturer in Political Science at the University of Ghana. His reason was that he had never known me as a historian but a philosopher. He refused to acknowledge that with my combined honours degree in Modern History and Philosophy I could read history at the Master’s level. Back in Ghana, Mr. Sprigge had impressed it on me to return for my Master’s at the University of Ghana. I learned that my application became the only controversial submission as it took hours and a break before it was rejected, thanks to Prof. Forson’s resistance. He had finally gone beyond my academic qualifications to falsely claim that I, together with others, had tried to kill him in the heat of the December 31 coup d’état in Ghana.
I could later feel his remorse when I went to him at his office and made him understand that I knew nothing about the alleged threat on his life. It was a pity as he kept talking irrelevantly about other people like Capt. Kojo Tsikata who had allegedly refused to greet him on a train in London. I felt he was feeling lonely and bored. He told me that he usually kept his office’s door locked. He appeared to see phantoms. He died not many years afterwards.
I have had to narrate these stories to illustrate a certain negative general attitude that people at even the highest levels of our intelligentsia exhibit towards philosophy. It should, therefore, not be surprising that we have not adopted the right attitude towards a very important book like Consciencism. On February 22, 2011 a young friend of mine told me on the telephone that the more he read the draft of this manual the more he understood what Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah did. He was one of the young men I was in contact with while developing the manual.
I must, on my part, submit that since I started reading Consciencism in my third year at the secondary school, these past four years are the most fruitful of my life. I wish that my current insight came to me decades ago. I would have acted quite differently and more patiently but also more purposefully though with the same aims in mind.
This is where the youth of today have the advantage with the publication of the manual. I am particularly glad that some young men have found its level of language expression accessible. That was the area where I had my greatest fears since not a few have expressed concern over my style of expression in published articles in some national newspapers and journals.
It is my hope that this manual is not taken as the alpha and omega of the effort to bring Consciencism to the doorsteps of all who seek a deep understanding of society and its environs as well as the intellectual motivations in the mind of the man Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The critical reading of it is the only means by which it can be improved upon for the benefit of society. Yes, I have tried to be honest in my interpretation of the text. But Prof. Kwasi Wiredu observes that all of us have our moments of inconsistency and should be prepared to resolve them when they are pointed out to us. I accept that word of wisdom.
In a first year class of over three hundred students reading Philosophy at the University of Ghana in 1975, only about twelve of the students completed their courses in 1978 in that discipline. Throughout the three-year period, no lecturer formally referred to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s book Consciencism – Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonisation. It was a deafening silence. In fact, it was only while Professor Kwasi Wiredu was discussing this author’s Long Essay in 1977/78 with the author that the venerable professor referred to the book. However, there was no formal discussion of it between them.
The 1970s were a period of massive Marxist discussions at the University of Ghana. Such leading lights like Dr. Ebo Hutchful, Dr. Emmanuel Hansen, Mr. Chris Hesse – all of the Department of Political Science – Dr. Akilagpa Sawyerr, Dr. Kwesi Botchway, Mr. Fui Tsikata and Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata – all of the Faculty of Law, mounted every available platform either at the auditorium or lecture halls, which were filled to capacity, to render enlightening Marxist analyses of issues of national relevance. Marxist study cells were informally created amongst students. At lecture halls and seminars at those two sections of the university handouts with Marxist analytical insight were distributed. In all of these endeavours, however, not a single symposium, that we are aware of, was ever held on Consciencism. We might say in measured humour that the said leading lights held Kwame Nkrumah’s philosophy in interment with his bones.2
The leading lights of Marxist thought at the University of Ghana’s neglect of the philosophical-ideological work of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah had a telling effect on the study of radical philosophy. For some of the students of that period an attempt even to discuss Marxist philosophy got them ridiculed at study cell sessions. No doubt, then, that when Professor Atta Beretwum said that Consciencism was irrelevant in present day Ghana not a single word of disapproval was heard as he reduced that entire philosophy to a reference to the political programme of crystallizing a new culture out of three cultures. He was responding to a question posed to him at a symposium that he addressed during the 50th Anniversary of Ghana’s independence at the Great Hall of the University of Ghana in 2007.
It is interesting to observe the importance that Nkrumah places on both history and philosophy in his formulation of policies of State. This has assured the everlasting nature of the positions he had on issues affecting the African continent in general and Ghana in particular. The passion with which he held his views emanated from his fundamental grasp of history and philosophy. Thus, even today we, all of us, listen to his recorded speeches with the same attention and in the same spell-bound silence that the country (Ghana), the continent (Africa), and the world (at the United Nations General Assembly) accorded him. The philosophical and historical grounding of his positions was conscious – that being the assurance of the solidity of his immortality.
Today, the Historical Society of Ghana laments over diminishing interest in the study of history in our schools and universities. Blame it not on the student but on your own lack of application of historical thought in daily discourse. Nevertheless, can history arrest our interest when its presentation is founded on raw empiricism3 – thus exhibiting lifelessness, showing no relationship with exciting national and continental aspirations? Let the study of history be founded on the Consciencist principles extracted from the real movement of history itseif. Likewise, should the philosophical foundation that makes history understandable as it gives it its life be erected on those principles. To enable the student of Consciencism an easier grasp of those principles in the book is our primary concern here.
But the grasp of philosophical principles is not an end in itself. Such principles are like a map to guide us to understand unfolding reality. They are applied to real situations in analyses that do not just portray the dynamics of such situations but open up to us possibilities in resolving complicated problems as well. It is regrettable to observe that many of the youth of today within the Nkrumaist tradition, in their contributions to national debate on various issues, exhibit a pathetic lack of enthusiasm for changing the neo-colonial state of affairs – and this is not their fault. Nevertheless, reality is that they appear so much in love with efficiency as such that the best of their time and energy are expended on finding system-solutions for the social engineering of the neo-colonial state rather than finding the solution and details of that solution for the neo-colonial system problematic – that is, the scientific dissolution and replacement of neo-colonialism everywhere.
In this endeavour, Africans and Africans of the Diaspora as well as adherents of the African Cause among all other races in all disciplines are joined!
[Since new forms of society emerge from but are not imposed on the old a process of evolution and revolution is always involved. It is the task of the revolutionary to discern the evolutionary moments of the newly emerging and progressive trend so as to promote its development and dominance over the old and dying trend. The decisive moment, the revolutionary moment, is when the final act is undertaken to formally assert and constitutionalize the predominance of the new and the demise of the old. Evolution is thus involved in the revolutionary process as its initial stage.]
Consciencism is certainly a difficult book that the less philosophically-prepared requires assistance to understand. The basic difficulty, apart from its complicated presentation, arises from the fact that in writing the book the author, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, makes many assumptions about the reader’s familiarity with certain Philosophical and Logical terms and principles. In this Preface, we do not only try to explain some of the terms and principles. In addition, we try to explain some difficulties that Nkrumah’s own usages present to even the sophisticated reader. In the chapters that follow, we present the structure of the texts in the difficult chapters as well as simplified meanings of those texts. It is our hope that the reader will do well to critically compare our versions with the author’s, the latter’s own meaning being supreme.
This suggests that while we seek to make Consciencism accessible to the less philosophically-trained, we, as well, seek to invite the reader into the effort at unravelling the apparent mysteries that render the book so difficult for so many. In fact, that is what philosophy does – nobody is too little in the philosophical endeavour to offer an opinion. The importance of this practice needs be emphasized; for, if the venerable African philosopher, Prof. Kwasi Wiredu, holds that what he himself says about anything becomes true only when his listener or reader confirms it in another statement then the less venerable needs to be more humble. What we say here, therefore, becomes the truth for readers only if they find our interpretation in correspondence with their own.
In this respect, it is necessary that readers, in spite of initial difficulties, read the text from the book first. Reading our own explanation here comes in later so that readers get an opportunity to compare the correctness or otherwise of their own understanding. This raises as well as sustains their confidence and enthusiasm for onward reading. This is not what most readers of the book do and thus end up abandoning it only to behave later as if they are experts of the entire text. The philosophical enterprise requires constant application of oneself to the views of others even where one is certain of one’s own position on any issue. Readers’ benefits from this manual, therefore, emanate from the extent to which they try to achieve their own understanding before reading the relevant portion of the manual. That is challenging but the benefit is worth the try. (This does not prevent the reader from doing the reverse; that is, reading this manual first or alongside the book).
This critical approach to the process of attaining philosophical understanding differentiates a philosophical manual such as this from an electronic gadget’s manual where critical experimentation could be fatal. Whereas the latter manual requires nothing in the nature of consultation with several users, the former keeps on consulting even after the formation of an opinion. Thus, the fundamental question of philosophy relating to ‘matter’ and ‘spirit’ continues to be investigated after thousands of years of philosophical discourse. And, that is where we begin the explanation of terms and principles. Quite naturally, we begin with what philosophers refer to as ‘matter’ and ‘spirit’. What do they mean? Do they mean the same thing as used in everyday discourse?
Certainly not. When philosophers talk of ‘matter’ they are not talking about what we mean in everyday usage when we ask the question ‘What is the matter?’ Whatever you see, like the book in front of you, or smell, like the aroma from a pineapple, or feel, like the softness of a mango fruit in your palm, or taste, like the sensation of mango juice on your tongue, or hear, like the sound of music, is ‘matter’ for the philosopher. In other words, whatever comes to your awareness by way of any or all of your sensory organs is said to be ‘matter’. So that, these that come to your awareness through the senses are said to constitute (make up) the external world. Reference to this external world as the material world is another way of saying the same thing. They are interchangeably used and usable.
There are certain things, however, which do not immediately come to our awareness through the senses but are considered material because they ultimately derive from data received from the material world. Take as an instance the term ‘father’. This is a relational term. You do not know a father by simply looking at a man. You need further information such as whether he has a child and whether that child was conceived in a pregnancy for which he was responsible. So is ‘mother’ a relational term. So is ‘sister’ a relational term. So is ‘brother’ a relational term. So is ‘slave’ a relational term. And so on and so forth. All these relations are material relations and constitute part of the external world. Thus, in the external world we have both objects and their relations.
At this point, let us look at the term ‘material’ more closely. In Economics as well as Philosophy of History, we hear of references to ‘material forces’. Do not confuse this with the metaphysical concept. Whereas in Metaphysics (a branch of Philosophy) ‘material’ refers to all things and their relations outside our awareness of them, Economics uses the term restrictively to refer to only a part of the list of things in the external world. Hence, for Economics, a building that is not in use in the process of economic production is not a material force. With Metaphysics, that building is very material, being visible. In Philosophy of History, ‘a material force of production’, or ‘productive force’ for short, can be so complex and fluid as to be accorded to ‘an ideology’ – in all that it does not have anything to do with the metaphysical concept. This distinction is very important if we are not to confuse what is true in economics with what is true in philosophy. It is the tendency to ignore such distinctions that makes the understanding of Marxist philosophy and Consciencism difficult.4
Apart from those distinctions, there is an innocent confusion created when the language of everyday discourse is mistakenly used in a philosophical discussion. When ordinary language says ‘Emeka indulges too much in material things’, it does not carry the same meaning assumed in philosophical discourse. To be materialist, in the Emeka fashion, is not to have some beliefs about the world but rather to lead an indulgent life style. Again, this distinction is necessary if we are not to trivialise the philosophical endeavour and digress into a confusing land of no return. Our anxiety here is to restrict the meaning of ‘matter’, ‘material’, and even ‘materialist’ (to which we shall come presently) to the philosopher’s usages alone in order to avoid commonplace confusion in the philosophical discourse.
Nevertheless, even among philosophers there is the tendency to confuse these usages in different departments of the philosophical endeavour. This causes deep-seated confusion since the same terms are used in the different departments with different meanings; and, yet, the same philosopher transfers one department’s usage to the other. For instance, our discussion of ‘matter’ so far is in the area of abstract philosophy or metaphysics. Thus, ‘material’ and ‘materialist’ used in the discussion have ‘matter’ as their root term whence they are derived. The philosopher, however, uses these same two terms with different meanings in social philosophy and philosophy of history. In social philosophy and philosophy of history, ‘matter’ as that which has weight (and mass) with relational properties is not a category. That is why terms derived from it here mean differently since their root term is different.
That root term is the ‘economic’ or ‘material production’. Hence, the danger is that when we make claims about the correctness or otherwise of statements about matter in abstract philosophy we might be tempted to make the same claim about material production in social philosophy and philosophy of history without the relevant discourse. The resultant confusion, if we make that mistake, only creates difficulty for our understanding – leading to everlasting criticism. And, if we may digress a bit for the benefit of advanced readers, this is why some people have difficulties in understanding how claims made in dialectical materialism (abstract philosophy) could be said to validate the claims of historical materialism or the materialist conception of history (philosophy of history). Of course, the criticism is unwarranted since the Marxist claim is about the use of materialist dialectics as the method applied in the formulation of historical materialism. The former is the life of the latter just as the theory of gravity is applied in the science of aeronautics and is its life.
In this discourse, so far, we hold that in abstract philosophy we understand ‘matter’ to mean that which is outside the mind. What we hold to be outside the mind is not just an object but also the relation(s) that it has with other objects. Hence, in what we call the ‘external world’ we find not just objects but also relations which exist between and among the objects. We will return to expand on this presently.
For now let us turn to ‘spirit’. This category is fraught with more confusion and controversy than that of ‘matter’. In some texts, it is used interchangeably with ‘mind’ and ‘consciousness’ or even ‘conscience’. The most disturbing practice is its interchangeable use with ‘Spirit’ spelled with a capital ‘S’. Whereas ‘spirit’, ‘mind’ and ‘consciousness’ are man’s possessions (predicates) and thus cannot be conceived independently, ‘Spirit’ suffers no such dependence – being an independent entity. Hence, discourses that equate statements about ‘spirit’ with those about ‘Spirit’ tend to confuse more than enlighten us. Rigour in philosophical discourse requires of us the avoidance of such inappropriate uses that only confuse everybody. Once we observe the distinction, we could even discourse on relations between ‘Spirit’ and ‘spirit’ without absurdity.
In thus alerting ourselves, let us find out what philosophers mean by ‘spirit’. This is better understood when we determine, first, what ‘mind’ is. One interesting thing about philosophers is that they shy away from an exact definition of ‘mind’ but rather prefer to tell us what constitute it. They tell us that unlike ‘matter’, which, according to them, is extended in space, our thoughts and experiences make up our ‘mind’. These thoughts and experiences are inward and non-extended unlike the external world. Thus, inwardness is a basic nature of ‘mind’. Also, the ‘mind’, with these thoughts and experiences, is conscious. In fact, for the philosopher, it is ‘consciousness’. Our concern here is to call attention to the fact that philosophers consider ‘mind’ as a human possession (although they also credit animals with a certain measure of it). It is in this sense that it is also called ‘spirit’.
Hence, ‘spirit’ is man’s inward presence. This is distinguished from the Spirit that some equate with God or Satan (and their surrogates) all of which are understood to be independent of human beings or animals and could, through such surrogates, enter the body and leave when they like or when forced out through exorcism or sin. It must be clear to us that given this difference philosophy can admit such Spirits primarily only as objects or entities in the external world and not confuse them with the ‘spirit’ or ‘mind’ that is a human possession and part of the definition of man. Spirit, spelled with a capital S, is then very well understood as an external reality, a form of matter. These two different spirits, with different meanings, we say, should not be mixed up by way of using them interchangeably. In this respect, a derivative like ‘spiritual’ must be linked up appropriately to its root term to avoid digression and the consequent confusion. Just in the same way, ‘materialist’ and ‘spiritualist’, as derivatives, must be appropriately linked up to their root terms. In fact, in abstract philosophy (metaphysics) the frequent usage is ‘idealist’ in place of ‘spiritualist’.
To sum up this discourse on ‘matter’ and ‘spirit’ or ‘mind’ it is clear that we include in ‘matter’ all that is external to man. An inventory (list) of that externality exposes to us not just objects and their relations as well as other situations (as, in fact, a ‘relation’ like ‘distance’ is a situation which Nkrumah states at page 11 paragraph 3 ‘… can only be a situation which is part of the world’; in fact, at page 17 paragraph 1 he specifically refers to ‘the objects and situations’) but also Spirits that interact with man or the world’s visible or even invisible habitat. With ‘mind’ or ‘spirit’ or ‘consciousness’ or ‘conscience’, we include thoughts and experiences as the inner presence of man. In our reading of Consciencism, we can wriggle out of the complexities of the book if we bear this world view in mind as we consider the author’s critical presentation of the history of philosophy. Once we do this, any unauthorized switch in the use of any concept is easily detected and this helps us to keep on track with the lines of argument.
This positions us to say a few things about ‘materialism’ and ‘idealism’. These have their ordinary language usages that could be confused with philosophical usage. Remember Emeka? For ordinary language, his being a materialist means that he indulges in materialism. This materialism is confused with philosophical materialism. Certain philosophical pretenders think that philosophical materialism advocates worldliness, which is what materialism means in ordinary language, and thus confuse the categories. Philosophical materialism is a position on the mind-body problem in metaphysical discourse. So is philosophical idealism which has nothing to do with being unrealistic, as in ordinary usage. These have nothing to do with life-style. Detect digression and stick to the issues.
Such digressions could be found in a certain way even in Consciencism where the reader needs to treat them separately from the real flow of the discourse. In fact, some of the difficulties in reading the book arise from the unannounced journeys into what are actually issues in social philosophy or philosophy of history – thus straying away from the ongoing discourse in metaphysics. Those journeys are not, however, accidental. They stem from Kwame Nkrumah’s anxiety to show a connection between metaphysics and social philosophy by way of exposing what he calls the social content of metaphysics. It is, therefore, in the interest of the reader to detect those unannounced digressions and stick to the mainstream discourse. The digressions, in fact, do not invalidate the mainstream discourse.
How? We have referred to the digressions in Consciencism as journeys. That is what they are. And they are swift ones. It returns later to the mainstream discourse to make its case. If the reader does not detect the unannounced digression, when it occurs, they will be tempted to consider it as a continuation of the discourse and end up in frustration out of their inability to see consistency in the argument flow – and, thus, fail to see the picture described. We are saying that the digressions are quick thrusts away from metaphysics into social philosophy in attempts to illustrate connections between the two spheres of philosophy – after which the discourse gets back on course. The reader needs to bear in mind this kind of structure in the book to be abreast with its line of thought.
Ours is to critically find our way to the heart of Consciencism as a philosophy with an ideological dimension directed at a conscious reorganization of African society and for an African society that exudes an independent capacity to assert itself in the comity of the world’s people. We are talking about the movement of Africans and peoples of African descent – the movement of the Black Star!
[Since new forms of society emerge from but are not imposed on the old a process of evolution and revolution is always involved. It is the task of the revolutionary to discern the evolutionary moments of the newly emerging and progressive trend so as to promote its development and dominance over the old and dying trend. The decisive moment, the revolutionary moment, is when the final act is undertaken to formally assert and constitutionalize the predominance of the new and the demise of the old. Evolution is thus involved in the revolutionary process as its initial stage.]
ON THE INTRODUCTION TO CONSCIENCISM
At the head of the Introduction to Consciencism is a quotation from a letter that Friedrich Engels wrote and sent to J. Bloch on September 21, 1890. (Kwame Nkrumah was born exactly on the 19th anniversary of that letter). Consciencism takes its inspiration from it for its philosophy of history. Understanding that quotation helps deep appreciation of Consciencism with respect to its philosophy of history. That quotation is specifically concerned with the materialist conception of history. This latter conception is a philosophy of history and also goes by the name historical materialism. The two are interchangeable. According to that philosophy of history, history is a process in which some elements interact to maintain the process in motion. Among those elements the economic element or, what is the same thing, material production and reproduction, ultimately determines that motion.
It is instructive that the word ‘ultimately’ is emphasized in the quoted letter. It indicates that the other elements also have the capacity to determine movement of the historical process but only at a secondary level. To ignore this determination and assume that it is the economic element only that determines the said movement is not only to oversimplify the formulation of the process but also to render it mechanistic – that is, to form a one way or linear conception of it. It is this linear formulation that aborts the understanding of the interactive nature of the elements in the process. To see the historical process in this way, in its interaction of the elements, is to see it in its natural state since the beginning of human society. The natural state generates stages or different social formations rather slowly.
It appears to us that an extensive insertion of that part of the quotation that the book leaves out of the letter enhances the readers’ understanding. The deleted part gives details of what is meant by the ‘other elements’ and also what makes the historical process natural and assures its slow movement. Expecting readers to insert the deleted part of the quotation into the space marked by dots in the book we quote it from Engels’ letter thus:
The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure – political forms of the class struggle and its results, to wit: constitutions established by the victorious class after a successful battle, etc., juridical forms, and even the reflexes of all these actual struggles in the brains of the participants, political, juristic, philosophical theories, religious views and their further development into systems of dogma – also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases preponderate in determining their form. There is an interaction of all these elements in which, amid all the endless host of accidents (that is, of things and events whose inner interconnection is so remote or so impossible of proof that we can regard it as non-existent, as negligible) the economic movement finally asserts itself as necessary. Otherwise the application of the theory to any period in history would be easier than the solution of a simple equation of the first degree.
We make history ourselves, but, in the first place, under very definite assumptions and conditions. Among these the economic ones are ultimately decisive. But the political ones, etc., and indeed even the traditions which haunt human minds, also play a part, although not the decisive one. The Prussian state also arose and developed from historical, ultimately economic, causes. But it could scarcely be maintained without pedantry that among the many small states of North Germany, Brandenburg was specifically determined by economic necessity to become the great power embodying the economic, linguistic and, after the Reformation, also the religious difference between North and South, and not by other elements as well (above all by its entanglement with Poland, owing to the possession of Prussia, and hence with international relations – which were indeed also decisive in the formation of the Austrian dynastic power). Without making oneself ridiculous it would be a difficult thing to explain in terms of economics the existence of every small state in Germany, past and present, or the origin of the High German consonant permutations, which widened the geographical partition wall formed by the mountains from the Sudeten range to the Taunus to form a regular fissure across all Germany..
In the second place, however, history is made in such a way that the final result always arises from conflicts between many individual wills, of which each in turn has been made what it is by a host of particular conditions of life. Thus there are innumerable intersecting forces, an infinite series of parallelograms of forces which give rise to one resultant – the historical event. This may itself be viewed as the product of a power which works as a whole unconsciously and without volition. For, what each wills is obstructed by everyone else, and what emerges is something that no one willed. Thus history has proceeded hitherto in the manner of a natural process and essentially subject to the same laws of motion. But from the fact that the wills of individuals – each of whom desires what he is impelled to by his physical condition and external, in the last resort economic, circumstances (either his own personal circumstances or those of society in general) – do not attain what they want, but are merged into an aggregate mean, a common resultant, it must not be concluded that they are equal to zero. On the contrary, each contributes to the resultant and is to this extent included in it.
I would furthermore ask you to study this theory from its original sources and not at second-hand; it is really much easier. Marx hardly wrote anything in which it did not play a part. But especially The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte is a most excellent example of its application. There are so many allusions to it in Capital. Then I may also direct you to my writings; Herr Duhring’s Revolution in Science and Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, in which I have given the most detailed account of historical materialism which, as far as I know, exists.
This portrayal of the historical process, especially likening it to a natural process, rather than developing a feeling of hopelessness in the reader, provides the latter with the opportunity to arm themselves intellectually to intervene in much the same way that the scientist does in their handling of nature.
For this reason, the attraction that this conception of the historical process in the Philosophy of History has for Dr. Kwame Nkrumah is due to the fact that it offers an opportunity for conscious human intervention in that process to speed it up – even to the extent of avoiding one social formation or the other. In the light of the level of material poverty in Africa and with the resolution of the colonial question on his mind he finds the capacity of the other elements, apart from the economic element, to determine the course of the historical process as an opportunity to accelerate the beginning and finalization of the decolonization process. That continent is not to wait for the maturity of its economic base to determine when colonialism will end. The strengthening of the ideological and political-organizational elements in the process is what will speed it up – which it did.
The significance of the quotation from Engels is that it alerts the reader to concentrate on the special emphasis that Consciencism places on the ideological and political elements without disregard for the fundamental importance of the economic element. It is a warning not to be fixated on economic development as the prelude to all-round liberation from colonial and neo-colonial strangulations. Such fixation only unduly delays outcome of the anti-colonial and anti-neo-colonial struggle. Hence, readers of the book are advised to treat that quotation as the strategic indicator of the mode of thinking or concern of its author for the decolonization process and not fall into the temptation of regarding an alterable programme for unification of three cultures as that author’s prime concern.
A programme can be changed but not its philosophical-ideological principle. The author says that the first thing is to understand and accept that principle. That is the focus. It is in this respect that in the Introduction to the book he tells us about three types of colonial student and opts for the third category who views knowledge as an instrument for change. Such students, who acquire a ‘full grasp of the laws of historical development’ unlike the other categories of the colonial student, delved into philosophy and history in their search for that instrument which sums up man’s experience. The Introduction, thus, apart from adverting our minds to the preferred student type, by its quotation from Engels sets the tone for a philosophical discourse towards the crystallization of a set of ideas that provides the political actor with philosophical principles for analysis and ideological principles, informing the philosophical principles, for the formulation of political programmes for the anti-colonial and anti-neo-colonial revolution.
Let the student of Consciencism, therefore, in reading the Introduction, not read the Engels quotation as if it stands alone and aloof but connect it with the third student category that is intellectually armed and is advised to be armed as such with the dialectical but not mechanistic laws of development. Herein originates the original Marxist root, inspiration and definition of Consciencism. Let the student resist and reject the unenlightened opportunism of projecting Kwame Nkrumah, the author, as a latter-day, post-coup Marxist or one upon whom Marxism was imposed by some communists he could not dispense with. For, as he is about to state in the first chapter,
For the third category of colonial student it was especially impossible to read the works of Marx and Engels as desiccated abstract philosophies having no bearing on our colonial situation. During my stay in America the conviction was firmly created in me that a great deal in their thought could assist us in the fight against colonialism.
Yes, we cannot and will not, in our days, also read Consciencism as a desiccated abstract philosophy having no bearing on our neo-colonial situation. But in so doing, we must focus on its intention to place special emphasis on ideological and political elements in the struggle for decolonization to speedily achieve the economic liberation of Africa and its people. That is the essence of the quote from Engels at the head of the Introduction.
[Since new forms of society emerge from but are not imposed on the old a process of evolution and revolution is always involved. It is the task of the revolutionary to discern the evolutionary moments of the newly emerging and progressive trend so as to promote its development and dominance over the old and dying trend. The decisive moment, the revolutionary moment, is when the final act is undertaken to formally assert and constitutionalize the predominance of the new and the demise of the old. Evolution is thus involved in the revolutionary process as its initial stage.]
ON PHILOSOPHY IN RETROSPECT
Our discussion starts with the study of the structure of the first chapter, Philosophy in Retrospect. This helps the reader’s understanding of the argument process made in the mainstream discourse and identifies points where it digresses. These points are skipped and considered later. Analyzing the text of various philosophical systems as presented in the book then follows in some detail. This analysis shows what the systems say. It also shows the basis on which the great author agrees or disagrees with the systems’ representatives. Thus, it systematically traces the development of Kwame Nkrumah’s philosophical and ideological systems. We sustain this approach in the study of subsequent chapters, where necessary.
To begin with, the chapter shows a general structure and a particular structure. The general structure is a discussion of abstract philosophy (metaphysics) as the main trend. In that discussion it occasionally digresses into social philosophy to illustrate the social content or implications of the abstract positions outlined. The particular structure deals with the issue of ‘what there is’. This has two parts: the first deals with what cosmic raw material formed the basis for constituting or constructing the universe; while the second seeks to give an explanation or cause of the cosmic raw material. These two structures merge into a whole. Within this whole the general is seen in the movement of the particular structure. The particular is then seen to develop within the context of the general.
Considering the general structure, the opening two paragraphs of the chapter tell us that the author sees abstract philosophy as founded in and extracted from real social situations. He objects to the treatment of abstract philosophy outside the particular social situation in which it was expounded. He says that when philosophy, like history, is treated outside the social situation (or milieu) that created it, it assumes a certain universal character. A person from a different social milieu may come into contact with the said philosophy as the colonial student does; but without such a person learning about their own social situation back at home they tend to be so much in love with the alien society and its philosophy and history that they become aliens to their own society, that is, alienated from their traditional or immediate society. This, Kwame Nkrumah says, inhibits that person’s grasp of the laws of development of their own society.
For this reason, Kwame Nkrumah does not divorce abstract philosophy from social real situations. In this chapter we see him, therefore, illustrating his metaphysical insights with known social situations. According to him, this is to see philosophical systems within the context of the social milieu that produced them. In our reading of the opening two paragraphs of the chapter, which are a continuation of the subject of the Introduction, we are minded to observe this concern in the text: philosophical systems as products of the social milieu. It is this general structure that gives the particular structure its form. Let us, therefore, see the form of the particular structure.
Stop! After insisting on looking for the social milieu from which the philosophical system emerges, Kwame Nkrumah concludes those opening two paragraphs saying that that is not the only way to look at philosophy. He says in paragraph 3 that it is possible to see philosophy as a series of abstract systems. Does that mean that in our reflections on such abstract systems we do not look for the social milieu that may have produced them? He insists that life is still at issue here as he objects to those philosophers who say that their primary concern has nothing to do with life, not to talk about improving it. At this point, he turns his attention to deal with the abstract systems of philosophy. He continues to do this to the end of the chapter. The third paragraph, if we look at it carefully, then serves as the introductory transition to the real issue that the chapter deals with.
Now, talking about the particular structure of the chapter we are in fact dealing with how the said real issue is presented. We have stated that the particular structure has two parts in its discourse on the question of ‘what there is’. The first part deals with what is the cosmic raw material from which the universe is constituted or constructed. This starts from page 6, paragraph 2 and temporarily stops at page 7, paragraph 1. It then continues from page 14, paragraph 1 then skips to page 15, paragraph 3 to page 28.
The second part deals with explanations of the cosmic raw material or, better still and what is the same thing, how to determine the cause or otherwise of the cosmic raw material. This starts from page 7, paragraph 2, continues to page 11, paragraph 3, proceeds from page 14, paragraph 2 and ends at page 15, paragraph 2. From page 11, paragraph 4 to page 14 before the first paragraph there is an insertion from the realm of social philosophy as a commentary on the second part. It can immediately be seen that the second part does not come after the first part is laid in its entirety but rather it breaks into it like wedges. It will, therefore, be helpful if one reads the first part in its entirety, skipping over the wedges of the second part within it, and returns to the skipped portion only after one finishes reading the entire first part. It all requires a great deal of patience … and concentration.
We are now poised to conduct an analysis of the text involving the real issue. We start with its first part where we find out how the book answers the question: what is the cosmic raw material that the universe is made of? According to Consciencism, the earliest known philosopher in the Western world, Thales, holds that water is the cosmic raw material from which everything else is made. Berkeley, another Western philosopher, on the other hand, holds that everything is either a spirit or an idea held by a spirit. That is to say that whatever you find in the world is either a spirit or an idea in the ‘head’ of a spirit. This, according to the book, is one aspect of the answer offered by philosophers. Before we consider the other aspects let us see how philosophical language expresses what we have stated as the first aspect of the answer. Consciencism puts it this way:
The answer to the first question has a number of aspects. It lays down a minimum number of general ideas under which every item in the world can and must be brought. It does this without naming the items themselves, without furnishing us with an inventory, a roll-call of the items, the objects of the world. It specifies, not particular objects, but the basic types of object. See page 6.
The next aspect shows that in this answer the variety of objects in the world is reduced to just a few that are considered basic. So that with Thales there is only one cosmic raw material which is water; while Berkeley sees at most two basic types which are spirit and their ideas. This is how Consciencism puts it:
The answer further implies a certain reductionism; for in naming only a few basic types as exhausting all objects in the world, it brings every object directly under one of the basic types. See page 6.
Kwame Nkrumah says that in answering the first question of philosophy this way the philosophers are, in fact, dealing with the question as to the origin of things. Whereas Thales holds things to originate from water, Berkeley holds them to originate from spirits and their ideas. But, in the light of what we have said in the Preface, we might ask to know what kind of spirit are we talking about here? Is it the spirit with a small ‘s’ or that with the capital ‘S’? Hold your breath for awhile.
The next aspect of the first question of philosophy is found at page 14. That is, we are skipping over pages 7-13. Here, the answers to the question ‘what there is’ are said to be either idealist or materialist. What does this mean? It means that the answers that Thales and Berkeley respectively give as to the origin of the cosmic raw material can be said to be materialist or idealist. This depends on what is held to be primary and what is held to be dependent on the other: ‘matter’ or ‘spirit’. But, up to this point we have not read anything yet about what the philosophers mean by ‘matter’ and ‘spirit’. In fact, up until this moment the word ‘matter’ never occurred once in the discourse. No definitions have been offered so far.
We can, however, help ourselves out of this difficulty… Let us go to page 15, paragraph 3. There, Berkeley’s philosophy is said to be an ‘idealist philosophy’. In that philosophy, we learn further, ‘matter is not said to be spirit, but an idea possessed by spirit’. This tells us that when we were told above that Berkeley holds ‘what there is’ to be ‘spirits and their ideas’ he also holds that an idea is not a spirit but matter which he distinguishes from spirit. So that with Berkeley, there are essentially two cosmic raw materials: spirit and matter; only that matter lives as an idea held by spirit. Here, you might be tempted to say that we are restricting the range of things that could be an idea to matter alone; that is, in the light of the statement quoted in this paragraph. That is why we need to clear this possible confusion with the observation that any such thing in the range is part of matter.
Our difficulty is not yet over although we have been able to show that when Berkeley talks about an ‘idea’ in preceding paragraphs he is indeed talking about ‘matter’. But, how does he arrive at the conclusion that equates ‘matter’ with ‘ideas’? In this respect, Nkrumah says that Berkeley relies on perception or the senses: through the senses or perception Berkeley simultaneously tastes sweetness, sees roundness and feels smoothness as well as, possibly, smells some particular scent, etc. in coming by the idea of an apple. So that, with Berkeley, when we talk about an ‘apple’ or ‘matter’ we are talking about the continual or simultaneous occurrence of a set of ideas. (See page 19 at paragraph 1).
We are now left with the kind of ‘spirit’ that he is talking about. Let us consider this statement in the last paragraph of page 15 which says that, ‘…idealism makes the existence of matter dependent on perception, or on the possession of ideas by the mind…’ We can easily see that Berkeley’s ‘spirit’ is here replaced by ‘mind’. In other words, Berkeley’s ‘spirit’ is said to be the same as ‘mind’ and the two can, therefore, be used interchangeably. That is why Nkrumah could, at page 18, paragraph 2, talk about ‘mind or spirit’ as alternatives. Hence, we see that the kind of ‘spirit’ we are concerned with in the current discourse is the one with a small ‘s’, especially when the issue of ‘perception’ comes into play as it does in the quote in this paragraph. We are not talking about an independent Spirit like God or Satan who also have their minds which is spelt with a capital ‘M’ as in ‘the Mind of God’ usually found in religious/spiritual literature.
We proceed now with the issue of answers to the first question of ‘what there is’ being said to be either idealist or materialist. Still on page 15, paragraph 3. Having agreed among themselves in general that the cosmic raw material is ‘matter’ and ‘mind’ or ‘spirit’, if you like, philosophers thereafter contend about the relations between the two. Berkeley, in this respect, argues that the relation is one of matter being like an attribute of mind. In other words, just as in the statement ‘Ngozi is intelligent’ we say that the predicate ‘intelligent’ is an attribute of ‘Ngozi’ so that if there were no Ngozi there would be nobody that can be said to be intelligent although if there were Ngozi she may not be intelligent, so is it being said that matter, according to Berkeley, is an attribute of mind: if there were no mind there would be no matter although if there were mind there may not be matter. In this respect, it is held that just as ‘intelligence’ owes its existence and continued existence to ‘Ngozi’, so does ‘matter’ owe its existence and continued existence to ‘mind’. This is what Nkrumah means when he says that, for Berkeley, matter’s ‘existence and continuance … consists in its being possessed by spirit’ or mind.
Hence, idealism of the Berkeley type sees the cosmic raw material to be primarily mind or spirit as appropriately understood above. It does not deny the existence of matter but considers it as dependent on mind for its existence. In this regard, idealism cannot but say that what we do not know does not exist (and that God who can only come to be known is also dependent on the mind for His existence; any wonder that in order to avoid such a conclusion idealists say that the idea of God is innate, originally in the mind). But there are other types of idealism one of which, that of Leibniz, holds that the world is nothing but spirit and that what others consider as matter is nothing but ‘unconscious spirit’. Nkrumah does not waste time on this other type of idealism. He concentrates on that which is based on perception.
From paragraph 4 of page 15 to the end of the last paragraph of page 19 Nkrumah refutes all types of idealism that make the existence of matter dependent on perception or, what is the same thing, possession of ideas by mind. Let us not forget that the controversy this far concerns ‘what there is’ or the determination of the nature of the cosmic raw material. Up to this point Nkrumah addresses the idealist viewpoint that shows the cosmic raw material as primarily mind upon which it asserts the dependence of matter. He sees this assertion to be fraught with problems. The immediate problem, he says, is exposed by the fact that the senses by means of which perception is possible are functions (capabilities) of matter (organic body): if matter derives its existence from being known through perception it cannot at the same time be the means by which that perception is possible. (See page 18, paragraph 3).
That was devastating. But Kwame Nkrumah does not stop there. He also takes to the cleaners those who earnestly strive to argue the external world (matter) out of existence all together. These latter, he says, indulge in what he calls ‘complete solipsism’ and ‘incipient solipsism’. Turn to page 16 from the first paragraph to page 18, paragraph 1. In complete solipsism, the philosopher is sure of only his own existence and experiences. He does not trust his senses because whatever they tell him he cannot be sure of: they deceive him in various ways. What he cannot be sceptical of is his own experiences. Hence, for him, the cosmic raw material is what the book calls ‘unattached experience’. Nkrumah says that that philosopher cannot believe in the existence of his own body because just like other bodies that he is sceptical of he must also be sceptical of the existence of his own body. In that case, what remain are experiences that are not attached to any body.
In incipient solipsism, the philosopher asserts his existence on the basis of the fact that he thinks. He can imagine himself without all parts of his body but not the fact that he thinks since he who has been doubting everything is actually thinking – doubting being a form of thinking. Nkrumah says that to declare that ‘I think; therefore I exist’ and assume that after doubting your body away there still remains something that thinks is to make an extravagant claim. There is no doubt that there is thinking. But to assume further that the presence of the pronoun ‘I’ in that statement refers to a real subject that thinks is unwarranted. That pronoun is like the pronoun in the statement ‘It is raining’; it refers to and stands for nothing. With this, Nkrumah dismisses such discourse as but a step to a full-fledged solipsism – in this case we have only unattached thinking.
This far, Kwame Nkrumah has refuted all claims from idealists as to the nature of the cosmic raw material with this single exception that he agrees with those of them who assert the reality of both matter and mind or spirit as appropriately understood. His major disagreement with the latter rests with their claim of matter being dependent on mind. Go on to the last paragraph of page 19. Here, he denies the position that what you do not know does not exist. Such predication of the existence of matter on mind suggests that whatever there is in the world is already known to the mind. But how could this be so when we talk about ‘discovery’ which suggests a previous situation when what has been discovered was not known? Nkrumah says that idealists make strong efforts to resolve their difficulty in this kind of situation by fruitlessly trying to get themselves understood in ordinary language. So far as he is concerned, therefore, matter can exist unknown to mind – thus asserting the independence but not the dependence of matter. This independence of matter, he says, should generally be seen to be obvious or true (an axiom). In his own philosophical language this is how he puts all this:
That matter can exist unperceived, that it has a continuance independent of mind, should really be axiomatic. Idealists themselves hanker after this independent reality when they strive so hard to reconcile their theoretical ebullience with the sobriety of ordinary language. Ordinary language is not just a vocabulary and a grammar. It also comprises a conceptual framework which is largely realist and objectivist. The idealist attempt to reconcile its theory-spinning with ordinary language must therefore be regarded as a deep-seated desire to anchor idealism in a certain measure of objectivity.
With that edict, Consciencism seals the fate of idealism in the Consciencist environment of serious philosophical discourse as an inconsistent theory of the nature of the cosmic raw material.
It does not stop there. It then goes on to critically examine the materialist position which it describes as a serious metaphysics anchored in objectivity. Go on to the first paragraph of page 20. Here, Kwame Nkrumah holds that the materialist claim of matter being rather independent of mind is only the least that it can make and makes. It is its first thesis. The second thesis asserts matter, which is here defined as anything that has weight (and mass) and is not only active but also continues with the universe in time and space, to be primary in its relations with mind. In opposition to those who assert this primacy of matter within the materialist school are those who assert the sole reality of matter. Nkrumah rejects the latter as crude. He says that both assertions of the sole and primary reality of matter have some difficult questions (‘hard facts’) to contend with. Those difficult questions can only be successfully dealt with when the primary reality of matter is asserted but not its sole reality, he holds.
What then are the difficult questions (hard facts) to contend with if the primary existence of matter is asserted? The first centres on issues concerning consciousness and self-consciousness. The hard fact here is that the two can be distinguished insofar as the latter is an internal experience while the former is considered in terms of it being caused by an external source. The second difficult question (hard fact) also has to do with distinction between qualities and quantities. Finally, there is this other distinction between energy and matter. Nkrumah does not elaborate on how these distinctions raise problems for the assertion of the primacy of matter. Those problems, he says, however, can be solved (through the accommodation of the distinctions): the solution comes with the application of what he calls categorial conversion. He defines categorial conversion as the derivation (emergence) of, say, self-consciousness from that which is not self-conscious, or mind from matter or qualities from quantities. In all these, the former arises from the latter by way of a process. Let us see how he illustrates this regarding mind and matter.
Kwame Nkrumah has two ways of illustrating how mind derives from matter: either by way of conceptual analysis (analysis of concepts) or pointing at a model. The conceptual analysis involves the application of principles of Logic. Let us consider this: the average man. Of course, we do not see the average man as we see men and women. There is the average man all the same. Nkrumah says that, one, the average man is a derivative of living men and women; two, in order that there be an average man there must be living men and women but not vice versa; three, whatever is said to be true of the average man must first of all be true of existing men and women but not the reverse; four, what is said of the average man cannot make sense unless it is about living men and women – that is, in order for statements made about the average man to make sense there must be real men and women. Hence, it is held that the category of the average man is a derivative of the category of men and women.
Nkrumah says the same rule applies to the categories of matter and mind (spirit) when it is asserted that matter is primary and mind is derivative. So that statements about mind can only make sense if there is matter. For instance, the idea that ‘A policeman wears a black uniform in Ghana’ makes sense if there is a real policeman in Ghana. And statements about mind can be true only if there are true statements about matter. For example, the statement that ‘A policeman wears a black uniform in Ghana’ is true only if it is true that in Ghana policemen wear black uniforms.
What is the process involved in what we have described so far? Let us consider chemical and physical changes. Here, we see how increase in physical quantities results in change of chemical qualities. In science, the formula CO2 represents carbon dioxide while CO represents carbon monoxide – the C stands for carbon and O stands for oxygen. These formulae indicate to us the physical quantities of carbon and oxygen in the respective molecules or compounds. In carbon monoxide we have an atom each of carbon and oxygen. In carbon dioxide we have an atom of carbon and two atoms of oxygen. In carbon trioxide (CO3) we have an atom of carbon and three atoms of oxygen. In fact, there is even carbon tetroxide (CO4). This means that any quantitative increase of the oxygen component in carbon monoxide changes it into the qualitatively different molecules of carbon dioxide, of carbon trioxide and of carbon tetroxide respectively. With respect to dicarbon monoxide (C2O) there is an increase in the carbon component instead. If we may express these in philosophical language we would say that given a certain state of matter (CO in our current case) different qualities emerge from different quantities. In Kwame Nkrumah’s own language at page 24, ‘Quality is a surrogate of a quantitative disposition of matter: it can be altered by altering the quantitative dispositions of matter’. Hence, he concludes that
Mind, according to philosophical materialism, is the result of a critical organization of matter. Nervous organization has to attain a certain minimum of complexity for the display of intelligent activity, or the presence of mind. The presence of mind and the attainment of this critical minimum of organization of matter are one and the same thing.
This is what Nkrumah calls pointing at a model provided by science to demonstrate the possibility of categorial conversion – in the issue at hand, the emergence of mind from matter. He therefore uses this example to demonstrate the process of the emergence of mind from matter.
In its demonstration of the possibility of categorial conversion, Kwame Nkrumah says that philosophy does not only have Science to its aid but also Logic. Whereas in Science, as seen above, it is models that are pointed at, in Logic it is conceptual analysis that is involved. Such an analysis involves the application of three tools of Logic: constructionism, reductionism and nominalism. What are these? Nkrumah, at page 22, explains in the first instance that constructionism involves the use of concepts that belong to the primary category to form concepts that belong to the derivative category. In reductionism, concepts belonging to a derivative category are reduced to concepts of the primary one. With nominalism, that which is concrete is upheld as primary while any other existence is seen as a surrogate of the concrete on a higher logical plane. In all these, some category is held as primary while all others are held to be ultimately derived from the primary.
It is at this point of the discourse that Kwame Nkrumah introduces dialectics as a concept to distinguish materialism from nominalism, reductionism and constructionism. He holds that these latter only help to illustrate the logical possibility of categorial conversion whereby the derivation of mind from matter is asserted. But, according to him, they fail or fall short of telling us under what condition mind is derived from matter. They, he says, only tell us that, for instance, x is really yz; that is, for instance, mind is actually a certain state of matter. However, the world is not a world of things (states) but of processes. What there is survives (endures) through process, being active. Activity then becomes the life-blood of what there is (reality). With this, materialism becomes dialectical – dialectical materialism.
More. Kwame Nkrumah asserts the dialectical process (change) in what there is as the basis (ground) on which what there is generates (evolves) different kinds of itself. He then defines this evolution of kinds as ‘the loss of a set of old properties and the acquisition of a new set through the dialectical movement of matter’ (Page 25). Hence, as an example, the change from CO2 to CO involves a loss of property through a dialectical process; or, if you like, the change from a feudalist to a capitalist society involves a loss of feudal property through a dialectical process of reforms and revolution. He is particularly anxious to make it clear that the dialectical evolution of kinds is not a linear (straight line) phenomenon that is continuous and moves in only one direction. There are breaks in the process whereby a break marks a discontinuity of one process resulting in a leap into another. Only through leaps are new kinds produced.
This far in our discussion, we understand that Consciencism asserts what there is as primarily matter in a process of change that generates different kinds of itself as its products. But once these kinds are generated they, not being static, remain active and interact with and affect the source. In chapter two, Kwame Nkrumah begins and develops this other dimension of dialectical materialism. We will come back to it later in chapter two of this manual. For now, let us consider another issue.
This involves the extremely important Consciencist assertion that considering the initial matter and its objective laws nothing else can come into it as whatever is present is in it as its product – the universe thus becomes closed to any other entity since matter is also said to be coextensive with the universe. This conclusion will inform any discourse on why Nkrumah holds that even though Consciencism is deeply rooted in philosophical materialism it is not necessarily atheistic. It is also the reason why Nkrumah thinks that all arguments about the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of the universe or the world cannot be coherently defended. But we are yet to come to this issue in our discussion of the second question of philosophy – how what there is may be explained. Here, we continue with Nkrumah’s illustration, with Logic, of how the universe is said to be closed.
In formal Logic there is what is called ‘an axiomatic formal system’. It is an arrangement of what are called ‘initial axioms’ and ‘propositions’. In that system there are also what are called ‘logical rules of inference’ which are applied to justify the deduction of a proposition from the initial axioms – the latter being understood as statements that are true. The axioms must be sufficient for the deduction process. If the rules are properly applied to all the propositions in the axiomatic system such that the deduction of the propositions from the initial axioms are thus justified the system is said to be complete and closed. No other proposition can belong to the axiomatic system if it cannot be a deduction from the initial axioms. If a parallel to this logical system is set up in such a way that initial matter stands parallel to the initial set of axioms and all items of the universe stand parallel to the propositions while the objective laws of matter also stand parallel to the rules of inference then if the axiomatic system is complete so would the construction of the items of the universe from initial matter be complete and closed. In this way, no other item can be said to have come or can come from anywhere else.
Once again it is necessary to remind ourselves that in this search for or determination of what there is, we have been confined to seeing mind as a human possession and in its relation with matter. In this way, all references to mind as spirit should not divert us from this understanding that the two terms are one and the same and thus different from Spirit when we spell it with a capital ‘S’. This, as already noted, helps us to know when we are talking about a Spirit being that is not a human possession but independent of mind just in the same way that matter is said to be independent of mind. This caution prepares us to consider the second question of philosophy – the explanation of what there is.
In his consideration of the second question of philosophy, that is, how what there is may be explained, Kwame Nkrumah sees two aspects of the answer as provided. The first offers an account of the origin of the cosmic raw material (what there is) while the second gives an account of the extent of it. Please turn back to page 7 paragraphs 2 and 3 of the book. At paragraph 4, we see that the account of the origin takes the form of cause determination; that is, finding the cause of what there is. But at page 9, paragraph 2 the account of the extent of what there is does not involve cause determination: character or property, that is, how the cosmic raw material looks like – whether little (finite) or large (infinite) – is the focus of attention. The explanation of the cosmic raw material, then, uses cause and property determinations to answer the second question of philosophy.
Let us now see how this is done. First, the question of origin or cause of what there is. In his view, Nkrumah sees the various claims as to whether the cosmic raw material is caused or not as one that revolves around a principle in philosophy – the Principle of Sufficient Reason. According to this Principle whatever there is has an explanation why it is as it is and not otherwise. That is, everything has a cause that makes it why it is as it is. From this assertion and the fact that what there is constitutes something it is deduced that the latter must have a cause. On the basis of the understanding that the cosmic raw material is the basic raw material its cause can only be either a part of it or a product of it. In case we say that what caused the cosmic raw material is part of it then, effectively, we are saying that the basic raw material caused itself. This, Nkrumah says, amounts to saying, in all honesty, that the basic raw material has no cause. The situation becomes even worse if we say that a product of the basic raw material, that is, something that emerged from or was caused by the raw material, is the cause of it. This also amounts to claiming that that which was caused, and was therefore an effect, is now the cause of what caused it. This is how the author, Kwame Nkrumah himself, puts it all:
According to the hypothesis that what we seek to explain is the basic raw material, any proposed cause for it can only itself arise from the basic raw material. Therefore, it must either be part of the basic raw material or be a product of it. If it is part of it, then the basic raw material is being said to be the cause of itself. If the cause is a product of the basic raw material, then an effect is being said paradoxically to cause its own cause. A circle of a very vicious kind is thus described. Furthermore, to say that ‘what there is’ is self-caused is, speaking without bias, to deny that it has a cause at all.
In spite of this, there are those who neurotically insist on a cause for the cosmic raw material. But then, this brings up the question of what is the cause of the cause and also what is the cause of the cause of the cause…? There is no end to this search of the cause behind the cause! Kwame Nkrumah, at page 11, paragraph 2, argues profoundly that in order to determine the cause or causelessness of the cosmic raw material, which he equates with the universe, it would have to be placed in a situation which must not be part of the universe. But whatever situation is suggested that situation can only be part of the universe. This means that the universe cannot have an outside and therefore cannot have a cause. In the same way it is not possible to attribute the concept of being ‘uncaused’ to it. Once again let us quote what Nkrumah says thus:
In order that a situation could be coherently described as the causing or the causelessness of the world, it would have to be a situation in which the world could be placed. But any situation can only be a situation which is part of the world. The world can have no outside; and as it can have no outside it can have no cause. There can, therefore, be no material grounds on which the adjectives, ‘caused’, ‘uncaused’… can be descriptively applied to the universe… It is only left that they should be postulates.
To postulate is ‘to claim or imagine that something is true or that it exists’. We will later consider the implications of one such postulation which Nkrumah begins to discuss at pages 8 and 9, paragraphs 3 and 1, respectively, in respect of theological beliefs. But, here, let us observe that in consideration of the first aspect of the second question of philosophy we understand that the cosmic raw material has no cause and that this is the only instance whereby the Principle of Sufficient Reason does not apply. The Principle, therefore, can be said to be applicable to transformations or products of the cosmic raw material – but not from outside of it to it since it has no such an outside. Hence, only the transformational processes within the cosmic raw material can have an ‘inside’ and an ‘outside’ since the Principle applies to them and are therefore causally determined.
That brings us to the second aspect of the second question of philosophy, that is, the extent of the cosmic raw material, what there is. The issue here is the determination of whether the said raw material is finite or infinite. What does this mean? It means that the issue here is to determine whether the cosmic raw material is limited or unlimited in amount over time and space. Informing this quest is an interest in sustaining the permanence of the universe: will the universe come to an end one day due to shortage of the cosmic raw material or it will continue to exist forever in the light of a superabundance of the cosmic raw material? Our reading here begins from page 9, paragraph 2 and ends at page 11, paragraph 3. Once again, Nkrumah says that the ‘finite’ or ‘infinite’ nature of the cosmic raw material or the universe cannot be determined.
In his view, for the universe to be permanent it must have no beginning and no end. But the beginning or the end of the universe, logically speaking, cannot be tested in any experiment. To test something one needs to have a model of it. This model is then placed outside or independently of what is to be tested; the model must not be part of the object. Nkrumah says that since the universe has no outside any model of it cannot be placed outside of it – it can only be a part of it. The main objection, however, is that any model of the universe, especially since the universe is said to be infinite in space and time, can only be a finish, a finitude – the universe, unlike its model, continues in motion. That is, since the universe is said to be infinite, and, therefore, is not static it cannot be captured in a model and placed outside itself for any experiment. See page 11 paragraph 1.
At page 9, paragraphs 4 and 5, Nkrumah treats the position of those who claim that the universe repeats itself infinitely in cycles of time. He says that for this to happen it is not necessary that the initial raw material should be infinite in extent since however little that it may be it has the power to regenerate itself for the simple reason given that it repeats itself. He goes on to explain that the claim that the universe repeats itself in cycles of time means that a series of such cycles is created and that each cycle either occurs before or after the other. The result is that each cycle, representing a universe, becomes part of a super-universe made up of many universes. The cycles are then like seasons in a year – resulting in their disappearance as universes, being reduced to nothing but moments in one single universe – no question of that universe repeating itself again: only changes in one and only one universe.
Going backwards to page 9, paragraph 3, he says that some other people claim that it is not possible that nothing should exist and that the statement that nothing exists cannot be conceived as true. He says that by this the claimants are satisfied that at any given time something must exist and thus the universe cannot be empty – assuring the permanence of the universe. He observes, however, that to say that something must exist does not mean that some particular thing (‘some given object’) will always exist. Thus, the existence of God, for example, as something that abides throughout the extent of time, cannot be inferred from the fact that something must exist. So also is it impossible to infer the permanence of the universe or cycles of it from the fact that something must exist. To assert that something always exists is only to postulate. Read page 9, paragraph 3 together with page 10, paragraph 3.
This takes us back to paragraph 1 of page 10. Here, Nkrumah says, even if the universe is infinite, whether in space or time, it may come to an end. Comparing this with a cut in a series of negative integers (numbers), he says that regardless of its size the universe may come to an end. For this to happen it is sufficient that the universe should have existed infinitely backwards.
At this stage we need to textually consider certain implicit positions of Consciencism on the concept of God. It is clear in the text that Nkrumah differentiates between a Spirit being and mind as a spirit although he does not do that explicitly. In the third paragraph of page 9 he says,
…it cannot be inferred from this non-vacuity of the universe that some given object will always exist. It is therefore impossible to infer the existence of God from the fact that something must always exist.
Let us observe that in these two statements God is being asserted as an object or something of the universe. At paragraph 3 of page 10 he also says,
Nearly all who consider the question of the permanence of the world seek to anchor the world in a foundation of a permanent cause which they identify with God. In this way, they hope that the universe will duly be protected. But all postulate something as abiding throughout the extent of time, be it the universe itself, cycles of it, or God.
That is yet another reference to God as something or an object. At paragraph 3 of page 12 he is obviously in agreement with the African thought that sees heaven, and by extension God, as being inside (part of) the world. Once again we quote him thus:
Many African societies in fact forestalled this kind of perversion. The dialectical contradiction between ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ was reduced by making the visible world continuous with the invisible world. For them heaven was not outside the world but inside it.
In all these quotations, unlike mind, God or Spirit is not asserted as a human possession.
Up until this point we have been discussing the metaphysical issues and skipping over their social implications. The metaphysical discourse expresses the world outlook of Consciencism as seeing in the universe a material entity which has no outside and which includes Spirits as some of its contents. Among such Spirits is God. The discourse also shows that mind as a human possession is derived from matter and that when it is also referred to as spirit it has nothing to do with the objective Spirit that exists independently of the human being. This concept of the materiality of Spirit, and, by implication, of God, is an inescapable conclusion and distinctive feature of Consciencism. By it the dialectical relationship between God and other Spirits on the one hand and humanity as well as all other living things on the other hand becomes comprehensible and resolvable. For, where the mind-body problem5 is conceived as a problem of Spirit-body or Spirit-matter or God-matter or God-universe we quickly see the digression since there are two different problems involved here. The mind-body problem is not the God-universe problem.
How does Nkrumah handle the social implications of such a position? Here, a discussion in the realm of the God-universe problem is engaged in. Turn to page 8, paragraph 3. In the discussion of the first question of philosophy the issues raised centred around perception within the realm of the mind-body problem where relations between the human mind and the external world were at stake. That is, the determination of what there is was undertaken as an intra-universe issue. The discussion of the explanation of what there is (that is, the cosmic raw material) in the first aspect of the second question of philosophy was, however, not undertaken as an intra-universe problem, as a mind-body problem but rather as an extra-universe problem where the cause of the universe was being sought for inside or outside the universe: we call the extra-universe problem the God-universe problem. Within the realm of the God-universe problem, Nkrumah has argued that there can be no outside of the universe and, as such, the universe can have no cause.
At the cited page above, Nkrumah considers theological beliefs and where the second question of philosophy stands with respect to them. He says that the issue here relates to the possibility of the cosmic raw material (the universe) having an origin (a cause) or its being denied an origin (a cause) in spite of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. He asserts that where one insists on an origin one such person is either a theist or a deist in which case one holds to be true the presence of a transcendental force that causes the cosmic raw material. Whereas the theist supposes that the transcendental force, in some way, continues to affect the cosmic raw material, the deist supposes that once the transcendental force made the universe it ceased to affect it. There is, however, the atheist who rejects an origin for the cosmic raw material and, consequently, any idea of a transcendental force. Thus whereas the theist and deist are committed to a universe with an ‘outside’ the atheist banishes in their thought any idea of an ‘outside’.
Move on now to the last paragraph of page 11 through pages 12 and 13 to 14. Here, Kwame Nkrumah talks about the implication of this cosmic contrast of the ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ of the universe. The said implication is the acknowledgement that there exists a process of change that begins from the ‘outside’ into the ‘inside’ of the universe and its contents. For Nkrumah, the problem arises where this process is made reversible. It creates a contradiction in society between interests outside and interests inside the universe (world). According to him, manifesting in Christian religion, for instance, this contradiction is seen in enjoining people to lay up treasures in heaven where they will not rot. (See Appendix One for another interpretation of the biblical statement). He calls this contradiction a social contradiction which takes effect when the requirements of life on earth suffer neglect while attention is constantly fixed upon things ‘outside’ the universe.
In contrast to the popular interpretation of the biblical text, Nkrumah observes that in many African societies this contradiction between the ‘outside’ and ‘inside’, which he calls a perversion, is not only forestalled but abolished. Those societies do not accept any form of transcendentalism. In fact, they see the ‘outside’ and the ‘inside’ as continuous (a continuum of the visible and invisible) inside the world: ‘For them heaven was not outside the world but inside it’, he declares. The important observation we need to make here is that whereas Nkrumah derogatorily refers to the concept of ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ as a perversion he is silent and sounds jubilant over the African abolition of the same. Silence, it is said, means consent. Does this rejection of the ‘outside’ render such African societies atheistic? Unlike the atheists, those societies accept an invisible world but only as a continuum with the visible world. This means that the rejection of an ‘outside’ does not necessarily lead to atheism. Any wonder that although Nkrumah himself rejects an ‘outside’ he says at page 84 that philosophical materialist Consciencism is not necessarily atheistic.
In spite of his rejection of the dialectical contradiction between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, Nkrumah insists that it must be recognized since imperialists use it as a device by which they divert a people’s energies from secular concerns while they go on to further their exploitation. Such awareness of the contradiction can help to anticipate colonial and also imperialist moves in Africa. In this direction, he sees religion being used as an instrument of bourgeois social reaction. Never should the African state, which must be secular, also use religion to make political gains as this will, in the long run, re-create a dialectical opposition between church and State. To insist that the State must be secular is not to declare a war on religion which is a fact of society. To declare a political war on religion is to treat it as if it resides in the mind where it might be easily wished away or scared out of existence. To tackle religion, the sociological connection between religious belief and poverty needs to be appreciated, he says. Nowadays, a church, like Christ Embassy, is combating religious belief in favour of Christian spirituality; and these two are not the same although the central subject is God.
In summary, Consciencism begins to unfold in its first chapter as a combative dialectical materialist philosophy using a complex narrative and polemical presentation style. It deals with some issues explicitly and a few others implicitly. In so doing, it outlines its own metaphysical and ideological world outlook. Metaphysically, it conceives the universe as a material entity without an outside. Within such a material universe it implicitly asserts the materiality of God and kindred Spirits. It dismisses all idealist and other materialist arguments that respectively assert the primary reality of mind (or spirit) and the sole reality of matter. In its own assertion of the primary reality of matter it holds mind (or spirit) as a derivative of matter, a derivative facilitated by laws of dialectics through categorial conversion. Our analysis of the text discerned a difference between ‘spirit’ as ‘mind’ as well as a human possession and ‘Spirit’ as an objective reality existing independently of man. Ideologically, it is anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist – insisting on anticipations against colonialist and imperialist devices for furthering the exploitation of Africa.
What remains of the book, Consciencism, is the elaboration of this world outlook in the subsequent chapters. Let us proceed to chapter 2 on ‘Philosophy and Society’.
ON PHILOSOPHY AND SOCIETY
By multiplying examples to show how there is a social contention, implicit or explicit, in the thought of the philosophers, the history of philosophy, as I sketched it earlier on, suddenly enjoys a transfusion of blood and springs back to life. These philosophies appear in situ not as abstract ethereal systems but as intellectual weapons implying social purpose. See page 53.
We stated in the last paragraph of the last chapter that this chapter, like subsequent ones, elaborates on the positions of the former chapter. The citation above shows Nkrumah in stating how he undertakes the task of elaboration. That is to say that he uses many examples to show that philosophy, in its history, was not considered by philosophers in their days past as mere abstract systems but as intellectual weapons used to attain social purposes. While doing this, Nkrumah develops his world outlook which he later refers to as philosophical consciencism. Hence, in following the discussion on how Nkrumah sees social contention in the philosopher’s apparently abstract system we need to also follow the development of the various aspects of his philosophical consciencism. That philosophy is at the centre of the ideology of Nkrumaism.
To begin with, as usual, let us look at the structure of Chapter Two captioned Philosophy and Society. On the whole this chapter is easier to understand as it is generally without the difficulties encountered in Chapter One. In the first place, there is a constant reminder in the chapter of the author’s theme on the social contention of philosophical systems as he discusses illustrative examples. That discussion is not just a statement of the philosophical systems but a critical one as well. He points out the weaknesses of those systems while he shows the social purposes that inspired them. It is from his criticism that we can see the development of philosophical consciencism. Hence, we need to pay attention to this structure of the chapter if we are to understand it. In the second place, there are occasions when apparent digressions occur as in his discussion of Revolution on pages 33 and 34 but he quickly returns to his theme. Such apparent digressions appear to betray just an anxiety to state a position on subjects yet to be handled.
In the very first paragraph of the chapter, Kwame Nkrumah states the connection between the previous chapter and the current. He sees the discussion in Chapter One as so abstract that it could easily divorce the philosopher from the rest of human activity. In certain modern Western universities, he says, philosophy is pursued in such a manner that its practitioners could be seen as doing nothing but preserving dead concepts by giving them the appearance of being active. Thus, he continues to say in the last paragraph of page 54, many twentieth-century philosophers in the West quietly settle down with this work of compiling a dictionary of sentences as opposed to a dictionary of words. They are preoccupied with finding ‘the exact sense of the word’. They are just not interested in what social irritants and urges make the philosopher, whose works they are reflecting on, say what he says. They are just not interested in that. Their concern is the reason he gives for saying what he says. While thus preoccupied all authority passes to the politician.
Kwame Nkrumah frowns upon such an attitude and contrasts it with that of the early great philosophical titans of the same West who were passionately interested in social reality and the welfare of man. The relevance of their thoughts to their social situation, social reality, sometimes exposed them to political persecution and physical death. In fact, some of them, for fear of persecution, did not publish their thoughts which were published only posthumously. He comes up with many examples to illustrate this fact. The main philosophers he cites are Thales, Anaximander, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, John Stuart Mill and John Locke as well as Rene Descartes. Whether in trying to modify or support a modification of society or pursued a reaction to this, these philosophers, in their thoughts, were responding to social urges and social conditions. See page 40, paragraph 2. Hence, Nkrumah says that, genuinely speaking, their philosophies were intellectual reflections of contemporary social conditions.
In thus connecting the two chapters he puts the flesh in the second on the bones of the first. Beginning from the second paragraph of page 29, Nkrumah traces the origin of Philosophy to theological speculation. Stating in paragraph 5 of the same page that when the primary concerns of human life are differently defined philosophy shows a different bias, he traces the origin of theology to those days when man’s preoccupation, primary concern, was the cultivation of the gods at the same time as his crops. At page 31 he says that those were the days when prosperity was conceived to depend in a crucial way on doing things to please the gods to avoid their anger in connection with agriculture. Nkrumah says that religion and worship were then the day-to-day preoccupations of man both in his private and public life. From this social situation of life emerged theological speculations which were then a collection of thoughts that moved purposelessly (milled) around the great ideas of God, Soul, Destiny and Law.
In those ancient times, therefore, explanation of the world was by reference to the gods, as Nkrumah implies at page 31 in the last paragraph. He even says that where gods are used to explain nature a certain degree of priestly (sacerdotal) power becomes inevitable. Where such priests wield political power it is not only the explanation of nature that is confused or bewildered (bemused) by theology but as well theological explanation of social reality is also encouraged. And with the priests established as the only persons to interpret the will of the gods this exclusive role becomes fortified by the resultant social inequalities. As recently as the Middle Ages the clergy could tyrannically subject other concerns of life, including economic concerns without which the clergy themselves could not have survived, to the religious concern. Thus, the main concern of philosophy still remained the theological clarification of the nature of God, of the human soul, of human freedom and of kindred concepts. See page 29, paragraphs 3 and 4.
Kwame Nkrumah explains that all this had to change when prosperity came to depend on commerce and not agriculture together with its need to propitiate gods. The new situation displaced the gods and placed man at the centre of the scheme of things. The focus of philosophy consequently changed: man, as the centre of the universe, became the subject of philosophy. The human mind and the ways in which it might determine the limits of reality became the main topics of philosophy. Reality was firmly kept within the light of human reasoning as opposed to divine revelation. Nkrumah is quick to observe that this change did not involve the departure of philosophy from its early character. It was still firmly geared on to what were now conceived as the primary concerns of life. The days of the Renaissance, so to speak, did not divorce philosophy from the primary concerns of society. The Renaissance, in dispensing with the gods and replacing them with man, was mainly concerned with man’s personal and individual dignity and freedom. See page 30.
Kwame Nkrumah illustrates the process of change with Thales. According to him, this Greek philosopher lived at a time when the rise of the mercantile class tended to reduce the social relevance of the priest. Rather than depending on religious ritual this class was dependent on mechanical arts for its prosperity. Greek religion had been congregational and this had helped to consolidate priestly power. The communal performance of rites vested power in the priest to come down heavily on any individual whose irreligion might endanger the entire small farming community. An individual performance of such rites would not have the community insured by the gods against drought and famine. Since the mercantile class did not depend on gods in this context it encouraged individualization of Greek religion. This progressively undermined the priestly power structure. The growing loss of priestly power also rendered the priest increasingly irrelevant. Nkrumah says that Thales emphasized this growing irrelevance by totally dispensing with the gods as source of explanation of natural and social phenomenon. It was an intellectual revolution.
Thales spearheaded this intellectual revolution which, Nkrumah says, was a reflection of a social revolution. See pages 32 and 33. It was a social revolution because, according to him, Thales’ intellectual revolution undermined the social effectiveness of the Greek aristocratic priesthood which represented the theocratic and crypto-theocratic manifestations of Greek society. In so saying, Nkrumah disputes the view that Greek society was without theocratic manifestations. That priesthood, he contends, had the power of passing and executing sentence at their discretion. With respect to the process and substance of the intellectual revolution, Thales’ revolution was two-fold and consisted in, one, the explanation of nature in terms of nature, and, two, in his contention that the unity of nature consisted in its materiality rather than in its being. Hitherto, explanation of nature and social phenomenon had been made in supernatural terms. If previously gods were the devices in all explanations now man takes that position. This, Nkrumah says, knocked the bottom out of Greek theocratic and crypto-theocratic life.
Let us now closely look at those two aspects of the Thalian revolution. One, at page 35 Nkrumah traces Thales’ first revolution, that is, the explanation of nature in terms of nature, to his quest to destroy the allegedly heaven-sanctioned aristocratic society. To achieve this, Thales had to assert the irrelevance of gods. This, according to Nkrumah, was what Thales did in his attempt to bring all explanation of nature within the ambit of nature itself. At page 33, paragraph 3 he says partly that Thales neutralized the gods when he destroyed them as explanatory devices. This destruction was a total rejection (page 35) and not cosmetic which would have meant some compromise here and there. Two, as one of the monist school, that is, those who assert the unity of nature and of different kinds of things as only different manifestations of the same thing (page 35), Thales asserted not just the unity of nature but also that this unity consists in nature’s materiality. Some other monists found this unity in nature’s spirituality, its being.
Kwame Nkrumah identifies this assertion of the unity of nature being in its materiality with a sort of bourgeois democratic revolution (page 34). Thales asserted that water is the primary substance from which everything else manifests. Nkrumah finds this choice of water significant. He finds it even more significant that Thales maintained that everything was derived from one and the same substance. This insistence implied the fundamental identity of man as a totally natural being but not as being partly natural and partly supernatural. On the social plain this meant the fundamental equality and brotherhood of man: egalitarianism – the assertion of the intrinsic worth of each. He comments further that this assertion of the fundamental equality and brotherhood of man does not amount to asserting social equality. Thales’ choice of a form of matter, water specifically, as primary, placed a premium on it and remains compatible with a class structure on the social plain. His philosophy, then, in a sense, supported a sort of bourgeois democratic revolution and not socialist revolution since the element of social equality was missing.
At this point let us relax before we proceed to the next illustration in Anaximander. While we relax let us reflect on a few moments of criticism in Nkrumah’s treatment of Thales even if such criticisms are only implied. Firstly, at page 33 Nkrumah describes Thales’ act of bringing all explanation of nature within the ambit of nature itself as an attempt. It is significant. For, if he finds the attempt a successful one he will not have still described it as such. Does that mean that Nkrumah finds Thales’ effort an unsuccessful one or that he considers it as being insufficient only and so requires fulfilment? Let us leave it there for the meantime. Secondly, Nkrumah accuses Thales of asserting a fundamental equality and brotherhood of man without a commitment to social equality. This means that while Thales sought to destroy the Grecian aristocratic order in favour of the mercantile class he also sought to maintain a class structure for the society. Clearly, Nkrumah is out of favours with a class-structured society. Our third consideration deals with the concept of revolution that Nkrumah expounds not as a criticism of but in commentary on Thales.
After explaining that Thales’ choice of water as that from which everything else derives originates from the mercantilist belief that all goods were exchangeable in terms of a common denominator, Nkrumah quickly inserts an exposition on revolution. He explains that this change (alteration) of the content of consciousness (the emergence of Thales’ philosophy in replacement of the preceding philosophy) by the social circumstances (mercantilist belief and practice) of the times is not a single-directional (one-sided) interaction. But that the content of consciousness also changes the social circumstances through men acting as thinkers. Such men, although are produced as some particular thinkers by their social circumstances (historical circumstances), are not chaff just floating in the direction of the wind of change; but are men acting from a solid basis in ideology. Nkrumah describes such men as revolutionaries and revolution is their action. In his own words: … circumstances can be changed by revolution and revolutions are brought about by men, by men who think as men of action and act as men of thought.
That is in the closing paragraph of page 33. At page 34 Nkrumah displays an anxiety not to be thought of as contradicting the Marxist assertion that emphasizes the determining force of material circumstances. He is in agreement with that; only that in consonance with Engels’ explanation, quoted at the head of the Introduction to Consciencism, he emphasizes the determining power of ideology (consciousness). For him, a revolutionary ideology is a double-edged sword that does not only demolish (refute) the concepts of a dying social order but also serves positively as the guiding light of the emerging social order. Hence, he concludes that a revolution has two aspects: one, it is an action against an old order, and, two, it is also a contest for a new order. The idea that a revolution, in its second aspect, is a contest needs to arrest our special attention. It connotes the idea of a process. It also suggests a contention of opposed forces each seeking to predominate over the other(s). For the revolutionary involved in this contest the effort is not to reduce the pains or injustice of the old order but one of a total rejection of injustice (social inequality).
Returning from our relaxation and before we consider Anaximander let us further explore the issue of social equality in Thales’ philosophy. Nkrumah says at page 34 that Thales’ conception of the fundamental equality and brotherhood of man does not amount to an assertion of social equality. In paragraph 1 of page 35, reference to ‘basic equality’ is the same as reference to ‘fundamental equality’ but not ‘social equality’. At page 36 in the second paragraph, Nkrumah reiterates the monist philosopher’s limitation with respect to the concept of fundamental equality (egalitarianism); that is, not asserting it as inclusive of social equality. He says there that however revolutionary a monist might be once he had claimed the fundamental equality of all he gets stuck. And this is in spite of the fact that in his effort against the aristocracy he was fighting against the social inequality of aristocratic society. The second paragraph of page 49 says that this egalitarianism of early Greek philosophy was what was pitted against the aristocratic order. This initial form of egalitarianism, Nkrumah says, can be perverted into a barbaric free-for-all in which each is said to be for himself and God for us all. See page 46, paragraph 1.
Anaximander, Thales’ friend and successor, according to Nkrumah at page 36, paragraph 2, can be admittedly regarded as having had an awareness of the stagnating limitation in the monist assertion of fundamental equality. For, in his consideration of social equality he did not envisage it in static and immobile terms. At all times he applied to it the principle of justice. Anaximander could not see an egalitarian society as one in which inequalities remained as they were, undisturbed. His principle of justice called for change. Nkrumah says he is not a lotus-eater. That means that he did not forget the problems of society to go to sleep. He felt the need for the principle of justice to illuminate and sanction the social structure since, for him, the assertion of the unity of nature with its egalitarian implications could not by itself guarantee social equality and impartiality. In this respect, he formulated a philosophy in which rather than the Thalian water, an item of the world, he conceived the primary substance as a stock of undifferentiated, boundless, featureless and eternal expanse of neutral material from which the things of this world emerged due to its restlessness. Measured out according to the principle of justice, these things live for a while and return to the neutral material, giving place to other things. In this assertion of fundamental equality, social equality and justice are installed. Egalitarianism now involves social equality and justice.
But, according to Nkrumah, these early Greek philosophers were so preoccupied with destroying the foundations of the priestly aristocratic power that they paid little attention to social growth. Here enters Heraclitus. But what is the relevance of social growth to this discussion of egalitarianism? At page 46, paragraph1Nkrumah is to explain that by itself initial egalitarianism does not predetermine its own future course of development but that this development depends on the development of production and the emergent social-economic relations resulting from that development. Therein lays the issue and necessity of social growth in the concept of egalitarianism. And that was what Heraclitus’ predecessors neglected. His days saw eruptions shake Greek society during which the aristocrats had overthrown the monarchies after which Greek colonies were established on the lip of the Mediterranean basin. With the introduction of coinage in the colonies, the value of landed property as an instrument of economic transaction declined; together with other such economic developments the aristocracy became decadent as the new merchant force sought political gains from it. But the redeemed society was still plagued with dissentions out of which a temporary harmony or responsive relationship emerged only to be upset and repeated for yet another such relationship.
Nkrumah explains that this situation of strife, emergent pattern and apparent harmony that served as a period of rest for the contending forces until they once again started their contentions gave birth in Heraclitus’ mind to the idea that the universe itself is a harmony or a responsive relationship (attunement) of forces perpetually in strife. See pages 37 and 38. Hence, according to Heraclitus, all things are one but that the fundamental thing is fire from which the other things emerged as its transformations. This suggests a potential instability in everything. Such instability is permanent and it is that which makes the transformations possible. Everything, all objects, are deceptively stable (serene). They are actually representations of delicate balances of opposing forces. This opposition of forces is fundamental such that without it nothing would exist, they would pass away. Thus, an object is a harmonized set of opposite tensions without which tensions there could be no object. Similarly, Heraclitus conceived society as a dynamism in which there is strife of opposites out of which emerges harmony; and without which there can be no growth.
For Heraclitus, therefore, the strife of opposites is indispensable to growth and creation both in nature and society. And, as such, growth or creation is nothing but that balance or harmony which emerges from the strife of opposites. Nkrumah concludes from this that for Heraclitus, therefore, society is permanently in revolution and that evolution by revolution is the standard (touchstone) by which growth (progress) is determined. With this introduction of the strife of opposites the dialectic of history was born. The idea of a finite history, whereby the world was conceived as given with no prospect of essential change in any other way, was killed. If, we understand, the history of democracy via the development of the egalitarian principle must be really traced to Thales and the concepts of social equality and justice to Anaximander then the introduction of the notion of social growth with its dialectic principle by Heraclitus enriched and advanced the idea of egalitarianism. Nkrumah says at page 38 that these were materialists of the monist type whose materialist philosophy derived from social phenomena which they in turn inspired.
This far we can see that although Nkrumah’s explicit objective has been the illustration of the social content in the early philosophical systems he also implicitly pursues this other objective of tracing the history of the development of the principle of egalitarianism. This is emphasized by his next illustration in Anaxagoras. He is quick to point out at page 38 that Anaxagoras can be exhibited as supporting an egalitarianism. Yes, an egalitarianism. As will be shown shortly Anaxagoras’ egalitarianism differed in some detail from that of the preceding philosophers. Before then let us look at the metaphysics that Anaxagoras enunciated, according to Nkrumah. He also, like the monists, asserted the unity of nature but one in which an object emerged from seeds. Each seed contains the whole range of different things found in the universe at large (the macro-cosmic universe). Such a seed represented a minute universe within the macro-cosmic universe. An object was nothing, therefore, but an accretion of seeds; that is, made up of an increasing number of seeds. It is suggested here that some object could have more seeds than some other object. Hence, objects were different from each other. But each kind of object participated in every other kind of object: meaning that as a particular object participated in every other object they also participated in that object. Unlike the preceding philosophers, Anaxagoras found the principle of motion that apportioned the different quantities of seeds to all objects not inside the seeds but externally; that is, external to the entire collection of seeds that make up the universe and, therefore, outside the universe. He called that principle reason, mind.
Clearly then, Anaxagoras’ philosophy was an idealist philosophy. Despite that its version of the unity of nature, in some respects, was more rigorous. It was a closed one. Whereas the monists affirm a mere egalitarianism whereby only the identity of things in their basic make-up was asserted Anaxagoras saw a nature that was more firmly united. Nkrumah sees this distinction between Anaxagoras and the monists as an expression, in social terms, of the distinction between socialism and democracy. He says that while it is, in democracy, sufficient to affirm a mere egalitarianism – fundamental and social equality – socialism affirms a mutual involvement of each in all and all in each. See pages 38 to 39 up to the first sentence of the first paragraph. Let us notice that Nkrumah’s inclusion among those monists of the person who introduced social equality into egalitarianism, Anaximander, suggests that for him even though the assertion of social equality is necessary in the definition of socialism (see page 34 paragraph 2) it is not sufficient. It is only when the affirmation as well of the mutual involvement of each in each is asserted that socialism comes into its rights as an enhanced egalitarianism. But in both cases the possible corruption of the intrinsic worth of the individual begged to be addressed.
At page 49, paragraph 2, Nkrumah asserts that the egalitarianism which early Greek philosophy introduced could be formulated in terms of individualism. He says that to the extent that individualism asserts the initial (fundamental) equal value of the individual, egalitarianism can be formulated in terms of it. Where individualism is conceived as the equal right of the individual to dominate and exploit each other it heads society towards capitalism; whereas a conception of it that imposes a duty on each to support each other so as to make the happiness of others the condition for one’s own happiness heads society towards socialism (paragraph 4). Hence, egalitarianism, when it is formulated in terms of individualism, could lead to either capitalism or socialism. Likewise, the extremes of the egalitarian principle, its corruption, could respectively express in either anarchism or fascism. Whereas in anarchism the subjective will of the individual together with minimal or no governmental regulation is asserted, in fascism the dimming (suppression) of individual values with maximum governmental regulation is affirmed. In these cases, respectively, the intrinsic worth of the individual is either inflated or suppressed.
Consciencism does not discuss fascist corruption of egalitarianism. It discusses anarchist corruption of it. It states that once Anaxagoras had emphasized socialistic responsibility of each for all and all for each the next issue was to emphasize the intrinsic worth of the individual. The social progressive movement in the development of egalitarianism had a setback in the appearance of the Sophists who held that only oneself existed and all other things existed as one’s experiences. Hence, the cult of the individual. A view that is close to the sophist position is that corruption of the Protagoran maxim that man was the measure of all things and that the universe had passed from the hands of the gods to the hands of men. By that corruption, reality became an accurate copy (a replica) of the will of man, that is, the subjective will. That was subjective idealism which Nkrumah condemns as the perversion of lesser minds: what there is was the product of the will of man. This, according to Nkrumah, made social reality dependent on the subjective will. Such a view did not only damage the possibility of science as well as the public and objective positioning of truth but also undermined the foundations of society which the original attempt via the assertion of egalitarianism had sought to unite. In this respect, egalitarianism needed to be distinguished from anarchism, the political expression of subjective idealism. Anarchism inflates the intrinsic worth of man. Enter Socrates.
Socrates stood up against the perversion of the Protagoran maxim noted above. Concern for the restoration of the objectivity of society, which the said perversion had damaged and undermined with regard to its foundations, made Socrates dedicate himself to the destruction of that perversion. He advanced a fundamental egalitarianism. This belief in the common and equal nature of man he sought to prove in his choice of a slave-boy for the demonstration of the equal endowment of all with innate ideas and the equal ability of all to lead a good life. For him, knowledge was innate as an engraving upon the individual soul; a soul that he conceived as a tenet of philosophy, not as conceived in religion. Learning was only a way of remembering that which had been engraved on the soul. See pages 39, 40 and 37 in that order. Socrates’ fundamental egalitarianism could be seen as an emphasis on the intrinsic worth of the individual in his/her nature. It did not however assert social equality although it explained differences between men in terms of education and, therefore, only affirmed what Nkrumah calls mere egalitarianism. Socrates was a firm theoretical believer in egalitarianism (page 39, last paragraph) and his egalitarianism remained as a theoretical construct as it could not be traced to an existing social situation (an established fact of life). See page 40 paragraph 1.
It is difficult to see in the pages of Consciencism how Socrates constructed his destruction of subjective idealism. If, as we observed above, Socrates did not assert social equality in his attempt to restore the objectivity of society (i.e. the possibility of science and the public as well as the objective grounding of truth) then how could he achieve his aim? The subjective idealist position was disruptive of the firm united foundation that we had seen Anaxagoras provide. The restoration of that foundation could be expected to affirm social equality in the first instance, the participation of each in each in the second and the rescue of the intrinsic worth of the individual (fundamental equality) from its inflation or exaggeration in the third instance. We rather see in Socrates an emphasis, through elaboration, on the fundamental equality of man only. How that focus stands in defence against the anarchist implications of subjective idealism is a difficulty the reader will have in following what Nkrumah calls the egalitarian development. Sure, Socrates’ elaboration of the content of fundamental equality enhanced egalitarianism deeply but as a defence against subjective idealism in its anarchist implications we might perhaps find that elsewhere, not in the pages of Consciencism. Certainly, Socrates, by his rescue of fundamental equality from the subjective idealist attack on it, restored it. In that sense, he defended it.
But if subjective idealism was destructive of the egalitarian development so was Plato who rejected it with a fundamental attack on fundamental equality. He did not believe in it. He rather affirmed original inequality. Nkrumah calls him a reactionary philosopher. He explains that Plato pursued a private vendetta in reaction to the execution of his master, Socrates, who had fallen victim to Athenian democracy. But in so doing he rather betrayed Socrates in his elaboration of the principles of his book, The Republic. Whereas Socrates had affirmed fundamental equality, Plato affirmed such fundamental inequality that not even education, which Socrates had as the leveller, could eradicate. See pages 40 and 41. For Plato, education would rather reveal an original inequality even if at some stage it concealed the differences that showed that some men had higher reason than others. The intellectual differences implied a natural division and hierarchy of labour such that the less intelligent only qualified for menial forms of labour and social-political power was concentrated in the hands of those with higher intelligence, the intellectuals. To harden the intellectual group into a class he suggested how men and women could be mated so that by birth there would be a succession of intellectuals to hold power in trust.
According to Nkrumah, apart from Plato’s betrayal of Socrates in his denunciation of the fundamental equality of man he also betrayed him in his failure to appreciate a particular distinction between the theory and practice of Athenian democracy. We need to pay real attention to what Nkrumah says here. He says that theory and practice are connected but that practice can fall short of the demands of theory and that this failure is common. Every social system has a supporting ideology, he continues. A revolutionary ideology seeks to introduce a new social system, he concludes. On the basis of these assertions he faults Plato for his failure to separate the condemnation of Athenian political practice from the condemnation of democratic theory. It is necessary here for us to draw attention to Nkrumah’s interchangeable use of ‘theory’ and ‘ideology’ in this discussion. See page 42, paragraph 1. Some modern day revisionists of Consciencism try to impose on it a difference in its use of the two terms. Hence, for them Consciencism asserts socialism, which it contrasts first with democracy and then with capitalism, as a theory but not as an ideology. From that misinterpretation they draw some misleading revisionist conclusions. We shall come back to this issue. Meanwhile let us return to Plato’s betrayal.
Socrates, whom Plato sought to avenge, acknowledged the Athenian political system which was a limited democracy in the sense that not all adults were included in it and women in particular were entirely excluded. As an emerging system Athenian democracy was still dependent on slave and other exploited labour for the creation of wealth and did not aim, even as an ideal, at the redistribution of this wealth. See last paragraph of page 41. It is clear that it exhibited certain initial excesses including the execution of Socrates himself. His acknowledgement of the newly emerging political system was so steadfast that when his life was threatened and given the opportunity to flee he refused. He was defending the infant democracy with his life. That was an example of a revolution being watered with the blood of martyrs. This was the infant revolution that Plato betrayed. That betrayal encouraged a new oligarchy in the Dark and Middle ages. It found allies in the Christian intellectuals who developed Plato’s reactionary philosophy (page 42) in a re-hash of the old familiar arguments that re-encumbered the world with a theological explanation of the cosmos (page 43). Thus, Plato established Socrates’ complete overthrow in his attempt to avenge his death. Fundamental or human equality (page 43) was to Socrates what original inequality was to Plato.
The history of philosophy this far has observed not only the social determinants inspiring the changing content of philosophy and philosophy’s impact on changing social condition but also the difficult if not tortuous development of egalitarianism in the ideologies – that is, democracy or capitalism and socialism – that sought to redefine social-political relation in early Greek society. Nkrumah’s characterization of this history is better quoted than re-stated. We quote it at length from pages 42 to 43 thus:
It is important to see clearly the nature of the swing that had thus taken place. I started this sketch of Western philosophical thought from a time in the history of its Greek founders when aristocratic class, assisted by a priestly oligarchy, held the sum total of social-political power. The earliest philosophers, rebelling against the social order which a theological explanation of natural phenomena encouraged, went to the root of the matter by introducing a different kind of explanation for social and natural phenomena. The social implication of their metaphysics was a certain egalitarianism which theoretically implied democracy and socialism.
As the secular metaphysics with its concern for the fundamental identity of man suffered corruption, it tended towards a subjective idealism, a change which was complete by the time of the Sophists. And the political image of subjective idealism is anarchism. Socrates and some of his students were largely instrumental in checking the rise of anarchism which the Sophists both by their precept and by their moral neutrality were already fostering. But that egalitarianism which Socrates was in a limited way endeavouring to save in its objective form, had by this time accommodated elements of the Sophists’ teaching. It had bred a rapacious individualism which could not take correction lightly. The system destroyed Socrates. And Socrates’ soi–disant avenger, Plato, sought in turn to destroy even this limited democracy. In this attempt he only succeeded in adumbrating a philosophy which could be used in supporting a society in which one class sat on the neck of another. It encouraged a new oligarchy. And this new oligarchy of the dark and middle ages, like the one from which we started, sought its sacerdotal ally. So it is that Plato, in trying to avenge the defender of human equality, the man who always said that men did not differ as men, any more than bees differed as bees, helped ironically in instituting his more complete overthrow.
That did not mark the end of the development of egalitarianism as Aristotle became a telling critic of Plato. Enter Aristotle.
Unlike Plato, Aristotle advocated a form of egalitarianism or democracy which concepts Nkrumah uses interchangeably. See pages 44 to 49. Plato had rejected egalitarianism on the grounds of different levels in human intelligence. For him, consequently, truth finding belonged to those with the highest level of thinking or intelligence. Hence, accessibility to truth was open to just a few people, an intellectual oligarchy, who, only, were capable of perceiving and appreciating it (the truth). To ensure that truth was out of the reach of many he called it ‘form’ and projected it as resident in a very light and delicate heaven. It was the duty of Aristotle to return such ‘forms’ to earth from the heavens and restore them to nature where they would be accessible to all. This was what he did with a denial that the ‘forms’ were capable of existence outside natural objects. (Do you remember the issue of the universe and its outside?) Aristotle denied such an outside and located truth inside the universe. So far as he was concerned anyone capable of observing natural objects was capable of finding or discovering truths, the so-called forms. Thus, he did not only demystify truth by making it accessible to all but also did assert its possible common appreciation by all. See page 46, paragraph 2.
This rejection of the Platonic hypothesis that restricted the perception and appreciation of political and social truth to an intellectual oligarchy and placing knowledge within the reach of all needed qualification; hence, Aristotle includes in the ‘all’ only those who were capable of observing nature and implicitly excludes the mentally infirm. Thus, the Aristotelian restoration connected egalitarianism or democracy with knowledge. See page 44. According to Aristotle, although the perception and appreciation of social-political truths are within the capability of all no one person could see in their individual gaze all aspects of them. In other words, each truth had so many parts that one person alone could not see them all in an individual observation. To attain the whole truth each individual would have to contribute their portion in collaboration with others. For Aristotle, thus, the State was not just a collection of men but a union, an interdependence, of individuals dedicated to a common ultimate goal through co-operative action. This undermined not only the oligarchic conception of Plato but as well the anarchist implications of subjective-idealism. See pages 44 to 45.
In spite of the above, Aristotle believed that there were differences among men such that it is not everybody who could contribute to the truth. Nkrumah explains what Aristotle meant by his assertion that there were differences among men against the criticism of others. According to him, egalitarianism could not mean the absence of difference and that at the functional level egalitarianism recognized and accepted difference; but only at that level and never at the level of the intrinsic worth of the individual. He contends that Aristotle’s writings about slavery have been distorted. Aristotle’s definition of a slave as someone who by nature was not his own but another’s, that is, a human being who was at the same time a possession, according to Nkrumah, means that if someone is a slave then he is not his own but belonged to another person, a human being alright but also a property, a possession. A man cannot be discovered to be a slave by way of examining his nature just as, if we may add, a man cannot be discovered to be a father through an examination of his nature; if he is a father then he is somebody’s relative. See page 46. In spite of this explanation, Nkrumah criticizes Aristotle for not criticizing the institution of slavery in a co-operative society where co-operation can only be free, not tyrannical.
By the assertion that not everyone could contribute to the truth, Aristotle was reflecting the social reality of slavery which he thought to be justified if the slave was naturally inferior to his master (page 44). He recognized the fact of slavery with, what Nkrumah describes as, supernatural reverence that prevented him from a full appreciation of egalitarianism (page 45). Nkrumah says that Aristotle’s recognition that there were slaves was not enough; reverence for facts does not mean being intoxicated with them and leaving them in the dark, not criticized and not undermined. He should have appraised, criticized and undermined them. A slave, as a property, had no say. Aristotle could have underscored the necessity of education to undermine slavery as he did with how co-operation might be made spontaneous.
In all of this criticism of Aristotle, Nkrumah does not suggest that Aristotle, like Thales, was motivated by his bourgeois circumstances. He criticizes him from an epistemological or, if you like, analytical perspective with respect to the handling of facts. At page 48, he says that Aristotle conceived society in static terms, that is, a society that did not permit of revision. It is the perfect society. With it we have the final stage of the evolution of society. It represented an attempt to arrest the dialectic of society. To achieve this, we see Aristotle analysing the nature of a democratic constitution which he then declared as natural. See page 47. Preceding this, he had attempted to arrest the dialectic of thought. To achieve this, he laid down some categories like quantity, quality, rest, motion, time and place which he conceived as the most general concepts under which the world could be thought of. Every conceivable object or process in nature fell under one or more of these categories. All that the philosopher did was to identify those categories and explain them. A subsequent philosopher only needed to build on this so-called final foundation under the guidance of rules that the previous philosopher had dictated in his preface: an end to the process of thought, the dialectic of thought. And what is this dialectic?
Let us turn to the first lines of page 49. Nkrumah explains here that in the dialectic of thought a very important (cardinal) idea is introduced and its details are considerably worked out. After a certain point, an opposing idea to it appears in the discussion. In the attempt to reconcile the two a new idea emerges. This new idea starts a similar process which comes up with its opposite (antithesis), a reconciliation and yet another new idea. This goes on and on. To conceive an idea and declare it as being perfect is to stop (arrest) the dialectic. The dialectic operates likewise in the history of society which initially exhibits a stage that is operated considerably. At a certain point a stage opposed to the current one emerges alongside it in contention. In the attempt to reconcile them a new stage is given birth to. A new process is then initiated with the new stage as the starting point. To declare any particular stage as perfect and therefore incapable of revision is to arrest the social dialectic or the dialectic of society. Aristotle, Nkrumah says, violated the dialectic principle in his attempt to create his fixed categories.
Aristotle demystified the Platonic mystification of thought and by asserting the co-operative nature of the process of attaining truth he did not only undermine subjective idealism but as well rejected anarchism. With him came the first renaissance and humanism. But the form of democracy or egalitarianism that he consequently promoted did not question social inequality. His philosophy reflected the social reality of his days. So that if Nkrumah does not trace the motivation of Aristotle’s philosophy to personal or class reactions, as in the case of Plato and Thales, he shows that it was an endorsement of the state of society in his days albeit with this correction of the Platonic hypothesis. The social contention in that philosophy is thus illustrated.
From here to the end of the chapter, Nkrumah completes his illustrations with the Renaissance which, together with the humanism that it fortified, actually became the second renaissance and humanism after Aristotle. Aristotle had saved thought from the mystic vapours with which Plato had surrounded it. The Renaissance freed thought from the mysticism of the Middle Ages. See page 51. Aristotle had also represented man as the centre of the universe. So did the Renaissance represent man as the centre of the universe and was non-religious. The assertion of man as the centre of the universe thus appeared simultaneously with the assertion of man as the source of knowledge. Knowledge was no longer considered as a matter of divine revelation but one of human mental activity. Also, the reference point of political organization ceased to be God but man. This threatened the social power of the Church and placed it in opposition to the philosophers. And since the power of the Church could still be felt some philosophers like Descartes and Leibnitz, for fear of the Church’s reaction, had to hide their definitive works until after their death when they were published. See page 52. On its part, the Church was subtle in seeming to endorse these philosophies while retaining God at the centre. See page 51. In all this, we see the development of egalitarianism into democratic capitalism and co-operative socialism. Nkrumah gives some details of this encounter up to the eruption of the French Revolution that resolved it and advises on the study of philosophy by the non-Westerner.
Descartes affirmed egalitarianism in a more profound manner than Aristotle did. He also believed in the attainment of truth as a co-operative human endeavour. Intelligence (reason), he believed, was the same in all and that all shared fundamental equality in the perception and appreciation of the same truths which were public objective truths and not private truths which did not exist. All men pursued these objective truths. Truth was not a matter of divine revelation but a human act of mathematical and public demonstration. Men had to co-operate in support of social stability and order even when they had not yet come to the truth due to their inadequate attention to the matter at hand. That is, while we are in search for the truth we must support, in co-operation with others, the demands of order as those others had conceived those demands. See pages 52 and 53. This conception of egalitarianism was more inclusive than the Aristotelian version which excluded at least the slaves from democratic practice. It contrasted with the oligarchic philosophy of the Church. Its spread in the form of free-thinking generated competing philosophies that brought forth very deep social and ideological conflict. In its social-political manifestation Cartesian (Descartes’) egalitarianism gave support to co-operative socialism.
Leibniz, on the contrary, came out with a humanist philosophy that also undermined the social power of the Church but in contribution to democratic capitalism. He conceived the universe as made up of innumerable units called monads. The monads were spirits with different levels of consciousness. Each of them was completely self-contained with its own law of development. This law was such that a particular monad could enjoy prosperity while other monads suffered. The entire arrangement was held together by means of a principle called Pre-established Harmony. The social implication of this line of thinking was that each individual had an inalienable right to develop according to their own nature even if that development required the suffering and economic or political subordination of others. See page 52. That was Leibniz’s contribution to democratic capitalism. It linked the emancipation of thought from religious shackles to strengthening of capitalism. For, it was nothing but the elevation of the brutal competition and drive for supremacy that featured in capitalism to the level of a philosophical concept. It was this same concept that featured in the political philosophy of John Locke which largely inspired the American Constitution. See page 50. The chequered history of egalitarianism had brought it this far in the dialectic of society.
In that history the Church had her supporters among the philosophers in her attempts to negate the emancipation that the humanist movement involved. Her theologians shiftily modified her position here and accepted a compromise there. In that manner, the Church avoided a head-on collision and thus preserved herself. One such philosopher, Berkeley, had seemed to embrace empiricism in his assertion that material objects were a collection of ideas of sense. In the process he shied away from sense as avenue or route for ideas and said that in fact it was God who put the ideas in the mind. So that sense was not at all necessary in his philosophy; it served no useful purpose in it. Empiricism had no place in his philosophy. For this double-speak the grateful Church rewarded him with a bishopric. Berkeley was the very personification of the dilemma of the Church. See pages 51 and 52. His philosophy was inspired by the shaky social position of the Church. That was the social contention in his philosophy.
By the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the social contention in the works of the philosophers had become explicit. Law, politics, economics and ethics were then publicly founded on philosophy. Modern Western philosophers, however, have denied themselves of this inheritance and rather display some snobbish unconcern over the social realities of the day. For them, social irritants and urges to the content of philosophy are irrelevant to the philosopher’s task. That task is the consideration of the philosopher’s reasons for saying what they say but not why they say it. Thus preoccupied, many Western philosophers excuse themselves from philosophical comments on social developments, positive or negative. The reactionary Plato saw such persons as those in whose hands social and political power should naturally and permanently be placed. No, in our days they do not even want to touch, not to talk about hold it. In fact, these are mere academics. They are not intellectuals. Intellectuals apply their academic learning to the resolution of social problems. They use and must use their learning in furtherance of cultural development and strengthening of human society. They do not just sit there pursuing the ‘exact sense of the word’, Nkrumah says.
ON SOCIETY AND IDEOLOGY
In our treatment of Chapter Two of Consciencism we observed that it exhibited an explicit theme dealing with the social content of philosophy and an implicit theme dealing with the development of egalitarianism. Egalitarianism started with the assertion of the fundamental equality of man whereby each man was equally endowed with an intrinsic worth or value. It then affirmed social equality. With fundamental and social equality each man participated in the other such that each individual became responsible for all others and all others became responsible for the individual. Egalitarianism then developed an antithesis to this conception of social equality whereby the individual, armed with fundamental and inalienable rights, was allowed to develop on their own and dominate others for his/her well-being. A social dialectic ensued in which the principle of each for all and all for each contended with the principle of each for himself. Whereas the former principle was overwhelmingly championed by materialist philosophers and led to socialism, the latter was championed by idealist philosophers and led to capitalism. On either side of the dialectic the principle of humanism, the assertion that man, not God, is the measure of all things, was upheld. Humanist egalitarianism thus evolved.
If in Western society humanist egalitarianism could branch off into the social-political systems of capitalism and socialism, in Africa it defined and informed the social-political system of communalism. In this chapter the implicit concern is with the development of a materialist philosophical statement to provide a firm conceptual basis to the ideological aim to achieve the restitution of African humanist egalitarianism. Explicitly, the chapter deals with the definition and role of ideology in the development of society. Hence, from pages 56 to 68 Kwame Nkrumah develops a concept of ideology that asserts it as that set of statutory and non-statutory instruments that apply coercion, appropriately understood, for the cohesion of society in pursuit of the development of the society according to a formally-stated or unstated view of the desirable society. Examples are multiplied to give an illustration of this definition. From pages 68 to 70 Africa’s ideological map is drawn and a call for a new emergent and dominant ideology predicated on the original humanist egalitarianism of Africa is made. The rest of the chapter, from the last paragraph of page 70 to page 77, makes a case for socialism as the requirement for the restitution in Africa of its humanist egalitarianism and condemns capitalism in forthright terms.
To begin with, let us consider some usages that some revisionists are capitalizing on in their cruel agenda to confuse the current generation of the African youth. In this chapter we see usages like ‘socialist ideology’, ‘socialist philosophy’, ‘socialism is a form of social organization’, ‘capitalism, which is only a social-political theory’, ‘capitalism is a system’, ‘capitalism … this social-political system’, and ‘capitalism is … method of slavery’. As we will see presently in Kwame Nkrumah’s treatment of ideology, ideology uses philosophy, social-political theory, history, morality, ethics, art, etc. as instruments for the pursuit of a form of society as the desirable society. Hence, we have a socialist ideology making use of these instruments. Hence, we have a capitalist ideology making use of these instruments. The instruments do not define the ideology. The ideology defines their content. To suggest that socialism, which the text refers to as an ideology, is first and foremost a social-political theory is to commit the hideous fallacy of inversion whereby the predicate of a sentence is converted to its subject and the subject becomes the predicate. Capitalism likewise suffers at the hands of that fallacy when it is similarly treated. If it were not so then each instrument could assert its right as defining ideology. The consequent and disastrous logical implications for the entire text of the chapter under consideration can only be imagined. Only a renegade of the highest order can luxuriate in them for maximum reactionary effect as he glibly parades as Professor of Consciencism.
At page 57 in the first paragraph, Kwame Nkrumah explains that in every society there is an ideology which is the set of fundamental principles, beliefs about the nature of man and the type of society which must be created for man; it therefore seeks to bring a particular order into the total life of the society. In this pursuit, it employs instruments like political theory, social theory and moral theory (page 59, paragraph 1) through which it expresses itself. In any given society the ideology is either that of the dominant militant segment of it or the society as a whole. In a communalistic society it is of the whole whereas in a class-structured one it is of the dominant class. It is usual to find more than one ideology in a particular society but only one of them, the ideology of the ruling class, dominates. But whether an ideology is of the dominant class or of the whole society, it seeks to unite the whole of society to establish common attitudes and purposes for the society (page 57). It does not just unite its particular believers but it seeks to unite society as a whole. Holistically speaking, therefore, an ideology involves a vision and a set of many instruments for the realization of that vision.
The fundamental concern of ideology is the pursuit and creation of the desirable society. To this end an ideology formulates and feeds into a conception of the desirable society (see page 66). This conception is based on beliefs about the nature of man. In traditional Africa, for instance, Nkrumah says at page 68 that man is believed to be primarily a spiritual being endowed with an original value, inward dignity and integrity. This original value, Christianity believes, was lost in favour of an originally sinful and degraded status. Hence, whereas traditional Africa believes man as being originally of a dignified nature Christianity believes man as being originally of a degraded nature. Given the specific belief about the nature of man certain duties are imposed on us (see page 69). These duties form the theoretical basis of ideology; that is, fundamental principles of conduct are derived from those duties. On the social level, such fundamental principles manifest in institutions. One such institution is the clan which, in traditional Africa, for instance, represents the initial equality of all and the responsibility of many for one (emanating from the concept of man’s original value – see the first sentence of paragraph 1 page 69).
An ideology thus determines the set of institutions that constitutes the form or type of social organization or society we have: feudal, capitalist or socialist. It gives countenance to the society. See page 56. In so doing, it sets common attitudes and purposes for the entire society as a united whole. See page 57. That is, it aims at uniting the actions of millions towards specific and set goals. See page 58. Hence, it seeks to bring about and establishes a specific order into the total life of society. See page 59. To achieve this it uses various instruments that appear to coerce society to conform. Nkrumah treats them one after the other.
His treatment shows that his concept of an ideology goes beyond it being a mere body of writing by either an individual or a small group of individuals and directed only at fundamental change in a society. See page 59. He thinks that such a conception is not correct. For him, to say that there is an ideology in every society is not to necessarily mean that in every society there is to be found a fully written set of statements. Ideology could be so widespread and yet be unseen at the same time. See page 58. The crucial issue is not the explicit statement of the ideology on paper, not the paper, but the thought itself. See page 59. Just as a morality does not appear as an explicit set of statements defining it so does an ideology not necessarily appear as such. See page 58. An ideology largely expresses itself implicitly. See page 58, paragraph 1. And this expression is not only at the time that it seeks to introduce a new type of society but also after the birth and during the development of the new society which it seeks to defend and maintain.
To introduce, defend and maintain the new society an ideology uses various instruments like philosophy. The statement of the ideology, its elucidation, that is, making it easier to understand, and its theoretical defence collectively form its philosophy. See page 56. This philosophy involves political theory, social theory and moral theory in which the said ideology is displayed. In being total, the ideology embraces the whole life of a society such that it manifests itself not only in its philosophy but also in its class-structure, history, literature, art and religion. These are all subtle instruments used to ensure that the individual, living in orderly surroundings, does not behave in a way as to jeopardise those surroundings. See page 62. They are non-statutory methods used to fill order in that large portion of life outside direct central intervention. See page 68. In their operation, they do not, as appropriately understood, only coerce the individual to conduct themselves within the permitted range of social behaviour but also ensure social cohesion.
It should be clear that the said subtle instruments as mentioned above are intellectual in form and directed at a common understanding (a consensus) that then pulls as many as possible together for their voluntary participation to realize the aims and purposes of the given ideology. There are others like the creation of social clubs and systematic ridicule. See pages 65 to 66. We might add peer pressure if only it is positively conceived. But it is in the area of the intellectual instruments that Kwame Nkrumah lays much emphasis. He picks history for special mention to illustrate how an account of African history and its anthropology is used as a subtle instrument of European oppressive ideology in Africa. This illustration covers almost three whole pages of the book. From pages 62 to 64, he writes it with absolute but controlled pain in his heart. Africa was projected as having had no history and lived in a state of inertia. The European contact, it was claimed, propelled Africa into history and thus African history was projected as an extension of European history. In these terms, African nationalism was seen as a perversion and neo-colonialism as a virtue. He describes these as malicious myths and calls for the European contact to be assessed and judged from the viewpoint of the principles animating African society as well as of its harmony and progress. This is a task of the new African renaissance – great emphasis on history presentation. Africa’s history needs to be appreciated in its integrity, as a whole.
Ideology also uses explicit statutory instruments to ensure conformity. At page 61 we see a reference to a Law Conference in Accra where Nkrumah stated that the law must be inspired by the ideals of the society in which it is enforced. This means that enactment of laws must reflect the ideology of the society as a whole or where the society is based on a class-structure the enactment reflects the ideology of the ruling class. Such enactments make prohibitions and permissions explicit. It is possible to think of a situation in which all permissive rights and prohibitive acts are backed by enactments. That would mean the centralization of all the instruments of coercion and cohesion. This is an extreme that, in fact, cannot be attained. Even if it is attained a huge bureaucracy will emerge to defeat the very intent of bureaucracy – that is, the realization of impartiality and avoidance of arbitrariness – and rather create an autocracy. Consequently, in many societies subtle or implicit instruments like the preacher’s sermon, trade union pressure, media criticism, etc. are additionally applied non-statutorily to coerce society to achieve and preserve cohesion. Implicitly, therefore, a limited statutory environ is the preferred choice.
From the second paragraph of page 68 to page 77 the discourse turns from the descriptive to the descriptive-prescriptive. In this regard, the process of change in traditional African society is described from page 68 to the last but one paragraph of page 70 and the aim of a new ideology is prescribed. From the last paragraph of page 70 to page 77 a case is made for socialism in terms of its defence of the humanist egalitarian principles of communalism and in vehement condemnations of capitalism. Regarding the process of change, Nkrumah says that in traditional Africa there were institutions like the clan in which there was fundamental (initial) equality of all and responsibility of many for one. In that society, the welfare of all but not some sectional interest was supreme. Legislative and political power was not exercised to aid the interests of any particular group. A man was regarded as originally endowed with a certain inward dignity, integrity and value. But the advent of colonialism changed all this as it created men of rank and prestige among the people, men seen by all others as associates of the colonial power. These men, together with groups of merchants and traders, lawyers, doctors, politicians, etc., were thus elevated in the light of their skills and affluence in service of the colonial power. In addition to these were some collaborative feudal-minded elements. All of them acquired European ideals which they accepted without question as valid for African societies.
Such ideals, inculcated through education from infancy, could scarcely be seen as being in accord with the scheme, harmony and progress of African society: individual accountability rather than collective responsibility was one such deviation. So were countless other such silent influences. They violated the traditional African egalitarian view of man and society. Such was the scale of European ideological subversion that African society never remained the same. The African society of today, Kwame Nkrumah says, is not the old society. A new African society has emerged. In its new form, traditional African society stands enlarged not only by the Euro-Christian presence but the Islamic as well. Hence, the African conscience is now a terrain of competing ideologies: the Euro-Christian, the Islamic and the traditional African. It is in crisis.
But society is a dynamic and united whole. It requires a single dominant ideology which genuinely caters for the needs of all to reflect this dynamic unity and, with true independence regained, forge a new harmony. This ideology must crystallize with a philosophical statement from the prevailing crisis in the African conscience as its theoretical basis. The ideology aims at containing the African experience of the collective presence of the Euro-Christian, the Islamic and the African tradition in tune with the original humanist and egalitarian principles underlying African society for harmonious growth and development. This requires the restitution of those original principles of African humanist egalitarianism in the first instance. The statement, elucidation and theoretical defence of these principles will collectively form a philosophy. That philosophy is what Nkrumah names as philosophical consciencism. It is directed at providing the firmest conceptual basis to this effort at the restitution of African humanist egalitarianism. See page 76 and connect that with the two paragraphs of page 56. The rest of the chapter, from pages 70 to 77, argue out and characterize the ideology as socialism.
Kwame Nkrumah declares in the concluding paragraph of the chapter that the restitution of Africa’s humanist and egalitarian principles of society requires socialism. He argues that society is placed in nature which it seeks to transform in such a way as will develop its environment for its better fulfilment. The transformed environment in turn alters the society through such better fulfilment. There is, therefore, a connection of transformation of nature with development (better fulfilment). This transformation and the consequent development result from the toil of man not just as an individual but also as a social being. To increase transformation requires the deployment of social forces for a harmonious and unlimited economic development in accordance with genuine principles of social equity and social justice. A section of social-political theory seeks to determine and determines the manner of this deployment. But we do not have just one social-political theory for the purpose. There are many of them: those provided by slavery, by feudalism, by capitalism and by socialism, for instance. Kwame Nkrumah says that it is the social-political theories of socialism that assure the aforementioned harmonious and unlimited development as well as social equity and social justice in so far as ideas of transformation and development relate to the purposes of society as a whole.
All these social-political theories are distinguished from each other by the manner of their respective focuses: either that those whose toils transform nature and produce goods are forcibly deployed to do so and then dissociated from the decision-making process to determine who benefits by what proportion from this transformation or that those whose toils transform nature and produce goods are peacefully deployed and involved in the decision-making process to determine how all might benefit by what proportion from this transformation. Whereas the former theoretical focus is shared to various degrees by the ideologies of slavery, feudalism and capitalism the latter is shared by communalism, socialism and communism. In the setting of a slave society, a certain high degree of political and forcible subjection is required to ensure the dissociation of the slaves from the decision-making process and the fruits of their toils. In the feudal setting, a lesser degree of the same subjection is considered enough to achieve the same purpose. Capitalism requires a still lesser degree of the same subjection for the same purpose. Each refines the method but retains the essence. Under communalism, socialism and communism higher levels of technological development are pursued in increasing measure while the State, as the decision-maker necessitated by slave as well as feudal and capitalist societies, increasingly dissolves into the society and approximates to it. This implies an increasing decentralization of the State which attains its highest level of centralization under imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism. Let us now look at the implications of these social-political theories in terms of their respective focuses.
The focus of capitalist theories on subtle methods of deploying social forces for the transformation of nature and for development without the benefits of such transformation being spread to the whole of society in violation of the principles of social equity and social justice, according to Nkrumah, attenuates (that is, slows down or reduces) the pace of development/social progress. He does not dispute the possibility and fact of progress under capitalism: there is an increase in productivity and production as well as a rise in the standard of living. This is why workers of today, in many respects, enjoy better circumstances of life than a good many feudal lords of the past. Social progress is not, therefore, altogether arrested under capitalism but seriously attenuated. Increase in production and productivity does not reflect in addressing the proportional imbalance in the distribution of value (that is, what is produced). This means that if at the end of the production of goods value is distributed on the basis of 25% to the workers and 75% to the capitalist and if this proportion is maintained when there is an increase in the next level of production of goods then although the workers gain in terms of quantity the difference between this quantity and the new quantity accrued to the capitalist is widened. This, again, means that with every increase in production and productivity the capitalist gains an ever increasing control over socially-created value. This results in the proliferation of shanty towns and slums with workers lying and dying in public squares as victims of hunger, cold and disease. It is all due to the profit motive under capitalist production. For Nkrumah, therefore, the issue is not whether there is some progress under capitalism but whether such progress is adequate.
On the other hand, the focus of socialist social-political theories on the deployment of all social forces for the transformation of nature and for development with the benefits of such transformation being spread to the whole of society in accordance with the principles of social equity and social justice, Nkrumah says at page 76, affords an ever-increasing satisfaction for the material and spiritual needs of the greatest number. That satisfaction or happiness, defined within the social context, is that feeling the individual derives from a particular social-economic-political context where they are in a position to realize their aspirations. At page 72 he declares that the objective of seeking increase in levels of production is for the sole purpose of ensuring that those whose toil make the production of goods possible have a raise in their standard of living with a new level of life and consciousness. The profit motive is signally banished here. The implications here are that socialism derives the highest development from the transformation of nature and is required for the restitution of African humanist egalitarianism. For, socialism defends the principles of communalism and, as a form of social organization, is guided by the principles underlying communism. See page 73.
At this stage Nkrumah discourses on reform and revolution. He says that all the above suggest that the transition from slavery through feudalism to capitalism is one of a reform but not a revolution. So also is a transition from communalism through socialism to communism one of reform. As a reform, the change involves the methods of pursuing the essence but not the essence itself. The essence remains intact. It is for this reason that Nkrumah says that reform is not a change in the thought but one in the manner of its expression. See page 72. This means that with Nkrumah reform finds a special meaning: however violent a change may be it is a reform if it retains the essence of the social order and provides only some relief; it is not a revolution. A revolution, on the other hand, involves a rejection of that essence which it then replaces, whether a gunshot was fired or not for the purpose. It is not the presence of violence or the show and exercise of force that defines a revolution. It may not even require it. The crucial issue is not a change in the manner of expressing the essence of the social order but a change of that essence itself. This is why at page 73 Nkrumah says that the passage from the ancestral line of slavery through feudalism and capitalism to socialism can only be through revolution; as what is involved here is a change from one essence to another.
The prospects for a revolution manifest when in its attempts to survive, the prevailing social order initiates, as a ruse, some of the proposals of an emerging and opposed social order to appease or deflate psychological irritants to revolution. See page 72, paragraphs 2 and 4. Revolutionary forces seize the opportunity to deepen and institutionalize such initiatives into institutions of the emerging new social order. The aborted mission of the Convention People’s Party, led by Kwame Nkrumah, pursued this as a subordinate strategy to dislodge colonialism in Ghana. It remains a useful tool in the struggle against the last stage of imperialism – neo-colonialism. The suggestion here is that a revolution has a period of evolution in its process when it capitalizes on opportunities offered by the ruling classes, due to a people’s pressures for change, to develop the institutions that will later be the instruments for the realization of its aims. A revolution, then, is a long-drawn-out process of initiating and building institutions and attitudes of an opposed nature that will ultimately replace the current and rotten institutions of the current social order for a new social order. It begins alongside and within the current social order and develops furthermore with the demise of the said social order. It is not a singular act of violence.
The African experience presents a society with a mix of communalist, feudalist and capitalist as well as incipient socialist images and realities. Capitalism, in the form of neo-colonialism, dominates in this mixture. Nkrumah suggests that socialist ideology is necessary not only for dislodging neo-colonialism but also for the restitution of Africa’s humanist egalitarianism. This restitution involves reform in areas of communalist living and involves revolution where feudal and neo-colonial existence manifest. It requires a scientific approach. Hence, the suggestion is not for a vague socialism but for scientific socialism. See page 74. On its part, capitalism is condemned not only as evil and alien but also as a system in which even the limiting aspirations of the people are by definition denied to them. Those are indeed strong words of condemnation. Let those latter-day revisionists and renegades of Nkrumaism listen real hard.
In particular, they should now listen to what Nkrumah says with respect to idealism and materialism. At page 74 he explains that the desire to transform society reflects not only in social-political theories but also in philosophy. Like the social-political theories, philosophy falls into two lots which he calls two real philosophical alternatives: idealism and materialism. At page 75 he also explains that the two exist in society but not in an equal relationship (equipoise). They are in a conflict in which now one predominates, now the other. Whereas idealism explains nature in terms of spirit and favours a class structure in which one class sits upon the neck of another, materialism explains nature in terms of matter and its laws and favours an egalitarian organization of society. It is in this same breath that idealism connects with an oligarchy and materialism connects with egalitarianism. This opposition of idealism and materialism in philosophy is paralleled by the opposition of conservative and progressive forces on the social plain; that is, whereas idealism pitches camp with conservative forces materialism pitches its camp with the progressive forces. Kwame Nkrumah concludes from all this at page 76 that it is one form or another of materialism, not idealism, that gives the firmest conceptual basis to the restitution of Africa’s egalitarian and humanist principles. It is clear here that Nkrumah does see idealism and materialism as opposites that lead in different directions and cannot mix in the formulation of a concept or a philosophical statement such as his philosophical consciencism. Revisionists would have you believe otherwise. Let us now look at the details of that statement in the next chapter.
Schizophrenia is defined in one way as ‘a situation, state of mind, etc. in which widely conflicting opinions, ideas, or practices coexist, often resulting in indecision, vacillation, wavering, etc.’ In African society the co-existence of the mutually conflicting principles animating the traditional African, Islamic and Euro-Christian thought and practice systems is an uneasy one. In this respect, if these principles are not streamlined through the incorporation of the last two sets into the first, African society will experience pains inflicted by a dangerous spread of schizophrenia. This is at once Kwame Nkrumah’s statement of the African tragedy and its resolution.
The resolution of this tragedy is an instantiation, that is, a particular application, of the set of principles which Nkrumah calls philosophical consciencism. As a philosophy, this latter is a general statement applicable to any country, especially colonies and newly independent as well as developing countries. Its resolution of the African tragedy does not confine it to the resolution of such tragedies. The resolution of problems emanating from any and all infractions on the principle of humanist egalitarianism as well as the promotion of that principle is its permanent cause. It eschews dogmatism as it expresses itself with constants and variables; that is, for example, while it upholds the principle of humanist egalitarianism as a constant cause it upholds communalism, socialism as well as communism as variable causes. The variables are instantiations of the constant.
In its statement, philosophical consciencism expresses itself at the metaphysical, ethical, epistemological and political levels. The treatment of it at such levels is the treatment of the metaphysical, epistemological, ethical and political theories that it enunciates. Under these headlines, therefore, we discuss the statement of philosophical consciencism. Its metaphysics investigates ultimate reality while in epistemology it takes us through the origins, validity and limits of knowledge. With regard to its ethics we have a statement on the nature of morality and judgement while its political theories characterize the nature of the State. It must be stated beforehand that the elaboration of some of these theories will necessarily take us back to the previous chapter since the material in chapter four is quite scanty – this being the result of Kwame Nkrumah’s practice of making assumptions that the reader already knows; in this instance, he has already discussed some of these issues and may be repeating himself if he goes back to them. But we need no such assumptions here if we are to present philosophical consciencism as a full statement – risking repetition. We gather all the pieces.
Starting then with the statement of its metaphysical world view, let us consider what, initially, is involved in its definition of ‘matter’ in general terms. We will follow this up with detailed explanations of the particular terms in the statement. At page 79 in the second paragraph, it asserts that matter is a plenum of antithetic forces with an absolute and independent existence. A ‘plenum’ is here rendered as a gathering or a meeting point or a complex of those forces. The forces are antithetic in the sense that they are opposites. Each is opposed to the other. This implies tension in matter. At page 84 paragraph 2 the assertion that matter is a plenum of antithetic forces with an absolute and independent existence is elaborated on a step further thus: matter is a plenum of antithetic forces with an absolute and independent existence bearing the capacity for spontaneous self-motion. So that matter is understood here not only as a gathering or a complex of opposites living a complete (absolute) and independent existence but also that it does not require anything to put it in motion in the first place since it has the ability to move by itself. This self-motion is provided by the tension between its opposites. See page 90, the first paragraph. Hence, the elaboration of the definition comes to this: matter is a plenum of antithetic forces in tension with an absolute and independent existence bearing the capacity for spontaneous self-motion. On the basis of this assertion Nkrumah says that philosophical consciencism is deeply materialist.
But the definition does not end there. Among philosophical materialists, there are those who assert the sole reality of matter and those who assert the primary reality of matter. In the assertion of the sole reality of matter no other category of being (existence) is deemed to exist apart from matter. But in the assertion of the primary reality of matter there is an acknowledgement that in addition to matter some other category also exists. This other category is either reducible to matter or ultimately derived from matter as an aspect/property/quality of it. See paragraph 3 of page 84. In the last paragraph of page 87, philosophical consciencism asserts that qualities are generated by matter. This is an assertion of the primary reality of matter. Hence, again, the elaboration of the definition of matter comes to this: matter is a plenum of antithetic forces in tension with an absolute and independent primary existence bearing the capacity for spontaneous self-motion. This is how philosophical consciencism sees and explains ultimate reality in its metaphysics. From here, Kwame Nkrumah defends it against possible objections.
Let us start with the question of matter being endowed with powers of self-motion. The objection raised against philosophical materialism is that unlike mind matter is inert. By this that objection means that matter is incapable of intellectual action, neither thinking, perceiving nor feeling. In fact, matter is said in this respect to be ‘stupid’ – not in the sense that it is slow-witted but rather that it does not have any wit at all. The objection does not only deny matter of this intellectual capability, this mental activity, but also denies it of physical activity or motion. In this latter denial, the objection apparently finds support in Isaac Newton’s scientific denial of the physical activity of matter. According to him, in his first law of motion6, a body (matter) continues in a straight line unless some external force makes an impact on or pushes it. That is, matter has inertia – dead weight.
In his answer to this objection Nkrumah first of all observes that what is meant by ‘inert’ is different from what is meant by ‘inertia’. There is the need to distinguish the two from each other. Newton defined ‘inertia’ axiomatically while the objection differently defined ‘inert’ intellectually. Let us explain. To define a term axiomatically is to clearly explain its meaning with the use of axioms (which are statements that are generally believed to be obvious or true). Nkrumah says that Newton’s definition of ‘inertia’ in his first law of motion is an example of an axiomatically defined term. In that definition it is obvious that a body moving along a straight line continues in that line unless something else pushes it off. In other words, we do not require any evidence to believe what is axiomatically stated. It is not so with what the objection did. With it, there is a search in ‘matter’ for an intellectual parallel to physical motion. The result is not obvious and subject to debate. Hence, the ‘inertia’ of Newton is not the same as the objection’s ‘inertness’: whereas ‘inertia’ for its definition requires axioms ‘inertness’ requires some demonstration for its definition. The difference must be clear.
This preliminary response removes the basis upon which the objection sought to stand; that is, the asserted parallel status of ‘inertness’ with ‘inertia’. That parallel is false. Nkrumah now delves deep into the claim of matter being inert. He sees the objection contradicting itself with its denial of matter’s physical and mental activity. He cites John Locke’s The Essay on Human Understanding as one source of such contradiction. Locke denied therein that matter is active. But in his theory of perception he talked of corpuscles traveling from a perceived object to our appropriate organ of sense in order that we should be able to see, feel, taste, hear or, in a word, perceive it. These corpuscles, he said, detach themselves from the object in which they inhere or of which they are parts and strike our specific sense organs in the fashion of some sort of radiative bombardment. In all this, Locke did not claim that this activity of matter is induced (caused) but said that it is original or natural to matter. So that he portrayed matter as being active. He contradicted himself. In Newton’s case, he conveniently kept silent over the source of the original motion of bodies. But self-motion is implied by those who conceive the universe in terms of an original super-atom which burst asunder due to its own multiplied internal stresses which got to a pitch.
Revealing as these exposures of contradiction in the objection might be they are only to be seen as being combative but not yet constructive. In his constructive elucidation of the endowment of matter with the powers of self-motion Kwame Nkrumah initiates his discussion on the claim of ‘inertness’ with a discourse on motion. There are two major conceptions of motion: it is either a change in relation or a change in property. As a change in relation motion is either linear or rotary, he says. In linear motion an object changes position in relation to other objects in a locality. For example, object ‘A’ stands at a distance of one hundred metres from object ‘B’ in a given locality. It then changes its position and now stands at a distance of two hundred metres from object ‘B’. It is said that by this change of position ‘A’ has moved. Let us consider this other example where ‘B’ revolves asymmetrically (irregularly) around ‘A’. In this case, ‘A’ might be thought of as not having moved. But what difference does it make since in this case too there is a change in position in accordance with the irregularity of change in position of ‘B’ in its relation to ‘A’? In both cases, the respective distances are the same. Thus, the latter case cannot constitute (be) an objection to the former; both of them have identity in meaning.
Regarding change in properties, Nkrumah is implicit in one respect and explicit in the other. At page 80 where he identifies alteration of properties as one of the two broad categories of motion he does not explicitly explain what is involved in this kind of motion. We need to read between the lines to know this. And reading between the lines and subsequent paragraphs we see him talking about two forms of change in properties. Let us illustrate the first in the following way. When we say that ‘Ngozi has no sister’ we are asserting ‘no sister’ or better still ‘non sister’ as a property of Ngozi. In other words, ‘non sister’ is the predicate of the subject ‘Ngozi’. If Ngozi’s mother gives birth to a baby girl we will then say that ‘Ngozi has a sister’. Here, ‘a sister’ becomes the predicate or property of the subject ‘Ngozi’. What has happened now is a change of property: from ‘non-sister’ to ‘a sister’. This kind of change has nothing to with Ngozi’s body itself. It does not also involve Ngozi’s change of positions. In a certain sense this change is also relational. The illustration of the second form of change or alteration of properties involves a change in Ngozi’s body itself. In this case we are talking about change in Ngozi’s body but not in relation to any other body; that is, we are now talking about the kind of change that involves an object’s change of colour from red to non-red, for instance. The first form of change of properties, signifying change in relation, and linear-rotary change in relation, where change in position is involved, are not implied when we talk of self-motion, Nkrumah says. Self-motion has to do with the object or body itself but not in its relation to any other object or body. In this instance, the object generates qualities/properties by itself as when it changes colour.
Self-motion is asserted in terms of internal activity, activity within the object but not in terms of external pressures on the object. That is why Nkrumah says, by way of an example, that those who conceive the universe in terms of an original super-atom which multiplied internal stresses to such a pitch as to burst asunder imply that matter has this power of self-motion as they never suggest that this primordial (original) building-up of internal stresses was due to some external forces. He also cites radiation and wave mechanics of quantum theory as clear examples of the original powers of self-motion of matter. The spontaneity of emissions in radiation is the main consideration here. Yes, there is no discernment of a direct phenomenon of radiation or corpuscular motion by any of our known five senses as against the observable phenomena of seeing apples thrown to go up and feathers blown to make them air-borne: but ignorance (limitation of knowledge) in respect of what is involved in radiation cannot be the determination of what is possible (what can be).
But there are those who claim that the spontaneous activity of matter is due to some Spirit or Soul (as different from mind) hiding in it. Nkrumah suggests that even if this were so it cannot be said that in every case of spontaneous motion in phenomena we must presume the presence of some Spirit. This claim does not only easily strengthen and defend the case for vitalism and various forms of occultism but also raises the issue of deliberateness, purpose, or intention. It was thought, Nkrumah says, that spontaneous motion could only be deliberate, with purpose – implying intention and that it was supposed to be the attribute of some, not all, living things. Within this context, since matter was considered to be non-living, it was denied the capability of deliberateness, purpose or intention. No form of spontaneity could, therefore, be ascribed to it. Depending on where one stands on the considerations of the spontaneous emission of particles of matter and Newton’s silence as to the source of the original motion of bodies one can either embrace a thorough-going animism by way of infusing non-living matter with a profusion (plethora) of Spirits or correctly reject the now groundless denial of the capacity of matter for self-motion, Nkrumah says.
We stated above that self-motion has to do with the object itself but not in its relation with other objects. It might therefore appear contradictory to say that matter is capable of self-motion both in the sense of change of relation and in the sense of change of property, as Nkrumah does in the first paragraph of page 84. No, Sir/Madam. We easily remember that he complains that Newton does not tell us anything about the source of the original motion of bodies: we are not told why bodies move the way they do although we are told why they keep moving the way they do. By focusing our attention on the source, Nkrumah does not deny change of relation but rather enhances our understanding as to why this change of relation is possible. In its movement from one position to the other as well as in its change of one property to the other, the object is so propelled by its own internal exertions. By these internal exertions or stresses dialectical change is made possible. What does this mean?
Please, turn to paragraph one of page 90. Here, Nkrumah categorically states that without self-motion there could be no dialectical change; dialectical change would be impossible. He says that by dialectical change he means the emergence of a third factor from the tension between two factors. He classifies these factors into what he calls logical types. Matter as a factor, for example, belongs to one logical type while the properties and qualities that matter generates belong to another logical type on a higher plain. Properties generated by previous properties belong to a still higher logical type. This classification does not relate to any scale of value or, if you like, a scale of importance to determine which of these factors is more important. It only indicates the sequence in the generation of types. And in this generation of types, factors at the same level of generation undergo such internal tension that produces the higher or next logical type. Hence, tension within matter produces qualities and properties. The tension in ice produces water and the tension in water produces vapour, for another example. We shall come back to this in our discussion of the epistemology of consciencism.
At this point, after this consideration of self-motion, let us consider the assertion of matter as a ‘plenum of antithetic forces’. First, what are ‘forces’? Nkrumah gives us what he means by ‘forces’ here. In the first few sentences that open up page 90 we are told that ‘force’ is not a description of a particle of matter or something that the particle wears. Force is internal to the particle and it is the way in which particles exist. What does this mean? Does it mean that particle is force? If we opt for this then that will amount to a collapse of the predicate into the subject? Are force and particle different entities in the statement ‘Force is internal to the particle’? What of ‘Force is the way in which particles exist’? Let us consider a statement like ‘Ice is a way in which water exists’. We do not by this assert the existence of two different entities such that given the same quantity of water if we have it in its ice state we can at the time have it in its state of water, do we? By that although water is not ice we do not say that there is an implication of two existences when we say that ‘Ice is a way in which water exists’. If we do not then similarly we are not to presume that the similar assertion that ‘Force is the way in which particles exist’ infers two existences. The apparent problem is only one of idiom where force is said to be internal to particle. At page 83, Nkrumah encounters Thales similarly.
A ‘plenum’ is ordinarily understood as ‘a meeting for all members of a particular group’. Here, a plenum of forces would mean the massing up of forces which therefore gather at a point to constitute a whole. A plenum of forces would thus mean a mass of forces or a convergence of forces. Nkrumah says in the last paragraph of page 97 that philosophical consciencism agrees with the traditional African standpoint that everything that exists, exists as a complex of forces. The assertion of matter as a plenum of forces is therefore an assertion of matter as a complex of forces. In consciencism, therefore, a ‘plenum’ means something more than a ‘convergence’. It is a complex. The forces, furthermore, are in a relationship of tension with each other. Hence, the statement that ‘matter is a plenum of forces in tension’ is appropriately understood as ‘matter is a complex of forces in tension’.
It is this tension that holds matter together. It is not, as a particular tension, however, permanent as the relative balance that it occasions between and among the forces gets upset and is replaced by a new type of balance which creates its own tension to hold matter together. Forces in tension, according to consciencism, are essential to whatever exists; to this extent, tension is permanent in its generality. The placid or serene appearance of matter only disguises the tension of forces underlying that appearance, so says Nkrumah at page 99 in the third paragraph. The forces in tension are the source of the original power of self-motion that matter is endowed with. It is this endowment that enables matter to initiate qualitative and substantial changes and hence make dialectical changes possible. But if ‘forces in tension’ are the source of the self-motion of matter the source of the tension is located in the opposition of the forces to each other. To render this opposition philosophically we say that the forces are antithetic to each other. Hence, we have ‘a plenum of opposing forces in tension’ or ‘a complex of opposing forces in tension’ or ‘a plenum of antithetic forces in tension’. They carry the same meaning.
At the political-historical level, if we might illustrate this, Ghanaian society exhibits a tension between what we might generally categorize as the Nkrumaist and Danquaist forces. The opposition of these forces creates a particular tension in society. Out of this tension political transformations have taken place and continue to unfold. The Ghanaian society of today is different from what it was in the colonial days. The appearance of a serene or peaceful society that attracts foreign investors to it disguises this tension between the said political forces. At a certain level, these changes that have taken place in Ghanaian society are initiated by these forces internal to it. Charges of some of these forces having collaborated with foreign powers to effect certain changes confirm that the changes were, in the first place, initiated by the local forces. This suggests the society as being in self-motion occasioned by local political forces in tension. But since self-motion does not preclude change of relation the continued presence of the long hand of foreign powers in the affairs of the country cannot be discounted but considered as operational only at the level of secondary and not primary activity. Neo-colonialism is possible only when some local forces allow foreign powers to influence them. The decision is the former’s. (Remember that Kwame Nkrumah does not dispute the principle of the participation of one object in the other object or objects and vice versa. He endorses it at the fundamental level in the conception of socialism. He does not explicitly employ it in Consciencism in the relations between nations. It is only implicit in it. But in Africa Must Unite he applies it at the secondary level of foreign relations where a nation could solicit for foreign investment for mutual benefit without compromising the nation’s independence.)
This brings us to the issue of the ‘primary existence’ of matter. What, again, does this mean? In its simplest terms the primary existence of matter means that matter does not depend on anything conceivable for its existence. It is not derived from anything else nor is it reducible to any such thing. This might be said to be a negative definition as it is all stated in negatives. Its positive statement might be rendered in this way: matter is the basis from which all other categories of being (existence) are derived and to which they are reducible. The implications of this are far reaching. One, it is implied that the human mind, as far as it is asserted as a category of being, is derived from matter. Two, it is implied that spiritual beings like God and Satan, as far as they are asserted as categories of being, are emergent from matter. Three, it is implied that space, to the extent that it is real, derives its properties from those of matter. But in order that matter is asserted as a primary category it must be absolute and independent. This is why Nkrumah says at page 88, paragraph 2 that if space were absolute and independent matter could not with respect to it be primary. Philosophical consciencism, he states categorically, asserts the primary reality of matter. See the same paragraph.
In his categorical assertion of matter as a primary reality, Nkrumah rejects the assertion of the sole reality of matter by those whom he describes as extreme materialists. By this he does not only explicitly say that the assertion of the sole reality of matter is atheistic but also that, with it, dialectical change becomes impossible. It is only by the assertion of the primary reality of matter that dialectical change is possible. Here, the actual dispute is with respect to the solution of the mind-body problem which Nkrumah explains in the following way: if one says that there are only two types of substances, matter and mind, and furthermore allows interaction between them, then the question arises how there can be interaction between substances that are so disparate. He says that the problem is solved by the extreme materialists with the assertion that there is, in fact, no mind but only matter. In the same way, idealists solve it with the assertion that there is, in fact, no matter but mind. Consciencism, on the other hand, accepts the challenge and accepts that there is, in fact, this interaction of mind and body (matter). The interaction, it holds, is demonstrated in the possibility of categorial conversion.
This acceptance of the interaction of mind and body might seem to suggest that its implied acceptance of mind and body (matter) as realities makes consciencism a dualist philosophy. Nkrumah rather holds it up as a monist philosophy. He makes the point with striking a distinction between Descartes’ dualism which involves a parallelism whereby the interaction is false (denied) and his monist position whereby the interaction is explained by way of categorial conversion. Descartes claims that when the body is damaged the consequent pain is the grief that the soul (mind) feels. Here, parallel events take place such that the first occurs in the body and the second occurs in mind which takes notice of the first event. Nkrumah objects to this as an interaction with the assertion that unless we find knowledge to be painful the mind could not be said to grieve upon taking notice of the damage. Descartes does not say that the body affects the mind but that the mind feels sympathy for (commiserates with) the body. No interaction, in fact.
On Nkrumah’s part he explains that consciencism has no room for mere parallelism. Qualities, for it, are generated by matter. Given any particular quality we have a certain arrangement or order (disposition) of matter that gives rise to it. We have illustrated how an increase in the oxygen component in carbon monoxide gives rise to the qualitatively different compound carbon dioxide. Quality is a surrogate (representative) for a certain disposition of matter. Colour, for instance, is tied to the appropriate or particular (characteristic) wave-length. It is the visual surrogate of a wave-length. It is not the wave-length itself. In its general formulation, consciencism asserts that sensations and perceptions are sensory surrogates of quantitative dispositions of matter. This is the same as saying that natural properties or whatever property is discernible by way of one sense or more are just sensory representatives (surrogates) of some quantitative arrangements (dispositions) of matter. See pages 87 to 88. The connection between the two categories of matter and qualities/properties (mind) is tight, ensuring their interaction and debunking any notion of parallelism. Hence, consciencism cannot be accused of dualism. It stands at one with monism.
The metaphysics of philosophical consciencism thus projects a world outlook by which ultimate reality is asserted to be matter with its laws of motion that enable it to generate other categories of being (existence). Matter carries the definition, consequently, as a plenum of antithetic forces in tension with an absolute and independent primary existence bearing the capacity for spontaneous self-motion. Being materialist, consciencism stands up to all possible objections that philosophical idealism, when raised against it, cannot consistently answer. For instance, only philosophical consciencism is capable of giving us a natural explanation of the apparently difficult concept of God. By its implication of the objective materiality of God it makes phrases like ‘the mind of God’ meaningful as against the idealist position that renders that phrase a tautology. Since philosophical idealism does not recognize the objective materiality of God and rather asserts it as ‘Mind’ that phrase, for it, strictly translates as ‘the mind of Mind’ – an unabashed and unforgivable tautology. In order that man might metaphorically be the image of God the two categories must ultimately be of the same substance.
Kwame Nkrumah derives this metaphysical position of consciencism from the traditional African standpoint. We feel obliged to quote the last paragraph of page 97 for its simple and straight-forward statement to this effect:
The traditional African standpoint, of course, accepts the absolute and independent idea of matter. If one takes the philosophy of the African, one finds that in it the absolute and independent existence of matter is accepted. Further, matter is not just dead weight, but alive with forces in tension. Indeed, for the African, everything that exists, exists as a complex of forces in tension. In holding force in tension to be essential to whatever exists, he is, like Thales and like philosophical consciencists, endowing matter with an original power of self-motion, they were endowing it with what matter would need to initiate qualitative and substantial changes.
For exhibiting this power and superiority over philosophical idealism and other forms of philosophical materialism, Nkrumah says that the African experience must be the base that must accommodate the Euro-Christian and Islamic presence; that is, the latter experiences must be reduced to the African experience to resolve the tension in the relations between these three segments that threatens the African conscience with schizophrenia. This requires the interpretation of the Euro-Christian and Islamic presence in terms of the principles of traditional African society and, therefore, of consciencism. This involves a reductionism that will necessarily mean some loss as processes of conversion necessitate the loss of some mass. See paragraph 2 of page 89.
This loss of mass in the dialectical process of conversion needs to be explained to finalize this discourse on consciencist metaphysics. Let us look at that paragraph. The thought here is extremely profound. Kwame Nkrumah says that the categories derived from matter are not ghosts (apparitions). They are real in the sense that their derivation by way of the conversion of matter shows a certain loss of mass of matter. That is, conversion leads to a loss of mass of the initial matter. He cites Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity in support. According to him, it follows from that Theory that every chemical change from simpler substances to more complex ones whereby new properties emerge involves the loss of mass. In the process of the chemical change, although the entire amount (mass) of matter is converted it is only a part of it that is converted into new properties with the rest being lost as heat. The new properties constitute a higher logical type which really exist and are, therefore, not empty apparitions. He puts it this way from the first paragraph of page 89:
… if the conversion from one category to another category is not to represent a mere apparition … then such a conversion must represent a variation in the mass of its initial matter. The conversion is produced by a dialectical process, and if it is from a lower logical type to a higher logical type, it involves loss of mass…. (I)f higher categories are only surrogates of quantitative processes of matter, they are still not empty apparitions, but are quite real.
If we might illustrate this in social terms it means that the conversion of the conflicting principles that animate the Euro-Christian, Islamic and traditional African segments of modern society to one that eliminates the conflict will not only produce a qualitatively different and harmonious society without such conflicts but also lead to a loss of some of the features of these three segments of African society.
Matter is thus a plenum of antithetic forces in tension with an absolute and independent primary existence bearing the capacity for spontaneous self-motion. It renews itself through a dialectical process of developing new properties as it eliminates old ones. By this, everything is in constant change.
Let us now turn to the epistemology of philosophical consciencism. If metaphysics seeks to determine the nature of ultimate reality, epistemology seeks to investigate the origins, validity and the limits of our knowledge. Nkrumaist or consciencist epistemology does not only determine the origin, validity and limits of knowledge but also connects this knowledge with action. At page 90, paragraph 3, Nkrumah states the first part of this assertion as a concern with the nature of knowledge and its types as well as the avenues by which the mind gets access to them. Hence, we expect to find in consciencism definite statements as to, one, the nature of knowledge, two, the types of knowledge, and, three, the avenues by which the mind gets access to these types of knowledge. For the most part, however, we cannot find such definite statements. They are implied. In the first instance, the nature of knowledge is implied in paragraph 2 of page 92 as the reflection of unfolding matter. This reflection is expressed in terms of concepts. Thus, knowledge is a conceptual image of unfolding nature. Thus, again, with nature being in constant change so is knowledge undergoing a constant change.
Rationalists like Spinoza also assert knowledge as a conceptual image of nature but they see it as a blue-print; that is, as that from which or according to which nature is formed. As such they say that the order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of nature. Consciencism does not dispute that the order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of nature. To assert that this means that our knowledge is a blue-print for nature, however, is mistaken as it places nature in a straight-jacket and as such rather than nature (matter) being conceived as a primary reality it is projected as a secondary phenomenon. Consciencism rather asserts that just as knowledge reflects nature so also does nature reflect knowledge. At page 92 in the last paragraph it asserts that instead of the rationalists seeing knowledge as a blue-print they should rather assert the mutual reflection between knowledge and nature, of course with nature being the primary reality. Once nature gives rise to knowledge, knowledge also intervenes in nature through action to transform it. We would come back presently to deal with the connection between knowledge and action.
Let us here proceed to consider the view of consciencism on the limits of knowledge. Consciencism is uncomfortable with the identification of the limits of our knowledge with what can be. See page 82. To do that abandons the absolute and independent primary reality of matter bearing the powers of spontaneous self-motion. It is not even compatible with science and research. Matter unfolds. As it unfolds the mind acquires knowledge of it. Knowledge, through action, then acts on matter. Through this interaction new knowledge of developed matter is generated. Clearly then, knowledge always lags behind the development of matter; hence, the need for research to update knowledge. To suggest that the limits of knowledge are identical with what can be is to overlook this fact of knowledge rather always being identical with what has been. The very act of discovery presupposes the enrichment of knowledge after the fact or event. (At pages 166-167 of Africa Must Unite , Kwame Nkrumah’s book to which Consciencism stands as its abstraction, Nkrumah writes clearly that ‘The economic theories that have emanated from people have been erected out of experience … They were not evolved as guide in advance of economic development, but were the result of analysis of that development after the event. Even Lenin’s theory of imperialism issued from his study of the growth of capitalism and its monopolistic expansion.’ Emphasis added.) It is also known that although many wills are exercised on the basis of knowledge to produce an event the resultant is always what nobody willed. It is all as if an independent force produced the event; this being a very powerful testimony to the fact of matter’s powers of spontaneous self-motion. Society develops upon the exercised wills of individuals and groups armed with their knowledge, but it always develops in a way that none of them envisioned.
This brings us to the types of knowledge that consciencism identifies. Strategically, it identifies types of being (existence) with logical types. At page 90, paragraph 3, Nkrumah says that types of being are logical types. With logical types, we have a statement, then a statement about the statement, then a statement about the statement about the statement. Each of these statements is a logical type, lower or higher. Material objects, thus, belong to one logical type; general terms, which can be applied in description only to material objects, form a higher logical type: and general terms, which can be applied in description to general terms of the first group, form yet a higher logical type. Let us try an illustration of each of these. One, let us take a mango fruit and say ‘This is a mango’; it is of the first or primary logical type. Two, let us say that ‘The mango is ripe’; being ripe is of the secondary logical type and placed higher than the mango. Three, let us say that ‘The ripe mango is rotten’; being rotten is of the tertiary logical type. Now, we observe that ‘ripe’ is a general term used to describe mature fruits that are ready to be eaten. We then observe that ‘rotten’ is a general term used to describe the state of ripeness of fruits. These suggest a scale of being of a mango, a material object; that is, they indicate the different forms or levels of existence of the mango, the material object. Nkrumah explains that a scale of being is not to be understood as a scale of value. It is a scale of logical types. That is, a statement is made ‘This is a mango’. It is then followed by the statement ‘The mango is ripe’ which amounts to a statement on ‘This is a mango’. This second statement is also followed by the third statement ‘The ripe mango is rotten’ which amounts to a statement on ‘The mango is ripe’. Hence, we have a statement, a statement on the statement and then a statement on the statement on the statement. These statements are called logical types on a scale of highs and lows.
We can observe that in the example above we are talking about a material object and its properties. Consciencism asserts that the material object and its properties respectively belong to different logical types. Just in the same way, material objects (matter) and mind belong to different logical types. That they belong to different logical types can also be seen from the fact that certain couplings (combinations) of them produce such special absurdities that Nkrumah calls categorial absurdities. A categorial absurdity arises when terms that should not be combined are combined. For instance, in the proposition ‘The number two is red’ we see that the combination of ‘two’ and ‘red’ produces an obvious meaninglessness – an absurdity. This is because they belong to different logical types such that they are at least two steps away from each other on the scale of highs and lows. That is to say that where, on the scale, two terms are, at least, two steps apart they cannot be coupled (combined). To avoid such categorial absurdities only terms that are of the same logical type or close to each other (proximate types) can be combined. See pages 90 – 91.
There is a practical significance of recognizing logical types. For instance, with the recognition of logical types it becomes possible to conduct mental research by way of neural research; it becomes possible to investigate the nature of mind by way of investigating the nature and functioning of brain. Research into the nature of one category is made possible in terms of research into another category. Mind and the mental are not subject to experimental exposure; there is no direct way of conducting any experiment on them. We have seen that philosophical consciencism understands mind as a surrogate of matter. In the first paragraph of page 91, Nkrumah states that there is nothing which is incapable of translation, without residue, to propositions about items whose surrogates they are. What is the meaning of this? It means that propositions about anything that is a surrogate (like mind) of an item (like matter) can be completely reduced to propositions (statements) about the item. With this meaning in mind, consider this direct quote from paragraph 3 of the same page: … as mind is not subject to experimental exposure, if all propositions about mind are in principle translatable without residue to propositions about the nervous system, which is subject to experimental exposure, then a great deal of mental research can be done in terms of neural research. In fact, philosophical consciencism makes this kind of research possible.
Consciencist epistemology, this far, has stated its positions on the nature of knowledge, which it asserts as a reflection (an image) of unfolding matter. On the limits of knowledge, which it bases on the fact of knowledge being a reflection of unfolding matter, it asserts that knowledge lags behind the unfolding (development) of matter and therefore cannot be identified with what can be. It is identified with what has been. Finally, it conceives the types of knowledge as logical types on a scale of highs and lows. It is at this point that consciencism connects knowledge with action. In the light of his constant assertion of a social contention in philosophy it should not be surprising that Kwame Nkrumah would connect knowledge with action. But he does not, out of such anxiety, just declare the need for action. He provides the philosophical basis of action. At page 92, in the last sentence of paragraph 1, he states that when philosophy, that is, knowledge, restricts itself as a reflection of matter it also establishes a direct connection between itself and action. At page 93 in the first sentence, knowledge is asserted as the direct objective basis of an intervention in nature. Kwame Nkrumah then explains that the connection between knowledge and action is not mechanistic. What does this mean? It means that the kind of action that knowledge occasions is not automatic; knowledge does not lead to a specific action. The kind of action taken on the basis of knowledge is subjected to ethical influence and comment. If we might put it in other words, ethics mediate between knowledge and action. Hence, given some particular knowledge different people take different actions depending on the ethical choices that they make.
This is where consciencism comes to discuss its position on ethics. Beginning from paragraph 1 of page 93, Nkrumah is swift to make it clear that we cannot expect from consciencism a closed set of ethical rules or, if you like, a set of ethical rules which must apply in any society and at any time. This is so because of its metaphysical view of matter whereby matter is seen as inexorably undergoing dialectical evolution or change. Consciencism cannot freeze its ethical rules with changelessness. In saying this, it means that ethical rules keep changing in response to changing conditions of life. It, however, strikes a difference between ethical rules and ethical principles and shows how they relate to each other such that the rules depend on the principles. Ethical rules might change while ethical principles remain unchanged. Ethical rules are formulated on the basis of ethical principles. Like by-laws, which are particular applications of statutes, ethical rules are particular applications of ethical principles. Just as by-laws might be changed due to a change in the conditions that they are meant to regulate without a change of the statutes on which they were formulated or enacted so also might ethical rules be changed due to a change in the conditions that they are meant to regulate without a change of the ethical principles on the basis of which they were sanctioned.
Lest this might be misunderstood to suggest that ethical principles, on their part, do not change, Nkrumah explains that they also change; but that such a change constitutes a revolution. This type of change involves a total change of ethics whereby the principles as well as the rules change. When consciencism refers to change in ethics it refers to one that involves both ethical rules and ethical principles. At page 95, paragraph 3 Nkrumah is again swift to point out that at times ethical (moral) rules are changed so startlingly that an impression is created of a revolution in ethics. That is no revolution. The change must affect the principles of ethics for any serious talk about revolution to make sense. It is for this reason that Nkrumah says that for a capitalist society to become a socialist one it must have changed its ethics. Apart from this, he cites an example that might be quite illusive. He says that in our study of the psychology of delinquency we might come by some results that might diminish our disgust towards delinquents. In such situations, we might re-classify delinquent acts while the moral or ethical rules relating to those acts remain, not waived. So that when the media becomes awash with claims of a revolution in the Middle East, a consciencist focuses on what ethical principles have changed.
This brings us to the ethical principles of consciencism. In the last but one paragraph of page 95, Kwame Nkrumah makes a statement of the cardinal ethical principle that is fundamental to consciencist ethics. According to this very important ethical principle, man is treated as an end in himself and not merely as a means to an end. In consciencist ethics, therefore, man is projected as an end in himself and not a tool for the realization of an end. Man is the end itself. This cardinal ethical principle is fundamental to the socialist or humanist conception of man and derived from the materialist viewpoint by way of the egalitarianism that is asserted to be the social reflection of materialism. That is to say that, according to Kwame Nkrumah, the said cardinal ethical principle is immediately derived from egalitarianism and ultimately from materialism out of which egalitarianism emerged.
At page 96, paragraph 2, it is asserted that it is the basic unity of matter which gives rise to egalitarianism. Man is basically one because all men have the same basis and are the products of the same evolution. This is the nature of man. Philosophical consciencism founds its ethics on this philosophical idea of the nature of man. That is to say that the cardinal ethical principle of consciencism is founded on a philosophical idea of the nature of man. Kant, according to Nkrumah, described this as ethics based on anthropology. While Kant disapproved of basing ethics on anthropology, Nkrumah states that this is exactly what philosophical consciencism does, without apologies. He defends his position in a response to David Hume. According to David Hume, ethical philosophy, such as philosophical consciencism’s, begins with statements of fact (for instance, those of a study like anthropology) and suddenly seeks to base statements of appraisal on them. David Hume regrets that no explanation is given for making such an inference (derivation). The nature of the problem is this: if you say that ‘This is a mango’ (a fact) how do you come to say that ‘This mango is good’ (an appraisal)? Or, which is the same thing: if you say that ‘Man is one’ (a fact) how do you come to say that ‘Man being one is good’ (an appraisal)?
But Nkrumah offers an explanation. He says that if man is basically one and if action is truly (objectively) attentive to this fact then action must be guided by principles so as to make it (the action) conform to this fact and prevent it from taking a course that might suggest that man is rather basically different. Let us closely scrutinize the structure of the argument in the following way and simplify it thus:
1. If man is one then action must conform to maintain man as one.
2. Man is one.
3. Therefore, action must conform to maintain man as one.
There was difficulty on our part to determine the kind of argument that this one was. We were sure that it was a type of the deductive but the ‘must’ in the premise made it difficult to do so. So we submitted the question ‘What kind of argument is this?’ to Yahoo! Answers to be helped out. Two important responses were received. The first by Neshy said: ‘This argument is attempting to be deductive (i.e. trying to deduct a conclusion from a premise). However it is weak as no reasons are provided for the premise to be believed in, and the conclusion is self-evident.’ Clearly, Neshy has problems with it. He would want to have reasons why he should believe that ‘If man is one then action must conform to maintain man as one’. Let us consider his objection. In case we say that ‘If a woman’s husband is one then the woman’s action must conform to maintain husband as one’. To avoid varied interpretations rendered of this conditional statement let us say that the intended meaning is that if in a particular society a woman is allowed only one husband then her action (behaviour) must conform to maintain a single husband and not behave as if she has more than one husband.
Given this specific understanding would we need to give reasons for saying that ‘If a woman’s husband is one then the woman’s action must conform to maintain the husband as one’? We hazard to assert the affirmative and for these reasons. One, we need to convince Neshy that in the said society it is a fact that a woman is allowed only one husband; that is to say that the statement ‘A woman’s husband is one’, in the first half of the conditional, is true; that is, it has the truth value T, as logic would put it. Two, we also need to convince him that in the said society it is a fact that a woman conforms to maintain only one husband; that is to say that the statement ‘The woman’s action must conform to maintain the husband as one’, in the other half of the conditional, is true – has the truth value T. The logical principle of material implication rules that where both statements in a conditional are true the entire conditional is true. In fact, according to the second response we received from Yahoo! Answer, this kind of argument ‘is called a circle silliquey and is a very common literary device.’
Our initial problem with ‘must’ in the conditional is resolved when we understand that philosophical consciencism does not, in saying that ‘If man is one then action must conform to maintain man as one’, claim to be making an original prescription for ethical conduct. It tells us that it is adopting an ethical practice emanating from traditional African humanist egalitarianism whereby as a member of society one must treat man as one but not as if originally one man physiologically and socially differs from any other man. The ‘must’ involved here is not a logical ‘must’ but one of a command in traditional African society. In so doing, philosophical consciencism, in the first instance, only describes what pertains in traditional African society and then, and only and then, does it call for its adoption. We might see that the latter action is one of a secondary prescription that only endorses the original prescription whereby on the basis of traditional Africa’s conception of the nature of man as one a command was made for man to be treated as such. In its description of the ethical principle of traditional Africa and its adoption of it we see in philosophical consciencism a descriptive-prescriptive act of the second order.
David Hume might still not be satisfied because his problem is with the first order which carries the original prescription. Specifically, he is concerned with a command that is not logically, that is, by logical necessity, implied by the fact that man is one. If the command were logically necessary then a command of an opposite nature would not be capable of being implied by the same fact. That is, it is also possible to say that ‘If man is one then action must differentiate man’. This would mean that although man is one, for the good of society, man must be differentiated. An expanded version of the conditional would be ‘If man is one then, for the good of society, action must differentiate man’. In fact, the previous conditional ‘If man is one then action must conform to maintain man as one’ actually says ‘If man is one then, for the good of society, action must conform to maintain man as one’. Now, just as we observed that both statements in this conditional are true in traditional Africa so also can we observe that the two statements in the other conditional are true in capitalist America.
Hence, two opposite conditionals with the same premise that ‘man is one’ are, on the strength of the logical principle of material implication, both true. This is one paradox of material implication. The absurdity of this situation shows why David Hume is so concerned. And Kwame Nkrumah is aware of this problem when, at page 34 in paragraph 2, he observes that: The assertion of the fundamental equality and brotherhood of man does not automatically issue in socialism; and at page 49 he affirms that: … individualism may lead to capitalism or it may lead to socialism. That is, the same premise can have different implications. Hence, whereas David Hume is concerned with an unproblematic logical derivation it is not so with Nkrumah who is concerned with making an ethical choice. Consciencism might appeal to the controversial circle silliquey literary device to make a case for the logical status of its cardinal ethical principle. The fact still remains that ethical choices are not applications in logic. Hence, Western illogicalities in Middle East and other regional political affairs are replete in contemporary history.
Whence, therefore, are ethical choices made? On what basis are they made? In a word, they emanate from social interests. In mediating between knowledge and action, ethics prejudice action in service of a particular social interest; either a national interest against a foreign interest or a class interest against another class interest or an individual interest against another such interest etc. In this respect, the cardinal ethical principle of consciencism that treats man as an end in himself and not as a tool to an end is directed against exploitation in all of its forms, foreign and domestic, in service of the national interest. It is this ethical principle that influences action to impact on the environment for the creation of a non-exploitative society. It is, in this respect, the national interest that forms the basis of this ethical choice against exploitation to create a society in which man is treated as an end and not merely as a means. Kwame Nkrumah says that with the acceptance of this ethical principle the need arises for the creation of institutions to regulate the behaviour and actions of a large variety of people in society for the conservation of that principle. This is where ethics, he says at page 98, transits to politics. For, politics create those institutions. It is from this stage that philosophical consciencism enunciates its political theory. Let us get to it.
The conservation of the fundamental ethical principle of the initial worthiness of each individual is the aim of institutions created to regulate the behaviour and actions of the plurality of men in society. To this effect, philosophical consciencism adumbrates (that is, outlines) a political theory and a social-political practice to ensure, together, the effectiveness of cardinal ethical principles. The application of the cardinal ethical principle that treats man as an end and not a means predisposes consciencism to seek to prevent the emergence or solidifying of classes in African society. The existence of classes, whereby one class of individuals is subjected to another class of individuals that exploits it, is contrary to the cardinal ethical principle of consciencism. It is on the basis of this ethical foundation that consciencism builds its political theory and social-political practice. See paragraphs 1 and 2 of page 98. In what follows, we treat the text in a way that distinctly makes explicit what is involved in the political theory and what is also involved in the social-political practice.
First, we begin with the political theory. The political theory of consciencism abstracts from the colonial situation. Based on the metaphysical conception of matter as a plenum of forces, consciencist political theory asserts that the impression of final and acquiescent subjugation of the colonial people disguises a tension of forces. A change in the relation of these social forces obliterates this impression. Those social forces are dynamic. They seek and tend to establish this or that social condition. See paragraph 3, page 99. One set of such social forces may dominate the other set(s) of social forces; or the latter may dominate the former; or an unstable equilibrium is formed. See the first lines of page 100. To make their dynamic nature clear, consciencist political theory categorizes them as positive action and negative action. These are abstractions grounded in social reality. Positive action represents the set of social forces that seek social justice through the elimination of oligarchic exploitation and oppression. On the other hand, negative action correspondingly represents the set of social forces tending to prolong colonial subjugation and exploitation. Go back to page 99, paragraph 3.
Consciencist political theory defines the colonial situation as one dominated by negative action, as understood. Negative action still dominates where the colonial people achieve only a semblance of true independence, it asserts. In this latter instance, colonialism gives in to neo-colonialism which is a guise adopted by negative action. Neo-colonialism is, in fact, colonialism playing possum; that is, pretending to be dead or asleep. See paragraph 1 of page 100. In the first paragraph of page 101, the political theory explains that when the colonialist country sees the advance of positive action it adopts a policy to contain it and thereby check this advance and limit it. It is this policy of containment, applied when negative action is assured that it is impossible to pursue its preferred choice of rolling back the drive of positive action, which produces neo-colonialism since the colonial country (exercising positive action) accepts this containment as second best. By this policy of containment, the colonialist country seeks to divert positive action into channels which are harmless to it. It abandons violence but imparts a deceptive (universalist) turn of mind to negative forces in the colonial territory which latter forces masquerade in sheep’s clothing, join the clamour for independence and are accepted in good faith by the people. From the inside, these negative forces seek to thwart the people’s aspirations.
But the people are not deceived forever as they see through the negative forces and turn away from them. At that stage, the colonial power is left with no option but to acknowledge the independence of the people. This does not mean that the colonial power leaves the newly independent country alone to work out its own destiny. It rather foments discontent and disunity in the erstwhile colonial country and on the basis of the chaos that results it then constitutes itself as the conscience and will of the people if not their voice and arm. (Look at the West in Libya – 2011). This then reverses the situation to the status quo where political decisions lose their focus on the welfare of the people in favour of the well-being and security of the erstwhile colonial power and the clique of local negative forces. Wherever the true independence of a people is perverted to subordinate their interests to those of a foreign power, though the sovereignty of the people is acknowledged, a neo-colonial situation is created. It is a situation whereby the people are exploited with greater serenity and comfort. As a result, neo-colonialism is a greater danger than colonialism.
Consciencist political theory explains that under colonialism, which is crude and overt, the people are united with their leaders by a common purpose. Under neo-colonialism, the people are divided from their leaders who neglect them after the people had put them in power. Such leaders incautiously become instruments of oppression on behalf of the neo-colonialists. See page 102 from up to paragraph 3.
On the basis of this political theory, which describes the tendencies in colonial and neo- colonial situations, a set of prescriptions is made for social-political action to be taken in favour of positive action. Remember that positive action involves those forces that seek social justice at the expense of oligarchic exploitation and suppression. Positive action is therefore directed at the dismantling of the oligarchic structure of society whereby a small group of people, relative to the rest of the mass of the people, controls the country and its resources to benefit itself. Consciencist political theory, in its prescriptive aspect, maps out a series of organizational principles for dismantling the oligarchic state structure and reconstruction of society. Basic among these principles is that which asserts that the people are the backbone of positive action. See paragraph 2 of page 103 for this. All other principles are then derived from this basic organizational principle. Thus, at paragraph 2 of page 100, the principle of the mass party armed with its instruments of education to back positive action is stated. On the heels of this latter principle is the principle of a people’s parliamentary democracy with a one-party system. The political theory defends this principle on the grounds that the multiple-party parliamentary system is a ruse for the perpetuation and cover-up of the inherent struggle between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. Under the multiple-system, the parties are controlled by sections of the same group of oligarchs sharing the same exploitative ethical principle, so to speak. With it, the people’s aspirations are checked and contained.
In addition to these organizational principles, consciencist political theory maps out a series of political principles to guide positive action against the oligarchy. Here, again, a basic political principle, from which all other political principles are derived, is stated. By this basic political principle, positive action derives its authenticity from the needs and nature of the liberated territory; that is to say that positive action must always have reference to the needs and nature of the people. To have the people as the backbone of positive action, the basic political principle is saying that action begins and ends with addressing the needs of the people. This is the political principle of self reference. It is fundamental to all Nkrumaist social-political practice. And this practice issues in political, economic, social and cultural forms. Kwame Nkrumah says at the early part of page 103 that unless the political principle of self-reference is religiously maintained we might as well welcome with open arms the very foe we have sought to destroy at the cost of terrible suffering.
Immediately attendant upon the principle of self-reference is the derivative principle which states that political decisions and the course of political action must never be entrusted to a foreign country, especially one with great economic interests in the African continent. Nkrumah says that it is easier for the proverbial camel to pass through the needle’s eye with its hump and all than for an erstwhile colonial power to give sound and honest advice of a political nature. To allow this, he adds, amounts to handing back our independence to the oppressor on a silver platter. We could call this the political principle of self-reliance. Violation of this principle by way of dangerous flirtations with neo-colonialism constitutes an insult to the people whose efforts routed colonialism in the first instance, Nkrumah concludes on the principle. See page 102 paragraph 4.
The political principle of catalysis states that knowledge-based political intervention in social evolution speeds up and must be applied to speed up social evolution for an economy of time, life and talent. According to the enunciation of this principle, social evolution, like natural evolution, without the aid of knowledge-based intervention is a wasteful process in terms of time, life and talent. When political action aims at speeding up social evolution it assumes the nature of a catalyst. In the urgency of the African situation, the decolonization process requires speeding up if Africa is to catch up with and excel the rest of the world. This in turn requires knowledge of the laws of social development. Scientific knowledge, required for man’s intervention in the natural process to benefit man, is a must for social evolution as well. Without this positive action on the basis of the political principle of catalysis a colonial territory is doomed to creep in its petty pace from day to day towards the attainment of a sham independence that turns to dust… The objective analysis of the situation which it seeks to change begins the process of positive action; it is the beginning of the application of the political principle of catalysis. See page 104 paragraphs 1-3.
Consciencist political theory also outlines a political principle of alliances. By this principle, positive action must align with and marshal all the forces of progress to confront the negative forces while bearing in mind the need to nip fragmentation of it in the bud. All progressive forces are defined in regard to specific purposes. In this respect, some forces of progress tend to aid the realization of a particular purpose like the destruction of colonialism but become reactionary in respect of some other purpose like the construction of a socialist state in replacement of the colonial state. The principle of alliances urges that since the marshalling of such forces creates points of weaknesses along which the unity of positive action might disintegrate this possible disintegration must be anticipated and a way found to contain the diverse tendencies within the movement. Since the said tendencies are anticipated from the inception of the movement it appears implied that the dominance of the forces committed to the long term aim of recreating a society in which man is considered as one and treated as an end and not merely as a means will be assured by any method of containment found for the purpose. Positive action must be relentless in its application of this principle beyond the struggle against colonialism into the period of national reconstruction when the contradictory tendencies ripen. See pages 104-105.
It is this need to handle the contradictory tendencies in resistance to neo-colonialism in the era of national reconstruction that begets the political principle of ideology. The ideology is the searchlight under which every fact affecting the people’s life can be assessed and judged to expose the detrimental aspirations and sleights of hand of neo-colonialism on a regular basis, constantly. This ideology is socialist in form and content. Its metaphysical basis is traced to Nkrumah’s critical appreciation of the Anaxagoras conception of the mutual participation of objects in each other as we saw in chapter two. Consciencism states clearly at page 105, paragraph 3 that ‘In order that this ideology should be comprehensive, in order that it should light up every aspect of the life of our people, in order that it should affect the total interest of our society, establishing a continuity with our past, it must be socialist in form and in content and be embraced by a mass party’.
These are the words of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
CONSCIENCIST FLIGHTS IN CYBERSPACE
ISSUES IN CONSCIENCISM
In this final chapter we reproduce interactions on the internet dealing with notions and attitudes about Consciencism. These have been edited to address the relevant issues. Some of the notions relate to matters of interpretation. Others deal with application of principles of Consciencism in the understanding of African history directed at determining the way forward for progressive forces on the continent. The desire here is to open the floodlights for informed debates that will lead to a consensus on the nature and content of the book, Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonisation. In all this we have not hidden our preoccupation with a defence of the principles of Consciencism against its revision and/or neglect in the thought and practice of progressive forces on the continent and in the Diaspora entire. Our overriding concern is that the principles of the book be understood and applied in every sphere of human endeavour on the continent and beyond for the analysis of problems and their resolution. Have a happy read.
AN ENCOUNTER WITH KWAMI AGBODZA
LANG NUBUOR: You are not really tired and are enjoying the encounter. You must be really good at taking punches of the academic type. Ha, ha! I know your type is always afraid of bodily punches. Laugh it off.
KWAMI AGBODZA: I am fine and not tired or unrelaxed at all. I am actually enjoying this as I have not had this kind of debate for a long time. I can foretell what the outcome will be when you start punching me by which you mean my position. I am certain I shall defeat you when it comes to ‘Consciencism’. You will not last one round. Lang Nubuor, there are only two philosophies of ‘materialism’ and ‘idealism’ and Nkrumah proposes a third he called ‘philosophical consciencism’ as a synthesis of idealism and materialism.
LANG NUBUOR: You know, when Nkrumah talks of philosophical consciencism he situates it within philosophical materialism. Look at page 84 where he says that ‘Philosophical consciencism, even though deeply rooted in materialism, is not necessarily atheistic’. Throughout the book he combats idealism from the standpoint of materialism. This does not prevent him from being critical of some issues within the materialist school. And that does not position him outside materialism. His criticism of idealism is so devastating that he gives it several disparaging epithets. Consciencism does not and cannot combine idealism and materialism into its definition. You know, within both idealism and materialism there are different strands contesting each other. The most powerful within materialism is Dialectical Materialism which is where Consciencism is situated and based.
KWAMI AGBODZA: Lang Nubuor, FYI, I did not invent the tension around the use of the word ‘socialism’ in Consciencism. It is there. And what Nkrumah meant when he, not Marxists, said ‘socialism’ is also there. The accusation that Nkrumah was not a Marxist until he wrote ‘Class Struggle’ is still with us. The contrary assertion by Pat Sloan that Nkrumah advanced Marxism beyond its common understanding among Idrix Cox and others at the time is also with us. The widespread argument that Nkrumah himself is not even a Marxist I have had the pleasure of engaging a leading activist on in London not too long ago. The argument that ‘Consciencism’ is an idealist piece of work contrary to the conclusion of chapter one of the same is still commonplace. The assertion by leading Nkrumaists to me that Nkrumah was confused when he wrote the illogical ‘Consciencism’ is something I have concretely experienced. My being told in stronger terms than you have put it that the Left in Ghana will never accept Nkrumaism PERIOD is something, again, I have concretely experienced. I therefore put your comments about me in historical and contemporary context.
LANG NUBUOR: Now, I see clearly what your position or rather verdict on Consciencism is. You do not have any sympathies for it. For you, it is ‘illogical’, ‘idealist’ and ‘confused’. You reject it and attribute to it what it combats.
KWAMI AGBODZA: I am inclined to ignore your entire mail because it is rooted in a misunderstanding of my position. I wrote you of my experience. I was telling you the attitude to consciencism in The Ghanaian Left. And yet you claim that is my attitude. This is false.
LANG NUBUOR: Fonye, You said with respect to those claims that 1. ‘The assertion by leading Nkrumaists to me that Nkrumah was confused when he wrote the illogical ‘Consciencism’ is something I have concretely experienced.’ Comment: What is the meaning of ‘I have concretely experienced’? I understand it as confirming ‘the assertion’. It will be strange to say otherwise. The charge of illogicality is here actually coming from you: but the charge of being confused actually is only confirmed by you. Understand this. No other interpretation is earthly possible. 2. ‘My being told in stronger terms than you have put it that the Left in Ghana will never accept Nkrumaism PERIOD is something, again, I have concretely experienced.’ Note: We make the same observation here. I believe you now understand why I think that those views are also yours – that is, you confirm them with your so-called concrete experiences. If it is not so then you must go back to secondary school to improve on your English Comprehension. Fo Kwami, I say your English so bad that you do not understand even what you Yourself say in the language. Again, I ask how can you understand a difficult text like Consciencism when you cannot exactly express yourself?!
KWAMI AGBODZA: Fo Lang Nubuor, It is all a matter of interpretation. (1) ‘The assertion by leading Nkrumaists to me that Nkrumah was confused when he wrote the illogical ‘Consciencism’ is something I have concretely experienced.’ Comment: It means that the leading Nkrumaists asserted to me ‘that Nkrumah was confused when he wrote the illogical ‘Consciencism’’. They said it was illogical. Not me. I am saying that is the experience I had with The Ghana Left. It does not mean that I think it is illogical. (2) ‘My being told in stronger terms than you have put it that the Left in Ghana will never accept Nkrumaism PERIOD is something, again, I have concretely experienced.’ Comment: This means that I was told that ‘the Left in Ghana will never accept Nkrumaism PERIOD’. Again it is the Left said that. Not me. I am saying that is the experience I had with The Ghana Left.
LANG NUBUOR: Kwami, I think you have a problem of exactly expressing yourself. You appear to be the only person that I have known in these decades who constantly pleads not being understood. Look at the labours you are going through in just asking a question in your exchanges with Guy. Please, be patient with yourself.
KWAMI AGBODZA: I do assert here and now Lang Nubuor that I have only met two people in all my life who have actually read Consciencism and mastered it and with whom I have had impressive discussions; I mean read it to master it. As you know, Nkrumah told us to master three books. It is one of them. The other two are Africa Must Unite and Neocolonialism. Why Guy still thinks I have not mastered them, I do not know.
LANG NUBUOR: You see, when you create the impression that you cannot exactly express yourself you set people wondering whether you can understand an undoubtedly difficult text like Consciencism. Your outpouring in your article on Consciencism is a case in point. It is so bad in its understanding of the text that I wondered whether you were commenting on some other book…I concede that it is scarce to meet many of our compatriots who at least appear to have read and understood Consciencism. Unfortunately, I have decided not to send a copy of my ongoing draft of the Manual to you. Else, you would have seen the historical origins of the problem. I am sure you have met many who have told you that they tried to read it but had to stop because it was too difficult for them. To aid continued reading once one starts it and achieving one’s own understanding of it are the inspiration for the Manual. Some friends who have had the opportunity of critically reading it have not only found it readable and useful but also ‘a must finish’. I am encouraged by their constructive criticisms to upgrade the simplicity and mass accessibility of the text for a further widespread understanding of Consciencism.
KWAMI AGBODZA: (Complains to Explo Nani-Kofi and copies to Lang Nubuor): People always question us Ewes about Nyebroism and fail to grasp why we Ewes will at the end of the day call the other Nyebro. I am writing you Fo Nani because you introduced (Lang Nubuor) to me and to tell you at the same time to be very careful, which I know you already are, with the people you are associating with while working on the grassroots. This Lang Nubuor is very rude and very, very, disrespectful; but I took no offence at his misdirected comments… (T)his guy has never engaged me on anything whatsoever; what is more I have never read a single paper from this guy on anything remotely pertaining to the contents of Consciencism. Indeed, he has never out of just courtesy bothered to contact me out of any reservations he may have. I do not even know if he has ever read Consciencism or read it to master it as Nkrumah said we should. And yet he writes uncomplimentary things about me which I have told him I have put into historical and contemporary context. So Fo Kofi, I ask you who is he and how did you know him?
LANG NUBUOR (Explo is silent but Lang Nubuor responds): Fo Kwami, This is not a ‘nyebro’ issue. And for your information, by cultural acquisition I am an associate Ewe. And I’m very proud to declare as such. Your very low level of national consciousness sinks you to the depths of trying to subvert the debate and divert it into a tribal issue. Explo and I have been in the trenches together for over thirty years. It is you that I have to warn Explo about, not vice versa. The issue really has to do with your dishonest handling of the legacy of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. You haven’t seen anything yet! Check from those whom we had to deal with in the 1970s.You say you do not know me, huh? I will chase you wherever you go to.
For your information, I am a Marxist philosopher-historian with the Consciencist orientation. I am committed to Pan-Africanism and Scientific Socialism. I was the General Secretary of the People’s Revolutionary League of Ghana in the 1970s and early 1980s. I hunt for people like you and when I get them I don’t spare them, intellectually speaking. Either you stop inflicting your ignorance and arrogance on the African youth or perpetually find me on your reactionary tails. The issue of the moment is the spiritual rehabilitation of the soul of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah through the exposition of his ideas and ideals after his physical rehabilitation by Kojo T and others. It is a relentless warfare in which we are fighting for the soul of our nation, Africa. It is not a mere academic exercise for the heartless. Whoever tries to create a wedge in our midst is expeditiously descended on. This spiritual warfare is escalating. Sit there and deceive yourself that it is a ‘nyebro’ issue while picking the crumbs from under the neo-colonial dining table.
KWAMI AGBODZA: Fo Lang Nubuor. Let us get one thing clear. When I speak to my fellow Ewes it is ‘a Nyebro issue’. I have no apology there to make. And if it is not the issue, then leave it out even though you may refer to me as ‘Fo’… Already I can see you have an identity problem and unable to just define who you are as an Nkrumaist… You say of yourself: ‘I am a Marxist philosopher-historian with the Consciencist orientation. I am committed to Pan-Africanism and Scientific Socialism.’ Lang Nubuor you have an identity problem. The quote above is meaningless in Consciencism. There is no such thing as Marxism with a Consciencist orientation that is separate from Pan Africanism that is separate from Scientific Socialism.* An Nkrumaist, at least, as Nkrumah himself defines Nkrumaism, just says, if you are one, ‘I am an Nkrumaist’. Marxism is already subsumed in Consciencism, as is Pan Africanism as is Scientific Socialism. You should know that if you intend to write a Manual for Consciencism.
LANG NUBUOR: Well, I have no identity problem. You see, if you are really acquainted with Marxism you will see that Consciencism is a particular application of Marxism in Africa. To claim to be a Marxist with a consciencist orientation is just to say that I am a Consciencist. And if you understand that Consciencism is the philosophy of Nkrumaism then my Nkrumaist status must not be in doubt. Kwami, there is a lot that you need to know. You now make me laugh a lot tonight… Well, I had promised sending to you a copy of an ongoing draft of what I call ‘Manual for the Study of Consciencism’ for a critical input. It is actually not worth it. I am afraid but I had to rescind that decision when I read your failed attempt to revise Consciencism. I would now prefer that if by grace I finish the Manual and have it published you can then offer a public criticism of it. We can then engage from there…The Manual can help in all this but I won’t give it to you.
KWAMI AGBODZA: I fail to see why you would not want me to give you my criticisms of the Manual before it comes out but would like a public criticism? Why do you think I would like to do that? Why should I? What makes you think I take your profession of Consciencism any more seriously than you take mine? … (I)f you want to publish a manual for people to understand ‘Consciencism’, surely that is a good thing. Why say all those uncomplimentary things about me?
LANG NUBUOR: (Silent on the issue.)
KWAMI AGBODZA (He complains again to others and copies to Lang Nubuor): Fo Kofi and Fo Mawuli, I have done some digging around and found the article below (Kwame Nkrumah Saved Ghana from Religious Confusion) authored by Lang Nubuor. It is in response to articles in the Daily Graphic by Ahuman Ocansey. I only occasionally read religious articles on the web. Normally I do not. Ordinarily, for all kinds of reasons, I would not have read an article on Kwame Nkrumah saving Ghana from religious confusion. Frankly, the topic does not interest me. But as it is written by Lang Nubuor who has said so many uncomplimentary things about me, I decided to read it. It is an interesting read. It contains the odd quote here and there that I have read elsewhere. The article has the correct central thrust. Some details are contentious. He even invokes Kofi Batsa in it and makes reference to The Philosophy Club and Nkrumah’s powers. He puts forward a key concept of ‘Integration’ throughout the article at one point asserting ‘Yes, thanks to the integrationist philosophy of Consciencism that informed the ideology.’ And yet no where in Consciencism does Nkrumah say that an integrationist philosophy informs the ideology of consciencism. But this is what Lang Nubuor is saying. Clearly he is interpreting Nkrumah. This is all the more surprising especially as he invokes Kofi Batsa who co-authored Essentials of Nkrumaism.
What struck me however more than anything is this comment by Lang Nubuor: ‘Consciencism is certainly a difficult book to read with the grand author’s assumption that the reader is already in grasp with certain formal principles of Philosophy and Logic. Many read the first few pages and give up. The disturbing issue here is that having given up reading the entire book some of such readers pronounce themselves qualified to pass judgements on it — basing themselves on the pseudo-interpretations of distortionists like the one we have at hand.’ It struck me because I know one or two people who fit this bill. But they do not pass judgements on the book. They simply ignore it. They quote from all of Nkrumah’s books but never the key book Consciencism. What I do not know is the extent to which this section applies to Lang Nubuor himself. What I certainly know is that it cannot refer to me because not only have I read the whole book over and over again, but in the beginning read it for seven months at a stretch in order to master it. And it was the only book I read in the entire seven months. The purpose was to master it…
The other thing that struck me, but with less intensity, is that his interpretation recalls that of a leading Nkrumaist in Ghana who provided a wholly religious interpretation to the mention of Christians, Moslems and Traditional Africa in Consciencism. I shall not be surprised; I am not saying it is, if this is the motivation – a religious interpretation – that informs his rebuttal of Ahuman Ocansey. He says, referring to Nkrumah, ‘Hence he concludes ideologically that we need to build a culture that integrates or harmonizes our experiences of Christianity, Islam and African Tradition. These are religious cultures. Guided by this ideological stance Kwame Nkrumah pursued a cultural environment that integrated or harmonized these cultures.’ But are they just religious cultures? Clearly not!
Nkrumah does not assume these are religious cultures on the basis of which we ought to pursue an integrated or harmonized religious culture of three religious cultures. Islam enslaved us and so did Christianity and so did Traditional Africa. These are not just religious cultures; they are also economic cultures, military cultures etc. Limiting the question of Christianity, Islam and Traditional Africa in Consciencism to religion and religious cultures has not ceased to astound me. But my point is that I saw this among the Ghanaian Left who dismissed Consciencism with ease. The argument that Consciencism is an idealist work is not far from this assertion. Instead of engaging me on this and many other issues, all I get is uncomplimentary comments.
And yet you Fo Nani gave him my contact. I am writing this to tell you that I have just discovered a piece by Lang Nubuor which I would normally not have read because of the title but which I have read and I am not in the least impressed although its central thrust is correct. If Lang Nubuor wants to engage with the synthesis of ‘capitalism’ and ‘socialism’ that I have raised then he must master ‘Consciencism’ so we can discuss it intelligently, dispassionately and intellectually to advance social praxis. WHY DOES HE THINK WHAT HE CALLS ‘INTEGRATION’ ONLY APPLIES TO RELIGION AND NOT TO ECONOMICS OR THE BASIS OF SOCIETY OR THE SUPERSTRUCTURE? Why is Lang Nubuor only limiting it to religion and religious culture? To preserve some Marxist purity?
LANG NUBUOR: (Once again his friends do not respond but Lang Nubuor responds) : I’m sorry but you lack a proper grasp of the English language. You see, when I talk about Consciencism as an integrationist philosophy I can never mean that there is some bona fide philosophy called ‘integrationist philosophy’ inside the philosophy of Consciencism but that Consciencism is itself integrationist. If you are not aware of Consciencism’s effort to integrate what it calls the three strands of African society, that is, the Euro-Christian, Islamic and Traditional then I don’t know from which book you read your Consciencism. You see, this is why I said that reading your piece on Consciencism I wondered which book you were actually commenting on…I appreciate your constant plea of humility but let it manifest in an originality of understanding texts yourself. That is what a real Professor does. Only comical Professors do otherwise…
All this should be clear to you if you actually read the book itself and not relied on commentators which is what I suspect you have done… Fo Kwami, I agree with you that it is not entirely a religious issue involved. The article was a reaction to an accusation that Nkrumah was an atheist. The thrust was therefore on the religious issue. And only 1,500 words were allowed by the Daily Graphic. I am glad that you are digging. I am, however, surprised that you found the central thrust correct but remained unimpressed. You must be a very wonderful person. My surprise is that you found something correct about it. You see, I don’t see how you can ever see anything correct about whatever I say because we are several poles apart. Fo Kwamiiii!
KWAMI AGBODZA: I read Consciencism itself and not commentaries. My knowledge is from the book itself which I have mastered. I shall definitely floor you when it comes to Consciencism in the first round. I am not asking you for your Manual. But do send me a signed copy when it is out.
LANG NUBUOR: I’ll send a signed copy to you as you requested after publication. I intend completing it by the end of March, God willing. So, are you still sure you can floor me in the first round? Ha! ha! ha!… Your appeal to others who have turned their back on you reminds me of a similar situation when I had to take Professor Kwami Karikari on in 1981. When I criticized him in a rejoinder to his report in the Legon Observer on a rally that Rawlings had addressed in Kofridua, instead of responding to the editor’s request on him to write a counter-rejoinder he went about complaining to others about what I had written for publication. Finally, Tsatsu Tsikata and Rawlings were asked to intervene. Although Rawlings sent for me he did not raise the issue at all; having been rather reported to me to have expressed his admiration for my piece. As for Tsatsu, his confrontational pose rather put me off and made me more resolved that the rejoinder be published and it was published. Fo Kwami, you are doing something similar. That is why I honestly feel real pity for you. But I can assure you that once you stop your unfounded attacks on Nkrumah you will find me a very pleasant person. I believe that you could be innocent of what you are carrying about. Cheer up, we can be friends. It just happens that those of us with our heads deep in Marxist polemics do not have respectful words for those we honestly see to be strong headedly distorting facts.
KWAMI AGBODZA: I do not personally care if we are friends or not. I did not take offence because I am aware of such Marxist polemics. Finally, I have noted your comment on my English. In my humble opinion, it is worth considering and I am thankful to you for pointing this out.
LANG NUBUOR: Nyebro, Efonye, Mi a dogo. Good night. Sound sleep.
KWAMI ABODZA: Good night too.
*Editorial Comment: Self-acclaimed Professor of Consciencism, Kwami Agbodza, does not differentiate between Marxism, Pan-Africanism and Scientific Socialism when he says that they are subsumed in Consciencism. As the foundation principle upon which Consciencism is built, Marxism enjoys a status of permanence with Consciencism. It stands and falls with it. Not so with Pan-Africanism and Scientific Socialism which are programmes generated by the principle.
In his comment on the quote from Mazzini, Kwame Nkrumah explains the relation between a principle and a programme. They do not share a common status. Whereas principle cannot be compromised, a programme is subject to change or can even expire while the principle lives on. Nkrumah again explains that the transition from socialism to communism does not involve a change of principle but a change of programme. Any change of principle precipitates a revolution which, by the Consciencist definition, does not occur in the transition from socialism to communism. Hence, socialism may come to pass but the Marxist and Consciencist philosophical principle lives on.
In the following quote from the last sentence of chapter fifteen of Africa Must Unite Kwame Nkrumah makes it clear that Pan-Africanism will not live with us forever: ‘… it is only when political unity has been achieved that we will be able to declare the triumphant end of the Pan-African struggle and the African liberation movement.’ This is what happens to programmes but not philosophical principles like those of Marxism and Consciencism which have a life of their own. ‘Professor’ Agbodza appears innocent of this vital distinction which Nkrumah also stresses in chapter 4 of Consciencism.
TO CAPTURE STATE POWER OR TO BUILD STATE POWER
REFLECTIONS ON THE CHINWEIZU – ADDAI-SEBO ENCOUNTER
Addai-Sebo responds to Chinweizu Chinweizu in a short note written on November 3, 2006 over some issue. Dropped into that note is this: ‘We must now respond seriously to the challenge of the seizure or winning of state power. We need state power in order to act and make that decisive difference.’ This occasions an instructive though disproportionate response from Chinweizu on November 9, 2006. In an e-mail to Nii K, dated April 26, 2010, Chinweizu copies his exchanges with Addai-Sebo and explains that in the exchanges his advice to Addai-Sebo ‘was to devote his energies to the political education of the young, and to avoid re-entering the struggle for state power.’
In fact, during the initial reaction to Addai-Sebo’s continued enthusiasm for seizure/winning of state power Chinweizu could be understood to be against seizure of state in favour of building State power. After castigating Kwame Nkrumah and Nelson Mandela for winning power while the colonial state structure remained intact, Chinweizu declares that ‘Our job, at this final stage of our lives, is to organize the appropriate knowledge and deliver it to those following us who need, seek and deserve it – for the project of building Afrikan power for the victory of the Afrikans.’ So that Chinweizu, in his advice to Addai-Sebo, is not advising against a struggle to build State power but against the struggle to capture or seize or win state power. And he has excellent and valid reasons for saying that.
Reference to ‘the struggle for state power’ in the e-mail to Nii K can therefore only be a reference to the struggle to seize/capture/win state power. Perhaps Addai-Sebo does not get the essence of Chinweizu’s reaction to his enthusiasm for power capturing. Hence, while he embraces Chinweizu’s educational project he forcefully insists on the need to seize power. This is what he says in his response to Chinweizu, dated November 10, 2006: ‘Thank you very much for refocusing my energies but we must also let the business of the seizure of power be our concern at the same time we are building the cadres. We must build the cadres and place ourselves in a state of constant preparedness.’
The introduced emphasis here displays Addai-Sebo’s limited understanding of Chinweizu’s position: Chinweizu calls for an education project to churn out cadres for an eventual involvement in a State-building process; Addai-Sebo agrees to the educational project idea but thinks that Chinweizu abandons every idea about state power and thus misses the vital point about building State power. When Chinweizu fails to be specific when he rejectionistly talks about ‘struggle for state power’ in his Nii K e-mail he does not help matters. Of course, with his missing the strategic point about building State power, Addai-Sebo would not know why cadres could be churned out in anticipation of nothing.
And since we cannot have a void he insists on filling Chinweizu’s apparent vacuum with his power seizure/winning enterprise; an enterprise that falls short of learning the real lesson of the past struggles – to build power but not to seize it. Let Addai-Sebo’s enthusiasm, however, not wane since necessary though Chinweizu’s prescription for building State power is, it is not dialectical. The building of State power is the context within which political education to create cadres is undertaken. To let the building of State power await the maturity of cadres is to deny political education its true sustenance: only in the State-building process can anybody learn how to build the State. At page 90 of Africa Must Unite Kwame Nkrumah puts it this way: ‘… experience can only be gained by experience.’ Constant involvement in practice enriches thought that, in turn, influences the direction of practice. To create a wedge between thought and practice is the very abandonment of the Consciencist principle that ‘Practice without thought is blind; thought without practice is empty.’
In his Nii K e-mail, Chinweizu discourages ‘the veterans’ of the PNDC struggles from a ‘return to serious political activism’ because he does not ‘expect the veterans of those struggles to have much appetite for (it)’. This perception of the Ghanaian Left among comrades on the continent predates the PNDC era when some of our South African comrades at AASU remarked that Ghanaians were forthcoming in fine speech-making at symposia but fell short of the real thing: action. Within months after that remark the bellows of December 31, 1981 boomed. The leader of that action was present at the symposium that attracted the remark.
The People’s Revolutionary League of Ghana (The League) organized that symposium. It became a part of the events that involved an attempt to create an alternate State power via the People’s/Workers’/Community Defence Committees. The PNDC leadership condemned that attempt as ‘creating a parallel State’ and at the least opportunity apoliticized the defence committees, dismantled emergent structures and chased persons like Addai-Sebo, who scarcely understood the undercurrents, into exile.
Hence, Chinweizu’s characterization of the appetite of ‘the veterans’ is not new. What he urges to be done by the Ghanaian Left in an eventual future had twice been attempted, first, by Nkrumah, whom he has a few uncomplimentaries to shower on, and, second, by The League with specific constraints in their respective eras. He appears to need a lot of learning from Ghanaian comrades; the relevant ones, of course. And all the indicators are that comrades like Chinweizu serve a better purpose and will serve a better purpose in the realization of aims projected in our regenerative efforts to build the people’s State power.
That is, if only he concedes that the actions we take today, including the education of the new generation, must be part of the process of not ‘capturing state power’ but building a new State power to replace the existing state power structure. His undialectical dichotomy of the learning and building processes requires a dialectical fusion in a happy reunion. In the same way Addai-Sebo needs to disinherit himself from the archaic power capturing syndrome and properly re-orient. His efforts with his darling wife shall not be in vain with this disinheritance as their cadres would not need to stand-by for the opportune moment to capture state power but be involved now in the process of building a new State power structure in replacement of the current one that does not require being seized/captured/won but rather dissolved on Osagyefo’s terms.
In this respect, let it be understood that this process of building a new State power structure does not require the partial retirement of ‘the veterans’ who might resign themselves to the harvesting and bequeathing of knowledge. The ‘veterans’ must still be involved all-round. In the process of building the new State power questions about partial or absolute retirement do not arise. The struggle continues all-roundly till death do us part.
The above are comments passed on what Addai-Sebo and Chinweizu say. What are their exact words and their meaning? Let us structure out their arguments now in validation of the interpretation placed on their statements above. In this respect, we go back to Addai-Sebo’s initial e-mail. In that e-mail he calls for a response to the challenge of the seizure or winning of state power and emphasizes that state power is needed in order to act and make that decisive difference. These are his words, ‘We must now respond seriously to the challenge of the seizure or winning of state power. We need state power in order to act and make that decisive difference.’ The suggestion here is that before we can act and make a difference we must first of all seize or win the current state power structure; without seizure/winning of control over this state power structure we cannot make a decisive difference. In fact, this is what, in the main, has been continually going on since 1966 when Kwame Nkrumah’s attempt to build a new structure of State to replace the current state power structure was aborted.
Chinweizu disagrees to Addai-Sebo’s prescription. He says unambiguously that ‘we need to understand that abolishing these colonial countries, with their states, and replacing them with Afrocentric states and societies is a necessary condition for getting Africa out of its humiliating situation. Seizing power in them is not on! … Unless the comprador mentality and system is eradicated, those who capture state power henceforth will only further entrench compradorism, not liberate Africa!’ He repeats this with the statement that ‘Unless a comprehensive and basic mental revolution is accomplished in the next decade, by bringing millions of Africans to an Afrocentric political consciousness, those of the coming generation who attempt to seize state power in these comprador colonial Bantustan states will only become comprador warlords…’ For him, therefore, what requires to be done is a definition of ‘the problems and tasks of building Afrikan power in the 21st century.’ He requires and insists on ‘Knowledge that is necessary for building Afrikan power in the next 50 years’. Clearly, then, Chinweizu focuses on building a new State power to replace the current neo-colonial power structure.
To achieve this, however, he contemplates a comprehensive and basic mental revolution for the next ten years, beginning from 2006 when he types these words. He makes this the condition for even those who will attempt to seize state power. That is where Chinweizu unintentionally creates special difficulties. Does he think that in case millions of Africans achieve a mental revolution within ten years it will then be right, we mean correct, to seize state power which, in his terms, means inheriting the colonial power system the Nkrumah-Mandela fashion? He has very strong words for those who inherit such systems of power. For instance, he tells us to ‘Look at what happened to the Nkrumah-Mandela gangs after they inherited power from the colonialists.’ Gangs! A very strong word for ‘elders’ who suffered in our behalf! But this only emphasizes his abhorrence for those who inherit the colonial power structure. Why then does he appear to endorse inheritance somehow in his cited statement in the preceding paragraph above? He clearly had a slip of fingers on the computer keyboard. What should rather arrest our attention is his phasing of the educational and action processes.
He suggests a decade for political education. He also suggests ‘the next 50 years’ for building State power. Even if we assume that the decade for education is within the 50 year period we cannot help understanding him to conceive a process in which there are two phases, one preceding the other. This is why he finds it necessary to advise Addai-Sebo to concentrate on the political education of the youth because they are old and are now elders. If a revolutionary’s life span is divided into one of harvesting and bequeathing knowledge and another of activism then so must society have a period to be educated and another period to be active, he appears to tell us.
His exact words regarding the power capturing enterprise are that ‘we are too old to be getting into that. As elders, our task is to give political education to the up-and-coming generation of PanAfricanist activists so they can effectively tackle and solve Afrika’s problems. Ours is to harvest and bequeath knowledge to the under 30s.’ It appears that it is only in Africa that revolutionaries in their 50s are deemed to be old and elders. While the neo-colonial state engages people to work for its continuance for at least 60 years of their lives revolutionaries seeking to effect a cessation of the neo-colonial state are declaring themselves incapable before age 60, partially resigning and urging others to do the same! This phasing of the lives of the forces of progress and of the revolutionary process itself sounds like a fifth columnist compradorial device to postpone revolutionary activity forever.
Chinweizu maps out a beautiful educational programme that will make sense within an on-going process of building a new State power structure to replace the neo-colonial state structure. For, since such a programme is based on knowledge acquired from research which always lags behind unfolding reality its relevance depends on being constantly enriched through practice. To do otherwise is to adopt a mechanistic and undialectical conception of the revolutionary process. It is, with all due respect, the lazy person’s way of doing things. In the revolutionary process, theory and practice work simultaneously to enrich each other. This consciencist outlook is the only basis from which the African Revolution can be prosecuted with economy of time, life and talent.
Possibly, Chinweizu might not take kindly to this assertion since he neglects to mention, for compulsory reading, Kwame Nkrumah’s books, especially Consciencism, which analyze the question of imperialism in its two phases of colonialism and neo-colonialism. He neglects such contemporary analyses of imperialism in preference to stories about semi-colonial China and 18th century Haiti. Towards Colonial Freedom, Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism, Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for De-colonisation and Class Struggle in Africa analyze contemporary imperialism and fashion out ways and means of uprooting it. Africa Must Unite, Revolutionary Path, Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare, The Rhodesian Files, Dark Days in Ghana and papers like Revisiting African Socialism, etc. enlighten us on the difficulties of supplanting and replacing neo-colonial state structures. In fact, Africa Must Unite virtually chronicles the day-to-day efforts made to build a new State that would respond to the task of reconstruction. It serves as a manual for building a new State power and shows Nkrumah’s profound awareness of the need to replace the inherited colonial state apparatus.
Rather than studying these materials on contemporary imperialism Elder Chinweizu says we should study materials on pre-monopoly finance capitalism. Yet, any serious student of history knows that history being a process its study goes backwards to trace the genesis of a phenomenon like capitalism to its present state of development in order to deal with it. Lessons learned over the entire period are then utilized to formulate and prosecute current programmes. Thus reading even historical fictions about the earlier stages is only a very small part of the learning process. The real material to be read is the analysis of the present day reality. And Kwame Nkrumah has bequeathed to us copious volumes of such analysis, especially in the pages of Africa Must Unite.
There is something uncomfortably mechanistic about Elder Chinweizu’s modus operandi. Consciencism teaches us that even the appearance of serenity of a situation masks its inexorable dynamism. Hence, our methods in dealing with any given situation must be fashioned out of that situation but not from some ancient situation. Any importation from an ancient situation requires validation within the present reality. Given the Ghanaian and South African reality, Nkrumah and Mandela could not have respectively destroyed the colonial state apparatus all at once even when they became Presidents of those countries. Nkrumah’s difficulties in his efforts at dealing with the unavoidably inherited colonial state apparatus and replacing it, as stated above, are well chronicled and analyzed in Africa Must Unite. The so-called belated efforts at political education at Winneba were part of his drive at dismantling the inheritance.
And yet, Dear Elder Chinweizu says that Nkrumah failed because he, like Mandela, was ignorant of the centuries old Haitian struggles which Afrocentric studies have only recently (1985) unearthed long after his death in 1972. In fact, Africa Must Unite gives us evidence that Nkrumah was aware of what he calls ‘the Haitian revolt’ in that book. Is our veteran Elder aware that Kwame Nkrumah encouraged the institutionalization of Afrocentric studies and, in fact, in Ghana he established the Institute of African Studies from which some of us, like yours truly, benefitted when African Studies (Afro Studs, as we called it) was made compulsory for all first year students at the University of Ghana even more than a decade after his demise? In this respect, Elder Chinweizu inflicted the unkindest cut on Nkrumah with the following judgement:
Much of the failures of the Nkrumah-Mandela generation derived from their ignorance of the anti-imperialist struggles that took place before theirs. Luckily, by now, we have some Afrocentric studies of the Haitian and other struggles. [e.g. Jacob Carruthers, THE IRRITATED GENIE, Chicago: Kemetic Institute, 1985] Had these been available to the Nkrumahs, they would have been better prepared to carry on the fight against the neo-colonialism he rightly denounced. There’s hardly any of the pitfalls of the anti-imperialist struggles of the 20th century that had not manifested in the Haitian struggle a century and half earlier. Had the Nkrumahs known of them, they would have been forearmed. And today’s up-and-coming activists need to know all of that.
For this mechanistic, unilinear, undialectical reason that Nkrumah and Mandela did not have access to unpublished works to guide them, leading to their failure, Elder Chinweizu called them a ‘gang’ who were turned into comprador servants of imperialism by their inheritance! For his celebrated condemnation of these ‘elders’, our Elder & Veteran has these exact and self-typed words to dump on this and generations to come: ‘The system they took over turned all of them, some willingly and others not-so-willingly, into comprador servants of imperialism!’ Such infantilist effusions bordering on congenital ignorance were, once upon a time, commonplace with our comrades in the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania. And such are bound to be the content of Veteran Chinweizu’s educational set up? Tell Elder Chinweizu to read Africa Must Unite, minimum, to know what rich history we have in Nkrumah’s efforts to uproot what he considered a bad inheritance for simultaneous replacement by way of building a new State structure. To lie that Nkrumah was a comprador servant of imperialism is the greatest contamination and poisoning of the Mind of Africa that a person of his wasted calibre and potential could ever inflict on the African conscience.
You see, after about four years of making that statement he still felt proud enough not only to keep on believing it but also to circulate it to Nii K, Akoto Ampaw and Bankie Bankie under the caption ‘Veteran activists and state power struggles’. One wonders what kind of discussion he had had with Nii K the previous night that encouraged him to circulate his years-old exchange with Addai-Sebo. E ye morbor! God bless Africa!
KWAMI AGBODZA AS THE FACE OF REVISIONISM
To see the face of revisionism in Ghana across the coastline, forest, savannah and desert regions as well as the mountains and valleys of Africa and over the continental shelf of Europe to the British Isles, where he is to be located, one only needs to look at the face of a gentleman cultured in British traditions and called Kwami Agbodza. That face paints a fine picture of and personifies what intellectuals of great repute over the centuries have called the act of subjecting a system of thought to such an interpretation as to not only bleach it of its meaning but more importantly replace it with its opposite under the guise of defending it in its true interpretation. Revisionism is that act. In Ghana during the late 1970s it was once referred to as ‘Petty-Bourgeois Revolutionarism – An Infantile Directionist Emptiness’ by yours truly. Seeking to direct us on the way out it ends up leaving us so confused in a way we have never ever been.
After two years of placing a proposal before his colleagues to ‘Please let me know what you think’, the only known self-appointed Professor of Consciencism, Mr. Kwami Agbodza, states over the internet that nobody responds to his call. That was on January 14, 2011. The paper that he places before his colleagues has various titles. The recipient of the e-mail bearing the article is first greeted with the title Proposal for Going beyond Capitalism-Socialism. Upon downloading the article one finds the paper with this different title: The Social-Political Theory of an Nkrumaist Government: Resolving the ‘Socialist Ideology’ Confusion. The cover letter that comes with the article however suggests that there is confusion over both socialism and capitalism within the Nkrumaist family. As one later directs the computer mouse’s pointer at the icon of the article yet another new title pops up thus: Consciencism as a Basis for Multi-Party Democratic Practice: Unlocking the Conceptual Confusion for an Nkrumaist Government. At the end of it all the second title has beneath it this copyright announcement: © The Kwame Nkrumah Historical and Research Foundation. Clearly, his article is/wears a coat of many colours.
Long before ‘Professor’ Kwami Agbodza claimed that nobody had responded to his coat of many colours this author had actually reacted in the Insight of Ghana with a short piece entitled Redefining Nkrumaism which was later circulated on the same platform where the gentleman had posted his offending article. The brevity of that reaction was due to the fact that this author, like the others who ignored the article, did not think that that article deserved attention. But our cyberspace encounter with the ‘Professor’ saw him asking for an engagement on his perception of a socialist ideological confusion in the Nkrumaist Family and his synthesis of capitalism and socialism as the stance of Nkrumaism. This response is not just to honour our promise to him but also to justify why leading lights like ‘K. Afari-Gyan, George Hagan, Takyiwah Manuh, Kwame Arhin, E.A. Haizel and Kofi Agyeman amongst others’, whom he refers to in his paper, should not waste their time on him. The standard of the English language used in the paper itself, not to talk about the foul distortions therein, does not encourage such academicians to expend much time on that paper. But we promised, so here we are.
Beginning with the cover letter, Mr. Kwami Agbodza says that ‘the collapse of USSR in the 20th Century undermined Nkrumaists who said socialism was the ideology for the social transformation of Ghana and Africa.’ He also says that ‘recently in this 21st century the Global Credit Crunch has undermined Nkrumaists who said capitalism was the ideology for the social transformation of Ghana and Africa.’ On the bases of these events he claims that ‘our attention has been drawn to the need for Nkrumaists to come up with new thinking that goes beyond the discredited capitalist and socialist ideologies’. For this purpose he attaches the ‘file Nkrumaist PIE that proposes just this Nkrumaist new thinking.’ The Nkrumaist PIE is another colour of his paper. He ambitiously christens this new thinking ‘economic Consciencism’ or ‘Progressive Economics’ at the closing paragraphs of the paper proper. Listen! Don’t stop reading. Continue.
To develop the new thinking, Fonye Kwami Agbodza structures his paper with an Introduction that states the aim of the paper, followed with a History of Socialism that traces the origin of socialist ideological confusion in Ghana. The third section of the paper then suggests The Way Forward. Whereas the Introduction has a single sentence stating the paper’s aim the second and third sections have discernible subsections. The second section dealing with the history of socialism has nine identifiable subsections. The third section showing the way forward has three subsections with the second subsection showing three further sub-divisions. After each subsection where he makes statements of fact he follows up with a comment before proceeding to the next subsection. We intend to march along this structural trajectory of the paper in our exposition and critique of it. In this manner our critique treads at the tails of his comments.
Directing our attention then to the text of the paper we look at the Introduction first. It states the author’s aim of resolving the socialist ideology confusion in the Nkrumaist family. It places that confusion in its ‘proper social-political context’. This, it intends, will revive the lost confidence of Nkrumaists to think of winning elections to govern Ghana once again. This is all that the paper proposes to do. To think of winning elections within the neo-colonial power structure without a corresponding programme to dismantle it, we observe, has been the age-old strategy of post-1966 Nkrumaist politics in Ghana. Kwame Nkrumah’s efforts to build an alternate power structure, as symbolised by the cluster of civil service and security forces operating at the Flagstaff House, to ultimately replace the inherited colonial power apparatus was aborted in 1966.
The experience of the Limann administration illustrates the futility of Nkrumaist forces holding on to power without a programme to situate them in a position of strength vis-á-vis the inherited colonial power structure. The pages of Consciencism make it clear that to overcome neo-colonialism a new power structure with an opposed cardinal ethical principle must be built. Africa Must Unite on the other hand shows the difficulties involved in implementing a programme with a cardinal principle opposed to the neo-colonial ethic within the neo-colonial power structure. To capture/win or build state power is the strategic issue to address. The paper’s option to win power without a programme to build an alternate power system does not learn the lessons of history. The building of the new State power is an evolutionary process that culminates in the ultimate replacement of the neo-colonial state apparatus. To await the winning or capturing of control over the latter state system before building the new State is not dialectical in the Consciencist sense of the term.
This brings us to the history of socialism in Ghana. The paper traces what it calls socialist ideological confusion from the founding of the Kwame Nkrumah Institute of Economics and Political Science, otherwise known as the Winneba Ideological Institute. It recalls Nkrumah’s declaration on February 18, 1961 that ‘only socialists can build a socialist society’. According to the paper, Nkrumah stated that the Party’s ideology was a religion that should be carried out faithfully and fervently by the products of the Institute. By implication these suggest that the said ideology was socialism. In fact, according to the paper the Institute was to ‘indoctrinate people in socialism’. The firm propagation of the essence of African Unity in Ghana and the rest of the African Continent, the paper states, was the purpose of the Institute. Thus the paper affirms that before Consciencism was published in 1964 socialism was the declared ideology of Nkrumah.
The next subsection of this history deals with the mission of the Ideological Institute. Here the paper quotes from a staff member who stated that key positions of the state machinery required being occupied by persons with socialist training to replace those with bourgeois or British colonial mentality to implement the Party’s programme of socialist construction. Historically speaking, therefore, according to the paper, socialists at the time sought to replace only key positions within the inherited colonial state machinery but not all positions while the said machinery of state remained intact. Hence, we are made to observe that socialists of the period had a limited focus in dealing with the inherited state system – that is, before 1964 when Consciencism came out. Did those socialists ever go beyond their limited focus? This takes us to the next subsection where the paper looks at the personnel manning the Institute.
Kwami Agbodza states that personnel of the Institute were either communists or pro-communists and that some of them were of Nigerian origin. He rationalizes this reliance on communists on what was available to Kwame Nkrumah at the time. According to him, those communists were the Ghanaians Kodwo Addison and Professor Abraham and the Nigerians Bankole Akpata and Samuel G. Ikoku. It is instructive, if we might chip this in, that one of these personalities, Prof. Abraham, is reputed to have played an important role in the preparation of Consciencism later on within the decade. Fo Kwami insinuates that these persons were not desirable to Nkrumah who had to make do with them.
In the next subsection, the paper handles the question of the Party, Ideology and the State. At this stage it states categorically that by 1963, that is only a year before Consciencism was published, the CPP had settled on socialism as its ideology. It says that the Party’s ideology became intertwined with that of the state. At the Ideological Institute, it goes on to say, students were taught to see the Party’s ideology as a religion as well as the religion of the state. Consequently, in the student’s mind ‘the theoretical notions of a ‘political party’, ‘the state’, the ‘one-party state’ and ‘socialism’ were intertwined and easily came to mean the same thing.’
This, according to the next subsection, was affirmed and acknowledged in the philosophical statement of Consciencism which sees multi-party democracy as a ruse to cover up the inherent struggle between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in society. A people’s one-party system, on the other hand, is therein understood as being better able to express and satisfy the aspirations of the nation as a whole. Fo Kwami insinuates that within such a conceptual framework ‘The multi-party democratic state under the current Ghana 1992 constitution would have been dismissed as bourgeois politics of ‘multiple-party parliamentary system’ which is not suitable for Ghana.’ This is as if the current neo-colonial state and its multi-party system are not essential bourgeois institutions that only determine which section of the dominant classes should take their turn in the management of the retention of the neo-colonial system in perpetuation of neo-colonialism. This loud implicit endorsement of the neo-colonial state as a multi-party democratic state by the CPP’s UK Regional Secretary, ‘Professor’ Kwami Agbodza, is one of the conceptual as well as practical difficulties confronting Nkrumaism today.
Endorsements of this type do not question the existence of the neo-colonial system in fact as they take it as a given. This is one aspect of the principal contradiction defining the CPP. It is this particular aspect of the mass movement that Consciencism calls upon us to contain if neo-colonialism should be forestalled in the aftermath of the independence struggle against colonialism. What is multi and democratic about a system that restricts the contest for power to factions of the same dominant classes while all other classes, by the rules of the electoral game, are materially and financially excluded? And as we speak here there are pressures for the state to advance more state resources to these dominant factions of the ruling classes within the framework of a revised constitution.
How are the working people also empowered to have their own party to contest elections? The ruse that this so-called multi-party democracy represents, as Kwame Nkrumah puts it, should not be questioned by Fonye if he sincerely appreciates the reality of Nkrumah’s perception of positive and negative actions on the pages of Consciencism and elsewhere. His attack on him in that insinuating posture questions Fonye’s own depth of understanding of Nkrumah’s thought and practice. One would have appreciated our brother’s concern for multi-party democracy if all the parties are representatives of sections of the working people as the dominant class. In such a situation each of such parties will be running a non-neo-colonial State system on the basis of a shared cardinal ethical principle.
Within that system the minority bourgeois parties, if the electoral rules enable them to contest, will be effectively contained in the same manner that the current system contains the majority of our people in subordination today. Kwame Nkrumah would not object to such a multi-party system as evidenced by the fact that he tolerated the factions in the CPP. As for a multi-party system of the bourgeois forces, by the bourgeois forces and for the bourgeois forces, Allah!, he would resist as all focused Nkrumaists should. That is the reality of the class struggle.
In the next subsection of the history of socialism in Ghana, Fo Kwami explains and takes issue with the Programme of the Convention People’s Party for Work and Happiness. He explains that this Programme ‘laid the basis for such ideas and went as far as even stating that Nkrumaism was based on scientific socialism’. Christian Kwami Agbodza counters this claim of Nkrumaism being based on scientific socialism, made in a programme that Kwame Nkrumah himself sanctioned and propagated as the cornerstone for the country’s development, with the assertion that it ‘was logically impossible’ and that ‘Consciencism itself was to make (that) clear when it was later published’. Once again he disagrees with Nkrumah, per the Programme, that the basis of Nkrumaism is scientific socialism. He does not in this respect quote Consciencism to buttress his assertion here but he will come to it in the next section of his offending paper.
Meanwhile, he directs his attacks on the late K.S.P. Jantuah who was alive when his paper made the rounds. He describes Jantuah as a veteran Nkrumaist and a Minister in Nkrumah’s CPP government. He says that by as recently as September 24, 2002 notables like Jantuah still proclaimed this ‘version that Nkrumaism is based on scientific socialism’ and that they falsely state ‘that Nkrumaism is ‘but an ideology within the general concept of socialism and therefore all true Nkrumaists must recognize it as such’.’ He says that this means their rejection of Consciencism as a philosophy, an ideology and any notion of Nkrumaism as a way of life. Let us take good notice of his use of the term ‘false’ in reference to the stated view of the notables. It connotes a conscious act of wrong-doing. The charge is severe. We will be back to it.
The paper now directs us to the consequences of the conception and adoption of socialism by Nkrumah. It states that the February 24, 1966 coup d’état dismantled the ‘one-party state’, the Party and socialism. It neglects to add that those who overthrew the CPP were informally allied to the scattered opposition who became their advisors and ran the state without the participation of all who did not belong to the resurgent opposition. The formal one-party state was then replaced with an informal one. It also neglects to add that the State that was actually dismantled was not the inherited colonial state but the fledgling State that was slowly evolving at the Flagstaff House, the seat of the CPP government. The inherited colonial structure was not in any way dismantled. Only a relatively few personnel of the CPP were dismissed or chased out of it. This negligence glosses over the strategic effort that Kwame Nkrumah made to build a new State independently of the colonial inheritance that could not be relied upon for socialist development.
According to the paper, another consequence of the adoption of socialism was that what it calls the indoctrination of people in socialism was achieved as evidenced by the fact that ‘many of that generation still demonstrate (it) in their beliefs’. It holds, however, that that achievement was negative in its effect. That effect on the CPP ‘was pervasive, conceptually confusing and fundamentally destructive to the psyche of its leading intellectuals and members and their ability to rethink and separate an Nkrumaist party’s ideology, from scientific socialism, from the ideology of Nkrumaism itself, from the ideology of society where it is not a one-party state, and vice versa, and how to clearly identify itself in a multi-party electoral contest for power and office dismissed as bourgeois politics.’ My Lord Jesus Christ of Liberia! What is this fine English from a resident in England intended to mean? What mishmash! At least, let us ask how we are supposed to separate Nkrumaist party’s ideology from the ideology of Nkrumaism? Laa hila hi lalaa! What is Fonye saying for sure? Of course, the many of us with a fundamentally destroyed psyche cannot understand this. Herein comes majestically another severe insult from a cultured British-trained gentleman.
Hello!, do not stop reading as more issues await you down here. You see, so far we have been enlightened on the source of the ‘socialist ideological confusion’ at the historical level: that is, our generational indoctrination that has fundamentally destroyed our psyche to such an extent that we are now incapable of rethinking to separate one concept from another. This generational tragedy is indeed an all-generations-calamity that stands between us and winning of electoral victories within the neo-colonial system. This is what Fo Kwami says in this respect for maximum effect:
The inability of the Nkrumaist Political Family to unite, fight an election as a unified political force, win and govern Ghana again, derives its sustenance from this theoretical confusion and ideological minefield, located deep in its family psyche, of which some of the older generation are guilty, while many of the younger generation are simply lost. (Our italics)
In spite of this psyche problem Nkrumaist forces returned to power in 1979. The failure of that regime is not subjected to Consciencist analysis which would seek to unravel the contradictions in Limann’s government and the PNP, find out which of them is the principal contradiction and what forces constituted what aspects of that contradiction, locate how minor contradictions played out to the aspects of the principal contradiction etc., etc., to explain and understand what happened. The Agbodzan paper already knows the answer and readily places the blame neatly on the socialist forces with their characteristic psychic insufficiencies thus: ‘Indeed, this (the psychic problem) was responsible for the destruction of the Nkrumaist Government under the Limann Presidency as socialist ideologues amongst the old and younger Nkrumaists went out to self-destroy a constitutionally elected government in December 1981 because it was not ‘socialist’ enough, while illogically proclaiming it is impossible to achieve socialism in Ghana alone; thus asserting their own permanent demise as a political force.’ In all this and in the light of one of the titles of the paper suggesting the use of Consciencism to unlock conceptual confusion Consciencism does not appear of use to Fonye in his pretentious analytical comments.
In fact, every failure of Nkrumaist forces to make an impact is blamed on the Ideological Institute and its impact on the psyche of those forces. A 1985 symposium at the University of Ghana by Nkrumaist academicians is declared a failure predicated on the impact of the Institute on the psyche of the academicians whose analyses led to conclusions identical with the Institute’s. At the symposium were persons like K. Afari-Gyan, George Hagan, Takyiwah Manuh, Kwame Arhin, E.A. Haizel and Kofi Agyeman. Please read this comment on that symposium which was ostensibly expected to crystallize in the production of an ideological paper to be the basis for a political take-off: ‘This inability to provide an ideological basis for the take-off of an Nkrumaist Government for Ghana can be traced to the destructive effect that socialist indoctrination such as taught in the Winneba ideological Institute has had on the psychic well-being of the Nkrumaist Political Family and leading Nkrumaists drawn from that family today. The collective failure of that Nkrumaist symposium to arrest the political situation is exemplified by K. Afari-Gyan’s paper entitled ‘Nkrumah’s Ideology’ which was later published unchallenged. In line with the teachings of The Kwame Nkrumah Institute of Economics and Political Science, commonly known as the Winneba ideological Institute, he stated its doctrinal position which taught that ‘a socialist one-party system is the best framework for achieving social justice’; and that this was Nkrumaist ideology.’ One wonders how a symposium or a series of it can be expected to do what nobody does in the open.
But the Ideological Institute is not the only ‘analytical tool’ that Fonye employs to explain his diagnosis of a ‘socialist ideological confusion’. He also employs the fall of the USSR to explain the deepening of the confusion. He says that the received conception of socialism had been hoped to rejuvenate Nkrumaists but the USSR event dashed such hopes. So that the historical explanation of the current stalemate in Nkrumaist political progress that he offers us shuns the application of Consciencist notions about the complex process of motion in any phenomenon in favour of a weird selection of events, internal and external, for the purpose. And yet, this type of weird explanation is offered in the name of Consciencism. Fonye appears so disappointed by the failures in socialist history that he is prepared to attack Kwame Nkrumah’s well-considered notions by way of attacking those who faithfully represent Nkrumah’s ideas while he pretends to be representing the true notions of Nkrumah. That is the stuff that revisionism is made of.
Revisionism seeks to distort through correction. While nervously and faint-heartedly confronting a strong personality’s ideas revisionism first of all tries to avoid a direct confrontation with that personality, dead or alive. It targets disciples of the said personality and accuses them of distortion of the personality’s ideas. As a final step it projects its disagreement to those ideas as the ideas of that personality. So that through an ill-intentioned correction of the disciples it distorts those ideas. Consequently, new converts to the original ideas, when they are not yet that matured, are swayed to uphold the revisionist’s banner – a path of inconsistencies and confusion. This theft of minds was known to Friedrich Engels who had to combat so-called Marxists in defence of the ideas of Karl Marx, Marxism. In Russia and later the Soviet Union, Vladimir Ilich Lenin was constantly on the necks of the revisionists. The history of Christianity is also very rich with revisionism. In the history of socialism in Ghana, the face of revisionism is the face of Fo Kwami Agbodza. Listen to him as you observe his application of the revisionist’s technique:
… the idea, that socialism is the ideology of philosophical Consciencism, as taught in The Kwame Nkrumah Institute of Economics and Political Science in the 1960s by Kodwo Addison, Bankole Akpata and Samuel G. Ikoku amongst others was simply incorrect. Nkrumaist ideology is not socialism and never has been. Nkrumaist ideology has always been ‘Consciencism’. The ideology of philosophical consciencism has always been consciencism. The philosophy of Nkrumaism has always been philosophical Consciencism. Moreover, ‘socialism’ in Nkrumaism is a social-political theory and practice derived from materialism in the same way that capitalism is also a social-political theory and practice derived from idealism. Thus, both capitalism and socialism are understood as social-political theories of development in Nkrumaist ideology. This correction of the ideological position which is overdue is necessary to build the confidence of Nkrumaists for Government Now.
Below, we address ourselves to the issues raised in this quote as we consider the next section of Fonye’s paper on the way forward.
The final section of the Agbodzan paper is here divided into three subsections. The first is a kind of an introduction that invites the reader into a process to trace the truth of the foregoing claims in the pages of Consciencism itself so that knowledge of the truth could set them free to contest and win elections in Ghana to govern the country once more. The second subsection, which interprets some concepts in the text, comprises three further divisions. The first division addresses the concept of ‘society as a plurality of men’. The second treats ‘capitalism and socialism as social-political theories’ only. The third segment considers the ‘linkage of philosophy with social-political practice and political forces’. A summary of this subsection is then provided before the third subsection deals with a ‘Programme for an Nkrumaist Government Now’.
To proceed with the details, after that short introduction the paper plunges into the first division of the second subsection with the statement of its setting out to address ‘the notion of Ghana as a society in which there exists a plurality of men of diverse ethnicity whether Ashantis, Ewes, Dagombas etc.’ It states that it would like Consciencism to speak for itself so that rather than explain the notion of society as a plurality of men within the context that Consciencism uses the phrase it quotes a passage of the first two paragraphs of page 98, combines them into one and proceeds to comment on them. Within context, the passage explains not the ‘notion of Ghana as a society’ but how ethics transits into politics. It explains that when a plurality of men in society accept the cardinal ethical principle that each man needs to be treated as an end in himself and not merely as a means a transition from ethics to politics transpires.
The transition consists in the fact that institutions to regulate the plurality of men’s behaviour and actions in accordance with the cardinal ethical principle need to be created. That is where politics actualizes in the sense that it comes into being to provide such institutions. To guide political action, the passage says, Consciencism outlines a political theory together with a social-political practice to ensure the effective observance of the cardinal ethical principle. At page 95 in the last but one paragraph, Consciencism does not only claim this cardinal ethical principle to treat man as an end and not as a means as a principle of Consciencism but also asserts that that principle ‘is fundamental to all socialist or humanist conceptions of man’. And thus establishes the socialist credentials of Consciencism.
In its social-political practice, Consciencism, in accordance with its cardinal ethical principle, focuses on the prevention of the emergence or the solidifying of classes. This is because, as Marxist explanation has made clear, within a class structure one class exploits and subjects another class to it in violation of the cardinal ethical principle. So says the passage. It further explains that Consciencism is committed to the development of the individual which must be pursued in such a way as not to introduce such diversities as would destroy the egalitarian basis of society that the cardinal principle assures. Finally, the social-political practice of Consciencism seeks to logistically mobilize social forces along the true egalitarian lines of the cardinal ethical principle to ensure maximum development for which planning is essential.
In all this, where is the concern with ‘Ashantis, Ewes, Dagombas etc.’ and a notion of Ghana as a plurality of men? But does Fogah Kwami Agbodza address that notion at all? He offers to us no explanation of the passage quoted. And his comment on that passage is clearly a non-event as he runs amok thus:
So it is clear that in society philosophy precedes political theory and social-political theory/practice. It is also clear that political parties are an expression of politics and political organisation in society. Thus, ‘politics’ which arises from a society is conceptually separate from the structure of political institutions. These political institutions can take many forms. Thus a one-party state is only one of them. A multi-party state is also another example. Thus contrary to the indoctrination at Kwame Nkrumah Institute of Economics and Political Science, multi-party politics cannot be simply dismissed as bourgeois politics that socialists must eschew. This anti-bourgeois thinking then leads to the contradictory position in which socialist ideologues seek state power through undemocratic means such as a coup d’état that overthrows the popular will. Thus all Nkrumaists must accept multi-party democracy however informal or formalised as an essential feature of the democratic aspect of African communalism.
This is what he offers to us as a comment on a passage that enunciates on how ethics transit into politics. Reader Dear, your forbearance in sustaining your reading this far is impressive and must be maintained as we move on with his style of interpreting Consciencism.
In the second division of the second subsection in the purported interpretation of Consciencism, Fogah Kwami Agbodza seeks to explain that the text of Consciencism provides evidence that socialism and capitalism are not ideological but theoretical categories in the lexicon of Consciencism. Here, again, he resorts to his familiar trick as exposed above. To achieve his end he quotes a long passage which he does not explain in context but massages into the evidence. The first part of the quotation begins from the last paragraph of page 70 and comprises three paragraphs which end at the last line of page 71. He, again, combines all the paragraphs. But then he skips over the next five paragraphs on pages 72 and 73 before quoting the next paragraph which he connects to the previously quoted paragraphs to complete the combination process.
In chapter 3 of Consciencism, where Fogah quotes the paragraphs from, capitalism is variously described as ‘only a social-political theory’ (page 71), ‘a method’ (page 72), ‘social-political system’ (page 76) or simply as ‘a system’ (page 76). Socialism, on the other hand, is described as ‘a form of social organization’ (page 73) while at page 77 there is reference to ‘socialist philosophy’ and then at page 59 the reference is to ‘socialist ideology’. At page 105 there is this statement, ‘Under the searchlight of an ideology, every fact affecting the life of a people can be assessed and judged, and neo-colonialism’s detrimental aspirations and sleights of hand will constantly stand exposed’. Following upon it in the next paragraph is this statement that ‘In order that this ideology should be comprehensive, in order that it should light up every aspect of the life of our people, in order that it should affect the total interest of our society, establishing a continuity with our past, it must be socialist in form and content and embraced by a mass party.’
This assertion of the ideological credentials of socialism is enhanced at page 113 where the text insists that ‘It is only a socialist scheme of development that can meet the passionate objectivity of philosophical consciencism.’ With respect to the status of Consciencism, the very last paragraph of the book is decisively conclusive that ‘Philosophical consciencism is a general philosophy which admits of application to any country’ (our italics). Hence, the conclusion held by the Ideological Institute and persons like K. Afari-Gyan that, to requote Fogah, Consciencism is a ‘philosophical statement which gives the theoretical basis for an ideology’ is not an imposition on the text but the position of that text, Consciencism. And that ideology is clearly ‘socialist ideology’ as Kwame Nkrumah categorizes it.
Fogah disregards the various categorizations of socialism and capitalism with the exception of their categorization as social-political theories. But the text of Consciencism explains the central role of ideology in determining the form and content of theory and practice. In fact, at page 56 the text states that philosophy is an instrument of ideology. It says that the ‘statement, elucidation and theoretical defence’ of the ideological principle collectively forms a philosophy. As an instrument of ideology, philosophy, in its various departments of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political theory, et cetera, seeks to lay the fundamental principles that all aspects of thought in every social endeavour must exhibit in conformity to the ideological principle. Hence, we have socialist philosophy and capitalist or bourgeois philosophy as well as socialist theory and bourgeois theory. It is not the theory or philosophy that determines the form and content of ideology; it is the ideology that determines the form and content of theory or philosophy. A social theory without an ideological content is bereft of substance. Fogah violates this essential Consciencist world outlook when he inflicts on us his own version of speaking in tongues thus:
Consciencism makes it clear that, like capitalism, socialism is a social-political theory which, in the case of socialism, can be used to organise society so that all the people benefit from development rather than a section of society. The ideology of philosophical consciencism is therefore not socialism. On the contrary, it is Consciencism. And here we come to the source of the socialist confusion, for although ‘socialism’ ‘can be and is the defence of the principles of communalism in a modern setting’, there was no need to call it socialism as it could easily be confused with Marxist socialism, scientific socialism, Fabian socialism, Christian socialism and African socialism amongst other variants, as indeed is still the case even today amongst Nkrumaists. So by naming the form of social organisation advocated by Nkrumaist ideology socialism, Nkrumah and Ghana found itself at the centre of the East-West Cold war and all its disastrous consequences (our italics).
You see, it is a special version of speaking in tongues to explode in this manner and even separate ‘Marxist socialism’ from ‘scientific socialism’. Fogah’s castigation of Kwame Nkrumah for his use of ‘socialism’ to categorize the ideology that informs Consciencism is yet another sign of his uprising against Consciencism in the name of Consciencism. Revisionism, that is, at its best.
That uprising finds a more pronounced expression in the third and final division of the second subsection under consideration. Its objective is the replacement of ‘socialism’ with what is supposed to be a more appropriate nomenclature. In order to come to that, ‘Professor’ Kwami Agbodza sets out an assumption that Consciencism’s assertion that Africans see ‘matter’ and ‘spirit’ as a continuum means that both ‘materialism’ and ‘idealism’ are accommodated in African thought. According to him, what Africans find ‘unacceptable’ are ‘hard core materialism’ and ‘hard core idealism’. As a result, he tells us that philosophical consciencism, as the African world-view, is a synthesis of materialism and idealism. But since socialism and capitalism are respectively asserted as being aligned to materialism and idealism these former systems, which he understands to be theoretical systems, must be a synthesis with a new name. In his fine English this is exactly how he puts it: ‘Philosophical Consciencism is a synthesis of both materialism and idealism and its response to both socialism and capitalism as social-political theories of development must also be a synthesis of both capitalism and socialism and a new social-political terminology (our italics).’ He does not appear to suggest that this is what Consciencism does but rather what it must do. The specific demand of the uprising is now set – pure and simple.
This demand for a synthesis of capitalism and socialism with a new social-political terminology christened Economic Consciencism or Progressive Economics is a demand for an alternative to what Consciencism stands for. In its final subsection that outlines a Programme for an Nkrumaist Government Now it sees Consciencism as a document not only for a socialist one-party system but also for a non-socialist multi-party system and for a way of life. These are its exact words: ‘Consciencism is therefore more than a document for ‘a socialist one-party system’ as it used to be called; it is also ‘a way of life’ as some like Edward Mahama have said; it is also a document for a non-socialist multi-party system… (our italics)’. Fogah Kwami does not tell us exactly where in the text of Consciencism the concept of ‘a non-socialist multi-party system’ is formulated. In fact, there is nothing like that in the pages of Consciencism. He just defecates it. It is exactly that type of a multi-party system that Consciencism describes as a ruse. It is really an Economic Consciencism concept pretending to be a concept of Consciencism. It is a component of its insurrectionary demand.
That it is a demand for an alternative is particularly upheld in the statement that ‘Nkrumaist ideology is not socialism; progressive economics is the preferred social-political alternative that is in tune with the ethics of consciencism.’ Economic Consciencism, whose ‘guy’ name is Progressive Economics, clearly presents itself as the preferred social-political alternative to socialism as Nkrumaist ideology. The reference to ‘the ethics of consciencism’ might appear to suggest a disposition to replace the ethics of neo-colonialism with it. But the Programme, in its rejection of socialism, makes no attempt at replacing the neo-colonial system within which an opposing ethic defines every mode of social behaviour and conduct including the rules of electoral qualification and conduct. The self-appointed Professor of Consciencism, Christian Kwami Agbodza, is more comfortable with the neo-colonial power structure within which he thinks the ethic of treating man as an end but not as a means can be better expressed than with a socialist power structure wherein that ethic defines behaviour and conduct. Like the wife who joins every gossip against the husband but is comfortable in his arms our potential Sir Christian speaks badly of neo-colonialism while he objectively embraces it.
Our final word is a comment on Fonye’s attitude towards religion. In our interaction with him in cyberspace (see the first part of this chapter) he was loathe to dealing with the Euro-Christian, Islamic and African traditional inheritance as a religious phenomenon. We conceded that the issue was not one of religion but one of culture. We explained that the religious focus was occasioned by the accusation that Kwame Nkrumah was an atheist. But we observe that in his consideration of the position that Consciencism takes on uniting that inheritance the ‘Professor’ wears a religious spectacle. He claims that normally he does not read religious stuff but the article in the Daily Graphic under our byline prompted him. He writes there that ‘I only occasionally read religious articles on the web. Normally I do not. Ordinarily, for all kinds of reasons, I would not have read an article on Kwame Nkrumah saving Ghana from religious confusion. Frankly, the topic does not interest me’. And yet his Economic Consciencism enjoins that
Nkrumaists today must embrace consciencism as their distinctive ideology which brings together Moslems, Christians, Traditional worshippers and atheists together for the development of the nation in which Ghanaians will be free to worship in the Mosque on Friday, pour libation at the Shrine on Saturday and worship in Church on Sundays as new Africans expressing the African Personality.
This is what the religions have already been doing these past centuries till today. What is new here? Consciencism has no conservative attitude towards religion. It sees it as a phenomenon ‘that must be understood before it can be tackled.’ It is opposed to a declaration of war on religion which it regards as a social fact. It holds that to declare such a war on it is to treat it as an ideal phenomenon, a supposition that it might be wished away or scared out of existence. See page 13 of Consciencism. The negative purposes that religion has been put to require its demystification in social praxis. The conditions of poverty that breed it must be eliminated. This is why the text makes it clear that the State must be secular. To forestall any notion that by such an attitude Consciencism is atheistic a definitive statement is made at page 84 that ‘Philosophical consciencism, even though deeply rooted in materialism, is not necessarily atheistic.’ The quote above from Economic Consciencism views religion as part of the definition of the African Personality. Consciencism makes no such claim.
In his life Kwame Nkrumah was a spiritual person with a belief in God. It is the add-ons to spirituality for its expansion into religion that he considers as a mystification of spirituality for religious exploitative purposes. His call for religion to be tackled is a call to remove the add-ons and thus demystify it back to spirituality. His assertion of being a non-denominational Christian is a rejection of Christian religiosity in favour of Christian spirituality. Tourist guides at the Kintampo Water Falls in Ghana point to a dilapidated structure that, in its days, served as a retreat where he conducted himself in meditation.
All close associates of his attest to this fact.
This is a manual. It is not a replacement for the book, Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for De-colonisation. It is meant to aid the reading and understanding of that book. It makes no pretense at covering every issue that the book raises. It covers those issues that do not lend themselves to ready and easy comprehension to persons without the benefit of formal training in Philosophy. It ignores those issues that the author, Kwame Nkrumah, explains in accessible language without making it difficult for the reader to understand the ones it deals with. Most of the ignored issues are, in fact, illustrative examples to clarify or simplify explained positions. Chapter Five of the book is one such casualty. Those examples are not superfluous and must be read to deepen one’s grasp of the presented arguments. That is why we urge the reader to read the original text in its entirety as this manual is not and cannot be a replacement for it. The benefits from reading the original text are exceedingly huge.
Originally requested as a review by the Socialist Forum of Ghana (SFG) in connection with the golden jubilee anniversary of Ghana’s independence celebrations in 2007 and later by the journal, Kilombo, this manual has had to assume its present form upon the suggestion of Explo Nani-Kofi and Eki Gbinigie. The latter urged a more comprehensive handout to help explain the difficult philosophical turns of speech that rendered reading and comprehension difficult. Her concern turned out to be a popular one as we later found that many persons of all generations have had similar difficulty in handling the text of the book, Consciencism. The motivation then was to reduce the language level in the book to the level of accessibility of the non-expert. Once the execution of this task begun, the need for interpretation of the text made itself felt. For, the presentation style of the book is not what could be said to be straightforward. It is lorgorligi – i.e. it has breaks and turns.
The interpretative style involved an economy in its dealing with essences in the main. This is why we should repeat that this manual is meant to encourage the reading of the original text but not to replace it. If the reader has therefore read the manual without the book we encourage them to do a second reading alongside the book itself. It is only when the book is read in its entirety that the mission of this manual would have been seen and felt to have been accomplished.