PROUT presents a happy blending of individual and collective interests. The following offers a brief look at the way these interests have been promoted by capitalist and collectivist (communist) theories respectively.
From the booklet PROUT, What It Stands For
The Age of Adam Smith and Capitalism
Adam Smith – the father of modern capitalist philosophy – was deeply influenced by the environment of his age. He was the economist of the 18th century. In those days, when the business community as a whole stood against the impositions of government rules and regulations and public finance, philosophers and thinkers like Descartes, Locke and Rousseau propounded the theories of natural law. They stood for natural order based on divine will instead of positive order built by government regulations. “Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains” – their entire movement was directed at complete liberation from this chain. Smith joined this movement and supplied the slogan Laissez fair, Laissez fair!1 The industrial revolution had just started in England and everywhere there were bright prospects of enormous developments with the help of agricultural and industrial science. When the State stood in the way of growth of the industrial community, Smith justified their cause. He enunciated that the nature of human beings was love for self interest so none had got the right to prevent others from what they wanted to do toward that end. He further asserted that the world was ruled and guided by the Supreme Will of Providence. In the mode of living, the less the State controls, the better it is.
Thus emerged Liberalism in politics and free competition in economics. It had certainly its necessity in those days. The old and outdated regulations created hindrances in the system of heavy investments for the application of advanced techniques in economics. Besides, England, in her foreign trade, was feeling acutely the necessity of unlimited freedom for exporting finished products to foreign countries and importing the raw materials from them. That is why the impact of this necessity could easily influence the contemporary economists. Adam Smith felt this necessity more than any of his contemporaries and he gave birth to capitalist economy.
The Age of Marx and Communism
The result of capitalist economy was not benign on the whole. Liberalism and Laissez faire created a tremendous stir in the public mind of those days. On one side the impact of individualism and unprecedented growth of production, as a result of free competition, added to the affluence of America and England. On the other hand there was abject poverty. “It was an age of achievements and suffering, of strident scientific assurances and fading religious faith, of apparent fulfilment and growing emptiness.” The labour was reduced to the position of mere commodity. Death pans were placed in the factory compound and the corpses of little children who died of excessive labour were littered there like carcases of cats and dogs. The sole aim of life was profit-making. Like an old proverb prevalent in Spain, “God says – take what you want from the world. But pay for it.” Human beings grew extremely self-centred discarding the higher values of life such as kindness, sympathy, compassion, etc. To quote Alexander Pope, “Thus God and Nature linked the general frame, and bade self-love and social be the same.” (Essay on Man) The ruthless exploitation of this selfish community reduced the common masses to the status of hungry animals of which Carlyle has given a vivid picture, “The hungry sheep look up and are not fed. They are free only to sleep under bridges.”
This horrid state of affairs brought in its wake the growth of Trade Unionism. Labourers in a desperate bid to find a way of salvation assembled at dead of night in huts or behind hills. Numerous socialist writers in their sympathy for the toiling masses advanced various programs of action against capitalism. At the same time Germany was astir with vigorous political debates and discussions. Eric Roll says, “The young intellectuals with whom Marx came in contact debated the problem of political emancipation. Republicanism, constitutional democracy, freedom of thought and press were issues of the day.” Karl Marx appeared in an age like this. His sensitive mind was stirred to its depth by the heart-rending sight and sobs of the exploited masses. His compassionate heart was bleeding for the emancipation of the proletariat and so he invented the most deadly weapon for destruction of capitalism in and through his ceaseless perseverance for years together. He sketched the design of a new social order. Collectivism was to replace individualism. Marx declared, “The individual is an abstraction, class is the reality.” He felt inwardly that revolution was a must for the emancipation of the proletariat and it necessitated the awakening of the masses. As such he propounded his theory in such a psychological manner that it unmistakably engendered inspiration, faith and confidence in them. That is why we find that Marxism is but a sentiment and the Marxists are so very dogmatic and emotional.
The environment and impulse in one case gave birth to capitalism while the same factor in a different context produced socialism. Adam Smith supported the bourgeoisie whereas Karl Marx stood by the proletariat. While the former attached all important character to individual liberty the latter emphatically declared: The individual must be sacrificed at the altar of the collectivity. Thus arose two extreme doctrines. Being placed in between these two men’s respective positions became a´helpless and unbearable plight. Human society definitely does not merely consist of the bourgeoisie exclusively or the proletariat alone. It includes all, excludes none. Collective welfare of the entire society is not possible if one’s good is attempted at the cost of others.
Thus the capitalists living in the midst of affluence and luxury are so much eager for peace as the communists are for happiness. Everywhere a spirit of revolt rages. Somewhere it is conflagration and at other places it is just a smouldering fire. Human beings today are faced with dangers in all spheres. The poet Rabindranath Tagore rightly observed, “It is because the individual’s apathy for the community had been growing that the suicidal proposal of sacrificing the individual in the name of collectivity has risen. It is like proclaiming the sea to be the only friend when the volcano is causing trouble on the shore. It is only when the real nature of this shoreless sea is known that one becomes impatient to get back to the shore. Human beings will never tolerate for all time the unreality of individual-less collectivity. The strongholds of greed in society must be conquered and controlled, but who will protect society if the individual is banished for good?”2 This is exactly what accounts for the occasional outbursts of the suppressed spirit rebellion that we find in totalitarian regimes today.
The cry of agony of the poor in a capitalist country like the U.S. (poverty in the U.S is cyclical in nature with roughly 13 to 17% living below the federal poverty line at any given point in time; source: Wikipedia)which always boasts and brags of its enormous economic development, and the recent global economic instability created by its ill-managed finances has brought yet another slur on the fair face of capitalist philosophy. The institution of private ownership that forms the cornerstone of this system landed the U.S. In a tremendous crisis in 1929. The formula advocated by the economist Say, “Supply creates its own demand” caused a great depression in America and other capitalist countries. To meet this unprecedented crisis Keynes invented his “regulated economy” and capitalism survived a serious and imminent onslaught. But the intense desire of profiteers has definitely lowered the status of human beings. P.R. Sarkar has opined, “The nature of the blood-sucking capitalists is an enigma. At times they drink only pure water after filtration and at other times they drink even polluted blood unfiltered. At times they kick the head of their customers and at other times lick their feet.”3 The basic principle of capitalist economy has caused the all-round degeneration that we come across in most countries of the world today.
As is well known the philosophy of communist collectivism never generated welfare but grounded society to a terrible halt in so numerous spheres. Soviet Russia, for instance, while trying to materialize collectivist principles of economy only produced a grim economic crisis. The dictum “From everyone according to capacity, to everyone according to need” only produced calculated sluggishness and eventual standstill. To get out of this mess, the Soviet state introduced kitchen farming, a definite move away from the professed ideals of communism, in which they were forced to accede to some degree of individual ownership of land. According to official figures in the year 1966 only 3% of land was in the hands of individuals whereas 30% of the total produce of the country were supplied by these farms. The percentage of supply of food materials by these individual farms were as follows: 16% potatoes, 40% vegetables, 68% meat, while the collective farms were running in recurrent loss.
Today we can safely conclude that both capitalism and communism are inefficient and misfit as far as meeting the complex challenges of today’s world. Gone are the days of simplistic and crude slogans such as “Liberate finances!” or “The Party first!”. The communist and capitalist theories have shown their inability to keep up with the rapid steps of today’s humanity and the crucial need for more advanced views on welfare, growth and progress.
In short, our problem-ridden world needs an ideology free from the defects and fallacies of previous systems. It need to be essentially realistic in character and efficacious in the field of application. While chalking out any plan, the physical, mental and spiritual aspects must all be taken into consideration. The physical, metaphysical and spiritual longings of human beings are to be satisfied and fulfilled by utilizing the world’s mundane, supramundane and spiritual potentialities. The human intellect will not be adequate to invent such a highly organized and needed theory unless supplemented by deep intuition, which will transcend the stigma of relative factors – time, space and person. PROUT has a legitimate claim to be such a theory, propounded by the seer philosopher P.R. Sarkar. The thoughts of this eminent philosopher thinker is a great stride in the field of social philosophy and economic theory. Never before in the history of mankind have established theories and existing doctrines been so valiantly challenged. The new socioeconomic theory of Sarkar, which is out and out revolutionary in character, has stirred to the roots the prevailing ideas of the recent centuries. For the exploited and suffering humanity of today there is no other way out than to be thoroughly acquainted with the thoughts and ideas of this historic theory and to proceed step by step towards all-round liberation.
1 In economics, laissez-faire means allowing industry to be free from state intervention, especially restrictions in the form of tariffs and government monopolies.
2 From Letters from Russia, Rabindranath Tagore
3 From Human Society – Part 2, P. R. Sarkar
Copyright Proutist Universal 2011