The Essence of Morality and Its Place in Social Life
Morality or ethics is the aggregate of standards or rules of behaviour in society, reflecting people’s ideas of justice and injustice, good and evil, honour and dishonour, etc. In contrast to legal standards, moral standards and rules are not recorded in laws, but are maintained by force of public opinion, customs, habits and education, by force of man’s conviction. They determine man’s attitude to society, to the family and other persons and other nations.
Morality arose with the birth of human society. Society has always made definite demands on its members expressed in moral standards. These standards are not eternal. They change with society’s development under the influence of changes in production and above all in relations of production. In primitive society moral standards were equal for all members. With the appearance of classes they began to reflect the interests of one class or another. Morality acquired a class character. In a society divided into antagonistic classes there exist the morality of the exploiters and the morality of the exploited, the morality of the ruling class prevailing: under slavery, the morality of the slaveowners dominated; in feudal society, the morality of the feudal lords, and in bourgeois society, the morality of the capitalists. They are opposed by the moral standards and principles of the slaves, peasants and proletarians.
As an element of the superstructure, morality influences all aspects of life in society. Through the attitude of the people to work and property, it influences the economy. Communist morality, for example, by declaring socialist property sacred and inviolable, stands guard over the economic foundation of socialism. Morality also has a direct bearing on politics; any political action of a state receives moral appraisal, approval or disapproval from the members of society. It is natural that the people’s moral approval of a political action is an important factor making for its success. The success of the Soviet Union’s peace policy is largely due to the moral support of the peoples of all countries, all progressive mankind.
At present, two moralities are pitted against each other in society: communist and bourgeois. What is their essence? What social problems do they solve? Bourgeois morality, which protects the interests of the imperialist bourgeoisie, plays a reactionary role in society’s development. Its main social aim is to preserve the keystone of capitalism, private property and exploitation.
Bourgeois morality is conditioned by the dominance of private capitalist property which disunites people, turns them into enemies, rivals in the struggle for profit, the holy of holies of capitalism. In the quest for profit the capitalist tramples upon all standards of human morality; he is absolutely indifferent to the fate of the people around him, to the fate of his country and society as a whole. He places his selfish interests above everything else in the world. Extreme selfishness is the basic principle of bourgeois morality. “Man to man is a wolf”, “Everyone for himself and the devil take the hindmost”—these are the ethical rules proclaimed by the morality of bourgeois society. There could be no other rules in a society where private property holds sway, where money is the supreme moral measure, where everything— love and honour, the dignity and conscience of man—is bought and sold.
The spirit of individualism, self-interest, the thirst for profit, hostility and competition make up the essence of the ethics of capitalist society. The exploitation of man by man, on which bourgeois society rests, is the grossest violation of ethics.
The Moral Code of the Builder of Communism
The world’s most progressive, humane and noble morality is communist morality. It expresses the interests of the absolute majority of members of society, the interests and ideals of all working people, and not merely the interests of a handful of exploiters.
Communist morality embraces ordinary standards of human behaviour which the people formulated in the course of their struggle against exploitation and vice. It is common knowledge that the distinctive features of people of labour have always been straightforwardness, honesty, willpower and courage; they fulfill their obligations to one another, to /the family and old people. In the struggle against. exploitation and in joint labour they developed such moral qualities as mutual assistance, fraternal solidarity and intolerance of slackers and parasites. These qualities are the foundation of those simple moral standards which were handed down over the centuries by one generation to the other. An especially important role in the moral development of society, in the formulating of the standards and requirements of the communist morality is played by the morality of the working class, the most progressive class of our age, the creator of the new, communist society.
Communist morality originated under capitalism where it expressed the protest of the proletariat against exploitation and inequality, its desire to introduce rules of human behaviour based on friendship, comradely cooperation and mutual assistance of people free from capitalist slavery. But in capitalist society the morality of the working class, of the working people, does not hold sway. It begins to prevail with the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of a socialist society. […]
Communist morality, Lenin pointed out, is subordinated to the interests of the proletariat’s class struggle, whose content and aim is to build and consolidate communism. It is this idea of Lenin’s that underlies the moral code of the builder of communism, formulated in the Programme of the CPSU. From the point of view of communist morality, that which promotes the movement of society towards communism is moral. Devotion to the cause of communism, love of the socialist motherland which blazes for mankind the trail into the communist morrow, love of all the socialist countries, is the first, cardinal demand in the moral code of Soviet citizens.
Labour is the source of society’s wealth and the personal wellbeing of each member of socialist society; labour is the duty and matter of honour for each Soviet citizen. That is why conscientious labour for the good of society, concern on the part of everyone for the preservation and growth of public wealth are prime demands of communist, morality. The overwhelming majority of Soviet citizens live up to these demands; for them the rule of socialism—he who, does not work, neither shall he eat—became law long ago.i Work for the benefit of their homeland is a source of genuine joy and happiness for the Soviet people.
The lofty principles of communist morality stem from the very nature of the socialist system, from its economic basis, public ownership of the means of production. It unites people, enables them to live and work according to the principles of fraternal friendship, mutual respect and cooperation. Hence such an important principle of communist morality as collectivism and comradely mutual assistance expressed in the slogan: one for all and all for one.
The principle of collectivism means that the main thing in man’s behaviour is to serve society, the collective, to subordinate his personal interests to public interests. Socialism affirms a morality which is basically unlike the morality of capitalism, a morality of cooperation and collectivism, friendship and mutual assistance. The most important demand of this morality is to promote the wellbeing of the people and the all-round ^development of the individual in conditions of collectivism. It is important to nfete that in socialist society concern for the social interests does not run counter to the interests of the individual. Everything good done by a Soviet citizen is done both for himself and for all the people. Being conscientious in his job he thereby shows his concern for his comrades who also work for the good of all. This strikingly reflects the combination of the social and personal interests in socialist society. The aim of socialist production is to satisfy man’s requirements. The desire to be useful to society, to one’s people primarily motivates the actions of the Soviet citizen.
The principle of collectivism underlies the approach to duty, conscience and honour. It is man’s duty and honour to be intolerant of actions harmful to the public interest, to be useful to society, to contribute to its advance. If a man does everything in his power for society, for the good of the people, his conscience is clear and he has a high sense of civic duty.
The development of proletarian internationalism, of socialist patriotism and humanism is an indispensable condition for implanting the principles of communist morality in the minds of the Soviet people. Socialist humanism is of a higher, qualitatively new type. It consists of genuinely humane relations and mutual respect: man is to man a friend, comrade and brother. Socialist humanism combines respect, love for man and concern for his material and spiritual welfare with vigilance and an uncompromising attitude to the enemies of communism, peace and the freedom of the nations.
Soviet patriotism, too, is qualitatively new. It combines love for, and devotion to, one’s country, to the entire socialist community with proletarian internationalism, fraternal solidarity with the working people of all countries, and with all the nations and respect for the people of all other states, big or small. Soviet patriotism is incompatible with nationalism, the ideology of national isolation and hostility between the peoples, national inequality and disunity of the working people. The moral code of communist society proclaims the friendship and brotherhood among all the peoples of the Soviet Union and condemns national and racial hatred.
Communist morality demands that people observe the rules of the socialist way of life, calls for a courteous attitude towards older people and women, mutual respect in the family and concern for the upbringing of children. Love, equality and mutual assistance between husband and wife, friendship and mutual trust of parents and children comprise the ethical foundation of the family in socialist society.
The principles of communist morality also require definite traits in man’s character: honesty and truthfulness, moral purity, simplicity and modesty in social and private life, an uncompromising attitude to injustice, parasitism, dishonesty, money-grubbing and careerism.