Socialist Ethics

The moral fabric of the society we live in is deeply corrupt: racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia and classism are woven into capitalist society to such a degree that these oppressive tendencies are often reproduced unconsciously by even those with the best of intentions.
As Marxists, we understand that this means that we must constantly be conscious of our own behavior and striving to be the best role models we can be for the society that we want to build. This is only possible through a combination of individual and collective efforts: only collectively we will improve ourselves. Simply declaring ourselves as fighters against oppression does not absolve us of responsibility for our behavior, and we are keenly aware of the damage that has been done by socialists that failed to address their chauvinist behaviors, both in terms of individual hardship faced by the comrades that they interacted with, as well as organizations and movements that have collapsed due to breaches of trust by key layers of their membership.
We do not believe that it is possible to become the “new socialist person” under capitalism, and thus we do not expect perfection from our comrades. We do, however, expect all members of our party to do their absolute best to avoid oppressive patterns of behavior, and to make good faith efforts to change their behavior if others notice issues. If we betray our political principles in our personal or organizational behavior, we jeopardize our entire political project.
On a more philosophical note, it is important that we should not take for granted even seemingly positive aspects of the ethics of our society. The ethics of a society are imposed by the ruling class on other classes, and in our capitalist society this means that the predominant ethical norms are bourgeois norms. Seemingly positive ideals often come with baggage that is oppressive or otherwise anti-proletarian. For example, working hard appears to be a positive trait in the abstract, but carries with it toxic baggage, such as the idea that those who don’t work (or even can’t work) don’t deserve basic necessities such as housing or food. We should question the default morals of our society, and strive to come up with ethical frameworks that stand independent of bourgeois ethics. Nevertheless, none of us are born Marxists, and very few of us were raised as Marxists. In our organizing work, we will encounter many workers who may not yet have realized the toxic underpinnings of some of the basic morals and behaviors that they grew up with. We should be patient with our co-workers as we fight against capitalist ideology, and propose an alternative socialst conception of the world that is rooted in a historical-materialist understanding of moral or ethical rules from the perspective of the working class.