Bibliography on Party Politics in GHANA, 1950-1962

Stephen A. Smith

The extraordinary interest shown by scholars in the affairs of West African states is "wholly justified," argues S.I.A. Kotei, "by the fact of their having led the political revolution which characterised the African scene from 1945 onwards." The Gold Coast figured prominently in this revolution. Under the tutelage of Kwame Nkrumah and his Convention People's Party, it achieved symbolic status in 1957 by becoming the first black African colony to gain independence and subsequently, as Ghana, it became the first independent African member of the British Commonwealth. The "model colony" had become the symbol of African liberation and as such attracted an inordinate amount of attention from the West.

Much of this interest in Ghana the symbol, however, placed its burdens upon Ghana the emerging nation. As John Hughes of the Christian Science Monitor (September 28, 1959) put it: "Ghana has come to be looked upon as a kind of experimental laboratory, the results from which can be used to gauge African ability and responsibility in, successive nonwhite territories rushing pell-mell toward self-rule." How would Ghanaians fare with their legacy of Western democracy and what sort of problems would they encounter? On the other hand, there were those who saw not African but Western democracy on trial, focusing on the problems of the latter in the African politico-cultural context and tracing the developments of their association. These two basic approaches are reflected by the greater body of Western scholarship dealing with the politics of Ghana from 1950-1962; out of the first have grown the standard works of Commonwealth historian Dennis Austin, out of the second those of David Apter.

This body of scholarship, regardless of alignment, has thus been largely preoccupied with the study of the institutions of parliamentary government and the changes they have undergone in Ghana. Political parties have been treated in general only as peripheral adjuncts of these institutions, though more recently considerable attention has been given Kwame Nkrumah and the CPP as the vehicles of Ghana's entry into one-party statehood.

As might be assumed from reflection on Ghana's British colonial background, the vast majority of sources on Gold Coast and Ghanaian party politics, including party documents, have been written and are available in English. The French works of Tixier and Boyon, as well as the German of Karl-Heinz Pfeffer and others, were examined and relevant selections from the first processed and included in the files.

Material Processed into ICPP Information Files

As a result of the bibliographic search and evaluation of the material with respect to its relevance to party politics, 1451 pages from 35 documents were indexed for inclusion into the ICPP files.

The first table presents a description of the indexing categories and their frequency of use. The distribution of the index codes will generally reflect the content of the available literature (in terms of these codes), but a few comments on their application may be in order.

The greatest reliance was placed on codes within the major category of "political environment" (codes 6--), which attests to the institutional orientation of even the party-relevant literature. This is especially true of more conservative historians like Ward.

There is no one substantive subcategory which predominates; rather the distribution of the five most often used is fairly even, though their grouping is instructive. The heavy use of the 360 code (party leaders) would indicate the attention directed to the charisma and, increasingly in the scholarship of the present decade, demagoguery of Kwame Nkrumah.

If code 360 applies, then, primarily to discussions of Kwame Nkrumah, its frequency of use might still be misleading with respect to the available literature, for two reasons. Firstly, there is a good deal of literature written by and about Kwame Nkrumah which has not been processed for inclusion into the ICPP files. Much of this material is of no interest for the purposes of the ICPP project, most of it is unreliable. Some problems of dealing with Nkrumah's writings and biography are discussed by Henry Bretton on pp. 19-21 of The Rise and Fall of Kwame Nkrumah. Our own selections were made on the basis of their party-relevant information, but should nevertheless provide a representative sampling of the Nkrumah literature. Secondly, the use of the 360 code was

de-emphasized in indexing biography to avoid senseless repetition, so the frequency distribution of 360 may not accurately reflect the amount of processed literature actually dealing with Nkrumah.

The frequency distribution of 540 (party ideology) would undoubtedly have been even higher had more Nkrumah literature been processed. The use of the 530 code reflects the attention granted the issues around which his party forged its rise to power; 240 applies to the methods by which the CPP politicized an illiterate public and built a mass base of support. This rise to power occurred within the context of a colonial government (680) and a six-year African-colonial dyarchy in which the prize of independence was sought through success in promoting what David Apter calls "political institutional transfer" (640).

Some Observations on the State of the Literature

The results of the data quality analysis of documents included in the processed information files are given in the second table. On the whole, it reveals an admirable balance and quality in the processed literature on Ghana. The general integrity of the scholarship has been consistently high, field research extensive, data sources reliable.

This literature is, however, predominantly of a descriptive cast; and our understanding of party politics and systems in Ghana suffers from a paucity of systematic analysis. There is not a single theoretical or even comparative study of Ghanaian parties, and statistical testing of those propositions which have been advanced is virtually non-existent.

This is in part a result of the preponderance of historical writing about Ghana. The tendency to focus on the political history of Ghana instead of on its party system, and the treatment of history descriptively instead of theoretically, also helps to explain the preoccupation of scholars with the CPP as the "prime mover" of political developments, as well as the subsequent lack of reliable information about the local and opposition parties of the 1950's. Explicit propositions about the Ghanaian party system would demand and might help generate more reliable data on these minor parties. As it is, one runs into conflicting testimony concerning the very identity of the various parties and organizations which merged to form the United Party shortly after independence in 1957.