What is the main difference between capitalism and communism?
Capitalists believe in a free market economy, while Communists believe in a command (government controlled) economy.
This type of question will have as many answers as there are people to give them because it deals with hard to understand political ideologies. To make this more complex is the fact that the definitions for these things have changed over the years (from their original introductions c.1900) and they mix certain forms of governmental structures, which can be mixed but cannot be compared as explained below.
With this in mind the answer given here is done with the intent of clarifying the question first, and then in giving answer to the question (Noting other political forms that are not suitable for this question, IE: Dictatorships, Oligarchies, etc. in the discussion page).
Form of Government:
The first issue to be addressed is that there are two forms of government in all political bodies, as a general explanation there is a "Form" and then a "Regime" of the government. Form of government would explain the basis of the government, and Regime would explain the Administration, or how the government is ran or a higher form of the base. These higher forms can be mixed where the lower form cannot.
Communism is a Base form of Government, meaning it can exist with or without any other form of government. Capitalism is a higher form of government that cannot exist on its own, meaning it must have a base form of government. If "Capitalism" was converted into a base form of government you would have an "Aristocracy" (an elite political body that is the government). Attempting to compare these two forms is therefore not really possible unless you compare Aristocracy to Communism.
Historical VS Modern definitions:
When Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto he referred to a [quote] "Democracy being the perfect form of Communism." The US Government produced a manual at this same time giving this same definition (Manual on Citizenship Training c.1927-1932). Modern translations however tell that there is a difference between the two, but fail to illustrate a definitive difference. Because of this the answer, as much as it can, will be given with the original definitions of these forms of government when they were made, circa 1920's. Note: Plato spoke of these same things, but with less detail.
Communism is a democratically elected body politic selected from multiple participating parties into a representative body that upholds the will of the people without respect to rights, or any law guarding those rights. Best described as "Mobocracy" where 51% of the people decide the course of the other 49%. [loosely quoted from: The Communist Manifesto, US Manual on Citizenship Training, Thomas Jefferson, Plato]
Capitalism is a higher form of government where the base form of government cannot be ruled by law (Republic), it survives best in a Democracy or if made a base form of government it becomes an
Aristocracy (Rule by the Elite). The Corporation, or businessman, can through wealth and power control the direction of government by support of politicians favorable to the corporate goals or by media assassination of those who oppose its goals.
Direct conflicts in forms. There are a few issues between these two concepts that fall under direct conflict and were addressed by Marx, as:
- Classes in society. Communism defeats classes in society (Elitists, Corporate Elitists, Middle Class, White Trash, "inner-city youth", etc) by making the majority the ruling class therefore able to out vote the smaller classes of people. Capitalism promotes classes in society by promotion of material possessions and related lifestyles. This allows for the elimination of the lower classes by attrition; removing their ability to eat, find suitable shelter, or afford medical care, Shifting the populous in mass to side with greater accumulation of material possessions (even if this violates the law, rights of others).
- Socialist Tendencies. Communism (and Democracies) tend towards socialism. The redistribution of wealth between all classes to ensure the less advantaged are given equal access to food, housing, and medical care. Capitalism is diametrically opposed to this as the greatest sources of income are made from products or services that every person needs in order to survive.
After having a revolution, a communist country doesn't change from a capitalist country. You have the leaders in wealth and the majority in poverty (well at least they have a job, unlike the scientists in capitalist Russia!)
It is hard to compare since Communism is a government political system and Capitalism is an economic system.
Capitalism is a free market economy and is found in forms of government that range from a Republic (The United States) to Communism (China - though it is not true capitalism).
Socialism like Capitalism is a type of economy (to a certain extent). Socialism most commonly occurs in a Democracy (many European countries) that is on the road to Communism. In Socialism, the markets are controlled by the government in an attempt to 'balance' wealth. An economy can not remain in Socialism or it will fail (as it has in Europe). In order to regain stability it must either return to a Republic with a Capitalist system, or evolve into Communism.
Communism is the Government system needed to control a Socialist economy. However, as stated above, a Communist government is not required to use a Socialist economy. Communist governments that have adopted Capitalism (China) have seen great economic benefits for its country.