The interest of ‘Ghana: End of an Illusion’ far transcends its immediate subject.footnote1 In reality it exposes two ‘illusions’: on the one hand, the absence of lucidity and consistency in the anti-imperialist and ‘socialist’ strategy applied by the Ghanaian political leadership under Nkrumah; on the other, the willing self-deception and anaesthetization of the critical function among international socialists in general and the expatriate cohorts of the régime in particular.

Thus, the explicit aim of the authors is to provide a critical re-interpretation from a socialist standpoint of the whole cpp Nkrumah political era; a reassessment clearly rendered necessary by the ignominious demise of the régime before a conspiracy of hockey-playing, sports-car driving and hymn-singing officers and policemen.footnote2 In so doing, Fitch and Oppenheimer put forward an historical and structural analysis of the postwar period which departs radically from the habitual picture of Ghanaian political development, entertained on right and left alike.

But there is a second or contrapuntal theme, which gives the book a wider relevance and perspective. For in critically re-evaluating the whole ‘Ghanaian revolution’, the authors also call into question a certain style of ‘revolutionary solidarity’ evoked by the Ghanaian, and comparable, experiences of national liberation struggle and protosocialist postcolonial evolution. It is perhaps worthwhile expanding this ‘obverse’ theme a little before going on to discuss the book on its proper ground.

It may now be admitted that the image of Ghana (or Indonesia, or Algeria?) conventionally sustained and expounded by wide segments of the left was markedly discrepant from reality. Was this merely a matter of ‘mistaken’ analysis, explicable perhaps in terms of distance, paucity of information, and the like? I do not think we can be content with this, plausible as it may seem. The ‘mistaken’ analysis is connected to a larger political and organizational problem.

For it is simply not the case that the ‘damaging’ facts only came to light with the dredging operations conducted by the National Liberation Council in its pursuit of legitimation: the truth is that these facts were, at least in general outline, profane but unspoken knowledge on the left. The corruption, the grotesquerie, the complicities, the cult of the leader, the absence of genuine party life, the systematic elimination of all autonomous or critical groups, left as well as right, the sédimenting of new and gross class and power dispositions centring upon the state—none of this was news to anyone who lived and worked in situ, or who took the trouble to study the situation at all closely. What was involved was not absence of local evidence; it was a misinterpreted application of revolutionary responsibility and commitment.

Underlying this attitude, several superposed layers of socialist experience and confusion can be discerned. At bottom is the acute tension and distortion of ‘socialist internationalism’ brought about in the historical process of Stalinism, cold war, and volatilization of socialist experience. The intense pressures of this whole period produced crippling and parodic deformations in revolutionary consciousness, schematizations, embattled and defensive reflexes, etc, which have been carried over and transposed on to the postwar anti-colonial liberation movement.

In the Third World arena, however, the specific actualization of this general crisis of international socialist consciousness has been shaped by further complicating factors. In the first place, the anti-colonial and nationalist processes dramatized the absence of any effective strategic integration of the diverse moments of struggle. In some cases, anti-colonial movements were conducted against the metropolitan lefts; in others, without any real and useful support from them. In almost all cases, metropolitan socialists failed to go beyond a simple and mechanical demand for ‘independence’ and to make the qualitative and strategic analysis of the terms and prospects of the ‘independence’ in question which would assist socialists in the dependent territories to confront their true problems.