“Dimensions of Ambedkarism.”
Economic Thought and isms
Capitalism is the basic economic system of the modern age. “It involves the method of enterprise and a rational capitalistic establishment; and the spirit of capitalism illustrates that attitude which seeks profit rationally and systematically”, observes Max Weber.
As defined by Hobson, it is the organisation of business upon a large scale by an employer or company of employers possessing an accumulated stock wherewith to acquire raw materials and tools, and hire labour so as to produce an increased quantity of wealth which shall constitute profit.
From various definitions of capitalism Dr. S.K. Srivastava concludes that, “Capitalism or capitalist civilization is that stage in the development of Industry and legal institutions in which the majority of workers find themselves divorced from the ownership of the means of production in such way as they become mere wage earners whose subsistence, security and personal freedom depend upon capitalists who can be counted on fingers, control the entire organisation of land, labour and machinery; and undertake business and production purely from the point of view of private gain”.1
Hence, the salient features of the capitalism are:
(i) Private property,
(ii) Ownership of means of production,
(iii) Economic freedom,
(iv) Vital role of entrepreneur, and
(v) Competition accompanied by oligopoly.
Mr. V.B. Singh lays stress on the motive of profit making and points out the following characteristics of capitalism:
(i) Profit constitutes the motivating force for the advancement of economic activities;
(ii) The profit realised is not controlled by the State or the public bodies, but by individual entrepreneurs; and
(iii) Profit is generally invested in the production of wealth, so as to get further profits.2 Mainly because of this motive of profit making the capitalists, in the words of Karl Marx, started misappropriating the ‘Surplus Value’ produced by the labour. It resulted in inequalities of income; division of society into classes like rich and poor, employers and employees and haves and have-nots; social unrest ; unemployment ; class-conflict leading to class struggle and class-war ; cut-throat competition; unplanned production; loss of moral values and trade cycle. Hence, there emerged a socialistic thought which aimed at replacing capitalism by limiting or abolishing private property; establishing collective ownership on the means of production by way of nationalisation and by establishing a class-less society based on equality and justice. Marxism, which embodies Socialism and Communism, criticized and described in detail the evils of capitalism and stood against it every tooth and nail.
Dr. Ambedkar’s Approach
Dr. Ambedkar was a staunch democrat and a committed socialist. He therefore agrees that the ‘have-nots’ are always exploited by the ‘haves’ and joins hands with Karl Marx in overthrowing the supremacy of the ‘haves’. But, he does not accept economic relationship as the be-all and end-all of human life and thus rejects economic motive as the driving power behind all human activity. Hence, the mis-appropriation of the Surplus Value by the owners of private property cannot be the only reason of exploitation. Dr. Ambedkar does not therefore believe in the abolition of private property as the only remedy to bring an end to the exploitation, poverty and sufferings of the have-nots. On the contrary, he defends an individual’s right to private possession of wealth and property and stands for a greater security of the individual’s economic interests, with the help of state control.
He believes in individual liberty and wants the capitalists to co-operate with the state for the betterment of economic and social affairs.
He is opposed to the annihilation of capitalists as it would be, in his opinion, an act of violence. He believes in non-violent method of socio-economic change without depriving anybody of his personal liberty may he be capitalist or an owner of private property. But he maintains that the primary function of a growing society is an effective check on economic exploitation and therefore seeks “to eliminate the possibility of the more powerful having the power to impose arbitrary restraints on the less powerful withdrawing from the control he has over the economic life of the people.3
Obviously, he is against the concentration of wealth in a few hands and seeks to put “an obligation on the state to plan the economic life of the people on the line which would lead to highest point of productivity without closing every avenue to private enterprise, and also provide for equitable distribution of wealth.” 4
Dr. Ambedkar, though disagreed with Karl Marx and defended an individual’s right to liberty and private property never favoured capitalism as the best form of economic system. Being a democrat he wants individual liberty through democracy and being a socialist he wants social emancipation through socialism.
F. M. Stern wrote a book titled as ‘Classless Capitalism’ and tried to impress that American Capitalism is not only classless but also democratic and thus superior to the kind of capitalism known to the rest of the world. He further observed that the “American Capitalism is dominated by two seemingly unconnected movements; one is shrinking demand for human labour per unit of production and the other is rapid expansion of the market for the products of modern industry. These two movements must-and in the final outcome do-balance each other.” Siding totally with the capitalistic process he believed in market mechanism but did not favour State intervention.5
Dr. Ambedkar maintained that the State can prove itself an ideal agency to protect, both democracy and socialism by resorting to timely intervention and adequate controls.
He says, “It is true that where the State refrains from intervention what remains is liberty.....but this liberty is liberty to landlords to increase rents, for capitalists to increase hours of work and reduce rate of wages. This must be so. It cannot be otherwise. For, in an economic system employing armies of workers, producing goods en masse at regular intervals some one must make rules so that workers will work and the wheels of industry run on. If the State does not do it, the private employer will. Life otherwise become impossible. In other words what is called liberty from the control of the state is another name for the dictatorship of the private employer.”6 He favours state intervention against capitalism but not to the extent of communism.
Dr. Ambedkar, as a practical democrat with an ardent faith in a democratic way of life, has opposed monopoly and dictatorship in its shape and form.
He is against complete nationalisation and state control of the economy.
He advocates State Socialism and state ownership in the fields of agriculutre, industry and insurance with a view to see that the dictatorship and capitalism do not stand in the way of democracy and socialism and their rapid success in India.
Land holding in India, according to Dr. Ambedkar, is not only a matter of property but also a matter of social states.
The traditional village economy, based on agriculture, is the root cause of socio-economic inequality and injustice. He therefore advocates nationalisation of agricultural land with collective farming where agriculture becomes a State Industry.
Dr. Ambedkar is not opposed to the private sector of the economy. He suggests that some spheres of production, except in the basic industries, should be operated through the state or through private enterprise or under both the state and private control. He realizes that the private enterprise cannot bring about rapid industrialization of Indian economy because of its motive of maximum profit and absolute backwardness of the traditional village economy of the country; and even if it attempts to industrialise the economy, it would produce inequalities of wealth, exploitation of workers and such other evils of capitalism.7 Hence, he is in favour of nationalisation of basic and key industries only. So also he advocates nationalisation of insurance with a view to give (i) greater security to the individuals and (ii) adequate funds to the State for financing economic plans.
Thus, Dr. Ambedkar seeks to establish a balance between State ownership and private enterprise. He is neither in the camp of pure or Scientific Socialists or of the communists who advocate total nationalisation and complete state monopoly, nor favours capitalism which stands for free and un-controlled private enterprise.
Dr. Ambedkar wants “to retain Parliamentary Democracy and to prescribe the state socialism by the law of the constitution, so that it will be beyond the reach of Parliamentary majority to suspend, amend or abrogate it”.8
Lord J.M. Keynes propounds a theory of state capitalism as opposed to state socialism and wants the state to function within the general requirements of the capitalist system.
Thus, as regard to state intervention in economic life of the people Dr. Ambedkar comes close to Lord J. M. Keynes, but with a different attitude. Keynes propounded, revised or reformed Capitalism whereas Dr. Ambedkar advocated a new kind of State Socialism. Both are the reformers of capitalist system; but when Keynes fundamentally remains a capitalist, Ambedkar turns to be an individualist and socialist in his socio-economic philosophy. This attitude towards human interest brings Dr. Ambedkar very near to J.S. Mill who outlines a comprehensive programme of social policy observes, Dr. D. R. Jatava.9
To Dr. Ambedkar, Capitalism and Brahminism, an integral part of Hinduism, are the twin enemies of Indian society as Brahminism is also based on exploitation and inequality. In his attack on Hinduism Ambedkar comes closer to Karl Marx who regards religion as the opium of the people and wants to overthrow the supremacy of religion and capitalism.
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Capitalism is said to have been changing and capitalism today is not the classical capitalism of earlier times. But the profit-motive remains and its evil effects cannot be ignored. Even in case of India the British Government did not stop the squeezing of the masses by the landlords and exploitation of the labourers by the capitalists, might be because of the fear of resistance and their own ideology of capitalistic economy. Hence, to believe that capitalism will be replaced by social outlook and socially oriented planning or to effect reforms in capitalism will not bring any fruits.
F. M. Stern believes that American Capitalism is ‘Classless Capitalism’ without which dignity and prosperity for all cannot be realized. He also talks of ‘Democratic Capitalism’ based upon change and growth, strives to expand production, to create new ideas, new wealth and greater property for all; but, also admits that economic and social equality for all can probably never be attained.10
Dr. Ambedkar said, “Those who are living under the capitalistic form of industrial organization and under the form of political organization called Parliamentary Democracy must recognize the contradictions of their systems.....In politics equality and in economics inequality.”
It is thus obvious that capitalism cannot sustain the democratic principle of equality; and democratic society cannot justify exploitation and inequality. How can there be fraternity and justice without equality? So also there is no trace of morality and ethics in the ideology of capitalism. Dr. Ambedkar therefore could never support capitalism in its shape and form.