Recent worker-student alliances and activities are lacking in an anarchist/syndicalist approach which focuses on ‘people’s power’ and ‘worker control’. Such an approach is important for radical transformation, writes Leroy Maisiri.
Ghana, West Africa, was a British colony called “Gold Coast” until 1957. It became the first independent country in “black” Africa after reforms and struggles in the 1940s and 1950s. The new president, the brilliant Kwame Nkrumah, and his Convention People’s Party (CPP), had fought for independence. Now they aimed at major changes in the society, even speaking of socialism. And Nkrumah proposed a united African government for the continent: Pan-Africanism.
But by the mid-1960s, hopes were fading. There were good reforms in education and services and self- respect for Africans that helped remove colonialism’s damages. But the CPP has become a dictatorship, with a personality cult around Nkrumah. Unions and struggles were suppressed. The economy was in trouble. A new elite hijacked independence and resources. When the military seized power in 1966, people celebrated in the streets. Today Ghana is one of the poorest African countries.
What went wrong and what can we, anarchists in Africa, learn from this experience?
The Korean anarchist movement wanted to build an independent self-governing anarchist society, a cooperative system of the masses of the Korean people. They wanted to take civilisation from the capitalist class, and return it to the popular classes. By doing so, the capitalist and colonial society that existed in Korea (as elsewhere in Africa and Asia and east Europe) would be replaced with a new society. This new society would be based on the principles of freedom and equality, that guarantee the independent self-rule of the producing classes: the working class and the peasantry.
The mass “Makhnovist” (anarchist) movement emerged in 1917 in Ukraine, a colonial country in East Europe that was until then divided between the Russian and Austrian (or Austro-Hungarian) Empires. The Makhnovists made an anarchist revolution. The anarchists were a central force in the 1917-1921 Ukrainian War of Independence.
They fought for decolonisation through anarchist revolution, meaning the independent Ukraine should be reconstructed on anarchist lines: self-management and participatory democracy, equality not hierarchy and domination, collectively-owned property, and the abolition of the class system, capitalism and the state. They were called “Makhnovists,” after the leading Ukrainian anarchist militant, Nestor Makhno. He came from a poor peasant family, had been a factory worker, and former political prisoner.