Draft Programme of the RCP, USA 

Draft Programme Part 2

Proletarian Morality—
A Radical Rupture With Tradition’s Chains

Morality is a set of principles for how “the right” and “the good” are viewed and how individuals or groups should conduct themselves. It is part of the world outlook—the ideology—of people. In a society divided into classes, every ideology, every way of thinking, represents one class viewpoint or another. In class society all morals and ethics are the expression of the ideology of one class or another.

Both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat have their own moral principles, which are fundamentally opposed to each other, just as their class outlooks as a whole and their fundamental class interests are antagonistically in conflict. And the struggle over morals—over what is moral and immoral, over which principles of conduct should be the guiding principles—is an important part of the ideological struggle, and the overall class struggle, in society.

Almost everyone who has attended elementary school in the United States has been told the story of George Washington cutting down the family cherry tree and then “owning up to it.” The point is to instill in young children the notion that “the father of our country” could not tell a lie. But how many school children have been told the story of George Washington the slaveowner—who once traded a slave for a barrel of molasses?

This is an expression of the morality of the ruling class of this country—where the men who founded their position and wealth on slavery are upheld as virtuous examples to follow. Even though literal slavery has been abolished in this country and the dominant property relations in the U.S. today are capitalist property relations, the ruling class continues to uphold slaveowners like George Washington as models. Why? Because the historical accumulation of wealth and power by this ruling class is inseparable from slavery; because the oppression of Black people remains a foundation stone of the capitalist system in the U.S.; and because there is an unbroken line of oppression from the founding of this country to its role today as the greatest exploiter and plunderer in the world.

Proletarian revolution and the transition to a communist society require not just a radical rupture with traditional property relations—with all relations of exploitation and oppression—but also with traditional ideas. And, as in every other sphere, the proletariat’s view is radically different from and opposed to the capitalist ideal of morality.

Capitalist Morality and Individualism

Capitalist morality is a morality that corresponds to the basic character of capitalist society. On one level, capitalism is a society in which everything of value is a commodity to be bought and sold, and in which individuals confront each other not so much as people but as owners (or non-owners) of things.

In accordance with this, capitalism promotes the values of bourgeois individualism. A “moral” person in capitalist society is someone who “takes responsibility” for their own fate. To put it more bluntly, everybody is expected to “look out for number one.” It is said that people should try to avoid harming others when pursuing their own personal interests and ends, and even that they should “give back” sometimes, such as by donating to charity. But everyone also knows and acknowledges that in capitalist society the first thing that people are expected to ask is: “What’s in it for me?”

Capitalist society portrays morality as timeless ideals that have existed in all human societies throughout history and that rise above classes. But in fact it propagates the morality of a particular class of exploiters—the bourgeoisie—which came into existence in relatively recent times, historically speaking (only several hundred years ago), and is headed for extinction as a class. The bourgeoisie treats the individualism it promotes as part of the unchangeable essence of human beings—“people will always be selfish,” they tell us, or even “you can change the system, but you can’t change the people.”

But where do the values of people actually come from? People are born into a world that has certain social relations and certain institutions. When they go to school in bourgeois society, are they trained to work with others to find the solutions to problems, or are they instead rewarded for competing with their classmates and fighting for the highest grades? Do they learn how people in different periods of history have held different values and treated each other in different ways, or are they taught instead that today’s values are eternal, or the highest that society can reach for, and rooted in “hu­man nature”? When they play sports and games, are they taught that the joy exists in working with teammates and even learning from rivals to overcome obstacles and scale new heights—or are they taught that “winning is everything”?

All this is training for the world into which the great majority of people must fit themselves. They will be forced to compete with others even to get a job, to find housing, and so on. If a family member should become sick or disabled, they will be forced to struggle on their own to figure out how to deal with it. This society, this heartless system where people must claw and scratch to survive—and not some mythical unchanging “human nature”—is what gives rise to a mentality in which people see each other as enemies, or as objects to be used or avoided.

But this morality and this bourgeois individualism is not only a product of how people are raised and how they must fit themselves into the world. On a very basic level, it corresponds to the capitalist relations of production—where capitalists can thrive only by more deeply exploiting the proletarians and by cutting the throats of their competitors. The schools and ­churches that train people in individualism, the social relations that reinforce them, all flow from and serve the underlying economic structure and class relations of capitalism.

This bourgeois individualism, the principle that every individual has to look out for himself or herself above and in opposition to everyone else, is promoted as the “bottom line” of survival in this society. And it is put forward as the essence of the capitalist notion of freedom. The Decla­ration of Independence asserts as a “self-evident truth” that the individual’s freedom to pursue their own happiness is an “inalienable right.”

But the reality is that individuals are only free to act within the confines of the social conditions and relations in which they find themselves. And in class society, these are most essentially class relations. To cite one example, any proletarian knows that you are free to travel into the neigh­borhoods of the rich and powerful only if you are there to service them and their property. A Sunday drive there is more likely than not to result in being pulled over by the police. And, for many, an en­counter with the police holds the ever-pres­ent danger of being harassed, terrorized, brutalized, or even executed on the spot.

Capitalist Morality Is a Morality of Exploitation

Bourgeois theorists claim that the pursuit of self-interest drives social progress and is a great moral good. But in reality, this means pursuit of accumulation of wealth through the exploitation of others.

Capitalism is not just a society in which commodity production and exchange is the generalized form in which goods and services are produced and exchanged (rather than most things being directly consumed by those who produce them). It is not just a society that encourages the dog-eat-dog contest between individuals (individual commodity owners). In its most essential nature, capitalism is a system in which labor power itself—the ability to work—has become a commodity, and the use of this commodity is the basis and “dirty little secret” of capitalist production and profit.

In accordance with this, capitalist mor­ality is, above all, the morality of exploitation. In particular, it is a relation of ex­ploi­tation in which the exploited class, the proletarians, are nominally free, are not owned outright, but are in fact forced to sell their ability to work, day after day. They are forced to allow the control over their physical capabilities, their skills and exertions to pass into the hands of an alien power over them, whose only interest is in driving them to produce as much wealth as possible. Of the wealth they produce, the proletarians get back only the amount necessary to keep them alive, capable of working, and trapped in this exploited condition. And if they cannot produce enough profit, regardless of how hard they work, they will be cut loose and forced to seek out another capitalist to exploit them.

They are enslaved not by an individual owner but by the capitalist class as a whole. This is the form of enslavement that corresponds to and serves the capitalist mode of production and the capitalist ruling class—it is wage slavery.

Of course, the “right” to accumulate vast wealth is exercised—and can be exercised—only by a small part of society, since some can do this only if many, many more are exploited by them and are maintained in an impoverished and powerless position. Thus, the widely proclaimed “rights of the individual” in bourgeois society fundamentally come down to the “right” of the few to accumulate wealth by exploiting others, and the “right” of the “others” to be exploited in this way! And today, when capitalism has fully developed into a worldwide system of exploitation—imperialism—it is literally billions of people, from small children to the aged, whose ruthless exploitation and oppression is the source of the imperialists’ vast wealth and power.

You can get a fundamental view of a social system and the class that rules it by what is put forward as the standard and model to be upheld and admired.

In this society, the ruling class worships money and the relentless drive to acquire more and more material wealth at the cost of tremendous human suffering. Their pessimistic view of human nature insists on selfishness as the “bottom line” of all human motivation. At the same time, this is a situation where everything, including people and ideas, are reduced to commodities and capital, and where people have to live with all the decadence and degradation this spews forth.

As a result, many people feel an emptiness and a longing for something loftier. And, in order to misdirect and make use of this, the ruling class promotes traditional religious values, which themselves reflect and reinforce long-standing relations of oppression and exploitation, including patriarchy and the oppression of women, as well as wage slavery (and outright slavery), and the domination of one group in society, and one nation, over others.

The promotion of Christianity and its Bible has been a major part of the traditional “moral code” of Western society, from the time Christianity was adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire down to today. And it has always been a rationale and justification for the most horrendous oppression. As Napoleon, a representative of the French bourgeoisie, so openly declared: “Society is impossible without inequality; inequality [is] intolerable without a code of morality; and a code of morality is unacceptable without religion.” The fundamentalist Christian “family values” that have become mainstream reference points for the ruling class of the U.S. call for blind obedience to reactionary authority, the traditional domination of women by men and of children by their fathers, and the faithful servitude of the poor to the rich.

These two different sides of the same coin—crass materialism and bourgeois decadence on one side, and the puritanical traditional morality so prevalent in the United States on the other—are the hypocritical morals the masses are expected to make sense of and live by.

Proletarian Morality

In direct opposition to all this, proletarian morality is based on the understanding that humanity has reached the point where inequality is no longer necessary or tolerable and that it is impossible for humanity to advance further without abolishing all social inequality, all relations of exploitation and oppression. The accomplishment of this historic goal re­quires a radically new code of morality—proletarian morality.

This morality gives expression to and re­flects the revolutionary outlook and interests of the proletariat and its mission of overthrowing the capitalist-imperialist system, suppressing the bourgeoisie and the forces of counter-revolution in order to prevent the restoration of capitalism, and carrying forward the thoroughgoing transformation of society to achieve a communist world where there will no longer be any class distinctions nor any need for po­litical domination and suppression of one part of society, or the world, by another.

Proletarian morality reflects the fact that this world-historic revolution must be the conscious, voluntary act of the masses of people themselves. And the communist society it will bring into being is one where, as Mao Tsetung put it, all humanity will voluntarily and consciously change itself and the world.

The accusation is often made that communist morality insists that “the end justifies the means.” By this is meant the idea that anything is justified so long as it contributes to the seizure of power and the continuing domination of society by the proletariat—or by its party, ruling over the masses, as the bourgeoisie presents it. But this is the exact opposite of the truth.

Communist morality, the morality of the revolutionary proletariat, actually insists that whatever means are used, at every point in the struggle, must be determined by and must be consistent with the ends—with the goal of abolishing all exploitation and all oppressive social relations.

In fact, it is the bourgeoisie that puts forward the perverse notion that anything that serves its interests in exploiting and plundering the masses of people and the oppressed nations of the world is justified, that whatever it can get away with in the service of these reactionary ends is “good” and “moral”—that “might makes right.” Who has not heard the ruling class of the U.S.—and their counterparts and rivals in other countries—put forward exactly this kind of logic to justify, and even to celebrate, their endless crimes against humanity?

Not only is there a profound difference between the morality of the proletariat and that of the bourgeoisie, but this reflects two fundamentally different visions of how the world can and should be. On the one hand, in one kind of world—the present “real world” of capitalist-imperialist rule—there is mass starvation and misery and only a relative handful who accumulate vast amounts of wealth. On the other hand, in the world the revolutionary proletariat is struggling to bring into being, the “right” of people to be millionaires and billionaires is abolished, but there is an abundance of material wealth, and of culture and intellectual life, available to the people as a whole. Which vision of society is better? Which morality?

Morality in Socialist Society

Once the proletariat has seized power, it will promote and popularize its revolutionary morality as the standard for society as a whole. It will oppose and criticize ideas that strengthen the old capitalist-style relations, where some people are subjugated by others and where there is inequality and oppression. It will uphold and popularize new relations among the people and ideas and social practices that contribute to revolutionizing society and emancipating the masses of people and ultimately all of humanity.

In opposition to bourgeois individualism and the reactionary theory of human nature that assumes people are inherently selfish, and that selfishness is the highest and really only possible motivation, it will value instead cooperation and serving the people.

In place of slavish obedience to author­ity, the proletariat will foster creativity and a critical spirit. It will promote a healthy atmosphere of criticism/self-criticism to enable people to learn and to help each other in striving to apply communist values and standards and in contributing to the ongoing struggle to revolutionize society.

In opposition to racist ideology, proletarian morality will imbue people with the spirit of equality among peoples and nations.

In place of male supremacist thinking, the proletarian state will educate people with the understanding that “women hold up half the sky.” It will promote standards and values that correspond and contribute to the unleashing of women to take part fully and equally in every sphere of society and to play a powerful role in overturning every old and oppressive tradition and every relation of subjugation and exploitation.

In opposition to narrow and reactionary notions of “my country first,” the proletarian internationalist spirit of self-sacrificing support for revolutionary struggles throughout the world and building the socialist state as, above all, a base area for the world proletarian revolution will be put forward as the standard to inspire and mobilize people.

Socialist Society, Serving the People, and Advancing to Communism

In socialist society, working cooperatively for the common good and carrying forward the struggle to overcome and uproot all the inequality and differences left from the old society will be upheld in place of “the individual struggle of each against all” and the “right” of people to accumulate wealth by exploiting others. Instead of “to get rich is glorious,” the moral standard will be “serve the people.” Instead of “USA #1,” the principle promoted will be that of “contributing all we can to the advance of the world revolution and the emancipation of all humanity.”

As the transition to communism is carried forward, as part of the world revolution, increasingly people will not be bound by the limits of the individual struggle for existence. They will not be motivated by the drive to acquire wealth or personal advancement at the expense of others. When communism is reached, the basis will have been created, materially and ideologically, for everyone to consciously and voluntarily subordinate themselves to the higher interests of society as a whole.

There will be freedom for individuals on a whole new level and there will in fact be more of a basis for individuality than there has ever been before—but there will not be individualism. In a society in which people realize their interests in common, cooperation will seem as natural as competition seems now. And the creativity, initiative, and potential of all members of society will be unleashed in ways that previously could only be imagined, or not even imagined at all.

With this vision and these principles in mind, the loftiest goal of the proletariat is not the freedom of the individual to rise within the prevailing system, but the masses rising up to overthrow it and to replace it with a society in which people realize their interests in common. The proletarian revolution will free individuals from exploitation and oppression, but the communist view of freedom does not envision a future where each individual pursues their own individual interests divorced from or in antagonism to the rest of society.

The “4 Alls”

Morality for the proletariat is an expression of its historic mission, and the basis for communist morality is contained in what Maoists call “the 4 Alls.” They are drawn from a summary by Marx of what the communist revolution aims for and leads to: the abolition of all class distinctions; the abolition of all the relations of production on which these class distinctions rest; the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production; and the revolutionizing of all the ideas that result from these social relations.

Only by moving human society beyond the point where it is divided into different classes, with the few monopolizing the wealth and power and the rest slaving for them and being downpressed by them; only by eliminating all forms of inequality and oppression, so that there is no more a situation where men subjugate women or one nation subjugates others; only by advancing human relations to the point where people no longer have a need or interest in exploiting each other and treating each other as property to be used and manipulated; only by bringing into being a world where people relate as freely asso­ciating human beings—only in this way can the highest interests of the proletariat be realized.

Personal and Intimate Relationships

Under capitalism, the human capacity for romantic love and sex as an expression of an intimate relationship between people is twisted into a relation between commodities to be bought and sold, and into relations of domination and exploitation. In the dog-eat-dog world of bourgeois sexual relations, the rules of the game are “use or be used.” And given the patriarchal relations in society, it is overwhelmingly women who suffer the consequences.

People’s desires for intimacy and closeness are continually thwarted because in class society marriage and family relations have historically been a matter of property relations. While capitalist society may modify the forms of this, it does not change the essence of it and in fact gives rise to some new and extreme expressions of these oppressive property relations.

People often view romantic relations as the only shelter they have from the hard realities of life in this system. And the culture of capitalism exploits this need by bombarding people with these notions at every turn. From advertising and popular culture to literature and self-help psychology, this society makes sure that people are inordinately fixated on sex and romance, and this serves as a means of social control.

Proletarian morality, as applied to intimate and sexual relationships, puts fundamental emphasis on overcoming and uprooting the relations of inequality that oppress women.

The new socialist society will foster personal, family, and sexual relations that are based on mutual love, respect, and equality—and not on dominating, disrespecting or taking advantage of people. Social practices that are harmful and demoralizing to the people—for example, sexually objectifying, exploiting, and demeaning people in popular culture—will be abolished. Hedonistic lifestyles that put individual self-gratification over contributing to society or that uphold “male right” in opposition to the liberation of women, will be the subject of criticism and transformation.

An atmosphere in society will be created where people can speak about such things frankly without the influence of religious Puritanism that keeps people ignorant, or fear of repression. At the same time, people will be free to criticize and change social practices that are oppressive, even if they take place in the “privacy” of the family.

Women, who have historically been victimized by the traditional authority of the man in the family, will have the backing of society to rebel against and change op­pres­sive family and personal relationships. (For further discussion of intimate and sexual relations and how they are linked to the pivotal question of the emancipation of women, see the appendix “The Proletarian Revolution and the Eman­ci­pation of Women.”)

Not only are romantic and sexual relations distorted and corrupted in capitalist society, but so too is people’s need for friendship. The endless promotion of competition among individuals and the notion that each person should seek their own “self-fulfillment” above all; the individualizing and isolating influences of the way the functioning of this society structures people’s basic living-family units; the male supremacist relations and conventions and the dominant notions of “gender roles” and of what is appropriate, and inappropriate, conduct among people of the same, or the opposite, sex; the inequalities between nationalities and the racist notions that accompany this; and the exploitative values of capitalist society in general—all this combines to make it difficult for people to establish, and to maintain, close relationships of friendship.

The proletarian revolution shatters the hold of bourgeois power over society. As the transformation of the basic economic, social, and political relations proceeds, and as the moral standards and ideology of the proletariat exert increasing influence in the new society, the basis will more and more be created for people to enter into relationships of friendship and intimacy as fully equal individuals.

Genuine friendships between women and men will flourish. This will be in contrast to capitalist society, where the influence of patriarchy and “male right,” the objectification of women as sex objects, and in general the preoccupation with sex that is promoted, all create serious obstacles to such friendship. Relationships will not be a place to escape the world, take out your anger, or be a petty oppressor, but a place to find love and warmth and closeness between people, sexual and other­wise.

In socialist society, personal relationships, while valued as such, will also be seen in the larger social context in which they exist and in terms of their effect on the ability of the individuals involved to take part in and change society. Do they contribute to revolutionizing society and serving the people, or do they tend to perpetuate the old traditional property and social relations?

Standards Set by the Vanguard Party

Throughout the socialist transition to communism, members of the vanguard party must act as an advanced detachment of the class, setting the highest standards and models for society generally.

Party members must keep constantly in mind and base themselves wholeheartedly on serving the people. They dedicate their whole lives to the proletarian revolution and the achievement of communism worldwide. They are not motivated by looking out for their own narrow interests or the pursuit of individual glory, comfort, or personal careers. They should be fearless in the face of the enemy and be prepared for persecution, imprisonment, and even death in the service of the revolution. Party members have profound hatred for the enemy and great love for the people and the Party.

As Mao Tsetung wrote: communists should have largeness of mind and should be staunch and active, looking upon the interests of the revolution as their very life and subordinating their personal interests to those of the revolution; always and everywhere they should adhere to principle and wage a tireless struggle against all incorrect ideas and actions, so as to consolidate the collective life of the Party and strengthen the ties between the Party and the masses; they should be more concerned about the Party and the masses than about any individual, and more concerned about others than about themselves.

The following Points of Discipline are a code of conduct for Party members in their revolutionary work and in their daily lives. They are one important expression of proletarian morality.

Points of Discipline for Party Members

1. Don’t use drugs or get drunk or function in an altered state of consciousness.

2. Do not steal anything from the masses, not even a needle or a piece of thread; return everything you borrow.

3. Don’t raise money for yourself in the name of the Party; turn in all money raised to support the organization.

4. Women are the equals of men in every respect. They should be treated as comrades in the revolutionary struggle, not as property or prizes. Such things as physically or verbally abusing women or treating women (or any human being) as sexual objects are completely opposed to everything we stand for.

5. We are proletarian internationalists. We should promote respect for the cultures and languages of oppressed peoples and equality among all nationalities. Don’t insult or ridicule other people’s race or nationality, not even in jokes.

6. Don’t use your position as a political leader among the masses for personal gain, financially, to take sexual advantage, etc.

7. Don’t attempt to get people to support or join the Party by threatening them. Party members must use the method of persuasion and education among the masses.

8. Our methods of struggle must be consistent with our principles and objectives and proceed from an analysis of who are our friends and who are our enemy—for example, don’t poster or graffiti the businesses or homes of small property owners without their agreement. Middle-class people are potential allies of the proletariat, and our ability to win large numbers of them to at least “friendly neutrality” is crucial for the success of the revolution. Only the bourgeoisie and die-hard accomplices of the bourgeoisie should be treated­ as enemies.

9. Don’t settle arguments, disputes, or contradictions in the Party or among the masses through fistfights or other violent means. Contradictions among the people should be solved through the methods of discussion and persuasion.

10. Don’t remain silent at meetings and then gossip afterwards. Say all you know and say it without holding back anything.

11. Don’t let things slide when a person has clearly made an error, for the sake of remaining on friendly terms with that person. Party members must at all times fight for what is correct, wage principled line struggle and not fear criticism and self-criticism.

12. Don’t engage in personal attacks, pick fights, curse people or seek revenge because you have been criticized.

13. Don’t use leadership positions to suppress criticism or to retaliate; don’t use your position of leadership to lord it over others or to act like a “bigshot.”

14. Don’t discuss inner-Party struggle or business outside the Party.

15. Practice criticism and self-criticism.


Fear Nothing, Be Down for the Whole Thing.

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