March 13 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of The Internationalists, our Party's precursor organization. The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) takes this occasion to send revolutionary greetings to those from the generation of the sixties who participated in the work of that organization and remained true to its legacy. We greet those who took it forward in the Necessity for Change Study Program and adoption of the Necessity for Change analysis in 1967 and then the re-organization of The Internationalists as a Marxist-Leninist Youth and Student Movement in 1968. We also greet all those who took up this banner and carried it forward when they founded the Party in March 1970, and built and defended it since then. On this occasion, we also send revolutionary greetings to the youth of the nineties and the millennium who are with us today militantly carrying the banner planted by The Internationalists 50 years ago and resolutely taking it forward. To our comrades and friends in Britain, Ireland, the United States and other countries with whom we shared and continue to share weal and woe to build the organization required to lead the working class to constitute itself the nation and vest sovereignty in the people, we send our greetings and appreciation for their fidelity to the cause and pledge our own in return.
One of the reasons The Internationalists have such significance is because they had the courage to address the problems of their time. So strong was the momentum created by this achievement that the Party built on its basis is today quite capable of facing the realities of the present.
The leader of The Internationalists, Comrade Hardial Bains, wrote that to strengthen this work, a serious assessment of formative developments and even individuals is required. Speaking about this in 1994, he said, "It is vital to appreciate this background to the development of modern definitions which are so central to opening the path of society and the world to progress today."
CPC(M-L) is using this important anniversary to look at the legacy of The Internationalists and the 1960s. But, how should this be done? Where to begin? Comrade Bains often told us that our historiography starts from the present, while bringing forth what is relevant from the past. The necessity now is to establish this reference point and argue out its logic in the present situation. This work is necessary to settle scores with the old conscience of society and open a path to its progress.
The Internationalists, formed amid the revolutionary struggles and the inter-imperialist machinations of the Cold War, marked a radical rupture with all that came before, which had since become irrelevant to the actual historical situation. Against the backdrop of the bipolar division of the world between two superpowers, peoples were compelled to accept the tutelage of the U.S. camp or Soviet camp, or some other, while rejecting their own conditions, traditions and thought material.
At a time when more Communists were alive and active than any previous period and the rich experiences of the anti-fascist war still prevailed, people gravitated towards socialism, independence and democracy. Yet not a few, including communists, held that revolutionary politics could coexist with bourgeois culture and social forms, and on this basis betrayed theory while declaring the classics were ultimate, finished products, and philosophy, therefore, at an end. Others, accepting the same presuppositions, came forward as expert anti-revisionists and house Marxists to wage the "battle of the books," ancients vs. moderns, orthodox vs. revisionists. The chief weapon of choice was the "revolutionary" catch-phrase the main method was "the integration" or "the application" of formulae and dogmas extracted from the classics and imposed on the actual situation. In this manner diverting attention from the revolutionary tasks at hand, they became the purveyors of cold war definitions and anti-communism, while claiming civil society, whether worker or capitalist, to be the highest form of human social relations whose limits could neither be escaped nor transcended.
In vehement opposition, innovating a modern ethical standpoint with the recognition of the necessity for the creation of a new human society, socialized humanity, at its heart, The Internationalists subjected everything old and moribund to criticism. They rejected all arguments that accepted the stranglehold of the old social relations of civil society as permanent and absolute, extending from time immemorial into a never-ending future.
Currently, with a new social awakening and revived interest in communism, looking now at the legacy of The Internationalists and the 1960s provides a vantage point for the present situation. In the complex and difficult circumstances of the post-Cold War world, when counterrevolution and the violent destruction of productive forces continue apace largely instigated by the big powers and the rich, the worst folly would be to fall into the snares of their dangerous historical trap of holding onto Cold War definitions and conceptions in a changed situation. In our work to build the Party and uphold the interests of the working class and all humanity, we are aware that this historical trap manifests itself in several deeply held prejudices that interfere directly with summation of which two are the following:
1. No direct and immediate access to the relations among humans and with nature is possible, and therefore,
2. human relations cannot be cognized without mediation.
Based on these prejudices, Cold War definitions rooted in anti-communism prevailed and today create a condition of perseveration -- the uncontrollable repetition of definitions, actions and arrangements from the past despite the absence of the conditions that gave rise to them. Today, the relation between past and present is subjected to such prejudices with the aim of subverting the conscious participation of human beings in acts to write their own history in the present. By looking at The Internationalists' legacy from the present we directly cognize human relations; this is our task.
Hail the Founding of
The Internationalists 50 Years Ago Today!
The Significance of the Founding of The Internationalists
In the Words of Hardial Bains
Writing about The Internationalists in the Author's Note to the book Communism: 1945-1991, Comrade Bains explained:
"Our organization, The Internationalists, became the well-known focal point of attraction at the time of its founding [on March 13, 1963] at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. A broad organization, it was supported in various ways by many faculty members and several hundred students. It had no ideology when it started but reflected the frustration felt by the intellectuals at that time and the discontent of the working people with the existing conditions. More importantly, it brought people together who were advanced and the champions of enlightenment; those who wanted to change the situation. This organization started out as a discussion group, with the explicit aim of responding to the situation in which there was no academic atmosphere on the campus. There was a kind of anti-consciousness, a rigid opinion against inquiring into the subject matter, and the putting forward of views which had no basis in life and were detrimental to the progress of society. It can be seen that this organization had a limited aim and a modest beginning. There were no big or small phrases taken from books, no ideology supervising every action and no demonstrative actions, no guns and bombs, meant to impress the whole world. In fact, the ideology, politics and culture of this organization began to take shape with its subsequent work. Its ideology, political line, organization and culture became strong in the course of its development.
"This is not to say that the people involved in the organization had no ideology. I was a communist with a history of political activism which dated back to the late forties, while most of the others were left-leaning in one way or another, even though suspicious of communism. What bound us together was our concern about the existing conditions, the education and culture, and our rejection of the aim of the society, its motive for living. It was our immediate distaste for and opposition to what was being done to the working people in general, the working class in particular, Native people and immigrants, and to the peoples and nations internationally. With these ideas in embryonic form and with the work of our organization, our ideology began to take shape.
"It can be said with a lot of pride that this organization came out of the conditions of the sixties, had a mass character, and had no preconceived notions at its founding. It flourished on the rich soil of the working people's enthusiasm for change, and it was to corroborate the same conclusions Karl Marx had reached one century before. This was done not by reading some conclusions of Karl Marx and imposing them onto the situation in a dogmatic and religious way, but by using these conclusions as a guide to action, building the organizational form with an aim consistent with the conditions of our time. These discoveries ensured our independence both as an organization and in terms of our thinking. This also became the key ingredient for the ability of the organization to find its bearings in any complex and difficult situation. Our ultimate aim was socialism and communism, which was proclaimed to the world with the founding of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party on March 31, 1970 in Montreal, Quebec, the existing Communist Party having betrayed this ultimate aim."
About the situation at that time, Comrade Bains wrote:
"The 1950s and part of the 1960s were periods of the temporary revival and expansion of capitalism. During that time, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union boasted about the superiority of their systems, while the entire world was held hostage by their politics. No country or political force could push its interests forward unless it had the sanction of one superpower or the other. The bipolar division of the world became a fact. Revolutionaries had to be extremely vigilant not to become tools of one or the other superpower, just as today the communists must ensure they do not succumb to the pressure which advocate the unity of all nations with the U.S. as the gendarme. In the 1950s and 1960s, it required immense courage and deep convictions to stand and fight for the noble ideal of peace, freedom and the well-being of the working peoples and for an end to the exploitation of persons by persons. The same is again the case today."
Comrade Bains pointed out that "Every epoch has the material which constitutes the building blocks of the new, but its construction cannot take place in a mechanical way. The struggle between the old and the new, between what is passing away and what is coming into being, erupts in each epoch, with definite class forces taking sides. Irrespective of their will, classes act in a specific way. For capitalism and imperialism to continue, the capitalists and the imperialists must ensure that the new clans, the proletariat, and all the exploited, are left without the leadership, consciousness and organization they require to put an end to the systems which cause them such suffering. They need to provide the working class with aims which go against its interests, nationally and internationally. The aim provided to the working class and people of the imperialist heartlands, of ensuring their own prosperity to the detriment of the well-being of the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and at the expense of a growing polarization between rich and poor within the imperialist heartlands themselves, and of the natural environment, is extremely detrimental. The basis of this prosperity is the domination of the world, which has been pursued by splitting it on the basis of anticommunism. It has played a negative role and led to retrogression. It is still causing havoc in the ranks of the working people, especially in the working class movement. The capitalist governments and their official and unofficial agencies pay utmost attention to perpetuating the specter of communism, in order to introduce ideology and politics which paralyze the working people. The proletariat, the builder of socialism, and the other working people, the intellectuals, professionals, small farmers and fishers, trappers and small businessmen, and the oppressed, especially the women and the youth, must break loose from this vicious circle. They must take political stands in their own interests and organize consistently with the objective condition of their emancipation. Only then can they build the new society in this epoch. Such a society will emerge out of their political struggle for power, on the basis of which they must lead the entire society to provide solutions to the national and international problems which it faces and which face mankind.
"For the sake of emphasis, I reiterate that political work is the starting point of emancipation and the role of ideology is to serve it. It cannot be the other way around."
Further on he said: "...a new world can only be created by uniting around the politics of dealing with the problems of the day. These politics are the same as they were [in 1945]; the politics of pursuing the cause of peace, democracy and the well-being of the peoples. Utmost attention has to be paid towards the building of such unity. To say that no new world can exist so long as the working men and women are enslaved is a truism. The issue is that only socialism and its highest development, communism, are the condition, in both the objective and subjective sense, for the complete emancipation of the workers and oppressed peoples of all lands. The communists must not falter in terms of their responsibility to build such a unity. At the same time, they must carry out deep-going theoretical work in order to ensure that the lessons of the past period are brought home to the people. There is the necessity to build the organization of the working class and other working people and to ensure that communism is in the vanguard of society, not just in theory but also in practice. The communists must be seen by the working people as those who uphold the ideals of political unity and who strive to solve the problems on this basis."
"... Let us march forward on the path inspired by the dream of ending exploitation of persons by persons and the creation of a world in which the dream will itself be dwarfed by the reality of new human productive forces, released in the face of the unknown. Let there be no pessimism. Let the working people, the youth and women and the enlightened, march on to create a new world. Time is working in our favour. We must march on.
(Author's Note to the book Communism 1945-1991)
Fifty Years of Action with Analysis
1963 Founding of The Internationalists:
The student newspaper the Ubyssey reports on the founding of The Internationalists at UBC. Its coverage of student activities and concerns was typically based on an anti-communist Cold War outlook.
Imagine the situation. The world, including the entire range of ideological and theoretical schools of thought, was frozen in Cold War dogma. Disinformation and misinformation were the norm, whether it came from the schools of Euro-American imperialism or the schools of Euro-Soviet communism. A condominium of reaction undermining the historic achievements of communism, revolution and national liberation was in place. All avenues to independent analysis and thinking were barred in practice if not in scripture. Yet the feeling "the world is not going to remain the same" was pressing on the hearts and minds of the youth. The necessity for change was impelling. What was missing and most needed? What key was necessary to unlock that dialectic of change?
In 1963, Hardial Bains was a 23-year old graduate student at UBC, who four years earlier immigrated into Canada from Punjab, India to study microbiology. In Punjab, Hardial had earned a well-respected reputation as a deep-thinking active communist and scientist whose political activism and scientific investigation were said to have begun the moment he could breathe on his own. But what to make of this world in the imperialist heartland and internationally, in such complicated conditions where the very notion of a proletarian front for revolution had been declared a dead letter by most communist parties?
The Cold War was suffocating everyone to the point where the right to conscience was banned. Hardial Bains refused to accept the blockage on thinking and called on students and faculty to defend themselves and express their right to conscience through actions with analysis. One of his first public acts was to stand up courageously to the "better dead than red" psychological terrorism of McCarthyite anti-communism. At a mass democracy meeting, standing atop the popular soap box in the public square in front of UBC library Hardial faced down the hysterical finger-jabbing scream from the fringe, "That man is a communist!" replying instantly, "Yes, and proud of it!"
Reflecting upon the incident later, Hardial said his
response was a historic turning point for it publicly "smashed the
cringing cowardice and spinelessness of the communists of the time."
The refusal to defend one's right to conscience became a feature of the
past. Communists were called upon to be open and
proud of their views and the accomplishments of the communist movement.
This was the "beginning of the new. Nothing can stop this movement now,"
he concluded from this experience.
But the new was
small like a single cell of an organism beginning its journey in life.
In those days anti-communism was a continuous media refrain, and to stand openly against it a necessary act. For example, in reporting on a nameless student in a small BC town collecting signatures for the Back Mac petition, the student newspaper, Ubyssey, reports some nameless woman denouncing the student as a "communist." Why this preoccupation? In the same issue of the paper there is a story about the RCMP openly flaunting their spying on politically active university students, denouncing them as "communists," as if to be progressive and political was some sort of disease, which needed to be exterminated.
Hardial was adroit and able to dispel the unease his
student friends first felt when he had so sharply replied, "Yes, and
proud of it [being a communist]." They participated actively in
the political affairs of The Internationalists and many more
participated in the mass activities it organised. A communist had stood
up and others responded with enthusiasm. The work of The
Internationalists at UBC soon led to the formation of the BC Federation
of Students which chose Hardial to lead it to advance the broad
interests of the students in BC at that time.
A close ally and confidant of Hardial Bains at the time, Aziz Haq, a Pakistani graduate engineer and well-read Marxist, told Hardial bluntly that within the prevailing circumstances of modern revisionism, only he, Hardial Bains, was capable of leading the work to build a Marxist-Leninist Party in Canada. Hardial thought his most significant contribution would be to assist the youth and students to join such a historic effort. He hoped and expected that within the complexities of the day in Canada other veteran communists would lead the task. By 1968, with the experience of five years leading The Internationalists not only in Canada but in Ireland and England as well, and its reorganization as a Marxist-Leninist youth and student movement in Montreal on May 7, 1968, it had become clear that the task would fall on his shoulders and those who had rallied to the cause.
As mentioned Hardial discovered how to break the political unease that arose amongst the very broad links and close ties he had with literally every section of the active UBC students and faculty members. Later he would write that the unease of the students arose from the ideological foundations of imperialism or what he called the historical crib. How "to break with the old conscience, the anti-consciousness, the particular prejudices of society, transmitted through parents and social institutions" was a pressing problem. Through his analysis of the concrete situation facing UBC students and faculty, Hardial came up with a plan of action -- build a new organization capable of fulfilling the needs of students for discussion and debate outside the "mind-forged manacles" of imperialist academia. As he phrased it then, we must "create an academic atmosphere on campus." Specifically missing, he analyzed, was an organization. Everyone else had an organization. Those forces who wanted to bring in the new in opposition to the old also needed an organization but not an organization based on the old, for how could such an organization bring in the new. The organization itself had to be based on the new, new form, content, organizational methods, theory and practices, and it was up to those involved to discover what was needed in practice through actions with analysis and conscious participation in acts of finding out.
On March 13, 1963, half a century ago at International House UBC, Hardial presented his plan to his peers for discussion. Even the name of the new organization was put to vigorous debate after which he prevailed with "The Internationalists." He was fully cognizant that The Internationalists was the name V.I. Lenin gave to the Marxists of his day who organized and fought against the revisionist betrayal of Marxist revolutionary practice, especially the European socialist parties of the Second International that had sunk to the ignominious level of supporting their own imperialist powers in the slaughter of World War One. The founding of The Internationalists fifty years ago was a revolutionary act to settle scores with modern revisionism and build the proletarian front in Canada: ideologically, theoretically, organizationally and politically.
"The political work begun in 1962 and concretized in the founding meeting of The Internationalists March 13, 1963 had borne fruit. We were on the march!" The anti-imperialist youth and student movement at UBC, The Internationalists, was born. Action with Analysis gave rise to organization guided by summation and more Action with Analysis in an upward spiral culminating in 1970 with the founding of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist). The new content and form of the organization had to be defended every step of the way, first with utmost flexibility towards ideological unity, but steadfast in political defense of principle, foremost in opposition to US imperialism under all circumstances, and generally in support of just causes of all kinds.
At precisely this time early in 1963, the students were in action en masse to demand increased funding for post-secondary education with a province wide "Back Mac" campaign that gave rise to the community college system in BC. The Internationalists supported this and all actions for a just cause. But this and other actions were not "coalition" or "single-issue" politics of the moment, which trailed after the plans and interests of monopoly capitalists. A different quality prevailed where building of the proletarian front was decisive, where "to break with the old conscience, the anti-consciousness, the particular prejudices of society" was paramount. He later described this phenomenon as instilling the human factor/social consciousness in the individuals and the collective and all that The Internationalists organized. Individual responsibility was demanded to sustain and expand the collective work. Internal consolidation of the organization was related to external mass strength in a living dialectic. No quarter was given to imperialist theory and practice. To build a revolutionary organization in the post-war period, to resist and overcome the ideological onslaught of imperialism, "The Internationalists launched their most resolute offensive against the prevailing culture in ideological and social forms, so as to prepare the subjective forces for revolution in the course of waging the revolutionary class battles."
"The period from 1963 to 1967 was crucial in moulding
the policy and direction of The Internationalists. Those were vital
years, a period that forged the basic character of The
Internationalists." They were
years of profound
significance to the
burgeoning Marxist-Leninist movement that was in full rebellion
against imperialism and modern revisionism. Hardial Bains summed up
this work theoretically in his keynote speech at The Internationalists'
Conference held in London, England in August 1967, which was later
published as the Necessity for Change pamphlet.
The compelling thesis of Necessity for Change demands conscious participation of the individual in acts of finding out to advance the proletarian class movement for emancipation. This has guided the movement leading to the founding of The Internationalists and CPC(M-L), and through all the revolutionary work for more than 50 years. Under the leadership of Hardial Bains from its origins until his untimely death in August 1997, and under the capable and firm leadership of the Central Committee to the present, a proletarian front has emerged to open a path forward.
Hardial Bains summarizes the significance of The Internationalists and the Necessity for Change thesis in the following words:
"[The pamphlet by The Internationalists] puts forward the analysis that lays down ideological remoulding as the key to the uninterrupted advance and victory of revolution. Basing themselves on the concrete contemporary situation and the problems of the working class movement, The Internationalists took up the questions of organization and the role of the individual in the revolutionary transformation within the context of the work of the collective. To achieve this, The Internationalists launched their most resolute offensive against the prevailing culture in ideological and social forms, so as to prepare the subjective forces for revolution in the course of waging the revolutionary class battles.
Necessity for Change was republished in 1997
"The creation of a new class, such as the working class, has brought forth its own ideology and social form with its own coherence. The ascendancy of the working class has left its imprint to the extent it is fighting for its own interests and its own new coherence. The most distinguishing feature of the working class, making it so distinct and radically different from all other classes, is that it cannot emancipate itself without emancipating the entire humanity. Thus, its new coherence has to be consistent with its aim of emancipating the whole of humanity.
"The capitalist class, the old class, as it is passing away, has introduced its own notions of emancipation, its own corruption into the working class movement. It calls upon the workers to fight for 'a bigger slice of the pie,' for a redistribution of wealth, while keeping the old society intact. It has created an untenable situation whereby the working class finances its own leaders to fight against its own interests.
"By 1967, these bourgeois tendencies had also entrenched themselves in the communist movement and brought it to the point of liquidation, against which a huge movement developed. A number of tendencies were taking shape in this struggle, from purely intellectualising about what the 'most correct' position should be, to merely linking with some centre whether in Moscow, Belgrade, Beijing, Europe or any other.
"The Internationalists linked the ideological struggle and the struggle against bourgeois culture with the concrete work to build and strengthen an organization. The Necessity for Change (NFC) analysis was directed towards making people conscious about this approach. With its broad sweep, the analysis presented a vision that aroused everyone to undertake ideological work and take up the social forms consistent with their tasks. It was a clarion call for the activists, communists and those aspiring to be communists to break with the old conscience, the anti-consciousness, the 'particular prejudices of society, transmitted through parents and social institutions.' This call was linked directly with 'seeking the truth to serve the people.' The NFC analysis forcefully provided a world outlook based on Marx's dialectical and historical materialism as a guide to action and provided a solution to tackle the problems of ideological struggle and social forms. [...]
"The NFC analysis begins with what is given. It analyses the given to overcome it and to establish what really is within those conditions. It establishes a valuable approach and provides a concrete way to tackle reality. It begins by taking up the important question of history. Under the section History-As-Such, the NFC puts forward the profound role of history, as opposed to what merely exists at the present time."
Our social responsibility today while celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of The Internationalists is exactly what Hardial taught us to do throughout his life: Understanding requires an act of conscious participation by the individual, an act of finding out; begin with what is given; analyze the given to overcome it; establish what really is within those conditions so as to participate consciously in actions with analysis to move history forward.
Hail the 50th Anniversary of the Founding of The Internationalists!
Let Us Honour this Occasion and the Work of Hardial Bains by
Consciously Participating in Actions with Analysis to Move History Forward!
1. Hardial Bains, Thinking
about the Sixties
1960-1967, The New Magazine Publishing Company, Toronto, 2005, p. 52.
2. Ibid., p. 62
3. Ubyssey, March 1963
4. 1997 Preface by Hardial Bains to the republication of Necessity for Change!, p. 9
5. Thinking about the Sixties 1960-1967, p. 67
7. Necessity for Change!, pp. 7-9
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