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The Marxism behind the ‘Year of Return’ [Article]

More and more of our brothers and sisters in the diaspora are making it back home this yuletide after a special invitation from Ghana. The year was officially declared a ‘year of return’ during a speech by the president in Washington, D.C., in September 2018. The aims, among others, were to make Ghana and Africa desired destinations for the diasporans and the rest of the world; to reunite Africans across the globe to foster business and investment opportunities among parties in the region, especially in the wake of a continental free trade agreement; and to reconcile with the African ancestry.

Upon declaration, the African-American community, leaders in the Carribean and celebrities have expressed excitement about their pilgrimage back home. Ghana has since played host to thousands of diasporans including Ghanaian-American Bozoma Saint John and Boris Kodjo. Other notable individuals include US Senator Ilhan Omar, TV Host Steve Harvey, actor Samuel L Jackson, and singer Deborah Cox. Meanwhile, music legend Beyonce is ready with her Ghanaian braids and will soon dock the shores of a country ( Ghana) which has risen in recent months to top the rankings of a ‘go-to destination for Christmas’ and tourism, rivaling nations like South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, and Kenya.

The numerous economic prospects accompanying these visits have become a widely written subject among Ghanaians in the diaspora and back home. The sector ministry, Ministry of Tourism, is equally excited and has put out figures celebrating the revenue the country has raked from the initiative. The ministry estimates that some $1.9 billion have been realized from the trips. For some, these may be largely or slightly bloated figures but certainly, it does not change the commendable impact it brings ashore. According to the World and Travel and Tourism Council, 682,000 jobs are created by the tourism sector with direct employment of 307,500 jobs created in the hospitality, food and transportation sectors.

The heavy presence of our kinsmen and women has also manifested through a rather bizarre mass migration, which is evident by the massive traffic Accra and many parts of the country experienced in the last few days. In all, it has been estimated we expecting about 500,000 diasporans to make their way home.

But behind all these is a profound Marxist viewpoint on the year of return. Such a view is pertinent to the discussions on patriotism, Pan-Africanism and nation-building.

Four centuries ago, circa 1619, Africa would have its first group of indigenes to be enslaved, they arrived in the plantations in the new world, America, to be exchanged for food and other items. They were later sold to their ruthless masters by the English tradesmen who would begin the inhuman treatment. This would begin a long history of a classed society and uneven power relations between Africa and the capitalist Americas. Through such dreaded infamous trade, African slaves became the serfs, the servants, whose preoccupation and birthright appeared to be that of a pauper, the exploited, the abused and the dying labor. The European economy which boasts of matchless strength, measure, power, and dominance today would depend wholly on the manpower from Africa.

Attempts made by some Africentric writers to estimate the profits made from Africans during these times have proven indefinite. But Walter Rodney ( 1973) gives a gist with these words: “…the profits were fabulous. John Hawkins made three trips to West Africa in the 1560s and stole Africans whom he sold to the Spanish in America. On returning to England after the first trip, his profit was so handsome that Queen Elizabeth I became interested in directly participating in his next venture; and she provided for that purpose a ship named Jesus. Hawkins left with Jesus to steal some more Africans, and he returned to England with such dividends that Queen Elizabeth made him a knight”.

The above forms a part of the response to the few bourgeois scholars who argue that the profit generated from the slavey was not substantial.

The population of black slaves transported across the sea ranged between 12.5 million ( Abdulai, 2019) to over 100 million according to Rodney (1973). Even with this figure, the latter argues that many white scholars have settled on 100 million, because the number may sound small compared to the mass destruction inflicted on Africa. He believes there could be more especially considering the number of deaths recorded on the Mediterranean seas between the time of capture and embarkation. It is speculated that more than a million died, a million more than those slaves who eventually arrived alive.

One of the fierce critics of the demeaning lord-serf relationship widely practiced at the time by slavers, Karl Marx, also explained how the West ushered Africa, West Indies and Latin America into the class system. Europeans obtained all the good into their economy at the peril and untold suffering of Africans and American Indians. These unequal human treatments came in the form of extirpation, enslavement, and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, among others.

Marxism defines the social, political, and economic philosophy which examines the effect of exploitation on labor, productivity, and economic development; it is the infamous struggle between social classes that were engineered between 1447 and 1870. And for a young African like myself and many others, the devastating effects of an imperialistic history, coupled with brain drain, loss of identity, mass displacements of people of African descent, best justifies this initiative – A Year of Return.

A true climax for a 400th anniversary!

 

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