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Class Characteristics and Ideologies - Class Struggle in Africa
By Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
Oct 6, 2011, 16:08
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There is a close connection between socio-political development, the struggle between social classes and the history of ideologies. In general, intellectual movements closely reflect the trends of economic developments. In communal society, where there are virtually no class divisions, mans productive activities exert a direct influence on his outlook and aesthetic tastes. But in a class society, the direct influence of productive activities on outlook and culture is less discernible. Account must be taken of the psychology of conflicting classes.


Certain social habits, dress, institutions and organizations are associated with different classes. It is possible to place a person in a particular class simply by observing his general appearance, his dress and the way he behaves. Similarly, each class has its own characteristic institutions and organizations.  For example, co-operatives and trade unions are organizations of the working class. Professional associations, chambers of commerce, stock exchanges, rotary clubs, Masonic societies, and so on, are middle class, bourgeois institutions.

 


Ideologies reflect class interests and class consciousness. Liberalism, individualism, elitism, and bourgeois democracywhich is an illusionare examples of bourgeois ideology. Fascism, imperialism, colonialism, and neocolonialism are also expressions of bourgeois thinking and of bourgeois political and economic aspirations. On the other hand, socialism and communism are ideologies of the working class, and reflect its aspirations and politico-economic institutions and organizations.


The bourgeois conception of freedom as the absence of restraint, of laissez-faire, free enterprise, and of every man for himself, is a typical expression of bourgeois ideology. The basic thesis is that the purpose of government is to protect private property and the private ownership of the means of production and distribution. Freedom is confined to the political sphere, and has no relevance to economic matters. Capitalism, which knows no law beyond its own interest, is equated with economic freedom. Inseparable from this conception of freedom is the view that the presence or absence of wealth denotes the presence or absence of ability.


Coupled with the bourgeois conception of freedom is the bourgeois worship of law and order regardless of who made the law, or of whether it serves the interests of the people, a class or of a narrow elite.

 

In recent years, in the face of growing revolutionary violence throughout the world, new misleading bourgeois terminology has emerged which expresses the reactionary back-lash. Typical examples are the myths of the silent majority or the average or ordinary citizen, both of which are said to be anti-revolutionary and in favor of maintaining the status quo. In fact, in any capitalist society, the working class forms the majority and this class is far from silent, and is vocal in its demand for a radical transformation of society.

 

In Africa, the African bourgeoisie, anxious to emulate European middle class attitudes and ideologies, have in many cases confused class with race. They find it difficult to differentiate between European classes since they are not familiar with the subtle differences in speech, manners, dress and so ondifferences which would instantly betray their class origin to their own fellow countrymen. Members of the European working class live as bourgeoisie in the colonies. They own cars, have servants, their women do not enter the kitchen, and their class origin is only apparent to their own people. After independence, the indigenous bourgeoisie, in aspiring to ruling class status, copy the way of life of the ex-ruling classthe Europeans. They are, in reality, imitating a race and not a class.

 

The African bourgeoisie, therefore, tends to live the kind of life lived by the old colonial ruling class, which is not necessarily the way of life of the European bourgeoisie. It is rather the way of life of a racial group in a colonial situation. In this sense, the African bourgeoisie perpetuates the master-servant relationships of the colonial period.


Although the African bourgeoisie for the most part slavishly accepts the ideologies of its counterparts in the capitalist world, there are certain ideologies which have developed specifically within the African context, and which have become characteristic expressions of African bourgeois mentality. Perhaps the most typical is the bogus conception of negritude. This pseudo-intellectual theory serves as a bridge between the African foreign-dominated middle class and the French cultural establishment. It is irrational, racist and non-revolutionary. It reflects the confused state of mind of some of the colonized French African intellectuals, and is totally divorced from the reality of the African Personality.


The term African socialism is similarly meaningless and irrelevant. It implies the existence of a form of socialism peculiar to Africa and derived from communal and egalitarian aspects of traditional African society. The myth of African socialism is used to deny the class struggle, and to obscure genuine socialist commitment. It is employed by those African leaders who are compelledin the climate of the African Revolutionto proclaim socialist policies, but who are at the same time deeply committed to international capitalism, and who do not intend to promote genuine socialist economic development.


While there is no hard and fast dogma for socialist revolution, and specific circumstances at a definite historical period will determine the precise form it will take, there can be no compromise over socialist goals. The principles of scientific socialism are universal and abiding, and involve the genuine socialization of productive and distributive processes. Those who for political reasons pay lip service to socialism, while aiding and abetting imperialism and neo-colonialism, serve bourgeois class interests. Workers and peasants may be misled for a time, but as class consciousness develops the bogus socialists are exposed, and genuine socialist revolution is made possible.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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