Communism and Capitalism
JUNE 01, 1960 by EDWARD WEBSTER
Mr. Webster is retired, having taught at several American colleges and served various special agencies of the Federal Government in research capacities. This is one of a series of articles reprinted by permission from The Sarasota News, Florida.
Careful analysis of the Communist system reveals it as a flimsy texture of frauds. In our title we have linked the words "communist" and "capitalism" in order to examine the most barefaced of communist frauds—namely, the monotonous condemnation of "capitalism." For more than a hundred years, Communists have paraded their "down with capitalism" slogans and prattled incessantly about what they allege are the all-embracing evils of capitalism. Meanwhile, within less than forty years, the communist system which the Kremlin gangsters would impose upon all of us has become the most arbitrary, arrogant, rigid capitalism the world has ever known. It is now so easy to make that indictment stick that nobody any longer need be hoodwinked.
Unfortunately, there is a vast deal of confusion concerning basic economic facts of life. For example, what is "capital"? "Capital" is a generic or general term. It includes the entire mass of machinery, tools, instruments, and devices accumulated from past production for use in present and future production. Capital has enabled man so to use the power resources of nature—water, steam, and electricity, conspicuously—as both to reduce the amount of human effort required for essential goods and services and to do countless things that he could not otherwise do at all. The division of labor and specialization in production that yield thousands upon thousands of luxuries as well as necessities are made possible by capital. By means of capital employed in modern transportation and communication, some of the limitations of space and time have been overcome. We travel across the continent in a few hours; we have around-the-clock reports of world-wide events as they occur; and, if we wish, we may have a message sent around the world in a matter of minutes. Nor should the marvels of modern medicine be overlooked. Not infrequently, a half million dollars may be spent in the development of a single product—which the public straightway takes for granted. Regardless of the form it may take or the manner in which it is applied, practically everything that now contributes to our unprecedented standard of living and to the broad enrichment of our life is dependent upon capital.
But what is "capitalism," that avowed evil for which the Communists pretend to have such bitter hatred? When—after what has in the past usually been a long process of accumulation or "formation"—major productive activities, such as mining, manufacturing, and the like, are directed by those who own or control the capital required, it may be said that some type of capitalism has developed. Historically, various types of capitalism have been identified: industrial, trade, financial, state, and free enterprise. The underlying similar characteristic of these is that at some time and in some manner a portion of what had been produced was saved or set apart and made available for future production in some area of the economy. No padding of "ideological" gossamer can conceal the fact that all capital so formed and so used must, sometime, somewhere, and somehow, have been "created" in the process of production. It was not pulled out of a magic hat.
At this juncture one point must be emphasized—and remembered. The communist economy, in order to further its aggressive schemes, is more dependent upon capital than is any free nation in the world. Indeed, all of communism’s boasted achievements have been made by the use of capital. It is true, of course, that the various tools and devices now used by communist capitalism were not developed in communist states. They had been developed by other systems of capitalism before they were "expropriated" (stolen) by the Communists. But, for the replacement of their present supply of tools and devices as well as for the development of new ones, the Communists must save a portion of their product for use as capital. The point calls for no debate. That which originates as capital, behaves like capital, and does the work of capital, is capital. Neither the method by which it is formed nor the mechanism by which it is controlled can ever invalidate that fact.
All capital is capital, but systems of capitalism differ. Our main interest now, therefore, is to examine the distinctive characteristics of communist capitalism. In what respects is it different? What makes it tick as it ticks?
How is communist capital "formed"? In the first instance, as has already been pointed out, much of it was confiscated, expropriated—stolen. But the outrageous lengths to which communist capitalism, as an operating concern, has been willing to go to increase its capital is one of the blackest marks on its sordid record. The entire system of the Communists—wages, plane of living, everything—is geared to that objective. Their boasted "five-year plans" were designed to speed the accumulation of capital, and the degree of their success has depended upon the extent to which food, clothing, and housing were withheld from the hungry, ill-clad, and ill-housed. In order to set up capitalized collective farms, the land was seized and the dissenting landowners were mercilessly slaughtered. Add to that the toil of countless thousands of slave workers in concentration camps, where the depravity of communist administration plumbed appalling depths. By such methods the communist State has taken—and continues to take—from the "national product" as much as it chooses for use as capital, all of which is owned by the State. The state ownership of capital is a Marxian must and the hard core of communism.
Even more significant than the manner of acquiring capital is the method by which communist capitalism is controlled and directed. The system is a totalitarian dictatorship. Because the State owns the capital, it controls the use of capital without limitation or restraint. Inasmuch as the State thus wields absolute power over productive activity, there is no possibility of the interplay of those factors and forces which make a free market. And that means the virtual control of consumption as well as of production.
Disregard of Human Values
The alleged achievements of communist capitalism must, therefore, be measured by its own operational procedures, not by the yardstick of civilized efficiency. By their own standard they are in violation of the most sacred human rights and human values. By treating persons as mere things as means to its end—communist capitalism is thus guilty of what must, in any tolerable system of either ethics or religion, be regarded as the unpardonable sin.
As a matter of fact, the Communist Party never has had any respect for, or faith in, the people it seeks to bamboozle with its fantastic fairy tales of a classless society, a State that withers away, and a dreamy future in a welter of sweet reasonableness on flowery beds of ease. Karl Marx himself expressed the party attitude in concise language when he said, "The Communists have over the great mass of the proletariat [the common people!] the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement." It is of record that a certain notorious character, speaking before a congressional hearing in Washington some twenty-five years ago, expressed the same sentiment in fewer words: "The people are just too damn dumb!"
The vital issue before each one of us is not whether we shall live within some system of capitalism. Over the ages the accumulation of culture in all of its material and technological aspects has been such that productive activity, the making of the things we want and need, will continue to depend upon some system of capitalism. Mr. Joe Doakes will not be making his own shoes or building his own automobile.
Which Shall It Be?
But what kind of a system of capitalism do we want and are we resolved to defend in the United States? A few of the ugly contrasts between communist capitalism and our own people’s capitalism within the framework of our Constitution provide solid basis for the answer to that question.
Communist capitalism is a gigantic monopoly, so sweeping in its activities that it extinguishes some of our most cherished human rights; our people’s capitalism emerges from free decisions freely made. The motivation of communist capitalism is cold-blooded authority—a dictatorship; our free-enterprise capitalism is an expression of the democratic process. Communist capitalism builds upon what a despotic government arbitrarily takes from the people; our voluntary capitalism has its being in the foresight, self-denial, waiting, saving, and investing of free persons. But the point need not be labored. The bedrock difference between the two systems is simply the difference between abject slavery and freedom.