Ernesto Yeboah officially started the Economic Fighters League in 2016, along with several like-minded former CPP members, such as Hardi Yakubu, the CPP’s deputy youth organizer.
“Nationalism, socialism, and Pan-Africanism,” said Yeboah, listing the three pillars of Nkrumahism after I asked about the CPP’s acting general secretary’s apparent confusion. “I don’t know where Kabila is coming from, but it’s just that diplomatic way of telling you they represent nothing. It’s as simple as you don’t want to say you are socialist,” he said.
In just three years, the staunchly Nkrumahist organization now has a membership of approximately 2,500 and is present in all major towns and cities throughout Ghana. “Currently I’d say we are an urban-based organization, which is not desirable,” said Yeboah.
However, despite their lack of financial resources — even Yeboah still has to work a day job as a communications consultant — the Fighters have struck fertile ground by tapping into the general population’s growing discontent with Ghana’s two-party system.
The Fighters began by expressing their distrust in Ghana’s “theoretical democracy.” In a country where over forty distinct languages are spoken, communicating this idea can be a challenge. So the Fighters use the word sakawa, which is from Ghana’s most widely spoken language, Twi, and means “fake” or “counterfeit.” This idea points to one of their most ambitious goals.
“One of the things that we want to change is the constitution. We feel that our constitution is undemocratic. Our constitution enforces a patriarchal society, it diminishes the role of women, it heightens political polarization because it [has] essentially built … a two-party system,” said Yeboah. “So one of our objectives of this revolution — and mind you, for us, this is a revolution — [is] to bring down the system that is oppressing the larger majority of our people.”
The Fighters’ small size has not deterred their advocacy for local and Pan-African efforts. Recently, they spoke out in favor of Ghana’s Rastafari Council’s efforts to advocate for the decriminalization of marijuana as well as in support of the similarly named, though much larger, Economic Freedom Fighters of South Africa. Neither are the Fighters operating under grand delusions.
“What we also see is that [Ghanaians] are not ready to fight,” admitted Yeboah. “The conservative nature of the Ghanaian is making this revolution almost impossible. If you check our Facebook platform, we are more than 10,000, and yet those same people … are not ready to show their face. It’s because of our political past … there is a fear that’s buried in the hearts of many Ghanaians that makes a revolution in it’s true Marxist terms … almost unlikely.”
It is far too soon to declare whether or not the Economic Fighters League represents a real resurgence of leftist thought in a country where neoliberal and neocolonial economic policy has significantly narrowed the political spectrum. For many, socialism, and even Nkrumahism, is no longer on the political radar. Few even identify socialist politics with the legacy of Nkrumah or the CPP.
“Times have changed. There are very few people who remember the good things that the CPP did,” said former mayor Nat Amartiefo. “To most they were the party introduced by Nkrumah that ended up oppressing their population and throwing people in jail. They have never been able to mount a counteroffensive of what they did for education, for housing, for health. They simply have never had the room.”
Both Amartiefo and Professor Debrah of the University of Ghana expressed serious doubts regarding socialism’s efficacy in the Ghanaian, and even the larger African, context. According to the latter “Nkrumah is a lost paradigm … socialism is no longer tenable in the African environment,” and to the former, socialism only resonates with “a very small slice of the population: the educated.” Amartiefo went so far as to suggest that Nkrumah’s Pan-African vision and support for liberation movements on the continent were “not the kind of … adventure which the ordinary Ghanaian identified with. “It was just too ephemeral, too far away,” he said.
Nkrumah may have stretched himself too thin as the leader of a newly independent West African country, especially when one takes into account his travel to Vietnam to advocate for an end to the war. But it is imperative to argue that socialism’s “untenable” nature may have more to do with the country’s neoliberal, neocolonial environment than its “African” one.
The CPP’s leadership maintains some cautious hope that an economic critique can resonate in Ghana. “We don’t know whether at a point in time people will understand that … it is the structure of [the economy] that actually is the cause of our difficulties,” said Greenstreet, who ran his 2016 presidential campaign on a platform inspired by Franklin Roosevelt called Frofroapam, which translates to New Deal or New Covenant. “Unless we change the structure of the economy, we may find ourselves drifting along in the same kind of difficulties.”
Skeptics like Amartiefo and Debrah are also not stopping Ghana’s more vibrant Nkrumahists. Samia and Yeboah believe not only that Ghana is fertile ground for socialism and Nhrumahism, but that now is the time for it to begin taking shape.
“We want to be liberated from [neocolonialsm]; we also want the unity of Africa,” said Yeboah, “So we can say, it’s now time for the people’s revolution.”
“This is what the country is waiting for … an alternative to these two big parties to emerge,” said Samia who plans to run for a new parliamentary seat in 2020. “If there was a party operating with Nkrumahist ideology, I have no doubt they would do well. We will [emphasis added] break some doors and lay the foundations for these dynamic forces to emerge.”