Marxist Ethics and Utilitarianism

QUESTION: Marxist Ethics – Utilitarianism


To Marxists, the acceptable action in class morality is whatever it takes to accomplish the ultimate goal—namely, a classless communist society. In other words, utilitarianism—the end justifies the means. Freedom can be achieved only when all class barriers are erased, and therefore anything that serves that end is judged as moral. “Ethics, in short,” says Selsam, “is good only as anything else is good, for what it can accomplish, for the direction in which it takes men.”1

Marxist Ethics – Serve the Higher Good
The problem, of course, is that we can justify mistreating our neighbor by claiming that it will serve the “higher good” in the long run. Ivan Bahryany, a Ukrainian citizen who estimates that the Soviets killed 10 million of his countrymen between 1927 and 1939, states the problem this way: “The party clique which follows the slogan expressed by the saying ‘the end justifies the means’ is actually always ready to use any means.”2 In the case of the Ukrainians, the “means” included shooting, starvation, and slave labor in Siberia. Joseph Stalin referred to this action as the liquidation of the kulak class. Lenin admitted that the proletariat would be willing to work with the “petty bourgeois proprietors” as long as their work furthered the Marxist cause, “[b]ut after that our roads part. Then we shall have to engage in the most decisive, ruthless struggle against them.”3


Rendered with permission from the book, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 Howard Selsam, Socialism and Ethic (New York, NY: International Publishers, 1943), 98.
2 S.O. Pidhainy, ed., The Black Deeds of the Kremlin (Toronto, ON: The Basilian Press, 1953), 14. Robert Conquest in The Harvest of Sorrow (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1986), 305, places the figure at 14.5 million.
3 Lenin, Collected Works, 36:255, 265.

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