Written By: Duke Nii Amartey Tagoe
Brother Kofi Asamoah, Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress has revealed some grisly details of how the National Liberation Council (NLC) destroyed the labour movement and persecuted many of its leaders.
According to him, by the time the NLC handed over power in 1970, more than 64,000 direct public sector jobs had been cut and registered unemployment had jumped to 600,000.
He was speaking at a public forum held at the Hall of Trade Unions on “The Impact of the 24th February Coup De’tat on Trade Unionism in Ghana” as part of activities marking the 50th anniversary of the overthrow of Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, first President of Ghana by the Central Intelligence Agency of the USA and its local collaborators.
Brother Asamoah noted that the anti-worker policies of the NLC regime geared towards the destruction of the gains of the Nkrumah government led to a drastic reduction in the membership and influence of the unions and many labour leaders were forced to take refuge under beds for fear of persecution whilst several others simply fled from the country. This man hunt and intimidation he said, continued right under the Busia regime.
“Development” To “Management”.
The trade union leader insists that the CIA backed coup brought in its wake a ferocious swing in government economic policy from development to management, noting that successive government have made little effort towards the structural transformation of the national economy to address the crisis of underdevelopment.
He described it as a tragedy, the so called Economic Recovery Programme of the World and the International Monetary Fund Bank that led to the outright sale of publicly owned enterprises that absorbed the majority of the work force of the country.
Brother Asamoah noted that the IMF and World Bank’s contribution to the economic restructuring of Ghana ushered in a period when employment concerns of many Ghanaians were relegated to the background and vigorous efforts towards employment creation were halted.
The role of the Coup in the Ideological degeneration of Trade Unionism
Trade Unions the world over are formed and made to function on the basis of ideology. Kofi Asamoah therefore holds that the 24th February Coup made a conscious effort at the elimination of ideological manifestations of the activities of trade unions in Ghana, adding that “this loss of an ideological grounding has led to the festering of the fragmentation within the trade union movement”.
Worse still, critical historical documents of the Congresses of the TUC cannot be found and might have been lost forever in what the TUC Secretary General has likened to “ISIS destruction of archeological material and historical sites”.
In a brief remark, Kwesi Pratt Jnr, a leading member of the Socialist Forum of Ghana stated that on the 31st of December 1963, J.W Russel, British Ambassador in Addis Ababa sent a cable to the Foreign Office in which he made some ghastly comments about Kwame Nkrumah.
Mr Pratt said: “the coup of February 1966 was not about bad governance or dictatorship of Nkrumah and the CPP, but was a crime committed against an independent people striving to break away from the yoke of colonialism.”
According to him, the forces that overthrew Nkrumah did so purely because they wanted to hold back Ghana’s progress in the continuing domination of Africa in the fashion of classical colonialism.
In the cable sent to the Foreign Office, J.W Russel said “Nkrumah is our enemy, he is determined to complete our expulsion from an Africa he aspires to dominate absolutely. We must find blacks who can, and although it would be counterproductive publicly to damn them with our old colonial kiss, yet surely it is not beyond our ingenuity to find effective ways of affording them discreet and legitimate support? I cannot for the life of me see why we should subscribe our conscience to help the Saltimbance of Accra engross the rest of Africa”
Mr Ebow Tawiah, a former trade unionist remembered vividly that one of the most sordid events that took place at the forecourt of the TUC was the carefully selected books by Nkrumah on trade unionism that were set ablaze by elements he described as traitors.
Professor Akilagpa Sawayerr, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana also stated that it was the way in which the leadership of the then Convention Peoples Party mobilised the heart of society-workers- that made a difference in what was achieved after independence.
“It is important for all of us if we expect to transform the current managerial economic approach to recognise that leaders can only do so much when they are linked directly to the people and draw their motivation from them and it is only then that there is any chance of redirecting our focus towards nation building. It is not a matter simply of good intentions but also a matter of understanding the political economy and the factors which keep us in chains. It is not enough to complain and bewail our fate. There is work to be done in understanding our realities and to transform it. Idealism isn’t enough but hard work and solidarity are crucial preconditions for making any impact in taking us away from the shame of the dark days”, he said.
Nana Frimpongmaa Sarpong Kumankuma, also called on progressive forces to unite in their effort towards the building of a new society based on the principles of equality for all.
“ 50 years after that sordid incident that halted the rapid transformation of our dear country, the time has come for each and every one of us to move on and to work towards the realization of the State we yearn to see. Every single day must count in the mobilization of the disadvantaged and the workers of this country towards national reconstruction” she said.
Mr Kofi Asamoah has thrown a challenge to progressive forces to mobilize and build alliances to galvanise public support for an alternative development paradigm in the face of neoliberal hegemony.
The public forum which was jointly organized by the Convention Peoples Party and the Socialist Forum of Ghana was chaired by Mr Justice Kofi Henaku, SFG Secretary.