Political parties are established to pursue a particular agenda. Historically and contemporaneously political parties have elected to align themselves to certain causes that resonate with various sections of the electorate. These sections of the electorate become the defined base or core membership of the party.
In the main political parties the world over have tended to represent the two domineering traditions in politics-the capitalist oriented and the socialist oriented.
In most cases the socialist inclined parties have gravitated towards causes represented by liberals while the capitalist openly wear the conservative title on their sleeves.
The socialist hate the class system while the capitalist embrace it because they believe the class system would eventually lead to the demise of poverty and not perpetuate it.
Scratch a socialist you would find a person with a strong affinity to the causes of the poor, the underprivileged and the lower class in society. The socialist's view of bridging the chasm between the rich and the poor is to introduce handout packages like welfare, unemployment etc which are very popular safety nets in western democracies especially in the USA and the UK. On the other stroke a capitalist has special bonding with business minded people. In other words they are very comfortable with the upper crust of society- thus they are branded elitists by their opponents.
Capitalist believe strongly that government handouts never resolve the problems of the poor and the under-privileged in society. They believe it rather keeps them enslaved and bound to a life of poverty.
ORIGINS OF THE SOCIAL JUSTICE AGENDA
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah's socialist agenda circa 1940's through the fifties to the mid-sixties saw him reaching out to pressure groups and Workers unions as well as other mass political movements in a bid to prosecute his agenda with success. Dr. Nkrumah's previous experience in the field of teaching gave him the heads up in terms of how to relate well with these organizations and the causes they represented.
By aligning himself to the causes of these organizations who formed the nucleus of the poorly paid working class, Dr. Nkrumah made their causes his and that of his party, the Convention People's Party (CPP) and the rest of the story are well documented facts about the origins of the social justice agenda. It is no secret that Ghana's largest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) has both its political and economic antecedents in the socialist agenda of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
While this fact remains true – much to the consternation of Dr. Nkrumah's Convention People's Party (CPP)-the NDC's open flirtation with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the PNDC which preceded it have raised a lot of concern among people of the socialist hue and persuasion. People even question the relationship between Kwesi Pratt and NDC being that Pratt's Socialist Forum has been a very vocal opponent of the philosophy and inner workings of the Breton Woods institutions, the same organization the NDC had a very long and cordial working relationship with in the past.
THE PNDC'S SOCIALIST BEGINNINGS
Leaders of Ghana's last (I pray so) military coup spent the first three years building the structures of some form of a socialist government. Thus we saw the mushrooming of pseudo-military organizations like the militia, committee for the defence of the revolution (CDR), CDO's etc all over the country. Choice phrases and words used in mainly communist nations because fad phrases and words in Ghana during the 80's.
Even the largest state newspaper, the Daily Graphic had to be renamed the People's Daily Graphic. Its pages were devoted entirely to news packaged for the consumption and- if you like- the indoctrination of the people by the Politburo. People of wealth were accused of committing crimes against the people and such crimes were labeled acts intended to sabotage the economy. These people are railroaded to prison after they had been convicted by the People's courts or tribunals manned by people with either highly doubtful legal credentials or judges sympathetic to the ideals of the coupists.
That was how far the government of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), a contemporary antecedent of the NDC went in their attempt to introduce an extreme form of socialism in Ghana.
Things changed after the 1983 famine, however.
The PNDC started a dialogue with the IMF and World Bank and the rest as they say is history. For a country that was deemed ready to take off after satisfactorily implementing the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) and Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), Ghana's economy never really got off the ground.
In the next part of this article i would assess both the social justice agenda of the NDC and the property owning democracy agenda of the NPP in the light of historical and contemporary examples to arrive at which two of the parties might end up on the wrong side of history.
Read the second part in the next issue.
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It is without doubt that the Nkrumahist Tradition, which have tended to be socialist inclined and the capitalist inclined Danquah-Busia Tradition remain the two most dominant political traditions in Ghana. Over the years Ghanaians have voted between these two traditions and the voting pattern over this period have lent themselves to the thinking among political connoisseurs that a change is not likely.
While the former struggles to carve out a new identity that would reel in converts into its fold the latter seems to be enjoying some halcyon moments in its political history. What is obvious that The Nkrumahist tradition have since moved from