- Living with Nkrumahism: Nation, State, and Pan-Africanism in Ghana by Jeffrey S. Ahlman
Jeffrey S. Ahlman
Athens: Ohio University Press, 2017; pp. 323, $32.95 paper.
The amazing achievements of Nkrumah the person are not what generated the most controversy when examining the ideology of Nkrumahism. Many of the debates and disagreements on Nkrumahism illuminate the contradictions within the organizations that orbited Nkrumah, along with the culture these organizations engendered. A half century after Nkrumah's passing on to the realm of the ancestors, the ideology that has his name as its root is still being evaluated. Jeffrey S. Ahlman, in this informative text, reveals that he is an able evaluator.
At the turn of the twenty-first century, Kwame Nkrumah (1909– 1972) was voted the "African of the Millennium" by the British Broadcasting Corporation's African listeners. He was an icon of the African Liberation Movement (ALM) and the African Unity Movement (AUM) and as such he generated numerous contradictory narratives. To the growing number of Pan-African enthusiasts Nkrumah's writings and utterances served as the base of an ideology that guided the liberation of the Gold Coast Colony and served as the primogenitor of postcolonial Pan-African nationalism. Even Nkrumah's critics agreed in numerous publications with this statement.
Scholars and researchers that examine historical icons are keenly aware that individuals are only as influential as the organizations and ideas that surround them. This is not to say that individuals are not important—they often are. More important, however, are the historical and societal contexts that influence individual actors and the dialectical effects that agents' actions have on their social context. These are the determinants of an agent's legacy. Ahlman's book is meticulous in following this approach. [End Page 140]
Ahlman elucidates the ontology of Nkrumahism as an ideology made up of three components: anti-colonialism, Pan-Africanism, and socialism. He attributed these elements to the time during which Nkrumah lived, the influence of George Padmore and C. L. R. James, and Marxism. Because Ahlman's focus is Ghanacentric, a number of other key agents that engaged the Nkrumahist ideology are absent. It would not be fair, however, to expect one book to include all aspects of Nkrumahism's impact on the world.
The book is organized in the style of a dissertation. The text first familiarizes the reader with the social and political influences on Kwame Nkrumah's ideation on decolonization. From there the author offers a description of Nkrumah-ism as a living ideology and presents the ideology as a collective product of the media propaganda instruments controlled by Ghana's Convention People's Party (CPP)—mainly its print publications. In addition, Ahlman builds a case for asserting Nkrumahism as a dynamic byproduct of the CPP's bureaucratic functionaries, especially its youth wings and labor organizations.
The fifth chapter, partially titled, "Working for the Revolution," focuses on the Nkrumahist state's treatment of women in Ghana. The chapter is a balanced assessment comparing the treatment of women in postcolonial Ghana with the treatment of women in Western cultures. It also looks at distance between the rhetoric of the ideology and the experiences recorded in documents and in the testimony of women interviewed by the author.
One of the key objectives of this book is to frame and present a cohesive voice representing Ghanaians. The author interviewed 44 witnesses who experienced life under the CPP; through those interviews he is able to reveal some interesting developments often overlooked by the naysayers of Ghana's earlier postcolonial period. These discoveries may prove helpful in continuing the efforts to remedy the chaos that followed the end of classical colonialism in Africa.
Information from these testimonies also revealed specific criticisms that were unavoidable in the social reforms of the new nation-state. Although primary source data is the holy grail of historical research, it must be noted that the interviewees are often giving testimony about a period that is decades old. Nevertheless, with the proper weighting, the testimonies prove to be valuable for describing the impact of Nkrumah's ideology during...