The Madison Economic Democracy Conference

(PROUT Globe) – Over 200 people attended the Economic Democracy Conference at Madison, WI, USA 11-14 0ctober, 2012. Well-known keynote speakers included The Nation correspondent John Nichols, Gar Alperovitz on cooperatives, Ellen Brown on public banking, David Cobb of Move to Amend, and David Schweikart, author of After Capitalism.

In her welcome, Beth Wortzel, the conference chair, said, “I truly believe the time is at hand where, by joining our intentions, our talents and ideas, our practical strategies and resources we can create a powerful force for liberating ourselves from the grip of corporate capitalism’s dying empire. Thank you for being here and for being part of that force for change.” Read her full speech on the conference website www.economicdemocracyconference.org

In her inspiring opening talk, Nada Khader said: “Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, the founder of the Progressive Utilization Theory (Prout), said that we must elevate the status of agriculture, that agriculture and agricultural work should have the same status as industry. Think about the automotive industry and how, over time, auto workers accrued decent compensation packages, worker protections and benefits. Imagine how our food system would be transformed if we applied the same standards to agricultural work. We need federal and state policies to promote the welfare of family farms and agricultural cooperatives which will enhance food security for all.” Read her full speech on the website.

A total of 38 workshops took place on subjects ranging from cooperatives to grassroots organizing, from indigenous rights to community gardens. Seven Prout workshops were offered: “Prout: A Holistic Approach for Social and Economic Empowerment” by Nada Khader, Mirra Price, Ame Johnson and Tapan Mallik, “Changing what we Measure from Wealth to Well-being” by Tom Barefoot, “SEED: Solidarity Economy and Ecological Design” by Jason Schreiner, “The Ethical Need for Revolutionary Change” by Bill Ayers and Dada Maheshvarananda, “A Comprehensive Framework for Universal Economic Empowerment” by Ron Logan, “Close Your Eyes and Open Your Mind” by Dada Nabhaniilananda and “Health Care for All” by Dr. Steven Landau, who wrote and circulated an excellent “Prout Medical Manifesto” available on the website.

Dada Maheshvarananda said, “There are three main ways that you can respond to injustice and exploitation. The first one is silence–I’m not going to speak out when I see racism, sexism, injustice or exploitation, either because I’m afraid, or because I’m afraid of losing my personal benefits. The second possible response is reform–I want to change things gradually. The problem with this one is that everyone on the planet who you want to help will probably be dead by the time we finally get the reforms. People also adopt this strategy out of fear of losing their privilege. A third possible way of seeing the world is as a revolutionary, to courageously end exploitation and save lives as fast as possible. That’s my position, as well as Sarkar’s, and I think that fits a lot of people in this room. ‘The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire’.” Read the full transcript on the website.

The Saturday night cultural program was superb, with seven acts that each lasted 15 minutes, with perfect timing. Dada Vedaprajinananda, the excellent Master of Ceremonies, opened with jokes and his own songs about social justice and “Trickle Down Economics”.

After a beautiful video of the indigenous circle dance, Art Shegonee in full native dance costume, came down the aisle–talking on his cellphone! He was trying to reassure Big Bird of Sesame Street, a symbol of Public Broadcasting System (PBS), two days after US presidential candidate Mitt Romney pledged to cut all funding for the only national non-commercial media information source in the United States. Then he went into a spectacular tribal dance set to modern rock song about the dance of the four directions.

Fourteen grandmothers in The Raging Grannies sang funny, radical political songs. The hilarious Forward! Marching Band got everyone on their feet and dancing. Karen Libman was an incredible story-teller who told about “Naked Truth”. The Master of Ceremonies and the first act was Dada Vedaprajinananda who sang about “Trickle Down Economics”, and the finale was Dada Nabhaniilananda who gave the world premier of his new composition, “A Revolution of Love”.

Sunday was the Action Summit with 70 enthusiastic participants trying to create an implement a cohesive master plan for Economic Democracy.

Five professional filmmakers came from around the country, including Ed Glassman from Denver, to film all the keynote addresses as well as some of the workshops. They recorded 2 terrabytes of film and did several interviews that they are now editing and will later post on the web.

The conference was organized by Proutists from across the United States. Believing that the demand for economic democracy that economically empowers people and communities has the potential to unite people around a common cause that replaces the tyranny of corporate power, the goal was to “unite the moralists”. Conference web site: www.economicdemocracyconference.org with all the 12 talking points written by Proutists to convey the main conference ideas

The conference organizing committee has transformed itself and opened its arms to interested individuals and organizations, becoming the Alliance for Economic Democracy that is now planning conferences in other cities.

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