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07.06.2016 Feature Article

How Do You Bend The Current System Towards Social Justice?

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Delivered to United Cadres Front (UCF) on the occasion of 4th June 2016 (37 Celebration of June 4th) at Catholic Social Centre, Bolgatanga

What is the Present System?
My understanding of the present system.
The present system I understand to mean the political, economic, cultural and social system that governs Ghana. I will be focusing my attention on the political and economic system. These two in turn create the whole fabric of society.

Explanation of competing political systems
The Industrial Revolution, Industry over Agriculture brought about the liberal economic system, especially in the Britain. The problems of capitalism led to the development of Keynesian economic consensus that led to the involvement of the state in the management of the economy. The contradictions within Keynesian led to neoliberalism, or Thatcherism/Reaganomics laissez faire economic management of the state, where it was assumed that the free market is the best regulator and the state has no business dealing with the economy and that it will improve productivity and lead to prosperity for all.

The failure of free market enterprise system has not brought about any meaningful changes in the economies of the major capitalist countries. Ghana was colonized and absolved into this world economic system and therefore cannot be independent from what happens around the world. Trade policies led by the dominant capitalist countries and supervised by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have direct effect on what happens in Ghana.

In present day Ghana, we operate a system that can be characterized as a neo-colonial system. Simply put, it means a system where the commanding heights of the economy or major means of production are not controlled by Ghana or the state. It does not mean that there are no capitalists or millionaires in Ghana. They certainly are, but they cannot be compared to what we have in the advanced capitalist countries. The capitalists that we have in Ghana are not capable of organizing massive capital to transform society.

They are mostly appendages of Western capitalist’s interests. They act as their representatives and by representing the interest of Western capital represent their own interest. They are mostly found in the distributive sector i.e. wholesaling and retailing of goods and selling. See what we have in the consumer market i.e. retail shops, cement outlets, etc. They do not control major factories. For example here, no capitalists in Ghana have come forward to take over and renovate the Tomato and Meat Factories.

The present day Ghana was colonized and designed for the interest of the British colonial empire. It took Kwame Nkrumah and the CPP to fight for our political independence. Beginning from 1951 self-rule to independence for Ghana in March 1957and up to the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah in 1966, the CPP undertook gigantic steps to bring about self-reliance. Many industries were set up and including the design of townships like Tema. In the Upper East Region we had the Tomato and Meat Factory. Import substitution factories were built.

It was these policies of real independence, removing Ghana from the appendages of capitalism that led to the overthrow of Nkrumah. Ghana was not colonized because the British loved us, or they were bringing civilizing mission to us. We were colonized because of our natural and human resources. By Nkrumah trying to disentangled us from colonial economic domination he was seen as playing a dangerous game. Internal economic forces were also not interested in genuine independent Ghana. That is why internal reaction forces led by Brigadier Akwasi Amankwaa Afrifa and Lt General Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka ganged with foreign interest and overthrew Kwame Nkrumah.

Since then various regimes have been in competition to see which of them deliver to imperialism: the interest of capitalism. Since 1966, Ghana has not been ruled in the interest of its people but in the interest of foreign business interest. General Kutu Acheampong of the National Redemption Council (NRC) made modest attempts to improve the economic conditions of Ghanaians. But just as any regime, it soon degenerated to pro-imperialist government and with rampant corruption that hastened its demise.

Let us now look at whether the current system can be bent towards social justice?

Strictly speaking and if it possible I will prefer a system that one can be bent in order to bring about social justice. But as the situation and experience stands out this has not been possible. Why has this not been possible? To answer this question let us look at our past.

After the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah, various attempts were made to continue with what Nkrumah stood for. This led us to the situation that we had to fight against Kutu Acheampong Union Government concept that resulted into a palace coup that brought General Fred Akuffo to power. The Akuffo regime scrapped the Union Government concept. The tension within the body politics and the heightened political consciousness led to the 4th June 1979 other ranks uprising.

Rawlings own bid on 15th May 1979 to overthrow the government failed but the opportunities afforded him through an open trial directly galvanized and led to the June 4th 1979 uprising. At the time of the uprising by the other ranks power was lying on the streets. However, it was possible for the military to prosecute and take over power because they had the guns. It was the mass discontent that favoured Rawlings at the head of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). The brief intervention by the AFRC tried to ameliorate some grievances of the people. However, the AFRC handed power to the Peoples’ National Party (PNP) in 1979 after what was termed the house-cleaning exercise.

However, the PNP underestimated the grievances that brought about the June Fourth uprising and also with intense internal wrangling and sabotage within the PNP may it possible for easy overthrow by Jerry Rawlings on 31st December 1981. Unlike June 4th 1979 uprising, Rawlings was the main architect and pillar of the coup of 31st December 1981. He recruited the other ranks and engendered civilian support for the coup, and that probably explains why he was able to stay in power for over 20 years. The mass support for the coup and the repression that followed it also enabled Rawlings to survive in power for so long.

31st December 1981
The 31st December 1981 coup was classified as a “Revolution”. The coup occurred at the time that though there were massive discontents with the policies of the PNP, there was not much appetite for a coup. As a result Rawlings had to couch the coup in terms that sounded like social revolution. Despite the many differences that many of us and the reservations that we had with Rawlings through his membership and hijacking of the June Fourth Movement (JFM), all of us in the JFM and other progressive forces and movements in the Ghana rallied to the support of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC). After all, it had within it fold progressive elements and either rightly or wrongly most of the progressive forces thought that this was an opportunity for progressive forces to make a change and some really and genuinely believed that this was a coup with a difference.

That is why the progressive forces worked very hard and ensured that Peoples’ Defence Committees (PDCs) and Workers Defence Committees (WDCs) were set up in the work places to defend what was conceived as the defence of the revolution. There were definite hesitations by workers when we were setting up the committees. Some of them stated that they had seen revolutions come and go and they were afraid that if they set up the committees, sooner or later, there happens to be a change in agenda and they could be victimized. How perceptive they were. However, we managed to convince them that this was a coup with a difference.

That is why the defence committees blossomed and became parallel structures to government.

The Struggles for People Power
Time will not allow me to go into details today on the various struggles to bend the coup into a real revolution that could bring about change in the body politics. Suffice me to mention that the progressive forces suffered setbacks. The Rawlings faction was determined to continue to implement pro-imperialist policies: Go to the IMF, accept the IMF conditionalities and continue business as usual. And this was championed by Dr. Kwesi Botchway, the Finance Secretary, and a person whom the progressive forces have put into power, and thought he would represent the interest of the people.

Due to internal wrangling and struggles within the PNDC and attempts by reactionary forces attempted coups, the genuine progressive forces in the June Fourth Movement (JFM) were chased out, some were arrested and incarcerated and the officers and other ranks supporting their perspective were equally liquidated.

Implementation of IMF policies
After Rawlings and his group had successfully driven out the progressive forces, the IMF and World Bank policies were implemented. A large section of the progressives forces represented in the Universities, for example the Tsikatas, etc. were incorporated to successfully carry through this right-wing agenda.

It was during the 20 years period of Rawlings rule, that Ghana was firmly consolidated back to the International Capitalist fold. Massive redundancies were undertaken. Health became a privileged. Couple with this there was internal repression and many people were incarcerated or lost their lives. It was under Rawlings watch who is crying wolf today that corruption and nepotism was at the highest order. The NDC people made the most money through corrupt means under his Presidency. What is simply happening today in Ghana is a carry-over from what he supervised when he was in power.

So can we bend the present system to for social justice in Ghana?

You will probably be wondering what is this Uncle Yen talking about. We have a government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) that professes to be a social-democracy. And all the major players including the President himself at public forum attest to social democracy. However we have to look at the realm of the real implementation of economy policies to judge whether the system can be bent to social justice. I will say with a heavy heart the answer is NO. After the 8 years of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), where we saw the wanton sharing of state properties and entrenching of capitalism one to some extend shared a moment of relish when the NDC came back. And more particularly when President Dramani Mahama assumed the leadership of the country. And, the Vice President, Kwesi Amissah-Arthur was associated also with one of the progressive movements in the University of Ghana, Legon.

But let look at the body politics. To my knowledge the mobilization of the people in the various parties does not mean that the people are independent actors. Money is at the root of politics in Ghana.

Let concretely look the economy today. In a country like Ghana, where there are no big time manufacturers with their own source of income, it is incumbent on the state to use the state to mobilise resources to develop the country and create employment. But today that is not what we are seeing. What we are seeing is simply this:

The state has become a gigantic playing ground where various political parties especially the two dominant ones, the NDC and the NPP are struggling to take control of. If you take over the state there are areas of resources that one and supporters can use for their own benefit and that is why there is this do and die in our body politics. Real issues of democracy, what do we do, what can we do about the massive corruption, the high levels of unemployment, the desperation in our society is not attended to. Instead what we have is that various actors in the state have taken advantage of the situation, where the resources that are there are milked for personal interest. The National Service and National Health Insurance sagas are just some of the few instances to mention. We should not also forget about how state organisations/corporations have become instruments of graft and avarice among the educated elites that control them. They have become private enriching entities for state officials. The looting goes on abated. Incomes levels are extremely high between the highest and the lowest paid. Whereas some in the state sector for example government quangos’ can earn up to 30,000 Ghana Cedis, others like security personnel take home less than 200 cedis a month.

The quality of our health service is something that one cannot talk about. I have had the unfortunate experience of sending a relative, who have served Ghana to the hospital and we had to pay for almost everything. Yet we are daily told about how the state has extended health services. When fees for nursing and training colleges are put up we are told it is for our own good and that it has increased access to these institutions to ordinary people. These people must be living in cuckoo land. The daily struggles of people to pay these fees also fuel the corruption and greed in our society.

Our educational system has been run down. Even in Bolga here those who can afford it send their children to private schools.

In the entire fabric of the Ghanaian society it seems there is no hope. It is almost and nearly impossible to bend the present system to benefit ordinary people. Those who control power at the top will not allow it.

What do we do?
We should never give hope. Neither should we all say let us all join them. We must have group or groups of people who must constantly struggle for change. Things cannot always remain as they are.

We need a political movement with clearly defined goals on how to move with the people for social justice. We need to harness both our natural and human resources for the good of all. Our education, health and housing must be affordable and free and paid from our taxes. We must provide opportunities for the ordinary school boy or girl to realise his or her potential.

The struggle must be for socialism. Socialism if properly carried through with our commitment by our peoples, a strong and determined leadership will ensure that the full potential of our people will be realized. It will mobilise our resources, both human and natural for the betterment of our people. It is not easy to fight for socialism. It will require real grassroots organisation that must fight to protect its interest. There will be many obstacles including foreign one, but it is a better alternative than the present system. People do not have to go hungry.

Nyeya Yen
Nyeya Yen, © 2016

The author has 10 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: NyeyaYen

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