Emmanuel Hansen

Flight Lieutenant John Jerry Rawlings’ second coming to political power in Ghana held some revolutionary promise for the upliftment of the sagging spirit and psyche of the Ghanaian nation. This promise of hope and redemption found favour with such committed Leftists as Emmanuel Hansen who, unfortunately, did not stay long with the PNDC administration which fell short of his expectations, hopes, views and vision of a radical Ghanaian society.
So, in this book, a posthumous publication, Emmanuel Hansen dispassionately analyses the early years of Rawlings’ administration. Though he did not live to complete this work, his detailed, succinct and critical evaluation of the operational functionality of the new structures of administration are highly illuminating, a searchlight which will definitely delight all those who had yearned for an insight into the ‘mystery’ of Rawlings, at least in the early years of his administration.
* Military and African Revolution
* The Leftist Junta and the Ghanaian Revolution
* Dynamics of the Transformation Process, January – December 1982.
* Dynamics of the Transformation Process: Class and Popular Struggle
* PNDC I: The Struggle for Economic Strategy
* Economics of Adjustment and Adjustment of Politics


This book was very dear to Emmanuel’s heart, and it was only months away from completion at the time of his sudden and untimely death in November 1987. I was therefore anxious that it should be completed and published as soon as possible.

Originally, we planned to have it completely revised before publication, but this would have taken a long time, and so, with the help and support of Professor Adele Jinadu and the Executive of the African Association of Political Science, the book is now published, substantially as it was at the time of Emmanuel’s death. I hope that, in spite of the fact that it is incomplete, it will succeed in presenting his account and interpretation of events during the early years of Rawlings’ regime.

I would like to extend thanks to the following: first to Robert Molteno of Zed Books, who first persuaded Emmanuel to write about his experience in government from 1982 to 1983; then to Tony Berrett who, although of a different political persuasion from Emmanuel’s, was a friend and colleague with whom he had many useful discussions about his work; to Eboe Hutchful for agreeing to revise the manuscript, even though this was not possible eventually, and finally to Adele Jinadu for getting the book published. I would also like to add my own note of appreciation to all our other friends in Ghana, Britain and elsewhere who have helped to support me during my bereavement.

Elaine Hansen

[widow of Dr Emmanuel Hansen]

June 1989



Eboe Hutchful, October 1989.

The analysis of militarism was one of the major theoretical interests of Emmanuel Hansen until his sudden death in Tanzania in November 1987 [1]. This was the interest derived not only from his situation as a political scientist but also as apolitical activist in Ghana struggling against the military regimes of 1966 to 1969 and 1972 to 1979, and then a senior member of the Government of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) from 1982 until his resignation a year later. Both Hansen’s analytical perspectives and his political sympathies underwent significant changes during this period, particularly with regard to the crucial question as to whether the military could play a revolutionary, political and social role.

Up to 1979 his answer was firmly negative. He dismissed the first two military regimes of the National Liberation Council (1966 – 69) and the National Redemption Council – Supreme Military Council (1972 -79) as products of the ‘crisis of accumulation’ in Ghana’s political economy and of the efforts to create a new political economy and new political coalitions of local petty bourgeois fractions and international capital with military playing hegemonic role. Although in his view the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council – AFRC (June – October 1979) broke with this pattern, Hansen concluded that the regime (ie. The AFRC), in spite of its radical (and violent) populism, possessed limited revolutionary possibilities. This pessimism was confirmed by the discourses of the regime itself and the restoration of power, after only the view for national degeneration.

The coup of December 31, 1981, again executed by Rawlings, changed his mind. This coup, he argued, was different from all previous ones in that it was a ‘coup with a revolutionary import’. Revolution has been placed ‘on the agenda’. Hansen joined the new government as Secretary to the PNDC in October 1982. His abrupt resignation in 1983 and his disillusionment with the internal and public politics of the regime prompted yet another reappraisal of the military and its politics.

Hansen’s progression – from rejection to affirmation and a return to pessimism and doubt – reflected to a large extent the dilemmas of the Ghanaian Left, as well as the problems that the scholars on the whole have had a defining the political he political character and potential of military regimes in Africa. For the left in Africa the key challenge has been how to grasp to explain the political character of the ‘revolutionary’ military regimes, both in the realm of theory and as a matter of political practice. Both the left debates and (more importantly) the serious political errors made by the left movements in relation to such regimes in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Congo, and, of course, Ghana and elsewhere, suggest considerable difficulty by the African left in grasping the political character of such regimes, [2] in particular the degree to, and means by, which they can be exploited to advance the objectives of socialism and democracy. It is from the point of view that Hansen’s writings as well as his political experiences have such interest and value.

In what follows we shall attempt a brief introduction to Hansen’s theoretical perspectives on African militarism and the problems of interpretation they raised. Since the strength and the pitfalls of this methodology and his analysis were broadly representative of those of Ghanaian left as a whole, critical assessment may help to advance our collective understanding of the issues. It also provides an essential background to the notes published here since, unfortunately, Hansen did not have the opportunity to develop an appropriate theoretical framework before his untimely death.

The Critique of Political Science

Like most of the Left, Hansen was dissatisfied with prevailing political scientific frameworks for analyzing the military. In his view these frameworks had emphasized four areas of investigation. First, the causes and conditions for military interventions; secondly, the nature of the military – civil relations; thirdly, military performance while in office; and finally, the dynamics of military disengagement, stressing either institutional/organizational dynamics or broad social conditions, neither of which, in separation, provided adequate understanding of military political action.

To overcome this manicheanism, Hansen proposed a form of class analysis which would ‘view personnel in the military as a fractional part of class forces in society’ and ‘examine their actions in a related social and political context [Hansen 1982 p. 8]. To understand military political action it was necessary, in his view, to capture the ‘essence of this conjuncture’ of military and social structure, and situate it in the ‘definite historical and material conditions’ of a particular country under study.

Hansen did not deny that there were specific corporate interests which the military may from time to time be called upon to defend, clearly however, military political action goes well beyond such purely corporate interests. But Hansen criticizes the inability or willingness of political scientists and other scholars to ‘probe the interacting relationship of class and social forces in the military and in civil society’ which was in his view responsible for the major weaknesses in the literature.

Hansen also rejected global or unicausal modes of analysis, stressing simultaneously the generalization of militarism in Africa and the conjectural variation (to employ Murray’s term) between coups and military regimes and the contexts in which they occur. Experiences had demonstrated, he argued, that ‘no African country, big or small, rich or poor, English-speaking or French-speaking, politically to the left or politically to the right, whether it gained its independence through agitation for constitutional reforms or through armed struggle, is free from military coup’. This meant that there could be no general theory – ‘a single explanatory model or variable’ – of the military coup in Africa. Rather, each situation has to be studied within its own specificity, situating the phenomenon, within its own historical and material conditions’ [Hansen 1982, p. 7]. This was not however to say that each coup was unique or that coups did not share certain general elements.

The Class Character of the Military

How does Hansen establish the class nature of the military? In his studies of the Ghanaian military, he fixes the class character of the military in two formulations. The first is when he refers to Senior Military Officers as the ‘petty bourgeoisie of the military’ [1982, p. 16]. This military fraction of the petty bourgeoisie is then seen to be in alliance with similar class fractions in the bureaucracy and certain economic sectors.

The military regimes are seen as representing determinate class or condition of class fractional interests in which the military occupied a hegemonic position. For instance the National Liberation Council (NLC) which succeeded Nkrumah is described as ‘nothing more than another petty bourgeois coalition under the hegemony of the petty-bourgeoisie located in the military’ [ibid, p. 11]. Under the later regime of Acheampong the military is again said to have occupied a ‘hegemonic position among the class coalition which included the international bourgeoisie’ [ibid, p. 18]. With minor differences this was the dominant, pre-1979 Ghanaian left position on military regimes.

A second formulation is when he sees the various military ranks as representing, or corresponding to and interacting with particular strata of civil society. The military is thus seen as a class-structured institution. Class contradictions and conflict occur within the military and articulate with broader class conflicts in society. Subaltern ranks, no less than Senior Officers, can and do act as a class force both within military and (in alliance with strata in civil society) on a broader social front. This view is suggested in the discussion of June 4 as a ‘class conflict in the Armed Forces’, a rebellion of men of the ranks first against their officers and then against the comparable classes in Civil Society’, and as a ‘class action on the part of the lower classes to assert themselves’. [ibid, p. 19]

While illuminating both of these formulations raise a number of theoretical issues, even ignoring for a moment the problem of consistency. First, it is not clear whether this ‘class identification’ is structural or ideological, or both – although Hansen’s usage would tend to suggest that it is structural – in other words the military, or its various strata, occupy positions similar to the civilian petty bourgeoisie or other classes in the process of social production.

In my view, there are several problems with this position. In general, the class origin of military officers and ranks is not a useful or reliable indicator of their class sympathies or ideological inclination for a variety of reasons. First, as a corporate organization, the modern military does not occupy a direct or determinate place in social production. Its relationship with production is mediated by and through state budget and state appropriation, giving it a certain structural autonomy from – and potential antagonism to – sectors rooted directly in production. Its material and power base is also sustained by specific international production relations and structures. Its interests may indeed coincide closely with other sectors of the state bureaucracy, but even at this level certain contradictions do emerge, relating to the secrecy and ‘inviolability’ of the defence budget and its ideological basis in concepts of ‘national security’.

Secondly, it is possible to assert that for obvious reasons, the modern military is determined primarily by ideology rather than structure, and that indeed it is the detachment from structure that makes such an ideological determination possible. The denial of the class structure of the military in that ideology is fundamental to the credibility of the military function in the national – popular, constitutional, democratic state.

Thirdly, neither formulation addresses adequately the analytical problems posed by the contradiction between ‘corporate’ and the (various) ‘class’ belongings of the military. The (ideological) emphasis on a corporate identity and profession-in-arms, aims specifically at engineering solidarity out of class heterogeneity. This involves obviating prior class and social solidarities through very rigorous socialization processes. The ‘solidarity that then emerges is opposed to the ‘fragmentation’, ‘indiscipline’, and ‘disorder’ of civil society – in other words, it is used to assert corporate uniqueness and separation from civil society in general.

Let us examine briefly the implications of these observations. A useful starting point is to see the military in terms of two related propositions: first as a structure of condensing – rather than merely reflecting – contradictions (of which class is the chief but by no means exclusive contradiction); second as a regional hegemonic structure, ‘hegemonic’ in the sense that it is oriented to producing, through a combination of consensus and coercion, certain solidarising practices and beliefs germane to the effective and ‘legitimate’ exercise of force; ‘regional’ in the sense that while it articulates with broader hegemonic structures it operates internally through its own unique rules and dynamics. It is possible to argue that the modern professional military is the most thoroughly ‘hegemonized’ institution in society, characterized by particularly rigorous ideological conditioning.

The hegemonic ideology operates through a combination on the one hand of consensual beliefs and group mystique (heroism, espirit de corps, patriotism, self-sacrifice, unquestioning obedience, etc), and coercion on the other (harsh military laws and prisons etc) designed to support a rigorous monopolization of the command over violence. It involves various homogenization processes (both coercive and non-coercive), rituals of initiation, sequestration in barracks, and other acts of physical and symbolic separation from (and to a degree, rejection of) civil life.

It is justified on the basis of ‘national security’ and the institutional exigencies imposed by war and the effective practice of violence. This ideology arose in post-feudal societies, where military leadership and followership had originally been an extension of the feudal organization of society and reflected the system of order but where, with increasing professionalization, leadership was pegged to training, merit and competence, although retaining many of the rituals and legitimate practices of the pre-technical era.

The ideology contains three key elements that condition military perception of and relations with external (civil) society. First, like the national popular state in the context of which it developed, the professional military operates on the ideological construct of ‘nation’ and ‘citizen’, both constituted as abstract solidarities through territorial co-residence and subjection to a single power, and deriving rights, responsibilities and benefits therefrom. The ‘nation’ is not viewed as a society fragmented into antagonistic classes, or to the extent that it is so, the military emerges as the defender of ‘national-popular’ rather than class interests, thus placing its relationship with society on an ideological rather than structural basis.

While the latter case, there is a direct annexation of the military fraction by a particular social class which exercises or monopolizes military roles as by right (as under feudalism), in the former, the military is raised above the specificity of social interests. The military denies its social particularity when it proclaims its defence of state and constitution (precisely the activity that confers on its social and political particularity). Hence, no matter the class origin of individual military personnel, the institution defends a particular social order in state and constitution.

Second, the ‘constitutional’ and ‘non-political’ status of the military so strongly entrenched in this ideology, places beyond its competence issues relating to the actual structure and constitution of civil society. And finally, military culture in general is based to a large degree on the suppression of civil culture and attitudes (‘civvy street’) – and, given its highly ritualized and sacral nature, can be sustained only through the continuing negation of civil culture.

On a second more crucial level are internal effects exerted by this hegemonic military ideology in (a) consolidating a corporate self-conception, personality and solidarity out of fragmenting effects of class heterogeneity and (b) sanctioning a system of internal relations based on a contradictory foundation of hierarchy, rigorous subordination and solidarity and justified by simultaneous appeal to the sacred (brotherhood in the noble profession) and the rational (the efficient prosecution of war).

The need to see military as constituted hegemonically becomes apparent once we pause to reflect on the peculiar structure of the modern military. This structure combines, firstly, a separation between the command function, which is monopolized by the minority stratum of officers, and the actual exercise of physical violence, which is the responsibility of a fighting mass itself, ‘disenfranchised’ from any directive role and barred from turning the means of violence to its own account.

Secondly, the modern military formation, unlike earlier ones which took care to restrict possession of weaponry to certain classes, does not (at least in theory) discriminate on the basis of class but attempts to bind troops of disparate of disparate social origins to the common purpose of defending a class – structured status quo.

Finally, it subjects military force to the control of the unarmed civilians. What prevents such a structure from flying apart under the weight of its own contradictions, particularly if – as Hansen correctly observes – the military rank structure reflects to a large degree the class structure of society? Herein lies the effectiveness of the hegemonic order defining the modern professional military. A view of the military institution as a site of hegemonic practices should preclude the attribution of a single class character to the military institution or any of its constituent strata.

On the other level, like all such systems, this hegemonic formation within the military is subject to erosion, challenge and breakdown, and thus requires constant defence and modification. Such hegemonic ‘breakdown’ may be triggered by a crisis in the local structure itself (such as defeat in war, demonstrated in competence of the officer corps etc.), or may be the ‘backwash’ effect of a crisis in the global (national) hegemony itself. In any case (and in the light of the analysis of the above this should hardly surprise) only in few societies has the military been able to effect fully this hegemonic transition. This has probably been possible mainly in certain post-feudal societies where military leadership and followership was originally an extension of the feudal organization of increasing professionalization leadership was pegged progressively to training, competence and merit, while retaining the rituals and the legitimating practices of the pre-technical era.

With Hansen’s earlier work misses this dimension of hegemony and its implications for a ‘class theory’ of the military, such a realization is clearly present in his later work. Here, he argues as follows:

The military is not a class, it is an institution and as such it has organizational features and behavioural norms which help it to maintain coherence and act in a certain degree of uniformity. But it is a multi-class group and under certain conditions of social and political stress, such as obtains in the periods of crisis in state and society, not least in Africa, the organizational features which give it coherence and uniformity and weakened and its multi-class nature comes to the fore pulling it in a different direction. [Hansen 1987, pp. 203 – 4]

Even without the benefit of this insight, his earlier more optimistic work correctly grasps the fact that both June 4 and December 31 were rooted in severe erosion of and challenge to the institutional hegemony in the Ghanaian military. This took the form not only of rejection of authority of the officer corps (and the execution of a few of their members) by the ranks, but also attempts to put forward an alternative institutional order, such as a ‘Peoples Army’, democratization of command over the instruments of violence, etc [Hansen 1982, p. 19; Hansen and Collins 1980, p. 20 -21].

The reason for ‘hegemonic crisis’ included too close a link between the interests of the military and civilian ‘petty-bourgeoisie’, sacrifice of the corporate integrity of the military, and the welfare of the ranks, it also involved a variety of historical causes of an organizational nature [Hutchful 1979]. The crucial point to note however is that both June 4 and December 31 were followed by a recomposition, however, incomplete, of the institutional hegemony. The need for such a recomposition ( or restoration) was clearly identified by Rawlings on both occasions. Rawlings (as quoted by Hansen), complained that ‘those [ranks] who just arrested officers were unable to articulate the movement’. Consequently, there had been ‘problems about direction’. For that reason, he argued, ‘we need some of our senior officers to come back’ [Hansen 1980, p. 21]

More importantly, this recomposition involved the attempt to disarticulate the ranks’ movement from the movement specificity and exigencies of war. Again, this is illustrated clearly in the incident cited by Hansen. Responding to a proposal (from the ranks) to democratize command appointments, the Chief of Defence Staff argued that the military is not an institution for debate (like the universities), or a democratic workers’ organization (like the trade unions): ‘In the armed forces, there must be immediate execution of orders and obedience in order of being overtaken by events. There could be no armed without maintenance of traditions’.

The disorientation of the ranks movement in the absence of its officers, powerful appeal to institutional exigencies and corporate solidarity and self-interest, meant that twice when the ranks grasped institutional power and were in the position to revolutionize the military structure, or both occasions their revolt ended in the restoration of the systems of military hierarchy and authority, the reimposition  of corporate isolation and detachment of the ranks of the ranks from the mass movement. The failure of the ranks to resolve the contradiction between their corporate and class identities was clear also in the complicated and contradictory ideology of their movement: populism, ultra-radicalism and opposition to hierarchy and authority on the one hand, and on the other, insistence order, respect for property, and accountability, combined with acts of both genuine heroism and random violence, and most often directed against the social sectors whose interests were invoked in the revolution. This contradictory character, of course, prevented the ranks’ ‘revolution’ from following the consistent or linear path anticipated by Hansen in 1982, but it is also to the credit that his later work finally recognized both the diverse possibilities opened by December 31, at the much complicated political and ideological character of ‘progressive’ military movements.

Although Hansen hints perceptively at its reconstitution of the institutional hegemony and the role of Rawlings in this process, he again does not draw the implications of this for his (or any) theory of the ‘class action’ of the military. A ‘class’ analysis of the military will remain necessarily inadequate and incomplete as long as it lacks the theory of how corporate and class belongings intersect – complete and combine – to structure political and ideological outcome within the military, or an understanding of the effects of the intervention of regional hegemonic ideologies and structures of formation of consciousness, particularly at the level of the ranks where the tension between these forms of solidarity may be expected to be most manifest.

In any event, ‘class action’ by and within the military has corporate specificity; it merely recreates it. The reason for this is probably obvious enough; all military strata to a degree have an interest in the reproduction of the material and political power base – the monopolization of the instruments of violence – although in possible contention as to how this process is to be distributed and controlled internally and what social interests are to be served by its use.

If anything, the objective of the ‘military revolutions’ of June 4 and December 31 – the defence of the ‘integrity’ of the military – was, by and large, to restore military ethos and structure as conceived in the hegemonic ideology. It was not intended to initiate a radically different hegemonic formation, as some of the rhetoric may have tended to suggest. As long as the social revolution did not itself destroy the military, nothing else could possible do so.

The Political Character of the Military Coup

A third theoretical issue with which Hansen wrestled was the issue of specificity of military regimes as a form of government, in other words, the ‘character of military government’ [1092, p.17]. In his earlier work, Hansen saw the central problematic of the military regime as the ‘two issues of legitimacy and disengagement’ [Hansen and Collins 1979, p. 8]. ‘The most serious problem faced by any military after it has seized power’, Hansen and Collins argued, ‘is the question of legitimacy. Related to this is the question of disengagement from politics’ [ibid, p. 5].

In that work, they attempted to analyze the military government in Ghana and to differentiate them on the basis of how they had responded to these challenges. The stress on legitimation and disengagement was repeated in the 1982 study of the origins of the PNDC, in spite of radically changed tone of the analysis and in spite of transformation in Hansen’s own political expectations.

Important as the two problems are to study of military regimes and to the structure of action in such regimes, for a variety of reasons, not everybody would subscribe to the stress placed on them by Hansen. First, there is little evidence that most military regimes are pre-occupied with either issue, particularly as tendencies towards militarization have deepened on the continent. Secondly problems of legitimation in military regimes are not also tied to prospects of disengagement, being more likely to be ‘resolved’. In Africa, the issue of legitimation is not restricted to military regimes but is as problematic even in constitutional regimes.

Viewed in this way, the concept of legitimation is probably too specific to be analytically useful, to the extent that it is too closely to the notion of founding origins of regimes – a consideration obviously not crucial in gauging public reactions to regimes and regime changes in most African countries. Furthermore, it suggest normative considerations which are probably not central in countries where the military coup are endemic.

A more appropriate word could probably be ‘credibility’, an empirically oriented set of evaluative standards applied to the performance of regimes, irrespective of origins and form and asset which can be won, lost or recovered. A less bounded concept of this sort would probably be more analytically relevant to the normative flexibility that characterizes countries such as Ghana, which not only encourages tolerance toward unconstitutional changes of government but also demands that all government, civil or military, predicate their claim to tenure on satisfactory performance in very practical areas.

It could be argued on the other hand, that state relegitimimation – rather than the legitimacy of particular regime forms – is consistent feature in the military’s political project. This may account for the schemes of political architecture in which the military in Africa (and elsewhere) is perennially involved.

Finally, it may be objected that legitimation/disengagement is an unduly restrictive framework for the analysis of military regimes, since many of the issues raised by such regimes cannot easily or logically be explored within the framework (Hansen’s own analyses illustrate this difficulty). In any case, such a paradigm says little about what a regime is, merely what challenges it faces.

In his paper of the PNDC several years later [Hansen 1987], he minimized but did not completely abandon this perspective. Here, he identified two characteristics that he saw as central to military regimes: first, the principle of hierarchy, second the ‘element of surprise and secrecy’ [Hansen, 1987, p. 203]. However, these properties, he argues, affect the ‘style and conduct of politics but not its substance’. In fact, Hansen, at this stage, denies that the military regime has any historical or political specificity beyond ‘and in spite of’ these attributes. As he puts it: ‘There is nothing unique about a military regime. It is nothing more than the political expression of state power at a certain conjecture of history’ [ibid., p. 203].

This conception of the problematic form and content – in particular the dismissal of the relevance and determinacy of form of politics – raises theoretical issues which cannot be considered here. However, Hansen’s characterization of military regimes provides a useful starting point for a critical discussion. In the first place, while ‘hierarchy’ is a crucial organizational principle in all professional militaries and a political principle in some military regimes, it is not the key principle in all military regimes. Some military regimes (typically those of senior officers, and those resting on highly professionalized armies) are organized on hierarchical principles replicating the military ranking system; in others, however, political and military ranking are in direct contradiction.

This is the case, in most regimes, resulting from coups by junior or relatively junior officers. Political and military seniority are rigidly separated or – much more likely – the distribution of political power in the regime involves the modification, subversion or negation of hierarchy as a military principle. While hierarchy was a crucial political characteristic of earlier military regimes (preponderantly of senior officers) in Africa, hierarchy has in fact waned as a political (as well as military) principle with the advent of the regime of junior officers.

This is not the effect simply of the fact that to consolidate their military and political power junior officers are obliged in some ways to neutralize, if not abolish, the influence of hierarchy, and centralization of command within the military. The military concept of hierarchy, as we have tried to suggest, is ideologically situated and its efficacy depends on the attainment of certain hegemonic conditions within the military. It is actively contested, for instance, by the rival principle of heroism which is not tied to formal seniority but, under conditions of war, may constitute a more relevant qualification for leadership.

In the specific conditions of African armies it may also be in conflict with the principle of superior competence, formal skill training, and even battle field experience since do not always coincide with the structure of hierarchy [see Luckham 1971 Hutchful 1979] and specific institutional dynamics within the military itself, precipitated and clearly accelerated in turn by the interventions of junior officers and ranks into politics.

Whether military regimes reflect institutional hierarchy or whether they are based on the negation of hierarchy tends to define their practical character in particular ways. Regimes of hierarchy tend to defend and reproduce the hegemonic ideologies and practices not only within the military organization but within the rest of the state apparatus as well, emphasizing ‘hierarchy’ and ‘discipline’ and a minimum of disruption to established relations and procedures. Anti-hierarchical military regimes will tend, on hierarchies, to recompose institutional relations and ideologies, often unwillingly opening up a breach for a potentially revolutionary attack on the state structure and the system of power, as occurred on December 31.

The element of surprise is a characteristic, to various degrees, of every military coup. Its real significance is that the form and social character of military government cannot, by the fact, be pre-given or pre-determined. The element of surprise is vital to the success of the military coup in political as much as strategic terms. To assign itself a political coloration in advance of the coup in advance of the coup is to constrict the social base and range of political alliances available to the insurrectionists, to compromise the vital element of political uncertainty apparent, but it is defined, as it were, as a process, and as a result of alliances and compromises on a variety of fronts. For this reason, one cannot speak of the ‘political (or social) nature of the military regime’ in the abstract.

This element of surprise is deepened, and to an extent made possible, by the ‘charismatic’ element in most successful military coups. By ‘charisma’ we refer, on the one hand, to the deligitimation or decay of pre-existing relations of power, authority and privilege, and, on the other, to the opportunity to more or less extensively reorganize those relations. This constitutes the ‘moral element’ in the military coup, and explains why all military officers appear politically as ‘reformers’.

This moment of charisma, however, is governed by real constraints on the room of manoeuvre of the new regime, set by various structural determinants (national and international) and the need to strike alliances and compromises at various levels – within the military institution itself, within the complex of state apparatuses, within civil society, and within the international system. The interrelation of these complex and unevenly structured determinants helps eventually to define the political character of the ensuing regime. This is not to suggest that the military is a political tabula rasa or devoid of ideological predispositions (obviously it is not), but to point out that the political outcome is not determined solely by either the subjective factor or by some (abstract) ‘military’ properties.

Intrinsic to the political nature of the military regime is its ‘extra-constitutional’ character, in other words, its proclaimed autonomy from pre-established, legally sanctioned structures, processes and relationships, a self-conception tied not merely to its political origins but to its self-conception as a reforming Leviathan. However, in the same way, as all charismatic interludes terminate in institutionalization of a new order, so this ‘extra-constitutionality’ is used to foster a new or modified constitutionality. This is evident in the politico-legal architecturalism – the constant redefinition of political rules, structures and space as well as legal and ideological formulations – with which almost all military regimes are per-occupied at some stage or other.

However, the political character of every military coup – indeed of the military coup as a political phenomenon – is derived at the most basic and general level from the way it reorganizes the state sphere – the redefinition of the relationship of the military to other elements of the state apparatus, of the mode of internal articulation of this apparatus, and of the order of precedence and dominance among its elements – and from the political practices associated with this reorganised state apparatus. This is the most basic meaning and expression of ‘coup d’etat’. This reorganization is evident in one or more of the following: the assimilation of the executive to the coercive organ and of the element of political mediation to the command; the abolition, subordination or marginalization of representative structures; strict limits on the operational scope and autonomy of the adjudicative organs, and so on.

These changes in the internal structure and equilibrium of the state system, lead to corresponding changes in the way in which the state relates to society. The elements of the state apparatus that most likely suffer displacement are those that mediate state society links (the legislature, executive, and judiciary), while those least likely to be affected are the permanent state institutions, the bureaucracy and the security organs. The political style most naturally tied to this is the enhancement of bureaucratic methods of work and political exclusion of the masses.

Nevertheless, the military regimes differ markedly in (1) the mode of insertion of the military institution itself into the political and administrative structures and processes and (2) in the resulting relationship between the militarised state and society, both in terms of structures and social content (i.e. which social strata are mobilized, incorporated, or excluded, and how). [4]

This observation returns us to Hansen’s analysis of the variations in the formal political character of military regimes in Ghana. For instance, in discussing the differences between the National Liberation Council (1966 – 69) and the National Redemption Council (1973 – 75), he observes:

Whereas the NLC was in a general way content to keep control of the basic instruments of state power and allow the petty bourgeois to run the economic and administrative organs of the state, Acheampong’s method was different. Here the hegemonic position of the petty-bourgeois in the army was more evident. He appointed military officers to head every sector of the civilian administration including the state enterprises [1982, p. 15].

As Hansen tries to show, the PNDC was much more complicated in these respects than either of the previous regimes. It went much further in reorganizing the state apparatus, developing a system of parallel institutions (public tribunals, the National Investigation Commission, the Citizens Vetting Committee) to the regular state apparatus, and, for  the first time, a mass base outside the state structures in the defence committees. These institutions appeared initially as elements of a new state. Yet, ultimately, this process was aborted. In his analysis, Hansen showed that he was deeply aware of the changing political character of militarism in Ghana. Like many other analysts, however, he was uncertain as to whether these changes were substantive or merely formal. While in his earlier writings he saw the PNDC (unlike previous military regimes) as portending a substantial change in the character of state power, in his later work he argued that the very character of the military – specifically its reliance on secrecy and surprise, made it difficult, if not impossible, for it to act as the spearhead of a popular transformation:

Military initiatives are secret operations. In military operations the element of surprise and secrecy is crucial for the success of the operation. When the military has come to power by the process of a coup which itself depends on the successful application of these behavioural nroms, it becomes very difficult for it to open up channels of decision-making completely to its civilian support base. But this is precisely what any transformation process based on the mass of the people demands and this is one of the most difficult aspects of the process of transformation initiated by the military. But the military has overcome this difficulty if it is to be successful at its efforts at launching the process of transformation. So to be successful the military has to shed these two important behavioural norms. In effect it has to demilitarize itself. This is the source of the problem [Hansen 1987, p. 203].

This amounts to recognition at last that there exists a contradiction between the corporate and class belongings of the military and between the military and social movements which pose real problems of articulation, and the solution to which requires the abolition of the military as a separate and specialized institution.

Understanding Militarism in Ghana

This returns to the larger question of Hansen’s actual interpretation of military regimes in Ghana, where he applied the methods of analysis discussed above. We have indicated that Hansen’s views on Ghana’s first two military regimes in Ghana were both unambiguous and pessimistic. The real problem is to explain the change in his analytical perspective and political expectation that occurred between the two Rawlings’ coups. In their study of the AFRC, Hansen and Collins dismissed the coup of June 4 and precipitate withdrawal that followed it as theatrics, ‘rivaling in sense of drama only the extravaganza of the James Bond films’. From their review of the AFRC and the two previous military regimes, they reached the conclusion that ‘no possibility of radical initiatives for the military sector of society exists’ [Hansen and Collins 1980, pp. 3, 22]. They cited ‘the lack of a clear ideological vision, the brutal actions of the military in the country-side (often directed against the social sectors exalted in the coup) and the ambivalent attitudes toward labour. The second coup by Rawlings, however, produced a significant change in Hansen’s perspective. The PNDC provides conditions for meaningful change in Ghanaian society’, he argued, ‘It is the unfolding of the revolution that is now firmly on the agenda’.

This change in perspective in turn prompted a re-appraisal of the earlier coup on June 4, which was seen in retrospect as ‘not a normal coup’ but:

essentially a rebellion of the men of the ranks first against their officers and then against their officers and then against comparable classes in civil society. It was in a way a class conflict in the Armed Forces. It represented a constellation of feelings of anger, resentment, fear, moral outrage and also of hope on the part of the men of the ranks and junior officers who supported them. This feeling also coincided with the feelings of the lower petty-bourgeoisie, the workers and the students. It was a class action on the part of lower classes to assert themselves [Hansen 1982, p. 19].

From this (revised) point of view June 4 was the logical predecessor of December 31, an interpretation confirmed by the claim that the ‘same class forces in the army which had initiated the 1979 uprising were behind Rawlings’ second intervention’. However, it is clear from Hansen’s own analysis that he considered December 31 to represent a qualitatively different conjuncture incorporating many new elements, rather than a natural or logical provision from June 4. These new elements included the establishment of the Defence Committees, the support of radical academics, and the recognition by the PNDC that the contradiction of Ghanaian society could not be solved within the context of the neo-colony. [ibid, p. 21].

However, Hansen identifies one additional factor in the emergence of December 31 that I consider crucial in the understanding of the actual path taken by the new regime, which, as it happened, was to be at variance with Hansen’s own expectations. This was the plurality of contradictions and struggle, located ‘both in civil society and in the army’, that was to propel the coup [ibid, p. 18]. In my view, the analytical opportunities opened up by this acute observation require to be more fully exploited as a key to unraveling the complicated character of December 31 and the subsequent regime.

First, the relationship of these contradictions to each other and its implication for the form and nature of political struggles remained to be specified. One should stress in particular, the precarious articulation between the concurrent military and social revolutions. Secondly, there was a certain arbitrariness in defining the terrain of struggle exclusively in terms of class, a procedure which both exaggerates and undertakes. It exaggerates the extent to which groups involved in the struggle were involved consciously in political and ideological class struggle, most failing to transcend purely corporate interests. Secondly, it undertakes the significance  of other, non-class forms of contradiction in staging the course of struggles in both military and society (ethnic, regional and gender [5] contradictions, neglected by Hansen, had some saliency here).

If anything, what probably required to be emphasized was the fragmented and multi-class opposition to the old regime – the fact that there was no significant social or military sector left in support of that regime – as well as highly uneven policisation of the population (the peasantry, in spite of its well-known grievances, was not touched at all) and the failure of a revolutionary organization to emerge, in spite of the existence of several proto-revolutionary movements.

The multi-class basis (Robatham [1989] perceptively describes as the ‘all-class crisis’) was responsible for at least three crucial features of December 31. First, the fact that it was possible for the ensuing regime, the PNDC, to root its base in a variety of social forces, even though it chose initially – without compromising the autonomy of its military base – to ally itself with the left and popular forces. An ‘alternate’ opening to the Right remained always feasible, and was in fact to be utilized progressively after the demotion of the left and the defence committees in 1984.

Secondly, the nature of the ideological instance – ‘populism’ – a seamless ideology emphasizing ‘masses’ rather than ‘classes’, and capable on the one hand of subsuming and ‘harmonizing’ the secondary contradictions in a movement condensing several strata and class fractions, and on the other of interpolating the large floating urban and rural masses often active in the defence committees, a politically and ideologically volatile stratum inserted in no structural or determinate way into production relations.

Thirdly, was the fundamental ambiguity that characterized the terms of struggle before and after 31st December [1981]. As argued by Ndu (1989) in a recent debate on Ghana, this incorporated not only class but also a variety of other ideological elements and contradictions (‘officialdom’ versus ‘people’, the army versus the nation, as well as ‘national popular’ dimension with its roots in the opposition imperialism versus the people-nation) in tenuous articulation with each other. It was by no means apparent that either the PNDC or Rawlings himself were wedded exclusively or even primarily to a class perception of the struggle, as were the various strands of the Ghanaian left. Defining the centre of gravity of this multi-faceted struggle, and the alliances appropriate to it, was thus to become the main issue of contention between the PNDC, the left and the defence committees from 1982 to 11984. After the defeat of the left the defence committees, class themes reiterated sharply into the background in the PNDC ‘revolution’.

The processes by which this occurred form the subject of study in this (admittedly incomplete) manuscript by Emmanuel Hansen, one may assume that the circumstances of his abrupt resignation from the PNDC government in 1983 suggest early disillusionment with the course of the ‘revolution’ and with internal politics of the regime itself. In the notes that accompanying this manuscript, however, Hansen made a principled decision to avoid any reference to his personal experiences in government. However, regrettable one may consider this decision to be, this is a silence which we must respect.

Fortunately other accounts exist to give some indication of his thinking [see in particular Hansen 1987]. In his analysis of the PNDC elsewhere, Hansen asks why the revolution and he process of giving rise to a new state in Ghana were aborted so early [ibid, p. 203]. He blames, to various degrees, the PNDC itself, the left organizations, and the defence committees. What is missing, intriguingly, from the otherwise illuminating account is an explanation of the defeat (or disappearance) the military mass movement – indeed an analysis of this movement of ranks and non-commissioned and junior officers – whose actions had opened up the initial breach in the state and placed on the agenda, the possibility of a genuinely revolutionary transformation. Our understanding of ‘military revolutions’ in general and of the PNDC in particular, will remain incomplete and even superficial until this crucial question is addressed. Genuine differences of opinion may also be provoked by other aspects of Hansen’s analysis, in particular as to whether this analysis does not (like many on the left) minimize the difficulties posed by the international environment and the domestic economic and political situation to the Ghanaian transition (not all, for instance, would agree with Hansen that the situation in 1982 – 83 was ‘fairly auspicious’) or whether it was not unduly pessimistic as to the possibility of regaining the revolutionary initiative. Some significance should be attached to the fact that the PNDC has not degenerated into the usual petty-bourgeois orgy of corruption, that Marxists and other patriots remain within the regime, and that – in spite of a certain bureaucratization of work-habits and even the persistence of instances of arbitrariness and repression – norms  of operational rigour and integrity have been established which are unusual by Ghanaian and African standards. The problem, however, is how much weight to give to these factors in assessing, the fate and the future of the Ghanaian ‘revolution’.

Like the rest of the Ghanaian left among (among whose ranks I number myself), Hansen’s specific conclusions were as much the product of methodology of study as of the ‘objective’ reality that confronted him. And like the rest of us, his conditions were both excessively optimistic and pessimistic, much as the methodology itself was at once complicated and simplifying. The publication of this manuscript has enabled Emmanuel Hansen to rethink some of his earlier positions and reaffirm others. At the same time, it has given us an opportunity, through the critical discussion of his ideas, to reopen the theoretical debate and to advance, hopefully, our own understanding of the most surprising and confusing decade in Ghana’s recent history.

Eboe Hutchful

October, 1989.


  1. His main publications are Emmanuel Hansen and Paul Collins, ”The Army and the State, and the ‘Rawlings Revolution’ in Ghana”, African Affairs, Vol. 79, No. 314, 1980. Emmanuel Hansen, ‘The Military and Revolution in Ghana’, Journal of African Marxists, 2, August, 1982; and Emmanuel Hansen, ‘Popular Struggles for Democracy in Ghana’, in Peter Anyang N’yongo (ed), Popular Struggles for Democracy in Africa, London, Zed Press 1987.
  2. For a sample of such writings, see ‘Military Marxist Regimes in Africa’, Journal of Communist Studies, Nos. 3 / 4, 1985, Eboe Hutchful, ‘New Elements in Militarism in Africa’, International Journal, XL1, Autumn 1986
  3. The unqualified characterization of the military hierarchy as the ‘hegemonic arm’ of the Ghanaian ‘petty bourgeoisie’ cannot be accepted without analytical difficulties, even leaving aside for the moment the unclear meaning of hegemonic as used in this context. At the most obvious level, one may cite the anti-military feelings of the Ghanaian elite as a whole and the fact that it is precisely among such strata that political support for military regimes tends to deteriorate most rapidly where questions of legitimacy are most likely to be raised. One may argue for instance that military regimes represent the ‘economic’ interests of the petty bourgeoisie without arguing that they represent its ‘political’ interests; as in Bonapartism one need not imply the other.
  4. The ‘progressive’ military regimes appear to have transformed the character of militarizm in this respect. See, Hutchful, ‘New Elements in Militarizm’. Dietz and Palmer’s characterization of the Peruvian military regime(‘the paradox of citizen participation with central control’) is applicable to these African regimes, their ‘popular democratic’ pretensions notwithstanding.
  5. Clair Robertson, ‘The Death of Mokola’, Canadian Journal of African Studies, 1983 argues provocatively that the destruction of Mokola Market by the AFRC in 1979 was the result of jealousy of women’s economic success.



The military coup which brought Rawlings back into power for the second time in Ghana and his proclamation of a political manifesto which amounted to a programme of revolutionary transformation of Ghanaian society has raised again two specific problems in African social development. First, the possibility of liberal democracy and its roles in development, and second, the role of the military in social development. The Ethiopian revolution brought these issues to the fore where they were debated with heat and violence. The coup of Jerry Rawlings has brought the issue to the forefront of politics in Ghana. Here too the debate has been conducted with severe degree of violence.

A quarter of a century ago when most African countries gained their independence from colonial rule, social science writing hardly paid any attention to the military. If social scientists did not pay much attention to the military, it was a reflection of the state of affairs at the time. The armies were small detachments, lightly armed and equipped with only rudimentary weapons of warfare. They seemed more suited to the containment of internal disorder than for fighting external wars. They appeared insignificant politically. Besides, there was the confidence that the constitutions which have been created by the departing colonialists would stand the test of time. After all, it was the mark of civilization and development. In fact, what became known as the national armies were in origin, like everything else in the colony, external extensions of the metropolitan armies stationed in the colony. The role which the colonial rule assigned to them was in helping to maintain internal order of the colonial state. This reflected its training, composition, structure of command and weaponry. Not only did social scientists regard the emerging African armies as politically insignificant, they did not envisage any political role outside what colonial rule had worked out. Thus, writers such as W.F. Gutteridge and P.C. Lloyd have remarked on the political insignificance of the Africa military. Even very perceptive observers of the African scene like Thomas Hodgkin, Ruth Schatcher Morgenthau, Martin Kilson, and James Coleman hardly paid any attention to the military in the early years of African independence.

What attracted attention were political parties, political institutions, political ideologies, elites etc. Nasser’s coup in Egypt in 1952 and that of General Aboud in the Sudan were seen as aberrations to the general trend the general trend. Both political commentators and political practitioners were confident that Africa would traverse not exactly but broadly along the contours of West European political development in its quest for modernization and development. Changes could be made here and there to suit local particularities and specific historical circumstances, but ‘Latin Americanization’ of African politics in the sense of endless succession of coups and counter coups which the continent now experiences was certainly not foreseen. It was left to Frantz Fanon who, with his uncanny foresight, wrote as far back as 1961:

Care should be taken to avoid turning the army into an autonomous body which sooner or later, finding itself idle and without any definite mission, will go into politics and threaten the government. Drawing room generals, by dint of haunting the corridors of government department, come to dream of manifestoes. The only way to avoid this menace is to educate the army politically, in other words nationalize it. In the same way another urgent task is to increase the militia. In the case of war it is the whole nation that fights and works. It should not include any professional soldiers, and the number of permanent officers should be reduced to a minimum. This is the first place because the officers are very often chosen from university class, who could be much more useful elsewhere; an engineer is a thousand times more indispensable to his country than an officer; and secondly, because the crystallization of the caste spirit should be avoided. (Wretched of the Earth, p. 163)

Fanon in his passage has not only envisaged the problem but has even indicated its possible source and a way of dealing with it. Hardly had he ink dried on his pen and the menace which Fanon had feared began to occur. First, it began to appear in the French-speaking states of West Africa; then in others and now it has engulfed practically the whole continent. Direct military involvement in the political process has become so widespread that one is tempted to regard it as part and parcel of the social and political landscape of the post-colonial process. Indeed, now commentators and political observers show more interest in why military rule has not occurred than why it has occurred in a particular country. The unusual is rapidly becoming usual. Military intervention has occurred in states of varying ideological, political and administrative experience and history. Thus, we have had military coups in countries like Benin noted for chronic instability and inability of civilian authorities to maintain a stable system. We have had coups in countries previously regarded as models of political stability. This was the case with Ethiopia and Liberia whose autocratic regimes were knocked down by the military take-overs in large states like Nigeria and the Sudan where it is thought that the sheer size of the countries in question will present formidable problems of logistics and co-ordination, critical for success of any coup. There have been coups in monarchical regimes noted for religious fundamentalism and autocracy, such as pre-Nasserite Egypt and Libya under King Idris s well as in secular regimes. There have been coups against leftist regimes as well as against rightist regimes. Thus, in 1966, the Nigerian military or, better still, a faction of it (see Robin Luckham) overthrew the rightist regime of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Less than two months later, the Ghanaian military overthrew the leftist regime of Kwame Nkrumah. Six years later the same military was to overthrow the rightist regime of Dr Busia and his Progress Party.

There have been military coups in French-speaking as well as English-speaking or Portuguese-speaking states. There have been military coups against military regimes. There have been military coups against regimes where the military was part of the liberation movement. It would seem that military intervention in Africa defies any systematic pattern of categorization. We have had military regimes with ‘progressive posturings’ like Thomas Sankara’s Burkina Faso or Jerry Rawlings’ Ghana in the initial phase of the coup. We have also had military interventions which have been unabashedly reactionary and right wing; there have been military interventions which have claimed to embark on revolutionary transformation of their societies in a socialist direction, like Mengistu’s Ethiopia or Gaddafi’s Libya. Others have been less pretentious, while some have been described as house cleaning operations.  The latter is the case of the Supreme Military Council in Nigeria (1970 – 1974) or the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in Ghana. Even in states where the military does not directly control the apparatus of the state, there have been attempts or threats at such a possibility. Such is the case with Kenya, Tanzania and the Cote d’Ivoire.

Two things are clear from what we have been saying so far. One is the widespread nature of military intervention on the continent and the second is the varied nature of such intervention, along with the saliency of the military as a factor in the political process of African societies. At the present moment almost half of the member-states of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) are ruled by military juntas of one sort or another. Many have experienced their second, third or even fourth military intervention. Of the 16 member-states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) only four (Cape Verde, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire are at the moment under civilian regimes, and of these Sierra Leone has had two military regimes and Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal have experienced attempted military take-overs.

Political Science and the African Military

Crisis in Economy, State and Society

Coup occurred against the background of severe economic and political crisis in the country.

(iii) At the political level the political system was unable to perform the minimum functions which liberal democratic political theory assigns to the state. Political parties were unable to articulate the interests of the broad masses of the people, nor act as channels of communication between the mass of the people and their rulers; neither were they able  to socialize individuals into acceptance of the basic political legitimacy of the regime, either in terms of the normative attachment to basic political institutions and processes or rules of political practice or the satisfaction of the basic material needs of the mass of he people. Instead they became instruments for the distribution of spoils, ‘essential commodities’ as they were called in Ghana, or conduits for the allocation of patronage and political kickbacks. Parliament was not perceived as an important forum of political debate or decision-making affecting the lives of the mass of the people. To the contrary, it showed itself as a scene of unedifying and meaningless political squabbles which seemed to bear little relation, if any, to the problems of the country. The judiciary was totally discredited; it was widely believed, wrongly or rightly, that judicial decisions were not based on merits of cases presented and tried in the courts but in secret societies to which an overwhelming number of the political establishment belonged.

(iv) In the urban areas, crimes with violence were rapidly on the increase and Accra’s reputation as a city of gaiety and active night life was becoming a thing of the past. It was widely believed that the forces of law and order were in collusion with the criminals or helpless to deal with the deteriorating situation. Attempts by the government to remedy the situation by recourse to the deployment of extra-legal vigilantes only provoked a strong middle class backlash. In June 1981 there were repeated clashes between two ethnic groups in the North, the Konkomba and the Nanumba in the Bimbilla district. It was the worst ethnic conflict in Ghana’s post-independence history. Estimates put the figure of the dead to over a thousand ass forces of law and order appeared helpless to deal with the situation. This brought widespread dismay. The government appeared ineffectual. To many people it was not governing.

But in all this it was at  the economic level that the effect of the crisis was most acutely felt. By the end of 1981 the balance of payments current account deficit was almost US $ 500 million. By 1981 gold production had fallen from 900,000 fine ounces in 1962 to 333, 095; diamond from the peak of 3 million carats in the 1960s to under one million forecast for 1982. The figures for other industrial products showed similar decline. Inflation was in three digits and the cost of living showed that Accra and other urban areas were rapidly becoming some of the most expensive places to live in the whole world.

(v) This imposed severe hardship on the mass of the people. The whole country showed evidence of social neglect; public health, education, transportation and a network of roads which had been the pride of Ghana in the 1960s now looked like shadows of their former selves. In the urban areas the streets showed potholes as big as bomb craters. The crisis of accumulation which characterized the regime affected its ability to provide the material base for the reproduction of the class which controlled the state. Hence it was forced to act in a virtual predatory fashion in the use of the state for private accumulation. To the mass of the people the government appeared to be, not only unable but even more importantly, unwilling to do anything about the situation.

The poor performance of the government tended to undermine its constitutional legitimacy. In Ghana, as in many developing countries, the legitimacy of the political order is not a settled issue.  Important as constitutional legitimacy is, it is not enough to sustain a government; it needs a material base to breathe life and meaning into it and it was in this that many people saw that the regime had failed.

(vi) For the mass of the people, their desire was to have a regime which could meet their minimum material needs and ensure safety of their families and put some meaning into their lives. Any government, constitutional or otherwise which appeared to give sufficient reason that it could undertake these functions effectively would secure support and legitimacy. Hence when Rawlings came to announce that what happened was something which would transform the social and economic order and consequently their lives, people were prepared to listen, and, more importantly, to give it their support. For the mass of the people in the urban areas, Rawlings had come to arouse some kind of messianic expectation which had been void in Ghana since the departure of Nkrumah in 1966.

Character of the Coup.

In order to understand the nature of the unfolding of the transformation process, it is important to grasp the character of the intervention itself. It has been asserted that the elements which effected the coup came from outside the Armed Forces. (vii) This is only partly so. The elements which effected the coup came from a number of diverse quarters. Four such groups could be identified. The first was a group of soldiers who were closely associated with Rawlings during the time of the AFRC who, for one reason or the other, were either dismissed or retired from the armed forces with the coming of civilian rule. Rightly or wrongly, they had come to interpret the action against them as persecution of their support for Rawlings and what he stood for, ‘that is the common man’. The second group was made up of some of the closest elements in Dr Limann’s security network, and was crucial to the success of the coup. The support of this group was critical to the success of the coup. The support of this group was critical not only for the purpose of effecting the coup but also for the way in which the coup was perceived, thus determining the response to it. The very visible positions of many northerners in the leadership of the immediate post-coup regime, particularly  of Chris Atim and Sgt. Alolga Akata-Pore, did have a sobering and mollifying effect on northern elements in the armed forces and civil society in general. As both of these were presented as having worked together with Rawlings for the overthrow of a northern President and a regime which was perceived as dominated by northerners, it diffused the tendency of the northerners in particular to interpret the action against Limann’s government in ethnic terms and respond to it in an ethnically-inspired manner.

The third group insisted mostly of civilian activists  of the June Fourth Movement and very close friends and associates of Rawlings, each with strong ties to critical social groups and interests which could be summoned in time of need to support the coup and thus provide the civilian backing for it. This group was made up of people like Chris Atim, Amartey Kwei, Capt. Kojo Tsikata, P.V. Obeng and B.B.D. Asamoah. There are some who insist on the existence of a fourth group of mostly Ewes who were to assume a predominant position in critical areas of public life, both military and civilian, in the later course of events.

Two things can be noted from this. First, the diverse elements who effected the coup, some from motives of personal loyalty to Rawlings, some from a sense of grievance and some from a vision of a better future, each group had its own exclusive conception of what to get from it and what society should look like after the coup. This was to become one source of strength. The close relationship between the coup leaders and the leaders of critical social groups meant that Rawlings was provided with a network of key contacts with organizational links to critical social groups which could be relied upon to provide a civilian base for a future government in the event of the coup being successful, and this was precisely what happened. In this way the coup of 1981 was different from other coups in the country; it had the material base to transform itself into something more fundamental, and this was the initial expectation of the Left and the progressive groups which supported it. But this strength in a way was also its weakness for the diverse elements which effected the coup plus the diverse elements in the leadership position (although at the initial stages the progressives commanded a hegemonic position) made it difficult for a coherent policy to emerge. Each group brought to the process a different ideological thrust, and in the initial period there was intense struggle for hegemony not only between the Left and the Right elements but also among different fractions of the Left. The specific way in which the process developed depended on how this struggle was resolved and which group assumed control over the state. It is to this that we shall now turn our attention.



The Leftist Junta and the Ghanaian Revolution

Military intervention can be justified only if it opens the way to a genuine revolution that brings real benefits to the people giving a new sense of meaning and purpose to their lives.

General Acheampong

Character of the Coup

It was in such situations of the severe expressions of the basic problematic of the post-colonial state that the coup occurred. The coup attracted considerable attention both in Ghana and outside, not the least of which is the insistence by Rawlings that it had heralded the coming of a revolution in Ghana. In order to analyse these features of politics in Ghana, it is important to understand the character of the coup itself.

In order to understand the nature of the unfolding of the political process and the structure of politics contingent on the coup, it is important to grasp the character of the intervention itself, particularly its social base (relate to the story of coups; the position of Peter Calvert see political studies before 1968; revolutions are dangerous things to go near to; this same could be said of coups; coup stories are notoriously unreliable for the understanding of the true nature of the coups; there is always an attempt to rewrite the history in the period of consolidation, to re-emphasize the roles and de-emphasize the roles of certain particular individuals; to conceal certain facts or information. Coup itself by its very nature is a secret activity; its success depends on its ability on its ability to keep secrecy and an element of surprise and this is one of the real problems of turning a coup into a revolution even if you were to accept the claim of the coup makers in that direction. Revolution demands open politics; coup demands close politics; over a period of time the coup makers come to believe and trust the process of coup-making and confuse it with revolution making. Second, they tend to distrust those who advocate open politics; a coup is a conspiratorial activity; a revolution on the contrary is a public activity and this in itself is one of the main reasons for the problematic of the failed military revolutions (read the essay in New African where Afari Djan gives an interview showing the chaos of the 1979 coup.) But once the coup is successful, the process of rewriting of the history begins.)

One needs to bear this in mind in the account which follows. This is not to reconstruct the history of the coup, but to indicate its social base or rather its varied social bases, and to account for the problematic which it faced right in the very beginning. However, if the coup itself showed a very varied social base, it managed to arouse solid support from a constellation of class forces which is generally regarded as radical in Ghanaian politics and it is not for nothing that imperialism was initially very hostile to it. It has been asserted with some confidence that the elements which effected the coup came from outside he armed forces. (vii) This is only partly so. The stories of coup origins are notoriously unreliable. There are several reasons for this. Coup operation is always a very secret operation, and even when successful the coup leaders, do not let others into the whole gamut of their secrets. Second, there is a tendency once a coup is successful to rewrite the history of the coup, and in this process certain contributions from certain specific groups and individuals are either suppressed or exaggerated in line with their current standing. Third, as Peter Calvert argues (see Political Studies), revolutions destroy pre-revolutionary sources and endanger the lives of people who venture too closely. It is even more so with coups. One should read the following account with this in mind. The point of this section is neither to find out the causes of the coup which I regard as a futile quest nor to reconstruct the stories of the coup; we can never know the true causes of a coup. We can only designate the social conditions which predispose to coups. The attempt here is to underline the social base of the coup.

The elements which effected the coup came from a number of diverse social backgrounds and ideological viewpoints and four such groups could be identified as earlier noted. He first was a group of soldiers who as we observed, were closely associated with Rawlings during the time of the AFRC who for one reason or the other were either dismissed or retired from the Armed Forces with the coming of civilian rule in September 1979. Some were imprisoned and some claimed to have been tortured for what they saw as their part in the unsettling events of the AFRC period. They were mostly men of the ranks but senior officials who closely collaborated with the Rawlings regime also came in for some rough treatment. Prominent among these were Brigadier Nunoo-Mensah and Brigadier Arnold Quainoo.

After the hand over in order to restore discipline there were some prosecutions. This aside, there could be more subjective grounds for their support for the coup, namely personal security and safety as well as the sense of power which they felt they had lost consequent  on the coming back into power of the civilians who were very concerned to put the military in its rightful place. For such group of people therefore their motives for supporting the coup were a mixture of personal loyalty and support for a patron in what appeared to clearly like a patron-client relationship and search for personal security in context of what they regarded as anti-elitist egalitarian politics of the AFRC period – their class position within the military dictated their support for this position.

The second group was made up of some closest elements in Dr Limann’s security network as was earlier indicated. They were mostly people of northern extraction. It is more difficult to fathom the motives of this group. One can only guess that that it was some kind of empathy for Rawlings and antipathy and disillusionment caused by social and political project of the People’s National Party as well as the bland style of Dr Limann’s leadership. For this group, therefore, ideological motives were perhaps the highest and it is not surprising that the highest display of idealism was found among members of this group. It also became the first to be disenchanted with the revolution, and one of the main centres of conflict with the regime later. They were crucial to the success of the coup but also for the way in which the coup was perceived, thus determining the response to it. It is important to stress this in order to correct the one-sided view of the social science literature which tends to downgrade the subjective elements in coup-making, as well as responses to it. One should also not fall into the error of Decalo and Gutteridge of attributing motives to personal opportunism and personal factors only.

As for the third group, it consisted mostly of civilian activists of the June Fourth Movement and very close friends and associates of Rawlings, it has to be stressed that it was not the political group which was recruited into the conspiracy but individuals. These individuals were recruited for their closeness and their loyalty to Jerry Rawlings and their closeness to political groups which could be tapped later. This group was made up of people like Chris Atim, Amartey Kwei, Capt. Kojo Tsikata, P.V. Obeng and B.B.D. Asamoah as earlier pointed out. Chris Atim has been a student leader; he was part of the radical student movement whose long confrontation with the military government of General Acheampong eventually prepared the way for his overthrow and the coming into power of the AFRC headed by Jerry Rawlings which was to inspire enthusiasm one hand for its sweeping punishment the members of the petty bourgeois establishment but on the other hand, caused dismay by its unwillingness to create political and organizational instruments for the defence of people’s rights against oppression.

For Chris Atim the rule of Dr Limann was a negation of what could be a progression, continuation of the initiatives of the AFRC period. Kojo Tsikata has always been associated with the fringes of the intelligence. He is reported to have performed heroic roles in the Congo in the 1960s but then Nkrumah became disenchanted with him for reasons which have not been clear. He had always also been on the fringes of left politics, but more in the shadows. He was appointed director of military intelligence only to be removed without explanation in less than 24 hours. He was later to be implicated in the ‘One man, one matchet’ coup plot of General Acheampong, tried and sentenced to death, although the sentence was never carried out. He was during the AFRC period and served as some kind of unofficial adviser to Jerry Rawlings, only to suffer severe persecution under the Limann regime. He tried unsuccessfully to use the courts to restrain the military intelligence from harassment. One is not arguing here that his actions were prompted by bitterness but one is only saying that they could be interpreted as a mixture of ideological leaning and self regarding. It was clear that, like Rawlings, he saw his personal safety in the removal of the Limann regime. To say this is to underline the fact that to act in this way he was only being natural and human. P.V. Obeng had also been on the fringes of the left wing student politics during his student days at the University of Science and Technology. On graduating he took up a successful career as an engineer with a highly successful private Ghanaian fishing company, Mankoadze Fisheries at Tema. Amartey Kwei had been labour unionist, also suffered loss of job for urging workers at the GIHOC Industrial Holding Corporation to go on a strike. B.B.D. Asamoah had been dismissed from the civil service for reasons which are not entirely clear. For all these persons there were reasons of personal grievance as well as association with Jerry Rawlings which might have impelled them into supporting the coup. Those who insist on the existence of a fourth group of mostly Ewes often mention names like Arnold Quainoo, Kofi Awoonor, Brigadier Katta etc. I have no direct evidence of this but two of them have been connected in the past with coup attempts involving Kojo Tsikata.

Each group brought to the process a different ideological thrust and a different definition of politics. There developed in the initial period intense struggle for hegemony, not only between the Left. Notwithstanding these, one could say that the coup also brought a solid constellation of class forces on the Left, those who brought a solid constellation of class forces on the Left, those have been consistently left in power configurations in successive regimes in the country since the time of independence. It was the spectre of capture of capture of power by his ‘out’ group as it were and its political implications which determined the nature of imperialism’s attitude to the whole process and that of the local petty bourgeoisie as well as its relations in Africa. It is the significance of the coup and the unfolding of the process that we shall now turn our attention to. The specific way in which the process developed depended on how this struggle was resolved and which group assumed control over the state. We shall now look at the significance of the coup and how the process developed.

The Coup and its Significance.

On 31 December 1981, the following broadcast was made over radio and television:

Fellow citizens of Ghana, as you would have noticed we are not playing the National Anthem. In other words this is not a coup. I ask of nothing less than a revolution, something that would transform the social and economic order of this country.

The military is not to take over. We simply want to be part of the decision-making process in this country.

Fellow citizens, it is now left to you to decide how this country is going to go from today . . .

I am not here to impose myself on this country, far from it.

We are asking for nothing more than to organize this country in such a way that nothing will be done from the Council, whether by God or Devil, without the consent and the authority of the people . . .

I am prepared to, at this moment, face a firing squad if what I’ve tried to do for the second time in my life does not meet the approval of Ghanaians . . .

There is no justice in this society and so long as there is no justice, I would dare say let there be no peace. (8) (Emphasis added)

With these words what was to become known as the ‘December 31st Revolution’ was announced to the people of Ghana. There is something odd about announcing a ‘people’s revolution’ to the people but we shall leave that aside for the moment.

The Ghanaian political leadership seems to be enamoured with the word ‘revolution’. Since 1966 every change of government effected by extra-unconstitutional means had been called revolution. Changes of government of this sort have been justified on two main grounds, either the restoration of an old order or the creation of a new one, although it is more to the point to argue that, more often than not, the preferred change had involved both the need to restore an old order and the imperative of creating a new one, or sometimes reinforce certain features of the old order which are advantageous to the coup makers. The restoration of an old order as well as the creation of a new one has been called revolution  and when Ghanaian political leaders talk of revolution it is important to go beneath this terminology to find out exactly what changes are proposed what changes are proposed. It could also be that there is a recognition on the part of the leadership that the kinds of changes conjured up by the revolution have a great deal of support and hence he need to hitch on that support by dubbing every extra-legal change of government a revolution. The concept has been applied to the restoration of an old order, as well as to a radical change in socio-economic position with all the consequences it entails. It would seem though that almost every coup though that almost every coup seemed to have an element of both. Thus, when in 1966 the military took power from the government of Kwame Nkrumah and embarked on what was clearly a restoration of the old order, it described its action as a revolution. It claimed to be preparing the ground for the restoration of democracy, the later seen in terms of an electoral competition between two or more parties in periodic election and the restoration of the economy. By which they meant the restoration of capitalism for the recruitment of the political elites in whom the task of running the affairs of the state would be entrusted for a period of four years till the next round of electoral contests. In 1972 when the military overthrew the government of Dr Busia, the action was justified in the name of revolution, meaning creation of a new social order. Here, revolution was seen not as restoration of liberal democracy which it felt had failed under Dr. Busia to respond to the economic needs of the mass of the people and to restore democracy national unity and dignity but also create a new political and economic order which it was thought will meet such needs. General Acheampong was to say that ‘military intervention can be justified only if it opens the way to a genuine revolution that brings real benefits to the people, giving a new sense of meaning and purpose to their lives” (charter of redemption). It has to be noted that although General Acheampong did attempt some changes in the state of the economy and of the political system, not the least of all was the disastrous ‘Union Government’ campaign, it did restore privileges to military officers etc. When in 1978 the military overthrew General Acheampong and his Supreme Military Council (SMC), it was justified in the name of revolution of the old order of collegial rule, economic management and political probity. When in 1979 Rawlings overthrew the interim military government of General Akuffo, the action was justified in the name of moral revolution, a restoration of values of honesty, accountability, political integrity and probity which had held the state and society together  in the period preceding the rule of the military in 1972. This second time round, Rawlings justified his intervention in the name of revolution. It is of course naïve to think that the mere capture of state power by a military junta would in any meaningful sense of the word constitute a revolution. In this particular instance, the capture of  state power was seen as the beginning of a process which would lead to a fundamental change in structure of power, class relations, political institutions and processes, as well as the basic structure of the production process.

Whether this is possible or not is another matter, but it was in this sense that the supporters of the military junta called the coup of 31st December, a ‘revolution’; it was revolutionary in aspirational terms. This means the capture of state power would initiate a process of change leading to the unfolding of a revolutionary transformation of Ghanaian society.

Let us look at the specific character of this revolution and the principles by which it can be evaluated. In doing this we rely largely on the opening words of Jerry Rawlings soon after the coup. There are some who would be tempted to reject the statement as a piece of opportunistic declaration, having little or no significance to actual political behavior. However, considering that the statement in general is consistent with the tenor of Rawlings’ pronouncements during the time of the AFRC and during the time of the hand-over, and that it has constituted the main plank of the Left critics of the government as well as the government itself (see Fui’s letter as well as special statement in THE POST, December 10, 1986 which quotes the statement), have stood, we are justified in using it as the main yardstick.

Going back to the quotation with which we started this section, five main ideas stand out. First, there was the stated need for revolution, defined in terms of the transformation of the social and economic order. Among progressive groups and individuals the idea had persisted for sometime that Ghana’s post-colonial problems were such that only a revolution could respond effectively to them. What exactly this revolution was to entail has never been precisely articulated. There is, however, a consensus that it would involve the termination of the control of the local economy by foreign multinational companies, changes in the class structure of control of the state, creation of political forms which would make the interest of the broad mass of people predominant and realizable and a programme which would initiate a process of improving upon the material conditions of the mass of the people.

Those who broadly shared this position I would identify as belonging to the Left. Those who entertained the opposite position that there was nothing basically wrong with the nature of the country’s structure of production or production relations or the nature of economic relations with western capitalist countries or the structure of power, class relations or the nature of state power, and that certain aspects of its functioning needed to be reformed, I would identify as the ‘Right’. I am conscious that in both groups it was possible to find some grey areas but putting it in such broad terms enables us to situate the argument within a framework which is more analytically meaningful. Within each group there were some disagreements as regards the specific policies to be pursued in order to realize the broad objectives. But between the two groups the differences were of a fundamental kind. It is important to grasp this. Thus when Rawlings came out with the statement that what was needed was a social revolution necessary to transform socio-economic structure of Ghanaian society, in a statement which amounted to a political manifesto, he identified himself with the Left. Then in the early days of the AFRC, Rawlings had spoken of the oppressed in a way which brought him into instant empathy with the Left and radical groups generally. However, there has always been some anxiety about his impetuosity, predisposition to voluntaristic action, inclination towards activities of the ’lone ranger’ type, inability to accept organizational discipline and constraint, his preference for the foco theory of revolution (see Regis Debray and Che Guevara) and insistence on moral reform, and what would appear to be his insensitivity to the need to create social and political structures as the bedrocks of his vision of revolutionary change. When therefore he made this statement which amounted to a political manifesto for the Left and the progressive organizations generally, it signaled his renunciation of idealism and the embracing of a materialist perspective. This, in the eyes of leftists prepared the ground for a meaningful cooperation. As events were to prove, their conclusions were rather premature.

In Ghanaian conditions of the time, it was possible to argue that the mass of urban workers, the students, and he radical intelligentsia in varying degrees shared the Left platform, whereas the professionals, the middle classes, the officer corps of the military, the men of the liberal professions like law and medicine, the petty bourgeoisie located in the distributive sectors of the economy, in academia and in the upper layers of the state bureaucracy as well as the chiefly classes generally shared the Rightist outlook. The peasantry, on the whole, usually onlookers in the political divide, unless they perceived their interests as directly threatened as in the case of the cocoa disputes of he fifties, inclined towards the position of the chiefly classes. In organizational terms the extra-parliamentary political groups such as June Fourth Movement (JFM), the New Democratic Movement (NDM), the Kwame Nkrumah Revolutionary Guards (KNRG), the People’s Revolutionary league of Ghana (PRLG), the African Youth Command (AYC), the Pan-African Youth Movement (PANYMO) and the Movement for National Affairs (MONAS), broadly shared the Left position. The parliamentary parties and the establishment-oriented political organizations, such as the People’s National Party (PNP), the Popular Front Party (PFP), the Action Congress Party (ACP) [United National Convention (UNC)] and the Social Democratic Front (SDF), occupied the Rightist platform. So, when Rawlings made his announcement which put him firmly on the platform of the Left, the various organizations related according to their ideological predispositions.

The second important theme in the transformation process was its libertarian and anti-authoritarian nature and the central role it assigned to the mass of the people; nothing was to be imposed on the people from above, least of all from the junta, although it started with the capture of state power from above. It was to be a revolution from below and grassroots initiative was to provide the main dynamic. Its course would be determined by the dynamics of the people’s struggles; and the mass of the people would remain the main agents of the transformation process. The Armed Forces, conceptualized as a distinct group with corporate interests would only be part of the decision-making process, not the decision-making body. They were to employ the instruments of violence in a direct class manner to ensure that in the unfolding of the process, the interests of the mass of the people were not sacrificed and that the initiatives remained in the hands of the progressives. It is needless to say that this would only be possible if the Armed Forces shared the same class and ideological interests as the mass of the people. This was one of the main problems because the armed forces shared both class and corporate interests. Stability was often maintained by using the corporate interests to overrule class interests and in the unstable conditions of the time class interest came to the fore but the issue was not clear-cut in any way. The transformation was to be achieved through the principle of consent, and mass democracy and popular participation were to be important tens of this transformation.

A third principle of the revolutionary transformation following on the need for mass democracy and popular participation was the concept of the people as constituting the sovereign power in the land. ‘ . . . nothing will be done from the Castle without the consent of the people – the farmers, the police, the soldiers, the workers, the rich and poor would be part of the decision-making process of this country.’ The populist content of the message was clear. It was later to be a big bone of contention between Rawlings and the Left. But it must also be noted that it was the theme of which ran through the first issue of the Workers Banner, the JFM paper.

In overthrowing the civilian government the military was only acting on behalf of the people. It was not substituting itself for the people. It was only creating conditions under which institutions could be created for the people to exercise their sovereign power which was denied them, even under the constitutional rule of Dr Limann.

A fourth principle of the transformation was the recognition that justice, distributive and popular justice was to be an important and necessary condition for the creation of the new society. The fifth principle was the accountability of the leadership to the led and the sanctions for leadership’s failure. There was to be an organic relationship between rulers and the ruled.

And to underline his awareness of exploitation he concluded that ‘let no man make money at the expense of another man’. It was a declaration which aroused the imagination and the enthusiasm of the urban working class who had in the previous years watched helplessly as inflation ate the substance of their wages while dubious businessmen in the distribution sectors of the economy made windfall profits out of the import-export business and the peculiar conditions which existed at the time.

A number of contradictions and problems could be pointed out between these principles and the action of the coup. In the first place how could one reconcile the concept of people’s power and grassroots initiative with an action which started with capture of state power from the top? Second, how could the Armed Forces be the arbiter and at the same time a partisan in the sense of using the instruments of violence to advance the cause of the mass of the people? Third, as already pointed out, this would imply a congruence of class and ideological interests which as no empirical validity. The Armed Forces was a multi-class organization and depending on the class of those who control it, it could be used to advance the cause of the mass of the people or of the petty bourgeoisie. At this particular time there was a small group of Leftist soldiers who occupied the important position in the constellation of forces which effected the coup but they did not constitute the dominant position to commanding position in the Armed Forces as a whole. For this to happen it would be necessary to move from position to a commanding position within the Armed Forces. This could only be done with the support of the leadership of the coup. This was one of the most crucial problems which Rawlings faced. And finally, although the principles stipulated the need for accountability and sanctions for leadership failure, there were no mechanisms for enforcement. And, lastly, for the leaders of the coup there was the tension or the contradiction between the need to keep order and maintain control over the pace of events and at the same time give the initiative to the mass of the people. How could this be done in the absence of an all-embracing political party with firm organizational links and mechanisms for enforcing discipline?

We need not allow these problems to detain us now. It was clear enough as a political manifesto. In fact the speech deserves more attention than has so far been given to it. It was an unequivocal call for revolution, defined in terms of the transformation of the socio-economic order achieved through democratic struggle and popular participation of the mass of the people. A cardinal point of this transformation process was accountability and the reduction or elimination of inter-group conflict through the promotion of social justice. The military coup was to be a catalyst, a social action which would create the conditions for bringing the transformation process into being. In other words, it was to turn a military revolt into a social revolution. Although it said nothing about a political movement, there was some kind of unstated understanding that it would be based on some sort of unity of the Leftist political organizations forming the political base of the initiative, with the Defence Committees, which were to emerge later, as the advance and shock troops as it were.

Reactions to the Coup

How could the Left have supported an initiative from a military which a few weeks, even days before, had harassed them? It was because they entertained the non-monolithic view of the Ghanaian military and the tendency to act downwards  which enabled it to think of the possibility of working with the military, thought and entertained the idea of the military acting more as a rearguard action than a vanguard as many as may seem below.

There were usual demonstrations in support of the coup and the proclamations from the chiefly class proffering support. Early in January there were repeated public demonstrations, particularly in Accra, in support of the coup (cf. daily newspapers) As much as Rawlings asked for national populist support embracing all the population, public reaction to the coup was structured along class and ideological lines. It was and still is a fact of Ghanaian political life. Depending on one’s conception of what the coup implied, political organizations and social groups reacted with reference to their class interests and ideological predispositions. Thus, the progressive organizations, on the basis of the active involvement of certain individuals, identified with the Left, not the least which was Kojo Tsikata and to some extent Jerry Rawlings himself and the explicit statements of what amounted to a political manifesto which we have just outlined and which put Rawlings and the coup project firmly but broadly within the Left; they perceived the coup as a Left project, with a potential for opening up avenues for social change which they themselves had been unable to bring about, rallied behind it. Included in this was were the mass of the urban working or non-working class and the students, as well as the radical intelligentsia. It was a typical Fanonian constellation of class forces; the only class lacking was the peasantry. On the other hand, the petty bourgeoisie located in the distributive sectors of the economy, commerce or industry, in academia, in the liberal professions or in the upper layers of the bureaucracy and the Armed Forces generally greeted the coup with dismay and apprehension. Although some of them showed some disdain for corruption and ineptitude of the Limann regime, they were apprehensive of he militarist solution to Ghana’s problems. The Chiefly classes were also on the whole apprehensive, if not covertly hostile. The peasantry adopted a wait-and-see attitude but on the whole they shared the apprehension and suspicion of the chiefly classes. They had seen so many military coups, liberations, and revolutions with a claim to make their lot better but which had not made any difference, that they had become cynical.

In many parts of Africa there was dismay as another constitutional government was overthrown. A similar coup of lower ranking soldiers had occurred in Liberia in 1980 and a surprising one in Guinea Bissau, and there was fear that the disease might spread to other areas, bringing instability within the sub-region. Nigeria was particularly apprehensive as there were rumours of restlessness among its own junior officers and lower ranking soldiers. In Nigeria the press was particularly hostile, although this tended to conceal the admiration of the ordinary Nigerian worker had for what he considered to be the process going on in Ghana, namely the punishment of the corrupt rich. Those who also feared that the coming back of Rawlings would signal another round of executions, as happened in June 1979 under the AFRC, Ghana and did everything they could to frustrate the initiatives of the Ghanaian revolution. Among the countries which had everything to fear from Ghana were the Republic of Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria, not to talk of Burkina Faso. Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo in particular played host to a number of supporters of the former regime as well as escaped members of the security and military intelligence who made their way to these countries in the wake of the coup, regrouped and sought to use these as a base to destabilize and eventually overthrow the government. But of all this it was the foreign reaction which was most virulent.

In Africa, Libya appeared the most enthusiastic about the coup and with good reasons. Ghana’s relations with Libya had reached an all-time low when Dr Limann openly accused Gadafi of meddling in the internal affairs of his country and announced that he would not attend the OAU meeting scheduled for Tripoli. In November 1980 President Limann had demanded the closure of the Libyan embassy in Accra for activities deemed incompatible with its diplomatic status. (see Accra radio, November 18, 1980). At the OAU summit in Nairobi Limann had been one of the most outspoken in opposing the holding of the OAU summit in Tripoli. Although a number of allegations were made of the presence of Libyan military missions in Accra at the time of he coup, these could not be substantiated and seemed part of western or rather Reagan’s campaign to discredit Tripoli, and provide an excuse for attack on Gadafi which hey did in April 1985. Chris Atim in February led a delegation to Tripoli where he concluded an agreement on scientific, cultural and educational co-operation, and arranged for joint commercial ventures between the two countries and to set up in Ghana a Ghana-Libyan bank, similar to what Tripoli did in Uganda at the time of Idi Amin. Tripoli promised to send a shipload of fuel coming to 500,000 barrels in all. The first shipment of 24,000 arrived on 1, March. (see African Contemporary Record, p. 424)

The government sent goodwill missions to Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Britain to solicit support. However, most of these countries remained skeptical about the new government’s ability to hold the country together, let alone respond to the serious social and economic problems. In March a Ghana delegation led by Brigadier Joseph Nunoo-Mensah left for Britain. He was able to meet the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat Sony Ramphal who was sufficiently impressed to visit Ghana in April after which he recommended Commonwealth support for the new regime. This kind of support was crucial in the re-negotiation of the Volta Aluminium Company.

Rawlings had travelled to Tripoli in the summer of 1981, had reportedly met members of the Libyan leadership who had promised him finance and support. It was also said that Libya supported the Workers Banner. Libya was the first to recognize the new regime and offered help in material and moral terms. Rawlings who also made a secret trip to Tripoli in the first few days of the coup. It was such incidents which gave the impression that Libya also sent badly needed food, fuel and military spare parts and some equipment. It sent two petrol tankers to help with the fuel shortage and later was to enter into an agreement to provide fuel on concessionary basis on long-term basis.

Relations with Soviet Union, Cuba and Eastern European socialist countries were friendly but not enthusiastic. The latter welcomed he change but were suspicious of the capacity of the government to match words with actions. In March a delegation led by Chris Atim was sent to the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, the whole purpose of which was to try and interest them in activities of Ghana to the level to which there were at the time of Nkrumah. A number of agreements dealing with co-operation in economic, cultural and scientific maters were signed.



Dynamics of the Transformation Process: January – December, 1982

We now consider how the ideas and principles embodied in Rawlings’ first major political statement were put into some programmatic form. This resolves around three main issues : (i) taking control of existing institutions and using them to realize the ends defined by government; (ii) creating new institutions to realize the goals of the transformation process; and (iii) redefining the structure of politics in such a way as to give predominance to the social forces which were behind the new government and which were to  be the main beneficiaries in the new order being created.

Government and Administration

The Provisional National Defence Council

The first task after capturing state power was to set up a system of government and administration to run the country and also to translate the ideas of the ‘revolution’ into practice. A Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) was formed with Jerry Rawlings as its chairman. It was made up of seven members, four from the military and three from among civilians. Both the military and the civilian members were chosen with the view of enlisting support from critical social groups. Thus, the appointment of Brigadier Joseph Nunoo-Mensah was meant to ensure the support of the senior officers of the Armed Forces, and to present the ‘acceptable face’ of the revolution. He was widely respected as a good professional soldier and was thought to have good links with the West. He was seen by the senior officers as their assurance, and the men of the ranks did not have any personal grievances against him. Indeed, he was one of the few senior officers during the time of the AFRC who could venture to barracks to address soldiers. Many senior officers of the Armed Forces, as well as the members of  the petty bourgeoisie, generally felt that so long as he was there the ‘wild men of the revolution’ would be kept under control. He was supposed to have good links with the British military establishment. And in the early months of the coup he led delegations to Britain and Nigeria to assure hem of the goodwill of the leaders of the ‘revolution’ and their interest in maintaining existing levels of relations. Having been summarily retired by the Limann administration, he entertained some pleasure at seeing the government which had treated him in such a cavalier situation thrown out. He therefore had an interest in ensuring the success. The last thing such a person would want was the return of the Limann administration. The appointment of Warrant Officer Adjei Boadi, in spite of his being a close personal friend of Rawlings, was to ensure the support of the young officers while that of Sergeant Alolga Akata Pore was to bind the men of the other ranks firmly with the junta.

The appointment of the civilian members showed similar political considerations. Thus, Amartey Kwei, (ix) a militant labour leader who has been branch secretary of the labour movement at GIHOC Pharmaceuticals and who led the notorious raid on Parliament House a year earlier and had built up a reputation as some kind of folk hero among the rank and file members, was appointed to the Council in order to ensure the backing of the urban working, while the appointment of Chris Atim Bukari, who at the time of the coup was the general secretary of the JFM after the resignation of Agambila, and was the Vice-President of the National Union of Ghana Students in his undergraduate days, was to identify the youth and the student movement in a more tangible way with the political process. His inclusion was to bind the JFM, the student movement and the youth generally to the new initiative. Rev Father Damuah, an eccentric Catholic priest, with a reputation for outspokenness and frankness was appointed probably to attract the ‘honest and patriotic’ sections of the petty bourgeoisie. This was rather unfortunate as he cut a poor figure among the petty bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia whom he was meant to attract. There were two others, Tsikata and Obeng, who functioned to all intents as members but were not formally so. This was to cause some irritation and tension. This position was rectified later with the appointments of Kojo Tsikata and P.V. Obeng as full members of the Council. As time went on, certain members were dropped, fired, dismissed or resigned or executed (as was the case of Amartey Kwei) but the idea of appointing members in order to the critical social groups whose support was being enlisted continued. Thus, following the disaffection of Chris Atim and Alolga Akata-Pore, as well as certain soldiers of Northern extraction with the regime with the regime, determined efforts were made to maintain the representation and possibly the support of the North, particularly the Upper West through associating a member of this group from the area.

The Council was constituted as the highest policy making body in the country. It combined both executive and legislative functions, although in practice its chairman performed these functions, with or without its advice. Law emanated more as decrees from the chairman than a result of consensus arrived at by members of the Council. At its inception it was expected it was expected to form a broad framework of policy to be carried out by another body, the Committee of Secretaries. In practice it turned out to be nothing of the sort. It became a perfunctory body which met infrequently and intermittently on an ad hoc basis. Its main function appeared to provide a stamp of legitimacy for decisions taken elsewhere in informal cabals or secret bodies. The idea of choosing membership from critical social groups either on class basis or as it was beginning, and later more on a regional basis, gave it an appearance of a national team. But this very merit was its one great weakness also: the diverse elements which made up the membership detracted from its political and ideological coherence which was critical for effective functioning. One serious problem with this body was that the top leadership itself was not very clear on what specific role it should play.

In view of the way things functioned or rather did not function, certain observers have persisted in asserting the existence of an Ethiopian style Dergue which functioned in a clandestine manner. It is claimed that this was the real political decision-making body. Its composition and modus operandi have remained secret. It was clear, however, that if such a body existed, its ideological predisposition was different from the position of the Left as articulated by the progressive organizations, the urban working classes and less as a political and ideological body, giving directions, taking initiative and providing main guidelines than some kind than some kind of a collective ceremonial president. Initiative, as we have said, was largely in the hands of the Chairman and his very close associates who need not be members of the Council.

The Committee of Secretaries

The next stage in the establishment of a framework of administration was the formation of the Committee of Secretaries. It was made up of politico-administrative heads of government ministries and functioned as a kind of cabinet. Unlike the Council, it met regularly once a week to discuss day-to-day problems of running the country. It did not, however, share collective responsibility, a fact which hindered its political cohesiveness. Another problem was the need to represent various areas and ethnic groups in the country. This meant that the final body which emerged was even more ideologically diverse than the Council. This affected not only its capacity to develop coherent programmes but he Committee itself often became the scene of intense ideological struggles as different members sought to bring into being programmes which represented their ideological perspectives or groups to which they were identified and which represented their ideological perspectives or groups to which they were identified and which they represented. An attempt to rectify the situation by bringing out Policy Guidelines to which Secretaries were to act ended in a deadlock, and the final document which emerged showing eclectic statements of ideological mishmash was a reflection of ideological incoherence of the membership. The only thing which could have remedied the situation was the existence of a well tuned ideological body, with a clear programme, which will draw the main outlines of policy for the Committee of Secretaries to implement. Indeed, when it was inaugurated, this seemed to have been the expectation (see Rawlings’ inaugural speech) but as no clear ideological line emanated from the Council or from the top leadership, except from the National Defence Committee which was outside the main hierarchy or structure of government, and had in fact no legal basis of power and authority, as the Right was to remind it countless times, the Secretaries continued to function according to their own ideological predispositions. The result was of course chaos. None of these two organizations helped to translate the principles embodied in the quotation into practice. It did not mean that they did not do any useful functions of governing the country. We are evaluating them with respect to translating into practice the principles of the revolutionary transformation as it were. The two institutions we have discussed, although their names are different, fitted more into institutions which have existed in the country before. Thus the Council functioned like some kind of collective ceremonial president, to which the Committee of Secretaries functioned like a cabinet with the Co-ordinating Secretary as some kind of a Prime Minister. But it was in the Defence Committees that one saw a really new initiative directly linked with the task of translating the idea and principles of the revolutionary transformation into practice.

Creating New Institutions.

It is clear that if, as we have seen, there was no fundamental changes within the existing structure of the state apparatus to accommodate the transformation process as envisaged, then anew machinery for such changes would have to be created from outside the formal structure of government. These were what came to be known as organs of popular power or people’s power. They were the main innovations at the institutional level which the coup initiated. For the mass of the urban people and the Left in general, they represented the hope of the future and the vision of the new society. It was not surprising that it was this particular innovation which invoked the bitterest opposition from the ranks of the petty bourgeoisie, both within and outside government. What Rawlings did was to set up the institutional basis for a new definition of politics, in terms of goals, objectives, style and he dominant class forces. These organs were to replace that coalition made up of the radical intelligentsia, the lower ranks of the petty bourgeoisie, the urban workers and peasants. It was the same kind of coalition which Nkrumah had earlier attempted to build without much success. But it was clear that if one accepted the postulate that the people were to be the main instruments of the transformation process and the architects of their own destinies, then it was necessary to create certain structures and institutions through which their collective energies could be mobilized and channeled into social action in accordance with the dynamics of the transformation process. The institutions created were the Workers Defence Committees (WDCs), the People’s Defence Committees (PDCs), the National Defence Committee (NDC), the Citizens Vetting Committee (CVC), the National Investigation Committee (NIC) and the Public Tribunals. These constituted the counter institutions of state power of post-colonial state. Every instrument of the coercive power of the state was countered by one of these organizations. It was thus predictable that the Right in government and the petty bourgeoisie as a whole, seeing the potential of these organizations for fundamental changes in society, accused the NDC of running a ‘parallel government’. But this precisely was what a revolution implied, the creation of new and counter-institutions which would in the initial stages run parallel to existing ones till they have mustered enough material support and strength to replace them altogether. We shall now look at the operations of these institutions and see to what extent they contributed to the unfolding of the dynamics of the transformation process.  

The Defence Committees

If the administrative changes were not spectacular, the political changes were as we have said, the most innovative aspects of the new changes put in force as a result of the coup and proclamation of the revolutionary transformation. The formation of the Defence Committees was justified against the background of the crisis facing the country, the repeated failures of governments of the past and the need to make a new beginning on the basis of the sovereignty of the people. It was an elaboration of the principles stated un Rawlings’ first broadcast which we have already accepted as the political manifesto for the revolutionary transformation of society. Part of the broadcast went this way:

Ghana is in crisis. A country rich in both human and material resources has managed, somehow to propel itself into severe crisis through peaceful means. That is to say our present situation . . . did not arise out of a war, a famine, an earthquake, or a flood etc . . . We have several governments making attempts (or pretending to make such attempts) aimed at solving these chronic problems since independence. While the attempts of the CPP under Nkrumah were brave attempts, all others pretended to be coming to grips with the problems, while the solutions they proposed or attempted to implement, rather sold us down the drain even more. At bottom of it all, whether those governments had been military or civilian, the problems have been the loss of our sovereignty as citizens and the concentration of our power in the hands of ‘representatives’ who were supposed to exercise such power on our behalf. Because every past government claimed that it was working in the interest of the people, and every action taken was taken in the name of the people. And yet, when we look back, apart from the brief period of the AFRC era, and some of the policies of the CPP, all our previous governments worked in the interests of a local elite, and foreign masters . . . Therefore, the solution to our problem of hunger in the midst of plenty is to regain our sovereignty, and for the masses of our people to exercise this power, ourselves, on our own behalf. (NGC Guidelines for the formation of Defence Committees, pp. 3 – 4)

The Defence Committees which emerged from this kind of thinking and such actions were of two types, the Workers Defence Committees (WDCs) and the People’s Defence Committees (PDCs). The formation of these two bodies was announced soon after the seizure of power. The WDCs were set up in work places and the PDCs were set up in neighbourhood areas. The WDCs were to be the main instruments of mobilization in the structure of production and to some extent in the distribution and the PDCs were the main instruments of mobilization at the level of residence, that is in local communities. It has to be stressed that the Defence Committees were not to be involved directly in the distribution but to supervise the distribution process so as to ensure that it was done equitably and with justice (see National Defence Committee Guidelines for the formation of defence committees). All Defence Committees were expected to have three elective officials, namely:  general secretary, organizing secretary and chairman. Each was to have a sub-committee on various activities which the Defence Committees were expected to be doing. These included health and sanitation, rent and housing, education and culture, construction and projects, transport, youth, sports and recreation, political education, rallies and demonstration, defence and security and disciplinary and vetting, functioned. This in a way reflected the interest of the workers.

Initially, membership was limited to workers, peasants and the revolutionary intellectuals but this cause such furor, both in the ranks of the petty bourgeoisie and among certain leaders of the PNDC who argued that the mood of the times demanded a national reconciliation which did not admit of division on the basis of class or social origins. Membership rule was amended to mean that although other classes could attend, they could not hold elective posts. Finally, this was also amended to define participation less by class, social origins or ideological stance. Participation was to depend on one’s active involvement and commitment. The only people to be excluded were drunkards, rogues and thieves, kalabule smugglers, chieftaincy contractors, counter-revolutionaries, anti-social elements etc (Guidelines p. 8). It is interesting to note that the earlier contention that members of the chiefly class should be excluded was replaced by chieftaincy contractors, meaning that chieftaincy by itself was acceptable but only a specific negative activity associated with the institution of chieftaincy. It was perhaps in order to balance this class attack that the Guidelines declared that officers and those entrusted with responsibilities within the defence committees should be elected from the most disciplined and most politically aware, the most dedicated and most revolutionary; and the most capable among the members. It must be added that the change in the class character of the Defence Committees reflected more the thinking of Rawlings and the Right in government than the bulk of the membership of the Defence Committees, and once again indicated the complaints of the Defence Committees that historically people have always acted on their behalf with disastrous consequences to themselves and the country at large. And it was now time for them to act for themselves, and that was the main point of the Defence Committees. They were organized at area, zonal, and district levels, but the articulation among these was weak. There was a strong local autonomy and the secretariat was not always able to exercise even that measure of control which it had over its activities and operations. The Defence Committees were the institutional mechanisms for the practice of the new definition of politics and consolidation and the new class coalition which was to burst on the political scene and was seeking to take control of the state through political struggles. This they were to do at several levels.

At the time when the formal leadership of the Trades Union Congress had virtually lost its legitimacy among the rank and file workers due to what was perceived as its compromising position on workers’ demands, the WDCs became the main centres for the expression of shop floor militancy and struggle within the labour process, first for the control of the labour movement, and second for the control of the labour process itself. They were organized and controlled by the workers themselves and displayed worker militancy which had not been seen in the country since the days of the independence struggle. Later the state introduced broad guidelines as a form of exercising some control over their actions.

The initial phase of their activity was marked by severe conflict within the labour unions against the old leadership and against management occurred at Ghana Textile Plant in Tema in November 1982. Initially, the leadership of the PNDC either encouraged or turned a blind eye to these actions as it found it necessary to weaken the labour movement which in the absence of organized political parties was the only organization which could be a serious rival to its claim to the monopoly of power of power and loyalty of the working class. Second, even if it wanted to, it was in no position at this moment to impose effective control on the actions of the workers. These actions practically terrorized the petty bourgeoisie and their organizations and made it difficult for them to mount an immediate political challenge to the PNDC. Their delayed action gave the much needed breathing space to meet the challenge when it came. Even in spite of this initial boost with the actions of the Defence Committees gave to the government, it was not enthusiastic about what was beginning to look like an endemic conflict with management. It wanted particular managerial elements to be disciplined, whereas the workers wanted the entire concept of the managerial class control of the production and distribution to be an open question and to use the occasion to review the entire relationship between capital and labour.

Initial acts were marked by suspensions, dismissals, indefinite leaves, lockouts, etc, of management. They were also concerned with participation in decision-making and participation in the planning of the economy at the sectoral level. Also demanded by workers were a more equitable distribution of resources and access to welfare and state services such as health, education, housing, etc. In this way they became embroiled in a four-cornered conflict with the old leadership of the Trades Unions, with management, with the petty bourgeois Right and with the political leadership of the PNDC.

The most interesting feature of the Defence Committees, particularly the WDCs, was their relentless struggle for a position independent of the political leadership. Although they supported the general line of the revolutionary process, and in general supported the PNDC, they were particularly anxious not to subordinate their class interests completely to those of the state. In the actions of the police, certain members of the Armed Forces, the judiciary and the bureaucracy, they were more than sure that although Jerry Rawlings, their man, was occupying Government House, the mass of the people did not control the state. And they were particularly pressing on issues of control of the production process, the issue of public corruption, particularly of the managerial classes, equal access to state resources in the form of welfare provisions, equality in the distribution of material goods and services, and participation in decision-making at all levels. At issue was a demand for a clear redefinition of the structure of the politics of the postcolonial state. The relationship with the PNDC was characterized by conflict and cooperation. The workers found in the Defence Committees and the other organs of popular power institutional mechanism for the expression of their class demands, instruments for their class struggles and structures for consolidation of class gains. In this way they showed a marked maturity from workers’ actions of previous decades. They defended the government against attacks from the petty bourgeois but they also struggled against the government in pursuit of their own class demands and interests. This marked a new state in working class politics in the country. It was in this context that they rebuffed Jerry Rawlings’ exhortation to concentrate on production and leave the realm of politics with the retort, production for whom? They wanted the question of power to be settled first.

The People’s Defence Committees simply took up such questions but have especially in rural communities the class lines were not very sharp and their activities were marked by less conflict – although in some cases they found themselves in conflict with rural power structure and class privilege. Where this was particularly buttressed by a gerontocracy, the struggle took on the character of generational conflict; for example, the Teshi-Nungua conflict and other rural conflicts.

Many political commentators have remarked on the spontaneous origins of the Defence Committees. Both in terms of their origins and operations, they demonstrated the Fanonist concept of the strength and weakness of spontaneity. Their strength did lie in the fact that they provided, at a very crucial moment and in the absence of formally structured and well articulated working class parties, an organizational basis for the conduct of class struggles, and the expression of consolidation of class power. Their weakness lay in the ‘mistakes’ they committed in the process of working out a strategy of struggle of excess zeal displayed in meeting specifically justifiable objectives; they attacked far too many fractions and centres of power of petty bourgeoisie simultaneously without waiting to consolidate their gains, and then attack other fractions. They did not pay sufficient attention to the organization of their rear in order to be able to withstand the inevitable backlash once the petty bourgeoisie had recovered from its initial shock; their naïve assumption that in their struggle against capital, and particularly foreign capital, the state and political leadership would always come to their aid did not enable them to take necessary caution and was to lead to unfortunate consequences, the least being mutual suspicion on both sides. But perhaps the most serious weakness was their inability to build effective and strong organizational links among many loose and badly articulated units of the Defence Committees, and their inability or reluctance to recruit the peasantry and present a worker/peasant front. Some of the members did show certain features of infantile leftism in behavioural rather than doctrinal terms but later charges as ultra leftism as a reason for their suppression could not be sufficiently substantiated. It was an excuse for opportunists and Rightist elements in the PNDC to suppress them as they did not fit in the new scheme of things being planned.

It would appear that the concept of the PDCs and WDCs had existed in the JFM where they were called Revolutionary Committees before the onset of the coup of 31 December. It was regarded as one of the important organizational networks of the JFM. The idea seemed to have originated from the visit of Jerry Rawlings and some of his close associates to Libya in the summer of 1980. It was even claimed by some of the JFM supporters that in certain areas they had existed in embryo prior to the coup. So when Rawlings made his coup announcement soon after the coup regarding the Defence Committees, he was in fact appealing for the implementation of a programme which was already in existence. The fact that it was embraced by practically the whole nation, and not just the JFM, was an indication of the existence of revolutionary ferment at that time. This explains its spontaneous character. This line of interpretation is borne out by the tone of a long piece in the first issue of the Workers’ Banner, (August 1981), the organ of the JFM, which wrote of revolutionary committees very much in the way the Defence Committees were to be conceptualized later. It noted that:

Only the revolutionary institutions of the (civil and uniformed) workers, poor people – Revolutionary Committees of Workers, Soldiers, Policemen, Farmers, Peoples Congresses etc. – can enable all of us to take active part in government, to have a voice in the utilization of our wealth, to demand which fishing nets and cutlasses should be imported. These committees of the ordinary people, will hold mass meetings such as durbars of the other ranks in the barracks of or peoples congresses in towns and villages, on the farms, in the factories, mines, shop floors everywhere, to debate national issues and to take decisions affecting the lives of ordinary people. That is why the peoples committees represent the highest form of democracy. The budget proposals will be debated by the farmers in their villages, the workers in the factories, mines and on shop floors, the soldiers and police in their barracks and their collective decisions will become the law of the day. [12]

This is the clearest expression of the ideas and the concept of the Defence Committees. In the way they were envisaged the Defence Committees were to be engaged in a number of activities. They were to be the main instruments of participatory democracy and the expression of the power of the people. They were to be the mechanisms by which the people were to protect the ‘gains’ of the revolution. As party political activity was proscribed, they became the main channel for the articulation of demands by that social group which has been persistently left out of the political decision-making process or class coalition which has ruled the country since independence. They were usually supported by the youth who had no past to look to for inspiration and no future to look forward to, and the urban working or non-working class.

The activities of the Defence Committees were varied and their level of performance also varied from one area to another. They were strongest in the urban areas, particularly those situated in work situations. In certain local areas they did not appear as instruments of an out-group, to gain power. Most of their members saw them as such. In certain other areas they formed food and agricultural brigades and did useful, if contentious, work in the rural areas. In this wise their activities in some case had challenged the local power structure, and in other areas they had become partisan in local power struggles.

In the urban areas they engaged in the mundane task of refuse collection which had practically been neglected as the state did not have the vehicles nor the materials in the form of disinfectants to cope with the mounting refuse piled sky-high in many street corners of Accra and other urban areas, Nima was particularly notorious for this. They also appointed themselves price control inspectors and patrolled markets, some with troops to bring down prices to their ‘realistic’ level. In certain areas, they started to assume judicial powers and to settle local disputes in the way that political parties had done in their early formative years. [13] They exercised powers to arrest although, unlike their counterparts in other countries, they never had powers of meeting out sanctions, [14] and there was no legal basis for any of such functions to be performed. Throughout the period, the state refused to give them legal backing.

One particular area where their support was very crucial in consolidating the regime was hat of intelligence and security. At the time when it appeared that the security network has practically broken down and the regime had no time to build a new one, these organizations played a vital role in monitoring the movement of ‘suspicious’ people. They regarded the regime as theirs and were prepared to defend it with their lives if possible and some did indeed. On 19 June 1983 when the regime faced its most severe danger yet in the form of a near successful coup attempt, it was the PDCs and WDCs which mounted road blocks and rallied unreservedly to he support of the regime. Some of their members lost their lives in the process.

Members of the Defence Committees also did useful work in the areas of smuggling. For several years, successive regimes in Ghana had been beaten by teams of well-organized smugglers with strong connections with state officials. Agricultural raw materials such as cocoa, and even locally consumed goods such as maize and rice, were smuggled across the borders to Cote d’Ivoire and the Republic of Togo where they fetched higher prices. Ghana’s manufactured goods were also smuggled across the border in the same way as the economy deteriorated and it became difficult to buy consumer goods in the country. It became the main channel in the country to secure goods. It was well-known fact that if one needed locally manufactured products like safety matches, cloth etc., one had to go to Lome! Border guards which had been set up to monitor and fight the system of organized corruption, more often than not became part of the whole racket, until the whole system had grown to such an extent that it was a problem for every government. It should be remembered that it was a reaction against incidents of this nature that the first Rawlings intervention had considerable support from the same class of people.

Some members of these Defence Committees indulged in wild and rowdy activities, had endless mass meetings and chanted slogans which were threatening but they did not follow these up with action to rout their class enemies. They showed a great deal of enthusiasm of leveling down of society, and were great advocates in the cause of the ‘first shall be the last’, which was to arouse great fear and hostility in the petty bourgeoisie as a whole. Sometimes their methods were to cause dismay even among Left supporters who were convinced of the theoretical justification of their cause, but would prefer different means of dealing with their enemies. This was particularly so with the case of meting out rough justice and their treatment of members of the petty bourgeoisie accused of corruption. They spurned the judicial process and distrusted organized power of the state which they only knew too well was not entirely under their control. They did have some influence but they did not control the state apparatus even at the height of their power and influence. In certain cases, particularly in rural areas, they were used to settle private quarrels as alluded to earlier.

Their relations with organized labour were uneasy at the beginning. They were suspicious of the general leadership of the Trades Union Congress whom they accused of being corrupt and of compromising workers’ interest to that of the petty bourgeoisie leadership of the organized political parties. Indeed, those who were to become leaders of the Defence Committees were in some cases leaders on the shop floor whose militancy had been blunted by the desire of the main unions to avoid premature confrontation with the state or organized labour. These, regarding the main trade union leadership and organization as virtually irrelevant for the pursuit of workers’ interests, used the Defence Committees not only to express and press workers’ demands but also as instruments in their class struggle against labour. In fact, one of the things that became obvious at the time was the generally expressed position of the Defence Committees that workers’ interests could not be contained or realized within the structure of the existing state at the time. It was largely through the initiative of these that the national leadership of the Trades Union Congress was removed and replaced with the Association of Local Union in April 1982. It also has to be admitted that in many of these confrontations with organized labour, the Defence Committees received the support of the state, since the government fearing that organized labour was the only strong organization which if it took a hostile action against official initiative it would be a formidable one. Later, with the worsening of the relations with the Defence Committees, the government was to seek the support of the Trades Unions against the Defence Committees and urged them to assert themselves.

The Defence Committees’ relations with the PNDC were ambivalent. On the one hand, they were supportive of the position of the PNDC, but on the other hand, they were frustrated that the PNDC did not fully endorse their action for a full leftward move, and were to be frustrated further by the refusal of the government to define a course of action. Particularly irksome for the Defence Committees was the government’s attitude towards members of the petty bourgeoisie. There was lack of trust between them. Whereas the PNDC regarded these as Jacobins who were pressing for revolutionary transformation prematurely, the Defence Committees accused the government of back-pedalling on the revolutionary path. This was a persistent complaint and was carried in all the issues of The Banner. The Defence Committees were often frustrated by the actions taken by the leadership and sometimes this kind of frustration was expressed in ways which showed great depth.

If the Defence Committees did useful work, there were certain aspects of their activities which attracted criticism even from the leadership of the PNDC. Jerry Rawlings, in a generous tribute to the Defence Committees, before his move to the right, declared in a major policy statement in July 1982 that:

We would not be exaggerating if we said that since the introduction of the Peoples’ Defence Committees, notable contributions have been made to our national progress. In the first place these institutions have provided for the first time a mechanism by which the man in the street can take a meaningful part in the political process . . . The introduction of these institutions has arrested he cynical apathy which had gripped the nation [15].

And in a mood which indicated government’s ambivalence to some of the activities of the Defence Committees:

. . . let us have the courage to state that in certain cases, these organizations have not always acted in ways which we can be proud of. In certain areas they have reportedly assumed police powers, made rash allegations against management personnel, and have had problems with local trade unions. Some have been infiltrated by agents provocateurs and counter-revolutionaries and in certain areas they have constituted themselves as political witch-hunting committees. [16]

Assessments of the Defence Committees were mixed and depended largely on normative attitudes towards them. Those who saw them as instruments of class struggle and expression of working class power applauded their political role, whereas those who saw them as labour brigades deprecated their political roles and made generally unfavourable judgements about them.  In the initial stages, they offended potential allies by a show of unnecessary belligerence and a stridently anti-Western and anti-Establishment position which, in the frustrating circumstances of Ghana at the time, was understandable, and did provide some entertainment and political therapy for the masses but was not necessarily appropriate. Nor did it help with the long-term cause; they were to adopt needlessly anti-clerical posture which brought them into premature confrontation with the Established churches. They did not wait to consolidate class power before moving on to the next stage. This also was understandable in the face of the refusal of the leadership to even discuss the question of the programme of the ‘revolution’. They were perhaps over-zealous in enforcing legislation against the petty-bourgeoisie in a situation which some perceived could easily provoke a backlash which they were too weak to contain. Here too their position must be understood. Their legitimacy depended on the continuing support from the mass of the workers which in turn depended on their ability to resolve the question of power as quickly as possible. They have been accused of not forming alliances with other classes, but considering the many times that the workers have been sold down the river by progressives and ‘progressive juntas’, preaching working class salvation, it was not surprising that they adopted a purist, almost exclusivist and politically puritanical outlook. Any association with any of the discredited leaders or social groups would have undermined their legitimacy in the eyes of the average worker.

National Defence Committee

In its original form, it was called the Interim National Co-ordinating Committee (INCC). In July 1982, and in response to the problems of the coordination and friction with national leadership as well as the feeling on the part of the PNDC and, in particular, Jerry Rawlings, that there was no sufficient central control on its activities, its name was changed and its composition enlarged. The main point of the change was to bring into its formal structure some of the leading members of the government in order to rectify what appeared to be dual functions, in the sense that the NDC followed one thing and the government also said another. These changes made Jerry Rawlings the Chairman of the NDC as well as that of the PNDC. In the same way the Secretary to the PNDC was made the Secretary to the NDC and the Co-ordinating Secretary as well as the Secretary of Armed Forces PDC took their seats in the NDC. So was then Special Adviser, Kojo Tsikata. In addition to this, there were representation from various progressive organizations, and the Defence Committees from the regions. It was set up to co-ordinate the activities of the Defence Committees. It would appear that there was some disagreement among the leadership over its establishment, the reasons for this remaining largely unclear.

The NDC provided some kind of secretariat for directing and supervising the activities of the Defence Committees. It was made up of representatives of the progressive organizations in the country, selected more on individual than organizational basis. Early statements by Jerry Rawlings, certain leaders of government as well as the progressive organizations gave the impression that the NDC was to provide he nucleus of the organization of a political movement but nothing came out of it. This was implied in the July 1982 statement and in subsequent statements made by leading members of the government. The Defence Committees were organized on the basis of Zones and Districts and the NDC was responsible for political education and training of cadres, two activities which were also to be the source of considerable friction and conflict with the government. It also agitated the formation of a militia and politicization of the Armed Forces. The militia was to be created much later after the near successful coup of 19 June 1983 in a much diminished form politically but the politicization of the Armed Forces did not continue. Such politicization started with the holding of classes for select cadres led by Tsikata but were discontinued later. There were also serious problems between Alolga Akata-Pore, and the head of the Armed Forces PDCs, and Chief of Defence Staff, as by the rank the former was accountable to the Chief of Defence Staff and all his demands by military procedure should pass through him. But if the PDCs were to function effectively, they need a measure of independence. Naturally, there was friction in implementing this chain of command. Besides, it would appear that the Chairman, Rawlings himself, was not persuaded that the formation of such PDCs within the Armed Forces will not have a negative effect on the usual structure of command and they did not have much support from him. With the arrest of Alolga Akata-Pore in November 1982 for insubordination and mutiny, the Armed Forces PDC more or less died. Those of the Police Force lasted a bit longer; here too, there was a serious fear of disturbance of the command structure and discipline, more so as the men of the junior ranks began to make demands which reverberated within the entire ranks of the Police Force. Indeed these two organizations were centres for the domination of the mass of the people and of oppression and corruption; and it was possible that the changes would have provided the opportunity for the organizations to be really for the people. This was missed. It was clear that if something had to be done, it would mean a clean up of the entire organization. Bribery and corruption was very rampant in the organization and this was what the junior officers attacked but as there was very little support from the leadership the initiative did not receive the boost it should have and the activities of the individuals were perceived disruptive as disruptive. Nicholas Atampugre who was in charge of this was later arrested and with his arrest ended the activities of the PDCs in the Armed Forces. With the strength of the populist movement on organizational basis severely limited in these two crucial organizations which could only be counted upon to defend the interests of the workers, the mass base was not in a strong position to fight. The workers were sensible enough to realize that if they were to make any lasting gains, it was necessary for them to gain control of the coercive apparatus of the state and the earlier serious attempts to build these organizations in these institutions were steps in the right direction. Those who opposed them did not have the serious changes in mind.

The PNDC appointed political commissars to the police and the Armed Forces. It published its own newspaper, Nsamankow in order to propagate the ideas of the ‘revolution’. It saw itself as being in the forefront of the revolution. Its inability to function very smoothly was as much a function of hostility and lack of support from the PNDC as its own sectarianism which the various representatives of the main progressive organizations indulged in freely. Like Defence Committees it came in for a lot of criticism from the political leadership and from Rawlings in particular from the middle of July 1982 till it was abolished towards the end of the year. The most serious charge was that it was running a parallel government. It was reconstituted the following year, only to be abolished again in December 1984, and the control of the PDCs was vested in the district administration. At the centre a body called the National Secretariat of Committees for the Defence of the Revolution was set up with a retired army officer in charge.

The NDC became an organizational focus around which leftist groups and individuals coalesced and functioned. It was, however, not an organization of leftist political organizations. Although membership was drawn predominantly from the leftist groups, personnel was selected more on the basis of individual merits than their organizational links but care was taken to ensure, though unequally, the representation of all leftist groups. Its personnel was made of predominantly of students and its ideological frame reflected the stridency of student leftism. Its behavioural tendency also reflected this tradition. Its preference for the politics of conspiracy and its tendency towards sectarianism and factionalism undermined its effectiveness as a vehicle for uniting all leftist forces and a mechanism for building a viable left political movement, but provided much ammunition for rightists in government opposed to left political formations to use this against them. In its initial phase it tended to be suspicious of the older generation of leftists associated with Nkrumah and sought to keep them at arm’s length. This aroused suspicion and distrust, so that when the backlash came from the government they had no support for retreating ground. As its leading cadres were recently graduated students, it was not surprising that its approach to politics was informed by the excessive intellectualism of campus politics. It did not draw much distinction between the exercise of state power and the capture of the junior common room political machine. Another problem was the intense rivalry and mutual suspicion between the two main groups, the NDM and the JFM.

In addition to its weaknesses some of the problems it had were structural and inherent in the very process of a military revolution. In the first place the capture of state power was the work of the military action though accompanied by actions of a small and tiny group of leftists who participated more as individuals than as organizations. In the perception of Rawlings, his power base still depended on the military or that fraction of it which owed loyalty to him. The military intended to impose its own style and definition of politics on the country and a political process quite different from what the young cadres had in mind. In the military style, conspiracy, surprise and deceit were prime virtue and accounted as much for success as the superiority of weapons. The military members having been schooled in this way of doing things obviously had faith in this method. The young cadres also saw politics as a public activity which had to be played in the open : there should not be any secret agendas. The contrast between these two styles of politics was to cause considerable friction and later conflict. Second, there was some suspicion between Rawlings and some of the military commanders that civilians were taking the initiative, and turning their ‘revolution’ away from its objectives, which though unstated seem to be limited to fighting corruption and getting the neo-colony working. And perhaps the most important of all the dynamics of a military revolution from the top is conflictual. In the first place, by the very nature of their organizations as grassroots organizations seeking to destroy the colonial state which has marginalized them and to replace it with another in which they would have the dominant voice, they were bound to take conflictual position against the state, and Rawlings by the very nature of the fact that he has not destroyed but taken over the neo-colonial state and was using its institutions to consolidate and strengthen his own hold on power is bound to defend it, and will not be prone to seek its dissolution in spite of himself. Hence, the conflict becomes inevitable. It is a conflict between two structural approaches to the problem of a fundamental change. The conflict in this case is bound to be not only institutional but also class conflict and in spite of what Rawlings may personally have felt, the dynamics of the situation would propel him to such ends. It is this wish that betrays the limitations of the so-called military revolution or the populist stance taken by the military or under the control and umbrella of the military.

The state structures at the top were organized hierarchically whereas the NDC represented the popular forces organized at grassroots level democratically. The two were bound to conflict. This conflict was expressed both in the Armed Forces represented by Alolga and his group and in civil society between Rawlings and the NDC and the Defence Committees.

The Public Tribunals

These were bodies set up to institute the ideas of popular justice. They were to respond to three main problems in the system of the administration of justice in the country; its slowness and extremely cumbersome procedures, its inflexibility and intimidating character particularly to the people of the lower classes, its alienating circumstances in the class terms, its class character and widespread corruption. Rightly or wrongly, it was widely believed by the mass of the people that for ordinary persons the courts were not centres for the administration of justice and dispensation of fairness but mechanisms for enforcing class privilege and instruments by which the ruling class held on to power and intimidated its opponents.

The most notorious case of this was that of Ohene Djan in which the recourse to plea bargaining which till then had never been used in the Ghana judiciary before. He was accused of murder, but he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in order to get a lighter sentence. Since the defendant in this case was a lawyer, it was widely believed that this was a device used by the bench to get him out of the gallows. Over the years the judicial system had been open to serious abuses of political nature in some of its most blatant forms of political interference with the administration of justice. This started with the open contempt with which Nkrumah treated the judiciary and this practice was to be followed by successive politicians. Even Busia who was generally credited with respect of the norms of liberal democracy was to do practically the same when in the celebrated Sallah case he openly declared that he would not obey the courts (see Robin Luckam and Denis Austin in Politicians and Politics in Ghana). Over time, the chief justices were to comment negatively on the administration of justice in the country, particularly Mr. Justice Van Lare. Even President Limann had a running conflict with the judiciary. It was a known fact that any military adventurer who captured political power could secure pliant judges to do his bidding. It was not particularly different under civilian regimes either. There were two particular aspects of the judicial system which were perceived as the most oppressive by the mass of the people: its class character and the politically partisan nature of its functioning. The purpose of the public tribunals was to rectify this and to provide the mass of the people with a judicial system which could dispense popular justice and fairness and minister to their class needs and interests.

It should be emphasized that this was not the first time that special tribunals have set up in the country. Right from the time of the First Republic special tribunals were very much a feature of the judicial system. Most of the time they were set up to resolve contradictions among the petty bourgeoisie, as different fractions struggled for control of the neo-colonial state. However, this was the first time that special tribunals were set up in response to the demands of class justice, and it was symptomatic of the intense nature of the class consciousness in the country. Their operating procedures were different from ordinary courts. First, there was no appeal, and second, rules of evidence and criminal procedures were different. It may be asked in what way in what way was a public tribunal different, was it that the accused had to prove that they were innocent of the charges or was there any particular thing apart from the composition which distinguished them from the normal courts? For one they could even try accused persons in absentia. Second, the composition of the court was to reflect the class character of the country; only the presiding judge had to be a person with professional knowledge of law. Unlike the special courts set up in the past, the extent of its jurisdiction was unlimited. It could sit on any case and there was no body to supervise it or review its decisions except the Head of State who had the power to reduce and not increase sentences. It could and did often pass the death sentence. Initially, there was no appeal, a provision which aroused considerable opposition from the incumbent Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Apaloo, as well as members of the Bar, the establishment churches and certain civic groups. The PNDC Law 78 was amended to allow retrials and appeals for other reasons, the most significant was the attempt to get Chairman Rawlings cousin, out of trouble.

In the initial stages of the coup, the cases which came up to the courts often dealt with issues of public corruption and misappropriation of public funds, or misuse of state property, or offences related to the distribution of commodities of currency trafficking. Later on, the emphasis was to shift more to issues of political nature, like subversion etc.

Initially, the operations of the courts aroused considerable public interest. The early proceedings where high public officials, those often regarded as high and mighty and therefore immune from legal action, were accused of political corruption or misuse of public office drew approval from the public. To see these people being openly rebuked for crimes they were alleged to have committed or confessing to a catalogue of crimes before a board made up of ordinary people restored the confidence of the lower classes in the judicial system and provided some kind of psychological satisfaction. But the severe punishments which were meted out brought mixed reactions, and sometimes the victims were viewed with sympathy. For the mass of the people, however, it was a good system which demonstrated the legal equality which for a long time has merely existed in the books or only among members of the petty bourgeoisie. Although there was provision for legal representation, as the Bar Association boycotted its hearing on the ground that its operating procedures violated fundamental principles of human rights and its opposition to the concept of popular or peoples’ justice which it regarded as nothing more than kangaroo courts, it meant that the high and mighty did not have the benefit of using their wealth to engage the most brilliant legal minds to assist their defence. Later on, as the courts began to devote more and more attention to ‘political crimes’ against the state, public interest began to wane as it was also perceived that it was being used by the regime to keep itself in power. Secondly, the fact that it took so long to bring to trial military personnel who were accused of crimes against civilians, fostered a certain degree of cynicism. Later, however, some special courts were set up to try military personnel accused of crimes against the public, although some of these were tried in ordinary courts. The most celebrated of these was the case of Lee who was accused of willful murder He was a close friend of a blood relation of Rawlings and the issue was a matter of great personal embarrassment. He was convicted and duly executed, and by that Rawlings showed his capacity to impose discipline on everyone, close to him or not.

What really led to the waning of public interest in the tribunals was the move by the state itself, as part of the general disengagement from populism, to de-emphasize the class nature of the tribunals. It began to show anxiety about the tendency of the mass of people to see the tribunals as instruments in their hands to protect themselves against judicial encroachments from the patty bourgeoisie Right. Right from the beginning, the state has aroused the dismay of the mass of the people when it revised sentences of the tribunals even before the sessions were over. It just happened that some of the sentences were revised downwards were members of the petty bourgeoisie whereas those whose sentences were revised upwards, something which the state did not have legal power to do under the provisions anyway, happened to the members of the lower classes.

As soon as the tribunals lost their initial popular appeal, they were regarded as instruments with which government sought easy conviction against its defined political opponents. They were now looked upon in the same light as the ‘traditional’ courts, not as instruments for the dispensation of popular justice or mechanisms for removing the traditional injustices and weaknesses of the judicial system. Now the public tribunals were even being accused of corruption. The government response was to the effect some changes including setting up of institutional mechanisms by which the people could defend themselves against the judicial encroachments of the petty bourgeoisie. Or rather additional mechanisms by which the state increased its power against the mass of the people in general and as the purpose of the state was to prosecute the petty bourgeoisie project, then it would mean that it was in the long run the petty bourgeoisie who had benefited from the operations of the courts.

The National Investigation Commission (NIC)

This was a body set up to investigate all cases of corruption both actual and potential; this was its novel character. It was not to wait till a crime had been committed but to monitor the movement and lifestyles of people to check on them to see if any crime was being committed. It was empowered to investigate the finances and bank accounts of anyone it deemed necessary or anyone whose bank deposits amounted to 50,000 cedis or more. Anyone unable to give a satisfactory explanation of such monies was liable to face forfeiture. Its stated purpose was to discourage corruption and kalabule and mop up excess liquidity in the system. Although the NIC did some useful work in the initial phase of the coup unearthing many cases of corruption, its net effect was to undermine public confidence in the banking system. Its other ambition of nipping out crimes of corruption before their commission was not very successful and in course of time it was subjected to the same kinds of accusations by the generality of the people as the public tribunals. It was accused of allowing people of influence and wealth to escape scrutiny.

The Citizens Vetting Committee (CVC)

This body was set up to investigate and punish cases of corruption. Unlike the NIC which confined itself to purely investigatory activity and did not mete out punishment, the CVC sessions were public affairs of more or less judicial in nature. It had wide powers of investigation and was mandated to investigate the life style of any person or persons whose personal and social life did not seem to accord with what was presumed to be his or her known income. It was particularly active in chasing tax evaders, and cases of bureaucratic corruption such of granting of import licences, cases of over-invoicing and under-invoicing, irregular bank loans, custom violations, and infringement of price control and violations of currency regulations. Since most of those who appeared before it were members of the petty bourgeoisie it was seen by some as an instrument against a particular class.

The political significance of these bodies has declined considerably since the early days of the coup with the movement away from ‘populist nonsense’ to ‘pragmatism’. Some of the organizations like the NDC have been abolished. Others have been allowed to operate but their political character has been de-emphasized and their technical functions stressed, specifically their class appeal has been suppressed. For instance, the two bodies, the NIC and CVC, have merged together into a single body called the Commission for Revenue Collection run by petty bourgeoisie members of the bureaucracy. Their political character as an instrument of transformation has been shorn off and they have become just like any other bureaucratic organization. The investigatory commissions were backed by law but not the NDC and the Defence Committees.

The organs of popular expression emerged in the wake of the immense resurgence of populist power which followed the coup of December 1981. They did not belong to the formal structure of the bureaucratic apparatus of the state and the existing state organizations did not have any direct supervisory control over them or their actions. They were only subject in the last analysis to the control of Jerry Rawlings as Head of State, Chairman of the Provisional national Defence Council and Chairman of the National Defence Committee. In this way they enjoyed a considerable autonomy and it could not be otherwise for they could not be subject to the control of any other organizations and state structures they were supposed to transform.

There was some ambivalence between the PNDC and Jerry Rawlings in particular and the organs of popular power. On the one hand he recognized their strength as mobilizing organs, especially for the defence of the revolution; he once described the defence committees as the bedrock of the revolutions of the revolution. But on the other hand he seemed to be worried about their activities in the sense that they were setting in motion dynamics for fundamental change in Ghanaian society, and were particularly keen to institutionalize the new coalition of power in control of the state, and were out to conquer state power and put into motion the view of Ghanaian society. Rawlings was to deliver a number of critical comments and warnings from the start to the end of 1982 when finally steps were taken to virtually demobilize them and to put the emphasis on control and less on participation and democracy. What the leadership really wanted them to be were really agents in their power game.

Progressive Organizations and the Coup

In addition to the organs of popular power, there were also political organizations and groups which provided varying degrees of support to the regime and the process of political transformation. These were the six progressive organizations. They were the June Fourth Movement, the New Democratic Movement, the Kwame Nkrumah Revolutionary Guards, the African Youth Command, the Peoples Revolutionary League of Ghana and the Pan African Youth Movement. Of these, the most important politically were the June Fourth Movement and the New Democratic Movement and I shall concentrate on these two.

It must not be thought that these organizations only emerged in the wake of the coup of the 31 December and the aftermath of those events. They have all been part of the struggle of the mass of the Ghanaian people for the democratic control of their lives and have in various ways represented the constituency of the Left in its long history to realize itself.

Since the time of Nkrumah and even before, there had existed in Ghana a small hard core of leftist constituency. During that time the CPP claimed to represent the leftist platform and although not all leftists found comfort in the ranks, sometimes its relations were stormy as was the case of Nkrumah and Turkson of the railway company (this is given to tactical considerations vis-à-vis the colonial government), leftist groups existed within the party in some faction; it coalesced around the Spark and various study groups. In the aftermath of the strong anti-left feelings which were unleashed by the coup against Nkrumah in 1966, they went on the defensive. Busia’s efforts did not completely destroy them and the small but persistent Socialist Party under the umbrella of Johnny Hansen’s People’s Popular Party survived in a precarious manner. Following the overthrow of Busia by Acheampong and the initial noises which he made of following and taking over from where Nkrumah left, leftists gathered around him and had some confidence to begin open organization. This was the Socialist Society. It was a loose group consisting of some social democrats as well as Marxists but the organization as a whole could not seriously be regarded as a socialist society as the name indicates. And it is interesting that it called itself a society instead of a party. But the main weakness was more of a group of a group of intellectuals connected with the University of Legon. Its contact with working or non-working masses of the country, let alone the peasantry, was minimal. Later on the African Youth Command and the Pan African Youth Movement emerged and courted Acheampong only for the latter to discard them later on. The middle class revolt brought these organizations together in a move to present a united front against military dictatorship. The National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) which took a progressive stance from this time also supported this position, and following the radicalization of the university campuses which occurred in the mid-seventies, there was some kind of radical support for leftist groups. The All African Students Union followed suit and it appeared as if there was some proliferation of groups in support of a left course.

The overthrow of Acheampong and the coming together with the regime of Acheampong destroyed the unity which bonded the groups together. The rightist groups obviously went their own way and the left sought to form a group to represent its interests. There was some difference of opinion as to whether the leftists should operate within the People’s National Party which claimed to inherit the mantle of the CPP in the way they had done before or start a new organization, and if so what sort of organization it should be. Some argued that the PNP was far too much to the right to permit this. These discussions led to the formation of the People’s Revolutionary Party led by Johnny Hansen. Arguments about the correct role of the party and lack of sufficient funds to function led to the defection of the strong leftist student core, and the eventual joining of the PNP by the PRP as a separate organized group in the form of the Kwame Nkrumah Revolutionary Guards. The other political groups, the June Fourth Movement, the New Democratic Movement, the Movement on National Affairs all emerged in the short period of the end of the Acheampong era and the restoration of constitutional rule. Such was the political and historical context of leftism which existed in the country.

All the left political groups were overwhelmingly supported by the youth, and university students played very central roles in them. This tended to move to theoretical issues and to distance them to distance them from practical struggles of the working classes and the peasants, and was to prove a handicap to them in the future. We shall now treat each of the major groups one by one. At the time of the coup there were efforts to weld the various left organizations into one political movement, but it was still at the initial stages, and it was not advanced much.

The June Fourth Movement

The June Fourth Movement (JFM), later to become the United Front (UF), after the merger with the People’s Revolutionary League of Ghana, owes its origin to the incidents of 4 June 1979 when Rawlings first seized power. It took its name from the political incidents of that day and the significance of that episode in the history of struggles of the mass of the people in the country for emancipation. In August 1979 when it became clear that in spite of appeals from some of the militant students, Rawlings and the AFRC were determined to proceed with plans for demilitarization and handover of power to a civilian administration, they began to plan for the formation of a movement which would act as a political watchdog and protect the ‘gains’ of the June Fourth Revolution. The initiative came from a small group of militant student leaders who had visited Cuba in the summer of 1978 in connection with the World Festival of Youth. Cuba provided both the ideological inspiration and the political model for the July 26 Movement.

After the handover of power, the small group of students formed the June Fourth Movement and approached Rawlings to be the Chairman. Overcoming his initial suspicion of political organizations, he was quick to recognize what enormous advantage it would be to have at his disposal such a group which he could use as a platform in his conflict with the PNP administration which had then embarked on a policy of persecution against him and his close associate, Capt. Kojo Tsikata. He therefore agreed to become chairman of the JFM while Kojo Tsikata became a member of the central committee, and Chris Atim, the General Secretary. Thus began the uneasy love affair between Rawlings and the JFM. The movement organized huge rallies at each anniversary of June 4 and presented Rawlings as its prize speaker. The leaders relied on the ‘charismatic’ personality of Rawlings to capture the imagination of the Ghanaian public. He, on his part, used the movement as a platform to defend the AFRC and its record in office and to personally vindicate himself. JFM leaders were ecstatic and began to talk of how Rawlings had ‘matured’ from his idealistic position of preoccupation with the ‘moral revolution’ of the 1979 period to a much clearer appreciation of the ‘objective forces’ of history.

This was the humble beginning of the JFM, but after the coup it became the bandwagon of individuals with all kinds of radical causes. Ideologically it spanned a wide spectrum. The dominant ideological position was the neo-Marxist dependency/underdevelopment school in various forms. The intellectual influences came from Fanon, Cabral, Walter Rodney, Nkrumah, Paul Baran and André Gunder Frank. Whatever attention was paid to the Marxist classics was devoted to Lenin which was understandable, and the version of Marxism from Progress Press Publishers of Moscow than to the works of Marx and Engels. The political vision of the membership spread across a wide spectrum of the Left and sometimes the not-so-left. Thus, the vision, of what Ghana should be like for certain people was Cuba, but it was possible to find some who claimed adherence to the JFM whose image of what Ghana should be like was not different from the welfare state of the Scandinavian type. What did bind many of the supporters together was the sense of outrage at the performance of the political leadership of the political leadership under Dr. Limann, a deep sense of youthful idealism and belief that with ‘activism’ and committed leadership, Ghana could be pulled out of the rut. The JFM prided itself on activism. Its political and ideological mouthpiece was the Workers’ Banner. After the coup, and taking advantage of resources of state, it became the ideological mouthpiece of the Left.

The New Democratic Movement

This seems to have started in 1980. The moving spirits seem to have come from the Law Faculty at the University of Ghana where a mixture of Mandel’s Marxism and dependency/underdevelopment theory was being propagated. It was seen wrongly or rightly, as more of an academically-oriented political discussion group than a serious political organization contending for power. It prided itself on its ideological and its intellectual purity. Its activities were very much confined to studentry. It was reputed by its critics to have spurned political activity, claiming prematurity of ‘objective political conditions’. Its intellectual and ideological mouthpiece was the Direction which ante-dated the movement itself. At the time of the coup of December 1981, it had practically ceased production. After the coup it came out infrequently only to cease publication soon after.

The Progressive Organizations, the Coup and the Revolutionary Process

As indicated earlier, the JFM was ecstatic about the coup. It embraced it as if it had been organizationally part and parcel of the planning process; it behaved as if the coup was its own. In a way it sought to appropriate it and articulate its political programme. It moved to constitute itself as the political wing of the revolutionary process, using the NDC and the Defence Committees as its main instrument and to define the terms under which other political organizations were to play a part. If anything it was not going to allow any other group to dislodge it from the position of hegemony which it carved for itself. What was even more significant, it did not perceive itself as organizationally distinct from the PNDC government. It brought to the coup much needed student and popular support as some of the early supporters had been student leaders. Prominent among these was Chris Atim who, as we have seen, had become General Secretary of the JFM before the coup, and was later to become a member of the PNDC.

The NDM’s  initial reaction to the coup was the opposite of that of the JFM. It showed initial scepticism and caution, which its supporters attributed to political maturity although the JFM cadres impatiently dismissed it as a piece of political opportunism. The NDM initially argued for organizational affiliation to the NDC and the military junta. Although this in itself could not guarantee success as the experience of Ethiopia shows, it was the correct position. It id not, however, make it a condition for collaboration and before long it was vying with other organizations for positions on the NDC and in government. It sought to find a foothold among certain sections of the labour force, particularly among the workers at the Ghana Textile Factory in Tema. It claimed that its relationship with the junta was based on ‘critical support’ although the record of its collaboration showed more evidence of support than critical appraisal.

The political groups formed the organizational basis of the transformation process. In addition there were clusters of unorganized left positions which also claimed support for the transformation process. Some of these were old Nkrumaists. At the class level the urban working or non-working class on the whole supported what it saw as revolutionary thrust and so was the lower stratum of the petty bourgeoisie. Tema, the industrial capital of Ghana was particularly noted for worker militancy. The political slogan and mobilizing battle cry was ‘power to the people’ and the ideological platform was the National Democratic Revolution. This was the slogan and platform around which the regime sought to unite various sections of the Left as well as a certain fraction of the petty bourgeoisie to its politics of transformation.

It would seem that here we had a military group which in many respects did not accord with the general character of coup as we have seen it on the continent. It was what one might call a ‘leftist junta’ with active participation from the ranks of progressive groups and individuals, both civilian and military.


Dynamics of the Transformation Process: Class and Popular Struggle

The first six months of 1982 witnessed the most fervent expression of mass political activity the country had seen since the days of the independence movement in the mid-1950s. There were rallies, demonstrations, and expressions of revolutionary fervor for one cause or another and there are endless political discussion groups everywhere. Politics became supreme and everything became subject to he most detailed and endless political discussions. There was a resurgence of working and non-working class political activity which has not been seen in the country since the early days of Nkrumah. The centres of these political activities were in the urban areas of Accra, Tema, Kumasi, and Sekondi-Takoradi. The main institutional forms of this fervent expression of, popular participation and mass politics were the organs of popular power, the progressive organizations, the students and youth groups. The main institutional forms of these political activities consisted of the actions of the urban working and non-working class, the radical intelligentsia and the ‘left’ soldiers. In addition there were also individual members of the petty bourgeoisie who sympathized with, and supported the general trend of progressive policies.

We have already discussed the institutional and structural forms of organs of popular power. What is attempted here is a discussion of their role in the political process. The coup saw an upsurge of Defence Committees which sprang up everywhere and there was considerable turmoil in the sphere in the sphere of production as workers sought to use these newly acquired instruments of power to wrest control both from the official rung of the of the Trade Union leadership and also from management. It would appear that during this time the new radical coalition made up of the left intelligentsia, the lower fraction of the petty bourgeoisie in the bureaucracy and the working class, as well as a tiny fraction of the petty bourgeoisie in the Armed Forces designated as the ‘left’ soldiers, was struggling for the hegemony of power among the forces which controlled the state and in the political process which was unfolding. The initial phases of the coup, from January to November 1982 gave the impression that this coalition of class forces was in the process of achieving a predominant position. But the coalition was still not sufficiently strong to impose its vision of the political community on the society at this time, nor to institutionalize its new definition of politics. Its control of the mass media and its demonstrative and dramatic presence in the urban areas tended to exaggerate its real strength. Nevertheless, as we show below the influence of this class coalition was sufficiently strong to find expression in certain state policies.

In this intense struggle which ensued, the progressive coalition and these newly acquired instruments of power to advance class interests. It was at the level of production that some of the intense class and political struggles took place. Ghana’s working class has never been a docile one. History is full of records of its intense struggles against the colonial regime. But the struggles of the workers at this time were of a qualitatively different kind. In the first place it was not only a struggle for specific material things and conditions within the structure of production and production relations but a struggle for pre-eminent position within the working class itself, a struggle of hegemonic position within the country’s class structure, and a struggle for a change of structure of production and production relations. The Defence Committees were struggling to wrestle power from the traditional leadership of the Trades Union Congress and the associated local unions, and put themselves into a position where they could advance the interests of the working class as a whole, and attack capital more effectively. In this way a multi-dimensional struggle ensured. One aspect was a struggle within the working class movement itself; another way was a struggle against domination of capital and consequently of imperialism; a third was the struggle against the local state and the new political leadership whose structural position as a mediator between imperialism and the broad masses of the people dictated an inevitable conflict; and in a way it was a struggle against the petty bourgeois coalition which has dominated politics in Ghana since the time of independence. We shall discuss each of these struggles in turn, starting with the struggle within the working class movement.

Workers and the Labour Movement Internal Struggles.

Some of the early reactions from the workers were to show hostility to the official leadership of the Trades Union Congress. The first inkling of rank and file hostility against the labour union leadership came during a huge demonstration mounted in Accra by the Trades Union Congress in support of the ‘holy war’ declared by the PNDC, at which Rawlings addressed a huge crowd from the top of an armoured car, and which ironically turned into an expression of hostility against the Trades Union leadership. At this meeting the General Secretary of the TUC Alhaji Issifu was stopped when he attempted to speak to the crowd and chased away from the platform by demonstrators.

At the rally Rawlings identified himself with the populist mood of the crowd when he declared: ‘it does not make sense to me why the very people who are in the mines, who are in the factories using their blood, sweat and tears to create these goods cannot have some kind of money out of their own blood, sweat and tears. I am saying that no man can make money at the expense of another man’ (West Africa, Jan. 18, 1982. P. 197) [1]. Such statements lay the basis for the populist and egalitarian demands in the ensuing months. Rawlings was later to condemn such statements as ‘populist nonsense’. In the circumstances it was not surprising, though it was inadequate as certain militants did, to explain the turn of events as due to betrayal, indeed there was and might have been, but that could not explain the failure of the revolutionary initiative. History is more complex than that.

Later union members called for the dismissal of the entire leadership of the Trades Union Congress. They carried placards reading ‘Abolish the TUC’ and ‘Death to Kalabule’, thus identifying the Trades Union leadership with the notorious practice of Kalabule. They marched to the offices of the various news media and presented a petition calling for the dismissal of the entire leadership. [2] The members alleged that the leadership had weakened and disorganized the labour movement since the time of independence.

In February, the Accra-Tema branches of the various local unions of the TUC reiterated the call on the leadership of the TUC including the general-secretary and all the secretaries of the 17 national unions, to resign en bloc. It repeated the charge that the whole Executive was responsible for the current problems of the labour movement and the resignation of the General Secretary alone was not enough. The statement was signed by Robert Moore who described himself as a spokesman for the Association of Local Unions. [3] Also the African Youth Brigade called for the abolition of the Trades Union Congress, because, as it put it, it was forced on the people. In a statement signed by its secretary-general, Godfried Hood, it claimed that the Congress was a “useless and toothless workers’ vanguard instead of protecting the suffering masses from oppression, exploitation, victimization and other acts of human degradation”. [4]

The opposition to the leadership continued throughout the early months of the year among he militant rank and file membership until in April 1982 when it culminated in the removal of the official leadership of the TUC and its affiliated unions and the installation of an interim leadership called the Association of Local Unions.

Struggles in the labour process

Here we have to make clear distinction between two forms of workers struggle at this time. The first was workers’ struggle to control the state and be in a position to realize their state interests. In this they struggled against the structure of production and production relations, against class domination and against class privileges of the petty bourgeoisie and other related classes, especially the chiefly classes. Here they often fought in alliance with the progressive organizations. Although they made material demands, the main issue of this struggle was against their general domination by capital and the political superstructure for the rule of capital in the post-colonial state, the neo-colonial state. They are fighting for a change in the structure of production and production relations which will give them control over the objects of their production and consequently over the allocation of the surplus. It was a struggle with revolutionary implications. In the second phase of the struggle, workers were fighting against the increasing domination of capital occasioned by the new changes brought about as a consequence of the IMF/World Bank Adjustment programme. In the first instance they need their acquired instruments of class struggle in the form of organs of popular power, whereas in the second instance, they relied mostly on the official trade unions as the main instruments of their struggle. Two reasons account for this apparent contradiction. One was the suppression of the organs of popular power, the second was due to the fact that consequent to the change of leadership of leadership of the Trades Union Congress, it began to gain a new lease of legitimacy among the workers, and could be relied upon to fight again on behalf of workers.

At this point too a marked change in the character and nature of the struggle was apparent. The issues were largely confined to the material level such as the improvement of the living conditions of the workers. In other words it was structured more along the lines of traditional trade union demands. This was a time also when, with the support of the Defence Committees, the government had succeeded in changing the leadership of the labour unions. Here we deal only with the first phase of the struggle. The concern with the second type of the struggle is considered in the course of the chapter on economic adjustment.

It was at the work place that the struggle was most intense. In many cases workers dismissed or suspended their management, locked them out or asked them to proceed on ‘indefinite leave’. By the end of the year over 500 management personnel were on indefinite leave, chased out of their offices or forced to resign. In a few cases management personnel suffered physical violence at the hands of the workers. Most of these attacks were directed against corrupt or inefficient management personnel or those known to have exceptionally bad relations with labour, but it is also fair to say that in some cases it was directed against management whose only crime seemed to be in strict observance of labour discipline. To say this si not to argue that this is outside the arena of class struggle, for strictness in enforcing work rules is nothing more than the legal means laid down by capital to increase surplus value.

The marked feature of these were a series of factory occupations. Defence Committees in some cases in some cases took over the operations of factories. The most dramatic of these take overs occurred at the Ghana Textile Printing (GTP) at Tema in November 1982. The GTP was partly owned by the Ghana Government and partly owned by the United Africa Company (UAC), a London-based multinational and an affiliate of Unilever which has been in the country for more than a century and had extensive interests in timber, vegetable oil, soft drinks, textiles, motor spare parts, motor vehicle assembling, and shipping. As a result of the new enterprises Decree in 1975 UAC came to own only 30% of the company shares, but controlled the management and operations through management agreement signed with the Ghana government which meanwhile owned 55% and Vilsco of Holland and Total each owned 7.5% shares [5]. The issue seemed to have been triggered off by management plans to lay off 565 members of the workforce at Tema and 723 at Juapong Textiles Limited ostensibly for lack of raw materials [6]. Management contended that the plan had the support of the Secretary for Industry, Science and Technology, Dr Kaku Kyiama, who had endorsed the layoffs. At the best of times, this would have caused labour unrest among Ghana’s restive labour force and why management chose such a time cannot be explained. But at that particular time of the expression of people’s power, workers were not likely to take it lying down. The whole issue was coloured by the feeling on the part of the workforce that whatever genuine case management had, the timing was dictated by the desire to get rid of some of the most active members of the Defence Committee. Consequently they saw the issue as a provocation and decided on a confrontation.

What is significant as that considering the political atmosphere of the time, and what would appear as a popular sentiment in support of the workers’ position, their demands were remarkably modest. They demanded that the dismissed staff could be employed in cotton production so that the company could directly supply its raw material needs from local sources in line with government directives. Government had long urged local manufacturers to do just that without much response. Indeed such a directive was issued in Acheampong’s period. The company, however, refused. Like other multinationals in the country it preferred to order raw materials from its parent companies overseas at prices marked several times over the current commercial price. In a country where all foreign monetary transactions are subject to exchange control regulations, this  mark-up or over-invoicing represented  in real terms transfer of money from the country, thus getting round the exchange control regulations. When management refused, workers seized two of the company’s plants. An Interim Management committee made up of representatives of the Workers Defence Committee, the local union, and certain sympathetic members of the management started to oversee the operations from 5 November 1982, but as usual in such circumstances things never end that peacefully. On 17 November following a declaration of the take-over by the workers earlier, thousands of workers earlier, thousands of workers from several factories and work places in Tema appeared at the plant to show solidarity and support for the take-over. When armed police refused to allow them entry to the premises which was already occupied by a small number of workers who had disagreed with the take-over, violence ensued, and a number of people were injured including Yao Graham, a leading member of the NDM who suffered a broken leg and had to be hospitalized [7]. The following day, the NDM issued another statement saying that the 17th November incident raised very sharply the question of the institution of power of the old state and their relationship with a process which aimed at the revolutionary transformation of the socio-economic structure of the country. It concluded that the incident revealed the social role of the police force as an arm of the neo-colonial state and the role it played in society and identified itself with the demands of the militant workers. Earlier on it had issued a statement from its Tema branch condemning the layoffs and urging the workers to ‘destroy the conspiracy of industrialists against them and push for the development of a national industrial policy based on self-reliance’. [8]

Two days later the Daily Graphic in an editorial supported the action of workers in taking over the factory and urged the government to endorse the action of the workers:  

There is a fundamental question of whether or not workers have a right to take over the factory. The ‘Graphic’ considers that where concrete evidence has been advanced as a result of the weakened consciousness of the people to a high rate of exploitation and cheating, there ceases to be a debate. There is enough documentation to prove that a good number of take-overs by workers and people in various parts of the country have proved beneficial to the people in the final analysis. The case of the GTP has been mentioned before in this column. The so-called negotiations going on now between the Secretary for Industries and various parties cannot be of any effect if the ultimate is anything short of government take-over of GTP . . . This is a test-case for the PNDC and the Graphic adds its voice to others already expressed that the workers of Ghana must be heard.GTP take-over must be endorsed by government (Daily Graphic, Accra, 19 November 1982)

The Peoples Government, clearly embarrassed by not unprecedented brutality of the police action against the people, intervened on behalf of labour. It recognized the workers action as a fait accompli and announced a nationalization of the company. The announcement said that government was taking full control of the Ghana Textile Printing (GTP) factory at Tema and ‘hold the assets and accounts of the factory in the name of the people of Ghana’. The Government further requested the Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning to work out modalities for the take over in consultation with the partners involved in the enterprise [9]. It further announced the setting up of an Interim Management Committee consisting of representatives of the workers and ‘patriotic’ managers to administer the factory. In an unusual action the government went so far as to announce that it had directed the Secretary for Interior to set up a disciplinary board to investigate the conduct of all persons involved in the attack on ‘defenceless workers’. (Graphic, Accra, Nov. 20, 1982, p. 1) The statement even went on to say that ‘all policemen and persons who would be found to have used unnecessary force during the incident would be severely punished’ (ibid.). In a further act, obviously calculated to mollify the workers, the government also decided that the expatriate manager who was involved in the incident should be deported from the country within 48 hours (Graphic, Accra, Nov. 20, 1982 p. 5).

It would seem that the government bent over backwards in order to mollify the workers. The fact that this was the time when worker power was at its height should not blind us to conclude hastily that this was one further illustration of the strength and influence of organized workers in the Defence Committees. It does show a certain degree of power and influence, but that was not the whole story. It has to be remembered that it was one of the rare occasions when in a conflict between labour and capital the state intervened on behalf of labour. Why did the State act in this manner? Was it an unequivocal expression of the force of peoples’ power?

There were people who were suspicious of the action by the state. It was claimed that in spite of the public announcement, no steps were taken to provide legal action to back the position of the government and things remained very much the same. The workers, on their part, were visibly shaken by the brutality of the Peoples Police Forces under the Peoples Government. There were two main speculations about the incident. One was that the government deliberately ordered the police action thinking that it was units of the JFM in control of the Defence Committees which initiated the occupation. As relations between Jerry Rawlings and JFM cadres were at a low ebb at that time it was thought that the Chairman wanted to use the occasion to teach the JFM a lesson. The second was that the action was ordered by personnel in the government who opposed such expressions of peoples power and wanted to use the occasion to embarrass the government. A third explanation was that it was an independent class action on the part of the forces of law and order, a continuation of their usual action against expressions of working class discontent.

The NDM statement seemed to be in accord with this last explanation. Whatever the case, it was to show the tenuous class base of the regime, and to act as a pointer to problems that would emerge later. It is significant that a few days later there was a serious attempt to overthrow the government in which the government security claimed that Left cadres were involved. It was the only known case of nationalization to have occurred during the intense period of revolutionary enthusiasm and it clearly did not indicate a systematic line of policy but a one off thing to appease the workers because of the profound embarrassment of the whole thing.

In a similar manner in 1982 there were intense labour-capital struggles at the Volta Aluminium Company at Akosombo when 625 workers were laid off at the hydro-electric and smelter complex. Management argued that this was due to lack of raw materials. Later, Valco ordered the redundancies of a further 900 of its 1520 workforce. This time the ostensible reason given was the low level of the water in the dam which kept production at a low level, hence the need to reduce the workforce correspondingly.

 Valco, it must be remembered, is owned by the giant US Kaiser Aluminium and Reynolds Metals, one of the world’s biggest multinationals (see Rhonie Graham for details about this, also his article in files). It was the single most important development project carried out under Nkrumah who was optimistic about its prospects of providing enough hydroelectric power to effect the industrialization of Ghana. However, due to the way in which it was completed or rather not completed, its effects on the industrialization of the country of the country were not profound. The aluminium was mined in Ghana but refined in Kaiser’s own industries in West Indies, thus robbing the country of the linkage effects of his project. All Ghana got out of it was the power rates which were fixed at a very low level and was not to be revised for a very long time.

There was some talk of a company compensation plan for the dismissed workers to be redeployed. There was also talk that the company was to provide the workers with a loan to buy equipment to do fish-farming for which the Volta lake provided enormous opportunities, but nothing came out of it and once again there were factory occupations. Here the conflict between the workers took place against the demands of workers and radical groups for the nationalization of VALCO. This later provided political support for government to renegotiate the agreement successfully with VALCO to revise the power rates in favour of the government.

In July 1983 workers of Allied Foods Ltd occupied their factory. Allied Foods Ltd  is a subsidiary of the British multinational, Cadbury-Schwepps. Cadbury, a British manufacturing firm of Quaker origins had been operating in Ghana from 1907 soon after its formation in England in 1900 [10]. Its business in Ghana consisted mostly of buying raw cocoa beans for the manufacture of chocolates at its plants in England. Later it was to go into the production of non-alcoholic beverages in the country. The occupation was again triggered by lay-offs. The company complained that this had been necessitated by lack of raw materials. Workers again demanded that the dismissed should be redeployed in alternative employment to produce sugar and malt in line with government’s policy. Management refused and a strike ensued.

In March the staff of New Times Corporation, publishers of the Ghanaian Times and the Weekly Spectator locked out Managing Director, Kankan Nantwi, and chased three female secretaries from their offices. [11]. In addition they impounded his official car which they alleged he had earlier refused to register in the name of the company. In response to a report from the local Defence Committee which looked into the affairs of the corporation, the workers passed a resolution calling for his immediate interdiction. The workers accused the managing director of embezzlement, mal-administration and financial mismanagement, particularly in the use of important licences and poor relations with workers. The Secretary of Information, Ato Austin, was said to have endorsed the action of the workers in asking the managing director to proceed on indefinite leave.         

In another incident the chief inspector of police at Ajumako Besease was chased out of his office by workers carrying placards accusing him of corruption. This finally led to his replacement by another one.

In June workers at the University of Ghana teaching hospital declared an indefinite strike action to back up their claims for better wages and better conditions of service. They specifically demanded the immediate transfer of Kofi Ohene of the personnel section and the unconditional reinstatement of six workers dismissed from the University Agricultural Farm at Kade and the conversion of the former Legon Branch of the Ghana Commercial Bank to an office for the Defence Committee. They also demanded automatic representation on all committees of the university, including a review of the University Act of 1961 which they claimed obsolete.

The universities of Ghana, and more particularly the University of Ghana at Legon, have been structured along the lines of the more traditional universities of Britain, especially London. A special feature of this is how class and status distinctions have been woven into the very structure of operations of the university. In the absence of comparable aristocratic class distinction in Ghana, the most significant divide was that of senior and junior members. Senior members were the teaching and senior administrative personnel of the university while junior members were anyone else including students although students enjoyed higher status. Status, deference, material goods were allocated differentially along the lines of this important divide. Although even among the senior members gradations of academic rank came with certain privileges (professors were always entitled to a house on campus irrespective of the size of their families) the dividing line between senior and junior members is sacrosanct. One particular area in which this difference was translated and which was always bitterly resented was clinic or medical attention at the University of Ghana hospital. Here it had been the practice that senior members and their dependants had to be attended to at the clinic before the junior staff and their dependants irrespective of the gravity of the illness or even if children were involved. Interestingly enough, it was during the first Rawlings administration under the AFRC that in response to workers action, the hospital administration tried to remedy the situation of gross inequality in terms of access to medical attention [13].

The Electoral Commission was renamed National Commission for Democracy. In April 1982 workers at the National Commission for Democracy forced he Commissioner, Kingsley Nyinah, to proceed on an indefinite leave for alleged maladministration, incompetence and negligence of duty. He was also accused by the WDC of being less enthusiastic about the revolution. It is to be recalled that he judge had attracted hostile publicity to himself earlier in 1981 when he was engaged in protracted struggle against the PNP government. He had insisted on a national census as demanded by constitutional provisions. The government of Dr Limann, while not denying his right to do so under the constitution, claimed that the resources of the country could not support a national census at that time. This led to an open conflict which was only averted by the coup. In his conflict with the workers in 1982, a commission was set up to look into the matter. The workers appealed to the government to appoint a new head to replace Kingsley Nyinah so that the programme of national education for the revolution which was to have started in June could proceed. Although, Rawlings made it clear that the action by the workers did not have his approval, the workers stood their ground, and the dispute was to drag on for quite a long time.

In July 1982 the WDC at Pantang Hospital, a government mental hospital on the outskirts of Accra accused the management of embezzlement involving large sums of money and gross negligence which has resulted in a terrible state of affairs at the hospital. It was alleged that pay vouchers indicated that amounts to the tune of 18,025.20 cedis had been spent on such items as pencils, solution tapes and local brooms. It was also claimed that large sums of money had been entered into the books as spent on meat for the patients although interviews with the patients disclosed that they rarely had meat. This was confirmed by the menus. A fracas was caused when management attempted to transfer members of the WDC, who were investigating the matter, to another area. It was felt there was a racket involving the Ministry of Health, and the attempt to transfer the workers was to shield the suspected staff of the Ministry of Health [14]. This matter dragged on for sometime and it was only resolved by the personal intervention of Chris Atim, Chairman of the INCC. (ibid.)

In another show of workers’ power, Mrs. Christiana Otoo, a landlady of an 18-room house, who ejected a tenant, Mr. E.A. Cudjoe, Assistant Chief Driver of the Bank of Ghana, a tenant in the house for ten years, became a tenant herself when the house in question was confiscated by the state on the orders of Amartey Kwei, a member of the PNDC. Mrs. Otoo was asked to pay a rent of 50 cedis to the state per month for the two bed rooms which she occupied in the house. Such acts of ‘revolutionary justice’ were not unknown in the early phase of the seizure of power. Most of them were, however, reversed when the new alignment of class forces was cemented in 1983, but it showed the strength and, at the same time, the weaknesses of the workers’ movement at this time [15]. This was the time of the most fervent expression of workers’ power, which was manifested in the Defence Committees. The political role of the Defence Committees was never questioned. On the contrary, it was taken as axiomatic and indicated to some extent the influence and power of workers. In October Akrasi Sarpong Secretary to PDCs and WDCs gave expression to this sentiment when he declared that Defence Committees had political power.

Struggles in the sphere of distribution

It was not only the workplace or sphere of production which witnessed intense class and political struggles at this time. One of the important arenas of the struggle at this time of the unfolding of a new pattern of politics was the market. Ghana’s economic problems which we have dealt with in the chapter 2 have shown some of the serious problems faced by workers in this situation. Of this urban workers suffered most. There were three crucial areas where the crisis of the period was most keenly felt. One was the price of consumer goods both imported and locally produced. The second was urban transportation and the third was urban house rent, and it was interesting to note that it was in these specific areas that state policy was brought to bear. Of these problems perhaps the high price inflation was most onerous.

By 1983 inflation had reduced the earnings of workers to 20% of what it was ten years earlier. The price inflation was of course worsened by Ghana’s system of distribution with its endless chain of a network of distribution through whom goods had to pass before reaching the consumer and at which time the price became eight or ten times the wholesale price. In the past this system proved invaluable in effecting a fairly efficient system of distribution at a minimum cost. When goods were plentiful it assisted the consumer in the sense that it brought the goods needed right up to the doorstep. But in a situation of scarcity this system of distribution made the problem worse as many people hoping to make quick profits out of the situation turned to trading in addition to their normal jobs. The petty bourgeoisie in state corporations or in the distributive sectors of the economy took advantage of their control over the disposal of these consumer goods to make enormous profits. The effect of this was that people began to lose interest in production as it did not command as much profits. This of course exacerbated the situation. Efforts of successive regimes to ensure and seek to guarantee a certain level of minimum flow of goods to the low income earners through price control, or rationing of regulated sales of some sort etc., all proved to be of no avail. Instead, it seemed to have created enough opportunities for corruption on the part of public officials with access to these commodities. Furthermore, government attempts to intervene at the market by setting up price ceiling only aggravated matters as it led to hoarding and diversion of goods to neighbouring countries where higher prices could be obtained. As the economic situation became worse, these activities became perfected into a fine art. Ghana’s market mammies have traditionally dominated this sector but as things went from bad to worse this aspect of domestic distribution, called kalabule, and the structure of the distribution began to change. This was particularly the case under Acheampong. The market mammies were now pushed back in the long line of the distributive network. Their positions were taken over by the younger, sophisticated women who had gone through Ghana’s educational system, but which did not provide them with any skills. Even if it did, in a situation of a contracting economy, there were no avenues for productive employment. They became perfect candidates for the kalabule system. They were either wives or senior wives of senior army officers, senior civil servants, members of the managerial class, highly placed politicians or persons with access to the high and mighty, those with influence and power to effect the distribution of commodities. This class of women, through a system of carefully worked out alliances with the managerial class, erected a complex network of relations which enabled them to receive goods directly from either the state shops or from the factories and released them at very high prices either on the local market to their agents who also released them to other agents or preferably on the markets of the neighbouring countries, where they usually found their way in a roundabout way back into Ghana, or were distributed through the endless chain on the local market. Whatever method was employed it went through several hands before reaching the consumer, each adding his bit to the price.

The level at which they operated insulated them from direct contact with the public hence they were not well known. On the other hand, the market mammies, traditionally the distributors, attracted a lot of public hostility since they were at the end of the chain. It was at this point that the consumer confronted the cruel logic of the market-place. Hence public hostility was often directed was often directed was often directed at this group. In the face of frustration at their helplessness in dealing with the group, the public, and sometimes the state, expressed its position to them in the form of violence. This explains the mowing down of Makola Market, regarded as the headquarters of kalabule by soldiers during the time of the AFRC. Although the action looked irrational from the point of view of the management of the economy as a whole, from the point of view of the consumer, who was armed but helpless to effect any change, it was understandable. When the soldiers acted in this way, they acted as consumers, not as revolutionaries or Jacobins as some have wrongly thought.

The coup provided an opportunity for workers and progressive organizations to address their situation. Periodically, Defence Committees visited the market and tried to enforce price control regulations. In May 1982 Defence Committees in Takoradi reportedly invaded the market in response to rumours that market women had refused to reduce their prices (see Daily Graphic, Accra, 11 May, 1982, p. 1) In the same place more than 400 tables and chairs belonging to traders were reportedly destroyed by Air Force personnel finding themselves sin the same position as workers (see Daily Graphic, Accra, 18 January, 1982, p. 1). This situation was akin to the persistent food riots one read about 18th century Europe [16]. Members of the Defence Committees were sometimes accompanied by sympathetic soldiers on these visits to the markets. Sometimes the Defence Committees did not merely restrict themselves to enforcing price control regulations, also they set prices.

I remember sometime ago I went to the market at Madina, a township on the eastern periphery of Accra. There was a soldier at the market surrounded by a group of small children and some workers. He went from stall to stall decreeing prices. At each stall, he named prices for the commodities. At each decreeing of the price, he fired his gun, the symbol of power, if not his authority, to indicate I believe the legal sanctity of his pronouncements, to the cheering crowd of small children and workers, but to the obvious anger, frustration and discomfiture of the market women who sat with sullen, resigned faces, contemplating where all this was leading to. In certain workplaces members of the Defence Committees established guidelines for the distribution of commodities and supervised their distribution to ensure that the workers got a fair share. In some factories they also acted as watchdogs and guardians to prevent management from the practice of diverting goods to informal distribution channels of the kalabule and market women.

Although these measure brought down prices temporarily [17], they had the predictable effect of driving away goods from the market completely, as the market mammies and others in the distribution sector also devised various ways of getting around the watchful eyes of the self-appointed agents of the state. Market women, particularly food sellers, started selective sales from their homes, and some also started sales about 4 o’clock in the morning, so that by the time these self-appointed price inspectors came to the markets in the morning all transactions had been completed.

It was not only in the sphere of production, production relations and distribution that intense conflict was to develop. The workers fought against every form of class privilege and traditional patterns of authority and power. In this case they directed their activities against three main expression of class privilege : the privileged position of the petty bourgeoisie in the bureaucracy, the liberal professions and the chiefly classes. Here they were not only against open expressions of privileged status and its symbols, but all institutions of privilege. In this way they were inevitably brought into conflict with traditional rulers, the church, the secret societies and many fractions of the petty bourgeoisie.

In the Audit Department members of the WDC initiated an investigation into financial malpractices which unearthed many financial irregularities. They also led investigatory teams to other departments to investigate cases of alleged malpractices. Another important aspect of the work done by these groups was to see to it recommendations which had been buried in files were brought up and implemented. The same goes for legislation which had become disused [16].

So strong was the feeling against the petty bourgeoisie control of the bureaucracy that workers asked for suspension and abolition of the General Orders which were the operating principles guiding procedure in the civil service. Workers felt that this was the instrument which the petty bourgeoisie had used for control. The knowledge of these dreaded GOs had been kept secret by the petty bourgeoisie in control of the apparatus of the state bureaucracy and used as a measure of control and domination. In October 1982 at a crowded press conference in Accra, the Central Workers Defence Committee of the Civil Service announced the immediate suspension of the GOs. The Chairman of the CWDC, however, declared that certain parts of the Interim Civil Service Acts and Regulations 1960 which reflected the interest of the people would be in force until a comprehensively revised code of regulations was worked out. This, however, was not put into effect and the operating procedures of the GOs continued to be principles under which the civil service was governed [18].

It was a response to this that the attacks on lodges and secret societies were mounted by the Defence Committees and sometimes units of the army. . Workers reportedly sacked lodges and other secret societies and destroyed their relics and symbols of religious ritual. In March 1982, units of the armed forces seized ritual miniature wooden boxes containing eight human skulls and eight pairs of shin bones from the Harmonic Lodge of the Grand Order of Odd Fellows, a secret society in Asamankese. Two members of the group were arrested [19]. In August demonstrating workers set fire to the Arks of the Freemasons and Odd Fellows Lodges in Accra and destroyed them completely. This incident attracted criticism from Re Damuah, a member of the PNDC, who described the action as ‘disgraceful’ [2]. Two weeks later at a meeting at the Kwame Nkrumah Conference Centre, representatives of the WDCs called for the banning of the secret societies. They deplored the activities of the secret societies, reminding them that there was no law permitting any group of people to possess human remains. In a similar vein at the closing session of a three-day seminar of the PDCs, there were calls on all secret societies to come into the open so that their activities could be examined by the public. Chris Atim, Chairman of the INCC, addressing  the closing session of the meeting said that was the only way to prevent people from attacking them. He said that secret gathering naturally arouses suspicion. No one should therefore blame the workers for suspecting that they met for counter-revolutionary purposes [21]. Earlier on in May the Central Workers Defence Committee of the Wildlife and National Parks Division of the Ghana Forestry Commission in a resolution passed at a delegates’ conference in Kumasi in 1982 had called for a total ban on secret societies in the country. The statement said : ‘these secret societies have served as breeding grounds of corruption within the Ghanaian society’ [22].

It was not only secret societies that the Defence Committees came into conflict with but the established churches also. This was inevitable in so far as one of the purposes of the workers’ action was to fight against privileged orders. Workers often took anti-clerical positions and accused the churches of being hand-in-glove with discredited politicians in oppressing the people [23]. Although this could be said of some of the establishment churches, the Catholic Church, through its organ The Standard, throughout the period maintained a position of outspoken criticism against what it considered as excesses of the regime. It championed the cause of civil and human rights and was the main organ of the opposition against military rule during the time of Acheampong. It was also outspokenly critical against the cases of military brutality and what it regarded as lawless acts of workers and anarchism of the whole revolutionary trend. This provoked hostility from the Defence Committees and the radical coalition. Even if the church did not make such pronouncements, it would still have been in conflict with the Defence Committees for the simple reason that the church was seen as one of the instruments for the preservation of the status quo whereas the Defence Committees saw themselves as agents for overturning decadent society.

In May the Defence Committees attacked the president of the Methodist Church. The church entertained a distaste for the methods of the Defence Committees on three grounds: its putative ideology of socialism, its rough and ready tactics, as well as its hostility to established power. Besides, the church saw in it a re-incarnation of the dreaded and ‘godless’ Young Pioneers whose activities led to an open conflict between church and state during the First Republic. That conflict finally led to the deportation of the Anglican Archbishop of Accra in the Nkrumah period [24].

The pursuit of the same objectives of egalitarianism, abolition of privilege and the secularization of society resulted in conflicts and struggles against the chiefly class and traditional authority. In East Akwapim the Defence Committees appealed for the abolition of the customary law which forbids people from going to their farms on Tuesdays and Fridays [25]. They argued that the law was inimical to he realization of the agricultural objectives of the government. They argued that since in these villages Tuesdays and Fridays were non-working days and Wednesdays have been set aside for communal labour, it meant that the farmer had only three days for agricultural labour. And in Nungua there was an intense struggle with traditional rulers over the proprietary rights over the disposal of land [26]. In some areas Defence Committees were reported to have dethroned or destooled chiefs who stood in the way of militant changes as the CPP activists had tried to do in the 1950s during the time of nationalist agitation.

Defence committees and the chiefly class

Some of the chiefly classes followed the traditional practice of congratulating whomever happened to be ruling the country at a particular time, especially in the case of those who were in some conflict with their overlords or with their subjects and wanted to ingratiate themselves with the new rulers in order to buttress their positions in their conflict with certain factions of the local power structure. A particularly interesting case of this was that of Nana Kusi-Appiah Manso Nkwatahenee who urged the people’s support for the PNDC declaring: ‘If we have been sitting on the fence, let us remove ourselves from that position.’ Completely missing the class position of the new upsurge, he concluded that, ‘after all, the gains of the revolution will be for all of us.’ [27]. This was particularly what the young militants in the forefront at this time feared namely the take-over of the revolutionary upsurge by all kinds of privileged groups in the name of populism.

In spite of the position of Nana Kusi-Appiah, it is fair to say that for most members of the chiefly class, there existed a latent conflict between the supporters of the revolution and the chiefly classes which was to break up now and again over certain specific issues. The perception of the revolution by the young militants as a social revolution leveling up society and removing all traces of privilege inevitably brought them into conflict with the elements of the traditional authority because of their structural position in society.

In September 1982, the PDCs of Ada district condemned what they called the ‘superstitious manner in which some chiefs and self-styled elders of the Ada Traditional Area parceled out portions of our only natural endowment – the Songaw Lagoon – a source of high quality salt, to controversial businessmen like W.G. Nartey and K.M. Apenteng and their foreign collaboration [28]. The statement continues: ‘we wish to state unequivocally on behalf of the people of Ada that we vehemently object to the presence of Apenteng and his Vacuum Salt Industry in our Lagoon area’. The group called for the nationalization of the salt industries of Pambros and Vacuum Salt.

It should be recalled that in taking this position the PDC was encroaching on the prerogative of the chiefly class to influence land usage by allocating land for subsistence farming, commercial agriculture and for industrial purposes on behalf of the community. Over the years there have been numerous disputes over the alleged misuse, by members of the traditional authorities, of the collection of such monies, and specific government legislation had been passed to cover the use of resources for such activities. By taking this position the PDC was in fact challenging the right of chiefly class to perform acts which they had historically regarded as exclusively theirs:

Historically the Lagoon a common property of all Ada citizens held in trust for the people by the Ada chiefs was such that all the people could freely mine the salt any time that it caked up. But what we see today is a betrayal of this trust by the decadent, traditional authority who, for want of personal wealth, dubiously and treacherously sold the Lagoon for peanuts. In like manner the people of Apam and Ningo are proud inheritors of their natural endowment. In the same light the PDCs/WDCs of Ada are calling on the PNDC to accept our proposals to nationalize the salt Industries of Pambros and Vacuum Salt, and work out with the area WDCs and PDCs suitable method of administration based on the principles of popular and co-operative management. (Nsamankow, September 24 – 30 1982).

Although the statement does not appear directly to question the right of the chiefly class to exercise such prerogatives, the contention of the Defence Committee was that to exercise it in a manner in which it was done, by ceding it to a multinational company was to negate an essential element of the trust, the right of the usage by the people. However, in calling for government nationalization of the salt mines, they were setting themselves directly against the chiefly authority.

In the same month there was a clash in Prampram in which the PDC was alleged to have taken over the Prampram Council as part of its struggle against chiefly privileges [29]. The PDC took over control after the allegations of inability of the council to account for the sum of 1.2 million cedis compensation paid to it by the government for the acquisition of land for the Dawhenya Irrigation Project. In the mood of approval the Daily Graphic editorialized:

Today the defence committees are maturing not just into tax collectors are some enlightened people prescribed for them. They are growing conscious everyday about their exact role in a revolution that seeks to transfer power to the people. The PDC of Prampram has come out to take over the administration of their local traditional council because the previous caretaker committee could not account for 1.2 million cedis belonging to the people. The inability to account for the funds belonging to the people of Prampram is certainly not an isolated case. Several similar cases can be found in other areas . . . The Prampram story should tell people who have eyes to see and ears to hear that the revolution is advancing.

Such takeovers of local traditional councils were fairly widespread, particularly in Nungua and Accra [30].

It was against the background of such incidents that the Western Regional Secretary, Dr Appiah announced that all royalties paid on land, minerals, timber and other natural resources, etc, should in future be paid directly into a newly created Peoples’ Emergency Development Fund [31]. In spite of such challenges to chiefly authority, it would be wrong to think that there was a widespread conflict between new forces represented by the Defence Committees and the chiefly authorities. In certain areas the PDCs were effectively absorbed into the local and traditional power structure. In a small village a few miles north of Nsawam, the local herbalist became the chairman of the PDC! In other areas too they were taken over by the local authority structures and used to fight local battles in the same way that management had sought to use them in the early period of the revolution. In this way, far from becoming agents of change and of class conflict along the lines often suggested by radical literature which tends to idealize sometimes, they became enmeshed in factional conflicts within the structure of the local establishment. This should not be surprising. In the absence of an overall political movement with a clear ideological position to give the populist movement a sense of clear direction, it was possible in certain areas for certain elements of traditional authority to make use of the popular mood in order to buttress their own positions [32].

In parts of Tema the local boss formed a WDC with himself as the chairman. It was in response to such moves by the ruling classes that the young militants urged that certain classes of people be proscribed from joining the Defence Committees.

The mood of the times saw the appointment of members of the radical intelligentsia to important state positions and the management of the press and the news media. It was not long before the effects of this became apparent. In the first place incidents related to the workers new sense of power received more than sympathetic coverage in the news media than before. The two major government-owned newspapers, the Daily Graphic and the Ghanaian Times were full of stories of the activities of the members of the Defence Committees. Reading the press reports in Ghana at the time one would think that the new radicalism gained absolute sway. The management of the news media used these instruments of class struggle against the petty bourgeoisie and to install themselves as a hegemonic power in the coalition seeking for the control of state power. The government newspapers presented coverage specifically from the point of view of the class position of the urban masses. This exaggerated the positions of the workers and the radical intelligentsia which appeared to be stronger than their actual strength on the ground. The second was that the news media achieved a position in the forefront of the struggle against imperialism. Strident attacks on capitalism, neo-colonialism, the evil machinations of multinational corporations and the western powers generally, were reminiscent of the early days of the Evening News during the time of the anti-colonial agitation became increasingly noticeable. On national radio and television, radical opinion gained prominence in news coverage and the international news coverage was tinged with a distinctly and anti-western flavor. In February 1982, in a controversy over alleged invasion of Ghana, supported by the US, The People’s Daily Graphic, hitherto not noted for intemperate language, carried the following editorial:

Has the US not told lies before? Did America not invade the Dominican Republic in 1965? Why did the US displace a democracy with a totalitarian regime in Guatemala in 1954? Has democracy not been subverted in Brazil and Chile? Why were the (sic) huge massacres in the name of ‘freedom’ in Indonesia in 1965 – 66? Vietnam is too sordid to mention. We wish our readers to know that America’s attitude toward ‘freedom’ in the Third World countries is contrary to whatever they propagate. The working principle in the Third World countries is ECONOMIC FREEDOM, which means nothing more than freedom for US business to invest, sell and repatriate profits. They force Third World countries to provide a certain kind of INVESTMENT CLIMATE (you remember) and then a specific form of stability. To achieve all these, they request for certain kind of machinery (military intelligence, very useful) to crack down on rabble rousers, unruly students, workers organizations and true democratic processes. Readers who are in doubt can throw their minds back over the past two years in Ghana.

In addition to the position of the mass media, the state was also to display a form of anti-westernism common during the time of the First Republic. In March three foreign nationals, two Americans and a West German, working for Valco, were deported from the country amid charges of espionage [33]. The specific offence was that they were operating an amateur radio transmitter without license. A scrutiny of the diary kept by one of them revealed an entry of political nature on the internal affairs of the country. Earlier Jerry Rawlings himself had made public statements indicating that agreements with multi-national companies would be reviewed [34].

It is a mark of the changes of times and an ironic twist of history that by 1986, four years after the revolution, sentiments of the type revealed in the quotation above, could no longer be expressed and the regime had provided just such ‘investment climate’ for finance capital. In the political debates of the time the more specifically political papers such as the Workers Banner and Nsamankow took leading positions. The political battle cry ‘power to the people’ was sufficiently evocative to serve as a mobilizing slogan and ideological platform of the National Democratic Revolution, sufficiently vague to accommodate various sections of the Left and the not-so-Left, more so as the specific modalities of its expression and implementation were never articulated. Although this made it possible to present some kind of a united front in a situation of intense sectarianism which prevailed in the Left and the general fluidity of the system, it enabled all kinds of contradictions to be contained, instead of being resolved, and all kinds of contradictory causes to be espoused, all in the name of Revolution.

Militancy among the Armed Forces, Police and Students

There was a lot of militancy in the Armed Forces where the formation of Defence Committees evoked considerable controversy and hostility, not the least from the Army Commander, Jerry Rawlings, Kojo Tsikata and a host of senior military officers. There was a popular myth that it was Brigadier Nunoo Mensah who was against it, but the truth was that many of those who passed on as pantheons of the revolutionary leadership were also against it. Although the question revolved around the issue of how it would affect the military hierarchy and the questions of the military hierarchy and the operations of the military hierarchy and the operations of the military, it was more realistic to think of it in terms of the fear of an independent radical power growing up in the military similar to that in civil society to which it could link up on ideological basis for a possible take-over by radical lower ranking soldiers and he radical intelligentsia.

But it was only among the workers and the lower ranking soldiers that radical class action was expressed and revolutionary initiatives undertaken. Students at the country’s universities formed themselves into student and youth task forces, first as an ad hoc group for the evacuation of cocoa from the hinterland which the Cocoa Marketing Board (CMB) had been unable to remove. And second to provide a more enduring support for the revolutionary initiative. Specific actions consisted of assisting peasants with rural self-help projects and to propagate the aims and objectives of the Revolution.

If the students brought revolutionary ardour to the movement, they also brought to it the divisiveness of their campus politics. Ghana’s students’ body, often, gives less credit for its political roles than it deserves, in spite of trying conditions, accomplished the task with some credit and won admiration of the entire country. The enthusiasm generated by the action was such that there was a strong move among the students to cancel the remainder of the academic year in order to continue such initiatives. At a student meeting in Kumasi over 400 delegates voted to continue the national service. However, due to a combination of factors, some of which were problems associated with the administration of the national task force, and others to with supply of working gear, this did not go through and at a subsequent meeting the necessary votes to continue were not secured.

The initial momentum seemed to give way to sober reflection soon after. It was as much a reflection of the change in the structure of the student leadership as of changes in the policies and direction of the government that by June the following year the students were in dispute with the government. Students at this point backed the call by the Association of Recognized Professional Bodies to resign and hand over power while, at the same time government officials in turn were calling them bourgeois and spoilt students [35].

The State and the Popular Struggles

The state assumed an ambiguous attitude to these acts of worker militancy and the emergence of people’s power as a whole. This was particularly so in the attitude of Rawlings to the Political initiatives of the workers. On the one hand, the emergence of people’s power and the independent actions of workers presented him with a profound embarrassment. It made his administration vulnerable to the charge of the petty bourgeoisie that it was a government of anarchist, hooligans and never-do-wells, anxious to expropriate wealth which others have created. It also presented him with a dilemma in the sense that while he likes some of the radical elements of his administration, recognized at least verbally, the moral validity of the claims of workers, he was keenly aware that he was in no position to satisfy them and was afraid of the disorder which will ensue in consequence. He was also anxious to reach accommodation with the petty bourgeoisie in order to consolidate his regime; but he was also aware that so long as peoples’ power held the position it did, there was no way he could entice the petty bourgeoisie into his administration. He was also aware that so long as the workers movement insisted on making autonomist demands, his personal power was not safe, but he was also aware that the activities of peoples’ power had made it impossible for the petty bourgeoisie to forge a united front against his regime in the way that they successfully mounted against the administration of Acheampong. Lastly, the structural position which he occupied as presiding over the consolidation of the neo-colonial state and the structural position of peoples’ power as a grassroots anti-state movement, whose interests could only be meaningfully realized by the liquidation of the neo-colonial state, put him into a contradictory and antagonistic relationship with the movement for peoples’ power. It was a peculiar relationship based on conflict and contradiction, but with the contradictory relationship widening and expanding each day. It is this which basically explains the later conflict and not in the personality of Rawlings as some claim. And it is this which explains the contradictory relations between the regime and peoples’ power.

The ambiguities in state policy and attitude towards the working class struggles indicated the fluidity of the system and tenuous hold of the radicals on power. On the one hand, some government leaders conceded the moral right of the workers and decried the corruption and inefficiency of officials of the state and the activities of the petty bourgeoisie. But on the other hand they were opposed to the workers taking independent action to resolve their own problems. Somehow they thought that it was possible for the state whose apparatuses were dominated by fractions of the petty bourgeois elements, to implement policy in the interest of the workers and contradictory to their own class interests. This was at least one lesson which workers learnt if nothing else, that no class was better placed to advance its own interests than itself.

Rawlings’ own position exemplified this ambivalence. On a number of occasions, and especially in the early phases of the revolution, he voiced an unqualified support for the activities of the Defence Committees and declared them as  a bedrock of the revolution. In his second policy statement to the nation, he declared: ‘the immediate task for these committees – that of defending the revolution and ensuring the exposure of saboteurs . . . These defence committees are to defend the democratic rights of the people and expose corruption and any tendencies which undermine the revolution . . . ‘ [36] Later he began to express qualified support for the initiative. This became more apparent after the first three months of the coup. He began to preach class peace and to call on the Defence Committees to tone down their militancy. In April Rawlings made a speech in which he said that Defence Committees were not a substitute for management and General Nunoo-Mensah, not known for his sympathy to the whole concept of peoples’ power, also argued along similar lines, noting that he Defence Committees were to take part in the decision-making but not to become the decision-makers themselves. They were not expected to take over from management [37].

Right wing members of the regime like Father Damuah were more forthright in condemning the activities of the Defence Committees. Rawlings, as noted, kept to the position of qualified support. In his speech during the May Day celebrations in Accra, he said the PDCs were legitimate organs of the revolution and warned that any action to destroy or impede them represented a direct challenge to the revolution and would not be tolerated. He, however, warned against reckless removal of management: ‘it is as if removal is the only solution to every allegation of inefficiency. Surely it is not correct or revolutionary for a PDC to demand the removal of a person simply on the basis of trivial and unfounded allegations’ [38]. Initiating a theme which was to form in the coming months the main substance of his pronouncements to Defence Committees, Rawlings stressed their role in increasing productivity and lamented that there had been very little mobilization of the rural community for productive purposes. He advised PDCs in the rural areas to organize the peasants into co-operative and collective units so as to maximize productivity [39]. In July, Rawlings returned to the same theme. In a major policy statement he commended the Defence Committees, but he also castigated them for the lapses in this manner:

. . . the Defence Committees and their coordinating body, the INCC (have) been able to reverse the trend of apathy and cynicism, and aroused popular energies in the direction of meaningful and fundamental change in the structure of this society. For the first time in the history of this country, the ordinary Ghanaian is beginning to recognize the futility of doing wrong. We still need to concretize some of these initiatives. We still need to develop these political structures further, but at least in this direction we have made a decided break with the past and we have begun to lay foundation for the future. This is not a mean achievement. We could not be exaggerating if we said that since the introduction of the People’s Defence Committees and Workers’ Defence Committees, notable contributions have been made to our national progress . . . [They] have brought to light some of the most sordid cases of public corruption. They have brought to public attention the criminal wastage and destruction of public property which have been going on in our factories, industries and offices, they have highlighted the incredible conspicuous absence of interest shown by certain members of management in the economic performance of units under their control . . .  People’s Defence Committees in border areas have done invaluable work in complementing the activities of Border Guards in checking smuggling . . . they have done much in the areas of refuse collection. They have also done useful though controversial work in enforcing price control. In Western and Central regions especially, they are contributing to agriculture by establishing community farms. But perhaps the most important areas where they had an impact which is less immediately noticeable is that of raising political consciousness.

As for the shortcomings:

. . . let us have the courage to admit that in certain cases, these organizations have not acted in ways which we can be proud of. In certain areas they have reportedly assumed police powers, made rash allegations against certain management personnel, and have had problems with local trade unions . . . in certain areas they have constituted themselves into political witch-hunting committees.

In October 1982, in a speech in Accra to a durbar of chiefs, he called for peaceful co-existence between traditional councils and PDCs for the orderly development of the country [40]. He also denounced the call by the branches of the JFM, the African Youth Command and the People’s Revolutionary League of Ghana in the Eastern Region, demanding that lawyers in private practice should close down their chambers [41]. Even Akata Pore, generally regarded as one of the strong heads of the Defence Committees in the face of the obvious militancy which was upsetting to the political leadership, was constrained to state that the Defence Committees were on probation and their activities would in future be reappraised [42]. He also went on to concede a position of leadership in saying that officers of the Armed Forces could join the Defence Committees [43].

From August, Rawlings was to ascribe a less critical role to the Defence Committees by stressing their role in production. In December Rawlings was to say that ‘the PDC can only find fulfillment if all Ghanaians participate in its evolution and operation’ [44]. This critical vein continued throughout the rest of the year and well into the following year when he maintained a sustained attack not only on the Defence Committees but the workers in general. This was only temporarily stopped on 19 June, 1983 after a near successful and most serious attempt yet to overthrow the regime, when the support of the Defence Committees and the workers became crucial in demonstrating the regime’s control of the local situation.

Significance of the Workers’ Action

These actions on the part of the workers were classic cases of class action in the sense that the actions taken against management for instance were not limited as in the past to particular members of the managerial class for whom the workers had some grievance, but to the class as a whole. The complaints voiced by the Defence Committees and the workers are related to this. Whereas in the past individuals notorious for bad relations with labour were singled out for punishment, now individuals noted for progressive labour policies were exempted and the rest subjected to intense action on the part of a general workforce.

In the same way workers’ initiatives taken with respect to housing were no longer against particular landlords regarded as notorious but against landlordism as a political and social phenomenon. They were not advocating for reforms within the same within the same structure of production. They were advocating for changes within the structure of production and production relations. They sought to take control of the production process itself, to abolish class privilege in all its forms and put themselves in a position where they would not be disadvantaged in the distribution of the products of labour. It was only in this way that they could gain the political control necessary for shaping their own destinies. This constituted a marked change in the consciousness of the workers from the previous periods.

The second significant point about these initiatives was that they were policed by the workers themselves or sometimes they sought sympathetic soldiers or policemen to back their actions. What the workers did was that taking advantage of the fluidity in the system, in a situation where no particular fraction of a class held hegemony in the coalition which controlled state power and the whole petty bourgeoisie was under threat from the organized might of the working classes and radical intelligentsia, they sought alliances from similar groups in the institutions which controlled the coercive organs of state power – that is, the army and the police – to prosecute their class objectives. They therefore operated under the umbrella of these units. In such areas there was a strong solidarity between workers and these ‘Left’ soldiers or policemen.

What was further significance was that in the struggles which were to occur later as a consequence of Adjustment Recovery Programme, they were struggling for specific concessions within the structure which had then been imposed on them. It was a testimony to how far the political advancement of the workers was to slide within the next few months. Interestingly enough, this time it was led by the Trades Union Congress. If there was any event which agreed with Lenin’s dictum that workers left to themselves would always develop trade union consciousness, it was this. In the early phase it was a coalition of workers and the radical intelligentsia. Later, it was to be the workers alone.

It is now fashionable, particularly from the current Ghanaian establishment, to regard the early days of the PNDC as the dark ages of revolutionary activism when populist nonsense, anarchy and disorder reigned. This has become so much part of the popular mythology of the present regime that even so-called leftists, both domestic and foreign, are beginning to repeat it. There is no wish to engage in any unnecessary polemical debate here, but the events of this period need to be viewed objectively. The period showed revolutionary idealism and heroism on the part of workers and the radical coalition not seen before in the country. Political cadres showed amazing capacity for endurance and deprivation; workers walked miles day in and out to attend political rallies, meetings and demonstrations of one sort or the other with no material gain in sight. It was not only a structure of politics which the new initiatives sought to instill but institute a new normative style of politics. This was exhibited by the cadres as well as some of the members of the national leadership. People showed marked austerity which was in marked contrast with what characterized the behavior of the petty bourgeois leaders in the Third Republic. The simplicity of their personal lives and the humility of their mode of existence were meant to bring home the truth that one does not need to don on ties and jackets in order to command respect. In doing this they were rejecting the bourgeois yardstick of respectable political behavior based more on formal status and appearance than on activity.

It was a period of intense revolutionary comradeship. Even some of the secretaries were not exempt from this sort of life; only Kufour stuck stubbornly to his jacket and tie and for him to change as he honestly said was to be untrue to himself! Even some of the secretaries were to show commitment and deprivation which is yet to be acknowledged. Round the clock activities, without food or drink were the order of the day. People carried on as if politics was their lives without any thought of reward or with the slightest regard for their personal safety. It was the most commendable display of idealism ever seen.

When one talks of corruption and cynicism in Ghana, one also has to acknowledge that there is considerable idealism, commitment, willingness to sacrifice among Ghanaians which, given the right conditions and leadership, could help to mobilize the mass of the people in order to resolve their problems. I personally know many students who interrupted their studies oversee to rush back to Ghana to assist. To name only a few one can cite, Yao Graham, Mahama Bawa and Napoleon Abdulai. Many others left their studies in Ghana to jump to the call of the revolution. There were many others who would have come down if the revolutionary enthusiasm had been maintained.

For the establishment, it would seem that the greatest crime which the workers committed at this time was their insistence on independent action. It would seem as if they were needed only as cheer leaders or to beat up opponents on orders, but to show initiative for independent action was to engage in acts of indiscipline. It would seem that the leadership wanted the working class to behave like the historic mob which could be called out any time to fight for peoples’ causes. It was testimony to the maturity of the workers that they were not prepared for this kind of action. The working class came out several times to fight against enemies of the regime but in doing so it was careful to insist on the realization of their own interest as a working class. And this would account for its ambiguous relations with the state.

It sounds somewhat paradoxical that one could speak at this time of the strength of workers. The strength which was displayed by the workers at this time, was not strength borne out of increasing numbers. It was not a period of expansion. On the contrary, it was a period of contraction, of crisis, hence it was a strength borne out of a sense of a new heightened political consciousness which was the result of the crisis itself. It was a strength brought out of a new awareness of their strategic position in the structure of production, and what they could do to change the situation collectively outside the formal structure of the labour movement. This was one of the most remarkable things of the period. Working class struggles at this time took place not under the umbrella of the general leadership of the labour not under the umbrella and general leadership of the labour movement; indeed, it was against struggles.

Admittedly, there was no serious land question in Ghana comparable to the case of Kenya, Algeria, Ethiopia or Zimbabwe, although in certain areas it was important enough to manifest itself in class conflict. Here the young militants threw away the advice of Fanon and Cabral and set on a course which counted the most numerous class out of the political process. The inability or unwillingness to mobilize the peasantry was partly doctrinal.

On the other hand, the peasantry responded with characteristic apprehension, caution and aloofness. In the circumstances it was natural that they should go to the workers. To organize peasants would be a long and arduous task requiring patience, commitment, imagination, flexibility and considerable knowledge of rural conditions. Such virtues understandably did not come to youth easily or spontaneously. The inability or unwillingness to mobilize the peasants made the latter onlookers to the unfolding political process. In some cases, they became apprehensive and hostile as some of them were subjected to rough handling by the military which in some cases had insisted on direct sales at controlled prices to consumers. There were rumours of soldiers and activists going round seizing commodities for forced sales. To make this situation worse, some of the market women in the distributive sectors of the economy who had fled to the rural areas for safety on the outset of their severe enforcement of price control legislation, spread stories of soldiers, police and political activists manhandling and forcibly seizing goods and commodities. This naturally frightened the peasants even more. They persuaded the peasants not to take the commodities to the markets for fear that they might be seized by soldiers. The consequence of this lack of peasant mobilization was a serious limiting factor on the revolutionary process. With the support of the urban working class one could easily change government, but one could never change the Ghanaian society without the support of its peasantry. It would seem as if this point was later grasped for subsequently the regime came out with specific measures to ensure peasant support but it was too late and the bureaucratic manner in which it was implemented did not win friends from the peasantry.

To make matters worse specific activities were initiated by the regime did not endear the government to the peasantry either. First, the measure that all fifty cedi notes were to be handed over to the government affected the peasantry more than any other class, since they did not use the banking system. The second was the ’Akuafo cheques’. This was a system by which peasants were not paid in cash. Instead they were to be paid in cheques redeemed at certain branches of the Ghana Commercial Bank. In theory this looked sound and was an improvement on payment by chits, which was so open to abuse. One of the ideas underlying this was to encourage the peasantry to save. In the first place, instead of using the post offices which were more numerous and more easily accessible to the peasants the banking system was resorted to. The bank had fewer branches, meaning that peasants would have to travel longer distances to negotiate such cheques, and sometimes to be told that there was no money. This policy imposed more burden on the peasants than was intended and became self-defeating. But, perhaps the most serious incidents in eroding whatever peasant support there might have been for the revolutionary process was the forced sale of their products by certain members of the armed forces and the PDCs, intent on removing those they call the middlemen from retail trade. This meant that peasants were met on their farms and compelled to sell directly to the consumers. This not only broke a long chain of carefully built up business relationship based on mutual trust but it was intimidating to the peasants as well. To them it amounted to seizure of their property and was no different from the practice as occurred during Acheampong’s regime when for the same reason their rural produce was subjected to forced sale directly to consumers.

The real problem with peoples’ power lay less in the concept and practice of peoples’ power per se than to the problem of the structural limitations of military revolution. People’s power indicated a struggle, grassroots power and the systematic democratization of the state from the base, whereas the capture of the state by armed military implied the consolidation of the neo-colonial state. This seemed to be the irreconcilable contradictions of military revolution. Second, the techniques and practices which make for successful military administration run counter to those which count for success in popular participation and peoples’ democracy. For a military regime, secrecy, order, hierarchy are the favourite weapons. Whereas, for popular democracy, openness, open decision-making, increased participation and sense of mass involvement are crucial ingredients for success. Sooner or later these two tendencies were to come into conflict and this was exactly what happened in this case. Explanations which attribute the problem to the treachery of Jerry Rawlings or his personal failings or idiosyncrasies or the extremism of the radical coalition are rather simplistic. The problem is embedded in the structural constraints of a military revolution. A military revolution, paradoxically can only succeed if it demilitarizes itself. But to do this as we will see in chapter 7 throws up serious problems.

The State and the Progressive Initiative

What was the relationship between the state and the leading members of government and the progressive initiative taken by the workers and the radical coalition? The radicals in government supported the progressive initiatives while the reactionaries were hostile to it and opposed it. Their open rebuke of the initiative gave signal to the petty bourgeoisie that the fight was by no means over and if they could press on might win. Rawlings’ own position reflected the ambivalence of the state’s position: at one time supporting the progressive initiatives and sometimes giving them encouragement and at other times openly rebuking them. It would appear that in the initial periods of the coup his actions and pronouncements tended to support the radical tendency but later on these were to change and thereafter he maintained an attitude of studied ambivalence to them.

There are some who have explained such ambivalence to his ‘treachery’ or ‘lack of understanding’ of the class forces. This is far too simplistic. It would seem that a more correct position would point to his structural position. On the one hand, as the one who was now presiding over the neo-colonial state he was interested in its preservation; on the other hand, he had aroused grassroots initiative which if it were successful would imply a fundamental restructuring of the state he was presiding over – hence there was a major contradiction. The contradiction was allocated in the very idea of a military coup being turned into a revolution. A military coup often times involves the seizure of power from the top. The coup makers must keep a careful control over the course of events if they are not to lose control. This means that the people cannot make the revolution and it would be dictated by some other persons. On the other hand the process of a revolution implies a struggle by the people themselves. Military men by their training and temperament are congenitally afraid of what they call ‘disorder’, something which does not follow the channels of the hierarchy of order and institution they are used to. It is this which introduces the idea of structural contradiction into the notion of a military-backed revolution. This will only be possible if there is a strong movement with a real power base of power to take over.

It was this new political morality and normative posture which the petty bourgeoisie feared, because if it succeeded in establishing itself not only would it be used in judging them but it would remove the normative basis of their power and demonstrate that an alternative normative and moral system, which did not depend on exploitation of the people and class privilege, was possible. It would demonstrate that a political leader did not have to live off the people; he could live with the people. It was the only basis on which a secure and stable country could be built.



[1] See West Africa, London 18 Jan. 1982, p.197 for details

[2] ibid., p.198

[3] West Africa, London, 22  Feb., 1982, p. 536

[4] ibid.,

[5] Graphic, Accra, 19 Nov., 1982, p. 1

[6] Graphic, Accra, 14 Nov., 1982, p. 1

[7] Graphic, Accra, 19 Nov., 1982, p. 5

[8] Graphic, Accra, 4 Sept., 1982, p. 1

[9] Daily Graphic, Accra, 19 November 1982

[10] See Rhoda Howard, Colonialism and Underdevelopment in Ghana, London, Croom Helm, 1987 p. 98

[11] Daily Graphic, Accra, March 1982 p. 3

[12] Daily Graphic, Accra, 6 March, 1982, p. 3

[13] See Graphic, Accra, 29 June, 1982, p. 8

[14] See Workers Banner, 14 – 20 July 1982, p. 1

[15] Daily Graphic, Accra, 21 June, 1982, p. 1

[16] for the position in England see E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class, Penguin, 1968.

[17] See Emmanuel Hansen, report in West Africa, London 1982

[18] See Daily Graphic, Accra, 13 October, 1982 p. 1

[19] See Daily Graphic, Accra, 3 March, 1982

[20] Daily Graphic, Accra, 2 August, 1982, p. 1

[21] See Daily Graphic, Accra, 18 August, 1982, p. 1

[22] Nsamankow, August 27 – September 2

[23] Daily Graphic, Accra, May 12, 1982, p. 3

[24] See Daily Graphic, Accra, 12 May, 1982, p. 3 for the PDC attack on the president of the Methodist church, 1982.

[25] See Daily Graphic, Accra, 13 October, 1982, p. 1

[26] See Daily Graphic, Accra, Oct – Nov 1982

[27] See Daily Graphic, Accra, 11 March, 1982, p. 1

[28] Nsamankow, 24 – 30, September, 1982

[29] Daily Graphic, Accra, 29 September, 1982, p. 1

[30] See Daily Graphic, Accra, 14 October, 1982, p. 1

[31] Daily Graphic, Accra, 1 April, 1982, p. 1

[32] In parts of Tema the local boss formed a WDC with himself as the chairman. It was in response to such moves by the ruling classes that the young militants urged that certain classes of people be proscribed from joining the Defence Committees.

[33] They were Terry Dean Sway, Claude Maclean Spears and Siegfried Prangenberg. For details, see West Africa, London 15 March, 1982, p. 748

[34] West Africa, London 11 January, 1982, p. 67; p. 67 – 68

[35] see Mawuse Dake’s statement in West Africa, London, May 1983 and also the issue of 6 June, 1983 on the students’ protests.

[36] see Zaya Yeebo, Ghana: Defence Committees and Class Struggle, p. 5
[37] Daily Graphic, Accra, 26 April, 1982, p. 1
[38] Daily Graphic, Accra, 2 May, 1982, p. 1
[39] ibid., pp 4 – 5
[40] Daily Graphic, Accra, 1 April, 1982, p. 1
[41] Daily Graphic, Accra, 1 October, 1982, p. 1; For the role of the PDCs in the revolution Daily Graphic, Accra, 12 July 1982, p. 3; See also speech by Kwesi Botchwey on the PDCs in the Daily Graphic, 21 April, 1982, p. 1
[42] Daily Graphic, Accra, 5 April, 1082, p. 1
[43] Daily Graphic, Accra, 5 May, 1982, p. 8                                                                         

[44] Daily Graphic, Accra, 18 December, 1982, p. 1; See also coverage of the PDCs on 21 December, 1982, p. 1 and 20 December, 1982, p. 1 which indicated a more critical feeling about the Defence Committee.



 ‘What kind of socialism is that?’

‘You signal left and turn right’

Sembene Ousmane, The Last of the Empire

Early Economic Measures: The Period of Crisis Management

We have already outlined the crisis of economy and society in Ghana on the eve of the coup of 31 December. Six months after the coup the situation became worse. As the government attempted to control prices in the situation of extreme scarcity and especially in a situation where there was no control over production, goods simply disappeared from the market from the market. Appeals to market women, retailers and distributors to reduce prices had hardly any lasting impact. The government enjoined retailers and landlords to reduce prices and rents. Acquah Harrison, chairman of the Motor Spare Parts Dealers Association announced a 20% reduction in prices across the board [1]. Prices of food and other items went down briefly. In the immediate aftermath of the coup, prices reportedly went down by about 29% across the board only to climb up again in the absence of regular supply. In bitterness and frustration, soldiers, political activists and, sometimes, workers responded to the cruel logic of the market with regrettable violence. West Africa reported that:

In the past three weeks, tables and chairs have been burnt in markets in Kumasi, Takoradi and Accra. ‘Mighty 18’ and ‘Aflao Border’ market in Kumasi were dealt with by soldiers, firstly because a warning to reduce prices had been ignored and secondly because of the open money changing of long standing. ‘Apampam Store’ in Takoradi Central Market saw the destruction of over 400 tables and chairs by air force personnel assisted by over 200 ‘teenage boys’ . . . This according to the leader of the operation was not a check on hoarding or price control exercise, but a warning to traders who had decided to withdraw their wares instead of reducing their prices.

In a similar incident in Kumasi in September 1982, soldiers reportedly ran wild beating up market women . . .


A group of young soldiers from the Junior Leaders Company in Kumasi last week invaded a section of the Kumasi Central Market and used belts and fists to beat up a group of women traders. It all started when one of the soldiers approached a woman trader and offered to buy an item at controlled price. The woman did not agree held up the shirt of the soldier who was then in mufti. In the ensuring scuffle the soldier sustained bruises on his face. He therefore rushed to the barracks and brought a number of colleagues. The soldiers on reaching that portion of the market became wild and beat up almost all the women traders in the area with belts and fists . . . Investigations revealed it had been a common practice for the young soldiers usually called Boys Company to raid the market in their numbers and buy items for which they pay any amount which they dictate to the controlled price.

Relations between the regime and the market women were so bad that a group of them who attempted to demonstrate on behalf of and in support of the PNDC was rebuffed and sent away from the gates of Christianbourg Castle, the seat of government. Incidents of this nature only made the situation worse. It intimidated the peasants and frightened some of the market women and some withdrew from the markets altogether, or resorted to house sales. The consequence of this was a major shortage of all consumables which hit not only the major cities but the entire country. The resulting price increases produced an even more frantic effort on the part of the regime to seek solutions in price control which brought further confrontation.

In addition, the harvest was bad and was to be worse the following year. This was due to a number of factors: the unsettled conditions of the times which discouraged investment of any sort and least of all in agriculture, the severe drought, the world recession, and the fact that no fertilizers were imported for that first year. In the following year the situation further deteriorated and made worse by forest fires, a long drought and the operation of almost a million Ghanaians from Nigeria.

In other areas the situation was equally deplorable. Foreign debts which had stood at US $1,500 million in 1980, almost doubled by the following year, and the 1980 figure, as it turned out, represented twice the value of exports for 1981. The annual rate of inflation had reached 120% for the year [2].

The performance of the public sector was particularly bad. Nearly all government-owned enterprises were losing money as there were no spare parts and raw materials to keep up production. They were all on subvention. The government was in such a financially weak position that the payment of salaries and wages for workers in the public corporations was a major headache. The situation was so bad that recourse to deficit financing seemed difficult. So much so that there was no money to print money! What was the response of the regime to this situation?

Initially, the regime did not introduce any radical or far-reaching economic measures, commensurate with the initiatives which were being taken in politics. Indeed, while the initiatives taken at the level of politics indicated an attempt at  a fundamental shift in the structure of politics, those taken at the level of the economy were of the mundane fiscal and monetary policy type within the framework of neo-classical economic theory of the sort adopted during the time of the Second Republic. This was a major contradiction which was not contained till the end of the year. The initial responses were of the type one will call ‘crisis management’, a series of several ad hoc measures to deal with the immediate situation. These measures were of three main types. First, punitive measures to deal with cases of fraud, embezzlement, economic mismanagement, misappropriation of public funds, tax evasion and tax avoidance; second, were measures meant to ensure a stricter supervisory control of public finance and, thirdly and finally, cost cutting measures in order to arrest the declining trends in the economy. Indeed, the Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning described the first year of the PNDC with regard to the economy as ‘essentially a holding operation’ [3].

The punitive measures were meted out by the investigatory committees such as the CVCs, the NIC and Public Tribunals which hauled in for investigation or trials individuals accused of infringement of the law in connection with some of these economic issues. It was also stipulated that anyone with a bank account in excess of 50,000 cedis would have to explain how he came by it. This predictably undermined confidence in the banking system. Furthermore, anyone whose life appeared to be out of consonance with his known income was to be subject to investigation by any of these investigatory committees, whether he has actually committed any specific offence or not.

The first of the regime with regard to measures of the second and third type was to suspend all expenditure with regard to the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of Ghana’s independence which the previous administration had committed itself to and also to suspend the 1981 – 1982 budget. It also appointed an Economic Policy Review Committee (EPRC) to review the whole economy and formulate plans for the government in dealing with the situation. The Committee was made up of bureaucrats and neo-classical economists from the institutions of state. Its composition was in marked contrast to the ideological character of the political coalition of workers, students and radical intelligentsia which provided the bedrock of support for the regime. Its conspicuous disregard for emerging political and ideological considerations attracted muted criticism from the radical Left. Indeed, the composition of the group revealed a major ideological and political divide and contradiction between the regime as it existed and its grassroots political supporters concentrated in the organs of popular power who were seeking to change its character and direction. The contradiction between the two elements of the coalition within the state – the armed forces, the security services, and the Rawlings faction – simultaneously strained towards statism as a political ideal and monetarism as an economic position and then radicalism at the grassroots, intent on a radical populist and anti-imperialist option.

It was to contain this incipient contradiction that Kwesi Amoako-Atta, an old Nkrumaist who rose to be Governor of the Bank of Ghana and finally, Minister of Finance in the last phases of the First Republic and was briefly considered for the position of Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning was brought into the group. A man fairly advanced in years with failing health, he did not have the drive and energy for the struggles of the period and his influence was consequently very limited. He was to die the following year.

The most influential member of the group was Dr Joe Abbey who had successfully held the positions of head of the Department of Statistics and a Commissioner for Finance in the last phases of the Acheampong’s regime and was to retain his position in the Akuffo government and also in the AFRC. A man of forceful personality, strong convictions and boundless faith in the efficacy of the prescriptions of neo-classical economics and in monetarism in particular, he seemed to have had the personal confidence of Jerry Rawlings in spite of the fact that he was widely regarded in Left circles as a man of questionable ideological credentials. It was probably on account of this that he was not offered the position of Secretaryship of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. All factions of the Left were strongly suspicious of him and did everything short of open breach with Rawlings to remove or diminish his influence. He nevertheless took charge of the technical team responsible for the formulation of economic policy and if there was one person who could be credited with the formulation of economic policy of the PNDC, it was probably him.

A late addition to the EPRC who was to emerge afterwards as the ebullient and flamboyant Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning was Dr Kwesi Botchwey. He had made a reputation at the University of Ghana, where he held a Senior lecturership in the faculty of Law, as an articulate and uncompromising advocate of Marxism. He was widely known for his regular expression of fierce hostility to, and strident attacks on imperialism and multi-national corporations. One could not imagine two persons so implacably opposed ideologically as Botchwey and Abbey to be on the same committee on Economic Policy. This was also a reflection of the basic contradictions within the PNDC itself. The Left which had earlier pressed for his inclusion in a ministerial position in the PNDC was comforted by his appointment. It saw in him a counter-weight to Dr Abbey. But those who saw in the inclusion of both a recipe for disaster, in the sense of the inability of the committee to form a coherent economic policy on account of the fundamentally different ideological positions of the two dominant personalities on the Committee, were in for a surprise. Instead of conflicts, the two made a perfect team, with Joe Abbey in charge of the actual formulation and working out of strategy of economic policy and Dr Botchwey as the salesman of the policy both internally and externally. His flamboyant style greatly facilitated his effectiveness, especially in trying to sell the policy both to domestic Left and to fiancé capital. He defended the technicist approach of the EPRC and later the monetarism of the ERP with the same enthusiasm as he had earlier advocated Marxist economic policy prescriptions in the country. It is perhaps symptomatic of the lack of consensus over economic policy at this time that it took four months after the coup before a substantive appointment was made to the Secretaryship of Finance and Economic Planning [4].

We have already noted that one of the first acts of the government was the suspension of the 1981 – 1982 budget and the institution of a set of measures to deal with corruption, fraud and misappropriation of funds. It also introduced measures to ensure a stringent supervisory control of public finance and to cut back on agriculture, both capital and recurrent. The 1981 – 2 Budget had budgeted for a deficit of 4 billion four hundred million cedis [5]. However, expenditure trends within the first six months of its operation showed that the actual anticipated budget would be in the region of 4 billion cedis if things were allowed to run their own course [6].  If one added the expected increases in cocoa, coffee and peanuts producer prices, it would be in the region of 10.5 billion cedis. It was in the face of such grim financial problems that the government introduced various measures to ensure greater control over public finance and embarked upon other cost cutting measures.

In order for the government to have a greater control of expenditure, both recurrent and capital, measure were instituted for closer scrutiny of wages and salaries of personnel in the public sector and all government officials were exhorted to observe strict economy particularly as regards maintenance and running of official vehicles, as well as the purchase and printing of stationery. Other cost cutting measures included discontinuation of the issue of petrol coupons or cash payments for certain specified personnel in the public service, the suspension of all vacation leave claims, a more vigorous scrutiny of foreign travel for which foreign exchange is provided, and to be pursued more vigorously in the coming years was pruning of the personnel in the public service, with the immediate reduction of the number of Ghana’s foreign diplomatic missions from 43 to 30. 

One interesting measure which did not appear to be in line with the thinking of the EPRC at the time but which turned out to be cost cutting measure and was occasioned by the specific problems of that particular establishment was the decision to acquire 55% shares by government in a private company which specialized in inspecting imported goods against quantity, quality and price on behalf of Ghanaian importers before shipment by exporters, ‘in order o impose financial discipline in the system and in particular to ensure effective monitoring of the use of foreign exchange [7]. The government also announced the freezing of all recurrent expenditures, except debt servicing and payments in respect of pensions [8]. Furthermore, it suspended the payment of all construction works, except for those actually completed. In the past, governments have paid large amounts of money for construction works which were never completed. In some cases they never even began.  This measure was to stop this kind of abuse. It also directed that all capital expenditure, including expenditures on plant, equipment and furniture and vehicles could only be made with the prior approval of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. It also enjoined agencies collecting sales taxes and excise duties on behalf of the government to pay these promptly into government chest, while the practice whereby certain other private organizations collected social security contributions and income tax deductions from employees emoluments without paying it to government chest was to cease [9].

The government also issued a revised list of controlled prices of certain basic items such as soap, dry battery cells, wax prints, cooking oil, maize and fish. In the situation of scarcity, the system of controlled prices has become so undermined by the gross disparity between the market price and the designated price.  Often times both customers and sellers had no knowledge of what the actual controlled price was supposed to be. With the attempt to enforce controlled prices as a consequence, there often ensued disputes between prospective customers and sellers as to the actual control price. This sometimes led to unfortunate consequences, and the restatement of the control price was meant to eliminate conflicts arising out of such situations. Another measure was the withdrawal of all the 50 cedi notes on the understanding that much of the transactions outside the banking system which fuelled the kalabule system were maintained through such notes [10]. As in the case of the Akuffo regime, when the local currency was demonetized and replaced with another one at 30% less than the value of the previous money, whatever noble motives might have gone into the decision, the ensuing adverse effects fell more heavily on people who did not hold bank deposits, as earlier mentioned, who often kept their money in liquid holdings suffered severely from this. It has been claimed that the amount of money taken out of circulation by this means was between 800 million to 1.36 billion cedis, with the total amount of money circulating outside the banking system estimated to be 4 billion [11]

These measures designed to give the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning greater finance and budgetary control over public sector finance and to eliminate waste, corruption and fraud. In a way they amounted to nothing more than financial house-cleaning. The measures were very much in the framework of the AFRC initiatives in 1979. Very few people had any quarrel with them. Indeed, previous administrations had from time to time issued similar institutions but had often lacked the capability to enforce them. In themselves they did not amount to a strategy of economic development and the quest for this was to continue throughout the rest of the year.

May 1982 Mini Budget

In May 1982 the government introduced the Mini Budget which carried even farther some of the measures taken initially to ensure greater supervisory control over public finance, eliminate waste, check fraud and ensure economies in the use of public expenditure. What the Mini Budget did was to give legal backing to some of the measures already taken administratively and to introduce new ones. Its stated objectives were: to cut the rate of inflation from 116% per annum to 25% per annum within two years; to increase local food production especially staples such as cassava, maize, sorghum, rice, yams, groundnuts, sweet potatoes and vegetables, and to fix guaranteed minimum prices for all domestically produced food; to restructure the economy – this was to be achieved through decentralization of government machinery and the promotion of public and private projects in the regions and districts; to ensure disciplined financial management of the public sector in order to eliminate waste, discourage fraud and embezzlement and promote greater degree of efficiency. It announced that steps were being taken to strengthen and increase logistic support for critical government departments such as Central Bureau of Statistics, Geological Surveys, Accountant-General’s Department and the Auditor-General’s Department; and to strive to promote national self-reliance by integrating industrial production more closely with the production of local raw materials [12].

The first measure was to cut the budgetary deficit from the nearly 300 billion cedis in the first half of the financial year (July – December 1981) to just under 1,709 million cedis (Home Front, vol. 1, July 1982, p. 1) by the second half of the financial year (that is, January to June). There were also further measures to eliminate fraud, malpractices, and abuses in the expenditure of government funds and in the collection of revenue.

We have said that one of the objectives of the Mini Budget was to eliminate waste and discourage fraud and embezzlement. One of the methods by which it sought to do this was to eliminate ‘ghost workers’ on the payroll. These were employees who were no longer with establishment, but either through negotiations or on no account of deliberate fraud, their names were still on the payroll. Consequently, they continue to be paid as some other persons signed for and collected their pay. It was a well-known method of self-enrichment resorted to by divisional heads of establishments like the Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Housing and the Ghana National Construction Company where a large number of daily-rated staff was engaged. Daily-rated workers system particularly encouraged fraudulent practices since they could be hired and fired without the usual long procedures of, and proper documentation required by the civil service regulations.

The budget also reduced overtime payments and honoraria from 50% of non-debt recurrent expenditure to 36%. Tenders boards were suspended on government establishments as it appeared, paradoxically though, that institutions which depended on tender boards spent more money than those which made direct purchases from the market-place. And the criteria for granting subventions were also reviewed.

Although most of the measures were designed to reduce costs there was one area in which the recommended changes involved more expenditure. This was the case with old age pensions which ahd not been revised to keep pace with inflation. The minimum pension was increased to 300 cedis per month, retroactive from November 1, 1980 and all pensioners were granted exemption from the payment of out-patient and in-patient medical fees, as well as fees for X-ray and laboratory examination.

There were also a series of measures designed to improve revenue collection and reduce the level of evasion and avoidance. Two measures were introduced to check this. One was to increase the tax base which became a marked feature of subsequent budgets and the other to fashion out more effective measures of collecting taxes and revenue. In this the Defence Committees and the investigatory commissions played a significant role. In this regard, Rothchild and Gyimah Boadi (1986) have claimed that such means revenue from tax collection efforts went up by 65.4% in 1982 and a further 19% in 1983 [13].

One of the marked features of the Ghanaian economy was the large amount of the currency circulating outside the banking system. By the end of 1981, 10, 252 million cedis were reported to be in circulation. Of this amount 87% was being held outside of the banking system. This was up 27% on the 1979 figures. This was needed to support the speculative practices of kalabule as earlier indicated. This put a great deal of strain on the money currency. There was the need to print 7,000 million worth of new currency notes at the cost of 22 million pounds sterling in order to support local economic transactions. It was in the face of such problems that the politically explosive expedient of withdrawing all 50 cedi notes in circulation was brought about. Other monetary measures were the reduction of the maximum lending rate from 25.5% to 14% per annum and the rate of savings deposits from 18% to 12% [14]. Considering that Ghana is one of the countries with the lowest rate of savings in Africa, it seemed strange that the budget instituted a measure to discourage savings by a drastic cut in the lending rate. It has to be pointed out that in the high price inflation which obtained in the country, savings did not make much sense as the rate of depreciation was more than the interest rate provided by the banks. On the other hand, it was thought that reducing the interest rate would stimulate investment in wealth generating activities. The budget provided for a preferential rate of 8% for small-scale farmers whose operations required funds not exceeding 50,000 cedis. Agricultural loans beyond 50.000 cedis were to attract an annual rate of 9% [15].

The budget also itemized schemes to generate employment. These were the mobilization of the youth, redeployment of redundant workers and officials away from public sector for resettlement in agriculture, assisting redeployed workers with loans to engage in self-employment, special incentives to assist or expand private projects which were labour intensive and would contribute towards national self-reliance and community self-help projects. In spite of these pronouncements in the budget the rest of the year saw very little activity to realize these objectives.

On incomes the budget promised in the coming months a new salary structure which would abolish the disparity in pay and conditions of service between the two branches of the public service, the civil service properly speaking and the public corporations have historically enjoyed higher remuneration, including fringe benefits, perks, allowances, loans for the purchase of cars, houses etc although tenure had been less secure there. It has been traditionally used as a way of rewarding political favourites who could not meet the stringent conditions of entry into the Civil Service at a time when the nationalist government did not have full control of government bureaucracy. What the budget proposed was to abolish the different salary structures under which the two had operated. As a cost reducing measure, it was also stipulated that leave allowances should not exceed 250 cedis per annum for any officer, that petrol coupons or cash payments in lieu of coupons should be abolished and that all allowances exceeding the aggregate of 100% of the basic salary should be considered taxable. The budget statement also directed that in the future bonuses were to be paid as incentives for increases in production and efficiency. They were not to be seen as automatic increases unrelated to efficiency and level of performance.

The budget sought to maintain some kind of balance between price control in the context of limited state capacity for its enforcement and widespread shortages and the operation of the market principle. Thus, it declared maximum price which could be charged, for instance, for fares and rates for the operators of motor vehicles for the transport of persons and goods. The same was done for rents for living accommodation. It sought to prevent them from rising beyond certain specifies levels and ensured that the costs of services offered by professionals, such as physicians in private practice, as well as operators of various facilities, including restaurants, were compatible with the income of the average citizen and the state of the economy.

There was also created the State Committee for Economic Co-operation with Chris Atim as the Chairman, P.V. Obeng as its Vice-Chairman and Bawa Mahama as its Executive Secretary. Other members of the Committee included Dr Kwesi Botchwey, Dr Joe Abbey, Akwasi Amoko Atta, Nana Kobina Nketsia and Bawa Mahama as member-secretary. The main task of the committee was to identify areas in the economy for the development of economic co-operation with other countries. It was particularly interested in developing economic co-operation with other countries of Eastern Europe. It seems to have been set up following the visit of Chris Atim to Eastern European and socialist countries in April in order to concretize the understanding, follow up on their talks and take steps to implement these for closer co-operation. However, nothing much came to it and by August, Chris Atim was lamenting that he civil service bureaucracy was sabotaging the committee by not following up on its leads.

The all-important field of agriculture, the bedrock of the economy also, surprisingly saw hardly any initiatives other than the time-honoured expedient of urging peasants to increase productivity. Bortei-Doku, professor in Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ghana, was appointed to the Secretaryship of Agriculture but hardly anything new was effected. On independence day, Jerry Rawlings announced a green revolution but nobody saw any visible signs of it. On the contrary certain actions by supporters  of the government were visibly harmful to agriculture: for example, there were no fertilizer imports for that year. The government tried to remonstrate with cocoa growers to back down from Limann’s promised increase of the producer price of cocoa. This did not go down too well, and might have undermined the already little trust between government and peasantry. The main thing which was done was the introduction of the Akuafo cheques earlier mentioned. This was a measure meant to correct abuses in the system of payment for cocoa produce and to persuade the farmers to make more use of the banking system. However, like many other things, the way in which it was implemented did not win many friends for the government and by the close of the year there were no specific initiatives in agriculture to speed up either food or export crop production.

From what we have been saying so far, it is possible to isolate a number of principles which underlie the budget and the economic policies pursued at this time; elimination of fraud, reduction of public expenditure, promotion of efficiency, ensuring a more efficient collection of government revenue and cutting down on privileges of certain personnel of the public services. In other words, they were not measures to change the pattern of production in order to generate more wealth, but to make sure that more of what was already being generated in the same way ended up in government coffers. This was the critical issue which divided the coalition which held hegemonic power in the state at this time. We shall come to this later. There was nothing spectacular in these measures, certainly nothing which western capitalism could not live with. Nearly all the measures which were of fiscal or monetary nature were to ensure sensible accounting and management of public finance and the promotion of efficiency within the same structure of production. It was this that West Africa magazine recognized fairly early as monetarist [16]. And it was this on which hinged the great divide within the hegemonic coalition.

There was very little response from the outside world to initiatives taken in Ghana. Only Libya showed signs of coming to Ghana’s assistance, but Libya was a pariah country at the time and closer co-operation with it immediately put Ghana in a certain category in the international power game and alignments. In the early phase of the coup Libya provided aid to the tune of 30 tons of food rations and 20 tons of drugs for the second time [17].

The French government announced the suspension of the embargo initially placed on Ghana in trying to secure credit from lending organizations in France and Interagra announced some economic support for Ghana [18].

Left and Right Responses to Economic Policy

Although the government continued to enjoy considerable political support among its Left coalition of students, radical intelligentsia, lower ranking soldiers, the urban working and non-working population, a sense of anxiety began to emerge as the top leadership of the regime, firmly anchored in the formal institutions of state power, began to show what appeared as unwillingness or inability to initiate, all the level of the economy, measures of radical nature comparable to what was being undertaken at the level of politics. What was even more disconcerting was Rawlings peremptory dismissal of demands to discuss ‘course of direction’ and what appeared to be his increasing flirtation with members of the Right.

But it was clear still that something more than these ad hoc measures were needed to deal with the desperate situation, something which would stimulate growth and development. It was at his point that the two tendencies, each advocating a different way of meeting the crisis emerged. These two tendencies which were in fact factions, constituted basic elements which were drawn together to effect the coup. Hence, the division was partly inherent to that specific coup and, secondly, a generic problem of all attempts at revolution from the top; the conflict between those in control of the old state organs and grass-roots initiatives fighting for destruction and replacement of these state organs.

Each side saw the problem from a different perspective. One view, associated with the Left, was that the situation in the country was so desperate that nothing short of a thorough-going revolutionary change would alleviate the situation. This view was also predicated on the argument that the problems of the country were caused by Ghana’s incorporation into the international capitalist system. Consequently, a minimum condition for the solution of the problem was a disengagement from this system. How exactly this engagement was to be effected was never made clear. This position was supported by the Left coalition of workers, students, the radical intelligentsia, the petty bourgeoisie in the lower rungs of the bureaucracy and the lower-ranking members of the armed forces. That this view was predominant in government circles in the early phases of the regime’s existence is borne out by the fact that the preamble of the PNDC Policy Guidelines echoes the same position. It should be noted that this position was in accordance with Rawlings’ own public pronouncements, and here we need to refer readers to his initial statement which we regarded as his political manifesto. It argued that both the objective and subjective conditions in the country created conditions for such a change.

The Right took a clinical attitude towards the situation. Its solution was to seek the removal of the symptoms of the disease as quickly as possible. It argued that the situation was so bad that the immediate task was to arrest the downward trend. This was not the time for any uncertain experiments. Besides, the problems of the country were basically internal policy failures. What was needed in such a desperate situation was a short term practical measure to stop the decline in the economy. It argued, as it had done repeatedly in the past, that the government’s problems were economic and not political. It contended that it was uncertain and which in any case, had failed in other countries. It took particular pleasure in pointing out to the failure of Tanzania’s ujamaa as the definitive failure of such measures, and urged caution and moderation. It saw the solution in terms of the infusion of massive foreign assistance and investment as a restoration of the full neo-colony. For it, the term neo-colonialism had no conceptual or practical relevance. It was not only these two groups which battled to affect the direction of economic policy.

The country was subjected to subtle and sometimes not so subtle international pressures to take the Rightist option. Barely two weeks after the coup the West Africa (11 January, 1982, p. 67) wrote: ‘a more realistic exchange rate would mean that exports would produce more.’ Later in a move clearly designed to put pressure on the government the West Africa editorialized:

Now Flight Lieutenant Rawlings has returned. He is more aware now of the problems facing his country and the difficulties and dangers that will face him and his National Defence Council. One of the first matters he must handle is devaluation. This has been too long postponed on the excuse that past devaluations have been followed by coups. We have had the coup . . . let us now have the devaluation.

Similar arguments were put forward by the London Economist which expressed the belief that devaluation of the cedi would eradicate ‘the main breeding ground for state corruption’.

The Left argued that plans to arrest the downward trend in the economy, important as they were, could only be effected in a meaningful way, if it was part of an overall strategy of transformation. The position of the Right was to crystallize later into the IMF/World Bank strategy of structural adjustment and economic recovery whose fundamental assumptions it shared whereas the position of the Left appeared later, with some modifications, as the report of the Economic and Political Committee. The Left, on the other hand, further argued that whatever internal policy failures existed, and one could not deny them, one should not lose sight of the wider structural adjustment of underdevelopment. There were limits to development within the given structure of neo-colony even if the country were to have more efficient, highly dedicated honest crop of workers and entrepreneurs and administrators; it was the underdevelopment thesis. The Right had put forward the neo-classical argument. Each side was locked in its own assumptions, internal logic and ideological positions. Each side lobbied and pressed for policies which accorded with its ideological predispositions and class interests.

On the whole, one could say that the position of the Right was a replay of the position of the petty bourgeois Right which coalesced around Dr Busia and his Progress Party in 1969. This was the most ironical. It took a regime generally regarded by this time as politically the most radical to put into practice an economic programme regarded as the most reactionary. In another sense too the regime was ironic. Dr Busia’s government was regarded as the most anti-Ewe. Yet, it took a regime, generally regarded as the most Ewe-dominated, to implement the policies previously pursued by the most anti-Ewe administration. This should put to rest facile interpretations of Ghanaian politics on ethnic basis.

Ghanaian nationals working at the IMF and the World Bank were discreetly consulted on how to unlock the doors to international capital markets and how to approach the IMF and the World Bank in particular. In March a team of such officials arrived in the country to have private unofficial talks with representatives of the government and members of the ERPC. They were exploratory talks meant to put out feelers and no firm commitments were made. Meanwhile, the battle over the direction of economic policy between the two main factions in government continued. Each side lobbied for support. The Left pressed for the radical option whilst the Right pressed for an accommodationist position. In the press and the mass media the debate was conducted around the idea of devaluation but as the above analysis indicates, and as we shall have occasion to show further, the question was more than mere devaluation. It concerned the whole question of economic strategy. Devaluation merely became an ideological and political construct around which the battle lines were drawn. Thus, the position of the Left was identified with anti-devaluation while the position of the Right was identified with pro-devaluation stance. It has to be noted, however, that the Right was not united on the question of devaluation. Generally speaking the compradorial elements and the technocrats advocated devaluation, whereas the nationalist-minded petty bourgeoisie was cautious, and some like Dr Obed Asamoah, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, were outright in their opposition [19].

Initially, the Left position appeared to have had the upper hand. There were a number of articles in the press in support. In a carefully worded two-part article, Kojo Arthur challenged not only the basic assumptions of the pro-devaluation argument, but showed how limited and seriously circumscribed the so-called beneficial effects were. He then went on to delineate a development strategy which would place fiscal and monetary changes within the framework of an overall strategy of dealing with fundamental problems of underdevelopment in Ghana. In view of its importance not only in articulating a position on the devaluation argument, but also in expressing clearly the central position of the Left, we quote it in extenso:

It is argued that when the cedi was devalued, Ghana’s exports will earn their producers more money. Foreign exchange will be conserved as imports will be curbed by prohibitively higher prices that devaluation imposes on imported goods. On the export side, it is argued that higher producer prices . . . will help curb smuggling. Ghana will therefore be able to officially export more goods to earn more foreign exchange to pay foreign debts, meet the outstanding and future claims by foreign companies operating in Ghana to repatriate their profits, and Ghana will be able to buy more imported goods. In theory the devaluation arguments sound good, but in practice, one needs to peel off the thick cover of assumptions the theory is framed in. First, devaluation assumes that in the short term there is a surplus inventory which would be cleared if prices . . . are lowered. The Ghanaian economy is faced with enormous shortages and very low utilization of existing industrial plant capacity. One wonders about what surplus inventory there is in the national economy that will be cleared by the devaluation of the cedi. Second, devaluation theory assumes that the demand for Ghanaian exports is so elastic that a fall in the prices of the exports is so elastic that a fall in the prices of the exports in the form of devaluation will result in increased total foreign exchange earnings for the country. What are Ghana’s main exports? Cocoa, timber, minerals (in the form of primary aluminium) electricity and cola nuts are among Ghana’s main exports. All these exports are known as primary goods for which demand is generally price inelastic. Also, the trend has been that the purchasing power of primary goods has been falling in recent years. For example in 1975 a ton of cocoa could pay for 147.7 barrels of oil or pay the annual interest on a loan of US $23,104. By August 1981, one ton of Cocoa could only pay for 68.61 barrels of oil or pay an annual interest on a loan of US $11,697. If devaluation will increase Ghana’s exports, does that necessarily mean that the purchasing power of Ghana’s exports will improve vis-à-vis imports? Is it worsening of the terms of trade of Ghana’s exports relative to her imports not implicit in devaluation? Assuming devaluation will stir up demand for Ghana’s exports, it will mean that the roads and the bridges have to be supplied with inputs such as cutlasses, spraying machines, chain saws, fertilizers, spare parts, transportation equipment etc., to facilitate increase primary goods production to meet increased demand be set in motion by devaluation. Most of these inputs will necessarily have to be imported. Since devaluation will make imports more expensive, it will mean that importing these necessary inputs will whittle away the foreign exchange devaluation is supposed to conserve for the country. It is not only primary goods production for which inputs must be imported. The manufacturing sector of the national economy uses a lot of imported ‘raw material’, machinery and spare parts. Since devaluation is to curb the imports (presumably imported consumer goods), it means our local factories will have to step up their production to make up for the shortfall in manufactured goods – raw material, machinery and spare parts – some as high as 80%, will devaluation not have the negative impact of making domestic manufactured goods more expensive? In considering devaluation, one needs to examine critically the behavior of Ghana’s trade partners. Traditionally, the buyers of Ghana’s exports have preferred to buy unprocessed goods as opposed to processed ones. For example, of all cocoa exported from Ghana, only about 12% is in the form of cocoa butter, cocoa cake and powder. Very little sawn timber, let alone furniture, relative to logs is exported from Ghana. Bauxite and gold leave Ghana in ore state. This is to point out that very little value is added to Ghana’s goods before they are exported because of restriction imposed by Ghana’s trade partners as part of an international division of labour, the forceful imposition of which has resulted in the Ghanaian economy being dependent on one crop, cocoa. What is the possibility that when Ghana devalues her currency now the countries that buy Ghana’s exports will immediately drop their long standing protectionist attitudes and buy more of Ghana’s processed ones? The argument that devaluation will attract more foreign investment into Ghana may sound fine in theory, but in practice devaluation has tended to increase Ghana’s foreign debts. Empirical evidence shows that Ghana has not had the fortune of attracting foreign investment into the country in spite of very liberal investment codes and devaluations that have been promulgated by the various administrations in the country since independence.

Extending the argument beyond mere devaluation he writes:

Ghana’s economic problems are structural in nature and devaluation now will not significantly help in removing the structural impediments. Devaluation will raise the prices of capital equipment and spare parts that must be imported if Ghana is to increase her primary goods exports to take advantage of the devaluation exercise . . . Higher import prices will be reflected in final production costs and thereby put a brake on exports instead of stimulating them . . . Devaluation will immediately set in motion an inflationary spiral and the worsening of living conditions of the masses of the people; the political implications of this will be disastrous for the PNDC and the infant revolution . . . Since Ghana has a substantial number of subsidiaries of multinational corporations (MNCs) – some of which have not transferred any new capital from abroad for many years – the mechanism of price transfers in intra-firm transactions may also offset to a significant extent the expected positive effects of devaluation. (Daily Graphic, 12 May, 1982, p. 3) . . .

Outlining a development strategy for overcoming the situation, the author concludes:

Ghana needs a new approach to her balance of payments adjustment problems. The PNDC has started very well by moving quickly to bring down the domestic inflationary spiral by shifting emphasis from speculative activities centred around distribution (‘buy and sell’) to production – particularly by emphasizing increased agricultural production. More needs to be done particularly in the area of evolving a theory and strategy of adjustment to Ghana’s balance of payments problems – a theory which takes into account the fundamental origins of the deficits and which places such adjustment within the perspective of a long term strategy of economic and social transformation. This presupposes a political ideology – the prime mobile or the driving force – for mobilizing the mass of the population for such economic and social transformation, because restructuring the national economy from  dependency to self-reliant and self-sustaining basis does not take place in a vacuum. The use of physical control and planning – in foreign exchange allocations, import budgeting, and credit and investment budgeting – will necessarily be a major instrument in such a strategy. The development of agriculture, industrial activities (by first increasing the full utilization of existing idle plant capacity, and later full integration of existing industries), energy import-substitution programme, mobilizing domestic energy resources and the development of indigenous technological capacity to broaden the country’s technological base and increase the technical skill of the masses must be given priorities. There will be no option but for the state to play a dynamic role in this process, for the traditional mercantile and the speculative groups that tend to dominate private sector activities in Ghana have shown a poor capacity for economic transformation. Ample room should be left, however, for innovative private sector activity, especially that which shows a potential for democratizing economic decision making and for spreading income more equitably, such as small and medium-scale activity and co-operative and self-managed enterprises . . . Conditionality which will weaken capacity of the unfolding revolution in Ghana will not only halt plans for the restructuring of the national economy and the proper political management of the revolutionary process, but will also strengthen the socio-economic groups in the country which are tied up with the traditional structures of dependent underdevelopment and vicious cycle of poverty and deprivation. The conditionality needed, therefore, is one which facilitates the linking of balance of payments adjustment to a strategy which addresses the structural requirements of development and viability, the ending of the colonial domination and exploitation. (Daily Graphic, 20 May, 1982, p. 2 – 3)

As the Left controlled the press and the mass media at the time, the coverage of the anti-devaluation position was not an accurate reflection of the strength of that position in the State. Senior civil servants, for example, some of whom supported the devaluation position, could not openly declare a preference one way or the other. Rawlings’ early statements all tended to put him on the side of the Left. Even the Policy Guidelines which was also a compromise document evidenced a position close to the Left position. Discussing development problems of Ghana, it put itself squarely on the position of the Left from which anti-devaluation position sprang.

Ghanaians have been confronted with the riddle of how a nation, so well endowed with such resources, could be entangled in an ever deepening economic crisis. This crisis expressed itself in general shortage in all basic goods, diminishing agricultural and industrial production, trade malpractices, wastage of resources, indiscipline, lawlessness and general mismanagement in all sectors of our national life.

Regarding the solution to the problem of transformation, the Guidelines go on to characterize the nature of this transformation.

Any transformation, in order to be truly revolutionary must aim at a complete and radical change of both the existing social, political and economic structures and the human rudimental elements within the Government machinery . . . The aim of this transformation must be first and foremost to break the existing foreign monopoly control over the economy and social life [19].

This view was supported by the major newspaper, the Daily Graphic, which endorsed the Guidelines diagnosis of the root causes of the country’s problems [20]. It should be seen from this that the anti-devaluation stance was not an irrational reflexive action on the part of the Ghanaian Left but was borne out of several years of experience with this kind of economic strategy. Those who, like Richard Jeffries, dismiss it as an irrational reflex action on the part of the Ghanaian Left are yet to understand the subtleties of Ghanaian nationalism and its class and social base.

The IMF/World Bank Intervention

Neither side was strong enough to impose its conception of developmental paradigm on state and society, although the Right has certain advantages. Although it did not control the mass media, it was well represented in the formal institutions of state power and had extensive contacts at the economic and ideological levels with the international bourgeoisie. It represented what was known, even if there were doubts about its proffered options and solutions. In the siege state in which the government perceived itself as far as international capital markets were concerned, its promise to open doors to foreign capital investment was most tempting. On the other hand, the Left appeared amateurish and its solutions, uncertain and untried. It was, it appeared to the Rawlings’ faction, a leap into the dark. All it could offer in terms of international assistance was ideological solidarity.

It was against such a background that in April 1982, a delegation led by Chris Atim, set off to Eastern Europe and Cuba to solicit economic and financial support and ideological solidarity. It was received warmly and all the expenses of the delegations were paid by the host countries. The Soviet Union, although historically wary of ‘Leftist juntas’, had since the crisis in Poland and its own support for the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia, become more flexible.

From this time onwards the position of the technocrats and the Right seem to gain some ascendancy with Rawlings in particular. At this point the prominent member of the Right who was virtually the economic adviser to the government, succeeded in getting Standard Bank to advance substantial credits reportedly to the tune of US $ 1 million to the government, apparently with a promise for more if the government behaved sensibly, that is, did not make any drastic changes in the economy and society and followed the IMF/World Bank programme of adjustment and rehabilitation. This put subtle pressure on both international finance and the domestic Left. If Standard Bank, a serious commercial undertaking, thought that the Ghana government was sound enough to lend it US $1,000,000 then there must be something to it, and international finance in the form of the IMF and the World Bank were prepared to look at Ghana again.

With regard to the domestic Left the effect of this breakthrough was to put pressure on it to match the Right’s capacity to attract foreign finance. The Left was thus manoeuvred into a position in which its contribution to the revolutionary process was measured in terms of the ability to attract financial assistance. Once this became the defined political parameters of functional usefulness of the Left, the question of the transformation was effectively put on the shelf and the way to the continuation and strengthening of he neo-colonial economy was now firmly on the agenda. This was to prove extremely damaging to the Left and its prospect and transformation process as a whole.

Once developmental needs were defined in the narrow way, political legitimacy for Rawlings and some of the petty bourgeois Right which cohered around him, depended on the ability to attract foreign finance and satisfy the consumerism of the petty bourgeoisie as a whole. From this it became clear that the process of class realignment which was to emerge later was the logical consequence of this strategy, and not the result of any particular behavioral tendencies of the Left. In the coming months the main preoccupation of the Rawlings faction was to work out a strategy to make this class realignment possible. It appeared that the Left was clearly on its way out. Early in July the Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwesi Botchwey, announced that the government had prepared a three year plan for dealing with the economic crisis. The Left was alarmed for its worst fears were being confirmed: he government was about to make a secret deal with the IMF. It began to increase its pressure to avoid such a settlement.

By late July a number of things happened which gave the impression to certain analysts that the fortunes of the Left was by no means down, and on the contrary, it was regaining its ascendancy. On 28 July, 1982 a major government reshuffle saw the exit of certain critical members of the Right and the ascendancy into office of Leftist members. Of these the most significant were the removal of K.B. Asante. Widely regarded by the Left as an unacceptable Rightist, he was one of the three cabinet members whose dismissal the students and the radical cadres demanded earlier in January. Also, removed was B.B.D. Asamoah, a close friend and associate of Rawlings. Asamoah had incurred the wrath of the Left by his contemptuous disregard of Leftist cadres and his public Rightist outbursts. He had attracted a degree of notoriety to himself by declaring publicly that Ghana did not need an ideology and that the NDC was running a parallel government. What was significant was not only his removal from what was regarded in Left circles as the sensitive position as the Secretary to the PNDC but his replacement with a prominent member of the radical intelligentsia, Emmanuel Hansen. The same was the case with B.K. Asante. He was replaced by Ashiboe Mensah, a graduate in economics from the University of Ghana, the Hague Institute of Social Studies and London School of Economics with impressive credentials in grass-roots political activism. The following day Rawlings capped it with his famous ‘No U turn’ speech in which he reviewed events since the seizure of power, outlined the economic and social changes so far achieved, praised the defence committee, while admitting some weaknesses and affirmed the government’s determination to intensify the class struggle and pursue the radical option. He declared:

We would not be exaggerating if we said that since the introduction of the People’s Defence Committees and Workers Defence Committees, notable contributions have been made to our national progress. In the first place, these institutions have provided for the first time a mechanism by which the man in the street can take a meaningful part in the political process . . . The introduction of these institutions have provided for the first time a mechanism by which the man in the street can atke a meaningful part in the political process . . . The introduction of these institutions has arrested the cynical apathy which has gripped this nation. Our people are our biggest assets, and reorganized power of the people is both social power and capital. We should not play down this.

He concluded:

Countrymen, of late certain persons and organizations have been calling our attention to conflicts and tensions in our society as if it is a new discovery. Tensions and conflicts we have and shall continue to have them so long as the social conditions which give rise to them are still with us . . . We shall not depart from our path of seeking a lasting solution to our national problems. Our detractors will not succeed in turning us back. Let them no there is no U turn [21].

The Left was reassured. It was the kind of statement it wanted to hear. In a jubilant mood it organized huge rallies and demonstrations in Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, Ho and Koforidua which succeeded in putting to rest, at least for the time being, the Association of Recognized Professional Bodies to mount and organize a broad-based opposition to the junta similar to the one organized against General Acheampong. The Left, emboldened by this newly found strength, continued to press for changes in the direction of revolutionary transformation.

In early August Rawlings departed on a much publicized visit to Tripoli, his first visit outside the country since his seizure of power. In Tripoli he was on familiar territory and among friends; it was his third visit to the Libyan capital. The occasion was the abortive Organization of African Unity (OAU) conference which the Americans did everything in their power to wreck in order to deny Gaddafi the chance of becoming the Chairman of the organization. In Ghana, the local petty bourgeoisie was confounded, while foreign capital was dismayed and western governments were clearly. There was a desperate search to understand the sudden surge of the political fortunes of the Left.

There are two main explanations for the turn of events. In the first place the regime had come under severe pressure from the petty bourgeois Right outside government over the assassination of the three High Court Judges and retired army officer, and was attempting to use the opportunity to mobilize a broad base opposition to the regime. Only the Left had sufficient political clout to stop what looked like an ominous opposition; hence Rawlings leanings towards the Left. Second, as Rawlings was about to leave for Tripoli on a mission which he regarded as crucial, he was rather anxious to demonstrate his revolutionary credentials by appearing to lean more leftward just before the visit.

In Tripoli Rawlings sought financial assistance from Gaddafi. The Libyans expressed support for the Ghanaian revolution, but made it clear that they were unhappy with the pace as well as the direction. They wanted more far-reaching changes in the area of politics, changes which they thought will make the revolution irreversible. They were also unhappy that Ghana has made no revolutionary initiative at the level of the economy. They argued, very much as the Ghanaian Left had done earlier, that revolutions are made because things are bad. They argued that if Ghana had all the money it wanted then there would be no need for a revolution. It was clear they entertained some doubts about the determination of Ghana to go on with revolutionary changes. The delegation to Tripoli returned with agreements extending credits for fuel purchases but no more capital credits or grants.

On his return from Tripoli he fired the eccentric Father Damuah from the Provisional national Defence Council. The reverend father’s political pronouncements had embarrassed many Leftists and especially cadres of the Defence Committees. The Left which had been demanding his removal for sometime was clearly gratified by this. But its pleasure was diminished by the exit of Amartey Kwei, a Rawlings loyalist and trade union activist admired by workers. Although he issued an unconvincing press statement in which he claimed that he resigned because the Council was not revolutionary enough, it was widely believed that he was pressured to leave because of suspicion of complicity in the affair of the assassination of the judges and the retired army officer. Although the Left was dismayed by this, he period indicated a high watermark of the influence of the Left. From then on incidents happened which led to irretrievable breach between the Left, in particular the JFM, which had early in June combined with the People’s Revolutionary League of Ghana to form the United Front, and the regime. On 20 August, representatives of the IMF arrived in Accra, and appeared to have discussed the government’s draft plan of recovery with representatives of the National Economic Review Committee. The Left, alarmed that a secret deal was about to be struck between the government and the IMF without its knowledge, was sorely aggrieved that the regime had dared to invite an IMF team for discussions over economic strategy without first discussing it with them, let alone its grassroots supporters. The demands for definition of the direction of the revolution became more and more insistent. A show down between Rawlings’ faction and the radical left appeared on the horizon.

The matter came to a head at a joint meeting, the first ever, of the members of the PNDC, the National Defence Committee and some of the PNDC Secretaries on 29 August 1982. The government for the first time unfolded its plan of economic strategy to a meeting which the radical left dominated. The left was startled to find out that the government had approached the whole question of the economy in a technicist manner, and the strategy contained none of the principles of what it regarded as revolutionary transformation. It was a very stormy meeting and tempers were very high. Cadres en masse rejected the report in toto. Members were particularly incensed when it was realized that the very evening, a delegation led by the Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning Dr Botchwey ws on its way to Washington for negotiations with the IMF and the World Bank. The strength of the feeling was such that instructions were cabled to the delegation to conduct only ‘exploratory talks’. The discussions continued the following day when it was joined by Samir Amin the well-known radical Egyptian economist of African Forum and his deputy, Kwame Amoah, who had initially been offered the position of Secretary to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning only for it to be withdrawn without explanation a few hours later. In October Samir Amin, known for his radical credentials, was invited by the government as a consultant. In his company was his deputy, Kwame Amoah, a Ghanaian economist, noted for his work on delinking. Also in the country at the same time was Tetteh Kofi, a radical Ghanaian economist teaching at the University of San Francisco, known for his thesis on the ‘Abibirim strategy’. To be added to the galaxy of radical economists who came into the country for consultations with government was Eskor Toyo, a well-known Nigerian radical economist, with a long history of active trade unionist and currently holding the chair of economics at the University of Calabar. All these put out their radical alternatives to the government. They had been invited by the government for consultations on economic strategy to confront the situation. The same day, whether it was by design or purely accidental, Chris Atim was to depart to Tripoli on a mission. However, he was for one reason or another unable to depart that day. Dr Abbey tried to persuade the restive audience on the functional necessity  of devaluation which he insisted on calling ‘adjustment of the exchange rate’. The Left used the occasion to raise the whole question of ‘direction’; that is:  developmental strategy, and carried into the very centre of government decision-making the debates which till then had been confined to pages of newspapers and on radio. By the time it broke off in the afternoon, a consensus had emerged that the devaluation will be accepted but only within a framework of a developmental strategy which responded to the fundamental problems of underdevelopment, and not confined to mere monetary and fiscal reforms. It was a ‘historic’ compromise. The Right got its devaluation and he Left got its radical development framework. It was therefore decided that a committee, under the joint secretaryship of Yao Graham of NDM and Mahama Bawa of the JFM (now UF) be set up to draw up a comprehensive development strategy based on mobilization and a self-reliant autocentric development but taking into consideration the fact that the Ghana cedi was over-valued and there was the need to re-adjust the exchange rate. The negotiations with the IMF were not the basis of the dispute but the basis of the negotiations. It was agreed that this plan was to form the basis of any negotiation with the IMF.

The new committee set to work with frenzy and enthusiasm. It was one of the few occasions at which the two rival organizations, the NDM and now the UF, worked amicably. The committee was assisted by Eskor Toyo. He like Samir Amin and Kwame Amoah, had come to Accra to advise the government on working out an appropriate strategy in response to the crisis and in conformity with what he thought were its revolutionary objectives. Having been thoroughly frustrated by the National Economic Review Committee, he threw his weight behind the new committee, which recommended a self-reliant strategy. The report was accepted by the Committee of Secretaries and by the NDC in the second week of September, although Rawlings temporized. At this moment, the Left in control of the mass media decided to mount further pressure for the acceptance of he Left option with a spate of newspaper articles which attacked devaluation.

Such articles appeared in the press, written by prominent members of the Left, especially the UF, questioning devaluation. The ball was set rolling when in early August, Adjei Boadi, who by no means could be regarded as a friend of the Left, but some kind of centrist, claimed at a rally organized by chiefs and people of Agona Abodom that Ghana should not go capitalist. The capitalist system thrived on selfishness, slavery and exploitation. The industrialized capitalist countries of today thrived on such system to develop. As Third World countries had no such people to exploit it stood to reason they developed from their own resources. Abdulai Napoleon, a member of the Central Committee of the UF who had interrupted his studies in the Soviet Union to come down and help the revolution, in along article, ‘The Revolution or the IMF’ questioned the standard arguments in favour of devaluation arguing that no country in the developing world had solved its problems by devaluation, and reminding his readers of the history of Zaire, Jamaica, Sri Lanka and Madagascar. Nor did he see how devaluation can advance the Ghanaian revolution. He raised the question which was the centre of the Leftist debate and occupied an important component of all their demands: the question of class and state power, arguing that devaluation only strengthened the hands of businesses that exploit the people. He pleaded for the suspension of the devaluation thus: ‘it is necessary to suspend the idea of any devaluation and any other economic policy that might adversely affect the masses but has no chance of solving their problem in the final analysis.’ And concludes that ‘ . . . now the big question, who are promoting the IMF in revolutionary Ghana? What are the intentions vis-à-vis the revolution? And why do people listen to them at all? [23].

Ten days later Kofi Gafatsi Normanyo, a UF cadre and official of the NDC operating in the Volta region, in an article ‘Devaluation Not the Answer’ continued the attack. Widening the terms of the debate he argued that the so-called international organizations like the IMF and the World Bank were not international. They were simply conduits for finance capital and foreign monopolies to continue to exploit the country. He recalled the negative experience of previous devaluations and reiterated the Left’s argument that the mass of the people stood to lose from devaluation [24]. Addo-Aikins, a barrister by profession and another prominent member of the UF, who was later to become judge of the Public Tribunals also questioned. In a two-part article he argued that while devaluation may have worked well in the developed industrialized countries as a solution to inflation and lack of confidence in the currency, the evidence in the Third World indicated that it did not ‘achieve the desired results’. Devaluation has benefited countries with diversified products but not a mono-crop Third World country like Ghana. He argued that:

Devaluation will cause unprecedented internal price increases, a consequent serious plight of the people the revolution has come to save. It cannot restrict the people’s propensity to import as a result of Ghanaian’s attitude towards living and therefore mean an increased depletion of our scarce foreign exchange. And lastly, by reason of the fact that the single major crop we export, that is cocoa, cannot be rapidly increased or extended o meet any possible extension of demand, it will mean that at best, Ghana with devaluation will sell the same quantity of cocoa or even less at lower prices, than meaning a woeful decrease in foreign exchange earnings. If the case of devaluation is bad for the Third World, then that for Trade Liberalization, is worse, more especially in Ghana’.

He called for mobilization of all available resources to increase food production, redeployment of labour and demonetization and advocated the Chinese style long march to conquer the problem of the crisis [25].

Obodia-Sai, a member of the Committee for Economic Co-operation was to claim that he devaluation was all tricks. Questioning the case for devaluation, he argued against the standard arguments in favour of devaluation and brought out again the central point of the Left’s argument, namely the welfare of the mass of the people. Who was to bear the burden of development in case of the devaluation exercise. He concluded:

Have we thought of the workers and peasants who will bear the burden of higher costs of living which devaluation will bring? What will be the workers’ stand on the revolution after devaluation? For years the cocoa farmer has subsidized the country by taking less than what we get on the world market for his produce. Can’t we subsidize him now or ask him to accept what we get on the world market while the government picks the handling charges? I am sure with proper political approach, they will accept the realities of the situation.

Notwithstanding the cogency of his previous argument he concluded rather irresponsibly:

Devaluation is an imperialist ploy to destabilize the 31st December – it is a tool used to tie the developing countries for ever. It has never worked anywhere in the developing world before and it will not work here either so we must reject outright any suggestion that the cedi must be devalued [26].

Of all the press attacks on devaluation and the negotiation with the IMF the most devastating was that of Workers’ Banner. In a leading editorial headlined ‘IMF again . . . We disagree’ it wrote:

Without fanfare, without publicity . . . and without a single shot of the gun, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been quietly and subtly negotiating with the Government: Yes, for the past couple of weeks the IMF – this official monster, the mercenary headquarters of imperialist monopoly companies – has been laying ‘time bombs’ under the 31st December. IMF – to squeeze our finances, sabotage the economy, destroy the revolution and thus ensure the continued exploitation and oppression of our people . . . the IMF has never helped any underdeveloped country escape from underdevelopment. The IMF and its mercenary brother, the World Bank, have been the financial ‘MAFIA’ of these capitalist countries for terrorizing the Third World and legitimizing their exploitation through financial blackmail. Ghana has been a long suffering victim of the callousness and butchery of this dollar-spitting monster. Our economy still bears the marks of its murderous stabs. That is why we view with fear the suicidal path which the talks with the IMF officials are following. The IMF is supposed to have come up with a demand for unprecedented DEVALUATION. This will change the present value of the cedi from 2.75 to 25 cedis to the dollar. The bait for the trap is a PROMISE (?) of US $500 million IMF credit. To the politically and economically naïve, this represents an appetizing sum especially to a country like Ghana which is starved of foreign exchange for very urgent needs. But even the most stupid economist knows that this is just a big lie. The IMF has never and will never release a big sum of US $500 million to any Third World country at a go. Not even the beloved Seaga of Jamaica, trained by them, has been given US $500 million. The money will only be released in bits and each time with a greater squeeze on the country concerned. The IMF eventually makes a country an addict of its ghost credits and eventually worsens the initial problems. Ghana’s record of devaluations has been persistently disastrous both economically and politically. The 30 per cent devaluation of 1967 only brought misery to the workers, Busia’s short-lived policy in 1971 worsened the cost of living and ended in his overthrow. His own Finance Minister opposed it because it was economically doomed to fail . . . Even Limann resisted IMF pressure to devalue . . . The IMF and its masters have never invested in revolutions. They only seek to destroy revolutions . . . The IMF pressure for a wild devaluation of the cedi must not be seen in isolation. It is clearly part of the grand plot to destroy the 31st December Revolution.

Then, launching an attack which did not spare even any of the country’s previous Ministers of Finance, bankers or government economist, it continued;

In the recent talks with the IMF, the reactionary opinions of the top officials of Bank of Ghana and Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning have not been surprising. These ‘Economists of distinction’ are nothing but quack doctors of our ailing economy and ever prepared to administer any made-in-the-West poison. They cannot do otherwise because their brains are slaves of imperialist miseducation. And their interests are tied to the apron strings of their foreign masters with Abbey in their lead. This group of Ashiagbors, Abbeys, Amon Nikois, Frimpong Ansahs, Dr Alhassan of Bank of Ghana etc. have been appropriately called the IMF club of Ghana. But how can our learned Doctor of Law, self-acclaimed Marxist, and Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning, vocal exponent of neo-colonialist exploitation of Ghana stoop so low? Is Dr Botchwey afraid of the IMF club of Ghana or he is now part of it? Indeed, the Banner has copies of some of our honourable Secretary’s well informed studies on foreign companies and IMF which run contrary to his present compromising line . . . the Banner would like to warn the PNDC that the IMF is notorious TROJAN HORSE which should be tolerated . . . Let Dr Abbey and the IMF Club tell us what the workers of Ghana gained when, as the Commissioner of Economic Planning in 1978, he executed the IMF imposed devaluation. Why recommend the same criminal policy? The Revolution will succeed without the Financial monsters. DEATH TO THE IMF . . . WE DISAGREE!!! [27].

It was an astonishing attack, remarkable of its vituperation and its intransigence. It greatly embarrassed the government and put it on the defensive. Unlike the previous ones, it was not a discussion of the merits or demerits of devaluation, but an expression of the IMF’s sinister intentions and an attack on the personalities of virtually everyone who has anything to do with the economy of Ghana in the post-Nkrumah period. It was an astonishing piece of political journalism calculated more to arouse resentment and hostility than provide illumination. It was even more difficult to understand the basis of the attack, or the motives, especially since the report of the Economic and Political Committee which had been accepted by the Committee of Secretaries and even by certain members of the PNDC, had accommodated devaluation. This was a committee on which the Left was more than represented. The report had accepted evaluation but had argued that it should be done within the framework of a developmental strategy which aimed at an autonomous, self-reliant, autocentric paradigm of development directed at the fundamental issues of underdevelopment, and having the satisfaction of the welfare of the broad masses of the people as an important principle as earlier mentioned. It was not to be part of a development plan which merely concerned itself with the symptoms of the problem. Admittedly, it was known that Rawlings was known to be lukewarm towards the report, but by taking the position it did, the Workers Banner, the most articulate organ of the Left, denied the concerted support from the Left which was crucial for its wholehearted support.

The IMF and western governments began to wonder whether an agreement reached with the government could stick if such balanced of class forces remained. The choice for Rawlings was clear; he had to suppress the Left, or the dominant section of it, in order to create the political conditions for agreement with the IMF and the implementation of its provisions. The intransigence of the Left provided the justification, and all he now needed was the opportunity and capacity. Rawlings reported summoned the editorial committee of the Workers Banner and warned them to desist from further attacks. It was in such an atmosphere that the delegation returned from Washington. The Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning briefed members of the government with optimistic reports of understanding with the Fund and the World Bank for substantial assistance based on the three-year recovery plan which his ministry had prepared as the basis for negotiation. In spite of the fact that report of the Economic and Political Committee had been accepted by the cabinet of the Committee of Secretaries, and has become a government document, the Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning refused to be bound by it, claiming that the formulated economic strategy was his responsibility. He called a series of press conferences in which he bitterly attacked those who had criticized him and the government’s position vis-à-vis the negotiations with the IMF. Claiming that he understood international economics very well and had taught a course on the subject at the Faculty of Law at the University, he called for a ‘principled debate’ on the issue [28]. He promised to draw a new plan which will incorporate those aspects of the Economic and Political Committee’s Report which he found useful. This amounted to a rejection of the report. The plan he was to bring out kept the basis framework of the IMF/World Bank adjustment plan and tried to work in a peripheral role for organs of people’s power, just as the report of the Economic and Political Committee had maintained the framework of the radical paradigm while accommodating the principle of devaluation. It was now a position of impasse. It could only be resolved by the adjustment of politics; that is:  a change in the balance of power relations among the coalition of class forces which controlled power. This was what Rawlings faction and the Right set out to do in the coming months. As we have already said, the justification now existed, only the opportunity and capacity now remained.

The Awaited Opportunity: The Incidents of 28 and 29 October and of 23 November.

The incidents of 28 and 29 October and of 23 November provided the opportunity. It is to these that we shall turn our attention.

28 October Heated PNDC Council Meeting

Trouble first started at a heated Council meeting on 28 October when Sgt. Alolga Akata-Pore, supported by Chris Atim made a number of serious allegations against Capt. Kojo Tsikata, the security boss and  then at Jerry Rawlings. At the centre of the dispute were three issues: a) the authoritarian and erratic decision-making character of Jerry Rawlings, particularly the fact that important decisions were taken by individuals outside the acknowledged group of leaders of the junta, and many times at the personal instance of Jerry Rawlings alone; b) the position of Kojo Tsikata as the security boss and his method of operation; and c) the issue of the assassination of the three High Court Judges and retired army officer. Akata-Pore accused Kojo Tsikata of arranging with one of the accused to link his name with the assassinations in order, first to get rid of him personally, and second, to divert attention from the fact that all the accused persons in the plot were Ewes. Akata-Pore was a close associate of Chris Atim, a fellow Northerner. This made Akata-Pore and his close associates in the military in the eyes of Rawlings and his supporters nothing more than the military faction of the UF opposition. A resolution of the conflict could only come through physical confrontation. Both sides began to prepare for a confrontation. That evening there was some confrontation at Gondar Barracks, then seat of government, between troops loyal to Sgt. Alolga Akata-Pore and those loyal to Jerry Rawlings, but open conflict was avoided.

Interpretations vary as to the meaning of the incident. Some claimed that Akata-Pore wanted to lay his hands on certain weapons as a prelude to an attack. Others insisted that he merely wanted his position as an important one to be recognized. Whatever the case, it did not help matters.

29 October 1982

The following day [29 October 1982], at an open air meeting in Gondar Barracks, heated exchanges took place between Jerry Rawlings and a group of soldiers, who expressed dissatisfaction with the progress of the Revolution and voiced criticism of Kojo Tsikata, the security boss, in particular. Other soldiers urged the four leaders to bury the differences and find a way of working together for the cause of the revolution and the good of the country.

Later that morning Accra was thrown into confusion when news leaked out that the government had been overthrown. It transpired that at a zonal meeting of the Accra Defence Committee, one of the cadres had reportedly announced that the government had been overthrown, Jerry Rawlings and Kojo Tsikata had fled and Alolga Akata-Pore had taken control of the government. Who authorized the announcement remains a mystery although it is agreed that it was made by Kojo Ababio Nubuor, a philosophy graduate from University of Ghana, Legon, and head of the People’s Revolutionary League of Ghana, one of the integral organizations of the UF. If the real source of the news was problematic, the motive was even more so. There are only two possible explanations: either there was a plan to remove Jerry Rawlings from the leadership of the junta and the announcement was meant to test empirically the reaction of the people; or alternatively, it could be that when, after the confrontation at Gondar Barracks the previous night both Rawlings and Kojo Tsikata were unavailable, the Aloga faction might have thought they had actually fled and left the government, hence the announcement. Whatever the case, it sounded more childish than sinister, as Rawlings was able to disprove it soon by appearing publicly at a football match that afternoon. Rawlings regarded the three incidents – the confrontation at the Council meeting the previous day, the confrontation at Gondar Barracks between Alolga and his supporters and the troops loyal to Rawlings and the announcement that Rawlings had been overthrown – as linked together and drew the conclusion that there was a plot to overthrow him as the leadership of the junta. From that time on it was only a matter of time it was only a matter of time for the conflict to break out fully into the open.

23rd November 1982 Coup Attempt

On 23 November met the most serious challenge to its power. On that day there was an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government. Rebel troops attacked Gondar Barracks and fired volleys at the Castle where Jerry Rawlings had moved office since the confrontation of 28 October. This time, Rawlings’ faction insisted in seeing the three incidents, 28/29 October and 23 November as linked and used the opportunity to suppress the Alolga faction and the UF. The entire Left, however, fell under suspicion. One could only survive by denouncing the UF or distancing oneself conspicuously from one’s friends and comrades in the UF. On 24 November, in a spectacular show of force characteristic of the James Bond extravaganza, Rawlings led a platoon of armed soldiers in a helicopter assault on the house of Zaya Yeebo, Secretary for Youth and Sports and arrested two inmates, Ofosu Tata, an economics graduate of the University of Ghana, Legon and Deputy Editor of the Workers Banner who was credited with the editorship of the vicious attack on the IMF and the negotiating team under the caption of ‘IMF, we still disagree’, and Nicholas Atampugre, a sociology graduate, also of the University of Ghana, Legon and a Coordinator of the Police Defence Committee. On 25 November, leading cadres of the UF and the NDC were rounded up, including Bawa Mahama, a graduate of political science from the University of Ghana, Legon, and a foreign service officer who had interrupted his graduate studies in International Relations at the University of Washington to assist with the revolutionary process. Chris Atim was also reportedly ruffled up and his body guard disarmed. Other cadres were also picked up.

It would appear that all those whom the government had reason to suspect of being involved in the incidents of 28 and 29 October and 23 November were arrested. On 29 November Akata-Pore was arrested for inciting mutiny. It would appear that he had gone to Gondar Barracks in the company of his supporters, Gyiwah, Adabuga, Brimah, Aliu, Adam Sackey and Eric Asare, to demand the release of his associates who had been arrested following the unsuccessful coup of 23 November. He had reportedly refused to disarm when called upon to do so. He was accordingly arrested together with his associates and incarcerated. The mass media denounced the NDC and UF cadres as ultra leftists and anarchists, and certain foreign correspondents obligingly repeated he government’s line. The UF cadres maintain that the NDM, far from protesting against the suppression of an important section of the Left, reportedly assisted the process, hoping to benefit from the discomfiture of their old rivals by taking over the positions vacated by members of the UF. Whatever the case, it led to an irreparable damage of relations between the two groups.

Resignation of Chris Atim as PNDC member and Dissolution of the NDC

On 10 December, 1982 Chris Atim, Coordinator of the NDC resigned charging ‘betrayal and derailment of the revolutionary process’ and making accusations against Jerry Rawlings and Kojo Tsikata. He later fled the country. The Right wing press made a meal of it. They printed and circulated these charges. Other cadres also resigned, disengaged or fled the country. The JFM became confused and demoralized.

On 14 December, the NDC, the vanguard of the revolutionary process was dissolved, he leadership accused of misuse of power and of acting contrary to the aspirations of the people. (Daily Graphic, December 15, 1982.) The statement announcing the dissolution added that anew body had been set up to restructure the organization. The NDC was later reconstituted with the NDM in the predominant position, having taken the positions vacated by the UF members. Two days later, in a nation-wide radio and television broadcast, Rawlings in a theme which was to become familiar in the succeeding months, launched an attack on the workers, the radical intelligentsia and leadership of the defence committees. He justified the dissolution of the NDC saying it stemmed from the need to ensure that the revolution did not degenerate into instruments that that ‘negate our aims and thus reverse the wheel of progress’. And arguing against the class concept of the defence committees, he declared that ‘the PDC idea can only find fulfillment if all Ghanaians participate in its evolution and operation. Accordingly, it must evolve and grow out of the very experience of our people and not from the abstract world of slogan-shouting intellectuals. We believe that our people must be saved from unnecessary and abstract ideological bombardments which are not borne out of their particular circumstances and experiences’. He further observed that the revolution was a movement of the whole people to a new world of progress and the defence committees must become a movement of the whole nation. He lamented the low level of Ghana’s foreign exchange and that the country’s ability to attract more aid and loans had been constrained by the international situation. He commented on the crisis of the Ghanaian economy especially in agriculture and industry and said the country would welcome every assistance from friends. He then presented bare outlines of the economic recovery programme promising that the detailed plan would be announced the following week by the Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwesi Botchwey.

The speech was remarkable not only for setting out the theme but also the tone of what he was to say in the succeeding months and also the policy adopted. At the economic level, it showed the government’s adherence to the IMF/World Bank plan of adjustment and stabilization. At the level of politics, it began to distance him from the leftist coalition of radical intelligentsia, workers, and political activists of the defence committees which had earlier constituted the bedrock of his support and of the revolutionary process. Secondly, it began to signal the end of the ‘revolutionary period’. There were still calls on the workers to redouble their efforts at revolutionary action but it was clearly a case of ‘signal left and turn right’.

Shortly before Christmas the government announced the appointment of Naa  Polkuu Chiri, the chief of Nandom, as a member of the PNDC. A few months earlier, this appointment of what one would call a feudalist to such an office would have been inconceivable. This should show how much the balance of forces had tilted in favour of the Right in the administration and the country generally. His particular appointment was ideological as it was ethnic. Ideologically it signaled the period of the renunciation of class war and the beginning of class peace, a theme which was to come up more frequently in the future pronouncements of Rawlings. At the ethnic level it was to blunt the edge of any ethnic response which might arise as a result of the conflict with the UF as many of its leading members as well as some of its most active cadres of the NDC came from Northern and Upper Regions. The same could be said of the ‘Left’ soldiers in the armed forces. Furthermore, by picking a person from the newly created Upper West Region it was to divide the North as a whole further.

By the end of the third week in December 1982 the Left movement had been effectively suppressed and the entire Left was on the defensive. With the suppression of the UF, the most dominant section of the organized Left and the Left within the Armed Forces, the Rawlings faction emerged as he hegemonic force within the coalition which controlled state power. This effectively altered the balance of forces in favour of the Rawlings’ faction and the Right generally and created the conditions in which an agreement with the IMF could be sustained. On 30 December the political conditions had been created to enable the regime to feel confident enough to detail its strategy of development. In a nation-wide radio and television broadcast the Secretary of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwesi Botchwey, presented the government’s development programme called ‘programme of recovery’ which followed closely the lines of IMF adjustment and stabilization programme. It is to the analysis of this that we now turn our attention.

It is clear from what we have said above that if in the first year of the revolution, no clear development strategy emerged it was not due to lack of any firm ideas either from the regime or from the left, or because of the weakness of underdevelopment theory which the left espoused [29], but purely due to the fact that no single faction was sufficiently strong to impose its vision of the future on the state. Economic policy was and is never separate from class struggles and throughout the year there were intense struggles over the direction of economic policy. It was only settled in favour of the Right and Rawlings’ faction towards the end of the year and that enabled the winning faction to come out with a clear programme of ‘development’.


[1] West Africa, London, January 1982.

[2] see Annual Report, Bank of Ghana 1980 – 1981 quoted in West Africa, 25 January, 1982, p. 273

[3] see PNDC Programme of Reconstruction and Development, Accra, p. 3

[4] Earlier on in February, an announcement on Accra radio had named Dr Kwame Amoah formerly of IDEP and later deputy to Samir Amin of the Third World Forum, as the Secretary but his appointment was revoked the same day without any explanation.

[5] 1981 – 2 Budget Review Statement, Accra, 27 February, 1982, p. 1

[6] ibid.

[7] 1981 – 2 Budget Review Statement, Accra, 27 February, 1982, p. 2

[8] ibid, p. 3

[9] ibid.

[10] Daily Graphic, Accra, 6 February, 1982, p. 1

[11] see ‘Ghana’s Economic Decline and Development Strategies’ in John Ravenhill (ed.), Africa in Economic Crisis, The Macmillan Press Ltd., Basingstroke, 1986, p. 267

[12] Reproduced in Home Front, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1982, p. 3.

[13] see their chapter in Ghana’s Economic Decline and Development Strategies, op. cit,. pp 267 – 268

[14] ibid., p. 3

[15] See comments in West Africa, 7 July, 1982, p. 1491

[16] see 7 July, 1982 issue

[17] West Africa, London, 25 January, 1982, p. 272

[18] West Africa, London, 7 July, 1982, p. 1550 reproduces details of agreements.

[19] West Africa, London, 8 March, 1982.

[20] Provisional National Defence Policy Guidelines for Ministries and Regional Organizations, May, 1982, pp. 1 – 2

[21] see editorial 19 May. 1982.

[22] ‘No turning Back’, A message to the nation by Flt Lt Jerry Rawlings delivered on radio and television on July 29, 1982.

[23] Details in Daily Graphic, Accra, 9 August, 1982 p. 5

[24] Daily Graphic, Accra, 7 September, 1982, p. 3

[25] Daily Graphic. Accra, 17 September, 1982, p. 3

[26] Daily Graphic, Accra, 22 September, 1982, p. 3 and 23 September, p.3

[27] Daily Graphic, Accra, 27 September, 1982, p. 3

[28] Workers Banner, Accra, Vol. 1 No. 10, 16 – 23 September, 1982.

[29] Details in West Africa, London, October – November, 1982

[30] see Ahiakpor, J., ‘Success and Failure of Dependency Theory: the Experience of Ghana’, Paper presented at the 14th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association of African Studies, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, 9 – 12 May, 1984.  




. . . production and efficiency . . . must be our watchwords. Populist nonsense must give way to popular sense.  Many of us have spent too much time worrying about who owns what, but there can be no ownership without production first.

Jerry Rawlings

The above quotation from a speech made by Jerry Rawlings gives a clear indication of the new changes following the IMF/World Bank [30]. Gone were the days of excessive emphasis on distribution and equity. The emphasis now was to be on production. The interesting point was that the problem of production has never been entirely separate from the issue of distribution; it was a departure from the populist pretensions of the early part of the regime’s policies and thus gave a clear indication of what was to come.

The previous chapter has detailed the political preparation and the creating of the conditions for this shift. On 30 December the government announced its programme of adjustment called officially the ‘programme of reconstruction and development’. The first year was to be devoted to a period of preparation and the further creation of the social and political conditions for the full implementation of the programme. The programme itself was a three-year medium term programme. The first programme was designated as a holding operation during which attempts were to be made to stem the tide of the declining growth rates in the economy, and to remove the political and social conditions perceived as obstacles to recovery, and the implementation of the medium-term plan, namely the perceived strong position of organized labour, peoples’ power organized through populist institutions, the strength and the improvement on the strength of capital vis-à-vis labour as well as the strength of the managerial class, which, as we have seen in the previous pages, had come in for a lot of battering from the urban working class and the organs of popular power. The remaining period was for the implementation of the medium-term economic strategy launched in 1984.

To understand the programme fully, it was important to comprehend the thinking which went into its making, and the basic assumption which underlay it. This was important since it constituted one of the main divides, not only between the mass of the people and the petty bourgeoisie, but also among the petty bourgeoisie themselves as different fractions saw different cause of the crisis and consequently recommended different solutions. First, although the statement was unequivocal in seeing the problem of the crisis of the Ghanaian economy as not only confined to Ghana, it saw the problem also as mainly due to the internal problems of the country:

. . .  there can be no doubt that our problems have been greatly aggravated by the pursuit over the years, particularly from the mid-seventies, of monetary, fiscal and foreign exchange and pricing policies which systematically destroyed or discouraged local production in agriculture and manufacturing, brought the export sector, and thus our foreign exchange earning capability, to the point of virtual collapse, severely penalized productive effort, hard work and creative initiative, while lavishly rewarding idleness, the most flagrant violation of existing laws (ERP, p. 3)

It then went on to indicate specific policies in the past which had contributed to the economic crisis, again concentrating on the internal policy failures:

We set up factories with expensive foreign loans, denied them raw materials and then turn round to import with scarce foreign exchange the very products which they were set up to produce. And, if the imported raw materials for them, we forced low prices for the finished products on them, ostensibly to protect the working people but in practice only to confer windfall gains on corrupt company officials and profiteering middlemen who through their connections obtained goods at the official prices and resold them to the very working people for whom the official prices were instituted at cut-throat prices. The entire spectrum of our national economy, every aspect of it, became a massive contradiction marked by overall decline which our skilled personnel soon began to flee from in great numbers. (ERP, p. 4)

Starting from the assumption that the basic problem sprang from the internal policy failures it was not surprising that its proposed solutions, as we shall soon see, all sought to respond to the problem at this level.

The ERP addressed itself to certain basic institutions of the national economy, namely the import/export trade, internal trade, certain fiscal and monetary policies, banking, insurance, the structure of public ownership, prices and incomes policy and issues of social policy (ERP, p. 5). In what would appear as an attempt to mollify its left-wing critics who expressed anxiety about the government’s preoccupation with monetary and fiscal policies to the neglect of reforms within the structure of social organization of production, the programme stated that what was being aimed at was a ‘proper complementality between the restructuring of production relations and sound financial management’. The goals of the programme were stated to lay the foundations for a self-reliant and integrated national economy (ERP, p. 5). Its more specific aims were stated as follows: (i) to eliminate, through the planned institutional changes, local and foreign exploitation which manifests itself in rampant malpractices in internal and external tax evasion and avoidance; (ii) to increase production to modest but realistic targets in selected number of agricultural products and select manufacturing industries in the first year; (iii) to increase the production of food and industrial raw material to planned levels in the context of the Three-Year Medium Term Plan; (iv) to lower the rate of inflation; and (v) to improve the distribution of goods, services and incomes (p. 5).

There were also specific changes to be effected in the areas of import/export trade, banking and insurance, agricultural policy, state enterprises, incomes policy and manufacturing. Interestingly enough, for obvious political reasons, the most controversial aspect of the adjustment programme, the adjustment downwards of the exchange rate of the cedi was not mentioned. We shall now examine the provisions of the ERP, taking each point in turn.

Import/Export Trade

The export-import trade was the main hub of the colonial economy. As the colonial economy, like the neo-classical economy, regarded trade as the engine of growth it paid a great deal of attention to this sector. In Ghana like every other colonial territory, it was possible to have minute details of the imports and exports, but hardly any reliable records of goods produced for internal consumption. If there was one thing which underlay the external orientation of the external economy of the colonial economy, it was this. It was therefore not surprising that the report began with this instead of with production.

Here the programme called for state monopoly of external trade. This was rather surprising as the whole gamut of thinking behind the IMF/World Bank strategy of development which informed the programme of structural adjustment was to decentralize the economy and to reduce the level of state control of the economy. This of course will raise less of any enigma when it was realized that it was never intended to be implemented and was included only for the benefit of the domestic left which may feel alienated at the prospect of the state relinquishing control of the economic resources. It is not surprising that not only have these measures not been implemented, but on the contrary, specific measures for further withdrawal of the state from economic ventures have been implemented under the tenets of the structural adjustment programme. It was claimed at the time that the measure was meant to curb economic malpractices such as over-invoicing of imports and under-invoicing of exports, a practice in which not only foreign multinationals but also local businessmen indulged freely. But considering that the only wholly controlled sector of foreign trade in cocoa was in such a bad state, it was surprising that it was intended to rectify the situation by the addition of another state monopoly control. Foreign diplomats who expressed surprise of how Ghana could get away with that from the World Bank and the IMF had obviously not read the cues correctly. With regard to the questions of state monopoly the report stated as follows:

The major advantage of state monopoly of foreign trade, particularly import trade, is that it would eliminate quickly the incentive to corrupt the business community. The bulk buying of imports had already proved its advantages through the limited success of the GNPA (Ghana National Procurement Agency), “Confidential Rebates” which now accrue to private importers as well as discounts to commissions retained overseas by manufacturers’ representatives would now end. Under the new scheme, this income will accrue to the benefit of the state. In addition to these the tendency to over-invoice and under-invoice imports and exports would be considerably minimized particularly with the vigilance of the WDCs (report p. )

The inclination of this provision was a surprise to many foreign and diplomatic observers of the Ghanaian scene for at least two reasons. In the first place, the only state monopoly of external trade, the Cocoa Marketing Board had been riddled by corruption, inefficiency and overmanning. The same could be said of the Ghana National Procurement Agency whose shortcoming had been freely acknowledged by not only the PNDC but also previous administrations. It was therefore odd that with such a record of performance, a state which puts premium on efficiency and accountability should multiply its problems by creating further instruments of monopolistic control. The second reason is that it was not in accordance with the spirit of the liberalization and deregulation which were the guiding principles of the adjustment programme. It was on account of this that the Secretary of Finance and Economic Planning was to claim later that the country was following its own programme of recovery which only happened to coincide with the IMF/World Bank programme and that it was not following the dictation of both. It was clear, however, that its inclusion was more of the purpose of satisfying its domestic left than a serious addition to its strategy of development because these were never implemented as they were quietly dropped. And not only that; specific programmes which reduced the level of state participation in the economy were launched soon afterwards.

It was therefore somewhat of a surprise for the NDM to claim later that its ‘critical support’ for the ERP was premised on the implementation of these aspects of the programme and that the programme they supported was not the one being implemented, hence its withdrawal of support from the regime was a logical consequence of the failure of the regime to implement the plan [37].

Secondly, the mention of the WDCs in enforcing this measure was most ironic especially when it is remembered that the suppression of the Defence Committees was one of the preconditions for the implementation of the programme of structural adjustment.

In a manner reminiscent of the concept of Designated Supermarkets and the Essential Commodities of the period of Acheampong, the programme envisaged a nation-network of Peoples’ Shops to be established in order to facilitate popular control of the distribution of basic goods. The only difference here was that this time the shops and distribution would be under popular control, that is, to be supervised by distribution committees, elected from amongst the people who live in the area where it served, the principal control being assembled in their pDCs. Selected essential items would be sold only by the Peoples’ Shops. This was also one of the measures put into the programme to satisfy the domestic left at the time when the regime did not feel itself strong enough to risk outright confrontation with it. Soon after these proposals were made to the public and the left was made to feel that they constituted the sweeteners to assuage the drastic impact the programme might have on the mass of the people, the defence committees as well as the peoples’ shops were suppressed. The Secretary of trade who was very sympathetic to the idea of the defence committees and insisted on their defence was sacked. On the insistence of the workers he was reinstated only to be sacked again and finally found himself in jail. He was regarded as the embodiment of the defence committees.

Investment Policy

The report proposed to give more encouragement to joint ventures between foreign multi-national corporations and local enterprises in the areas of mineral exploration, mineral processing, quarrying, timber logging, wood processing, deep-sea fishing, food processing and what it called ‘home resource-based manufacturing industries’. (ERP, p. 7) Proposed changes in investment policy sought to set up a separate mineral code, provision of external accounts for new projects and guarantee of ‘free transferability’ of dividends and debt-service payments, the only provision being that such industries should be net earners of foreign exchange (ERP, p. 7). Also contained in the report were provisions for finance to rehabilitate the export sector, especially gold and other agricultural products through a consortium of banks (ERP, p. 7).


As we saw from the chapter on the crisis of the Ghanaian economy, one of the serious obstacles to economic development in the country in the seventies was crippling bottlenecks in the transportation system. It has threatened to bring communication virtually to a standstill. From the fact that there were hardly any vehicles to take workers to their offices on time, with the result that several working hours were lost each day as workers trudged long distances to and from work on foot; and given the inability to transport cocoa and other agricultural commodities to the ports for export as a serious constraint on the development potential of the economy, any plan for economic recovery would therefore have to pay special attention to transport. Here there were two main problems. Quite apart from the fact of a serious shortage of vehicles, the transportation system in the country betrayed a serious lack of coordination and planning. There were many cases of ruinous competition between road and rail. This had to the virtual destruction of the railway system. It was important to have an integrated transport system which would respond to the basic problems of the country. The Report therefore proposed the establishment of a Ghana Transport Board to be made up of Ghana Railway Corporation, Ghana Ports Authority, Ghana Lighterage Company Ltd, State Shipping Corporation (Black Star Line), Cargo Handling Company Ltd, Ghana Airways Corporation, Volta Lake Transport Company Ltd, State Transport Corporation, Omnibus Services Authority and City Express Corporation to advise the government on transport policy. In addition to these there was a proposed merger of the Omnibus Services Authority and City Express to be called National Bus Holdings Ltd, with ten regional autonomous subsidiaries. The report also proposed the conversion of the State Transport Corporation into a holding company with ten regional subsidiaries, a suggestion that was unlikely to ameliorate the transport problem in the country. In actual fact what the state did was to withdraw further from the transport service and leave the area to private initiative. This was particularly so in the cities where the State Transport System in the inter-city service still operate but its performance has been far from satisfactory.

Other proposals relating to transportation were aimed at turning the Black star Line was one of the first public corporations to be established by the nationalist government. By 1982 it had a fleet of 16 ships with a host of problems. The proposal was turn each of these into a self-accounting subsidiary ‘so that by the end of the year the crew in each vessel will know the operational results and bonuses paid according to profitability’ (ERP, p. 10). It proposed that by the end of the period, 1984 – 1986, the share of the Black Star Line in maritime trade should increase by no less than 40% (ERP, p. 10).

Finance and Banking

Just as in the other sectors of the economy, finance and banking also had from the time of the colonial period been controlled by the multinational corporations. What was particularly interesting was that these foreign banks, quite apart from the fact that they no longer brought any new money into the country, actually mobilized local banks and resources for trade and profit. They were to be prohibited from retail trading, and be encouraged to redirect their activities to specialist banking. It also proposed to increase the state share of foreign-controlled banks from 40 to 80% with effect from 31 January 1983. This also, like some of the earlier populist measures, was not meant to be implemented. Similarly he state’s share of foreign-controlled insurance companies was to go up from 40 to 80% and the state was to take up 45% shares in Ghanaian-owned companies. The idea was to persuade foreign-controlled banks to take more interest in development financing and social development as a whole, and to de-emphasize their interest in finance and speculative as well as retail trade. The Bank for Housing and Construction was to serve as the main financial institution for the control of all public sector construction projects, while the Social Security Bank was to shift from hire-purchase financing of consumer goods or the financing of development projects such as irrigation schemes, plant pools or plant-hire companies, servicing agriculture, timber logging, inland and deep-sea fishing, agro-industrial projects and rural development projects of which due to class nature of society they would not be immediate beneficiaries (WERP, p. 11). It announced plans to convert the social security scheme into a National Pensions Scheme, but in a period of rampant inflation, people should be less interested in a non-indexed pensions scheme being more interested in price reduction and improving their current standard of living.

Taxation has been one of the most serious problems in the country as indeed in other underdeveloped countries. There are two main problems with regard to this. One is the structure of taxation and the other is the limited ability of the state to collect taxes from those who are liable. In other words, there are widespread cases of tax evasion and tax avoidance. The first issue concerns the fact that the tax base is far too narrow and the burden falls disproportionately on the middle income group in wage employment. A large number of people in professional and self-employed categories pay either no tax at all because of the weaknesses in the tax structure or through evasion, or pay far less than what they should in terms of their real income. Of this group, lawyers in private practice are the notorious of all. The second concerns the capacity of the state to collect taxes. This ranges from lack of personnel to cumbersome tax collection procedures which in the long run discourage people from paying taxes. The ERP proposed to streamline and reorganize the administration of the tax machinery and proposed that 15% of personal and corporate tax collected by the Central Government should be remitted or transferred to the District Councils as of right.

There is also to be less government direct control of the tax collection agency. This is to be achieved through changing the central revenue department into a central revenue service with a Board of Directors and Auditors licensed annually. In other words, this came very close to privatization of the tax collection function of the state. Also proposed was a tax court to handle cause of ax evasion and tax default.

State Enterprise

There has been a source of intense public debate since 1866 when the idea of selling some of the state enterprises was first mooted following the overthrow of the CPP and a reversal of the policy of active state intervention in the economy. During the time of the First Republic a large number of state enterprises were established, in the view of the government, as a way of gaining some control of the domestic economy against monopoly of foreign companies. Although this was the main or ostensible reason, in course of time they came to be established more to reward political followers than as specific responses to genuine economic problems. The claims of particularist groups also meant that a large number of these were established as a way of responding to such local pressures. Their personnel was not very strong and the control of central government over their operating procedures was weak, consequently their performance record has not evoked much enthusiasm even among their supporters largely as a result of bad management and corruption. In course of time they came to be plagued by corruption, inefficiency, overmanning and used as conduits for the rewards of party activists.

Successive regimes have made plans to eliminate or restructure them without much avail because each time powerful forces had always intervened to limit the extent of restructuring or operations which the state had been willing to impose upon them. Although an attempt was made to scale down their actions and reduce their number to the extent to which it was politically possible, taking into consideration the employment effects of the measures, during the Second Republic, they were to gain a new lease of life under the military rule of Acheampong with its policy of expansion of the public sector. And by 1982 they had become a burden on the state. It is against this background that intense public debate ensued as to their future. Generally, the Right advocated their abolition whereas the left, seeing them as symbols of public control of the economy urged their retention and position and position; and this constituted one of the most salient ideological debates in the country during the turbulent period. The ERP in line with the drive for the reduction of the public sector and the activities of the state generally advocated abolishing the state enterprises. It particularly turned its critical attention to two main agencies whose performance left a lot to be desired:

The Food Production Corporation and the Ghana National Reconstruction Corporation are to be dismantled. Their forms and lands will be apportioned among workers interested in operating on a co-operative basis. Title to their lands will be leased to the co-operative. Credits will be provided for the preparation of feasibility studies (ERP p. 13).

Interestingly enough the same position has been announced several times as we have said above but the actual had always fallen short of the intended activity. Organizations with large number of workers constantly embarked on retrenchments whereas those with heavy representation from the petty bourgeoisie had been often reprieved. This sort of action was taken at the time of the Second Republic under the administration of the Progress Party and abolition of the state enterprises did not go well with projected creation of more of them in the form of peoples’ shops in the distribution sector. This is one of the more contradictory aspects of the ERP. More in the direction of privatization of these state enterprises were to come later in the Economic Adjustment Plan itself and was to lead to considerable tension in the country and cost the government much of its populist support here.

We have already referred to the crisis of Ghanaian agriculture in chapter Two. Like the Limann administration before it, the ERP envisaged a crash programme for agriculture. The ERP planned for modest increases in the same levels of acreage. It envisaged to spend US $61 million in order to increase maize production by 81%, rice production by 39%, cassava, yam and millet production by 10% and 50% in poultry and 16% in fish (ERP, 1).


In the areas of manufacturing the ERP envisaged ‘major rationalization to achieve greater concentration and better economies’, better integration between research and production and maximum reliance on local raw materials (ERP, p. 14). There was also a hint that local industries set up and whose purposes appear to be siphoning of foreign exchange will be curtailed and eventually driven out of production (ERP, p. 14).

It is interesting that one of the most controversial aspects of the recovery plan, the adjustment of the exchange rate of the cedi was not mentioned at all, except in oblique terms as a system of bonuses and surcharges with a promise that details increases in local prices were to be expected although there were pointers in that direction:

The financial aspect of the recovery programme is to take the principle of reprising to its logical conclusion and thus to ensure that what used to be large unearned incomes, that over the years accrued to social parasites, would now be collected and paid into Government chest for use in promoting the objectives of the Reconstruction and Development Programme. It is unacceptable and not in the national interest to perpetuate a situation where genuine exporters are faced with financial bankruptcy while users of foreign exchange are either subsidized or else are allowed to pocket huge profits in the name of protecting the average consumer with officially low priced imports and foreign exchange. It is unacceptable to the PNDC government to have to resort to the printing of cedis at high cost in foreign exchange to finance its programme or to give to cocoa farmers or exporters in general.

What was particularly intriguing about ERP was that what was to become, from the point of view of the government, the most important, and from the point of view of the workers, the most controversial, the adjustment of the exchange rate of the cedi was alluded to only casually in the programme. The programme itself as a one year stabilization plan only hints of things to come. It only named the development principles to be followed. The question now is to examine the specific policies embarked on by the PNDC in order to give concrete expression to the principles and direction alluded to in the ERP. For this we have to turn to the annual budget, and in particular the budget of 1983, the three year Adjustment Plan which followed and specific acts and policies embarked on by the government to meet theends enunciated in the plan.


Hansen, Emmanuel and Paul Collins [1980], ‘The Army, the state and the ‘Rawlings Revolution’ in Ghana’, African Affairs, Vol. 79, N. 314

Hansen, Emmanuel [1982]. ‘The Military and Revolution in Ghana’, Journal of African Marxists, 2 (August) – [1987]: Popular Struggles for Democracy in Ghana, in Peter Anyang Nyongo (ed), Popular Struggles for Democracy in Africa, London, Zed Press

Hutchful, Eboe [1979], Organizational Instability in African Military Forces; the case of the Ghana Army’, International Social Science Journal, Vol. 31, 4 – [1986] ‘New Elements In Militarism in Africa: Ethiopia, Ghana and Burkina’, International Journal, XL1, 4 (Autumn).

Luckman, Robin [1971], The Nigerian Army: A Sociological Study of Authority and Revolt, London: Cambridge University Press.

Ndu, Eme [1989]. ‘Ghana: Transition to Socialism?’, Labour, Capital and Society 21, 1 (April)

Robotham, Don [1989] ‘The Ghana Problem’,  Labour, Capital and Society 21 1 (April).




L. Adele Jinadu

“The question now is to examine the specific policies embarked on by the PNDC in order to give concrete expression to the principles and direction alluded to in the ERP . . . “

Unfortunately, this task could not be undertaken by Emmanuel Hansen before his accidental death in November 1987. It has not been possible to find drafts or notes indicating his analysis of or thoughts on, this crucial aspect of his study of Ghana under Jerry Rawlings. In this sense this is an unfinished book.

But the thrust of the preceding chapters provide useful insights into the theoretical perspectives from which Hansen would have carried out his analyses of the economic and social programmes of the Rawlings regime. For it is characteristic of his humanist outlook and social commitment that he would have carried out a detailed and critical assessment of the manner in which the ERP was not only anti-democratic but was tending towards further consolidating the dependent nature of Ghana’s economy. This much is clear from discussions some of us were fortunate to have had with him on various occasions from his many papers read at conferences and seminars and from his general critique of IMF-inspired adjustment policies in the Third World.

The analysis he would have carried out would have demonstrated he anti-people thrust of the ERP, showing the linkage between it and the authoritarian proclivity of he regime. This linkage is well-captured in the title he gave to chapter 6 of this book, ”Economics of Adjustment and Adjustment of Politics”. In the circumstance, as Hansen put it, “the emphasis was now on production . . . “ with little if any concern for issues of social equity and the redistribution of wealth. No less critical in Hansen’s overall assessment would have been the issue of the exchange rate of the cedi and how this is linked to the whole recovery process.

The direction in which Hansen’s analysis would have proceeded, in short, would have been to show how the ERP was incapable of resolving the economic crisis of the Ghanaian state and how it very well reflected he harsh and ‘closed’ character of the regime. And his prognosis would have been borne out of current developments in Ghana which not only belie the claim of recovery but also indicate a pathological distrust of the people, a refusal to ‘open’ up the political process through a programme in return to civil rule, consciously and honestly pursued.

Problems of production are still intractable while the social costs of adjustment continue to grow harsher and harsher from year to year. Agriculture is still depressed and a credible wages policy is yet to be put in place. While the emphasis continue to be on “opening up” the economy to foreign investment and the “normalization” of relations with debtor countries, less attention is paid to health, education and social welfare sectors. The so-called “liberalization” policy in the economic sector is hardly matched by liberalization of the political process. Popular organizations of workers and students are subject to routine harassment and repression. Centralization and distrust of local initiatives are symptomatic of an underlying predilection against participatory politics. And this is reflected in the policy-making processes at all levels.

Hansen saw this predilection of the regime much earlier than the rest of us. It was a principal reason for his resignation as PNDC Secretary. And it also provided the anchor for the underlying problem that runs through this unfinished book and for which Hansen attempted to provide an answer: to what extent can a military regime which professes commitment to democracy and development be true to that commitment? In spite of its unfinished nature this book has provided us with Hansen’s clear and unambiguous answer to the question.