Category Archives: Activism

Krishnanagar Prout UTC

Picture above: A section of the audience enjoying the street theatre performance of Mukta Bhumir Meye ("Daughters of Liberated Land") downtown Krishnanagar during the Prout UTC

(Krishnanagar, 21 December) – A five-day Prout utilisation camp (UTC) was conducted at Krishnanagar in Nadia District, West Bengal from 17 to 21 December. More than 300 students, youth, Prout leaders (BPs, UBPs and various committee members) attended the camp.

A Prout UTC is a multifaceted educational platform oriented towards the all-round progress of participants. Essential activities include meditation, yoga asanas, ideological training, discussions on current issues, and cultural programs. More than 80 youth from Odisha, Tatanagar, Purulia and several districts of West Bengal were initiated into meditation during this UTC.

Highlights included classes by Proutist Universal Secretary General Dada Kalyaneshvaranandajii, and senior Proutists Acarya (Ac.) Dhyaneshananda, Ac. Trayambakeshavarananda, Ac. Raviishananda, Ac. Prasunananda, and Ac. Tanmayananda, Ac Satyasvarupanandajii, Dr. Bhaskar Jena of Baleshvar, Odisha, and Bakul Roy, the Samaj Secretary. 

An impressive procession on 19 December led to a street theatre performance of Ac. Tanmayananda Avadhuta's Mukta Bhumir Meye ("Daughters of Liberated Land") performed by the Lavanya theater group of Kolkata. The Krishnanagar public is culture loving and was present in thousands, so that the artistic proceedings went beyond the time slot formally allotted by the municipal authorities. On 20 december there was a public symposium well attended by intellectuals of Krishnanagar.

IMG_20151220_163103
Inspiring songs ahead of UTC opening proceedings

 locals
A Prout UTC places great importance on local resources and culture

yogasisters
Women being instructed in yoga at the Krishnanagar UTC

yogabrothers
Men being instructed in yoga asanas at the Krishnananda UTC

procession
Prout procession moving through Krishnanagar during the UTC

drama
Members of the the Lavanya theater group​ performs Mukta Bhumir Meye ("Daughters of Liberated Land") — street theatre downtown Krishnanagar

audience2
A section of the audience at a public function during the Prout UTC

publicsymposium
The stage during the public symposium

 

Successful PROUT Field Effort in Midnapur, WB

Picture above: The PROUT Parikrama at Goaltor village, Midnapur District, West Bengal

(PROUT Globe) – A four-day Prout Parikrama ("moving around") in Midnapur district of West Bengal was held to promote Prout in this significant cadre-producing district. The Parikrama started on 12th October from the Kerani tala Ananda Marga School campus. A motorcade of five four-wheelers and a bus carrying Proutists were led by 30 motorcycles. More than 50.000 leaflets were distributed. More than 130 proutists travelled together in this four-day Parikrama. Shri Asit Dutta, Proutist Universal Bhukti Pradhan of Midnapur, led the Parikrama on its first day to Chandara village, Dhedua, Baita, Basantpur, Beltikri, Kurkutshol, Binpur, Belpahari and finally Shilda. A public meeting was held at every village. 

On the following day the Parikrama moved to Ergoda, Parihati, Dahijuri, Zargram town, Palaidanga, Kultikri, Kharipara, Kulbani and ended at Dvipa village. The most important meetings were held at Kharipara and Dvipa villages where proutists in the hundreds joined.

After staying overnight at Dvipa, the Parikrama moved to Keshiari, Hatigaria, Pratibandh, Khajra, Kharagpur town, Debra, Panshkura, Mechogram, Khukurdah, Dashpur, Ghatal, Khirpai town, Neradeul, Keshpur, Anandapur, Godapiashal, Shalbani, ending the day at Chandrakona Road. The most important meetings were held at Chandrakona Road and at Ghatal. 

On its final day the Parikrama moved on to Goaltor, Patashol, Kadoshol, Ramgarh, lalgarh, Pirakata and reached Midnapur early in the afternoon. The best response the Parikrama got was from Goaltor villagers who offered several acres of land to promote Potato farming according to the Proutist system of integrated farming. the local outfit of Proutist Universal Farmers Federation is now planning to take advantage of this offer and start farming in the area. 

In Midnapur, a thousand Proutists joined the Parikrama and took out a procession that moved through the main thoroughfares of Midnapur. The rally converted into a public meeting at the Vidyasagar Institute. Main speakers included Ac. Raviishananda Avadhuta, Ac. Dhyaneshananda Avadhuta, Asim Das, Ac. Saomyashubhananda Avadhuta, Avadhutika A. Rupatiita and Asit Dutta. Rajiv Manna presented the Welcome speech. The Anandam Gosthi sang proutist songs from Prabhat Samgiita. Several hundreds non-proutists attended the meeting.

Midnapur rally
The rally in Midnapur

Midnapur meeting
Meeting in Midnapur

On way to Kharipara
On way to Kharipara

Patasol village
At Patasol village

Palaidanga village
At Palaidanga village

Organising for Social Change in Tasmania

liilahassBy Liila Hass – What do we mean by “social change”? When we look all around us, and wake to gross economic injustices, the treatment of asylum seekers, the wanton destruction of rainforests, the abuse of farm animals, the wiping out of diversity of species, all for profit and the hoarding of wealth, many of us are called on to assess the root causes of these practices. How is the gap between what we might most value and what we actually experience so huge?

What follows is an opportunity to join with others to replace our current direction with a more just and kinder social order. We consider efforts such as this to be the basis of social change, for in finding others who also care about the planet and also value fundamental human rights, we are able to create a voice for the voiceless.

When I first moved to Tasmania, I was struck by the polarization between the environmental groups (the “Greenies” as environmentalists are known) and their opposition: “The Loggers”. All environmental discourse seemed to revolve around the needs of these two groups. The loggers, supported by the government, wanted jobs, and blamed the Greens for their plight. The Greenies, on the other hand, wanted to save the old-growth forests from destruction, as well as stop the decimation of native animal species through loss of habitat, 1080 poisoning and other means of destruction. The Tasmanian Tiger had already gone extinct and the Tasmanian Devil seemed set to follow in its course.

However, when I reflected on the issues at hand, it seemed to me that this was more of an economic argument than an environmental one. Though the loggers blamed the Greens for low wages and lack of work, still another group was hiding in the wings. The timber companies that plow through our precious natural resources are large transnational corporations, quite content to let the loggers blame the Greenies, meanwhile diverting all the profits to overseas CEOs and board members to use for yet another Mercedes or high-end apartment complex.

Other issues in Tasmania stand out:

Tasmania has the lowest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Australia, the highest number of high school drop-outs, the lowest rate of literacy, and the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, unemployment and youth suicide. As I came to settle in my new home, I wondered where I fit in and how I might help play a role in improving Tasmania’s socio-economic problems as well as raising awareness about the deeper issues of economic disparity and the powers at play. I figured that nothing beats education in helping the average person to understand what really is going on behind the scenes.

With these ideas in mind, during 2005, along with several friends, I launched the non-profit, “Future Tasmania”. At the time, it was just an idea, with no name, no framework and no Internet presence. Over the years, by hook or by crook, it’s grown into a statewide organization, with a membership of some 500 people, a website, Twitter and Face book pages, a monthly newsletter and a major player in Tasmanian community engagement.

We have put on six annual conferences, several smaller workshops and seminars, hosted the Dalai Lama during His Holiness’s only visit to our island, and helped motivate citizens to run (successfully) for office in state and local politics. We have been on the news several times, have had a voice on local, state and national radio and have also been in the print media. During 2012, we graced the cover of the Southern Tasmanian phonebook and have been the recipient of an environmental award as well as given several school awards. We have hosted politicians and other government and economic leaders and have been able to offer volunteer internships for students and social change thinkers. This is the legacy I will leave behind, as I plan my move from Tasmania later this year, but what a thrill it’s been.

It is hard to explain in one short article how this all happened, but I will say this, for those interested in making a difference:

What I feel is critical in bringing people together is to have a vision, to find like-minded people in the community who are respected, and to work with them in every way possible. Doug McKenzie-Mohr, a Canadian environmental psychologist who has studied what it takes to create change in communities for over 30 years, points out that the best way to create change is to firstly identify the community leaders.

These are not necessarily those with the most fancy cars or biggest houses, but rather those people in the community to whom everyone looks up and wants to emulate. Once those people are identified, if they can be convinced to change, then others will quickly follow suit! Thus, with social change movements, the first step is to identify these key players and go after them as catalysts of change.

The second important step is to create a sense of community identity—to find those people around you who have a similar sense of justice, and who have common interests, concerns, and so on. It is these people who may be able to in fact help work doggedly toward change. Such a group is known as “Samaja”.

What is samaja? It’s a Sanskrit word that captures the concept of groups of like-minded people working together for social change, “marching of all together, inspired by the same ideology, towards a common goal” (Sarkar, Human Society, Part 1.) Usually, a samaja is created based on common socio-economic interests, and can include geographical boundaries, language, cultural and social customs. Such people are able to merge their socio-economic interests with those around them and work toward creating a common platform, or movement, for change.

It is on such an idea that an organization like “Future Tasmania” hinges. Though not everyone in the organization has the same exact goal or exact picture of what lies ahead, most members have a vision of a just society, with basic freedoms, socio-economic prosperity, natural beauty, safety, and all-round artistic, aesthetic and other pleasures.

Once such a group forms, offering the members a practical framework, such as cooperative models for running businesses, or models of effective and just governance, based on principles of ethics and fairness in alignment with those advocated by PROUT, transforms the society into the vision to which all can aspire.

Notes

Sarkar, P. R. (1959). Human Society, Part 1. Calcutta: Ananda Marga Publications.

Liila Hass is the Founding Director of Future Tasmania and a recent recipient of the Jan Lee Martin Scholarship, Melbourne University School of Business Executive Education. She is a graduate of the Tasmanian Leaders Program and has trained with Al Gore as a Climate Change activist.

Republished with permission, from Rising Sun, 6, 2014. http://anandamarga.org/pdf/news/north-america/newsletters/RisingSun6.pdf

Implementing PROUT

Photo: From a 2014 PBI rally in Bhuvaneshwar, Odisha, India.

By Acharya Santosananda Avadhuta

From prehistoric times human beings have been strongly motivated by the urge to lead a happy and    peaceful life. This irresistible urge expressed itself in the form of the origin and evolution of science and technology. While human beings have been active on the material plane to acquire more and more happiness and prosperity they have also been active on the mental plane to contemplate and evolve many theories and philosophies for the betterment of their life and existence.

Despite all their efforts, humanity continues to remain mired in misery and suffering. Remedies were suggested to attain the objective of a suffering-free and stress-free life but attainment of this objective has always eluded humanity. In this quest for more and more happiness, aside from their spiritual endeavours, humans have attempted to evolve socio-economic theories. Thus appeared the ideas of Capitalism, Marxism and other schools of thought. Many revolutionaries and revolutionary events emerged in pursuit of this goal – numerous Freedom Movements, the Enlightenment, French Revolution and Communist Revolutions. There have been several smaller movements to remove discrimination, disparity and injustice but the cherished goal is nowhere in sight.

Establishment of Moralist Society

The latest in this evolution of thought is the exposition of a socio-economic philosophy, PROUT (Progressive Utilisation Theory), propounded by Shrii Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar (also known as Shrii Shrii Anandamurti) in 1959. Shrii Sarkar explained how PROUT is a panacea that will create an exploitation-free social order. He has dwelt at length on social, economic, political, cultural, educational and moral issues confronting humanity. He has also envisioned a dream goal which is called a moral revolutionary society (Sadvipra Samaj).

Now the question is how will this precious thought system come into practice? Whether it will also remain a dream project never to be translated in practice, or will it ever see the light of day?

Some of the objectives towards the establishment of moralist society are 

  1. Governance by moralists alone.
  2. Self-reliant economy.
  3. Jobs for all.
  4. Genuine establishment of moral, cultural and human values. This implies no discriminations based on caste, race, religion, etc.
  5. Coordinated and not subordinated cooperation between individuals and social groups.
  6. An autonomous mechanism to deal with any social menace that may emerge or erupt in the said revolutionary moralist society.

The object of this paper is not to dwell on the specialities and utilities of Shrii Sarkar’s theory in detail but to explain how PROUT can be implemented. The author’s intention is to express an understanding of how PROUT indeed can resolve the age-old dilemmas, riddles and challenges that humanity until now have failed to grapple with successfully.

In a nutshell Shrii Sarkar deals with two aspects:

  1. The integrity of an individual’s moral character.
  2. A well-knit social order that discriminates against none.

Shrii Sarkar always voiced and emphasised that only those who are strong in morality – who have infallible moral character – they alone should be entrusted with the responsibility of socio-economic management and political governance. In Shrii Sarkar’s ideology, such moralists alone can bring an exploitation-free society into practical existence. So one thing is very clear – a movement headed by moralists alone can implement PROUT in reality. 
Regarding who is a moralist, there are many perspectives, but here I want to state only three salient qualities which are fundamental to the question:

  1. One should be the one and the same in speech and action.
  2. One must in all circumstances – favourable or unfavou rable – completely carry out one’s ideological commitments.
  3. Once one has decided to attain a goal, one must not abandon it, come what may.

I feel that the degree to which one is established, or is following these basic principles of morality, is judged by how closely one is able to come towards the goal, which in this case is the establishment of PROUT.

To Take Action NOW

Starting from 1959 until now, for various reasons, Proutists have not been able to significantly influence the existing social currents anywhere in the world. The ideas of PROUT have no doubt been disseminated through various programs (books, seminars, etc.) and PROUT has won the approval and admiration of several distinguished persons throughout the world. But as it is, PROUT has yet to be taken seriously by any intellectual or organiser of any standing or any government anywhere in the world. Because of this PROUT has not been able to be an integral part of the main current of social activities anywhere. So the object here is to explain how to make PROUT the dominant social current and thus to move towards the goal of a just socio-economic and political order.

There may be persons who like to say that when God desires then automatically PROUT will be established…since  none has the capacity to resist God’s will, therefore PROUT will be established once God wills it…we should therefore not bother about it and should only go on discussing, sermonizing about this philosophy amongst the people. 

Such a psychology goes against everything Shrii Sarkar said and did. Many times he stated that he wanted to see significant change in society without any further delay. We never fulfilled this ardent aspiration of his revolutionary mission. 

In countless inspiring messages in his books, he repeatedly asks us to take action NOW to save humanity and bring the suffering to an end. Thus far these words have failed to motivate any notable revolutionary zeal in us to establish a government of spiritual moralists. Rather the aforementioned superstitious attitude extinguishes whatever revolutionary fire exists in the Proutists. 

Let us recall some of the soul-stirring messages of Shrii Sarkar to all moralists:

“In this world, in this entire universe, the wind is blowing in our favour. It is the most opportune time to do something for the present and future humanity. At this critical juncture one moment of time has the value of 100 years. Utilize the present position – utilize the situation. Do your duty with more zeal. Let your speed be accelerated. It deserves more acceleration…
“The world moves fast, the universe moves very fast, and the psychic counterpart is also moving fast. Recently the speed of this movement has been greatly accelerated. You should realize this, and you must accelerate the speed of the duty allotted to you. You should  maintain a proper balance with the revised speed. Everywhere sanity and rationality will rule human psychology. Humanity will rule the universe.”

“Parama Puruśa [Supreme Lord] has blessed you with hands to work and legs to move; has infused you with the stamina to act; has endowed you with practical intelligence, so make the best use of them in the fight against the demons. You must not sit idle relying on fate. Be vigorously active.”

“Just as the advent of the purple dawn is inevitable at the end of the cimmerian darkness of the inter-lunar night, exactly in the same way I know that a gloriously brilliant chapter will also come after the endless reproach and humiliation of the neglected humanity of today.

“Those who love humanity and those who desire the welfare of living beings should be vigorously active from this very moment, after shaking off all lethargy and sloth, so that the most auspicious hour arrives at the earliest.”

“Despite its advent onto this earth many thousands of years ago, humanity is not yet capable of building a well-integrated and universal human society. This is in no way indicative of the glory of human intellect and erudition. You, who have understood the predicament, realized the urgency, seen the naked dance of evil and heard the hypocritical and raucous laughter of the divisive forces should throw yourselves into this noble task without further delay. When the ends are just and noble, success is inevitable.”

The above messages of Shrii Sarkar are a clear indication that he wants us to translate the ideals of PROUT into a living reality at the earliest. Not only that, he also guarantees us success once we throw ourselves into action for the realization of this goal. 

Two Movements

Summarizing the objective outlook of PROUT, two movements are implied – a socio-economic-cultural movement and a political movement. For spearheading the socio-economic-cultural movement, Shrii Sarkar has propounded socio-economic groupifications called Samajas (eg. Malwa Samaj, Asi Punjabi Samaj, Hadoti Samaj, etc.) based on certain essential factors such as same economic problems, uniform economic potentialities, ethnic similarities, the sentimental legacy of the people, and similar geographical features. 

Through this he wants us to identify with the sentiment of a particular region. Through these socio-economic groupifications, Shrii Sarkar wants that an anti-exploitation socio-economic-cultural movement should come into existence.

PROUT in fact advocates ensuring that economic power comes into the hands of the common people. The goal is to ensure that everyone is economically self-reliant and therefore PROUT principles and policies seek to involve local people in the planning and economic development of their region. The reason is that local people are the best judge of their own needs and aspirations. Their direct involvement with the economic activities of their region is essential for them to achieve self-sufficiency. 

Fight against degenerating pseudo-culture also infuses into a person, fighting spirit against exploitation. Protecting one’s cultural and sentimental legacy is important as it enables people to unite on a common platform easily and then to take the struggle against immoral misrule strongly and steadfastly.

The second movement is a purely political movement. In the last chapter of His book Ananda Sutram, Shrii Shrii Anandamurti begins by talking about the rule of a particular psychology that is prevalent in a particular place, in a particular age, and how in course of time, that leads to exploitation, discrimination and all types of degeneration. In such a situation, the moral forces have to save the people and end this exploitation. So their movement for the eradication of exploitative rule takes place either by evolutionary or by revolutionary methods. Needless to reiterate, for a Proutist revolution to really succeed in advancing its objectives, the movement’s leadership must be in the hands of moralists.

For Shrii Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, leadership is the most crucial issue. It is a leader who brings a good or bad system into practice. If moralist revolutionaries lead a movement it will bring about a humane social order in a practical sense. Immoral leaders never act selflessly and therefore always remain concerned with their own happiness and well-being. They will therefore never allow moralists and Proutists to hold power. This is the reason why despite the persecution of Proutists, no leader – social, political or corporate – has ever come out openly against this persecution. Not less than fifty persons have been killed and many gory incidents have taken place, yet none of the well-recognised persons even took pains to ponder over it seriously.

A Government of Proutists

Hence a government of Proutists is essential for the promotion and implementation of Proutist ideals. PROUT cannot be implemented if we are to continue to live under the rule of a hostile government. The existence of a PROUT friendly government is indispensible for the purpose. 

PROUT has thus given two distinct movements side by side: A socio-economic-cultural movement and a political movement to take over power from immoralists.

Let us first discuss the Samaja movement. It moves people to agitate in order for them to become empowered socially, culturally and economically. When the government accepts the demands of the Samaja movement and enacts laws to that effect, their materialization takes practical shape. Otherwise, the rule of corruption, hypocrisy and suffering for most will just continue. Therefore Shrii Sarkar has envisaged a political movement to bring Proutists to power. It is for this reason that we need a Proutist government. In order to practically achieve this, launching and strengthening the political movement is the way out.

Proutists in the seat of power will be a step forward in establishing PROUT ideology. A PROUT friendly government can implement the vision of PROUT into reality. The present lack of a PROUT government is one of the main reasons why Proutist institutions have not succeeded in accelerating their activities. A sympathetic and supportive government is an important factor to provide impetus to ideologically revolutionary activities. So in order to bring acceleration and consequent victory of Proutist movements – the rule of moralists (Proutists) is essential. Samaja movements will facilitate this work. Both movements – political as well as socio-economic – cultural– are to complement each other.  

In order to raise a political movement, a clear vision and direction is required. In 1968, Shrii Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar founded a political party called Proutist Bloc, India (PBI). All these years this party has not been sufficiently active with the desired speed, desired strength and therefore it has yet to find a place on the political map of India. Now, in the present era, PBI activists have resolved to wage decisive struggle with the immoral forces.

A System of Dual Powers

Economic and political powers need to be segregated. It is unwise to give both powers to one institution. Therefore, economic power (via Samaja activities) will be vested in the hands of the local people. Local people (belonging to a particular samaja) are sovereign in this regard. To understand why, it is essential to realize that the dominant doctrine in social and perhaps scientific thought is the doctrine of “the survival of the fittest.” This doctrine causes people to take the suffering of the helpless and the weak as something natural and not worth becoming outraged over. Shrii Sarkar dealt a death blow to this concept by saying that every living being has dual values. 

Firstly there is their inestimable value of their existence and second there is their utility value as a precious resource for society. Until now, in practical life there has been recognition and emphasis on people’s utility value because the doctrine of “survival of the fittest” still dominates the collective psychology. The result is that certain persons dominated by this doctrine have been more and more active in acquiring more skills and knowledge and also they have never hesitated to exploit, suppress and oppress without any qualms of conscience. Indeed, they always were vociferous in justifying their actions to the public claiming that their wealth was the result of their talents and hard work and that other people have the opportunity to struggle and succeed just like they did. In the past successful dacoits propagated the same type of justification for their social vices.

Shrii Sarkar thoroughly differs from this duplicitous line of thought. When the Supreme Entity cares for the existence of even the lowliest and most helpless beings, why then should human beings not do likewise? Why should they deny others the very right to remain alive. The benevolent Lord knows that a newborn baby has undeveloped digestive organs. Therefore He provides milk in the breast of the pregnant women, well before the child is even born. Similarly the Lord has not discriminated against the most hateful sinner with regard to their right to exist. We are to look upon all as a dignified manifestation of the Supreme Lord. Therefore we have to guarantee the existential value to one and all. This is why Shrii Sarkar has guaranteed economic power and economic rights to one and all, so that everyone becomes self-reliant and so that no one should feel that their life could not blossom due to a lack of resources and opportunities. Therefore we have to usher in a system where everyone exists with dignity without any worry about poverty, suppression and exploitation. Thus Prout’s economic movement of Samaja puts economic power in the hands of the common people.
 
But so far as governance and administration is concerned, it cannot be entrusted or delegated to everyone like economic power. Only moralists should occupy the seats of governance, not any Tom, Dick or Harry. Without the presence of a strong moral foundation within a person, they are bound to fall and deviate from the righteous path. Those remaining in government or in administration must necessarily possess moral and spiritual attributes. Precisely for this reason, PROUT’s political movement will however be in the hands of moralists alone without any compromise. Here the role of the common people is that of an activist and voter and not that of a leader or an official functionary.

One of the negative results of failing to maintain this separation can be seen today. There is concentration of wealth and power in a few hands, resulting in poverty and deprivation everywhere. These economic giants are controlling the politics as well. Virtually both the powers – economic and political – are effectively vested in the same set of persons. In order to grapple with this disparity in the economic condition of the people, economy therefore needs to be decentralized and for this reason PROUT has started 44 Samaja movements in India. 

But in order to maintain unity and structural solidarity of the country, there is only one political unit, i.e. India. Thus there is one Indian government accommodating all the 44 Samajas. 

Politics has to be the exclusive domain of moralists while the economy remains in the hands of the local indigenous people. There is centralization of political power and the economic power will be decentralized.

Right from the early days Shrii Sarkar started creating and inspiring cadres to take part in elections. Why did he continue to do this? The reason is by this the cadres were made to go out and see the suffering in the society and listen to people’s problems. This makes them dedicated to the mission of PROUT and it makes them think deeply how to solve their local problems with PROUT. Furthermore the struggle to carry out the work despite money shortage and oftentimes violent onslaughts by corrupt people, force them to become courageous and make leaders out of them. Shrii Sarkar said leaders are born out of the process of doing the revolutionary work of mobilizing the people.

PBI will not be a three-month program during the elections period. Representatives will learn to fight for the people’s issues all year round. They will teach the people to think for themselves, articulate their feelings and fight for their rights and their dreams through PBI. Through this, the people will become a powerful force that will not just bring candidates to power rather will always be engaged in fighting to bring PROUT about in their local area. In this way national mobilization of the Proutist activists of India and the Indian people will take place to create a new breed of Proutists who relish struggling against all odds. Shrii Sarkar thus says,

“Hence, non-struggle – the absence of struggle – is but another name for death. It has been my constant endeavour to arouse this spirit of struggle in you; I have never encouraged aversion towards struggle.” 

So to bring back the spirit of moral struggle is the most important task facing Proutists today. PBI will honestly accomplish this task.

Mission of PBI

In order to fill this gaping void in politics, PBI has emerged with clear vision and determination. PBI will accomplish five tasks:

  1. PBI will endeavour to create polarization in politics. There should be a clear message to society that only moralists will be allowed to take part in political activity. Therefore morality has to be the minimum qualification of a political activist. The yardstick of judging a person’s morality will be his/her private and public conduct. In particular the amount of wealth of a candidate must be clearly scrutinized.
    Today, people believe that without indulging in immoral and unfair practices, it is impossible to be successful in politics. In other words, a person cannot win a seat in the legislature without resorting to immoral means. This myth in the Indian psychology has to be shattered by PBI.
  2. PBI will do its best to organize and unite disgruntled moralists. Goody-goody moralists are not of much use for addressing the issue of people’s suffering. It requires fighting zeal and revolutionary spirit to challenge the immoral and exploitative forces.
  3. PBI will endeavour to establish harmonious coordination with other PROUT activists and movements.
  4. PBI will endeavour to maintain a sympathetic relationship with like-minded organizations and movements.
  5. PBI will work for mass mobilization for bringing a new socio-political order into existence and as such will fully concentrate on mass awakening and mass uprising.

The ultimate aim of all these activities is to bring Proutists (moralists) into power in the form of a PROUT government. 

The Aftermath

Once we have a Proutist government, is there any guarantee that this government will materialize PROUT principles and PROUT policies? This is a question meriting serious reflection.

Past experiences show that the new governments have deviated from their declared agenda and with the passage of time become tyrannical like their predecessors. That is why, the examples of revolutionary struggle and revolutionary governments formed after seizing power from exploitative governments no longer inspire people today. Instead people have come to believe that we may expect a change of government but never the replacement of the existing system by a durable, benevolent and thoroughly pro-people’s system of governance.

Shrii Sarkar has deeply gone into this issue and says,

“The government, be it fascist, imperialist, republican, dictatorial, bureaucratic or democratic, is sure to become tyrannical if there is no moral force to check the capricious activities of the leaders or of the party in power.”

This implies that Shrii Sarkar visualises two sources of power – the first official power and the second unofficial
 power. Official power means power derived from the national Constitution and the statute books. The entire machinery of governance and administration functions within the ambit of the provisions laid down in the Constitution and legal statutes. Hence this is considered the official system. Anything not officially permitted is considered illegal and punishable.

Due to this situation, it is most likely that a person in official posts of power who lacks moral integrity is destined to unleash a rule of terror and ruthless exploitation. It is therefore not possible to check the baneful actions of such government functionaries and authorities from within the  government machinery as it is under the control of such tyrannical and immoral persons. Shrii Sarkar therefore has made us realise the need for a moral force outside and independent of the official machinery of government

Therefore he says, “One cannot expect this moral force from the government power functioning within a democratic structure. We expect it from non-political ends.”

It is therefore evident that the desired moral force has to emerge from outside the realm of the government. By what process will this moral force become a reality for the common man? To understand this, let us scrutinize and analyse the nature of Proutist politics.

Proutist Politics

Shrii Sarkar advocates partyless democracy – the reason being that people become divided in several groups due to their loyalty to different political parties and these parties keep them divided because only through these divisions can they come into power. The current system of party-democracy has many defects known to every intelligent citizen. The main defect is that people vote for the party and the party very often fields candidates who are unworthy from the viewpoint of dedication and dauntless struggle for the rights of the suffering people. The only consideration of political parties, when selecting a candidate, is to see whether he/she can win election using even immoral and illegal means, including of course, money and muscle power. The supporters of a party vote for the party’s candidates without caring for credentials of those candidates. Therefore the legislature becomes full of people of questionable character. Parties also enter into unholy alliances with other parties for gaining power and money, making a mockery of ethical principles. This kills the very spirit of democracy. It is in light of this scenario, that Shrii Sarkar is in favour of partyless democracy where people will vote based on the merit of the candidates. 

The question still remains as to whether people elected in this new partyless democracy (just like those in the party democracy existing today) will fulfil the mandate of their manifesto. What is the guarantee that when she/he enters in the legislature, their integrity remains as clean as in the past?

In order to address this very eventuality, Shrii Sarkar has visualized another centre of power independent of the constitutional and legal system. This is a moralist power functioning as the centre of the common people’s support. People will rally around moralist leadership and accord them recognition due to their exemplary conduct, service-mindedness and indomitable integrity. This power centre does not arise through the legal order. It comes into existence because of the people’s will for justice, equality and unity.

People support this unofficial, non-governmental power centre due to their implicit trust and confidence in the moralist leader’s selfless and dedicated personality. This leader will therefore exercise their influence on the people due to the force of their uncompromising struggle against all forms of injustice and not because of any legal or official position. People will thus have a genuine form of leadership to bank upon and will be inspired to become such leaders themselves. This moral movement will create mass support for change and will enable the leadership to exert effective and productive influence upon the government and the administration.

A situation will therefore naturally evolve into existence when the government with its various agencies will no more be in position to ignore this power centre. They will always remain in fear of this moral leadership due to the massive popular support behind it. They will realise that once they refuse to listen to this moral power centre, they will be thrown out of power. They will therefore always feel accountable to this moral, non-governmental power centre. 

Past examples of such popular moral political support include Mahatma Gandhi, Jayaprakash Narayan and recently Anna Hazare. They did not hold any official post in the organisation, which was running under their leadership. Without any position, the entire movement was under their control and the people followed them so long as they felt the leader was fully responsive and dedicated to their welfare. However, those past leaders made serious mistakes due to which they lost their role as a moral guide.
 In the case of Mahatma Gandhi, he could not restrain the Congress from working as a political party and that became the cause of his failure. Even prior to this, he could not prevent the Partition of India despite his loud declaration that the division would take place on the corpse of his dead body. In post-Independence India the Congress party was taken over by opportunist politicians who refused to listen to Gandhi. 

In the case of Jayaprakash Narayan, after the Janata Party came to power, he disbanded the entire network of people’s organizations. Thus no one in the party would listen to him and he died in grief seeing the corrupted party collapse. What he should have done was to keep the network of organizations alive and use them as a means to exert pressure on the government. The rulers at the centre would have then felt accountable to this moralist centre of power; this moral nucleus would have remained a threat to their capricious activities. In the absence of such a powerful centre, the Janata Party rule collapsed without completing its full term. 

Similarly, a non-governmental people’s movement emerged centring around Anna Hazare. It also gained mass support but subsequently it was hijacked by those nurturing political ambitions. As a consequence, the movement flopped and lost its mass appeal and Anna is a bewildered man today. In retrospect we see that Anna lacked penetrating intelligence and thus could not realise the nature of his companions or forsee their future actions.

Shrii Sarkar has introduced the concept of a moral power independent of government machinery but having unquestioned leadership of the moralist people. This centre of moral power will emerge as the natural choice of the people. Here I do not mean to imply one individual’s leadership. I mean the collective leadership of strong moralists. While the legislators will do their work in the legislature, people under the collective leadership of moralists will keep an eye on their functioning. When they find that a particular legislator is not acting in accordance with the contents of his/her manifesto, then they will force him to resign and if required leave politics forever. So, once the people are empowered to act under the leadership of such a moral centre, which should evolve as a natural consequence, the emergence of a non-governmental effective moral power centre will become a practical reality. Such a non-governmental power will serve as a deterrent for any immoral act of any legislator.

Two-tiered Leadership

So we have a two-tiered leadership – 1) the official leadership represented in the governmental structure (legislative, judicial, executive, audit, secretariat, police, etc. branches); and 2) the non-official universally recognized moralist force. Both will complement each other. But in the case of the government machinery not working in the people’s interests, the moral force will create such circumstances to force them to mend their ways or vacate the seat of power. Such a system of social culture can guarantee the implementation of PROUT. None need be afraid that the legislators and other wings of the administration will not do their duty.

Without such a centre of moralist power, the implementation of PROUT ideals will remain a dream. Therefore in PBI, there are leaders who will contest elections and enter into the legislature. Besides this, there are leaders who will always work with the masses without aspiring for any political gain. They will be natural leaders of the population (rather than appointed, nominated or elected leaders) and hence the interests of the masses will be safe due to their selfless leadership. The official (administrative) leadership will always be in awe of this moral leadership because they will always remain accountable to its relentless vigilance to safeguard the welfare of the people.

Today, this second tier is completely absent. People are endlessly divided – having loyalty for and against certain parties and those who are elected by the people have no worries about the public going against them. These immoral legislators use all tactics to keep the people divided and docile and in low spirits. All the parties want to retain their separate identity and work day and night to consolidate their vote bank, In this nefarious game of power politics, one section of the common people always remain at war with the others. The parties spend funds lavishly to keep their party in the limelight and for attracting mass support.

In addition, every party in power always at the grassroots level encourages the spread of alcohol, drugs, pornography and decadent culture, no matter what their public stance might be. The revolutionary spirit in the dissatisfied and rebellious people is sapped by such degradation which keep them morally weak. Thus they compromise with their own exploitation and aid the exploitation of others. These rudderless, self-disrespecting people are no threat to the unscrupulous politicians and therefore the latter feel free from worry. They feel assured of remaining as MP or MLA for their full term. 

Since they foresee the wrath of society against the exploiters who fund their election campaign they are careful to keep creating controversies so as to divide people on superficial issues and social prejudices. As a result they shamelessly and freely use this term in power to inflate their wealth and amass luxury items. They do not even bother to visit their constituencies regularly. 

So this type of psychology will not exist once fear is instilled in them that the people will not tolerate even for one day if they make a mockery of the promises in their manifesto.

The propagation of Proutist ideology has to be consistently carried out as a permanent activity and not a seasonal or yearly activity. Only in this way can change be generated in the collective psychology towards PROUT ideals. People have to be empowered with PROUT – to feel that with this ideology and path of action they can liberate themselves. They must arise and liberate themselves with PROUT. 

This strong freedom sentiment must be developed and in order to develop this sentiment, constant PROUT educational empowerment programmes have to be undertaken. This also helps in consolidating the will power of the disgruntled people. These disgruntled moralists will have a platform(moralist nucleus) to ventilate their dissatisfaction and anger. The more they become organized and united, the more they become aggressive for attaining their goal of social reconstruction. PBI will tirelessly work to this end. 

Finally the disgruntled people become capable of more and more acts of courage to end the prevailing exploitative system and bring genuine changes. Therefore Proutist political movements will succeed in giving a pure and efficient administration and a pro-people governance. Thus PROUT will finally see the light of day. Shrii Sarkar expressed the pure truth saying

“There is joy indeed in launching a struggle against injustice, and that joy is part and parcel of aesthetic science.”

Let this joy be felt by not just every Proutist, by every moralist on this planet; let even the immoralists yearn for this joy in their hearts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.  Do you think staging rallies, dharnas (sit-ins) and contesting elections at this stage, before creating awareness  of  need for change will help establish Prout.   Dharnas and rallies on a small scale are not taken seriously by media and people; they get mixed up and lost among other rallies on petty issues. 
A.Staging rallies, dharnas and contesting elections certainly help in creating awareness for the need for change. I do agree that dharnas and rallies on a small scale do not create much immediate impact. The solution therefore lies in steadily raising them to bigger and effective strength as part of a sustained grassroots campaign.

Q. Do you think mass will become ideological easily in order to support PBI movement? 
A. Mass can never become ideological. They can only be sympathisers and supporters. When they find that a particular movement holds prospect of bringing relief to them, they join it in droves. My experience is that the mass who raises slogans of Gandhiism does not know what Gandhiism in fact is. Same is the case with the activists of other movements. Only few people at the top have the understanding of their ideology. This is true in case of Proutists as well. How many among us know the specialities and beauty of Prout? They just know the word Prout, and that it is the best philosophy and ideology. Their conviction is based more on devotional sentiment and partially on intellectual understanding. 
Prout was propounded in 1959; 56 years have passed. Can you claim Indians in general know even the word Prout ? It is known to a very small number of people who are the ardent followers of Shrii Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar. In the outside society, the number can be counted on fingers.

Q. Do you not feel it is the time of intellectual fight and time for physical fight is not yet mature. Gain enough strength before taking the enemy face to face. Should we not concentrate at this stage on intellectuals and thoughtful people?
A. I do not think we should say this is the time of intellectual fight alone. We have been waging this fight since 1959. This should continue but this is not enough. Prout ideas will remain confined to a few people as it has remained till now if we insist only on talking and discussing about Prout without corresponding work on the ground.
     I have never implied taking on enemy face to face. My emphasis is on creating collective psychology and effecting genuine polarisation in politics. Propaganda and elections are parts of the strategy. Once collective psychology is evolved and consolidated in favour of Proutistic change, formation of Prout government becomes a natural consequence.

Q. We find political parties and politicians are not respected at present by right thinking people. Will they take PBI seriously?
 A. Politicians and political parties are not respected due to their conduct. Once their motives and activities are channelled towards unwavering sincerity and moral integrity, people will start respecting politics. Today it is the refuge of scoundrels. This situation has to be reversed.PBI will strain every nerve to accomplish this task. 

Q. Helping people by pressurising government through agitating movements to solve their problems makes them think that the present system is right; and when we fail in our efforts, will not people turn to other persons and parties even if latter adopt corrupt practices? 
A. Efforts to pressurise the government is a strategy, it is not the way to solution. This helps in consolidating anti-thesis and organising as well as uniting viksubddha shudras(disgruntled moral virtuous revolutionaries).
    People will certainly not abandon us when they find and realise that we are not the present day professional politicians.They will come forward to support us impressed and inspired by our sincerity, integrity, dutifulness and service mindedness. PBI stands for this.

 Q. Is it not that Samaj movement should precede contesting elections by PBI? Highlighting the need of local economy and culture will gain popularity among people that will eventually help in winning elections. Do you not think that PBI contesting few seats symbolically will not be taken seriously in present day politics?
A. Contesting elections is also an integral part of the strategy. It also assists in mobilising masses and consolidating collective psychology in favour of Proutistic change.
     I do not think that Samaj movement has to precede the political movement. They have to proceed side by side. The spirit of both the movements should be to establish Prout. They should complement each other in letter and spirit.
      Samaj movement has also to evolve collective psychology in its favour in order to gain mass support for its agenda. It is not possible just by talks and discussions.

Q. Do you not think Proutists must be in a position to give Proutistic solutions of the present day problems to the people in order to inspire their confidence and consequently acquire much needed credibility?
A. They ought to know, but this is possible only for a few competent Proutists whom we can call ideological leaders. Masses and mass leaders sympathise and support the movement. They are however, attuned with the subterranean spirit of Prout but do not possess the deep knowledge of the philosophy and ideology. The collective body of the ideological leaders and mass leaders together will crown the Proutist movement with victory. 

Q. What are in your view the methods to reach different media in order to reach people?
A. All these methods like dharnas, memorandum, symbolic hunger strikes, protest processions and door to door contact are the methods to bring the movement closer to common people and earning popularity among the masses, thus broadening mass support for the movement. We will also agitate for redress of people's grievances by bringing circumstantial pressure on the administration through these methods, and if needed even by courting arrest.

Q. What will be the methods to make people feel the necessity of a new system?
A. Once we are able to make people aware of the cause of their sufferings through propagation of our philosophy and ideology and fighting for their cause with the administration,they will feel the need of the change of the system realising that their grievances are not being redressed and their suffering continues to accelerate.

Q. What is needed for changing the collective psychology in favour of Prout?
A. For changing the collective psychology of the people, the best course is to organise and unite viksubdha shudras (disgruntled, impoverished moral virtuous revolutionaries) and thus bring about the polarisation between moralists and immoral politicians. Collective psychology evolves through anti-thesis as well as synthesis. Therefore while PBI will sincerely and seriously work for strengthening the anti-thesis, it will simultaneously popularise synthesis by advocacy of the new system to be introduced on the basis of Prout through platform propaganda and door-to-door contact. When people find that their sufferings are not being alleviated in the present system , and the new system offered by Prout has the practical remedies, the necessary collective psychology is  bound to evolve and consolidate in favour of Proutistic ideals making Prout the dominating element of socio-economic-cultural and political currents of the society.

Q. You are repeatedly using the words revolution and revolutionaries. What exactly do you mean by these controversial words?
A. There is no controversy or confusion regarding the meaning and significance of the word “revolution”. It means the tremendous application of all the three powers a human being possesses – physical, psychic and spiritual.
A revolutionary will not give any encouragement to lethargy. Their entire physical existence will be devoted and dedicated to the cause of suffering humanity.
A revolutionary will not support or encourage any dogma. Their intellect will remain liberated from all forms of narrow “isms”, social prejudices and psychic weaknesses. They will neither be trapped by any attachment nor by any malice. Their mind will always remain fixed upon the goal. 
They will be a bonafide spiritual person having no trace of hypocrisy in their life. They will never use spirituality as a commercial enterprise. They will never allow themselves to be worshipped but rather will give honour to all the unrecognised good people in the society. They will strive endlessly to work in a state of ardent love for the Supreme Entity. 
In social life they will always be unable to bear the suffering of anyone and will personally wipe the tears from their eyes and fight for them against all odds. Those people who are rejected and hated by others will become the dearest objects of their love. They will build the personality of the victims of society and teach them to fight for their rights and show them how fighting for the rights of others is the greatest joy in life.
When these same qualities become manifest in the collective psychology and the people become unwilling to tolerate the sufferings of others in the society, we call it a revolutionary psychology. When this psychology leads to mass struggle and mass upheaval in the society it is called revolution. Those who at that time are ever absorbed in crowing this revolutionary struggle with all-round success and bringing about the triumph of justice for all beings are the leaders of the revolution.

Q. Any other reason of your being confident regarding the success of PBI movement?
A. We are conscious that we have to maintain the consistency and continuity of the movement to reach the goal. We are also aware if we fail to do it we will also be pushed into the oblivion like other good movements of the past. Our hearts bleed for suffering humanity.

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.

What Makes Cooperatives Successful?

By Dada Maheshvarananda

R.M. Baseman, an associate researcher and advisor to the PROUT Research Institute of Venezuela conducted a passive Internet survey to find worldwide consensus on the question of co-op success. First he found primary-source articles and publications in which authors expressed opinions and conclusions about the success and failure of co-ops. The sources reflected experience from all continents and more than ten countries, including ones by the International Labor Organization, the International Cooperative Alliance and the United Nations. Studying these, he located 175 factors for success that he grouped into 13 categories and prioritized according to the number of similar responses:

  1. Supportive environment
  2. Sound advance planning
  3. Real economic benefits for members
  4. Skilled management
  5. Belief in co-op concepts
  6. Grassroots development and leadership
  7. Financially self-sustaining
  8. Innovation and adaptation
  9. Effective structure and operations
  10. Networking with other co-ops
  11. Communications
  12. Common member interests
  13. Education

Co-ops, much more than corporations, closely reflect the lives and thoughts of the member-owners. If the common interests of the members and the interests of the co-op move apart, the co-op dies.

“Successful cooperative enterprises transform a community by establishing economic democracy.”

All the basic factors for success in any business also apply to co-ops, as would be expected: there has to be a real demand for the product; planning has to be thorough and realistic; and the enterprise has to make money. There are also clear differences between consumer and producer co-ops, making their factors for success also somewhat different. For example, widespread community support of a consumer food co-op is essential, because without thousands of regular customers it will have to close. On the other hand, a co-op that manufactures custom automation solutions for industry is much less dependent on community support.[1]

Examples of Small-scale Cooperatives in Maleny[2]

Maleny is a small town of 5,000 people situated 100 kilometers north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. Twenty successful cooperatives function there, linking every aspect of community life: a cooperative bank, a consumers’ food co-op, a cooperative club, an artists’ co-op, a cashless trading co-op, a cooperative radio station, a cooperative film society, four environmental co-ops, and several community settlement co-ops.

MCU Sustainable Banking (Maleny Credit Union)

The Maleny Credit Union was started in 1984 with the objective of creating an ethical financial institution which would foster regional financial autonomy by lending exclusively to local people and projects. Initially it was staffed by volunteers, who worked from rented rooms and entered deposits manually into a journal. On the first day of operations, local people deposited more than US$25,000.

Today MCU has grown to more than 5,500 owner members, and US$52 million in assets, including its own building. People from all over Australia invest their money with the Credit Union; about half its deposits come from outside the community.

The services MCU offers include savings, checks, loans, credit cards, term deposit accounts, ethical superannuation and insurance. Since its inception, the Credit Union has made many small loans to local people who would have been ineligible to borrow from major banks. These loans have helped them to buy land, build their own homes, and start more than 100 new businesses that create jobs. Despite some initial difficulties, today MCU is extremely successful, principally because it developed the right balance of financial expertise and cooperative spirit.[3]

Consumers’ Food Cooperative

In 1979 a small group of people, who wanted whole foods and produce grown by local farmers, formed the Maple Street Co-op. Today it oper- ates an organic health food retail outlet on the main street of Maleny, open seven days a week, with 1,700 active members. It has 40 employees and stocks more than 4,500 health products. Although it functions as a consumers’ cooperative, it also sells to the public.[4]

The co-op’s first priority is to provide organic food. It focuses on locally-produced food; if that is not possible, on Australian-grown products. It refuses to stock anything that contains genetically modified material, nor does it stock products from companies that it considers to be exploitive of people or of the environment. It operates on the principle of consensus decision-making.

At first, labor in the co-op was voluntary, but as it prospered, the number of paid workers slowly increased. During its 32 years of operation, it has overcome several major hurdles. At various times in its existence, the co-op dealt with problems such as lacking a viable business plan, operating at a loss, making poor investment decisions, lacking experienced financial management, and spending a lot of time resolving differences of opinion among its members.

Learning from experience, the co-op gradually evolved a sound stra- tegic and financial plan. For the last decade, the co-op has made a profit. However, it is structured as a non-profit enterprise, so the profits are either reinvested to expand the co-op’s services and develop its infrastructure, or are donated to community activities.

In 2006, the Maple Street Co-op chose to share management with the Upfront Club, a cooperative restaurant, bar and entertainment venue located in the shop next door. The club is still operating as a welcoming and friendly “social heart” for Maleny. It regularly hosts film nights, open microphones, art exhibitions, fundraisers and game evenings along with a great variety of live music. Volunteers help in many areas of the Club, from washing dishes, to planning events and beautifying the grounds. The two co-ops together produce over US$2 million in cash flow yearly.

Other Maleny cooperatives

Maleny has one of Australia’s most successful Local Energy Transfer System (LETS) schemes. It functions as a cashless trading co-op whose members trade their products and provide services to each other without the use of money. Instead, they use a local currency: the Bunya, named after the local native pine nut. This allows people with little or no cash to participate in the local economy.[5]

The Maleny Community Kindergarten was built by a group of community volunteers in 1939. Today it still operates in the same premises with a beautifully-landscaped garden out front. The kindergarten is run by an elected board.

Maleny has three environmental co-ops. Barung Landcare is one of several hundred community-based landcare groups throughout Australia; it runs a successful nursery, provides environmental education, and promotes the sustainable harvesting of native timber. Booroobin Bush Magic runs a rainforest nursery, while the Green Hills Fund works to reforest the Maleny hinterland.

There are four community settlement cooperatives in Maleny, includ- ing the Crystal Waters Permaculture Village. Crystal Waters houses 200 residents on private one-acre lots. Two community lots that are owned by a cooperative of residents include buildings for community events, small businesses and a monthly market. The PROUT Community Settlement Co-op has ten families and uses half of their land for the River Primary School, with more than 200 students on 25 hectares of beautiful rainforest land.[6]

The Venezuelan Cooperative Experience

The first legal cooperative in Venezuela was a savings and loan associa- tion formed in 1960. By the end of 1998 there were 813 registered coop- eratives with 230,000 members. Most of these are still active, tough and resilient because they were created by the members with no government support or funding. For example, the Cooperatives of Social Services of Lara State (Cecosesola), founded in 1967, now includes producer and consumer food co-ops that serve 60,000 people each week, credit unions, health clinics and a network of cooperative funeral homes that is number one in the western region.[7]

When President Hugo Chávez took office at the beginning of 1999, he began to emphasize cooperatives in order to transform property into collective forms of ownership and management as a key to the Bolivarian Revolution. In 2005 he called for a “Socialism for the Twenty-first Century”. His job-training program for the unemployed, Mission Vuelvan Caras (“About Face”), included cooperative education and encouraged all graduates to form one. Co-op registration was made free of charge; they were exempted from income tax; micro-credit was made available; and laws were passed directing the government to give preference to cooperatives when awarding contracts.

The goal was to transform the profit-oriented capitalist economy into one oriented towards endogenous and sustainable social development by involving those who had been marginalized or excluded. The result was a phenomenal creation of 262,904 registered cooperatives by the end of 2008, but many of these never became active or collapsed. The national cooperative supervision institute, SUNACOOP, recognized about 70,000 as functioning,[8] which is still the highest total for any country after China.

The majority of cooperatives have few members who are unskilled. Because of the high rate of failure among the registered cooperatives, in 2005 the president shifted the government’s approach from cooperatives to socialist enterprises and worker takeovers of factories. In this way, the government pays the salaries, but keeps the ownership. PROUT on the other hand supports worker ownership as well as worker management.

The PROUT Research Institute of Venezuela designed two surveys, in 2007 and a follow-up one in 2010, to understand the problems and needs of 40 cooperatives in the rural district of Barlovento, a two-hour drive east from Caracas. More than 90 percent of the population there are Afro-Venezuelans, descendants of former slaves, who have historically suffered racism and discrimination. The district has high levels of poverty and unemployment, economic disparity and emigration to the cities.

The objective was to diagnose the problems and challenges that worker-owned enterprises are facing. The results show that:

  • Eighty-five percent of the cooperatives were still functioning three years after the first study, with little or no government support.
  • Those that closed as well as a few that survived were robbed by corrupt co-op managers.
  • Sixty percent of cooperative members have not had training in cooperatives.
  • The majority of workers believe they are receiving the same or lower wages than if they were working for private enterprises.
  • There is little inter-cooperation among cooperatives, and little support from the community in Barlovento.
  • The most stable co-ops are those in which the members provided at least part of the initial capital.
  • Clearly the cooperatives of Venezuela need practical training and professional consultants responsive to their needs.

Guidelines for Successful Cooperatives

The successes of the Maleny cooperatives have been achieved through great struggles over the last two decades. Proutists there, in consensus with other members of the management committees, have drawn up guidelines they consider important in building successful cooperative enterprises:

  1. Fulfill a need. People have to come together in order to fulfill a genuine need in the community. No matter how good the idea, if there is not a community need, the enterprise will not succeed.
  2. Establish a founding group. A few committed people have to take on the responsibility of developing the initial idea through to inception. Usually, however, one person will need to provide the leadership.
  3. Commit to a vision. Commit to the ideals and values implicit in cooperative enterprises, and try to ensure that both the members and the management are honest, dedicated and competent.
  4. Conduct a feasibility study. Objectively evaluate the perceived need, and determine whether the proposed enterprise can fulfill that need by conducting a feasibility study.
  5. Set out clear aims and objectives. The members of each enterprise must formulate clear aims and objectives through con- sensus. These will help direct everything from the founding group’s initial focus to promotional strategies and budgetary processes in the years to come.
  6. Develop a sound business plan. The enterprise will require capital, have to manage its finances efficiently, and at some point will have to make effective decisions about loan repay- ments and profit allocation.
  7. Ensure the support and involvement of the members. The members own the enterprise–at every step their support and involvement are essential.
  8. Establish a location. Secure adequate operational premises for the enterprise, in the best possible location in the community.
  9. Get skilled management. From within the community, bring into the enterprise people who have the necessary management, business, financial, legal and accounting skills.
  10. Continue education and training. Ideally, the members will have the skills–particularly the communication and interpersonal skills–necessary to run the enterprise successfully. If not, they will either have to develop such skills or bring in new members who have them.

Golden Rules for a Community Economic Strategy

  • Start small, with the skills and resources available within the community.
  • Make use of role models, those with experience in community development, whenever possible.
  • Make sure the enterprise involves as many people as possible.

Community Benefits

Cooperative enterprises benefit a community in many ways. They bring people together, encourage them to use their diverse skills and talents, and provide them with an opportunity to develop new capabilities. They strengthen the community by creating a sense of belonging, fostering close relationships amongst different types of people, and empowering people to make decisions to develop their community.

All this fosters community spirit. Working together, a community is able to accomplish much more than when individuals go their separate ways.

On an economic level, cooperatives foster regional economic self-reliance and independence from outside control, empowering local people. They create employment, circulate money within the community, and offer a wide range of goods and services. Because cooperative enterprises are owned by the members themselves, profits stay in the local area. Cooperatives thus increase the wealth and build the strength of the community.

In essence, successful cooperative enterprises transform a community by establishing economic democracy. Cooperative enterprise is the socio-economic system of the future. With global capitalism terminally ill, developing cooperatives as independent alternatives makes a lot of sense. In Mondragón, in Maleny, and in Venezuela, that future is unfolding now.

Notes

1 The complete article and database are available at: http://priven.org/publications/
2 See Jake Karlyle, “Maleny Cooperatives”. New Renaissance, Volume 12, No 2 (Winter, 2003-4) and the excellent documentary by Alister Multimedia, “Creating Prosperous Communities: Small-Scale Cooperative Enterprises in Maleny” http://alistermultimedia.nhlf.org/creating-prosperous-communities/
3 http://www.malenycu.com.au
4 http://www.maplestreetco-op.com
5 http://www.lets.org.au/qlets.html
6 http://www.amriverschool.org.
7 Carla Farreira, “A cooperative where there are no positions, only tasks to be done: Cecosesola, Venezuela”. http://priven.org/262/
8 Dario Azzellini, “Venezuela’s Solidarity Economy: Collective Ownership, Expropriation and Workers Self-Management.” WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society. Volume 12, Issue 2, June 2009, pp. 171-191.

Excerpted from After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action by Dada Maheshvarananda (Puerto Rico: Innerworld Publications, 2012): www.aftercapitalism.org

PROUT Lessons from Development Work in West Africa

By Dada Daneshananda

In June 2000 I arrived in West Africa to coordinate AMURT development projects. These last twelve years have been an incredible adventure for me, giving me the special privilege to work closely with the people in villages in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. I am very grateful for having had this opportunity to expand my mind and open my heart to the beauty of the human spirit that, in spite of the continuous struggle for survival, shines brightly in the African village.

Lesson 1: Seva Clinic–The community must initiate and own their projects

In February 2002, a group of community leaders in the Mafi-Zongo District of Ghana requested us to help them start a primary health clinic. We called a big meeting in April, and 150 women and men from ten villages attended. The discussion was long and lively with many different opinions about where to locate the clinic and how it should be managed. We made it clear from the beginning that the community would own and manage the clinic, not AMURT.

“Even with good intentions, clever planning and enough funding, if the communities are not empowered from the beginning, we are not likely to achieve true development and the projects will not last.”

At the end of the meeting, the communities agreed to complete a half-constructed building in the village of Seva, to send candidates to be health-care workers to the Domeabra AMURTEL clinic for training, and to obtain official permission from the government health department to open the clinic. Everyone agreed to finish all this by September.

It was not until April 2003 that the building was completed, all affairs with the health department were sorted out, and the local health-care workers were ready. We spent April arranging furniture, equipment, supplies and medicines. The clinic opened quietly on May 1, 2003. From the first month, the clinic has been financially self-sufficient in operating expenses and staff salaries. AMURT has played a supporting role to help improve the facilities and services available to the community.

AMURT helped train women health promoters and Traditional Birth Attendants to educate and assist births in the villages. The women named themselves “Kekeli Women”. Kekeli means “brightness” or “light”. In 2012 we started a new program for teenagers called ”Kekeli Girls’. In Burkina Faso, AMURT’s presence in Deou Department goes back to 1986, when we began construction of a hospital. The safe motherhood initiative there has trained midwives in 37 desert villages. Today AMURT works with the communities on surface water harvesting schemes to make it possible to grow more vegetables in the arid semi-desert region.

These projects are self-reliant and supported by the communities due to three crucial factors:

  1. The community identified their own needs and priorities.
  2. They took the initiative and made the commitment to make it a reality.
  3. And crucially, the community provided the leadership.

In my experience these are the most important factors for a successful community development project. Even with good intentions, clever planning and enough funding, if the communities are not empowered from the beginning, we are not likely to achieve true development and the projects will not last.

AMURT is a partner and a catalyst. Relief workers can play an important role, but we must never consider ourselves to be more important than the community. If we do, we will create financial and psychological dependency. We will perpetuate the debilitating neo-colonial attitude which is exactly what we wish to break down. If we are not careful, our presence could even cause more harm than good.

Lesson 2: Mafi-Zongo Water Project–Set aside western notions of timelines and efficiency

In Ghana we helped start a big water project in Mafi-Zongo. The sources of drinking water the people were using were not safe, were often shared by animals and they dried up in the dry season, forcing the women and girls to trek long distances to fetch water. A local assembly member from Mafi-Zongo invited AMURT to come in. A medium-sized reservoir was planned with a slow sand filtration system to purify the water. This simple technology is affordable to maintain, and the people can learn to operate it themselves. It is also ecologically sound, because it doesn’t deplete the underground water reserves, which are already scarce in this part of Ghana.

The design called for a reservoir to be constructed on top of Kpokope Hill, from where the treated water would flow by gravity to all the villages. The hill is very steep and to bring cement and other construction materials up was a huge logistical challenge. We called a meeting with representatives from all the communities and explained the situation. The communities agreed to collect the sand, transport it to the foot of the mountain and carry it up the hill in three weeks.

It took three months, with men and women from a dozen communities working hard, to bring enough sand to the foot of the mountain. Then we called an emergency day of communal labor for all the communities. That day the hill was alive and swarming with dozens of men, women and children, carrying pans of sand, making the difficult climb to the top.

This delay would have been avoided if we had bought the sand and paid workers to carry it up. But that would have been a mistake. Community development projects are not about meeting deadlines of international donors, but about bringing the whole community along together.

After that the people of each community dug the trenches and laid the pipes connecting them to the dam. In total, a network of 61 kilometers of pipes was laid that now provides safe drinking water to 10,000 people in 30 villages.

AMURT was first invited to Mafi-Zongo in 1993. The work started in 1994. It was not until 2005 that the first ten villages got piped water, and it was not until 2011, 18 years after it began, that the project was completed. The sense of pride and accomplishment felt throughout the villages when the project was completed created a sense of ownership and tied the populations of the 30 villages together. That pride and unity remains today and has been essential to the sustainability of the project. In African villages, people are not bound by clocks and calendars. They are patient, because they perceive time as moving in cycles. Time is vast, like the sky. People have enough time. Westerners, on the other hand, see time as linear–we are always in a hurry, we lose patience and lament if we “lose time”. We could learn a lot from African villagers.

Lesson 3: Ebonyi Maternal Health Program–The emergence of new leadership

Nigeria has the ninth-highest maternal death rate in the world. In 2010 AMURT chose to work in Ebonyi state, the poorest and least developed state in southern Nigeria. In partnership with the communities, local NGOs and the government, we have set up three primary health care centers with outreach programs to serve the people of Ekumenyi, in the Abakaliki Local Government Area, where the maternal mortality rate is double that of Nigeria’s national rate. Our special focus is to reduce infant and maternal mortality, saving lives. We also work with water sanitation and hygiene committees elected by each village, to drill and manage boreholes.

We needed a baseline survey at the beginning. We trained a dozen health workers to go from compound to compound. They registered 5,000 women of child-bearing age, 15-49, in 36 villages. We were shocked by the results, because the surveys reported there had been 31 maternal deaths in the last three years. We decided to verify each one. The unenviable task fell to Paulinus, an unemployed health worker from one of the villages in the project area. Visiting the different compounds and asking about the mother who had died in childbirth, he met suspicion, and at times hostility. One man who had lost his young wife threatened Paulinus with a machete! Often his questions brought anguish. The father-in-law of a woman who died started weeping openly, and as a result all the men, women and children also started weeping. Paulinus verified all the heartbreaking details of 31 maternal deaths from 2009 to 2011 from a population of just over 20,000.

Our outreach health education program includes home visits to all pregnant women in the area. Only by maintaining staff on duty 24 hours a day in the clinics, can the maternal health program work. All the planning and investment would come to naught if we had failed to recruit dedicated staff from the nearby communities. They communicate well with the people, and so there is a high level of trust and understanding. As the women’s confidence in the health centers grows, the numbers coming for prenatal care and delivery is steadily increasing. The health centers are owned and managed by the local committees, and the com- munities feel that the health care centers are their own.

Blessing was only 17 when she first volunteered on immunization days at her local health post. Since then she has trained and worked at a number of clinics and health centers. Because she came from a poor family, she never had the chance to go to nursing school. When the AMURT clinic at Offia Oji opened, Blessing was 23, but the government health department did not pick her to work there. Still, she came and worked as a volunteer.

It was impossible not to notice Blessing’s dedication. She has helped at the clinic almost every day, always volunteering for weekend and holiday shifts. Of the 150 deliveries at the clinic, she has assisted in more than 100. In community meetings, local traditional leaders and the women leaders sing her praises. It’s moving to see how this young woman, without formal education or position, has earned such respect through her dedication, sacrifice and positive attitude.

The success of the maternal health program can be directly traced to the emergence of new local leaders, such as Paulinus and Blessing. In West Africa I have found that genuine leaders, who have the welfare of their people at heart, can be found in every village. They are like scattered jewels. Our challenge is to invite these dynamic people to come forward and take charge. Community development projects are opportunities to serve for those who truly have the welfare of their people at heart. The best hope for the future of the neglected communities lies with the new leadership. They are more important than us, more important than any money or technology or clever concepts we have to offer.

Lesson 4: Thinking in terms of all-round growth

Community development is the micro-view of PROUT and can play an important role in social change. By working at the grassroots level, from the bottom up, keeping PROUT’s key principles at the front, work for the poor takes on a revolutionary character. In one’s spiritual life, a meditation mantra leads to self-realization and helps to morally guide our choices. In a similar way, I believe that before undertaking any new project, we should think Proutistically and decide whether or not this action will promote the good and happiness of all. Ask yourself:

  • Does it increase the living standard, quality of life and security of the people?
  • Does it promote moral leadership? Does it train sadvipras?
  • Does it promote the economic self-reliance of the community? Is it environmentally sustainable?
  • Is it practical and replicable?
  • Is it based on cooperative principles and collective decision-making?
  • Does it provide everyone with the chance to develop their full potential?

If the answer to the above questions is “yes”, then, as is done with certification for organic agriculture or fair trade projects, we can declare that an undertaking is a “Certified PROUT Project.”

Ideally every action we undertake should have these goals. Continue your life’s work, but for each choice, ask yourself whether the action directly or indirectly promotes these aims of PROUT. If the answer is yes, do it. If the answer is no, don’t do it. If you don’t know, then study until you find the answer!

P. R. Sarkar urged everyone to accept this challenge:

In every age the dominant class first governs, then starts to exploit, after which evolution or revolution takes place. Due to the lack of sadvipras to lend their help, the foundations of human society fail to become strong. Today I earnestly request all rational, spiritual, moral fighting people to build a sadvipra society without any further delay. Sadvipras will have to work for all countries, for the all-round liberation of all human beings.
–  From “Shudra Revolution and Sadvipra Society”, Human Society Part 2

Excerpted from After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action by Dada Maheshvarananda (Puerto Rico: Innerworld Publications, 2012): www.aftercapitalism.org

Economic and Social Questions About Your Area

“Know the area,” said P.R. Sarkar. If you understand which are the right questions to ask, you are close to finding the answers. Below is a list of questions for a PROUT Study/Action Circle and to kick-start a block level plan. Sources you can consult to find the answers include government statistics, non-governmental organizations, the United Nations and the CIA World Factbook. Check if the data is contested, and whether independent sources support the government statistics. Invite a professor, expert or the representative of a concerned organization to a special dinner to explain the topic and answer questions about it.

Agriculture

How much arable land is there, and what proportion is cultivated?
What fraction of total land is arable?
What proportion of cultivated land is irrigated?
What are the main agricultural products?
Which agricultural products are exported?
How much food is consumed?
What percentage is produced locally? What percentage is produced nationally? What percentage is imported?
1. Cereals and grains (rice, corn, sorghum, barley, wheat, etc.)?
2. Beans (black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo, lentils, etc.)?
3. Milk: fresh, powdered?
4. Produce: vegetables, fruits?
What natural resources exist? How much of each one?
Which raw materials, if any, are exported, and what percentage of each?

Water

Percentage of people with access to potable water in their homes? Percentage of people with sanitation systems in their homes?

Manufacturing and trade

Which goods are manufactured, and how much of each?
How much is produced for domestic production, and how much is exported?
At what level is electricity production and consumption? Is any imported or exported?
At what level is the petroleum production and consumption?
Is any imported or exported?
At what level is natural gas production and consumption? Is any imported or exported?
What are the major imports?
What are the major exports?
What is the balance of trade?
Which countries are the major import partners?
Which countries are the major export partners?

Banks

What percentage of banks are cooperatively-owned?
What percentage of banks are national and privately-owned?
What percentage of banks are internationally owned?
What percentage of banks are government owned?
Are banking laws strict or is banking largely unregulated?
Are existing regulations properly enforced?
Do laws allow banks to operate in other markets, such as insurance?
What are the capital reserve requirements? Are these enforced?
Are there large investment banks and are there meaningful regulations to limit high-risk behaviors?
What are the total capital reserves and interest rates for each bank?
What is the demographic breakdown of loans and repayment?
What is the demographic breakdown of bank locations?
What is the commercial bank prime lending rate?

Cooperatives

What is the total number of cooperatives in the country? In each state? In each sector?
What proportion of businesses are organized as cooperatives in each sector?
How many people are members of cooperatives? What percentage of the population?
Over time, is this percentage increasing or decreasing? Are the laws relating to cooperatives favorable?
Do cooperatives receive tax breaks or other support from the government?
Are there national associations of cooperatives?

Economy

What percentage of the labor force is in agriculture, industry and services?
What types of taxes are collected at the national level, state level and local level?
At each level is the tax system effectively progressive, regressive or flat?
What are the annual tax revenues and expenditures?
What proportion of government expenditure at each level goes for: education, health care, military, police, fire, sanitation, infrastructure, social safety net, agricultural programs, etc.?
What is the budget surplus or deficit as a percentage of the GDP?
Is the surplus or deficit changing quickly or is it relatively stable?
What is the total public debt?
What is the total external debt?
What percentage of any debt is public debt?
What percentage of any debt is external debt?
Combining all taxes at all levels, what percentage of the GDP is collected as tax revenue?
How much foreign exchange and gold reserves are held?

Gap Between the Rich and the Poor

What percentage of wealth is held by the top 20%?
What percentage of wealth is held by the top 10%? What percentage of wealth is held by the top 1%? What percentage of wealth is held by the top 0.1%?
What percentage of wealth is held by the bottom 50%?
What percentage of wealth is held by the bottom 20%?
What percentage of income is earned annually by the top 20%?
What percentage of income is earned annually by the 10%?
What percentage of income is earned annually by the top 1%?
What percentage of income is earned annually by the top 0.1%?
What percentage of income is earned annually by the bottom 50%?
What percentage of income is earned annually by the bottom 20%?
How have these distributions been changing over the last 10 years? The last 5 years?
Which is more unevenly distributed, income or wealth?

Poverty

What is the current poverty level as defined by the government? How many people are under this poverty level? What percentage of the population is this?
How many people are under the absolute poverty level as defined by the U. N.: US$1.25 a day?
How is the poverty rate changing over time?
What is the level of rural poverty? What is the level of urban poverty?
Are some demographic groups experiencing more poverty than others?

Unemployment

What is the official unemployment level as defined by the government?
How many people are unemployed? What is the real unemployment level?
Are some demographic groups experiencing more unemployment than others?
What percentage of the workforce is underemployed?
What is the minimum wage?
How much is a living wage that is enough to buy the minimum necessities?
Are real wages changing? If so, how?

Crime and Corruption

What are the total figures for violent crimes? How are these numbers changing over time?
What are the reported rates of domestic violence and rapes? What are the estimated rates of domestic violence and rapes? How many corruption cases are filed; how many are pursued and what percentage are convicted?
How many involve police officers, government officials and business owners?
What is the perceived level of corruption?
What is the total prison population? Is the population growing over time?
How many violent incidents occur in prisons?
What proportion of people in prison are people of color?
Are people of color more likely to receive harsher sentences for the same crime?

Media and Advertising

How many TV stations exist? How many are government, pri- vate, pro-government, opposition, cooperative, public? How many broadcast over the airwaves and how many over cable? How many radio stations are there, and what are their affiliations? What are the 10 largest magazines and newspapers according to circulation? When was each formed?
How concentrated is media ownership? Are TV, radio and print media owned by the same company?
What is the “beauty myth” and how does it affect this culture? What is the total amount spent on advertising?
How is that divided among TV, radio, print ads, billboard signs and others?
How is that divided among sectors, such as alcohol, fast foods, cigarettes, soda and cars?
How much money is spent on political advertising? In what ways do advertisers exert editorial pressure?

In what ways does the government exert editorial pressure? Does the government have direct censorship authority?

Urban Migration

What is the rural population? What is the urban population?
How have these percentages changed over time?
What are the principal reasons for these migration patterns?

Land Ownership

Who owns most of the land? How concentrated is the ownership? How much land does the government own, and how is it used? Is mining, grazing or timber harvesting allowed on government land?
Can foreigners own land?
How is land taxed? Urban? Rural? How is it calculated and what are the rates?
Have there been occupations of rural lands? If so, how many?
Do the media call these “invasions” or “occupations”?
Is there land reform? If so, how many hectares have been redistributed by the government? How many more hectares are being considered for redistribution? Has the government taken land and not redistributed it?

Racism

What are the demographics of the major ethnic groups in the population?
What are the population and languages of the indigenous people? What proportion of businesses is run by people of color? What proportion of university professors are people of color?
What proportion of elected officials at each level are people of color?
Do people of color receive equal pay compared to others with equal qualifications?
What are the demographics of all the models and actors in two hours of prime time TV ads?
What are the demographics of all the models in the ads in a popular magazine?

Sexism

What proportion of businesses is run by women? What proportion of university professors are women?
What proportion of elected officials at each level are women? How many shelters are there for victims of domestic abuse? Are there telephone hotlines for victims of domestic abuse, either government or private?
Do women receive equal pay compared to men with the same qualifications?
What is the divorce rate?
How long does the average marriage last?
How many single mothers are there? Single fathers?
Are women and children more likely to live in poverty?
Are unemployment rates higher or lower for women? (If they are higher, consider why this still might be evidence of sexism.)

Education

What percentage of the GDP is spent on education? What is the expenditure per student?
What is the average teacher/student ratio at different grade levels?
How do teacher salaries compare with other professionals with similar qualifications?
How many students are enrolled in universities?
What percentage of eligible students attend university?
What percentage of students complete high school?
What is the cost of an education in a public university and a
private university?
What is the total number of teachers?
What is the total number of schools?
How many schools are public and how many are private?
What are the UN statistics for the number of children not in school and their ages?
What is the literacy rate?

Mental Health

What are the suicide rates for males and females? What are the facilities for mental health treatment? What is the number of admissions?
What is the estimated population and proportion of mental health patients?
What are the import totals and consumption estimates of anti-depressant medicines?
What are the drug abuse estimates? What are the alcohol abuse estimates?

Health

What are the leading causes of death? What are the major infectious diseases? What is the infant mortality rate?
What is the population growth rate?
How many people are malnourished? What percentage of the population?
What percentage of children is malnourished?
What percentage of expectant mothers receives prenatal care?
What is the diabetes rate?
What is the average life expectancy?
How many doctors are there per 1,000 people?

Pollution

What are air pollution levels? What are the carbon dioxide levels? What are the main causes of air and water pollution? What is the estimate of kilometers per capita driven?
Are auto emissions inspections required? Is carpooling encouraged? (HVO lanes)
Are bicycle lanes available and well maintained? What public transportation options are available?
What is the trash production per capita?
How much recycling is done by government and by non-governmental organizations?

Global Warming

Which have been the hottest years on record in your country? Are rainfall and snowfall patterns changing? If so, how?
Are natural storms increasing in number or intensity?
If sea levels rise one meter, how would that change the map of your country? By four meters? How many people live in those low-lying coastal areas? (see http://flood.firetree.net/)

Excerpted from After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action by Dada Maheshvarananda (Puerto Rico: Innerworld Publications, 2012): www.aftercapitalism.org

PROUT Slogans

Brief, electrifying slogans, about 5-12 words each, can inspire people and awaken their curiosity about PROUT. Choose your favorites, combine them, create your own. Put on banners, signs and T-shirts, with small letters at the bottom: “The Progressive Utilization Theory (PROUT)” and the local web page.

A new vision for all living beings. Basic necessities for all.
Be a flame in the darkness.
Be a revolutionary guided by great feelings of love. – Che
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Gandhi
Birds need two wings to fly–society needs women’s equal and full participation.
Capitalism: Good for the rich, disastrous for the poor.
Capitalist exploitation is killing human beings and the planet.
Capitalist greed is a mental disease–try PROUT.
Capitalist greed is destroying our planet!
Co-ops are self-help, not charity.
Co-ops create jobs: 100+ million, more than corporations.
Co-ops empower people to decide their own future.
Co-ops with “coordinated cooperation” is the system of the future.
Cooperative enterprises build a better world.
Cooperatives are enterprises with a soul.
Cooperatives are the businesses of the future.
Corporate stores give your money to rich investors–buy local!
Cultural freedom, economic freedom, spiritual freedom!
Each person here = thousands suffering from global capitalism. Economic democracy through cooperatives, regional self-sufficiency.
Economic democracy, not political hegemony.
Economic democracy: Cooperatives of the people, by the people and for the people!
Economic democracy: Economic empowerment of people and communities.
Economic democracy: Economy of the people, by the people and for the people!
Economic liberation for all.
Economics from the heart.
Education and jobs will free all women from economic dependence.
End economic exploitation.
End hunger–there’s enough food on earth, but not enough will.
Ending repressive regimes starts at home.
Exploitation no more!
Fight for justice, meditate for inner peace.
For an exploitation-free society.
For personal and planetary transformation.
For the good of all beings.
Globalize humanity – localize the economy.
Globalize solidarity.
Grow your local economy.
Human beings of the world–unite!
Human society is one and indivisible.
Humanity is one and indivisible.
It is action that makes a person great.
Meaningful jobs with “living wages” is our right.
Money is a human invention, we CAN change the rules.
Neohumanism: Love for humanity and all living beings.
One billion people aren’t wrong: Co-ops work!
One people, one planet, one future.
Our culture is our strength!
Planet Earth has enough for everyone if we share.
PROUT, PROUT–the only way out!
PROUT: Alternative to “global colonialism”!
Rampant materialism is costing us the earth.
Rational distribution of wealth, basic necessities for all. Real education is that which leads to liberation.
Real solutions for a better world. Real wealth comes from within.
Reclaim the economy for the community. Revolution = total transformation.
Save an endangered species: Humans!
Self-reliance, cooperatives and spirituality.
Set maximum wages for the welfare of all.
Share the wealth through local, cooperative-based economies.
Sharing the wealth of our planet.
Support credit unions, not big banks.
The force that guides the stars guides you, too.
There is enough for everyone’s needs, not for everyone’s greed!
“There’s no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women improves.” – P.R. Sarkar
Think globally, act locally.
Together we can build a better world.
Transform yourself and transform society.
Transform yourself and transform the world.
Uniting communities for local self-reliance.
Unity in diversity!
We are all connected.
We are all together in this world.
We are one universal family.
We belong to the universe–discover divinity within you.
We have a dream–food for all, jobs for all!
We need a cap on wealth.
Where every life matters.
Working together for a new world.

Excerpted from After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action by Dada Maheshvarananda (Puerto Rico: Innerworld Publications, 2012): www.aftercapitalism.org

Nine Lessons From the Worldwide Protests Against the World Bank, IMF, WTO and Global Capitalism

Dada Maheshvarananda
A colorful banner carried at the World Bank protests in Washington, DC, said, “Life is not a commodity: Shut down the IMF”. This points out that capitalists tend to treat people and the world as economic objects.PROUT   states unequivocally that the very first priority of any economic and political system must be the welfare of all. Any society which allows a human being to suffer for the lack of the minimum necessities of life must be changed.

In Brazil, for every dollar spent on education and medical care, the government spends two dollars on interest payment for the national debt. Brazil has already paid back more than it ever borrowed; yet it owes still more. Why? The October 1998 issue of Forbes magazine carries an article about Brazilian government bonds. For a minimum investment of $125,000, the investor will earn 25% interest per year. As the article explains, this is “a fabulous return.” Wealthy investors who buy these bonds are loaning dollars to the Brazilian government so that it can repay old loans to international banks. No jobs are created with this investment, no goods are produced, and common Brazilian taxpayers are paying a 25% return to these millionaires and billionaires, money that they cannot spend on health or education or other services.

This is exploitation, and it contributes to hunger and poverty throughout the Third World. P. R. Sarkar, the founder of Proutist Universal, put it bluntly when he said, “In the interests of living beings as a whole, capitalism must come to an end.”

Proutists have actively participated in the protests against global capitalism that have taken place in Seattle, Prague, Melbourne, Buenos Aires, Belo Horizonte and Quebec. As a participant in the organizing committee of the protests against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, DC in April 2000, I would like to share with you some lessons that I think we can learn from this growing wave of international protests.

Lesson 1: “Unite the moralists.”

This strategy is fundamental. The word “moralist” does not connote people who are merely honest and law-abiding; it means those who stand up against injustice and exploitation, who courageously protect the weak, who actively struggle to make a better world. By this definition, the more than 500 different non-government organizations, including Proutist Universal, who joined the alliance against the World Bank and IMF in April 2000, make up a coalition of moralists. Proutists should continue to create alliances with those who are fighting global capitalism.

In every protest, three different tactics take place. First there is a process of education and consciousness-raising. In the weeks leading up to the event, leaflets, posters and community radio interviews inform the city’s population of the protests. Lectures and symposiums are organized in the universities, high schools, churches and community centers in which experts explain exactly why these institutions are so problematic. For example, Susan George of the Transnational Institute said, “When people ask me, ‘But what would you put in the place of the IMF and World Bank?’, I am tempted to reply, ‘What would you put in the place of cancer?’ Because the only living organism in nature that sustains unlimited rapid growth is a malignant tumor that eventually destroys its host. We must close down these institutions before they destroy our planet.” Every activist and protester is encouraged to learn about global capitalism and be able to explain to others what are its flaws.

The second tactic is a legal march and rally. Organizers negotiate with the municipal authorities and police for permission to assemble in a large park and march through selected city streets. The goal is to attract the largest possible numbers from every section of society to emphasize to the world via the media how widespread is the discontent.

The third tactic is not a legal one. Whenever global economic institutions meet to make economic and political decisions in an undemocratic manner, protesters try to physically obstruct the meetings from taking place by blocking the access roads. In Washington, DC, for example, this meant coordinating more than 30 human blockades on every street and alleyway leading to the World Bank and IMF buildings in the city center. This can be an incredibly powerful action by people who risk arrest because of their beliefs, and it leads us to the second lesson.

Lesson 2: Nonviolent direct action (civil disobedience) is a revolutionary tactic that creates pressure on the powers that be

Brent Blackwelder, the President of the Friends of the Earth, one of the largest environmental organizations in the US, explained why this tactic is so compelling. He said that for 20 years his organization and others have brought dozens of experts with scientific studies from around the world to the leaders of the World Bank and IMF to testify about the ecological destruction, social disruption and poverty caused by the big dams and other harmful projects that they sponsor. For 20 years both the institutions and the media have ignored these experts. Only now when tens of thousands of young people are protesting in front of TV news cameras are the bank heads beginning to listen.

The organizing committees offer nonviolent training workshops to help prepare new participants to deal with the police and potential violence. The alliances try their best to discourage violence against property or the police. In Washington, they successfully avoided such violence; hence the media coverage and public opinion was much more favorable than after Seattle. However, we should remember that rage against injustice is a natural expression of revolutionary movements; we should try to channel that collective anger, not avoid the protests.

Nonviolent direct action puts the WTO, World Bank, IMF, etc. on the defensive. It discourages delegates from attending international meetings. During the protests in Prague, the World Bank announced that their 3-day meeting had suddenly finished in only two days and so they were all going home early! The next meeting of the World Trade Organization will be held in Qatar in November 2001, because that tiny military state in the Persian Gulf is the only country that has offered to host their meetings after the Seattle protests two years before. This pressure is also forcing bank officials to defend their policies to the press and to claim that they now want dialogue with their opponents.

By joining a coalition or protest, one does not officially or individually have to take part in direct action. There is always a point where one can choose whether to continue participating in the legal protest march or to cross the line and break the law.

Lesson 3: The mainstream media can be utilized to convey the ideas of PROUT to the public

During the 1999 annual meeting of the World Bank and IMF in Washington, only 25 dedicated protesters held signs on the sidewalk at the site. But following the “Battle of Seattle”, 40,000 protesters converged in the center of US political and economic power in April 2000 to “shut it down”. Because of this tremendous mobilization, no less than 1,200 journalists representing every major news media in the world officially registered at the World Bank to cover what had previously always been a very un-newsworthy business meeting.

The organizing committee of the mobilization printed 15,000 booklets called “Action Guide” that included a page that I contributed on media issues. The following is excerpted from that guidebook:

“One of the goals of the protests is to raise the consciousness of people both locally and around the world about the exploitation of global capitalism. The most powerful means to do this is through the media: TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines. Of course all large, popular media organs are owned and controlled by huge corporations, and thus many try to devalue and marginalize us. But through our solidarity, our actions and our words, we can utilize this moment in history to convey a radical and inspiring message to the people of the world.

“Everyone should be a spokesperson to the media, ready to explain our actions to journalists and answer their questions. The average “sound bite” that TV or radio uses is only seven seconds long, and the print media usually publishes no more than two or three lines when quoting someone. This means that everyone should first study the issues and the Frequently Asked Questions. Then choose and memorize a couple of clear, short messages about why you are here that you can repeat when you suddenly find yourself in front of a journalist or microphone.

“If possible, introduce yourself and smile. Ask the name and organization of the journalists if they didn’t identify themselves. Never lie. Be careful about questions that belittle you and your cause. For example, ‘Are you disappointed with the low turnout today?’ In that case, follow this ‘ABC’: ACKNOWLEDGE the question, BRIDGE away from it, and COMMUNICATE your message. So to the above question you might reply, ‘Not at all, because every person here represents hundreds of people in the Third World who are being impoverished and exploited by the undemocratic, unaccountable institutions such as the IMF, WTO and World Bank for the benefit of transnational corporations and the super rich.’”

The number of journalists covering the IMF/WB summit continuously increased in the days leading up to the meetings, and most of them moved back and forth between the different groups, interviewing the bank officials, the police spokespeople and the protesters. The Media Subcommittee of the Mobilization, despite being swamped by the incredible quantity of journalists, was very effective. For example, the CNN news team repeatedly interviewed Rob Weissman from Essential Action at the media desk. He was so articulate, clear and well-informed about the issues, that when the CNN coverage then switched over to the President of the World Bank, he ended up sounding confused, emotional and defensive!

So although the mainstream media is reluctant to air material critical of the capitalist system, the tremendous size of the protests attracts them. If we carefully prepare creative, clear and inspiring messages and signs, we can utilize the media interest to broadcast or publish our progressive ideas.

Lesson 4: Protest organizing committees delegate responsibility to those who work hard

These protests are not led by superstars, nor do they follow instructions from any one organization. Instead the coalitions are very democratic in nature, and make all decisions by consensus. In the first of the weekly planning meetings in a large classroom at George Washington University I attended two months prior to the Washington protests, I discovered during the introductions that the 90 people who came represented 41 different organizations! This diversity continually increased to include a very broad base of ecologists, animal rights activists, women’s groups, socialists and union leaders.

The organizers’ level of effectiveness was truly impressive. There were veteran leaders with decades of experience leading nonviolent actions since the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War. There were also young people aged 17 and 18 who co-chaired meetings and led excellent training workshops in consensus decision-making, facilitation skills, nonviolent protest tactics, street first aid and legal rights. Young people are joining this movement and being given leadership positions according to their ability and willingness to work.

Email and cell phones are the primary means of communication. An unused warehouse was converted into a sophisticated convergence site that became ever more crowded with these classes and meetings leading up to the event. A couple of old hippies in the group Seeds for Life organized many teenage volunteers and cooked and served free vegetarian food to hundreds and later thousands of activists there. Artists worked every day constructing huge puppets that captured the imagination of all who saw them during these street protests. As Kevin Danaher of Global Exchange pointed out, “The young people today are redefining the political party, making a REAL party with singing, dancing, drum circles, chants, giant puppets and street theater!” One of the chants I liked the most was, “We want puppets, not a puppet government!”

Proutists, though few in number, tend to have a lot of energy and spirit. If we attend the organizing committee meetings and volunteer to help with different tasks, we very quickly find ourselves in leadership positions. For example, Raghava, Dhruva and Madhava started helping out at the Independent Media Center and quickly became key people in that exciting operation.

Lesson 5: There is a great need for debate about future alternatives to capitalism

The International Forum on Globalization organized the most sophisticated teach-in at the United Methodist Church two days before the protests. They brought together 32 international experts and authors who outlined how extensive global capitalist exploitation is and how it causes so much suffering around the world. Yet only David Korten, author of “The Post Corporate World”, actually discussed what kind of economic system should replace it.

During the teach-in before the protests against the World Bank meeting in Prague, Dada Krtashivananda was scheduled to give a lecture about Prout. Unfortunately, one man who represented an organization that contributed a substantial amount of the funding for the event managed to convince the Czech coordinators to cancel Dada’s lecture because, in his opinion, Proutist Universal was a sect that claimed to have all the answers. There was no dialogue or collective decision-making; one man just effectively vetoed this speaker. In South America, I have also encountered some macho, authoritarian leaders who try to bully organizing committees into doing what they want. I believe the best way to overcome this type of narrow-minded reaction is by our regular presence and work. Whereas the orange uniform that I wear and the radical model that Prout advocates are certainly startling at first, the majority of activists gradually come to respect us as they get to know us.

Leaflets, posters, thought exhibitions, books and magazines that detail how the Prout model works should be available at every major protest. We should also utilize the question and answer sessions at the end of the teach-in lectures to ask the speaker’s opinion about a specific proposal of Prout.

Lesson 6: Yoga and meditation are practices that many activists want to learn

Members of the Training Subcommittee asked me if I would be willing to lead yoga and meditation sessions at the convergence site. So we chose the first period in the morning and during the evening dinner hour to schedule 90-minute sessions of yoga and meditation for activists. These became very popular and up to 50 people attended each session. The young people felt better after a session of yoga stretching, and they loved chanting and meditating in silence. Afterwards we each shared why we had come. Our common dream of making a better world inspired us all. Later, during the protests in the streets, many of the participants came up to me and expressed how grateful they were for those calming experiences and how they felt it had helped them stay centered in the face of potential violence.

In other radical conferences and symposiums, Proutists have chosen a grassy area in front of the main building to do collective meditation during the lunch break. It is important for one or two Proutists to stand in front with leaflets and sometimes signs explaining why in the struggle for social justice, meditation for inner peace is also important.

Lesson 7: Whereas the police serve the rich, they are not the enemy and we should make efforts to communicate nonviolently with them

Police officers in every country of the world are trained to make people follow the law through fear. They threaten people with arrest, big fines and long prison terms if disobeyed. The riot gear that police use in front of protesters is intimidating at first sight and their tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons, batons and rubber bullets are all extremely painful. Michael Meacher, environment minister of the United Kingdom, said after the WTO meeting, “What we hadn’t reckoned with was the Seattle Police Department who single-handedly managed to turn a peaceful protest into a riot.” Whether the police show restraint as they did for the most part in Washington, or whether they brutally attack and arrest protesters as they did in Prague and Melbourne, depends in large part on their leaders, and it differs from country to country, from city to city, and even among different officers in the same city.

Two days before the Washington protests, a dialogue was arranged between a few of the organizers and the police. Bette Hoover of the American Friends Service Committee invited Raghava and myself along with one of our lawyers and a student. We met for two hours with Assistant Chief Terry Gainer, second-in-command of the Washington, DC Police Force.

We knew from the newspaper stories that the city government had already spent $2 million on riot control training and weapons in preparation for our protests. Not only would tens of thousands of police officers be working overtime during that weekend, but also every agent of the FBI, CIA, Secret Service and the State Department.

The religious leader who facilitated the meeting insisted that each person practice active listening, repeating what the previous speaker had just said to his or her satisfaction before expressing a new opinion. Each side presented the various problems we were facing in the climate of escalating tension. We outlined the nonviolent training that was being offered to every participant to try to prevent violence and complained about the increasing harassment and searches of activists around the convergence site and in the nearby parks. Chief Gainer expressed his concerns about the masks worn by some activists and their fear that the photos and names of some officers would be posted on the Internet for some kind of reprisal. He clarified that they would take no action against the convergence site, though of course building code regulations were up to the fire department.

He expressed that whereas every group has the right to protest, they could not allow people to sit in the streets and block the access to the meetings. Their duty was to keep the streets open for the safety of everyone, and he mentioned that a baby might die in an ambulance while it takes a long detour around the protesters on the way to the hospital. We pointed out that a baby dies every two seconds in the Third World due to hunger and preventable diseases that are increasing in part because of the policies of the World Bank and the IMF.

Of course we disagreed with us about the validity of direct action protest. Though there was no immediate benefit of this meeting, we each felt that it had value and gave a human face to the opponents. It is important to remember that the police are not the enemy; we are fighting to change the capitalist system. In every protest we should refrain from verbal or physical abuse of the police.

The next morning at 8:45 I was sweeping the room in the convergence site in preparation for my meditation class when someone informed us that fire marshals had come and ordered everyone to clear out of the building for an inspection. Naively I thought it must be some kind of fire drill and left my notebook and guitar behind. When I stepped out the front door of the building, I saw 300 police officers lined up waiting to go in. They emptied the building fast, and the whole street was closed off.

An hour later we spotted Chief Gainer behind the police lines telling the press that the fire marshals found a “Molotov cocktail”, which was a plastic bottle of thinner and a rag used for painting, plus “materials”, a recycling bin of used glass bottles! He did not walk over to say hello to Bette or me even though he could see us. Clearly the police had planned this huge raid long before our meeting in order to throw the protesters off balance a day before the protests, just as they had in the 1971 Mayday protests against the Vietnam War. Only this time their strategy didn’t work. Within ten minutes the organizers were shouting directions to a church eight blocks away that became the new convergence site.

Lesson 8: Nonviolent direct action radicalizes those who participate

Direct action protests are unforgettable experiences. Those who take part are forever changed. Practicing revolutionary tactics makes people revolutionaries, just as living a radically healthy yoga lifestyle transforms individual lives.

Police are trained to use violence. Though protesters may use nonviolent direct action as a tactic with moral force, this does not mean that violence will not occur. On three separate occasions in Washington I witnessed police officers moving in to arrest protesters, and once a bus full of police in riot gear arrived at an intersection to clear it out. Yet each time, young people came running from all directions to support their companions, shouting “Shame! Shame!” Each time, when the officers were outnumbered by more than ten-to-one, they backed off. These were powerful lessons in solidarity, that “The people united can never be defeated.”

Frei Betto, a Catholic friar in Brazil who was a political prisoner for four years during the dictatorship there said, “It is interesting that the ones who decide what tactics we use are not we but the powers that be. Though we should utilize all legal and legitimate avenues to protest injustice, in the end, it is the government who decides whether or not we will be able to continue to be nonviolent.” Nelson Mandela, a lawyer, tried everything in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, until he was finally compelled to take up arms to free his people. He was imprisoned for 27 years, and during all that time he refused to renounce the people’s right to armed struggle in the fight for freedom.

Lesson 9: The protests are growing and becoming global in nature

About 10,000 people, including some Proutists, protested at the World Economic Forum meeting in Melbourne in September 2000. The Independent Media Center and the Internet is spreading this global campaign, and young people are at the heart of it.

This popular force is extremely powerful. The Communist government in Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union ended when the people rose up and said, “Enough is enough!” The dictator Ferdinand Marcos fled the Philippines for the same reason. People organizing in the streets can prevail even against the police and the military with all their violent arms. People power is indeed a tremendous force.

The Central Committee of Proutist Universal has resolved to continue participating in and to continue to project Prout’s message in these protests.

A final image: at the protests, a young woman protester tied butterfly wings to her back along with the sign, “Give hope!” This, I believe, is our most important mission, to offer hope that we can change the world and construct a society based on the welfare and happiness of all.

Dada Maheshvarananda is a monk and activist. He can be reached at www.priven.org

Copyright The author 2011