Interview with the Socialist Movement of Ghana: The IMF and the class struggle

Liberation News Photo: (from left to right) Blaise of the SMG, Nino Brown from the PSL, and Najeeb from the SMG

Formerly the Socialist Forum of Ghana (SFG) the Socialist Movement of Ghana (SMG), has been at the forefront of the struggle for socialism and democracy in Ghana and throughout Africa. The SFG was founded in 1993 by only four members during dictatorial rule. Its mission was to advance in public discourse the cause of socialism and pan-Africanism, as well as the legacy of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah — Ghana’s first prime minister, whose socialist project was cut short less than a decade after independence by a CIA-backed military coup. Ghana was the first African nation to win its independence from European imperialism in 1957 and has been in the forefront of the struggle for African unity and socialism.

Since the overthrow of the Nkrumahist government, Ghana has been mired in capitalist financial traps set by western imperialist powers which have robbed the country of its resources, impoverished its people, and eradicated the nation’s sovereignty. The current government of Ghana has initiated talks with the International Monetary Fund to seek a potential bailout amid a major economic crisis compounded by the war in the Ukraine. This has been rejected by the Socialist Movement of Ghana and trade unions who argue that this will do nothing to alleviate the structural problems in the economy.

If successful, these negotiations could result in Ghana being eligible for up to $3 billion USD under the Extended Credit Facility and Extended Fund Facility. This loan is expected to come with several political straits such as austerity measures that will deteriorate the conditions of Ghana’s working class. President Akufo-Addo and his government have come under heavy scrutiny for failing to address the current economic challenges in the country.

The prices of goods and services have been continuously rising all year, with inflation currently at over 40 percent. The Ghana cedi has been ranked the worst currency in the world among 148 currencies tracked by Bloomberg, overtaking Sri Lanka’s rupee, having depreciated by nearly 50 per cent so far in 2022.

Turning to the IMF is immensely unpopular and the Ghanaian masses have taken to the streets to reject these negotiations and to protest the hikes in fuel prices, grabbing of state lands by government officials, increased rate of police brutality and state-sponsored killing of innocent Ghanaians, and the introduction of a 1.5% tax levied on all electronic transactions. Protestors have also demanded a full, independent parliamentary probe into COVID-19 expenditures and the cancellation of the controversial Agyapa Royalties Deal. (Peoples Dispatch)

Below is an interview with two cadres of the Socialist Movement of Ghana, Blaise and Najeeb, about the IMF loan, its historical and contemporary implications for Ghana, the rise of popular resistance to this loan and the government’s neoliberal and neocolonial politics, and what the SMG sees as on the horizon for the class struggle in the country.

Liberation News: Can you talk about the history of the IMF in Ghana and its record? How did we get to this point where Ghana is turning to the IMF for another loan? Will this solve Ghana’s social and economic crisis? 

Najeeb: Definitely not, it’s not going to solve our crisis. We are getting deeper and deeper into problems and economic woes. The IMF, if you’ve checked our history as a country, we’ve been there 18 or 19 times since we gained independence. Every time we go to the IMF it gets worse every time. Unfortunately, the neoliberal order does not allow it, it’s designed to keep us perpetually in that state. It gets our leaders to keep going there, because they care more about winning the election and what money they can get to winning the next election, and not developmental purposes. It’s unfortunate that it has gotten to where we are, but it has been the failure of one government after another and we keep doing the same thing, and getting the same results which is very bad for us.

Liberation News: There have been protests against these IMF loans by unions and peasant movements. Can you speak to the nature of the popular resistance and the popular classes against this IMF loan? What is the government rationale for turning to the IMF? 

Blaise: The IMF is providing short term solutions that address the needs of capital. Capitalism is saturated and reaches a stage where it can no longer hold because its structures are basically under crisis. When that happens, what capitalism does is immediately run back to the workers for protection. Every IMF program is for capital to reorganize itself and come back stronger. In the context of the Ghanaian situation what will the IMF propose? Austerity measures. No more employment. The minimum wage under attack. Freeze subsidies on social services in terms of education, health and agriculture. So normally, the brunt of the IMF austerity measures are felt more deeply by the people and the workers. For our situation, the trade union movement has resisted this well. They have come to believe and understand that the IMF cannot solve the structural crisis of capitalism, they have demanded and issued several statements, organized market women, the peasant movement, the unemployed to resist this current IMF deal. The problem we have at the moment is that we do not yet have that broad mass based movement that has clarity in terms of pushing forward this alternative to the IMF. This is what the Socialist Movement has been doing over the last few years. Organizing people, dealing with the trade unions themselves to provide the broader framework, and to make an analysis that the IMF cannot have the solution to the crisis that we are facing. I mean you have the opposition pushing for the government to go into an IMF deal. How much are they asking for one IMF deal? Around 3 billion U.S. dollars. How will this address the structural crisis that our economy is going through right now. Right now Ghana is spending almost 100% of its total revenue, dealing with debt service, paying public sector wages, and emoluments. That is the crisis we are in, and what are they saying? We should go to the IMF and take a loan of 3 billion dollars to solve this problem.? So basically it doesn’t not work. I know that people are resisting but that resistance is a bit isolated and that is where the SMG comes in, to provide that clarity that the IMF historically will not provide the solutions for working people of our country.

Liberation News: So, there is a proxy war between the United States and Russia with the Ukraine caught in between. Part of the rationale that I’ve heard from the Ghanaian government, like many other African governments say, is that this has created a ripple effect crisis in their country. A lot of African countries are being put in a New Cold War scheme where they are being forced to choose between Russia and to a larger extent China. Where does Ghana fit into that conundrum and does that have anything to do with the U.S. military base? What are the implications and intersections of these things here?

Najeeb: We as the SMG outright condemn this move to have a military base of the U.S. in Ghana. We have been on the streets, we have spoken publicly against it, we have published literature condemning the idea of allowing a military base here. But, talking about the Russia and Ukraine war. It’s unfortunate that the people who are supposed to be leading us do not really represent the aspirations of the people. These are people who look to satisfy their own selves, and to get their businesses to boom. They don’t really represent us. When I say this, you have to understand the context which I’m coming from. These are people who believe that the capitalist wealth works towards their favor and depending on where they stand – at all times, they are looking to stand where it will benefit themselves and not the ordinary Ghanaian and African. This is a time when we should be looking out for African interest. Russia and Ukraine are looking out for their interests, America is looking out for its interests, what is the African interest? Who is looking out for the African interest? Who is looking out for the Ghanaian interests? Like my comrade said, if you have a situation in a country where 100% of our gross revenue is used for 3 things: 1) to service debt 2) to pay wages and salaries and 3) to pay amortizations 

What we are saying is we are living in a system where all other things done in this country are done because we have to borrow from outside. We have to run to the IMF. That’s where their story fits in where they say look we don’t have any money now we have to run to the IMF, we have to go to the World Bank and then they find excuses for their failure by saying “oh it’s the Russia and Ukraine war” – what has been the system before Ukraine and Russia? It has always been this bad, so these are clearly not leaders who are looking out for our interests. These are people who must be booted out. We must change the whole system and like my comrade said again, it’s a structural problem. We need to change the entire structure. We need to look out for our interests. We need to be in control of our resources. We need to be in control of how they are distributed and keep our resources in check and use it to the advantage of the ordinary Ghanaians. So yes the Russia and Ukraine war is a war where people are trying to protect their interest, we are calling our leaders to start thinking about how to protect our interests as Ghanaians and Africans.

Liberation News: Amidst the calls on the government to step down, the economic minister as well, what does the SMG think is on the horizon? What should be next considering all these factors? In the struggle against the IMF and the military base and how these contradictions are compounding and imploding?

Blaise: If you observe keenly what is happening, it is not just even the crisis of capitalism, but also that the democratic order, the democratic dispensation and experiment has been shown to be failing drastically. Democracy and the popular pronouncement was that democracy was meant to promote and provide for the basic necessities of the people, it was coming to advance the interests of the people. That was the demand and what democracy promises people. Now, it is clear that that narrative is crashing down. We are in a situation in Ghana where the minority and majority are now demanding an exit of the finance minister. This finance minister is at the center of all the borrowing that this country does. So if someone benefits directly from the borrowing why wouldn’t they continue to perpetrate it? So we have come to a general consensus that this finance minister should go. But, at the level of our movement we do not think that elimination of the finance minister brings to conclusion the crisis that we are in. It is important to also deal with the aesthetics, just the general feeling that he is the problem and that has to go. Democratically if the people don’t want you, you have to go. Why is he still in office? So this is the crisis that we are in now. We are not only at the level of an economic crisis, we are also at the level where the democratic dispensation is under serious attack and we have to observe the situation very clearly. I don’t think that the appearance is very good moving forward. We can expect the worst things to happen. If you go around, and we have done this as a movement, interacting with the masses, talking with market women, organizing with riders, we understand concretely that the people are so angry at what is happening in our country. What we are here to do, is to ensure that we are continuing to raise consciousness because an understanding of the situation is so important for change. So that is why we have been organizing political education, building our collectives and ensuring we are raising consciousness and letting people understand that capitalism is under crisis and that we have to take advantage of the situation and mobilize for the defeat of capitalism. This is our struggle that we are currently waging. 

Najeeb: If you look at our history as Africans, right after independence at the first Pan-African Congress it was unanimously held that African can only move ahead under scientific socialism, under the banner of scientific socialism. Unanimously, by all the founding fathers of this country. This idea of changing the finance minister or even the president is not going to bring any relief to us as a people. What we need to do is change the structure. What we need to do is crash this barbaric capitalist system that is being perpetuated against us where the people that control the resources that are supposed to be exploited for our benefit are sitting in Paris, London, Washington, New York and other places. That is what we need to change, we need to take control of our system, our resources, and distribute them for the benefit of the ordinary Ghanaian and the ordinary African.

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