Moral Code of the Builder of Communism

In class on Thursday, I was part of a group that was assigned an article written in 1966 by a G. Mirsky. Though it was a tough read at first, my group was able to pick out some really important facets that the author only skimmed over. One of the most interesting things we extracted from the article was that socialism is not a system that can be used in Russia, it can be universally relevant. When we were prompted to look on the Seventeen Moments modules, I was drawn immediately to the module titled “Moral Code of the Builder of Communism.” This simple document had 12 items that outlined all the principles that the government leaders believed would lead to a better society, “Communist morality was supposed to replace coercion as a means of ensuring political and social stability and economic growth; it required political loyalty, hard work, and the proper conduct of private life.” The first tenet reinforced their cause to spread socialism throughout the world, which was most widely received in growing African countries.

The text was presented at the 22nd Party Congress in 1961; here are the 12 tenets:

  • Devotion to the communist cause, love toward the socialist Motherland and to socialist countries
  • Conscientious labor for the good of society: he who does not work shall not eat
  • Concern of all for the preservation and growth of public property
  • High consciousness of public duty, intolerance towards the violation of public interests
  • Collectivism and comradely mutual aid; one for all and all for one
  • Humane relations and mutual respect among people; man is to man a friend, comrade, and brother
  • Honesty and truthfulness, moral purity, simplicity and modesty in social and personal life
  • Mutual respect in the family, concern for the upbringing of children.
  • Intolerance towards injustices, parasitism, dishonesty, careerism and money-grubbing.
  • Friendship and brotherhood of the peoples of the USSSR, intolerance towards national and racial hatred
  • Intolerance towards the enemies of communism, peace, and freedom of nations
  • Fraternal solidarity with the working people of all countries and with all peoples

From the Mirsky article, it seemed that there may have been a degree of hesitation to adapt to this system, but the creation of this code wanted to cement the fact that socialism under Khrushchev (or anyone else) was not Stalinism. Stalinism was an unfortunate period that really gave socialism a bad reputation on the international scene. However, socialist Russia wanted to reinforce that as the “socialist Motherland,” they would look out for all the younger countries that were testing the waters. The weight of Stalinism was slowly wearing off and the 22nd PC was the beginning of a new era, “it signalled a new and open offensive against Stalinsm.” The reconfiguration of this code had a huge impact on the way policies were conducted from then on.

Lack of private space in cramped apartments forced young people into public spaces to exchange their expressions of affection. Illustration from Aleksandr Vampilov’s “The Park Bench.”

However, the introduction goes on to mention that these new morals were sometimes only practiced in part or just disregarded completely. As always, the Soviet population rebelled in whatever way possible, twisting the words of the code to gain advantages as an individual rather than promoting the cause of the collective. The introduction of the code led to citizens gaining more privacy, something that was unheard of under Stalin. Some members of society saw this as a new chance and life and didn’t agree with this new code,

“Eager to shed the Stalinist doctrine of collectivism, we realized that each of us has a right to privacy.

That was the time of our awakening.

We had no leaders and no teachers. All we could do was learn from each other. To us, the thaw was the time to search for an alternative system of beliefs. Our new beliefs would be truly ours; having gone through Stalinism once, we could not stand for another “progressive” doctrine being imposed on us from above.”

It would prove difficult for the government to move away from such a structured system, especially when it had been in place for a number of decades. The code seemed to be a good starting point for Khrushchev and the party members.


Freeze, p. 426

39 Responses

  1. When reading over the 12 tenets, my first thought was that they sound so nice and idealistic,but there is no way that they were continuously followed. That was probably my first thought because I was thinking of the Stalin years. I think that the you’re right about the code being a good starting point for Khrushchev and the thaw. The Stalin years gave socialism a pretty bad rap in my opinion. I do find it interesting that Khrushchev was eventually ousted and his de-destalinization was curbed. I also think that this moral code seemed great for the Soviets, but this tenet: “Intolerance towards the enemies of communism, peace, and freedom of nations” gave the green light to oppress anyone inside and outside of the Soviet Union who disagreed with the communist system.

  2. I think my favorite of the 12 tenets is number two: Conscientious labor for the good of society: he who does not work shall not eat. I don’t say it’s my favorite because I think it’s a reasonable or fair principle, it’s obviously a pretty draconian measure. However, I do find it funny in the sense that one of the main criticisms you frequently hear about communism and socialism is that people can just leech of off others without doing any work or by doing less work.

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