Localization – The Solution Is Cooperatives
Is there any solution to globalization? Is there any alternative? Is there any way to stop its growth? The key point is that we need to replace globalization with localization . We need to go back to an economic system whose hallmark is regional self-sufficiency created by small-scale industries. This is how women can become economically self-sufficient. The best example of this kind of economy would be represented by women’s co-operatives.30 It is the cooperative system that will make women self-sufficient, bring them out of poverty, and restore their dignity. It will do other things also, like create a feeling of close sisterhood, for the simple reason that in a woman-managed company with a cooperative structure, all women are owners. It will no longer be one employer and under him the employees – kept subordinate and subservient. Women are surely the key to maintaining communal harmony and to building networks, both economic and spiritual. Community rights, block-level planning, economic democracy and the barter system must all be brought back to the people, and to women. Based on localization, on localized economies, new international labor laws can be created for the benefit of all people.
If you have twenty women working at K Mart store in Newport, each of them is earning minimum wage and barely making ends meet. If you take those twenty women and ask them to form a cooperative, any kind – maybe a health food store cooperative, or a mini mart cooperative, or a dairy cooperative – raising cows and selling the fresh wholesome milk and expanding to make fresh butter and cheese – they will be able to work for living wages, and they will get their equal and fair share of surplus funds at the end of every year. They will no longer be slaves to a wealthy man. They will themselves be owners. That is the definition of cooperative. All members are also the owners of the business. All members share in the work and the labor, and all members share in the profits. They together decide how much of surplus funds to return to the members and how much to invest in expanding the business. Cooperatives work very simply, and they can help women to escape from poverty.
Cooperatives mean humane democratic production. We need to “encourage the spontaneous development of democratic coops and create ‘productive space’ in which to start to build a democratic economy. The Internet can be used to help facilitate the democratic market.”31
While strong management is essential for the success of cooperatives, at the same time members must take care to avoid class-based divisions in order to have equitable democracy work. This can be done by keeping wages as close together as possible, along with equal or rational distribution of all tasks, combining intellectually stimulating work with drudgery. One has to be very careful that the managerial class in a coop does not begin to take it over – thus nullifying it as a democratic economic entity. As far as possible, cooperatives need to interact and do business with other cooperatives, and continually minimize business interactions with capitalist corporations. The work of starting cooperatives, of starting grassroots economies, of unions – it is all related. The three groups should form a coalition and join the global anti-capitalist movement, to realize egalitarian (non-hierarchical) and participatory values, and to move in the direction of cooperatives, realizing that escaping capitalism is the key to physical and financial liberation.
History of Cooperatives
In the book We Own It, the authors tell us on p. 15 that in 1844 weavers in Rochdale, England came together and wrote up the “Principles of Cooperation”.32 These principles later became known as the “Principles of the International Cooperative Alliance”,33 and they form the guidelines of cooperatives even today. However, it is sure that ‘cooperatives’ existed long before the weavers of Rochdale, England. In the book Race, Gender and Work by Amott and Matthaei, it states clearly that the native American Indians used a cooperative agricultural system until the white men came and introduced capitalism, factories and subsistence wages.34 During the last Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, cooperatives sprang up all over America and Europe. However, after the second world war was over, cooperatives diminished. It was related to the new economic affluence – the new boom economy.
Then came the sixties and the seventies – those were the decades of the famous American civil rights movement and the anti-war movement. Quietly, behind the scenes, the same people with the same idealism were building alternative institutions: food cooperatives, housing cooperatives, communes, and so forth. The spirit of the sixties lived on through those coops. Volunteers abounded and worked their hearts out to create new cooperatives. Today, in the year 2002, poverty has returned and is rising. Today western countries are once again faced with fast-rising unemployment. In 2001 more than one million people in America lost their jobs. Europe is following fast on American heels. Hence, many governments are actively supporting the cooperative venture as a way to lessen unemployment.
Perhaps the most famous cooperative outside of America is Mondragon, in the Basque area of Spain. It began in the 1940s and by 1990 it employed 60% of the area’s workforce. It is also fascinating to note that the large NGO (non-governmental organization) in the world is the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA). It represents 237 national and international organizations.35 Furthermore, the United Nations recently passed a resolution making the first Saturday of July as the International Day of Cooperatives.
Cooperatives Working Today
The subject of cooperatives is a vast topic. There are hundreds of thousands in existence worldwide, and each with their own particular structure, as described by their Articles of Incorporation and their By-Laws. There are presently more than 50,000 cooperatives in America. The most visible are food and other retail cooperatives, housing cooperatives and day care centers. In addition there are agricultural cooperatives. Some of the largest businesses in America are cooperatives. Three examples are Sunkist, Ocean Spray and Land O’Lakes. A fourth example is Yellow Cab Company. Little Professor Book Centers are a chain of over 100 bookstores also run as a cooperative. The Solar Center in San Francisco is still another successful cooperative in existence since the seventies. According to Bruce Dyer, “co-ops control 99% of Sweden’s dairy production, 95% of Japan’s rice harvest, 75% of western Canada’s grain and oil seed output and 60% of Italy’s wine production. Some of the major commercial banks in Europe are cooperatively owned or organized, including such giants as Germany’s DG Bank, Holland’s Rabobank and France’s Credit Agricole. Almost 100% of Japan’s fishermen are organized in cooperatives.36
The cooperative spirit is defined in We Own It as “a spirit of cooperation, of sharing, of working with and being open to other people”.37 According to statistics, this spirit is very much alive and growing. But, cooperatives are also much more than that. All cooperatives are businesses. They are economic enterprises. The coops likely to be the most successful are those that acknowledge this fact, that set up a formal business structure, that put in writing a list of by-laws for the cooperative/company, whose members educate themselves regarding tax laws in relation to different business set-ups, and follow good business management and marketing procedures used by all successful businesses. People who start up a cooperative in a very idealistic manner without putting due emphasis on the practicalities of solid business operations, knowledge of tax laws, etc. are setting themselves up for failure. A basic tenet of marketing is, ‘Location, location, location’. These aspects are just as important for a cooperative as they are for any other business to be financially successful or at least viable.
The ways in which cooperatives can be set up are innumerable. There are both federal and state laws relating to the setting up and running of cooperatives. Both should be studied. Sometimes one person may start up his own businesses. Then, as he hires employees, he may find that he would prefer a collective or cooperative effort and system. He then legally changes his business from a sole proprietorship over to a cooperative. One of the Principles of the International Cooperative Alliance states that “the economic results arising out of the operations of a society belong to the members of the society and should be distributed [such that no one member gains at the expense of others.] This may be done by (a) provision for development of the business of cooperative; (b) provision of common services; or (c) distribution among members in proportion to their transactions with the society.” A cooperative is owned and controlled by its members. It can be anything then that its members want it to be. A coop can be set up to serve its members only, or it can serve the entire community (with cheap food, for example).
There are umpteen taxes in relation to cooperatives. Income, sales, payroll, property, inventory excise, franchise, gross profit, estimated, unemployment, self-employment, social security, excess retained earnings, capital gains, windfall profits, federal, state, county and local taxes – anyone thinking to start a cooperative must be familiar with these taxes and what part of the cooperative the taxes are going to consume.
There are basically three types of cooperatives: consumer coops, producer coops and worker coops. In many cases, the last two are intertwined. The word owner is equivalent to member. A cooperative may be set up as a “for profit” corporation or as a non-profit corporation. Profit occurring in a non-profit cooperative, is referred to as “surplus” or “net margin” or “savings”. This can be distributed back to the members. It can also be put back into the expansion of the cooperative. We may start a food-buying club. People can get together each week and give their orders. The next week their orders arrive. It is cheaper than purchasing in stores, because the overhead is far less. The only overhead to be covered is gas for the car/truck that picks up the groceries and delivers them. Sometimes, this kind of food-buying club or baby cooperative seems so successful that the members/organizers decide to expand it to a live store. These stores may sell to members only or they may sell to the entire public. It is the owners’ decision. These coops may start off in a small one-room store or they may take over an abandoned Safeway or K Mart shop and convert it into a large new retail food store – run as a cooperative.
A food coop is a consumer coop. Other examples of consumer coops are: housing cooperatives, credit unions and funeral societies. If a group of people start a funeral cooperative, purchase land for burial, and offer burials (in which families can participate maximally themselves), at a total cost of, say, $200 or less, then funeral parlors in America could be completely dispensed with. The cost of an average funeral today is $6,000 – it is daylight robbery. It is the worst exploitation, often of a new widow who doesn’t know anymore how she will survive! In a funeral cooperative, it will be $200.00. Consumer coops generally will return any “profits” to their members, since their aim is to reduce prices for all members. Some coops give discounts to members and no discounts to non-members. Some coops require members to pay weekly or monthly dues, and also may expect them to work a few hours each week. Similarly, producer cooperatives and farmer cooperatives will set up their own by-laws for functioning. An example of an arts and craft coop would be something like this: members individually create arts and crafts and market them through the coop. The coop purchases art and ceramic supplies in bulk and sells to the members. At the end of the year, two separate accounting systems would be there for calculating any income or surplus earned. One system would distribute the surplus from sales of supplies to each member in proportion to that member’s purchases from the cooperative. The other accounting system would reflect and then distribute the surplus from sales of the arts and crafts (after each member has collected the agreed payment for each item sold through the cooperative), again in proportion to the amount of business that member did with the coop in relation to the amount of arts and crafts s/he gave for sale.
So to answer the question, what is the financial set up of the cooperative and how does it differ from the corporation, the answer is that there can be and are innumerable ways to set up the financial foundation of the cooperative. It is decided upon by the members and changed by the members at any time they desire. Some cooperatives sell stock in proportion to the contribution of each member. The Solar Center in San Francisco has been successful for perhaps 40 years now, and attributes its success to the following factors: (1) hard work; (2) moderate pay/wages to members for work done; (3) careful monitoring of capital (buying used trucks, for example and keeping a low inventory in stock); (4) friendly investors; (5) satisfied customers; (6) idealism; and (7) “the togetherness that comes from shared ownership, equal pay, collective decision-making, and mutual concern for everyone’s growth and job satisfaction.” The last factor was considered to be the most important.38 According to Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar,
“…cooperatives evolve out of the collective labor and wisdom of a community. The community must develop an integrated economic environment, common economic needs and a ready market for its cooperatively produced goods. Unless these three factors work together, an enterprise cannot be called a cooperative.”39
Saheg Avedisian, a member of the Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley, California, made the following statement regarding cooperatives:
“Being in a collective is a good way to take your political and philosophical beliefs and make them a mainline part of your life. You no longer have to talk about being liberal or doing something that’s politically correct because your own workplace frees you personally to pursue your personal interests. If the world were somehow a collective place economically, I think art would blossom. All the energy that goes into our survival would be freed.”40
To set up a cooperative, an attorney is required to assist in writing the Articles of Incorporation followed by the By-Laws – the rules and regulations that are completely specific to your particular cooperative. You will need to appoint Directors and Officers, and decide on the number of members you want.
Advantages of Cooperatives
In society, human beings must work together with others so that everyone can move forward collectively. Women can start small-scale and medium-scale cooperative enterprises. All they need to have is similar interests, similar material needs, morality, and mutual respect. This will be easy for women to do.
In cooperatives, membership is generally open and voluntary. Cooperatives are businesses that are owned and controlled by the members, who generally also work in the business. There is democratic control at all levels of the business. One member, one vote. Workers share in the surplus revenue (called “profit” when run as a regular business). Members will mutually agree to put some of the surplus funds back into the business and also towards more education of the worker members.
Cooperatives can make greater profits than private capitalist enterprises because the worker members have much greater morale, since they also are part owners in the business, and because each member is getting a share of the profits – not a minimum wage salary doled out by the one owner of a capitalist business. Members of cooperatives participate in all levels of decision-making, they have greater self-expression and dignity, and of course equality amongst each other. This is unique to cooperatives and certainly not to corporations. In a cooperative, everybody can know (and it is preferred that they know) what the daily break-even is, what yesterday’s sales were, how far above or below the projected sales it is for the month and what the budget is. They know that in order to be paid, a certain amount of sales is required. It means, everyone is equally concerned about and involved with the profit-and loss of the cooperative. In a cooperative, members will do their own job but will also get the opportunity to learn every job if they desire, and become completely rounded and fully knowledgeable in the business. Steve Hargraves, who works for the Bookpeople, a publishing company, sums up the advantages of working in a cooperative as follows:
“My personal feeling is that running a company this way is a political statement to the rest of the country. If you want to go to the heart of the beast, the heart of the beast is economics. This is an economic entity that we’re dealing with, this culture, this society. We’re trying to develop a new way of looking at how to run a business. Employee ownership is dependent on the fact that this company must survive in this capitalist, profit-oriented system. If you can find a different way of approaching those economics, in some ways you’re making a political move. That’s the justification for me personally. I feel that it’s worth it.”41
What is the most important ingredient in the success of a cooperative? It is the people. Rules and regulations can be perfectly constructed to meet all obstacles. It is the people coming into your cooperative that will make the difference – people with all kinds of different ideas, backgrounds, education, with different levels of energy, dedication and skills. People will respond to kindness and compassion far more than to rules and regulations, according to Peter Honigsberg. It is the team spirit, communication skills and interpersonal skills that are going to go a long way to make or break a new cooperative.
Initially, there are heavy capital expenses in starting up a cooperative. Initial opening costs, early losses, inventory, attorney fees, accountant fees, wages, utilities, insurance, taxes. It means that wages will be difficult and low in the beginning months. This means that initially a second income may be required. Once it is well established, good wages would be forthcoming. Inquiries should be made regarding federal government loans as well as grants. There are such agencies that give both grants and loans to help new cooperatives in getting off the ground. The Small Business Administration provides loans to new businesses. The Farmers Home Administration provides agricultural loans, housing loans, and loans for alternative energy businesses. To be eligible, one must simply be registered as a cooperative. The National Cooperative Bank, created by Congress during the Carter administration, is another entity that specifically provides loans to cooperatives.42 The Community Services Administration provides to small and low-income cooperatives.43 The National Endowment for the Arts awards grants to new cooperative ventures. The Minority Business Development Agency also awards grants to cooperatives whose membership is 50% from minorities.44 There are many more sources, including private foundations and corporations, for obtaining initial and on-going capital for a cooperative. One needs to find initially a sympathetic landlord who will charge a low rent (if the cooperative will be occupying a physical space). Volunteers may be required. Insurance for building and vehicles will also be needed. A permit or license will have to be obtained. In this regard, the same regulations that apply to any corporation will also apply to a cooperative. As far as possible, all members should learn to read the daily ledger and be able to understand a financial statement. This will help everyone to understand the real functioning of the coop. The cooperative can be registered as ‘for profit’ or ‘not for profit’. Either way, it would be stated in the articles that the cooperative and its profits are for the benefit of its members and of the community at large. Hence, one should not worry if any cooperative registers as a ‘for profit’ cooperative. Peter Solomon, a member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, said the following about his experience:
“There is a great pleasure, a real joy in going out and doing your own work on your own terms when you know that nobody is taking any more than their share. That’s wonderful and people are going to keep that. To be working with other people on common ideas, goals, you share in the control of it all. Looking forward to doing a task together is one of the finest experiences I know of. To be able to carry that feeling of working together for yourselves in a collective way is one of the finest things.”45
Cooperatives are truly the best means of organizing people in an independent manner. Cooperatives are based on coordinated cooperation, and not subordinated cooperation. There will not be any ‘boss’ in a cooperative. All members are the bosses because they are all equal owners. Capitalism has created individualism, self-centeredness and selfishness. Cooperatives will create a feeling of cooperation amongst women, a feeling of sharing, and a sense of societal oneness. And most of all, they will enable the financial self-sufficiency of women – which is the crying need of the hour.
The Grassroots Globalization Network (GGN) is a new project of the Earth Island Institute.46 It promotes democratic ways for people to create healthier local economies, safer communities and a cleaner environment. The Network hence concentrates on networking to help solve problems caused by globalization, helping people to regain democratic control of their communities and to become regionally self-sufficient or self-sustaining. GGN is highlighting the great successes of cooperatives everywhere – credit unions, land tenure reforms, participatory budgeting, full-cost economic policies, community currencies and other grassroots activities.47
“The sweetest unifying factors are love and sympathy for humanity. The wonts of the human heart are joy, pleasure and beatitude. In the physical realm the best expression of this human sweetness is the cooperative system. The cooperative system is the best representation of the sweet nectar of humanity.” – Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar
PROUT cooperatives have been developed by the philosopher and economist, Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar. According to Sarkar, cooperatives are essential in order for the community and then the society to move forward in a collective manner. Cooperatives “combine the wealth and resources of many individuals and harness them in a united way. To…achieve this…cooperatives should be structured so that individual interest does not dominate collective interest.”48 Sarkar states clearly that the commune system cannot work because it is made up of master and servant relationships, or supervisor and supervised. In this interpersonal setup, progress will not be forthcoming. In communes there is no personal ownership. It means the people will not work hard, as morale will be low. What is the incentive to work hard? In the capitalist system, a large part of the end profit is grabbed by middlemen. In a cooperative system, the owners/members will make all decisions regarding when and to whom to sell, and at what price. In PROUT cooperatives, members/ owners would be comprised of local people only. This would solve the present problem of immigrants taking over thousands of jobs which the locals need. In the PROUT cooperative system, there will be no unemployment. As production increases, the need for more facilities and jobs will also increase. People of all and varying skills will be utilized with the expansion of cooperatives. During times of economic recession or depression, all members’ labor and contribution will be accordingly reduced, so that no one suffers from the stigma of being without a job. This will also help the economy to pick up to a healthy level of activity. Here is a clear example of the humaneness of the cooperative system as compared to the capitalist economic system where thousands or millions of people are laid off with the snap of a finger.
PROUT cooperatives will comprise of (1) shareholders, who receive salaries for their work plus a return on their shares, and (2) non-shareholders or laborers, who will enjoy stable employment and living wages at the least. Laborers can be further categorized as (1) permanent laborers who will receive a percentage of the surplus revenue in addition to their wages, and (2) non-permanent laborers, who will receive wages only. Thus, the more permanent a coop member and the greater his/her contribution, the greater also will be the rewards. All human beings can benefit from the cooperative system. Elderly single women through owning shares can have a steady income provided to them. In the same manner disabled people can be taken care of. Impoverished women by their labor can also receive steady income plus a percentage of the surplus revenues.
PROUT cooperatives would elect a Board of Directors, and it would be required that those Directors as a minimum qualification be known as fearless moralists in their communities. In the developed stage of PROUT cooperatives, the three types of cooperatives – producer, worker and consumer – would all be interacting with and buying from each other and supplying each other with goods.
Let us take a brief look at a comparison of five types of cooperatives: Traditional, Capitalist, Socialist (as we find in Europe), Communist and PROUTist. This can reveal at a glance some startling and wonderful distinctions between PROUT cooperatives and cooperatives that have existed up to the present time. Click for chart 49
The quintessential evil of capitalism is that (1) it denies the poor people any economic participation, (2) it is based on self-interest, selfishness and profit alone, (3) money is everything, human beings count for nothing, (4) competition is everything, the collective good has no value, and (5) it is undemocratic. On the other hand, the cooperative system (1) helps the weak and impoverished persons to grow, to become strong and self-sufficient, (2) is based on the collective interest and collective good, and not on profit. Hence the rendering of social service becomes prominent in the community, (3) Human beings have more value than money and profit. (4) Cooperatives provide economic stability because there is no stockpiling of unconsumed goods, and no profit motive. And (5) It is democratic – one man, one vote.50
Economy of the people, for the people and by the people!
Put economic power in the hands of the people!
Prabhat Sarkar in his development of PROUT economics has indicated that there should be a two-phase plan to introduce cooperative land management. First, all uneconomic land holdings should join the cooperative system so as to convert them to economic holdings.51 In the second phase, all persons should be encouraged to join the cooperative system. Third, there should be rational distribution and redetermination of ownership of the land. In the fourth phase, a congenial atmosphere will be created due to mental/psychic expansion and a deep study of morality, where people will learn to think for the collective welfare rather than for their own petty self-interests. This will be a gradual change in the community. The people themselves will be persuaded to develop this kind of altruistic mindset.
Sarkar further says that cooperatives, to be successful, require three factors: morality, strong supervision, and the wholehearted acceptance of the masses. Wherever these factors are present, the cooperatives have been reasonably successful.52 The poor people need to be educated regarding the benefits of cooperatives to their lives. They need to understand that it will bring them out of poverty and will provide them enough purchasing capacity to lead a dignified life.
Sarkar wants that modern technological equipment be used for farming, as this will free up many hours for the farmers and particularly for the women and children, giving them the glorious opportunity to develop themselves. He also wants no intermediaries in cooperatives. They are the leeches who suck the blood and sweat of the laborers and grab all profits in their greedy paws. It is also a critical point that cooperatives remain controlled by local people. Tea plantations, coal mines and all other natural resources such as minerals under the ground must not be given to outsiders to control. Local people must get first chance for employment. If jobs remain, then transient labor can be used.
Where the landowners have remained the owners, and they hire laborers for reaping the harvest, then 50% of the profits will go to the landowner and the other 50% will go to the laborers. This is in the first phase, mentioned above. In the second phase, the landowners will get 25% of the profit and the laborers will get 75%. In the third phase, there will be rational distribution of land and redetermination of ownership. All owners will be encouraged to join the cooperative system at this point. Sarkar then states:
“This time period from the first phase to the fourth phase of the implementation of the cooperative system can be called the transitional period for the implementation of PROUT.”
Prabhat Sarkar also explains that only a certain percentage of the population should be involved in agricultural work. He gives the figure of 40-45%. The remaining population should be engaged in setting up and running industrial cooperatives or service industries. This is very important, for it will allow people to remain in their towns and villages and not have to migrate to cities for work.
Another point made by Sarkar is that any products not produced in a particular area should be removed from that area. This will ensure the economic success of that area. For sure local products may initially be inferior to those produced outside; however, they should still be used by the local people, and in time they will improve.
He further explains the terms coordinated cooperation and subordinated cooperation. “Operation” means to get something done through any medium. If an operation is done collectively, then it is cooperation. Cooperation means something that is done with equal rights, equal human prestige and equal locus standi (i.e., legal rights). He says that if this cooperation is between human beings who have equal rights and mutual respect for each other and all participants are working for the collective welfare, then this working relationship is called ‘coordinated cooperation’. If people work together but if some of those people are keeping themselves under other people’s supervision or domination, then it is called subordinated. This subordinated cooperation has been the cause of society’s moral degeneration, including racism.53 For this very reason, Sarkar is advocating cooperatives as the way towards a new and truly democratic economic system, because in a properly structured cooperative, all people are working collectively in coordinated cooperation. Subordination is a thing of the past.
A Bright Future
Sarkar has stated,
“The entire human society is of a cosmopolitan nature – nothing can be treated as being indigenous to this group or that. The world is fast moving toward cosmopolitanism, and none will be able to maintain their national characters. The big towns have already become cosmopolitan. Just as the mixture of the English, the Spanish, the French and so on gave rise to the culture of America, similarly a cosmopolitan blending is taking place. Cultural blending is going on throughout the world. No group of people or nation will be able to maintain its specialty – the political entities are trying hard to maintain these specialties, but they will not be able to. During a time of flood, ponds, streams, lakes, oceans all become one; similarly, culture wil become one.54
We need to set up the economic system from the bottom up, from the grassroots level. From PROUT cooperatives will evolve block-level planning.55 As a result of block-level planning, community rights will evolve. A self-sufficient and balanced economy will be created by the individual communities at the block level. (We can designate one block as being equal to approximately 100,000 persons in a given area.) As we move up from the block level to larger and larger units, coming to the national and then international level, we finally can achieve something called a world government based on economic democracy. This world government would replace the current corporate globalization with something called democratic globalization – it would be a real globalization (coming together now) involving all the people of the world, from the block-level on upwards. It would be a real democracy, where the people could then pass international labor laws to further benefit the people! This would bring an end to economic colonization, regional disparity and cultural imperialism. This would have no connection whatsoever with the United Nations. The United Nations is not a grassroots affair. UN ambassadors are appointed by ruling leaders of countries, which certainly does not involve democracy. They make decisions without consulting the people. For this very reason, the United Nations is entirely ineffectual in solving global problems. Rather, it is doused in financial corruption with millions of public dollars being squandered by thousands of administrative employees. However, from cooperatives, we can develop socio-economic units. They need to be established throughout the world “on the basis of common economic problems, similar economic potentialities, ethnic similarities, common sentimental legacy and similar geographic features.”56 Gradually these socio-economic units will come to represent political units. From there will evolve a democratic world government. Sarkar states:
“In all the democratic counties of the world, economic power is concentrated in the hands of a few individuals and groups. In liberal democracies economic power is controlled by a handful of capitalists, while in socialist countries economic power is concentrated in a small group of party leaders. In each case a handful of people – the number can be easily counted on one’s fingertips – manipulates the economic welfare of the entire society. When economic power is vested in the hands of the people, the supremacy of this group of leaders will be terminated, and political parties will be destroyed forever.
“People will have to opt for either political democracy or economic democracy. That is, they will have to choose a socio-economic system based on either a centralized economy or a decentralized economy. Which one will they select? Political democracy cannot fulfill the hopes and aspirations of people or provide the basis for constructing a strong and healthy human society. The only way to achieve this is to establish economic democracy.”
Divinization – the Supreme Solution
Women possess traits which are unique only to women – their greater sentimentality and sensitivity, their innate divinity and neo-humanistic tendencies, and their greater devotion. Women have the unique ability to use their emotional force to awaken and arouse people to help them understand how they are being exploited. Men talked against slavery but with how much impact? It was the sentimental power of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (written by a woman) that made the North understand the evil of slavery. Women due to their greater sentimentality can fight more valorously against capitalism, and can boldly mobilize poor women everywhere to form cooperatives, which will at long last allow them to escape from the clutches of both capitalism and the patriarchal structure. Women have innate and divine power to touch the hearts of all human beings and appeal to their inner conscience. It is women who will be able to emotionalize the pains of the suffering humanity and thus catalyze the clouded conscience of the world community in order to find economic freedom and thence the final liberation.
What is divinization? Divinization means the process of attributing and then discovering divinity in each and every created being and each and every physical object of this universe. Divinization is not there in mainstream religion. But, it is there in the mystical traditions of all religions. We see it in St. Francis, we see it in Sufiism, in Indian devotional poets, and in the philosophy of Zen. However, this spiritual or mystical outlook has always remained in the realm of poetry and philosophy and has rarely come out in society as a social force.
Women and Neo-Humanism
Neo-Humanism is a social philosophy for change that is rooted in this mysticism. Neo-Humanism recognizes that not only are all created beings and all rocks and mountains the creation of our Supreme Father or Supreme Parent. It goes further and declares the realization of mystics throughout the ages, namely that every single object of this universe is a manifestation of pure consciousness, of pure love, that is God, or the Supreme Being. While male mystics have traditionally avoided direct emotional expression of this great truth, women mystics all over the world have proclaimed this truth with enormous sentiment and power. For this very reason, St. Theresa of Avilla (Spain) had much more impact on the world than the theological St. John of the Cross.
The question is, how to apply this realization, how to seed this realization in our world. Neo-Humanism firstly uses the spiritual outlook to develop a pathology of racism, nationalism, communalism and capitalism. By developing an analysis of the sentiments behind fascism, racism, etc., one can see the dysfunctional emotional currents in peoples’ psyches. This understanding is of far greater importance than understanding the ideology of fascism, be it in Rwanda or Bosnia. The reason for this is that when someone (and especially a woman) knows the emotional nature of a person, she will be able to offer the right form of nurturing to heal that person. Women have been healing men scarred by violence since wars first began. This is why, on a collective scale, the sentimental power of women combined with a spiritual outlook can enable women to heal the emotional diseases of society. Healing these emotional diseases of society is the first step of resistance to globalization.
Neo-Humanism also uses the spiritual insight into human beings to understand the nature of exploitation, and to understand the pathology of capitalism and capitalists. This understanding enables Neo-Humanists to see through the rhetoric and hypocrisy of multinationals. This spiritual vision enables one to see the weaknesses of multinational corporate control, and to chart out a plan of resistance, culminating in the establishment of economic liberty and economic democracy. It is women who can execute these plans for resistance and who will lead and in fact form the backbone of this struggle for economic democracy and freedom.
“Those entities in whom psychic and intellectual powers are looked upon as more gorgeous than the physical ones are called humans – predominantly mental beings. Hence, to bring about the real well-being of humanity, greater attention has to be paid to the psychic and intellectual expressions of human beings, for that will lead to perfect spiritual composure and all-round fulfilment in human life.
“Competition in the realm of physical pabula may bring satisfaction in material enjoyment, but it leads human beings far, far away from inner tranquility. It is true that to give emphasis to existential security of human beings food, clothes, accommodation, education and medical care are absolutely necessary. Accepting these requirements as indispensable needs for living beings, you will have to move forward. But remember that while giving utmost importance to these requirements, human characteristics should not be even slightly neglected under any circumstances. You must also remember that the physical expressions of life and the increasing spiritual unfoldment of human beings are not antithetical, rather they are complementary to one another in the task of establishing a great ideology.
“So keep moving, enlighten humanity with crimson rays and make your existence meaningful and effulgent. Move on, move on.”
– Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar
2 Barabara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, Metropolitan Books: Henry Holt and Company, New York. 2001. p. 199.
3 Ibid, p. 203.
4 US Census Bureau.
6 The corporate factories set up in Mexico where poor men and women work. There is a line of them along the US/Mexican border on the Mexican side.
7 John Madeley, Big Business, Poor Peoples: The Impact of Transnational Corporations on the World’s Poor. Zed Books, 1999. p. 94-99.
10 Deborah Barndt, Women Working the NAFTA Food Chain: Women, Food & Globalization, Second Story Press.
11 Ibid, p. 39.
12 Ibid, p. 56.
13 Centre for Women’s Development Studies (ed.), Shifting Sands: Women’s Lives and Globalization, 2000.
14 Ibid, p. viii.
15 Ibid, p. 266-267.
16 Ibid, p. 267.
17 They did not have the option to migrate.
18 PBS documentary on Globalization and Jamaica, narrated by Jamaica Kincaid, 2001.
19 It is happening in America as well. On television in March, 2002 on C-Span there was a Black Voices for Peace Conference. At one point, a black minister and activist from New York city stood up and told the audience that thus far 1 million Americans have lost their jobs, and that thanks to a brand new treaty between WTO (World Trade Organization) and China, another six million Americans will lose their jobs in the very near future.
20 Kevin Bales, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, Univ. of California
Press, Berkeley, 1999.
21 Ibid, p. 5.
22 Ibid, p. 22.
23 Human Rights Watch, The Small Hands of Slavery: Bonded Child Labor in India, 1996.
25 Ibid, p. 14.
26 Ibid, p. 52.
27 Ibid, p. 90.
28 Jennifer Lynn, “Sex Trade Ensnares Female Immigrants in US”,
30 While writing about women’s cooperatives specifically in this paper, it would in fact be very beneficial to have co-ed cooperatives, having both men and women as members. Since all are equal owners with equal voices, and if such cooperatives permeated the society, it would help to bring about the steady decline of patriarchy and replace it with a new and genuine egalitarianism.
31 GEO – Grassroots Economic Organizing, Issue 41, Mar-Apr 2002.
32 Peter Honigsberg, Bernard Kamoroff and Jim Beatty, We Own It: Starting and Managing Cooperatives & Employee Owned Ventures, Bell Springs Publishing, 1991.
33 The six Principles of the International Cooperative Alliance are as follows: (1) Membership of a cooperative society should be voluntary and without artificial restriction or an social, political, racial or religious discrimination, to all persons who can make use of its services and are willing to accept the responsibilities of membership. (2) Cooperative societies are democratic organizations. Their affairs should be administered by persons elected or appointed in a manner agreed upon by the members and accountable to them. Members of primary societies should enjoy equal rights of voting (one member, one vote) and participation in decisions affecting their societies. In other than primary societies the administration should be conducted on a democratic basis in a suitable form. (3) Share capital should only receive a strictly limited rate of interest. (4) The economic results arising out of the operations of a society belong to the members o that society and should be distributed in such a manner as would avoid one member gaining at the expense of others. This may be done by decision of the members as follows: (a) by provision for development of the business of cooperative; (b) by provision of common services; or, (c) by distribution among members in proportion to their transactions with the society. (5) All cooperative societies should make provision for the education of their members, officers and employees and of the general public in the principles and techniques of cooperation, both economic and democratic. (6) All cooperative organizations, in order to best serve the interest of their members and their communities, should actively cooperate in every practical way with other cooperatives at local, national and international levels.
34 Theresa Amott and Julie Matthaei, Race, Gender and Work: A Multicultural Economic History of Women in the United States. South End Press, Boston, 1996.
35 Bruce Dyer, Why Cooperatives: The New Zealand Context
37 Peter Honigsberg, We Own It, Bell Springs Publishing, 1991.
38 Ibid, p. 35.
39 Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, Proutist Economics: Discourses on Economic Liberation, Ananda Marga Publications, Calcutta, p. 113.
40 We Own It, p. 114.
41 Ibid, p. 94.
42 The main office of the National Cooperative Bank is located at 1630 Connecticut Avenue NW, Wash. D.C. 20009, and their mailing address is PO Box 96812, Wash. D.C. 20090-6812. Their telephone number is 1-800-955-9622.
43 The CSA is located at 1200 19th Street NW, Wash. D.C. 20410.
44 The MBDA is located at 14th and Constitution NW, Wash. D.C. 20230.
45 We Own It, p. 121.
46 GEO Newsletter, Issue 51, Mar-Apr 2002, p. 11.
48 Dieter Dambiec, “Cooperatives: Alternative Economic Structures and Business Enterprises”
49 This chart is taken almost verbatim, with only slight changes made by this author, from the book A Look at Decentralized Economy and the Cooperative System, by Ac. Tadbhavananda Avt., PROUT Research Institute, Copenhagen. Published by Proutist Universal, Copenhagen, 1993.
51 On p. 122 of Proutist Economics, Sarkar defines ‘economic holdings’ as those where the market price of the produce will exceed the cost of production including capital, labor and machinery. Lands which produce economically viable agricultural wealth – where output exceeds input – are called ‘economic holdings.’ ‘Uneconomic holdings’ Sarkar defines as those lands where the market price of the produce is less than the cost of production after including the costs of all the inputs.
52 Ibid, p. 115.
53 Ibid, p. 129.
54 Shrii Shri Anandamurti, Ananda Vacanamrtam, Part 30, Ananda Marga Publications, Calcutta, 1996, p. 100.
55 Ibid, p. 204-211.
56 Proutist Economics, p. 196.
Bales, Kevin, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, Univ of California Press, Berkeley, 1999.
Black Voices for Peace Conference, on C-Span, February, 2002.
Brandt, Deborah, Women Working theNAFTA Food Chain: Women, Food & Globalization, Second Story Press, 1996.
Centre for Women’s Development Studies, Shifting Sands: Women’s Lives and Globalization, New Delhi, 2000.
Ehrenreich, Barbara, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Metropolitan Books: Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2001.
GEO Newsletter, Issue 51, Mar-Apr, 2002, p. 11.
Honigsberg, Peter, Kamoroff, Bernard, and Beatty, Jim. We Own It: Starting and Managing Cooperatives & Employee Owned Ventures, Bell Springs Publishing, 1991.
Human Rights Watch, The Small Hands of Slavery: Bonded Child Labor in India, 1996.
Kincaid, Jamaica, Globalization and Jamaica, a PBS Documentary, 2001.
Madeley, John, Big Business, Poor Peoples: The Impact of Transnational Corporations on the World’s Poor, Zed Books, 1999, p. 94-99.
Tadbhavananda, Acarya, A Look at Decentralized Economy and the Cooperative System, Prout Research Institute, Copenhagen, Proutist Universal, 1993.
Sarkar, Prabhat Ranjan, Proutist Economics: Discourses on Economic Liberation, Ananda Marga Publications, Calcutta, p. 113.
Lynn, Jennifer, “Sex Trade Ensnares Female Immigrants in US”.
Dyer, Bruce, Why Cooperatives: The New Zealand Context
US Census Bureau – website.
Copyright The author 2011