After leading Ghana to independence, Kwame Nkrumah served as the country’s first Prime Minister from 1952-1966. As one of the most influential Pan-Africanists of the twentieth century, Nkrumah was a member of the Organization of African Unity and spent his political career working tirelessly toward a united Africa.
He took a Marxist approach to economics, arguing that the devastating effects of western capitalism bore the brunt of responsibility for the African economic crisis. The following is an excerpt from a speech Nkrumah delivered at The African Seminar in Cairo in 1967.
When one society meets another, the observed historical trend is that acculturation results in a balance of forward movement, a movement in which each society assimilates certain useful attributes of the other. Social evolution is a dialectical process; it has ups and downs, but, on balance, it always represents an upward trend.
Islamic civilisation and European colonialism are both historical experiences of the traditional African society, profound experiences that have permanently changed the complexion of the traditional African society. They have introduced new values and a social, cultural, and economic organisation into African life. Modern African societies are not traditional, even if backward, and they are clearly in a state of socio-economic disequilibrium. They are in this state because they are not anchored to a steadying ideology.
The way out is certainly not to regurgitate all Islamic or Euro-colonial influences in a futile attempt to recreate a past that cannot be resurrected. The way out is only forward, forward to a higher and reconciled form of society, in which the quintessence of the human purposes of traditional African society reasserts itself in a modern context-forward, in short, to socialism, through policies that are scientifically devised and correctly applied. The inevitability of a forward way out is felt by all.
Socialism is not spontaneous. It does not arise of itself. It has abiding principles according to which the major means of production and distribution ought to be socialised if exploitation of the many by the few is to be prevented; if, that is to say, egalitarianism in the economy is to be protected. Socialist countries in Africa may differ in this or that detail of their policies, but such differences themselves ought not to be arbitrary or subject to vagaries of taste. They must be scientifically explained, as necessities arising from differences in the particular circumstances of the countries themselves.
There is only one way of achieving socialism; by the devising of policies aimed at the general socialist goals, each of which takes its particular form from the specific circumstances of a particular state at a definite historical period. Socialism depends on dialectical and historical materialism, upon the view that there is only one nature, subject in all its manifestations to natural laws and that human society is, in this sense, part of nature and subject to its own laws of development.
It is the elimination of fancifulness from socialist action that makes socialism scientific. To suppose that there are tribal, national, or racial socialisms is to abandon objectivity in favour of chauvinism.