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“Well you know, black people deserve what they get. They sold themselves into slavery!” How many times have you heard this reactionary claim that the reason Africans were enslaved is because of an inherent pathology hell-bent on genocide. I mean it’s that classic “blame the victim” mantra, a favorite reactionary past time I might add, that provides the ideological foundation to explain why white people are so civilized and Africans the opposite. Educated in the same schools that laud slave masters as heroes of Western civilizations (by default, all civilizations), we are unequipped to provide an objective rebuttal against these blatantly racist axioms disguising itself as world history.
Enter Kwame Nkrumah’s Class Struggle In Africa, which takes an iconoclastic look into these racist chauvinist attitudes, by debunking them with objective realities. What readers will be astonished to discern when reading this book is that all black people do not think alike. Now you might think I’m making a crude, and even mentally retarded statement, but I assure you it is not. Sometimes the obvious needs to be stated when you are trying to debunk perfidious statements masquerading around as scientific truth. Nkrumah’s objective thesis is, as with other cultures, Africa in the past, present, and in the future, is rife with class antagonisms. These class antagonisms are exacerbated by Western nations (Europe and America), for the sole purpose of the usurpation of Africa’s plentiful resources. The book accurately points out how a handful of Africans, sellout the majority of Africans to Western imperial powers for short-term material rewards. This is the basis from which us as Africans should objectively explain the success of the African slave trade perpetrated by the West. It wasn’t that Africans sold themselves into slavery, on the contrary, Nkrumah exposes a class of Africans who are a minority faction known as the African petty bourgeoisie, whose sole purpose is to live in service of their imperial Western masters. This makes it possible for the majority of Africans to suffer endlessly, while ostensibly giving the appearance of African progress by means of representation in a neocolonial government.
Class Struggle In Africa, demystifies the notion of the “backward” African, and the patriarchal “benevolent” Western (white) world; the brain is allowed to disabuse itself of Western altruism and see it as it is, a wholesale supplier of corruption, grief, and terror; ready to overthrow any African nation, or put down violently a revolutionary people’s movement, that rejects their goods of mayhem. The West is a unifier of opposites for its profit driven exploitative benefit; denouncing and rewarding individual African petty bourgeois leadership, all at the same time. Look at Mobutu, he was their boy when Lumumba needed to be assassinated, but when his atrocities against his people surfaced, the West feigned ignorance, and blamed the innate proclivities towards atavism in the African psyche, chalking it up to African ineptitude when it comes to leadership.
One of the things I really enjoyed about Class Struggle In Africa, was that Nkrumah elucidated an esoteric objective analysis of Africa in a clear and concise manner, with extreme brevity (it’s only 88 pages!) I’m going to be honest with you, and this statement may be blasphemous in the eyes of some “comrades”, but Marx and Engels can get boring and quite byzantine; not because of the subject matter, but merely because of the Western vernacular of the time it was written in, and the wholesale relegating of other civilizations outside of Europe to that of a mere object for their ascension(hey most Marxists will tell you colonialism was bad, “but you gotta admit that it brought progress to an otherwise backwards people”, Nothing chauvinistic about that huh?!). One doesn’t have to be imbued with Marxist rhetoric to understand what the African petty bourgeoisie represents; Nkrumah defines and explains the concept clearly. I really enjoyed how the African was the true subject of his analysis, not merely some wretched being, referred to as a foot note of history (Western history and development). In his analysis of what is called “opportunity” for colonized people, he unmasks it for what it is; “opportunity” is to ascend in a highly stratified society, a society whose levels of stratification are defined by the colonizer.
Nkrumah defines this Judas minority class, the African petty bourgeoisie, as truly being nothing more than marionettes, existing to have their strings pulled by the West, their bourgeoisie status not merely being defined for the material possessions they acquire in selling out, but also how much they ape their colonizers culturally.
There are no blind spots in Nkrumah’s work on the origins of class in Africa. It covers all the bases; from its pre-colonial period, to the colonial period, and finally within the context of Socialist revolution in Africa. In Nkrumah’s final estimation, it is the Socialist revolution that would free Africa of its class antagonisms and from imperial domination. It is important to note that while the book focuses on class antagonisms within Africa, one should eradicate their concrete thinking when reading this text; for abstract conceptualization of the text will help one realize that despite idiosyncrasies within the geopolitical boundaries which were formed by settler colonial projects such as the Americas, what Nkrumah breaks down in this book applies to African people wherever they find themselves in the world! This is why Nkrumah astutely deduces that Africa the continent could not, and still cannot, be liberated unless Africans everywhere are free. He knew that African liberation is not an isolated process confined to boundaries that were determined at the Berlin Conference, but must be initiated and consolidated wherever the African nation find themselves in this world. Class Struggle In Africa’s analysis, is most definitely an invaluable tool that can be used to unify the African world against any and all hegemonic forces, even within our own nation.