EDITORIAL: Does the Left Exist in Ghanaian Politics?
"The fractured socialist group, (that is those who ideologically lean to the left in Ghanaian politics) will find it difficult to regain political power from the right unless a major re-engineering occurs to put them back on track."
This, according to Hon. John Mahama, Member of Parliament for Bole-Bamboi, and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) director of communications, is the lesson the left must draw from the results of Election 2004, after dominating the political scene in pre and post independence Ghana.
The question The Chronicle would like to ask is this: Does the NDC consider itself a legitimate successor to the socialist tradition of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah simply because it now claims to be social democratic in its political philosophy?
We pose this question because of the antecedents of the NDC and the publicly stated views of its founder who has declared his disdain for Nkrumaism even though he has admiration for the man and his achievements.
The Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) which overthrew the Nkrumaist tradition, the People's National Party (PNP) led by the late Dr. Hilla Limann in the December 31 '81 coup d'etat was a curious amalgam of both Danquah-Busiasts and Nkrumaists. It was a blend held together by the charisma of Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, but it had leftist and rightist ingredients, including our current President, J. A. Kufuor.
However, as one political pundit pointed out, though the PNDC espoused "revolution" and Chairman Rawlings hobnobbed with the likes of Fidel Castro and Col Muammar Gaddafi, it basically followed the capitalist economics propounded by the Bretton Woods institutions, like the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP); Enhanced Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP); Programme of Action to Mitigate Social Cost of Adjustment (PAMSCAD) and all that followed after.
Some people at the time remarked, rather sarcastically, that Ghana espoused a vague socialism but practiced rabid "Reaganomics." We know, for a fact, that the decision to seek World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) assistance led to a schism within the PNDC, which led to the demise of the ultra-leftists like Chris Atim, Nubuor and others.
Many people, at the time, wondered why known leftists like Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, Tsatsu Tsikata and Capt. (rtd) Kojo Tsikata found themselves comfortable perches in such a politically ambiguous ambience.
Thus the National Democratic Congress (NDC) which emerged out of the PNDC was not really seen as a leftist organisation. Rather, it was perceived as a new emergent third force in Ghanaian politics based on the personality of its leader, JJ Rawlings. In any case, Rawlings himself was ideologically bankrupt and when the Fourth Republic was ushered in, the successors to the Nkrumaist African Socialism tradition fragmented into splinter parties too weak to stand up to the NDC and the solidly rooted, rightist Danquah-Busia New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Perhaps, the diminishing fortunes of the NDC in the two elections following the Constitutional two-term limit of Rawlings has now prodded the party to realise its folly in being instrumental in the weakening of the Nkrumaist leftist tradition, which may in the long term be the possible route which Ghana can take in order to break the shackles of dependency on the Bretton Woods instructions as well as on donor support from so-called developmental partners.
Thus the strident protestations of the NDC over the NPP's credo of encouraging a "property-owning" liberal democracy may just be an admission that it had failed to establish a strong political philosophy to back its own direction towards a prosperous future for Ghana.
Thus even when it announced its new social democratic philosophy when it out-doored its 2004 manifesto, many Ghanaians saw it as a rather desperate attempt made late in the day in order to sway the discerning electorate to vote for the party.
The fact is that the NDC remains a party built solely on the charismatic personality of its founder and may find itself in a bind should he leave the political stage, either by natural exigencies or by his own choice.
As for the Ghanaian left, one sometimes wonders if it does exist at all.