Speeches delivered at the Launching
of Osagyefo’s book Consciencism
SPEAKERS: Willie E. Abraham, Habib Niang, Massaga Woungly, Bankole Akpata, H.M. Basner and S.G. Ikoku
Thursday, 2nd April, 1964
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GHANA, LEGON
CONSCIENCISM, PHILOSOPHY AND IDEOLOGY FOR DE-COLONIZATION DEVELOPMENT WITH PARTICULAR REFERENCE TO THE AFRICAN REVOLUTION
WILLIE E. ABRAHAM
Kwame Nkrumah has spoken time and again of the un-flowering of the African genius in conditions of independence. In this unflowering, he is himself making a contribution that is already astonishing. He has already proved himself a strategist, a thinker, and a statesman. Now, by his book Consciencism, he establishes himself firmly as a philosopher.
In Consciencism, Kwame Nkrumah, in the span of a short but weighty book, unites all his pamphlets, and countless speeches in one philosophical utterance. Consciencism, as the sub-heading says, is a philosophy and ideology for de-colonization and development with particular reference to the African revolution. Its author has already established himself as a man of action, a man of practice, capable of intuiting in any individual case what the correct guide of action should be. While teaching philosophy in American universities and further pursuing it in Britain, Kwame Nkrumah was all along formulating the essentials of his philosophical creed. In Consciencism, he has at length presented us with the matrix and theoretical sanction of his practice.
Consciencism opens with a discussion of philosophy. The author admits that it is possible to look at philosophy in diverse ways, but singles out two ways of treating it for extended development. The first which occupies the first chapter of the book is called by him the academic treatment. This, he says, arises from an attitude to philosophy as if there were “nothing to them but statements standing in logical relation to one another”. What this means is that the conclusions and the purpose of philosophical utterance are in this treatment made of less significance than the logical connections between the sentences. A whole philosophy can through being treated like this be made to hang in thin air having no connection with anything concrete or consequential. Philosophy thus becomes a kind of parlour-game, a mere intellectual jousting.
To develop philosophy like this, Kwame Nkrumah could have used the plain historical method, moving from philosopher to philosopher. This would have been excessively laborious, repetitious and without much profit. His method was instead to identify the basic questions of philosophy, and to follow these questions through the characteristic treatment given to them by academic philosophy.
These questions are identified by Kwame Nkrumah as the question “what there is” and the question how what there is might be explained. If these are the basic questions of philosophy,then the answers to them must already determine the character of the entire philosophy of man. When such a claim is made, it is naturally needful to substantiate it. The claim gains substantiation in both the first and the fourth chapters; but especially in the fourth chapter where the author painstakingly shows how step by step his own answers to the two questions determine his ethical, political, and epistemological position.
Still developing the academic treatment, Kwame Nkrumah divides answers to the first question according to their treatment of matter. Those which accord to matter an absolute and independent existence, he groups together as materialism. And with this group he contrasts idealism.
Always going to the root of the matter, he avoids for the time being a headlong engagement with idealism, until he has identified its sources. These he finds in solipsism and in a theory of perception. He distinguishes two stages of solipsism, complete and incipient. I quote part of his discussion of complete solipsism:
“In complete solipsism the individual is identified with the universe. The universe comes to consist of the individual and his experience. And when we seek to inquire a little of what this gigantic individual who fills the universe is compounded, we are confronted with diverse degrees of incoherence. In solipsism, the individual starts from a depressing scepticism about the existence of other people and other things. While in the grip of this pessimism, he pleasantly ignores the fact that his own body is part of that external world, that he sees and touches his own body in exactly the same sense that he sees and touches any other body. If other bodies are only portions of the individual’s experience, then by the same magic he must disincarnate himself. In this way, the individual’s role as the centre of solipsism begins to wobble seriously, he is no longer the peg on which the universe hangs, the hub around which it revolves. Solipsism begins to shed its focal point for the universe. The individual begins to coalesce with his own experience. The individual as a subject, the sufferer and enjoyer of experience, melts away, and we are left with unattached experience.”
This passage is one of many which illustrate the author’s succinctness of expression and vividness of thought. It is from this combination added to the accuracy of exposition and cogency of argument that consciencism derives its power.
Incipient solipsism is illustrated from the philosophy of Descartes. Kwame Nkrumah argues that when Descartes proposes to doubt everything that could be known through the senses or through reasoning, because both avenues of knowledge are full of pit-falls, and decides that he who is busy doubting things must exist in order to doubt, and therefore claims to exist, he claims too much. And now I quote:
“Though Descartes is entitled to say: Cogito, ergo sum – ‘I think therefore I exist’ – he would clearly be understanding too much if he understood from this that some object existed, let alone Monsieur Descartes existed. All that is indubitable in the first section of Descartes’statement is that there is thinking. The first person is in that statement no more than the subject of a verb, with no more connotation of an object than there is in the anticipatory ‘it’ of the sentence ‘It is raining’. The pronoun in this sentence is a mere subject of a sentence, and does not refer to any object or group of objects which is raining. ‘It’ in that sentence does not stand for anything. It is a quack pronoun.
“And so once again we have unattached experience, thinking without an object which thinks.”
“And as the subject is merely grammatical, it cannot serve as a genuine principle of collection of thoughts which will mark one batch of thoughts as belonging to one person rather than another …”
Discussing the other source of solipsism, Kwame Nkrumah writes:
“It is more normal to found idealism upon some theory of perception. Here, the idealist holds that we only know of the external world through perception; and if matter be held to be constitutive of the external world, then we only know of matter through perception. Quite gratuitously, the conclusion is drawn that matter owes its existence to perception. Granted that perception is a function of the mind or spirit, matter ends up depending on spirit for its existence”.
The author goes on to point out that the conception of perception involved is one which takes place by agency of our senses. And as our bodies are themselves parts of the external world, if body, being matter, exists only through perceptual knowledge, “it could not at the same time be the means to that knowledge; it could not be the avenue to perception”.
Kwame Nkrumah does not content himself with attacking idealism at its roots. He also seeks to establish that idealism is jejune; that it cannot explain anything, and that it is incompatible with science and the existence of ordinary things like apples and oranges. His reason is that the idealists dismantle the world, and find that they cannot put it together again. Fortunately this dismantling takes place only in thinking. Kwame Nkrumah cites Berkeley in illustration. He says that Berkeley having dismantled the apple into its sweetness, its shape, its colour, etc., finds that he can only say that the apple is a simultaneity of sweetness, roundness, smoothness, etc., not Kwame Nkrumah says that this is as if one could have soup any more, but only its ingredients, in his characteristic flashes of wit.
There are two aspects of the philosophical materialism of Consciencism. In its first aspect, it is a combative theory, seeking to destroy philosophical idealism to which it stands opposed. In its second aspect, it is ampliative. It seeks to give a general philosophical account of the world in exactly the same way as idealism is ampliative. Hence Consciencism not merely denies the theses of idealism: it substitutes for them its own theses.
Consciencism describes idealism variously as ‘intoxicated speculation’ and ‘the ecstasy of intellectualism’. In contrast, materialism is sober philosophy. The initial theses of materialism, according to Consciencism, are first the absolute and independent existence of matter; and second the assertion of the capacity of matter for spontaneous self-motion. And yet Consciencism criticises materialism. It would be too hasty to see a contradiction in this for the materialism of Consciencism asserts not the sole reality of matter, but its primary reality. The former materialism is said by Consciencism to be crude. This distinction, as Consciencism points out, makes it possible for materialism to accommodate certain hard facts. These are identified as those centering around the phenomenon of consciousness and of self-consciousness, the distinction between quantity and quality, and the relation between mind and matter. “Crude” materialism is besides incapable of explaining development.
The urge to change must be held to be endemic in matter. If philosophical materialism accepts change and development, then it must say this; for if all that there are matter and its products, matter must itself possess the ability to change in order that it should have products, as Consciencism conclusively establishes.
It is necessary for Kwame Nkrumah to show the possibility of the urge to change being endemic in matter. Characteristically, he first joins issue with those who denied to matter this urge, or what Consciencism calls the power of self-motion. He demonstrates that some of them, for example Locke, contradict themselves on this question, by first denying to matter the power of self-motion and subsequently giving the same power without explanation or apology to matter. The author cites various theories which appear to be silent on the self-motion of matter but in fact presuppose it. By discussing the possible sources of motion, he reaches the conclusion that the only satisfactory postulate is to acknowledge the power of self-motion of matter. He then cites a number of natural phenomena which lend support to this position.
Here too Kwame Nkrumah delves into the prejudices which might disincline some philosophers from allowing self-motion to matter.
Given that matter has an original power of self-motion, then it is only left to interpret the motion of matter in suitable ways in order to establish the logical possibility of affirming the primary reality of matter and nevertheless maintaining a distinction between consciousness and unconsciousness, consciousness and self-consciousness, quantity and quality, matter and energy, body and mind.
For this purpose, Consciencism isolates three types of motion. The first type is that which is involved in change of place, locomotion; the second type is rotary motion. And the third type is that which is involved in alteration of property.
According to Consciencism these types of motion lay the basis for what the book calls categorial conversion. Kwame Nkrumah defines the term in the following way: “By categorial conversion, I mean such a thing as the emergence of self-consciousness from that which is not self-conscious; such a thing as the emergence of mind from matter, of quality from quantity.” Consciencism appeals to the achievements of nominalism, constructionism, and reductionism in the field of categorial conversion. For example, it appeals to Russell’s Theory of Types. It also appeals to the achievements of mathematical logic; and finally to those of science.
Equipped with the ideas of categorial conversion, Consciencism then moves on to a complex discussion of philosophical problems involved in the “hard facts” already cited. Inevitably, perception has to be discussed in relation to the hard facts. It is at this point that Consciencism introduces the somewhat novel idea of qualities as perceptual surrogates. It is to be hoped that at a future date the author will develop this idea which is very interesting indeed.
There is a question which it is well to ask at once. Kwame Nkrumah says in Consciencism that philosophy has its roots in society. Has the materialism of Consciencism any roots, or let us say, antecedents in African society? This question is answered by the following quotation:
“The traditional African standpoint, of course, accepts the absolute and independent idea of matter. If one takes the philosophy of the African, one finds that in it the absolute and independent existence of matter is accepted. Further, matter is not just dead weight, but alive with forces in tension. Indeed for the African, everything that exists, exists as a complex of forces in tension. In holding force in tension to be essential to whatever exists, he is … like philosophical consciencists endowing matter with an original power of self-motion.”
The social significance of materialism will become clearer in what follows.
From the use to which the author puts philosophical materialism, it is evident that he sees the necessity for it in terms of three functions.
The first function is to yield the categories and general concepts in terms of which the superstructure of productive relations of a given society can be defined and appraised. This superstructure includes its ethics, its political theory, and other aspects of the society’s way of life. The way in which philosophical materialism determines this superstructure is illustrated by the educations in the fields of ethics, politics, law, religion, etc., which Consciencism makes from materialism.
The second function is to be in harmony with science which, as Consciencism indicates, is the most reliable form of human knowledge, and thereby to adumbrate a philosophy of science.
The third function is of course to refute philosophical idealism which it considers to be the mainstay of the ideological superstructure of relations of production which are alien to the African conscience.
By this conception of purpose, Kwame Nkrumah passes from the abstract to the concrete. One may give an illustration of this transition by considering his perspicuous discussion of the extent of what there is. Suppose one were to say that everything in the world could be obtained from a certain substance which, following Consciencism, may be called the cosmic raw material. Then another may feel like asking how much of the cosmic raw material there is, or whether it has a cause or not. One may now quote:
“It is worthy of note how this second question of philosophy in its first aspect stands vis-a-vis theological beliefs. In this aspect, the question relates to the possible origin of the cosmic raw material; … if … the cosmic raw material is conceived to have an origin, then one adopts a theist or deist position. In either case, one posits a force transcendent to the cosmic raw material, and which occasions it. One is a theist if one supposes that this transcendent force is nevertheless immanent after some fashion in what there is, continuing to affect it one way or another. If on the other hand one holds the force to be strictly transcendental, and excludes it from the world once made, then one is a deist …”
“If however the world is denied an outside, then one is an atheist. For this purpose, pantheism is but a kind of atheism. It is atheism using theological language.”
There follows a cogent discussion of the sort of grounds upon which one can speak of a finite or an infinite world. After this, we read:
“If however one postulates a cause for what there is (i.e. the cosmic raw material), one is hereby committed to the conception of an ‘outside’ and an ‘inside’ of the world.”
This cosmic contrast between the inside and the outside of the world is said to imply an acknowledgement that there is a process which commences outside the world and is converted into the world and its contents. The creation involves such an acknowledgement. So far the direction of the cosmic process is from outside the world to inside the world.
Now one may quote again:
“But especially when this conversion is thought to be reversible, a definite contradiction is created in society, the contradiction between interests inside the world and interests outside the world … “
“The contradiction takes effect when with the gaze steadfastly fixed upon things ‘outside’ the world, the requirements of earthly life, which in fact condition the existence of every human being, suffer neglect. This opposition of interests , this social opposition between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ is dialectical in nature and can be used to explain the course of many societies, including African societies. The course of such societies is determined by a see-saw; a contest between the inside and the outside, between the terms of the contradiction described above. It is the recognition of this kind of contradiction and the use to which it might be put in the exploitation of the workers that impelled Marx to criticise religion as an instrument of exploitation, because religion was used to divert the workers’ attention from the value which they had created by their labour to ‘outside’ concerns.”
Many African societies, adds the author, reduced this kind of contradiction between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ by making the visible world continuous with the invisible world. For them, he says, “heaven was not outside the world but inside it.”
Raising questions concerning the possible origins of matter in his materialism, Kwame Nkrumah decides that nothing inside the world, which is after all all that we can know, can be an indication of the origins of the cosmic raw material. In his own words, “there can … be no material grounds on which the adjectives, ‘caused’, ‘uncaused’, or ‘finite’, ‘infinite’, can be descriptively applied to the universe. No empirical discourse can logically constitute the material ground of any of these epithets. It is only left that they should be postulates”.
This quotation represents conclusions from immediately fore-going arguments. Kwame Nkrumah subsequently points out that his materialism has no implication of atheism. This is consistent with a statement which he made seven years ago to the effect that he is both a Marxist and a non-denominational Christian.
To understand the way in which materialism is held to lead to an ideological superstructure, it is necessary to clarify the mode of its application to society. Brief reference has already been made to the way in which a metaphysical question about the cosmic raw material may lead to belief in a force transcendental to the world, and hence to a cosmic contrast between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ applied to the world as a whole, and through this contrast to a religious creed and practice.
More generally, however, since Consciencism affirms the primary reality of matter it is obliged to hold that the unity of the world consists not in its being, but in its materiality. It is then bound to affirm that processes including social ones have a material basis and explanation.
Society therefore becomes in Consciencism one of the products of matter – a rather complex product admittedly. Social being also will then consist in the reproduction and maintenance of life by dependence on an organisation of productive forces and means, and productive relations. The relations between men which are brought about by man’s efforts to transform nature in order to reproduce and maintain life, affect, according to Consciencism, the social, political and intellectual processes in general. Hence it also affects the content of man’s consciousness. These processes are ideological, and, according to Consciencism, seek to consecrate the relations of production. This viewpoint is brilliantly developed in Consciencism in the discussion of instruments of ideology. For example, discussing the writing of African history, Consciencism has the following words:
“If African history is interpreted in terms of the interests of European Merchandise and capital … it is no wonder that African nationalism is, in the forms it takes, regarded as a perversion and neo-colonialism as a virtue.
In the new African renaissance, we place great emphasis on the presentation of history. Our history needs to be written as the history of our society, not as the story of European adventurers. African society must be treated as enjoying its own integrity; its history must be a mirror of that society, and the European contact must find its place in this history only as an African experience, even if as a crucial one. That is to say, the European contact needs to be assessed and judged from the point of view of the principles animating African society, and from the point of view of the harmony and progress of this society … African history can become a pointer at the ideology which should guide and direct African reconstruction.
This connection between an ideological standpoint and the writing of history is a perennial one. A check on the work of the great historians, including Herodotus and Thucydides, quickly exposes their passionate concern with ideology. Their irresistible moral, political and sociological comments are particular manifestations of more general ideological standpoints. Classically, the great historians have been self-appointed public prosecutors, accusing on behalf of the past, admonishing on behalf of the future. Their accusations and admonishings have been set in a rigid framework of presuppositions, both about the nature of the good man and about the nature of the good society, in such a way that these presuppositions serve as intimations of an implicit ideology”.
It is in this way that Consciencism attempts to explain how the presentation of history for example forms part of an ideological superstructure of the material basis of a society.
As regards ethics, the book says:
“The cardinal ethical principle of philosophical consciencism is to treat each man as an end in himself and not merely as a means … Egalitarianism is based on the monistic thesis of materialism. Matter is one even in its different manifestations … It is the basic unity of matter, despite its manifestations, which gives rise to egalitarianism. Basically, man is one, for all men have the same basis and arise from the same evolution according to materialism.”
The book then goes on to say that the basic unity of man requires that the cardinal principle of action should respect this basic principle; and that is that no man should be used merely as a means but always as an end. It is obvious that this cardinal principle offers a transition to the abolition of economic exploitation which essentially treats some men merely as means – and so it offers a transition to socialism.
It also offers a transition to politics whose conduct must reserve powers equally in the hands of all.
It is shown in Consciencism that ethical and political practices can be and must be combined within the framework of socialism. This immediately stirs up a hornet’s nest.
Kwame Nkrumah said several years ago that he was a Marxist. By this he means that certain ideas of Marx are relevant to the African situation, and if applied will in his own words, ensure for us “a harmonious growth” and such “transformations upon nature as will develop our environment for our better fulfilment”. These ideas have been embraced by him to serve as “ an instrument of national emancipation and integrity”.
“Every society”, he writes, “is placed in nature. And it seeks to influence nature, to impose such transformations upon nature, as will develop the environment of the society for its better fulfilment. The changed environment, in bringing about a better fulfilment of the society, thereby alters the society. Society placed in nature is therefore caught in the correlation of transformation with development. This correlation represents the toil of man both as a social being and as an individual. This kind of correlation has achieved expression in various social-political theories. For a social-political theory has a section which determines the way in which social forces are to be deployed in order to increase the transformation of nature.”
Kwame Nkrumah then proceeds to discuss various social-political practices which represent a correlation between transformation and development.
He begins with a discussion of slavery and feudalism. In both, he says, “workers, that is, the people whose toil transforms nature for the development of society, are dissociated from any say in rule. By a vicious division of labour, one class of citizens toils and another reaps where it has not sown.” He insists that in both the slave and the feudal society that part of society whose toil transforms nature is not the same as the part which is better fulfilled as a result of the transformation. Epigrammatically, he says that if by their fruits we shall know them they must first grow the fruits. “The cardinal factor of exploitation”, he says, “is that the section of a society whose labours transform nature is not the same as the section which is better fulfilled as a result of the transformation”.
This is proved by the author to be a social contradiction in so far as it is contrary to genuine principles of social equity and social justice. It is established further that it is contrary to a harmonious and unlimited economic development.
Socialism and capitalism are contrasted as social-political expression of the correlation between the transformation of nature in agricultural and industrial production and the development of the society through distribution. In this contrast, capitalism is said to to be a development by refinement or reform from slavery. He writes:
“In capitalism, feudalism suffers or rather enjoys reform, and the fundamental principle of feudalism merely strikes new levels of subtlety. In slavery, it is thought that exploitation, alienation of the fruits of the labour of others, requires a certain degree of political and forcible subjection. In feudalism, it is thought that a lesser degree of the same kind of subjection is adequate to the same purpose. In capitalism, it is thought that a still lesser degree is adequate … That development which capitalism marks over slavery and feudalism consists as much in the methods by means of which labour is coerced as in the mode of production”.
Kwame Nkrumah on the other hand identifies the social-political ancestor of socialism in communalism. “In socialism”, he writes, “the principles underlying communalism are given expression in modern circumstances. Thus, whereas communalism in an untechnical society can be laissez faire, in a technical society where sophisticated means of production are at hand, if the underlying principles of communalism are not given centralised and correlated expression, class cleavages will arise, which are connected with economic disparities, and thereby with political inequalities. Socialism, therefore, can be and is the defence of the principles of communalism in a modern setting.”
These considerations, as Kwame Nkrumah rightly points out, throws light upon the bearing of reform and revolution on socialism.
Engels at a meeting on Proudhon Association’s scheme in 1846 made the following statement:
“I define the objects of socialists in this way: first, to achieve the interests of the proletariat in opposition to those of the bourgeoisie; second, to do this through the abolition of private property and its replacement by community of goods; third, to recognise no means of carrying out these objects other than a democratic revolution by force.”
Engels’ definition of the objects of socialism is naturally to be understood in the context of his society which was bourgeois capitalist. Engels is therefore to be understood in that context as saying that the transition from capitalism to capitalism lay not in reform, not by workers buying out capital or by peaceful plans of happiness for mankind, to use his own words, but in revolution.
The revolution is not against society, but against capitalism, and both he and Marx saw in the proletariat that historic class which alone could bring about and achieve the revolution in their contemporary society.
This conclusion is of course based by Engels and Marx on an analysis of their contemporary society. The analysis itself relied on a theory which offers to show in respect of a society at any stage of development what its antecedents are and what its successor will be.
Marx himself, as should be well-known, was somewhat hesitant about the inevitability of every society passing through all the stages of development which he enumerated. And discussion of the stages outside Marx has appeared to acknowledge the possibility of jumps. It is necessary to say all this in order to appreciate correctly the place of Consciencism in socialist writing.
Now I quote from Kwame Nkrumah’s Consciencism on the bearing of revolution and reform on socialism.
“Revolution is an indispensable avenue to socialism, where the antecedent social-political structure is animated by principles which are a negation of those of socialism, as in a capitalist structure (and therefore also in a colonialist structure, for a colonialist structure is essentially ancillary to capitalism.) … But from the ancestral line of communalism, the passage to socialism lies in reform, because the underlying principles are the same.”
Naturally, it is the existing relations of production, the forms and ownership of capital, which must determine the method of transition to socialism.
The method of transition must in the revolution of Africa be by a mass party wielding positive action in order to overcome negative action. Kwame Nkrumah’s insistence on a mass party in Africa is correct, for unless an elite party is solely an administrative machinery which it never is, the elite party establishes a political oligarchy. And this would be a major betrayal of socialism.
“The socialism of a liberated territory”, Kwame Nkrumah writes with complete insight, “is subject to a number of principles, if independence is not to be alienated from the people. When socialism is true to its purpose, it seeks a connection with the egalitarian and humanist past of the people before their social evolution was ravaged by colonialism; it seeks from the results of colonialism, those elements (like new methods of industrial production and economic organisation) which can be adapted to serve the interest of the people; it seeks to contain and prevent the spread of those anomalies and domineering interests created by the capitalist practice of colonialism; it reclaims the psychology of the people, erasing the ‘colonial mentality’ from it; and it resolutely defends the independence and security of the people. In short, socialism recognises dialectic, the possibility of creation from forces which are opposed to one another; it recognises the creativity of struggle, and, indeed, the necessity of the operation of forces to any change. It also embraces materialism and translates this into social terms of equality. Hence philosophical consciencism.”
Consciencism is novel in many respects. It is novel in the originality of it arguments. It is novel in the method of its presentation, displaying in every nerve an intense passion for practice guided by thought, and thought issuing in action. It is a philosophy which yields a consistent and completely relevant theory for restoring “the egalitarianism of human society” and for achieving “the logistic mobilization of all our resources towards the attainment of that restitution”. It is a philosophy which pays “overriding regard to the experience and consciousness of a people”, and by doing so serves not an idea but a people. But its greatest novelty consists in its final chapter. This capter begins as follows:
“so alert can positive action be, alert to all negative possibilities, and prompt under the guidance of an ideology to deal with those possibilities, that the course of positive action can be mapped out in set theoretic terms”.
Here what Kwame Nkrumah does is to set out in precise mathematical symbols the essentials of Consciencism. This itself is a remarkable proof of the consistency and unity of the book.
Consciencism is a book which combines comprehensiveness of thought with subtlety and depth. It offers new and always consistent solution to outstanding problems of philosophy, political theory, social theory, and the strategy of development. It contains a wealth of illustrative material presented in a lucid and readable style.
Consciencism, ladies and gentlemen, has created its place among philosophical classics.
On behalf of the Committee for Education in Citizenship in the Universities of Ghana, I declare Consciencism launched.
THE CONCEPT OF COSMIC CONTRAST IN “CONSCIENCISM” A CONTRIBUTION TO MARXIST DIALECTICS
- What is the most problem now facing the under-developed countries in general and Africa in particular, but the satisfaction of the material and spiritual needs of the masses.
- Faced with this imperative, the leaders of the countries just referred to, have come to the conclusion that these needs can be met only by socialism.
- The first obstacle facing these leaders who believe that “practice without thought is blind”, lies in the statement which claims that it is the contradiction between capital and labour which alone produces socialism. Indeed, the economic weakness, which is a characteristic feature of the under-developed countries, means that as far as they are concerned, the contradiction between capital and labour has not as a rule succeeded in reaching its critical peak of development.
- The leaders who then turn to their societies to discover in their own tradition “an original method” of socialist development, encounter another obstacle which is even more serious, namely, the predominant part played by magic in the thought processes of those societies which Dr. Nkrumah has described as “communalist societies.”
- It is these two obstacles which Dr. Nkrumah has set himself to remove, in order to make it possible to achieve a rapid and harmonious development in the under-developed countries generally and in Africa in particular.
- Obviously, such a task can only be conceived theoretically. And it is this which justifies the rigorous theoretical method employed in Consciencism, a Philosophy and Ideology for decolonisation and development.
- Apart from his own intuitions, Dr. Nkrumah had to rely on the raw material inherent in the representation of communalist thought and the concepts of existing theoretical practice.
- As regards the representations of communalist thought, the theory already defended by Dr. Nkrumah in “MIND AND THOUGHT IN PRIMITIVE SOCIETY”, submitted as a doctoral thesis at the University of Pennsylvania, USA in 1943, is as follows:-
“It is ‘ pre-logical’ to regard the mind of one people as magical and another’s as rational. Magical (pre-logical) and rational thinking are all mental behaviour” (page 119 of the Manuscript deposited in the Ghana National Archives.)
9. From this dialectical analysis, the task of the theoretician 20 years later has been to raise communalist thought to the level of modern science, by producing the methods whereby the rationalist aspect of this thought could pass from a secondary to a dominant position.
10. When it comes to considering existing theoretical practice, a little reflection makes it possible to pin the obstacle down to the well-known simple process of two contraries: “ the duplication of THE ONE and the knowledge of its contradictory facets, is the substance (an “essence”, a feature, a basic peculiar peculiarity, if not the absolute fundament) of dialectics”. (Lenin: “Obiter Dicta”.)
11. This concept of the simple process of two contraries is also the very matrix of Hegelian dialectics.
12. Theoretical practice (which here concerns us), unlike Lenin’s political practice, has erected this Hegelian concept into a basic factor of Marxist dialectics.
13. “When one lacks the initiative to fight, and the fight ends in a series of defeats, mechanistic determinism becomes a tremendous force for moral resistance, cohesion and patient, stubborn perseverance.” (Gramsci “Oeuvres Choises”, Editions Sociales, Paris, pp 33, 34). This passage from Gramsci not only throws light on the probably subconscious reasons which have led many people to move away from the lessons of Lenin’s political practice, and seek refuge in the Hegelian dogma of the simple process of two contraries, but also demonstrates how very closely allied MECHANISTIC DETERMINISM is to the magic shield which is one of the forces making for the “moral resistance, cohesion and patient, stubborn perseverance” of communalist societies when confronted with imperialism.
14. With Consciencism, the simple process of two contraries, the theoretical foundation of mechanistic determinism, and the dominant magical aspect of communalist thought disappear in one fell swoop, if only because Consciencism gives us a new concept in cosmic contrast.
15. “There can be no material grounds on which the adjectives, ‘caused’, ‘uncaused’, or ‘finite’, or ‘infinite’, can be descriptively applied to the universe. No empirical discourse can logically constitute material ground of any of the epithets. It is only left that they should be postulates.”
“If, however, one postulates a cause for ‘what there is’, one is thereby committed to the conception of an ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ of the world. This need not lead to any irreducible contradiction, for whether the world is finite or infinite depends … upon the mode of conceiving of the world. Hence the opposition is strictly dialectical. Beyond mere formal dialectics, however, one significance of the cosmic contrast of the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of the world is that it implies an acknowledge that there is a conversion of a process which commences ‘outside’ the world into the world and its contents”. (Kwame Nkrumah, Consciencism, Heinemann, London.)
16. As will be seen, the concept of cosmic contrast is opposed to the theory of the identity of contraries, provided we conceive of “the simple process of two contraries”, as “the basic peculiarity if not the absolute fundament of dialectics”.) In other words, the concept of cosmic contrast is fundamentally opposed to the Hegelian concept of dialectics.
17. The opposition between the concept of cosmic contrast and the Hegelian concept of dialectics can be appreciated even more clearly when we view Hegelian unity and totality from within: “THE ONE which is duplicated into its contrary” implies a totality of substance, which is fundamentally contrary to the concepts of “the inside” and “the outside” of the world.
18. Since he has condemned Hegel and his dialectics even “in an upside down position”, Dr. Nkrumah could not possibly borrow Hegel’s concepts. Hence in Consciencism you will not find the concepts of thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis, affirmation, negation and negation of a negation etc….
19. With Consciencism new concepts have appeared: action, positive and negative, categorial conversion etc. The concept of action satisfies the complexity of the process, whereas categorical conversion implies a definite structure which makes it possible in given conditions to pass from one category to another, the transition itself being determined by the unequal development that exist as between positive and negative action.
20. The relationships between “the outside” and “the inside” within the cosmic contrast are governed by categorial conversion. A “positive category” is regarded as one stemming from categorial conversion having its origin from “outside” (out-in), and enriching the “inside” and its contents. As regards the negative categories, these are constituted by the illusion that there is a possibility to achieve a categorial conversion stemming from the “inside” and moving to the “outside” of the world (out-in), the result of which is to impoverish the “inside” and its contents, to the advantage of the “outside”. The categories which would arise from the categorical conversion “in-out” are theoretically null. However, in practice, they must be accounted for as negative, because in actual fact the decisive factor in their production as in the case of everything produced, in other words the precise moment of production and the methods used, constitutes a real loss for positive action, and consequently a genuine gain for negative action.
21. Cosmic contrast also implies that between the former category and the new one, there is never any identity of essence, since the categorial conversion brings about a real transformation.
22. Categorial conversion is also the theoretical foundation of the real existence of the multifarious categories which are mutually determined within the complex whole, dominated now by the negative aspect of the dominant contradiction, now by the positive aspect of the new dominant contradiction, after a categorial conversion.
23. The dismemberment of the structural pattern of the unity of the principal category and the reconstruction by means of the categorial conversion of a new structural pattern, that is a new principal category, do not imply the automatic disappearance of all of the former secondary categories which in a large measure are of a specific and autonomous character, one of which becomes the main contradiction within the reconstituted unity. Here is where we meet with one of the theoretical foundations, if not the real theoretical foundation of the possibility of the survival of the ideology of the primitive community in spite of the changed cultural pattern within the communalist society.
24. With the introduction of the concept of cosmic contrast which rids us of MECHANISTIC DETERMINISM and MAGIC, Dr. Nkrumah opens up to the under-developed countries in general and Africa a particular, the path to socialist development, whose index is represented by the formula d=pa/na, the theoretical basis of the ultimate determination by the economic factor.
THE MATHEMATICAL EQUATION FOR DEVELOPMENT
Mathematical method and logical reasoning are not really two watertight compartments, since the first is an extension of the second. Indeed, in any given phenomenon, we move from one to the other as soon as we can give the phenomenon we are dealing with spatial or numerical characteristics.
The definition of the field of mathematics as one of measurable magnitudes and their numerical or spatial correlations is essentially indicative, since mathematical exploration itself leads us finally to question the artificial barrier existing between the world of measurable magnitudes and the incommensurable world.
Does this mean that the use of mathematical symbolism cannot exist outside the area of what is measurable, outside spatial and numerical relations, unless we are merely toying with things?
For instance, let us take the symbolic representation of the world balance of forces in a colonial situation, as represented in Consciencism. Kwame Nkrumah uses “pa” to designate the sum of those forces seeking social justice in terms of the destruction of oligarchic exploitation and oppression. He then uses “na” to denote the sum of those forces tending to prolong colonial subjugation and exploitation. Here “pa” and “na” represent the “plenum of forces in tension”.
Generally speaking, since this is a social phenomenon, we are in fact dealing with a serious problem. Either we refuse to see our way clear, or we shall have to try to represent the phenomenon in a manner that will lead to a statistical approximation of the reality, since the opposition of forces, the plenum of forces in tension is a tangible reality. Fortunately in this instance statistics provide a link between the immeasurable and the exact sciences. It would not be logical to fight shy of representing this plenum of forces in two contradictory factors which are assessed through a statistical approximation, and believe in the concrete expression of the symbol “Yes” or “No” as used in the course of a referendum, for example.
Obviously Chapter V of Consciencism loses something of its urgency, for someone who immediately grasps fully and rationally the philosophical argument developed in the preceding chapters. It takes on the appearance of a transcription, a redundancy of a purely discursive ratiocination. And yet it makes it possible to give precision to thought, and throw light upon the connection that exists between philosophy and political action.
Chapter V seems, as it were, to serve as a parapet. In Africa we need to exert a special effort in order constantly to bring the multifarious concepts of modern life within the reach of the struggling masses, and make these concepts as concrete as we can.
Any book, and more particularly a philosophical work, runs the serious risk of being subjected to a vague kind of propaganda, where everyone expresses his own idea, and distorts and misinterprets the real meaning in the strangest possible manner.
In a social environment where magic still plays quite a substantial part in people’s thought processes and even in their concepts about life, social phenomena and political struggle particularly constantly provide a fulcrum for legends and myths. There is therefore an advantage, touching the people for whom the work is mainly intended, in placing at the disposal of their none too skilled cadres a condensed argument in a form that is absolutely accurate and easily assimilable, such as is provided by mathematical symbolism.
It may be further argued that the relations between symbols tend to remove some of the mysticism from political life. This is important in Africa today, because the demonstration of the fact that categorial change in a given social environment is merely a question of an inner dynamic on bringing into play the inner objective forces, really emphasises the point that the neo-colonialist tyrants can enjoy stability, only if the peoples’ consciousness remains asleep and the masses remain disunited. In actual fact, his condensed argument by way of a formula which limits the possibility of distortion by free comment also has another advantage. It provides an opportunity for a less naive approach to theoretical disquisitions on matters connected with the exact sciences and directly related to the problems of the revolutionary struggle.
For example, in Consciencism there is an index of development expressed as a relationship between “pa” and “na”: pa/na. We know very well that the idea of development is a pretext for anything in Africa. Is it not in the name of development that the puppet regimes seek to justify to the masses the need to maintain links of dependence with the former metropolitan powers? Is it not with a view to maintaining law and order in the interests of development that we are today witnessing in some African countries scenes of the heads of nationalists (patriots) massacred by foreign troops?
Is it not also in the name development that we observe in African countries under neo-colonialist regimes, that the masses are forced by the police into political parties of a fascist type?
In short the African people are made to believe by the puppets who are incapable of carrying out their responsibilities, that all the ills besetting them are pebbles on the beach of development. And yet the years roll by, and the fate of the African masses worsens rather than improves.
The formula d = pa/na teaches that development is first and foremost a question of an inner dynamic, which questions the internal human and material forces, and the way in which their relationship is evolving.
The struggle against under-development (and when we use the term under-development, we imply comparison with the highly industrialised nations) thus connotes two absolutely distinct factors.
1. First the internal progressive mobilisation which liberates the energies of the people, all the inner forces of positive action, and makes for genuine development, and
2. Secondly the struggle on the international plane against “the inequitable exchange” which characterises the trading relations between the non-industrialised countries and the industrialised States.
This is all that need be said, for I am sure you will discover for yourselves the wealth contained in this latest book by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. All that now remains for me to do is to join with you as a Freedom Fighter, in hailing the advent of this book.
Dr. Nkrumah’s book has come as a guide for action at a particularly crucial moment in the African people’s struggle. It has not been published to serve as a blind or blanket for armchair revolutionaries, still less as a means of enlivening the new “saloons of the rising African bourgeoisie”. It is a weapon of combat, a theory for the fight. All we need do is to understand and appreciate the fact, as the author himself puts it, that “practice without thought is blind and thought without practice is empty”. If we do so, Consciencism will have sounded the death-knell of all the neo-colonialist poltroons who inflict suffering and misery on the peoples of Africa, and will have ushered in a new era, the era of Africa united, socialist and prosperous.
A new development of Marxism in the era of the collapse of imperialism and colonialism in Africa
I. The publication of Consciencism at this period in our history is of immense and epoch-making significance not only for Africa, but for the whole world. A philosophical work of great magnitude and depth has been unfolded to us.
Ideology plays a very significant role in social life and in the history of society. Arising as a reflection of the conditions of the material life of society, ideology exercises on its own part an active influence on society.
Hence Consciencism has been correctly described as the philosophy and ideology for de-colonization and development with particular reference to the African Revolution.
II. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin on the eve of the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution was compelled to re-state and defend the philosophy of Marxism, i.e. dialectical materialism against the attempts of some Russian intellectuals who falsely claimed that they had revised and perfected Marxism.
The result was of course Lenin’s great philosophical work Materialism and Empirio-Criticism published in 1908. Lenin’s philosophical work was not merely a restatement and defence of Marxism, but was a further development of the theoretical and ideological weapon with which Lenin armed the Russian workers, peasants and progressive intellectuals to asail and overthrow oppressive Tsarism and establish the people’s power.
This was at the period of the 1st World War (1914 -1918) when the system of imperialism was first breached, and the first Socialist state in the world – the U.S.S.R., emerged on the world scene. Though I have spoken of Lenin, this has only been to illustrate how in the concrete situation of the nationalist struggle a leader has to think through principles afresh and develop them to meet the needs of his particular country and people.
Kwame Nkrumah does not take his beginning from Leninism but from a survey of philosophy.
III. Kwame Nkrumah with his Philosophical Consciencism has performed a task monumental in its scope, for the African Revolution and the world in the second half of the 20th century, the period of the collapse of imperialism and colonialism in Africa.
Philosophy is the attempt to understand the nature of the world and our place and destiny in it.
The task of philosophers has always been to enrich the understanding and to generalise its conclusions.
IV. This is precisely what Kwame Nkrumah has done in his Philosophical Consciencism. The measure of his great achievement is the extent to which he has succeeded in expressing the philosophical generalisations of past historical epochs with his own philosophical beliefs, with the totality of the social, political and scientific knowledge now available. In this sense, Kwame Nkrumah’s is a unique and original contribution to philosophy in general and to a new development of Marxism in particular.
In the words of the author himself “ Our Society is not the old society, but a new society enlarged by Islamic and Euro-Christian influences. A new emergent ideology is therefore required, an ideology which can solidify in a philosophical statement, but at the same time an ideology which will not abandon the original humanist principles of Africa. Such a philosophical statement will be born out of the crisis of the African Conscience confronted with the three strands of present African Society.
Such a philosophical statement I propose to name Philosophical Consciencism, for it will give the theoretical basis for an ideology whose aim shall be to contain the African experience of the traditional African Society, and, by gestation, employ them for the harmonious growth and development of that society.” (p. 70).
V. Philosophical Consciencism is thus a new and creative development of Marxism in African conditions and experience. Both in belief and in action a Marxist is a humanist, he lives by human values achieved through human action.
This humanism, as Kwame Nkrumah expounds in minute detail and with such clarity and lucidity, is consistent with the traditional African way of life. The respect for human individuality and human capacity finds its logical basis in the understanding of society and its transformations given us by Marxism, and today reaffirmed anew and developed to a higher level for us by philosophical consciencism.
The fundamental task of philosophy is to discover and generalise the laws of change and development manifested in nature and society. These most general laws, the laws of dialectics, provide the theoretical weapon, the method for understanding and changing society.
VI. In our own African experience and environment philosophical consciencism is such a philosophy. It generalises the laws of change and development in Africa not only from the discoveries of science and Marxism, but from the whole complex of the movement of African Society in its entirety.
This means concretely that philosophical consciencism not only generalises the laws of change and development in Africa, but provides us with the theoretical and intellectual means for understanding the forces at work in our society, and what is more, how to organise and harness those forces (1) for the total liberation of Africa from imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism (2) for the intensification of the struggle for real and effective African Unity and (3) for the building of Socialism in Africa.
The problem therefore of interpreting African Society, has become the problem of how to change our society with the philosophy and ideology of Philosophical consciencism as our intellectual guide.
VII. As in France at the end of the 18th century, when materialism fought and won against every kind of medieval rubbish, against feudalism in institutions and ideas; as Leninism became the revolutionary theoretical weapon with which the working people of the Socialist half of the world fought and defeated capitalism after the 2nd World War, a period of the general crisis of imperialism, so in the second half of the 20th century, Kwame Nkrumah’s philosophical consciencism will prove to be the only consistent philosophy and ideology of the African revolution, true to all the teachings and discoveries of natural science and Marxism. Philosophical consciencism is the theoretical weapon with which the aroused masses of the African people will unite and smash the beleaguered ramparts of imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism.
28TH March, 1964.
THE ROLE OF CATEGORIAL CONVERSION IN THE DECOLONIZATION OF AFRICA
H. M. BASNER
Socialists who differ philosophically about the nature of reality may travel a long way together politically. But part they must, eventually, and the bitterness in which they part will bear a direct ratio to the length of time during which their differences have been concealed. In philosophy as in war the sudden strife between kinsfolk can be the most destructive, and therefore the socialist movement should remain in continuous philosophical debate.
Even the point of revolt against capitalism need not necessarily be the point of parting between socialists who accept an idealistic or materialistic explanation of reality; but the first essay in building the new society will bring irreconcilable conflicts to the surface. The gods which die in every revolution will not lie quietly in the grave. The believers who wait for their resurrection will contend with the unbelievers who want to burn the remains and scatter the ashes.
The fiercest polemics in Marx’s career were not reserved for idealistic philosophers or bourgeois economists; they were reserved for materialists who distorted his dialectic, and for socialists who misunderstood the role of the class struggle.
For Marx, the doom of the capitalist system was axiomatic, but the nature of its successor depended on far more than a change in the mode of production. The revolutionaries had to know what they were doing, or the state would not wither away. And unless the state withered away, the real history of humanity would not begin.
For Lenin, however, the heresy-hunt for idealists and metaphysicians in the ranks of the revolutionary socialists became a matter of supreme importance, for achieving the revolution itself. Accusing Bukhanin, Zinoviev, Trotsky and other leading theoreticians in his party of God-seeking, he was prepared to break with them utterly unless they renounced their views.
The First World War proved Lenin to be right. Only the tempered dialectical materialists of his own party could withstand the full blast of imperialist duress and propaganda. All the other socialist parties voted war credits for their governments and led the workers to the slaughter.
But the understanding of reality cannot spread as fast as illusion and error in human societies still involved in varying degrees with capitalism. As a recoil from religious and rationalistic philosophies, it becomes easy to accept materialism as if it were an automatic repudiation of humanism. This is throwing the baby with the bathwater, and it happens in philosophy far more often than in any other intellectual pursuit. Marxists become immersed in monism, empiricism and pragmatism as eagerly as the metaphysicians have always taken to rationalism and mysticism. Even Marxist-Leninists could distort dialectical materialism by divorcing completely humanism from the politics of power.
The author of Consciencism, asserting the philosophical conclusions of dialectical materialism, begins his book by reprinting a passage from a letter by Engels warning that Marx and he had never claimed that the economic factor is the only determining one. “According to the materialistic conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. More than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic factor is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase …”.
Engels goes on to suggest that it is the younger people who sometimes lay more stress on the economic side than is due to it. But the letter was written 1890, and today it is the “angry young men” who react against the sole occupation with economic factors in the Marxist parties both within and outside the socialist countries.
As we read “Consciencism”, we begin to understand why the author made the Engels letter the keynote to his book. He is concerned mainly with the humanism in African society before its involvement with capitalism, and means to prove that it has withstood and will withstand the determining factors of capitalism. He includes the Euro-Christian and Islamic influences in Africa among the factors which brought these changes into African society, and concludes that their quantitative effects could not bring a qualitative change.
The importance of these philosophical assertions in the field of politics lies in the further assertion that where the original communalism still remains fundamentally humanistic, a transition to socialism can take place through reform and not necessarily through revolution. A humanist society is one where each man is considered an end in himself and not a means. No capitalist society can attain to this as man is first of all a means.
Kwame Nkrumah asserts that in Africa the capitalist system has not taken sufficient hold to necessitate the kind of revolution which must destroy capitalism on other continents. Reforms, of course, must be quantitative changes of a revolutionary kind, or they cannot be regarded as reforms at all.
The basis of these assertions depends on the philosophical principle which the author calls “categorial conversion”. This depends on the ability of matter, the basic raw material of the world, to produce consciousness, which can be explained in terms of overt response to stimuli, and for this consciousness to produce self-consciousness, of which we have only an internal experience.
“By categorial conversion”, says the author of Consciencism, “I mean such a thing as the emergence of self-consciousness from that which is not self-conscious; such a thing as the emergence of mind from matter, of quality from quantity”.
The author insists that it is the task of philosophy only to prove the possibility of this conversion, and that tracing the details of conversion is one of the tasks of science.
In the political field, the main interest lies in the categorial conversion of quantity to quality; whether the quantity of change in human environment can produce a qualitative change in human society. If it cannot do so then no amount of revolutionary change will abolish the exploitation of man by man, of man’s inhumanity to man, of man’s continual flight from reality to the realms of superstition. If it can do so, then no amount of sacrifice is too great to achieve socialism – to change the environment created by slavery, feudalism and capitalism in the past, which has brought wars, imperialism, racial intolerance and religious superstition.
In the political field in Africa, the conception of categorial conversion raises additional problems. We know for certain that in most areas of the world, the original communalism of early human societies has undergone qualitative changes. Nothing short of further qualitative changes can eradicate capitalism, (internal exploitation), and imperialism, (external exploitation), from the societies which have undergone a categorial change from communalism. The basic humanism of these societies has disappeared, and can only appear again, (in a higher form, if at all), through revolution.
Is it true of Africa? The author of Consciencism says no. He asserts that the basic humanism of African society has not disappeared, and will therefore embrace socialism willingly and not necessarily through compulsion.
It follows that the dictatorship of the proletariat, (Marx’s means of compelling a capitalist system to change over to socialism), will not be a necessary condition for revolution in a society which is basically humanistic. It also follows, however, that without the comparatively simple device of proletarian dictatorship, the tasks of eradicating and suppressing capitalist manifestations in Africa will be more complicated and may take longer.
The one-party state is close enough to proletarian dictatorship to make superficial analogies possible. Yet the tendency to twist the materialist conception of history into an acceptance of the economic element as the only determining one, still remains the main characteristic of Western revolutionary socialism, whilst the main characteristic of socialism in Africa may become a tendency to under-rate the economic factor.
CONSCIENCISM puts the economic factor into its correct place, as the primary but not the only determining factor of human society. That is the great contribution of this book to the socialist movement. The decolonization of Africa is analysed in philosophical terms, so that the political tasks of socialists in Africa will be distinguished from, and co-ordinated with, the tasks of socialists where different conditions prevail.
The mental energy and profundity of mind which can embark on an exercise of this kind, when Kwame Nkrumah is immersed in the political chores of administering a developing country and of uniting a divided continent, are too apparent to need under-lining.
ON THE APPLICATION OF CONSCIENCISM IN GHANA AND AFRICA
The viewpoint of Consciencism is that philosophy arises from and operates within the context of a given society. This viewpoint asserts that “philosophy always arose from social milieu and that a social contention is always present in it”. We are here concerned with the second aspect of the assertion, namely, the “social contention” of the new philosophy. We should try to see how philosophical consciencism seeks to affect its social milieu which is Ghana in particular and Africa in general.
It is necessary at the outset to clear up what seems, to the lay mind, a confusion of terms and isms. Here in Ghana, we have all heard of scientific socialism. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah himself has stated openly that “Ghana has taken the road of scientific socialism”. We have also heard of Nkrumaism ; and only recently this term was defined as the ideology for the new Africa. And now Dr. Nkrumah, in his new work, gives the world the philosophy of Consciencism.
Superficially this seems to be some confusion. But, on closer examination, there is in fact no confusion at all.
Ghana has embraced the ideology of socialism and to Dr. Nkrumah there is only one socialism, namely scientific socialism. And this is correct. Nkrumaism is the application of this scientific socialism to the historical conditions and aspirations of Africa. Consciencism, on its part, is the philosophical or theoretical basis of Nkrumaism. Consciencism is thus the intellectual tool of the ideology for the new Africa, very much as mathematics often serves as the tool of physics or statistics as a tool of economics, or religion as a tool of ethics. Thus, Consciencism serves Nkrumaism and Nkrumaism is the particularisation of scientific socialism to emergent Africa.
The “social contention” of Consciencism in Ghana and in Africa can be said to be the evolution of a body of principles, which, by guiding the thinking and actions of all Africans, will establish a common range of behaviour for all. This range of behaviour becomes the foundation of social cohesion in Ghana and Africa. It sets out the moral, social and political values to which all the cultural strands in present-day African society should conform.
Ghanain society is a microcosm of African society today. In it the three layers of present-day African society are to be found. These are the strands of traditional Africa, of Islamic Africa and of Euro Christian Africa. Consciencism sets out to provide a set of values (a body of coherent principles) which can provide a rational rallying point for the best in each of these three components of present-day Africa.
In this grand effort to provide a rational harmony out of the three Africas, consciencism has to fight on at least three planes, everywhere applying uncompromisingly the test of reality. Reality is objective and is discovered through practical struggle. Active struggle is thus the means and the test of all knowledge.
Consciencism has to fight in the field of philosophy. It has to fight in the field of moral and social theory. And it has to fight in the field of political theory and practice. Put in another way, Consciencism has its philosophy, its moral and social theory, and arising from these, a political theory. The practical application of consciencism in Ghana and Africa involves a sustained struggle in all three categories of thought.
Consciencism’s philosophy is based on the following principles:-
- that matter is the source of all knowledge;
- that matter is a “plenum of forces in tension”;
- that because it is a plenum of forces in tension, matter is capable of self induced motion;
- that the motion of matter is both unilinear and in leaps, that is to say, change in matter is both quantitative and qualitative;
- that mind has a distinct existence even though it is a product of matter;
- that there is interaction between matter and mind but that matter is primary;
- that in this interaction of matter and mind, assumptions, theories and conclusions are permissible but that such assumptions, theories and conclusions are valid only when confirmed in practice.
This philosophy is materialist in content. Its approach is rational. Its touch-stone is practice.
When we turn to the practical application of this philosophy the first step is to clear our individual thinking of the cobwebs of irrationality, half-truths, unproved assertions and superstitions. We have to subject the ideas floating about in our individual minds to the test of rationality and above all to the test of practice. We have to reject all ideas and notions that can neither be verified nor confirmed by practice.
As regards the thinking of the community, Consciencism enjoins that we wage a relentless war against mysticism, magic and all those views which postulate the supernatural in an attempt to explain phenomena and events around us. If there is any phenomenon which we cannot explain, then this must be due to the fact that our knowledge is still limited. We cannot go by way of claiming that the phenomenon is supernatural and hence inexplicable in terms of human reason.
It is here that Consciencism will perhaps have to fight its fiercest battles. For the primitive (ie. uncultivated) African mind has a propensity towards mysticism and supernaturalism. (Incidentally this is a feature of primitive minds everywhere). The liberation of the African mind from such severe limitations is a social objective or mission of Consciencism. And this mission will be achieved to the extent that we can fish out, grapple with and vanquish all unprovable or unverifiable assertions, theories, ideas and beliefs. In philosophical terms, Consciencism has to do battle with idealism and its hand-maiden metaphysics. A little reflection will show what immense gains the African will make once he liberates himself and his society from the crippling mental cogs of mysticism and superstition. A little reflection also will show how much more successful the African will be in transforming his environment once he enthrones action ( ie. practice) as the touch-stone of knowledge in place of metaphysics( ie. abstruse reasoning).
Consciencism has its moral and social theory. Its principal tenets are:-
- that all men are equal;
- that each man is an end in himself and not just the means to an end;
- that the group is responsible for the individual;
- that the free development of the group is the condition for the free development of the individual.
Here again, the student of Consciencism has got to come to grips with other moral and social theories. For example, he simply cannot tolerate a moral or social theory which preaches racial discrimination as in South Africa, and racial superiority as in Central America and the USA, or racial supremacy as under fascism. Nor can Consciencism accommodate social theories that support a caste system whether this is based on religion as in India, or on the colour of the skin as in South Africa and the Southern States of the USA., or on birth as under feudalism or on the control of the means of production as under capitalism. These systems are either founded upon or have come to accept the inequality of man. They are opposed to the view that the group is responsible for the individual and that the activity of the individual must conduce to the well-being of the group. Consciencism condemns and rejects that development of the individual which results in the cramping or stunted growth of other individuals.
Again, the moral theory of Consciencism will have a great effect on religious values. Consciencism does not quarrel with religion which it recognises as a necessary instrument for spreading moral values in any community. But Consciencism is vitally interested in the moral values disseminated by religions. Because they uphold the system of apartheid, the teachings of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, for example are antithetical to Consciencism. Nor can Consciencism reconcile itself either with that practice of Islamic religion that supports slavery or with that form of paganism which endorses human sacrifice. These values, though shrouded under the cloak of religion, are harmful, wrong and repugnant to Consciencism because they violate the dignity of man and negate the principle of the equality of man. The principal significance of Consciencism in the field of religion lies in this fact, namely, that it compels a re-examination and re-evaluation of the moral values upheld by every religion. The aim of such a re-evaluation must be to enthrone the view of man set out at the beginning of this section.
Other fields in which the moral and social theory of Consciencism must go to war include social institutions (i.e. marriage, chieftaincy) culture, folklore, traditions and customs (e.g. childcare and inheritance). These must be thoroughly investigated in order to discover whether they support or negate the consciencist view of man. Do they uphold the equality of man or the reverse? Do they reflect the concern of all for each or do they support sectional interest and privileges at the expense of the whole community? These are the yardstick by which all existing institutions, traditions, customs, folklore and culture generally are to be measured. To the extent that they support this egalitarian view of man as an end in himself, to that extent are these institutions, folklore, customs and traditions in keeping with Consciencism and hence could be categorised as positive.
Basing itself squarely on dialectical materialism and on its moral and social theory, outlined above, Consciencism has evolved a political theory of its own. The State is the instrument for establishing and defending “definite ranges of behaviour” without which social cohesion or the “dynamic unity” which society implies is impossible. The State accepts man as an end in himself. It accepts the equality of men. It sets out to regulate men and things in such a way that the “responsibility of the many for one” is established and the “development of all is the condition for the development of each”. It holds that this view of man which is basic to socialism is the very essence of traditional African society. Thus in socialism the essence of traditional Africa comes into its full glory.
Right through history, the control of the means of production has been the decisive factor in regulating the social life of men. This has become even more so in the modern society where sophisticated methods of production, once left uncontrolled, have given birth to small exploiting classes wielding concentrated economic power over the rest of society. And the existence of such classes, in whose hands economic power is concentrated, means in practice the destruction of the equality of man. It negates the responsibility of the many for each. And the development of all as the condition for the development of each is turned upside down.
The political theory of Consciencism therefore enjoins a collective (that is, State) control of the means of production. Hence socialism.
Once again, in this field of political theory and practice, the key to development is action. All actions that support the socialist ideology and its African particularity, namely Nkrumaism, are classified as positive. Those that oppose it are classified negative. The strategy of development is to maximise positive action, to ensure that pa is greater than na and that pa grows while na decreases. Action here must be defined as much more than deeds. It includes ideas and thinking. Maximising positive action therefore involves multiplying deeds that pull in the right direction as well as making generally acceptable only those ideas, beliefs and process of thinking that pull in the same direction. Of course it also involves doing the reverse to negative deeds, ideas, beliefs and thought processes.
We have seen that the nature of modern technology and the social cleavages it can engender, if left in the hands of individuals, have compelled the centralised control of the means of production. But the principle of the fullest development of all enjoins a maximum expansion of production as well as a fair distribution of the fruits of labour.
The solution to the production problem (namely a manifold expansion of output) on which the fullest development of all hinges demands two conditions:-
- the use of the most up-to-date technology; and
- an optimum area of development.
The social condition is consequential on the first, for the fullest development of modern industrial technology cannot be achieved until an optimum area within which development can be self-induced is assured.
This optimum area of self-induced development must necessarily be a vast land mass with a big population. The vast land mass is required because a wide variety of geographical regions and rock formations is needed to yield all the agricultural and mineral products on which modern industrialism depends. These are coal (both bituminous and anthracite), petroleum, hydro-electric potential, waterways, iron, non-ferrous metals (like aluminum uranium zinc, lead, copper), diamonds, gold, nitrates, phosphates, oil and the wide variety of agricultural raw materials which go into the manufacture of consumer goods. A big population is needed in order to provide the various types of labour skills in the quantity required. Even more important is the need for a vast and expanding market internal and external for the mass-produced goods of a highly technical industrial system.
These conditions are not satisfied within any existing African State. Hence, there must be a coming together of many African states to satisfy these requirements. And judging from the historical experiences of the U.S.S.R., U.S,A. and now People’s China, it is obvious that the optimum area of self-induced development, in our case, must be the entire African continent.
We may summarise the chain of argument in this section. Consciencism, in its insistence on the fullest development of each individual, leads logically to the fullest utilisation of up-to-date technology and modern science. The fullest utilisation of technologies and science in turn demands an optimum area if development is to be self-induced and must be the case once we are serious about maintaining and consolidating our independence. Lastly, the necessity of an optimum area of self-induced development leads inexorably to the continental unity of Africa.
Let us now turn to consider how to maximise positive action, that is how to maximise deeds and ideas that lead to the triumph of the ideology of socialism and its African particularity Nkrumaism. Consciencism enjoins two methods which are mutually supporting. These are:-
- a mass political party armed with the ideology of Nkrumaism;
- constant education inside and outside of the mass party.
The mass party is the vehicle for spreading positive action among the broad masses. In this process it has to draw heavily on those social and economic forces which stand to gain most by the victory of Nkrumaism. Simultaneously the level of political understanding of the members of the mass party will have to be raised by constant ideological education.
This mass party therefore becomes the instrument of ideological mobilisation. Its aim is to maximise positive action and minimise negative action. For as soon as the stage pa greater than na is reached, there is a dialectic change in society. The road is open for a rapid advance to socialism.
In terms of present day Africa, Consciencism teaches a revolutionary break from colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism. And once this break is achieved, we can reach out into socialism wherein the essence of traditional African life rediscovers itself in modern surroundings.
It is important to note here that the role of the mass party is not confined to Ghana. It does its job on a continental scale. Accordingly we are invited to recognise the continental mass party emphasizing the socialist ideology of Nkrumaism as the means by which we can approach continental African unity with surer and steadier strives.
With the launching of Consciencism, Ghana has become the nursery of a new school of thought in modern philosophy. The new philosophy has to be carefully tended. But, and this is important, this new philosophy must be exposed to the rigours of the elements. No plant ever grows robust and hardy if tended in hot houses. Consciencism must get out into the streets and the villages; it must go among the people and attain maturity by fighting for its very existence among hostile and rival ideas.
Clearly therefore there is need for the springing up all over this country and throughout Africa circles of consciencists which study the tenets of Consciencism and spread them among our people, more especially among the intelligentsia. The circles of consciencists should be nurtured through a steady stream of lectures, discussions, seminars, symposiums organised jointly by the Departments of Philosophy, Science and Government in our universities, the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute and the Education Department of the Party. There will be need to liaise with the Committees for Education in Citizenship.
The most effective instrument for co-ordinating and guiding the work of these circles of consciencists is a philosophical journal. Such a journal will discuss all ideas, beliefs, theories, social institutions, customs and traditions in contemporary Africa in the light of Consciencism.
In this way a robust new school of thought which is linked with world knowledge but distinctively African will emerge. The result is bound to be of great significance to the evolution of the New Africa and a real contribution to the enrichment of world thought.
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