Marxist Ethics This Essay Explores The Idea Of Whether Or Not There Are 'ethics' In Marxism

3770 words - 15 pages

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote a lot of books. So many, in fact, that International Publishers offers a 50 volume collection of their complete works. Be this as it may, as a couple of philosophers they wrote very little on the subject of ethics. There is no direct explanation or definition of a "Marxist ethics", and the brief references to morals and ethics are limited. Many critics take this to mean that ethics in Marxism are non-existent. This could not be further from the truth. Ethics are the primal cause of the proletarian revolution, and serve as the guiding force in the realization of a communist society. They exist primarily in the form of a tool of oppression, used by the bourgeoisie to control and dominate the working classes. The proletariat in turn unite under their own common ethics, the opposition to oppression, and proceed to break their chains by overthrowing the capitalist regime. Thus begins the founding of a new society where the guiding ethos is "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."(Brenkert, ch. 1). Marx's foundation for this new communist society was built upon the values of virtue and free development, and he believed that as long as these concepts were followed according to the materialist conception of history, mankind would succeed in overcoming the oppression forced by both the bourgeoisie and by nature. The ultimate goal is freedom, and if that isn't ethics, I don't know what is!In pre-revolution capitalist society the bourgeoisie, as a minority, set the moral code of conduct for the proletariat, who exist as a majority. The purpose of a bourgeois ethics is the oppression of the working class, but its results are far reaching. One of the results of bourgeois ethics is its ability to force itself on the working class. As the ruling class the bourgeoisie holds all the positions of power. Lawmakers, church leaders, and the aristocrats have the authority to dictate matters of conduct, concepts of good and evil, and general societal "norms". History is filled with people in power who abuse said power, and the industrial capitalist society is no different. The people in power have certain vested interests, namely the acquisition of capital. As such, they are in a position to dictate the rules of society in order to benefit themselves. Trotsky says that "The ruling class forces its ends upon society and habituates it into considering all those means which contradict its ends as immoral."(Trotsky, p. 15). What this means is that, in order to protect its own interests, the bourgeoisie convinces the proletariat that it is in their best interests to obey these "morals". An example of this is the Judeo-Christian commandment "Thou shalt not steal". A man may be starving, but he will not steal food to feed his starving family for fear of going to hell. Therefore the capitalist's profit is protected.Another manifestation (or infestation) of the bourgeois ethic on the proletariat is the concept of...

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