Dr. Susmit Kumar

Capitalists want to produce commodities at lowest cost and sell them at highest price. To produce commodities cheaply requires efficient transportation, cheap raw materials, cheap labor, cheap energy, adequate water supply, etc. No matter what form capitalism takes—individual capitalism, group capitalism, or state capitalism—capitalists will always prefer centralized production. All these forms of capitalism are essentially the same in this regard.

Communism is state or governmental capitalism, which is why it shares some of the defects of individual capitalism. State capitalism, like individual and group capitalism, controls industries in a centralized manner. It centralizes production and other economic functions through state-controlled industries, rather than through private ownership. Thus, while communism appears to differ from capitalism on the question of personal liberties, the two are the same internally. They both put all or most control of the economy in a few hands. Fruits of the same variety may have different color skins, but their seeds are the same; capitalism and communism are fruits of the same variety.

Prout, capitalism, and communism differ in numerous ways, of which the following are among the most important:

(1) The Prout economic system is three-tiered: The cooperative sector occupies the middle industrial tier; local governments run key industries, industries that are huge, complex, or focussed on the extraction of raw materials; and small, private enterprises conduct business too small in scope for the other sectors to run and where entrepreneurship is to be encouraged. The latter, as well as cooperatives in their true sense of being directly worker-owned and run, were outlawed under communism. Capitalism is committed only to the interests of the private sector.

(2) Prout’s approach to cooperative enterprise is based on voluntary, not forced, cooperation. Soviet farmers were forced to join agricultural collectives, which was extremely unpsychological, and not paid according to their individual output, which was non-productive. Capitalists, to compare, want to minimize the costs of production in order to maximize their profit. In the United States, for example, they now use millions of illegal immigrants, who are paid only a fraction of the wages of legal workers, in agriculture and other labor-intensive industries. They are trying to legalize these immigrants as well. Once immigrants are legalized and their families move up the economic ladder in one or two decades, capitalists will find more millions, also illegal, to work at low wages. If allowed to continue, it will be a never-ending saga.

(3) Communism’s industrial approach was centralized, with huge factories producing one item to be widely distributed, whereas capitalism’s approach is to locate production units where they can maximize their profit. Prout’s approach is based on complete and wholesome decentralization and local self-reliance.

(4) Communism dictated all decisions from above, such as five-year plans for industry; it was a party dictatorship. All economic planning was highly centralized and controlled by the state. Capitalism centralizes the major part of economic planning in huge corporations that now span continents. In Prout, economic governance is bottom-up: Local people have all the say regarding the development and utilization of local resources, etc. Prout decentralizes the planning authority to the level at which people are most aware of economic problems and potentialities, and therefore best able to plan for their common welfare.

(5) Workers in both communist and capitalist economies are alienated due to lack of ownership and control of their workplaces. Prout’s enterprise system is based on worker participation in decision-making and cooperative ownership of assets, conditions that increase motivation and enhance possibilities for personal fulfillment.

(6) Communism’s command economy was responsive to production quotas. Capitalism’s free market economy is profit-motivated. Prout’s economy is consumption-oriented. It aims at increasing consumer purchasing power and the availability of consumer goods as the primary means of meeting people’s basic and amenity needs and maintaining economic vitality.

According to Sarkar, it is incorrect to say that advanced scientific technology is the root cause of unemployment. This is rather misinformation or propaganda, carried out by leaders having little knowledge of socio-economics. The question of unemployment arises only in the capitalistic framework, where industry is for profit. In an economic structure based on cooperation, where industry stands for consumption and not for profit, the question of unemployment will not arise. Automation and other advances in technology will not reduce the number of laborers; rather, working hours will be reduced and the remaining hours used in non-work pursuits. A reduction in working hours depends not only on productivity, but on the demand for commodities and the availability of labor.

Those who want to promote public welfare without antagonizing the owners of capital will have to oppose mechanization. This is because when the productive capacity of machinery is doubled, the human labor required is decreased by half, such that capitalists retrench large numbers of workers from their factories. A few optimists may say, “Under circumstantial pressure other ways will be found to employ these surplus laborers in different jobs, and the very effort to find these alternatives will accelerate scientific advancement, so the ultimate result of mechanization under capitalism is, in fact, good.” This view, though not useless, has little practical value, because it is impossible to arrange new jobs for retrenched workers as quickly as they become surplus laborers in consequence of rapid mechanization.