Supplement

No. 18May 18, 2019

50th Anniversary of the Regina Conference

Work of The Internationalists and
the Regina Conference


Hardial Bains speaks in Regina in 1989 on the 20th anniversary of the Regina Conference.

The Decisive Role of Consciousness in Social Change

- Hardial Bains -



50th Anniversary of the Regina Conference

Work of The Internationalists and
the Regina Conference

The work of The Internationalists founded in 1963, under the leadership of its founder Hardial Bains and the Regina Conference in 1969 were of historic significance. They sorted out the crucial issue of who decides as it pertains to the political organization of the working class and its leading role in the society and the indispensable role of consciousness and organization in the mobilization of the people to participate in finding solutions to the key problems facing the society.

In an article titled "Paying First-Rate Attention to the Need of the People for Consciousness and Organization," Hardial Bains addressed the living legacy of The Internationalists. He wrote:

"Besides other things, in dealing with the problems of consciousness and organization, The Internationalists adopted the principle of collective work and individual responsibility, that every member has the duty to not only implement the decisions agreed upon but to also participate in arriving at them. This insistence that they must participate in arriving at decisions was considered not just a right but a duty as well. It put the individual at the centre of all developments and the organization as a means of achieving them, thereby establishing a dialectical relationship between the individual and the collective, between form and content.

Referring to the reorganization of The Internationalists, in May 1968, Hardial Bains pointed out: "[...] It was a historic moment of departure from the building of organizations on the basis of old definitions, to building them on the basis of the present and modern definitions. It became profoundly clear that The Internationalists as a political organization could only develop on the basis of political unity and political initiative, as manifested in concrete terms by their line of action with analysis and in defence of their immediate and strategic aims. Such aims were set according to the demands which arose from those conditions, for the harmonization of the general interests of society with those of the collective and individual, placing in the first place the role of the masses in ensuring that it happens. [...]

"[The Internationalists] provided a framework through which everyone's word and deed could shine, realizing the tasks set for that period. This meant that as a way of life, all those in whose interest it was to make the decisions in the course of realizing their aims were mobilized. A modern way of doing things was established, linking the organization with the content, words with deeds, the individual to the highest responsibility of ensuring that nothing passes by without his/her scrutiny. A truly revolutionary and Marxist-Leninist organization was created by the individuals who wished for nothing else but the victory of the working class in its historic march for emancipation. A qualitative change took place, in both the spheres of consciousness and organization. This change was consistent with the concrete conditions and deserving of those who prided themselves for being members of the vanguard organization of the working class.

"The Internationalists created another form consistent with the aim of providing the class with consciousness and organization. This was the form of mass democracy, today known as the method of mass political mobilization. It is the method of seeking the opinions of the masses in the course of work. Seeking the opinions of the masses was not an option but an obligation to the mass activism. It was the only reliable basis for the realization of any task set for the period. Bourgeois formalism, the method of spending millions of dollars by using the most modern techniques to confuse the people, gossip, character assassination, etc. were replaced with involving the people in discussion. What was to be done, how and when, emerged as on-going work under all conditions without exception.

"For The Internationalists, work and mobilization constituted two categories of a single whole, interdependent on each other and on everything else. Action with analysis had the same relationship. The starting point for The Internationalists was always work, as demanded by the concrete conditions of the time.

"Besides the method of mass democracy, The Internationalists carried out the work of mobilization at various levels, ensuring that all problems inside or outside the organization were sorted out on the basis of advanced positions, through criticism and self-criticism and by always keeping the aim of unity in first place. Struggle was never separated from either the on-going task of strengthening unity or from the aim of realizing the immediate aims set for the period or at the cost of the strategic aim. The Internationalists placed struggle in first place. This meant putting the entire consciousness and organization in the service of the class struggle as the only basis of development in society. How should class struggle be waged and against whom and when were the most important questions which The Internationalists dealt with, on the basis of the keenness and seriousness they required. It is for this reason that everyone was called upon to participate in arriving at decisions not just as a right which belongs to them but also as a duty demanded from them by the organization. [...]

"Finally, The Internationalists provided forums to the people, both internal as well as external, private as well as public, for their mobilization. Basing the organization on the principles of democratic centralism required The Internationalists to have a leading line all the time, which is presented to the masses all the time, ensuring that their level of consciousness and organization are not lowered to that of the bourgeoisie. [...]

"After a period of less than two years of vigorous all-round political activity from May 1968 to March 1970, it was analyzed that all the material and technical conditions were ready to found the Communist Party. The required theoretical and political work and the organization as their integral part were ready for the founding of CPC(M-L), declared in a public meeting in Montreal on March 31, 1970."

"This entire work to involve everyone in the decision-making plan, which came to be known later on as the method of maximum political mobilization, meant that the entire work always had to be based on the people according to the concrete conditions of the period. If the working class is to lead everyone in fulfilling its historic mission to create a new society, people's right to make decisions must be recognized as must the demand that so doing must be considered a duty as well."

And herein lies the significance of the Regina Conference as well. It settled scores on the question of the content of the Canadian revolution, the relationship between the democratic movement, the anti-imperialist movement and socialism. The conference started with the questions of form, and it ended with the questions of content. This was its great exploit and it remains so to this day.

Speaking about this at the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Regina Conference in 1989, Hardial Bains said, "As we look back with the benefit of hindsight, we find that during the heady days of the late sixties, we opposed the revisionist ideas and practice by using various methods. Thus, The Internationalists had to develop forms which could facilitate revolutionary Marxist-Leninist content. The Regina Conference was an important victory in that direction."

He spoke to the relationship between form and content pointing out that it is by separating the two that the bourgeoisie and opportunists and revisionists within the workers' movement, who make a lot of noise about form with their talk about democracy, openness, transparency, restructuring and reform, push their counter-revolutionary content. The forms they push are designed to dazzle the gullible and pressure the working class to not take up Marxism-Leninism, Hardial Bains pointed out. "It is through this mechanism that they attack the revolutionary Marxist-Leninist line and content, and push their counter-revolutionary line." He added:

"The question of form and content, the relationship between the two, has been and remains the major demarcation line between the proletarian world outlook and the bourgeois world outlook, and between the Marxist-Leninist line and that of the revisionists and opportunists. According to the bourgeois world outlook, the relationship between form and content is an eclectic one. The two are arbitrarily separated, and then presented as two isolated entities. It is difficult to comprehend how two integral components of a thing can be presented as entities in themselves, totally detached from one another. That is, the form cannot be detached from content. This is what dialectics teach us. But on the basis of the bourgeois outlook this is done all the time. According to proletarian world outlook, the relationship between form and content remains a dialectical one. Not only can form not be detached from content, and vice versa, but development takes place as a result of the contradiction inherent between the two. A quantitative change merely repeats the same form and content, which the bourgeois outlook considers the eternal fate of everything living or inorganic. According to us, according to science, according to materialist dialectics, this contradiction gives rise to qualitative changes. This change is not the shedding of the form or elimination of the content, but the coming into being of new form and new content -- that is, the coming into being of the New out of the destruction of the Old. For example, the overthrow of capitalism creates the conditions for the building of socialism, which constitutes the new condition for the creation of the working class as a new class. What is New as distinguished from the Old is that the new working class is no longer a class of wage slaves. Revolution and socialism put an end to this old quality, and the new quality of emancipated labour takes hold, creating both new form and new content in the relations of production. On this basis all the other relations are then transformed."

Today the most prominent feature of the crisis in which the bourgeois democracy is mired is to deny the possibilities of qualitative change. Mired in old forms which are no longer consistent with what is required today, the ruling class and all those who defend the old forms are caught up in their own machinations and pretensions to be democrats and those who stand for high ideals. But, since the mid-eighties at which time the neo-liberal anti-social offensive was launched and the former Soviet Union and people's democracies went into their death throes because they abandoned the aim of empowering the people with the working class constituting the nation and vesting power in the people, no force can continue to act in the old way. The persistence to defend the old forms has created a quagmire for ruling elites as clearly seen whether we speak of Canada or the United States, Britain or any of their allies and fellow-travellers who espouse what are called the liberal democratic institutions through which they govern on the basis of force, privilege and corruption and nonetheless claim to have the consent of the governed.

Today, to stop the people drawing warranted conclusions and speaking in their own name, collective consciousness is destroyed, everyone must fend for themselves and give personal understanding of the reality which can never furnish them with a guide to action. Speaking about the Regina Conference, Comrade Bains addressed how the Marxist-Leninists overcame this problem at that time.

"The main pressure during the Regina Conference was to narrow and limit the level of discussion to the problems of the understanding of an individual. Nothing else but the preoccupation of the individual mattered. This was an all-out attack to liquidate the work to build the Party and turn it into an association of chance individuals, do-gooders, people with a conscience, etc. The first part of the conference was plagued by this pressure, and once the conference refused to submit to the pressure, it could advance and work out the plan for the creation of the conditions to found the Party. There was resistance to new form and new methods of work. But what is most significant is the resistance to content which appeared in the first place as if it was a resistance only to form. During that period we never heard anyone say: 'Well, I disagree with the line.' The same is true today. Disagreement comes in opposition to the form, the method and style, in the final analysis with practice. This is what the Regina Conference deliberated on. It was not fortuitous that the results of the Regina Conference were to be included in the political report of March 1970. It is quite well-known that the nature of form has to be consistent with content. If this is not the case, then there will be chaos, anarchy and disruption."

The matter of form and content which arose in 1969, remains a fundamental issue today -- the defence of the form is the defence of the content, and vice versa. The bourgeoisie's defence of the liberal democratic institutions seeks to detach the content from the form, and it tries to fool the people in doing so, so that the working class and people do not organize on the basis of their own independent politics but, on the contrary, give Anglo-American imperialists and world reaction free rein. All the contradictions in the world have now become aggravated and the Anglo-American imperialist rulers are incapable of providing viable future prospects.

Speaking in Regina in 1989 about the historic conference Hardial Bains said, "The most important conclusion for us Canadian Marxist-Leninists was drawn right here in 1969 -- that is, that form without content is just an empty vessel, a chatter, a noise which will give rise to nothing.

"The Regina Conference can be summed up as the militant defence of the Marxist-Leninist content in order to defend, expand and strengthen the Marxist-Leninist organization. This is why it was so crucial. This is why we were able to go to Winnipeg in August 1969 to found the Canadian Communist Movement (Marxist-Leninist), and why more than 175 delegates went to Vancouver at the end of December 1969 where the Party's founding resolutions were adopted and, from there, to Montreal where hundreds of people together declared the founding of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) on March 31, 1970.

"In my estimation, without the Regina Conference, the Party would not have been possible. The pressure which was being exerted on us at that Conference and by others was that the Party would come out of discussions and debates and that various groups should debate ideology and reach agreements on the basis of documents. But The Internationalists, and the Party later, did not agree with such things. The Party is not a debating society, and parties do not come into being through discussions and debates. Only those elements who see the necessity of the Party, who see the necessity of the class leading the revolution, will come forward and build such parties. It is not by convincing some individuals and then declaring that there will be a party.

"In this great struggle which took place at the Regina Conference, the opposition to form, that is to the Party, necessarily meant opposition to content. The events and individuals of that time may look inconsequential or insignificant, but in actual fact if you follow the whole development, you will find that those who had objections to the form later came out with their opportunist and revisionist content. They were our fellow-travellers for only a short period of time, and they came out into the open as opponents afterwards. We found out for ourselves that those who want to vulgarize the form, those who want to separate it from the content, do so for very deliberate reasons. One should not lose one's guard, one should always be vigilant about any force which tries to reduce the Party or its organization or any level of its activities to nothingness, to a hollow chatter.

"The historical experience of building the revolutionary Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of the working class from the time of V.I. Lenin and of a communist party in Canada, and the entire historical experience of the international communist movement, proves that the defence of the form can only be carried out by defending revolutionary Marxist-Leninist content, and that this defence is absolutely necessary.

"At the time of Lenin, there were enemies of Lenin who began opposing him by opposing form. They agreed with the general line, with paying dues and so forth, but not that it was mandatory as a condition of membership to work in an organization of the Party. On the surface, looking from outside, it may look as if there is only a disagreement in form. But as this whole period unfolded, we find that this was not just a disagreement in form, it was actually a disagreement in content. What we had at the time of the Regina Conference was not only opposition to working in a basic organization, but the individuals, being part of the Anglo-American imperialist world, were very arrogant. Their chauvinism and arrogance were without equal. They even declared that they did not understand the general line, and that we have the responsibility to first teach them what the general line is, and then they will see whether they can join us. Such jokers still exist in this world. The Party does not agree with them. The Party has condemned such views..."

Speaking of the unfolding events in 1989, before the subsequent collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1990-91, Hardial Bains further elaborated that form is not isolated from content. "Our Party and all the people with revolutionary class consciousness have never stopped organizing. They have not become smug or detached from the problems of the masses. This is why the Party appeals to all the people who are fighting in various ways and waging various kinds of struggles. The Party has a position of honour amongst them. The two superpowers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, are preaching that communism has failed, and the ideals of communism are either not good for mankind or unattainable. Our Party does not think so and we do not believe that the U.S. and Soviet Union are saying such things without an ulterior motive. [...] This content is what invigorates the class and all the exploited. It is in one form, not in many forms. As Lenin pointed out: our theory is made from a single sheet of steel. If this is the case, then the movement which is led by this theory is one movement, not many. [...]"

The neo-liberal anti-social offensive and collapse of the former Soviet Union and former people's democracies brought in a period of retreat of revolution characterized by the initiative going over to the most reactionary representatives of international finance capital which act with impunity. The countries which capitulated to the reactionary offensive are mired in civil wars between the factions of the ruling class and narrow supranational private interests. Having taken the path of nation-wrecking, in the name of high ideals they refuse to engage in politics of any kind such that negotiations are anathema to them and just their dictate prevails, along with criminal wars of aggression, occupation and destruction. A feature of the counter-revolution is that none of the old forms which comprised the so-called liberal democratic institutions serve a purpose today. At the time of the English Civil War in the mid-1600s, the rising capitalist class brought into being the nation-state based on national institutions capable of keeping civil war in check. They achieved this by creating an artificial person of state and vesting sovereignty, the decision-making power, in that person of state. That person of state was said to represent the national interest exercised on the basis of preserving privilege and maintaining prerogative powers to regulate and keep in check the factional fighting between sections of the ruling class striving to come to power in favour of their own narrow interests, and for purposes of negating the very existence of a people which form a polity and of the working class as a class with its own aim and political program, consciousness and organization.

Under these conditions, the importance of the principles which guide the building and consolidation of organization elaborated by Hardial Bains, embodied in the work of CPC(M-L), cannot be overemphasized. Without them, it is not possible to work out and achieve the pro-social aims of the working class and people. By working out and then basing themselves on these principles, The Internationalists in their day provided themselves with the capability to meet the needs of the times. So too today, Party activists and the working class must rise to the occasion.

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The Decisive Role of Consciousness
in Social Change

The Origin of Consciousness and Social Change

TML Weekly is reprinting in this supplement an important speech delivered by Hardial Bains at the First Inter-Disciplinary Conference on the same subject successfully held at the University of Windsor, February 9 -11, 1996.

The conference was co-sponsored by the University of Windsor Marxist-Leninist Study Group, the University of Windsor's Students Alliance, the Graduate Student Society, the Organization of Part-time University Students and CAW Local 195. It was well-attended by people spanning all ages and representing a broad cross-section of society: university and high school students, professors, industrial workers and other working people and professionals.

Hardial Bains provides a theoretical treatment of the problem of the origin of consciousness and social change, in particular the complexity between the dependence of consciousness on humans, and its necessary independence from them. Hardial Bains' thesis on the origin of consciousness addresses the dilemma of determining the content of consciousness. Affirming clearly that there is consciousness independent of us, Hardial Bains makes an important contribution to understanding the relationship between consciousness and being.

In a letter to the Marxist-Leninist Study Group (MLSG) at the University of Windsor on September 28 of the previous year, Hardial Bains wrote: "In my opinion, the most important question which arose during the discussion [of the Marxist-Leninist Study Group] was the relationship between Consciousness and Being or, put another way, the relationship between the Objective and Subjective or, Does Objective Reality Exist in Itself Independent of Anyone's Will and Is It Verifiable? The answer to this question is really the foundation of sorting out all other problems of theory, of ideology, that is, of human action, understanding and consciousness. In the absence of a clear statement on this question, no other clear statement can be made."[1]

Today we are living through a defining moment in which the old forms which comprised the liberal democratic institutions have passed away and new forms have yet to be brought into being. This "defining moment" is not a matter of somebody simply declaring its existence, Hardial Bains pointed out. It has been forced onto the agenda by objective developments. It is from this defining moment that consciousness is going to emerge and all forms of fundamentalism which lay claim to this or that absolute truth, in whatever name, will stand in the way of this. In a situation where objective conditions are crying out for change, but the subjective conditions are lagging behind, the task before us is to look at the present and carry out a summation as a guide to action. This is crucial in a defining moment, he said.

What Is Consciousness

"The need is for a consciousness which emerges out of
present real life, free of all preconceived notions and synonymous
with social change." - Hardial Bains

The most important question in front of us is that before we can speak about the decisive role of consciousness in any way, the issue is What Is Consciousness? Or, Is There Such a Thing As Consciousness? We have heard various things like "human consciousness" and "animal consciousness." We also know that in the English language "consciousness" and "conscience" have a parallel and very close development. So what is really known as consciousness, or conscience? If we are to say that consciousness appeared with the society when it came into being, it does not get us out of our difficulty in defining what consciousness is. Are we to propose that before the society was created human beings had no consciousness? I presuppose various things, but more importantly those things which can get us out of the difficulty to define what is consciousness.

If in Canada one were to ask the question, that when there was no human being on earth, was there consciousness? Or when there was no biological world, was there consciousness? I'm quite sure the answer invariably will be negative. Consciousness, in this world, which is debased and counterfeit, generally is linked to an instrument of a third factor, a mediator. That mediator is between one thing and the other, in this case between nature and society and human beings, or some creation by a human being and so on. In other words, consciousness — something in existence independent of this mediator or independent of anyone else, does not exist. However, if consciousness does not exist independent of us, how can it be called consciousness?

Human beings or homo sapiens have an existence of over 40,000 years. Imagine what it would mean to have a consciousness tied to somebody's head. It would have to keep coming into being and passing away and so on with every person who is born or comes into this world. A new consciousness or consciousness consistent with that brain would have to come into being. In other words, what will that consciousness be?

We know through the study of various elements in the growth of a child, from the time the child is born to about the time it is three or four years old, that a child goes through a whole period of evolution in order for the child to be able to assume the qualities of this society, whereby the child can manipulate or manoeuvre various things. And one of the qualities the child acquires is to abstract absence. Tests are carried out to see if a child is developing normally. A child goes through a whole evolution, literally from a unicellular organism through various stages of evolution until it is born. In the same way, a child once born goes through this evolution. Can it be said that the mother and father know precisely how to educate this child so that this child goes through this 30,000 to 40,000-year period of history which precedes it and has given it the capacity to abstract absence? To suggest such a thing would be ridiculous.

But let us forget about that point, and let me just present to you, this time in a positive way what I think is the answer. By presupposing that there is consciousness-in-itself, we can get out of the difficulty of defining consciousness. In our approach to the study of any question, we begin with the study of a thing in itself. And we know that all matter is in motion. Matter exists only in different forms. There is no such thing as matter as an abstraction. If somebody comes to you and says that "I actually met matter," this would be a nonsensical statement. You would say at least this much, "Well, what is that matter?" The person would have to say, "Alright, here it is." And you would say, "Well, this is not matter. It is a form of matter." Now if matter exists only in its different forms and its study involves the study of its different forms, then this matter is more than meets the eye. But let us leave this question for the time being.

This consciousness, that is consciousness-in-itself, is by definition independent of us. Whether you agree with me at this point or not, just to humour me go along with this argument. Is this really the case? Is there such a thing as consciousness-in-itself? For instance, it could also follow that once human beings came into being they had yet to transcend animal consciousness. They had to humanize themselves. It is quite well known as a result of all the information available that human beings did not appear spontaneously on the scene with all the attributes of human beings. The bourgeoisie even suggests today that the essential element of human beings is a gorilla or ape and that this essence has not changed. But that is beside the point. The fact that they had to humanize themselves, the starting point of this humanization had to be the humanization of the environment, the act of survival to make the natural environment fit for human beings. If we were to presuppose consciousness-in-itself, consciousness with its own logic, with its own laws of development, with complete independence from us, then it can be seen through its eyes, that the humanization of the environment itself, presupposes the pre-existence of the human trait -- that human trait is that which humanizes. Nonetheless, this is not the case. The very fact that each human being was a product of nature and acted upon it in order to change it, it is considered to be a human act. From humanizing nature we have come to this point at which the humanization of society is the order of the day. Humanizing nature begins when the human beings, who were a product of nature, undertook to fight the forces of nature to serve them. Humanizing society begins when these human beings are born to society. They are no longer born to nature. A qualitative change has to take place from one state to the other, or one stage to the other. In the first period, that is the period of humanizing nature, there is the presupposition that the act of humanizing nature must have made the human beings conscious.

Consciousness-in-Itself

In the second period, the presupposition is that the act of humanizing society would provide the human beings with consciousness-in-itself. Leaving aside all the protestations, all the objections coming from all different schools of thought which have come into being in the past, including the Post-Modernists, those who assert in one way or another that every epoch of society and nature do not have self-consciousness of their own and that all consciousness is limited to those who perceive it. In spite of all this I am going to go ahead to stress that the study of the subject Origin of Consciousness must proceed by presupposing the existence of consciousness-in-itself. The question, Was There Consciousness Before Human Beings Came Onto the Earth or Even Before the Biological World Came Into Being? is often met with a blank look. One or two eye-brows are raised when this question is answered in the affirmative. Yes, there was consciousness before human beings made their appearance on this earth, and even before the biological world came into being. It is consciousness-in-itself, consciousness which is dependent on nothing but an epoch of society and nature.

What was that consciousness is not the question. If that were the question it can be answered with ease. Everything, all phenomena of nature and society, and nature and society themselves have their own laws of development. It is these laws which impart them with their own consciousness, with their own content. However, where does that content take them? Where does it reside? It resides in the thing-itself, which is in turn the proof of the existence of consciousness-in-itself. The question whether it existed is thus answered in its entirety. The Post-Post-Modernist contention is that without presupposing the existence of that consciousness it is not possible to prove the existence or non-existence of any other forms of consciousness whatsoever. But by its very own definition, that consciousness is independent of the human or biological world, whose dependence is only on the thing-itself.

What is this presupposition, this consciousness-in-itself? By presupposing the existence of this consciousness, it is presupposed that every epoch of society and nature has a consciousness of its own. If every epoch has a consciousness of its own, it can be deduced from that there was consciousness before these epochs began as well. That is, before the pre-biological world as well. To be precise, it must be deeply appreciated that consciousness-in-itself by definition, is that consciousness that exists independent of ourselves or anything else except the thing-itself. The study of such a consciousness can only begin in itself as the starting point. This is how the study of everything must be taken up. The study must begin with the thing in itself. That is, a thing that is nature, society in change, development and motion.

If I stop here for a moment and digress, you will find that the consciousness of a person who existed 600 years before our era and the consciousness of the person who exists in 1996, that is in this period, a difference of some 2,500 years, is entirely different. They are still human beings, they still belong to society, but they belong to different epochs. If this is the case that within these 2500 years the consciousness has developed, what makes anyone think that it will not go further and actually prove what I am saying, that there is consciousness-in-itself? There is no logic which can defy the argument which I am presenting. At the same time, if anyone were to say that consciousness is to exist by definition by depending on this or that thing, then that is not consciousness by definition. We know that society has changed, developed and moved and with it human consciousness has changed, developed and moved. This consciousness thus appears by definition in various forms. It appears in the form of the product of the pre-class society, or in the form of the consciousness of different epochs of class society. If it is presupposed that consciousness is independent of us and if, even for the sake of argument, the participants of this discussion were to generally accept this, then the question is posed, What are these forms of consciousness? Are these things which are not consciousness at any stage of change, development and motion? What are the forms of consciousness and these things in their content? Will the content of these forms of consciousness be nothing but the laws of development of the things which they reflect in themselves? By presupposing the existence of consciousness itself, in itself, what is this Post-Post-Modernist consciousness will also become clear. I pose this question of finding out the content of the Post-Post-Modernist consciousness, of the consciousness, the human factor, as it is only by finding its content that we begin again to deepen and broaden the very presupposition we made at the outset, the presupposition of consciousness-in-itself. It is from here, from the object of establishing the content of Post-Post-Modernist consciousness that the discussion and debate can really begin.

Having accepted this school, even if only for the sake of argument, then the challenge might legitimately follow that if it is we who have to establish the content, then how can that content be presupposed, that the consciousness exists independent of us. It would appear that I am contradicting myself. Do not worry about these challenges or accusations for the time being. Come along with me and let us presuppose that consciousness and consciousness-in-itself are two different things in qualitative terms. Consciousness which is dependent on the developments taking place around us at a particular time, is not the same as consciousness-in-itself. If this is accepted, another question might be raised in this regard. That question might be posed as follows: Look, you have already presupposed consciousness-in-itself, but you are now stating that consciousness and consciousness-in-itself are two different things. Suppose then that we want to establish the content of consciousness and not of consciousness-in-itself. What should we do? How should we overcome this difficulty? I would make the definite reply: Try as you must, you cannot do that. You cannot establish the content of consciousness by asserting that it is separate from consciousness-in-itself. What has to be presupposed is that consciousness-in-itself is not the same as consciousness. The laws of change, development and motion of a thing are not things themselves. If the content of consciousness-in-itself is the laws which are presupposed, then our difficulties in establishing the content of consciousness are insurmountable. Let us see if we can or cannot overcome these difficulties. The question will be raised immediately, but consciousness is the only thing whose existence presupposes its dependence on us. Why can we not establish the content of something which is dependent on us? The answer is simple. If we have no clue as to what our own consciousness is, the origin of this consciousness, and its change, development and motion, how can we establish the content of consciousness which is dependent on us? It can be explained that precisely because we know nothing about it we can provide it with content. It can be said however that we can never establish what this content is in its final form. This is the only absolute there. It is the source of both its difficulties, which are insurmountable and so on. And here to make it easier for you, think about this as a light coming on earth and reflected by earth. The consciousness which we have is also like that reflection. We reflect what we receive in the same manner as light. But all the different schools say the source of that light is the one which reflects that light. The dispute is not that light is reflected, that consciousness is there. The dispute is, What is the source of that light? or What is the source of that consciousness?

We started with the proposition that consciousness-in-itself exists. We will call it supposition one. Consciousness-in-itself, by definition, is independent of us. There is also consciousness which does not have to be presupposed. We all spontaneously exhibit, reflect and claim this consciousness to be our own, without ever thinking that it is dependent on us. But just because consciousness is reflected by us, can we really conclude from this that we are the source of this consciousness? For instance, just because we reflect light, can we claim that we are the source of light? Or just because we have five senses which are the product of the evolution of society and nature themselves, can we claim that we are the creators of these five senses ourselves? Can we go further and conclude that as different people are of different backgrounds expressed in the languages they speak, or by their national origin, ethnicity, colour of skin or gender, that they will reflect or exhibit consciousness differently. Yes, this could be said if national origin, ethnicity, colour of skin or gender were actually the source of that consciousness. But how can it be that something we already possess is also the source of something we reflect? As we explore the independence and dependence of consciousness on us we will reach the point at which someone is going to ask, What is the definition of "us"? Does the "us" refer to you and me or those who came along 40,000 years ago, or 500 years ago, or 50 or 5 or just yesterday or the lot of you who came along today? How will we define the "us"? We move from exploring the content of consciousness to establishing who is "us"? How can we really debate when we perpetually shift from one thing to another? Is there something we can do to undo this shifting to ensure that it does not take place so that we can stick to the subject? How will we achieve this?

When I raise the prospect of discovering if there is something we can do, it actually multiplies our difficulties as we shift even further afield from the discussion on consciousness and enter into an entirely different field of whether there is something we can do to undo this shifting. We can go into what we can do to ensure our own independence and so on. Let us go ahead and try to overcome this difficulty.

In 1967 there was a study program held in Trinity College, Dublin, called The Necessity for Change. And at that time I had the honour to be the main speaker on this precise subject of what can we do to overcome this difficulty. I had a hunch at that time that this difficulty can be overcome. And to overcome this difficulty I made this proposition that we should decide -- presupposition one -- that consciousness-in-itself exists. We should go ahead, without any fear and make another supposition that is number two, that it is this consciousness which metamorphoses from one form of consciousness to another, with the change in content taking place consistent with the epoch of society and nature. And to illustrate this we made the presupposition number 3, the existence of "I," in quotation marks. This "I," this proposition "I" in quotation marks, provides us with the following definition: "I" is relate or relationship; "I" is something which sees the phenomena, not only sees the phenomena but acknowledges it; not only acknowledges it, but analyzes it; not only analyzes it, but reflects it in return. It is my opinion that these propositions solve our problem. If we agree to accept these three presuppositions, then the solution lies in understanding what is the "I" which sees, acknowledges, analyzes and reflects. And this "I," by definition, is a relate or a relationship. It is neither the thing-in-itself nor the laws of development, that is the consciousness-in-itself. It is the reflection of the relationship between a thing itself and everything else.

"I" as a Relate or a Relationship

"Understanding Requires an act of conscious participation of the individual,
an act of finding out." - Necessity for Change 

Let us go further, keeping in mind this presupposition. "I" as a relate or a relationship is neither consciousness-in-itself nor consciousness, "I" as something which is conditioned on definite periods and circumstances. Why do I say such a thing? I come to this conclusion because by definition a relationship is dependent on time and circumstance. If a relationship were to be the same under all conditions and circumstances, then it would mean that consciousness-in-itself does not metamorphose. It does not assume any form. This would mean that consciousness-in-itself is merely an abstraction and it will also mean that the thing-itself does not change, develop and move. In other words, this is an abstraction too. In other words, we are talking about a stationary universe. In other words, we are speaking about nothing. In order to speak about something, we have to presuppose the existence of "I," this relationship, which provides the living form with that concrete, that definite quality which can be verified by life itself. I have to further presuppose that there is something which is preconditioned. That something is the thing-itself, that is nature and society, the condition of nature and society at any particular time and space. Take for instance the present world, which we all know to a greater or lesser extent, as we are all not only its product, but we are living in it. By using the presupposition "I," what do we come up with?

"I" as a relationship could be between the teacher and the taught, between the worker and the capitalist, between atoms and molecules or between subatomic parts and so on. In other words, we can with facility see a relationship which exists independent of us, while on the contrary the presupposition "I" clearly creates the impression that it is dependent on us. If you like, a miracle is achieved. Why is this the case? In the Necessity For Change Study Program, I pointed out: the "I" that acknowledges, analyzes, reflects and receives the reflection is not the egocentric "I," is not that "I am" period. The egocentric "I" recognizes with a prejudiced definition. That definition is the definition of that particular "I." The "I" thus defined is the only "I," that "I" which acknowledges, forgetting that I can acknowledge and so on. And the conclusion comes that this "I" is nothing but a definition of somebody, a definition of something. Beyond that, it is nothing.

This is what all the schools of thought want us to be satisfied with, to be the most limited, unverifiable in the broader sense of science. The "I" which we are talking about is the being incarnate; a relationship existing in-itself. Once that "I" is dependent on the thing-itself, we are able to explain that the thing-itself is subject to the laws of change, development and motion, as reflected by "I," by that relationship.

Let us apply this restriction of "I" depending on the thing-itself in a broad way. First, when we speak about consciousness-in-itself we have to pose the question, Does it exist? By definition, consciousness-in-itself is independent of us. It is beyond us. We are elaborating on it and asking the question, Does it exist? The answer to this question is quite obvious. Yes, it exists insofar as it is acknowledged that there are conditions at a time when there was no biological world anywhere in the universe. The moment the biological world comes into being, and more so the human beings, you and I, in sum the society into which we are born, come into the picture, this consciousness-in-itself metamorphoses.

Does this mean that consciousness-in-itself disappears because the biological world and society have come into being? No. It does not mean that. What happens is that consciousness-in-itself begins its metamorphosis into consciousness and appears as if it is dependent on us. This is why Frederick Engels says, "All consciousness is false consciousness." But this dependence is illusory. It is false. This is why reality has to be studied and restudied, rediscovered all the time. This is why any of this consciousness is only relative. The existence of consciousness presupposes the existence of "I" in quotation marks, which presupposes the existence of the thing-itself, which in turn presupposes the existence of society or nature, whichever one wants to talk about. Can it be said that this metamorphosed consciousness means that it is no longer consciousness-in-itself? No, it does not mean that. What it means is that because consciousness is consciousness-in-itself, it becomes metamorphosed by the conditions assuming this or that form, dependent on the content imparted by those conditions. In other words, as far as it is concerned, it continues to transcend its dependence and continues to appear as consciousness-in-itself.

The Problem of Defining the Modern Personality

"We have fidelity to the ensemble of human relations and to what is being
revealed by these indispensable relations, most importantly,
the need for political power." - Necessity for Change

Once it is accepted that this is consciousness, then the only question which is left is a very small one, which is whether it is essential for social change? That of course will be dependent on the individuals. If they want to have social change, they will have to define what that social change is. We come back to the problem of defining the modern personality. We will have to start with destruction, analysis. We will have to then get down to precisely defining as to what are the social conditions, which social conditions one wants to change. In other words, we have to go from spontaneous developments to conscious planned developments. In other words, we have to come to this condition, this circumstance, this stage when we have to define whether there is a social force existing in this society independent of us, in whose interest it will be to have that social change which we are talking about. If you can define that, you will answer the question.

For example, we communists say that the working class is that social force in whose interest it will be to overthrow all the conditions of capitalist exploitation. On this basis we have gone further and analyzed that the material conditions are ripe for the overthrow of capitalism. The subjective conditions have to be prepared. But that is the working class which is a social force exists, but not as a conscious, organized, revolutionary force. This force has to be brought into being. Such a thing can be done only with, you can say, pure consciousness, that is completely unprejudicial consciousness, that is consciousness-in-itself. In other words, we have to rediscover, we have to relook at all the reality and so on as has been proposed by Sandra Smith in her argument on "A Defining Moment." If we are to say that whatever the consciousness was in the 1960s and whatever the consciousness is at this time is sufficient and whatever was discovered by Marx and Engels and Lenin and Stalin and any number of people was good, then we will make a serious mistake. To the extent that if any organization such as a Communist Party does not reexamine its stand all the time, if it does not put into question all its basic propositions, such an organization would become theoretically senile. And once you are theoretically senile, then you are practically nonexistent.

This is why it takes vibrant communist parties a long period of time to come to a stage whereby they will take power, because theoretical soundness is a deterrent against any adventures, any false notions, any illusions that things can be organized when the conditions are not there for it.

Note

1. TML Daily, September 30, 1995

(Inter-Disciplinary Conference, University of Windsor, February 9-11, 1996. Hardial Bains Resource Centre Archives)

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