Settling Scores with the Bourgeois
– Material Prepared by Hardial Bains for the Seminar in 1995
on the Centenary of Frederick Engels’ Death –
Bourgeois conscience or what Karl Marx calls “our former philosophic conscience,” was presented once again in the form of “values” within the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe adopted and signed by most European governments, Canada, the United States and the Soviet Union. [The Charter was amended in the 1999 Charter for European Security, which forms the ideological basis for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) — TML Ed Note]. The Charter of Paris, which the imperialist leaders formulated at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, is a programmatic call that the monopolies of Europe, Canada and the U.S. must conquer the entire world anew.
“I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”Bourgeois philosophic conscience also exists in the form of propaganda about “Canadian values,” which are considered consistent with the Charter of Paris and the OSCE. To propagate and instil this bourgeois conscience within Canadians, in addition to the official educational system, mass media and prevailing culture, the government’s Citizenship Act targets new Canadians. All immigrants are naturalized based on a general affirmation of the same “Canadian values” through the application of a Canadian Citizenship Test drawn from the document “Discover Canada (The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship)” and the administration in English or French of the following “Oath of Citizenship”:
“Je jure fidélité et sincère allégeance à Sa Majesté la Reine Elizabeth Deux, Reine du Canada, à ses héritiers et successeurs et je jure d’observer fidèlement les lois du Canada et de remplir loyalement mes obligations de citoyen canadien.”
A bourgeois philosophic conscience can also be seen in the plans advanced by U.S. imperialism and other big powers to resolve international conflicts in their favour using war or threats of war such as the U.S.-led war to destroy Iraq. Earlier, when the conflict in the Balkans became acute in 1995, U.S. imperialism came up with a “peace” plan in which NATO would constitute the military arm of its policy. Forces under the command of the United Nations were replaced by forces under the command of NATO, which effectively meant, and continues to mean, U.S. imperialism. The German imperialists at that time fully sided with the U.S. imperialists while Britain, France and Russia were supportive, reluctant or opposed, depending on what served their particular interests. The NATO war machine was oiled up to act as the military arm for the domination of the world by a “United Europe” under the dictate of U.S. imperialism, which led to massive NATO bombing campaigns of the former Yugoslavia in 1995.
The bourgeois philosophic conscience in international affairs is on full display with the U.S. threats of war against the DPRK, Iran, Syria and Lebanon. It is precisely this plan to conquer Asia and the world that has put the U.S. imperialists at odds with the countries professing the Muslim faith, which are attempting to settle scores in their own way in opposition to the “European and American philosophic conscience.”
When Karl Marx and Frederick Engels began the fight against their “former philosophic conscience,” the occasion marked the beginning of their organized struggle with the bourgeoisie. This included “self-clarification” but no solipsism. The “settling of scores” was to create a “new philosophic conscience,” which can also be called a “proletarian philosophic conscience.” This was not a matter of individual conscience but one of class conscience. Reproduced here is an extensive quote from Karl Marx’s Preface to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, which succinctly presents Marx and Engels’ views on the necessity “to settle accounts with our erstwhile philosophical conscience”:
“The first work which I undertook for a solution of the doubts which assailed me was a critical review of the Hegelian philosophy of right, a work the introduction to which appeared in 1844 in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, published in Paris. My investigation led to the result that legal relations as well as forms of state are to be grasped neither from themselves nor from the so-called general development of the human mind, but rather have their roots in the material conditions of life, the sum total of which Hegel, following the example of the Englishmen and Frenchmen of the 18th century, combines under the name of ‘civil society,’ that, however, the anatomy of civil society is to be sought in political economy. The investigation of the latter, which I began in Paris, I continued in Brussels, whither I had emigrated in consequence of an expulsion order of M. Guizot.
“The general result at which I arrived and which, once won, served as a guiding thread for my studies, can be briefly formulated as follows: In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.
“At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or — what is but a legal expression for the same thing — with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation, the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations, a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic — in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out.
“Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production. No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, it will always be found that the task itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.
“In broad outlines Asiatic, ancient, feudal, and modern bourgeois modes of production can be designated as progressive epochs in the economic formation of society. The bourgeois relations of production are the last antagonistic form of the social process of production — antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism, but of one arising from the social conditions of life of the individuals; at the same time the productive forces developing in the womb of bourgeois society create the material conditions for the solution of the antagonism. This social formation brings, therefore, the prehistory of human society to a close.
“Frederick Engels, with whom since the appearance of his brilliant sketch on the criticism of the economic categories (in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher) I maintained a constant exchange of ideas by correspondence, had by another road (compare his The Condition of the Working Class in England) arrived at the same result as I, and when in the spring of 1845 he also settled in Brussels, we resolved to work out in common the opposition of our view to the ideological view of German philosophy, in fact, to settle accounts with our erstwhile philosophical conscience. The resolve was carried out in the form of a criticism of post-Hegelian philosophy. The manuscript, two large octavo volumes, had long reached its place of publication in Westphalia when we received the news that altered circumstances did not allow of its being printed. We abandoned the manuscript to the gnawing criticism of the mice all the more willingly as we had achieved our main purpose — self-clarification.
“Of the scattered works in which we put our views before the public at that time, now from one aspect, now from another, I will mention only the Manifesto of the Communist Party, jointly written by Engels and myself, and Discours sur le libre-échange published by me. The decisive points of our view were first scientifically, although only polemically, indicated in my work published in 1847 and directed against Proudhon: Misère de la Philosophie, etc. A dissertation written in German on Wage Labour, in which I put together my lectures on this subject delivered in the Brussels German Workers’ Society, was interrupted, while being printed, by the February Revolution and my consequent forcible removal from Belgium.
“This sketch of the course of my studies in the sphere of political economy is intended only to show that my views, however they may be judged and however little they coincide with the interested prejudices of the ruling classes, are the result of conscientious investigation lasting many years. But at the entrance of science, as at the entrance to hell, the demand must be posted:”The editing of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in 1848 and 1849, and the subsequent events, interrupted my economic studies, which could only be resumed in the year 1850 in London. The enormous material for the history of political economy which is accumulated in the British Museum, the favourable vantage point afforded by London for the observation of bourgeois society, and finally the new stage of development upon which the latter appeared to have entered with the discovery of gold in California and Australia, determined me to begin afresh from the very beginning and to work through the new material critically. These studies led partly of themselves into apparently quite remote subjects on which I had to dwell for a shorter or longer period. Especially, however, was the time at my disposal curtailed by the imperative necessity of earning my living. My contributions, during eight years now, to the first English-American newspaper, the New York Tribune, compelled an extraordinary scattering of my studies, since I occupy myself with newspaper correspondence proper only in exceptional cases. However, articles on striking economic events in England and on the Continent constituted so considerable a part of my contributions that I was compelled to make myself familiar with practical details, which lie outside the sphere of the actual science of political economy.
“Qui si convien lasciare ogni sospetto;
Ogni vilta convien che qui sia morta.
“(Here all mistrust must be abandoned;
And here must perish every craven thought.)”
Marx created a new world outlook or proletarian philosophic conscience in the course of settling scores with the “former philosophic conscience.” An urgent need has arisen to settle scores once again with the bourgeois philosophic conscience. This was the content presented at the 1995 seminar organized by the Central Committee of CPC(M-L) to commemorate the centenary of the death of Frederick Engels. The necessity to settle scores in the present is also the reason why it was stressed that CPC(M-L) must “begin all over again.” The Party gave the view that it must begin again from where Frederick Engels left off, as far as the modern philosophic conscience is concerned.
The “former philosophic conscience” at the time of Marx and Engels was consistent with “civil society.” The modern or proletarian philosophic conscience is consistent with the society of socialized humanity, which is struggling to come into being. Capitalism at its highest stage, state monopoly capitalism, with the ailments of constant wars, severe and protracted economic crises accompanied with jobless recoveries, has its defenders in the U.S. and European imperialists who wish to protect it from its overthrow with the imposition of the “former philosophic conscience” and its notion of “civil society” under monopoly dictate. However, this civil society has disintegrated with the rise of the monopoly capitalist state, where the country’s entire human and material resources are put at the disposal of the most powerful monopolies within an imperialist system of states dominated by U.S. imperialism. A return to civil society is impossible under monopoly capitalism. An irresistible movement has come into being towards the creation of socialized humanity based on humanizing both the social and natural environments, wherein the first act of human beings is the restriction of monopoly right and the expropriation of the private property of the owners of monopoly capital.
Today’s bourgeoisie even presents as impossible the fight of communities for “civil society.” Owners of monopoly capital claim the modern condition of all-powerful monopolies and their states and governments render this struggle for civil society impossible. But if not civil society then what? A monopoly dominated status quo. One can visualize, in a tragicomic way, the repeat of a nascent bourgeoisie fighting for civil society with courage and conviction against the all-powerful feudal estates but now with the shoe on the other foot so to speak, the monopoly remnant of the rising class of the past trembles at the spectre not of a repeat of civil society but proletarian revolution and the right to be of socialized humanity. The bourgeoisie in its decline is so afraid of its own overthrow that it preaches a comedy of errors or “impossibilities” to fool the gullible and divert the working class from organising and fighting for a society of socialized humanity.
The philosophic conscience of the working class, which is consistent with the society of socialized humanity, will necessarily be one that arises out of settling scores with the bourgeois philosophic conscience and its Charter of Paris, OSCE and Canadian “values.” The proletarian philosophic conscience is based on modern definitions and under present conditions will assume a national form with proletarian class content. CPC(M-L) has taken up this historic task of settling scores with our former philosophic conscience and has given rise to a modern proletarian philosophic conscience as an essential part of the Historic Initiative, the necessary work towards creating conditions for a mass Communist Party. Such a conscience can be created only on the basis of modern definitions, casting aside everything rotten and anachronistic.
Such a conscience arises and gains form and content in the course of the work of CPC(M-L). This practical revolutionary work comprises in part the spheres of organizing the class, defending the rights of all and building the movement for enlightenment and democratic renewal, wherein the polity participates in the economic and political affairs of the country, where all citizens enjoy the same rights and duties and all minorities flourish. The flowering of these minorities in particular, and not their marginalization and ghettoization, will create a culture within this society of socialized humanity.
In the course of waging the polemical struggle and settling scores with the former philosophic conscience, which under present conditions includes the Charter of Paris and the philosophic conscience of Europe, Canada and the U.S., conclusions have to be drawn not from those of the past or any kind of dogma but from conscious participation in acts of investigating and analysing the concrete conditions of life and work, from organizing the working class and its allies and from all aspects of CPC(M-L)’s revolutionary practice.
The aim of a polemical struggle is to open a path for development, to make the working class see the path it must traverse to conclude successfully its struggle for emancipation and the creation of a society of socialized humanity. The aim of a polemical struggle or the settling of scores with the former philosophic conscience is not to discredit this or that force or this or that idea. Any idea or force discredited and proved false must be so in real life.
The old European nation-state is anachronistic. Its former philosophic conscience has been discredited within the development of society, which is on the eve of transformation to a society of socialized humanity.
V.I. Lenin in his essay Certain Features of the Historical Development of Marxism writes:
Written in 1910, 15 years after the death of Frederick Engels, Lenin brings to the fore one of the greatest problems of the revolution, the relationship of proletarian philosophic conscience with the concrete tasks of the proletarian revolution within a particular time and space. Proletarian philosophic conscience develops while bourgeois philosophic conscience degenerates. The two are in an inverse relationship; the advance of one is the retreat of the other. The “definite practical tasks of the epoch … change with every new turn of history” and bring forth the requirement of a change and development in the proletarian philosophic conscience as well.”Our doctrine — said Engels, referring to himself and his famous friend — is not a dogma, but a guide to action. This classical statement stresses with remarkable force and expressiveness that aspect of Marxism which is very often being lost sight of. And by losing sight of it, we turn Marxism into something one-sided, distorted and lifeless; we deprive it of its life blood; we undermine its basic theoretical foundations — dialectics, the doctrine of historical development, all-embracing and full of contradictions; we undermine its connection with the definite practical tasks of the epoch, which may change with every new turn of history.”
The First World War was a “new turn of history” consistent with the development of capitalism to its highest stage, imperialism, the final step in its formation and a signal of its eventual disintegration through proletarian revolution. This “new turn of history” brought forth new developments in philosophic conscience: proletarian internationalism and the need to oppose the bourgeoisie of one’s own country, while bourgeois philosophic conscience degenerated into social chauvinism and justified the mutual wholesale slaughter of the peoples of different countries, in particular the working class and peasantry.
Proletarian philosophic conscience guided and developed out of the practice of the Great October Revolution and the building of socialism in the Soviet Union, while bourgeois philosophic conscience retreated and degenerated into fascism. The coming to power of fascism in various countries in the 1930s, at a time when the capitalist world was in the throes of its worst political and economic crisis, established the rule of the most reactionary sections of finance capital. This fascist rule set about in earnest to crush directly the revolutionary movement of the proletariat through unbridled violence and terror. The bourgeois philosophic conscience reached its most grotesque and ugly form. Even many bourgeois refused to embrace it, denouncing this degeneration of conscience as an abomination against humanity.
The fascist regimes, especially in Germany, established the exclusive rule of one section of the bourgeoisie and immediately let it be known that it was seeking “expansion and living-space” to the East, thus directly threatening all in its path especially Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. The dramatic events during the 1930s were also a “new turn of history” that brought forth further developments in proletarian philosophic conscience consistent with that time and space. A remarkable Anti-Fascist United Front was born in the heat of revolutionary practice.
In the Soviet Union, two reactionary trends amongst others generated enormous pressure on the communist leadership. Hysteria was propagated to militarize the economy in the face of the obvious danger posed by fascism. Allied with the trend towards militarization, its flip-side so to speak, was open capitulation to imperialism, sabotage of socialist construction and assassination of the Bolshevik leadership. These broad attacks against proletarian philosophic conscience were launched by those who became traitors and participated in apostasy.
The documents and theoretical writings that emerged in the 1930s and during the anti-fascist war of liberation in the 1940s, during a period of intense revolutionary practice and achievements, are testimony to the reality that the communists were up to the tasks of that time and space, and made decisive contributions to the liberation of humanity. Why? Because they possessed and developed their proletarian philosophic conscience and persevered in the battle to settle scores with the former philosophic conscience at each “new turn in history.”
This was also the case during the formation of the anti-imperialist and anti-fascist camp after the victory in 1945 over the Nazi-fascist axis. A socialist camp came into being to place the liberation of the peoples of the entire world on the agenda. Further “new turns of history” were witnessed during the division of the world between the two superpowers in the 1960s, the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union and the present retreat of revolution.
Every time objective “new turns of history” confront the world, there arises the concomitant necessity to elevate the level of proletarian philosophic conscience consistent with the changed situation and settle scores with the former philosophic conscience.
The experience of the communist and workers’ movement, proletarian revolution and dictatorship of the proletariat proves that either proletarian philosophic conscience wins by rising to the level consistent with the time and space or the “former philosophic conscience” established at the time of each prior “turn of history” is victorious. Proletarian philosophic conscience wins not by falling back on the “ideology of the past” but by developing itself further, consistent with the changing concrete conditions.
The industrial revolution and the development of capitalism were the new turns of history in Britain and other countries, especially in the nineteenth century. The industrial revolution under capitalism split the society into two hostile camps, into two great irreconcilable classes: the class of property holders and the class of proletarians. It simplified immensely the social make-up of society and the ensuing class struggle.
Marx and Engels write:
“In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.” (Communist Manifesto)
For the first time as well, there appeared contention in the sphere of conscience between those who frankly hailed the capitalist development and firmly stuck to the old philosophic conscience established at the new turn of history, and those who dreamed of creating an ideal society, a utopian socialist system, that is, a capitalist society without its disintegrating aspects, but which also preserved the old philosophic conscience. Momentous developments took place in the sphere of science during this period of the ascendency of the modern bourgeoisie. A body of knowledge began to accumulate making it possible for the industrial revolution to advance at an unprecedented rate. Productive forces were spurred on at an ever greater pace with the destruction of petty production extending throughout the globe.
“The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground — what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?” (Communist Manifesto)
An entirely new society with two great classes and a stupendous productive capacity derived from social labour had come into being.
Up to this juncture in the “new turn of history” with the formation and spread of the capitalist system, no proletarian philosophic conscience was guiding its development. The entire field of epistemology, the theory of knowledge, in sum the philosophic conscience remained the one-sided domain of the bourgeoisie. No coherent whole or systematic scientific philosophical trend had yet come into being to serve as a guide to analyze the unfolding objective events and gradually intervene to humanize social relations and the environment. The prevailing philosophic conscience was a hodgepodge taken from varied times and places with some parts extremely progressive and revolutionary, while others not so progressive and even quite the opposite. The most positive tendencies, such as Hegel’s dialectics were used to justify and prop up the interests of the most reactionary forces. Everything was fashioned to serve the interests of the dominant class of property holders.
The creation of the industrial proletariat was a significant “new turn of history.” For the first time in the history of class society, an entirely new class of people has been created in whose interests it is to end class society. This means eliminating not just the class that is oppressing the proletariat, but all classes including the working class itself.
Proletarians have been born into a world that calls upon them to engage in a most complicated struggle. They cannot just fight against this or that capitalist and expect to be freed from their condition of wage slavery. If proletarians and their movement for liberation restrict themselves to individual, trade or sectional salvation, they can only hope for temporary relief before falling back into abject oppression or possibly to become bourgeois themselves. Unlike the Spartacus movement of the slaves during the classic slave epoch, which could result only in individuals or groups of slaves becoming “free” possibly to enslave others, the working class movement for emancipation holds within it a new quality of socialized humanity that has the capacity to eliminate social classes and class society once and for all.
The proletariat is the final great class to appear during the period of human pre-history, which was ushered in with the first historic developments in the productive forces about four thousand years ago. The proletariat must fight not just for its own emancipation but also for the complete elimination of class society. For proletarians to end class society, it is incumbent upon them to create a philosophic conscience in their own service that at the same time is in the service of the emancipation of all humanity. This entails importantly the application of the human factor/social consciousness and science to the organization of social relations of production and the economy itself.
If socialized humanity is to fashion its own history, it must come to grips with the reality that not just the productive forces need the conscious application of science to develop but also the way the various sectors and features of the modern socialized economy function, and crucially how humans relate to one another in the course of working, producing and distributing products, providing services and living. The proletarian philosophic conscience is the affirmation of socialized humanity’s right to be, the right to live in harmony with all humanity on earth and not be divided by social class or any other consideration, the right to control and decide the direction of its socialized economy and to humanize the natural and social environments.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels set out to create a proletarian philosophic conscience in 1844 when they sought to settle scores with their “former philosophic conscience.” The discoveries by Karl Marx of the general law of motion of society and the theory of surplus value, the specific law of motion of capitalist society, gave birth to such a conscience. For the first time, Marxism explained the basis of change, development and motion taking place in front of people’s own eyes, and explained how it can be affected consciously with a plan. For the first time in human society, there arose the possibility for the conscious creation of history by human beings in which nothing would be left to chance. A broad new philosophic conscience on the high road of civilization came into being.
Marx and Engels created the new philosophic conscience as they participated in revolutionary practice and the great debates of the day. The bourgeoisie was asserting itself as the wielder of the most advanced consciousness. The rending of the society into two great classes was reflected in human consciousness and in epistemology. Marx and Engels took up what was revolutionary and positive in their “former philosophic conscience” and, starting from there, they carried out broad investigation of all major fields of human knowledge and science and gave birth to the new philosophic conscience. The “new turn in history,” the creation of the modern proletariat, and the objective development of its class struggle and revolutionary movement for emancipation from all conditions of exploitation, was the target of the new conscience.
Marx and Engels, starting from what was given never slipped into solipsism. They took from the “former philosophic conscience” the reflection of things and relations unfolding in front of their eyes, in their time and space and critically rejected the dross, the superfluous concoctions created by the fancies of the mind detached from objective things, relations and practice. They started from what was given and fashioned the building blocks of their modern outlook. Their new conscience had the aim of guiding the revolutionary proletariat to overthrow all the conditions binding it, to create a brand new classless society, the society of socialized humanity. Partisanship for the revolutionary proletariat was at the heart of the new philosophic conscience.
Within their thinking, Marx and Engels solved the age-old problem of conscience, the theory of knowledge that has haunted the greatest minds in the past. They connected epistemology with the activities of the two great classes and proved that the character of philosophic conscience is dependent upon the character of the classes themselves, which in turn are dependent upon the level of the productive forces.
If a social class is an ascending class, it will have a philosophic conscience in the service of opening the path for the progress of society. If it is a declining class, its philosophic conscience will have the task of closing the door of society to progress. This has been the case throughout pre-history, the period of class society.
For the first time, with the ground-breaking work of Marx and Engels, the struggle between the two world outlooks of the epoch spanning the transformation of the forces of production from petty to modern industrial mass production, the bourgeois and proletarian outlooks, assumed a clear-cut form, a life-death struggle. No force could claim to be fighting for the proletariat if its outlook were bourgeois. The reverse could at once be said of any force that fights for the bourgeoisie.
Nonplussed by these unprecedented developments of a new philosophic conscience, the bourgeoisie first tried to claim that Marxism was just another utopian dream. The old philosophic conscience without scientific explanation simply declared that Marxism would not work. Besides, all the official and leading bourgeois scholars proclaimed Marxism to be completely refuted. But the bourgeoisie did not leave anything to chance and let history, science and the people decide; it began to persecute and systematically repress all those who upheld Marxism. To bolster this suppression, a multitude of “system-catchers” began to appear in the name of Marxism. Having no “connection with the definite practical tasks of the epoch,” they began to cultivate “Marxism” as a dogma in the spirit of the “former philosophic conscience” of their respective countries thus opposing the living soul of Marxism, its kernel — the concrete analysis of concrete conditions. In a letter to C. Schmidt, dated August 5, 1890 Engels states:
“The materialist conception of history has a lot of them nowadays (adherents who are dogmatists), to whom it serves as an excuse for not studying history. Just as Marx used to say, commenting on the French ‘Marxists’ of the late seventies: ‘All I know is that I am not a Marxist.'”
The militant materialism of Marx makes it impossible to sever the “connection with the definite practical tasks of the epoch,” while his dialectical method “does not preclude the ideological spheres from reacting upon the material mode of existence,” which is “the primum agens (primary agent, prime cause).”
By establishing the class character of the philosophic conscience, Marx and Engels also explained that consciousness, the thought process, also develops dialectically. They elaborated the relationship between absolute and relative truth, and established the primacy of matter over mind. In doing so, they achieved the connection of their theory with the “definite practical tasks of the epoch,” of each “new turn of history,” and thus provided the revolutionary proletariat with a philosophic conscience without which there can be no revolutionary movement.
It can be said that the present “new turn of history” also demands that a connection be established between modern philosophic conscience and the “definite practical tasks of the epoch.” This connection has been severed by the dogmatism of the modern revisionists, social democrats and opportunists of all hues. Such a connection can be established only from what is given at the present time and not from defending a “dogma” in isolation from the “definite practical tasks of the epoch.” The most important “definite practical task of the epoch” is the victory of the proletarian revolution, which can be achieved only if the working class has its own modern philosophic conscience.
It has to be recognized as a given that what can be deduced from the fundamental relationship between consciousness and matter is that a philosophic conscience never assumes its final form until such time that the “definite practical tasks” of all epochs with which it is connected have been realized. As long as there appear “definite practical tasks” in successive epochs, there will remain space for the development of the philosophic conscience.
The “definite practical tasks” of the current epoch of imperialism and the proletarian revolution have not yet been realized and will not be realized until social classes and class society are eliminated and replaced with a society of socialized humanity throughout Mother Earth. This means that space remains for the development of the proletarian philosophic conscience.
Our philosophic conscience has developed from Marxism to Leninism to Contemporary Marxist-Leninist Thought in the course of dealing with the “definite practical tasks of the epoch” and in close connection with the “practical activity of a truly mass and truly revolutionary movement.” Nonetheless, the dogmatism of different modern revisionist trends is exerting enormous pressure to sever this connection. The main enemy of revolutionary theory in this “new turn of history” remains right opportunism, which is adapting itself to the requirements of the world bourgeoisie for privatization and liberalization. This adaptation has continued uninterrupted for a period of over 50 years and will continue until such time that the world proletariat is either completely disarmed ideologically or fully confronts its bourgeois conscience.
It is a serious blunder to underestimate the role of the different trends of modern revisionism at this time. Any underestimation poses a grave danger to the International Marxist-Leninist Communist Movement. The fundamental conclusions of our philosophic conscience are not dependent on anyone’s will. They derive from revolutionary practice and study in a dialectical fashion of society and nature.
In a letter to K. Kautsky dated September 20, 1884, Engels writes:
“Marx summarizes the common content lying in things and relations and reduces it to its general logical expression. His abstraction therefore reflects, in the form of thought, the content already reposing in the things.”
In Left-Wing Communism — an Infantile Disorder, Lenin points out:
“A correct revolutionary theory is not a dogma, but assumes final shape only in close connection with the practical activity of a truly mass and truly revolutionary movement.”
The first victim of the counter-revolution spearheaded by imperialism, the bourgeoisie and world reaction during the “Cold War” was the proletarian philosophic conscience. The victimization of this philosophic conscience was facilitated by modern revisionism in the Soviet Union, which denied even the remotest possibility of the existence of class struggle and classes under socialism. It denied that “definite practical tasks” of the current epoch of imperialism and the proletarian revolution have not yet been realized, which means that space remains for the development of the proletarian philosophic conscience.
The absence of development of the proletarian philosophic conscience meant that bourgeois philosophic conscience made significant gains. Consequently, modern revisionism in the most self-serving manner denied the danger of the overthrown exploiting classes making a comeback. It refused to acknowledge the existence of class struggle as the basis of development in the Soviet Union and the life-death struggle between bourgeois philosophic conscience and proletarian philosophic conscience.
Being a declining class, the new bourgeoisie in the Soviet Union had no use for proletarian philosophic conscience. Furthermore, the Soviet revisionists claimed that their conscience had already “assumed final shape.” The only tasks to be done were to improve the productive forces on par with U.S. imperialism and to make certain adjustments in the course of moving society from “advanced socialism to communism.” The adjustments came in the domain of fine-tuning their system and of making it eternal under the sway of “universal values,” that is, under the sway of bourgeois conscience.
It can also be seen that for some, proletarian philosophic conscience ceased to develop after V.I. Lenin. For others, it finished with the death of Frederick Engels. For still others, it had no place in the revolutionary movement of the working class for emancipation after the death of Karl Marx. We have entered a period when revolution is in retreat, where even the notion of a modern philosophic conscience is being condemned as something not suitable for the present conditions. If there is to be a philosophic conscience, we are told by some who even claim to be friends or Marxist-Leninists, this philosophic conscience need not be an “abstraction (that) only reflects, in the form of thought, the content already reposing in things,” but rather something conjured up from the mind or sought from “the content already reposing in things” long past. The starting point for such a philosophic conscience is dogma, which also is its end result.
Frederick Engels speaks of this repeatedly in his letters:
“Our theory is not a dogma but the exposition of a process of evolution, and that process involves successive phases.”
“Our theory is a theory of evolution, not a dogma to be learnt by heart and to be repeated mechanically.”
“[Furthermore] I must say in the first place that the materialist method turns into its opposite if it is not taken as one’s guiding principle in historical investigation but as a ready pattern according to which one shapes the facts of history to suit oneself.”
“In general, the word ‘materialistic’ serves many of the younger writers in Germany as a mere phrase with which nothing and everything is labelled without further study; that is, they stick on this label and then consider the question is disposed of. All history must be studied afresh, the conditions of existence of the different formations of society must be examined individually before the attempt is made to deduce from them the political, civil-law, aesthetic, philosophic, religious etc views corresponding to them.”
“As a definite sphere in the division of labour, the philosophy of every epoch presupposes certain definite thought material handed down to it by its predecessors, from which it takes its start.”
This is the case with the modern philosophic conscience as well, which owes its start to “certain definite thought material handed down to it by its predecessors.” However, for some the material that was merely the start (the “definite thought material” from the past) is today being presented as the greatest discovery of the present, in order to ensure that no start is made afresh from where the Marxist philosophy left off.
For the last President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, perestroika and glasnost were set in this mould. The activities and theories of the “conservatives” in the Russian Federation and other countries are likewise definite thought material from the past dished out as the greatest discoveries of the present. And various former revisionists are trying to resurrect their movements in a similar manner.
Colossal advances have taken place in the world during the twentieth century. There has been an uninterrupted struggle between the wrecked “civil society” of the monopolies and the society of socialized humanity of the proletariat. The modern philosophic conscience has to develop out of the conditions of each and every country. The starting point is the “definite thought material handed down to it by its predecessors.”
“Definite thought material” in Canada, the “western philosophical tradition,” is brought to the fore by the bourgeoisie. This thought material established institutions in the British colonial tradition. Its bourgeois philosophic conscience became the mainstay of life for over a century. At the same time, the working class and people have fought their own battles. They have created their own thought material ranging from the struggles of the Aboriginal Nations for their hereditary rights, including their right to be, the anti-colonial battles of Canadians in Lower and Upper Canada in the 1830s, the resistance of those who attempted to establish a nation in Manitoba in 1869-70 through to the movement of the working class to defend its rights and for socialism, and the revolutionary practice of CPC(M-L) and its allies.What is this “definite thought material” at the present time? In terms of the International Marxist-Leninist Communist Movement, it is the fight against imperialism and modern revisionism, which has to be taken to its conclusion. It is this “definite thought material” from which CPC(M-L) begins every day, the starting point from where it contributes through revolutionary practice and concrete analysis of concrete conditions to the further development of its philosophic conscience. But this is not all. Each country has its own history. People from different countries have their own predecessors who have been fighting to uplift their homelands. This “definite thought material” is also to be found by actually studying the present conditions in each and every country and in their relationship to one another.
Proletarian philosophic conscience, however, is not considered by the bourgeoisie as part of the Canadian tradition. Denial of the place of proletarian philosophic conscience in the life of the society enables the bourgeoisie to block the development of a movement for the creation of a society of socialized humanity. Finding ways around this denial and obstruction is part of the work to develop and affirm the new philosophic conscience.
The work of The Internationalists and the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) has created proletarian philosophic conscience. This is a great success of the work of CPC(M-L). However, now is the time to go from success to victory. This victory must be won during this “new turn of history,” and one of the most indispensable struggles is to settle scores with the “former philosophic conscience.”
At this time, every effort is being made by social democracy and the modern revisionists to isolate the working class movement from the modern philosophic conscience and to eternalize bourgeois philosophic conscience. Their main support in this nefarious work is the bourgeois state and labour aristocracy. The immediate task of CPC(M-L) is to defeat these attempts at retrogression, transform success into victory, build the mass Communist Party and settle scores with the bourgeois philosophic conscience.
(Originally published in TML Daily, July 18-19, 1995. Edited for Publication in 2013.)