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Communist "Morality"? March 2, 2004 by RedStar2000


This is a brief and somewhat abstract discussion of "communist morality". It's certainly not intended to be "definitive"...like Leon Trotsky's Their Morals and Ours.

My basic point here is that unless we were able to know all of the ultimate consequences of any act...it's simply impossible to judge abstractly what is "moral" or what is "immoral".

Thus we should make the most rational choices that we can -- in the light of past experience...and "see how they turn out".

As time passes and experience accumulates, we ought to be able to make better choices.


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I've often had occasion to mention that I never thought Lenin, Stalin, Mao, et.al. were "evil" guys...they all were sincere "communists" who believed they were "doing the right thing" even when it was wrong. Difficult as it is to conceive, the same was probably true even of Pol Pot.

But there's this: what difference do the individual's "convictions" make if, in the light of subsequent knowledge, the deeds themselves turned out to be "evil"?

Since we can't predict the outcomes of our actions, every time we act we risk "doing evil" no matter how much we are determined to refrain from that.

Thus, is there any reason to concern ourselves with abstract determinations in advance? If we do whatever we think necessary to accomplish our ends -- and subsequent consequences turn out to be "good" -- then would the "moral content" of the deeds at the time been a relevant consideration?

In other words, what makes the deeds of Stalin or Mao into "crimes" is the fact the Russia and China returned to capitalism instead of progressing to communism. Had those two countries really progressed to communism, then those same deeds might have been regarded as "deplorable necessities" or even "regrettable excesses"...but not "crimes".

Perhaps it can be argued that no "good" can result from an "evil" deed. But it seems to me to be difficult to make that argument plausible; what of the assassination of a tyrant, for example?

Murder is wrong...except when the intended victim really has it coming.

There are certain actions that I would oppose as contrary to communist principles -- because I think they have been demonstrated in practice to undermine the purposes of the communist project.

But that's not really an "ethical" objection; it's a pragmatic one.
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First posted at Che-Lives on February 20, 2004
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quote:

Are you using communism as a moral code? Is something moral if it benefits the progression of communism? Is it immoral if it stops the progression of communism?


Indeed I am. From the subjective viewpoint of the slave, any action that results in escape from slavery or, better still, the abolition of slavery (no possibility of ever being returned to slavery) is "morally good". Conversely, any action that strengthens the chains on one's person or strengthens slavery as an institution is "morally evil".

As a "wage-slave" throughout most of my life, I have the same "moral priority".

Of course, the slave-master or the capitalist would reverse my moral verdicts...and, indeed, the great bulk of humanity might be (temporarily) in agreement with them.

The Christian "Bible" has no problem at all with slavery...only with disobedient slaves.

But I don't care what they think about the matter. As far as I'm concerned, my emancipation is the "ultimate moral good" and any action that strengthens me and weakens them is "morally good".

quote:

Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it. --Malcolm X


That really doesn't tell me anything because of the unspoken assumption that we both know what "wrong" is and why.

And, since we know historically of Malcolm's religious background, we know that he had a "moral code" that came "from the sky" and was not based on real human needs.

quote:

So were Stalin's and Mao's actions evil universally or just evil because they regressed into capitalism?


Just "evil" because Russia and China went back to capitalism. As I said earlier, had Russia and China gone on to successfully achieve communism, then the "evil deeds" would have been "transformed" in the light of their consequences -- perhaps not into "pure good", but likely would be considered "mistakes", "regrettable excesses", "unnecessary misunderstandings", blah, blah, blah.

Sort of the way that some imperialist scholars speak of Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- they were not really "necessary to win the war against Japan" -- but the important thing is that "we won" and everything else kind of fades into the background.

I think the idea of a "flexible social contract" -- we all agree that murder is generally wrong but we may make exceptions to that under certain circumstances -- is a sound approach.

But until we can negotiate the terms of that contract as real equals, I have to fall back on my own self-interest...getting rid of wage-slavery for once and for all.
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First posted at Che-Lives on February 22, 2004
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quote:

...why is slavery morally bad?


Perhaps the "moral evil" of slavery has a biological origin.

All of the primates and even the higher reptiles will initially try to escape any restraint upon their autonomy.

I'm told that the easiest way to make an infant cry is to hold its hands in such a way that it cannot move them freely.

There is something very deep in our evolutionary history that "insists" that being compelled to do the will of others rather than our own will is "wrong" and "evil".

Being rational, we can accept certain limited restraints on our will "for the common good"...but even that doesn't stop us from cursing the light that turns red as we approach the intersection.

quote:

First of all, are you honestly saying the [Malcolm X] quote has no relevance outside of religion?


It may have had some relevance to him...but it doesn't mean anything to me.

Since he was a devout Muslim (as far as is known), there are many things he would think that were "right" or "wrong" that would strike me as morally neutral or irrelevant.

The way a woman dresses in public, for example.

quote:

Second, if we can not assume what is right, then why must every man abide by the social contract that rules his or her society?


He need not...and, in fact, I don't.

I would not even think of stealing from people in my class (or those even poorer than I am). But on those rare occasions that I had the opportunity to "steal from the rich" without getting caught, I cheerfully took advantage.

(Unfortunately, the opportunities were rare indeed and the sums were trivial...I never "worked" at being a thief. Had I taken it seriously, I could have become the CEO of a major corporation and stolen a billion or two!)

quote:

Can't the action of purges be taken individually, not connected with Russia's current stage?


Sure they can and were at the time...plenty of people from all over the political spectrum said Stalin was "mad", "criminal", "psychotic", a "red fascist", etc., etc., etc.

My point is that, as time passes and the long range consequences emerge, we get a "clearer" picture of what really happened and how much moral "weight" to give the deeds of the past.

Of course, that implies that future generations will have an even "clearer" picture than we do.

For example, some historian of 2200 might conclude that Stalin's crimes dug the grave for Leninism and thus allowed real communism to emerge in the late 21st century...making what he did "a good thing" in the long run.

quote:

It can not be too vague, otherwise we get wrapped up in endless debate.


I sort of expect communist society to be one of "endless debate"...that really doesn't "bother" me.

The "right balance" between individual autonomy and social obligation may not exist, or may exist only temporarily and have to be constantly renegotiated.

Certainly that would be superior to a "rigid code of conduct" that would run aground on the first occasion that it met an unanticipated situation.

Or so it seems to me.
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First posted at Che-Lives on February 28, 2004
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quote:

...but what about S&M freaks? They like to be restrained...answer that smart man....


Well, the range of human behavior is wide and people become erotically aroused by some of the oddest things.

According to the media, Washington D.C. prostitutes say that a surprising number of "men of power" become aroused by being tied up, whipped, verbally humiliated, ridden like ponies, etc.

If Bill Clinton can get a blow job in the Oval Office, who can say what Mistress Rice and George W. get up to?

One theory has it that these "men of power" know that they don't really "deserve" their exalted status; thus volunteering for "punishment" will somehow avert the "wrath of fate" against their "unjustified" pretensions.

But this kind of stuff is "not really my field", so...

quote:

Social equality is morally neutral to you?


How did we get to that from Malcolm X's quote? He made a general statement, remember. "Wrong is wrong no matter who does it".

And my response was and remains: he assumes that we know and agree in all cases what "wrong" is.

That's not a valid assumption.

quote:

Should/could this philosophy be applied in a communist society and be thought of as legitimate?


I'm not sure. But remember that there are many fewer reasons to have to "look out for No. 1" in a communist society. No one is trying to use you, exploit you, enslave you, etc. (Well, there may be a few assholes who try, but they won't get very far with it.)

In any class society, the "social contract" is rigged in favor of the ruling class and against the exploited class.

Therefore, it may be and often is entirely moral to "break" that contract.

In real revolutions, the social contract is "torn up" and we start fresh.

quote:

Also are you saying that you would be justified in stealing from any rich person?


Oh, absolutely! But remember the 11th Commandment and keep it wholly: Thou shalt not get caught!

quote:

But then we can't judge any situation because we haven't seen the FINAL FINAL FINAL result.


I quite agree. Early in this thread, I suggested that we simply pursue our goals in the most rational fashion we can and not "worry" about "morality"...because we have no way of really knowing how it's all "going to turn out".

The reason not to act like Lenin, Stalin, etc. is not because they were immoral bastards who deliberately chose to do evil...it's because their methods do not advance the cause of communism.

In fact, the "lesson of history" seems to be that almost regardless of your aims, extremely harsh and brutal tactics are counter-productive. They may "work" for a little while...but they arouse such furious resentment that eventually you lose all that you "gained" by them...and go on to lose everything.

quote:

So then we can only give justifications based on the information we have right now...So then how can we be sure we are right about anything?


We can't...be "absolutely sure", that is. If we make a "moral judgment" (or any kind of judgment) on a proposed course of action right now, the "quality" of that judgment is always subject to revision as the consequences become clearer with the passage of time.

quote:

If there is endless debate nothing gets done.


That's not really true, you know. Even in the very weak "left" of the present era, there is both endless debate and things do "get done".

Some people fantasize that if the "left" would just agree to follow a particular strategy and quit arguing so much, then a "lot more" would get done.

That might be true...but it might be the wrong thing that got done!

That "endless debate" serves a purpose: it keeps us from uniting around a common error.

I think that's a "good thing" and actually vital if communist society is not to stagnate.
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First posted at Che-Lives on February 28, 2004
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