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Inside this issue: 

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PROUT NEWS
Asia

- New Economic Movement Launched in Hualien, Taiwan
- PBI Competes in Delhi Assembly
- Prout Discussion Group in Harayana
- Prout Parikrama in Purulia
- Maharlika in Cebu

Europe
- New Prout Research Institute in Italy
- Update from Prout in Norway
- Adventures with Sharing Economy in Denmark
- German Prout Party Running First Election Campaign
- TV Interview about Menschliche Welt


Africa
- New Prout Group in Inanda, South Africa

Americas
- From Book to Co-op: A Tale of Inspiration and Creation in Mexico

COMMENTARIES AND ANALYSIS
- Elevating the Status of Agriculture and Supporting Local Production
- Hugo Chavez Rewrote the Textbook for Social Change
- Free Trade and Economic Centralization: The TPP and TTIP
- The Cult of Personality in Indian Politics and Selecto-Electional Leadership


VIEWS AND OPINIONS
- The Search for Justice in the LM Mishra Case

PROUT EVENTS
- Prout Global Convention 2015
- 5th Annual Prout Activist Training

             

Global Impact as Community

Since our first issue of Global Impact in January, we have received many words of encouragement and support from all over the world. Proutists are connecting with Prout activities far and wide, understanding that we are all part of a global Prout community—a movement that is growing, maturing, and stirring humanity to envision a new socio-economic possibility.

It is the mission of Global Impact to help build this movement through the sharing of experiences, providing space for discussion and analysis of Prout ideas, and building the networks for collaboration and activism. In essence, this newsletter is a mouthpiece and instrument of our growing community.


And Global Impact is growing as well. In this issue, we have added more articles that offer useful ideas about how to implement Prout. We learn about the wonderful work taking place globally, with a look at new developments in Taiwan, Mexico, and South Africa. Two more sections have been added to the newsletter: one for Prout Events where announcements of retreats, trainings, and other programs can be listed and a second section called Views and Opinions, where other Prout-related materials can appear.
 
We encourage everyone to send in news about Prout activities and contribute with more substantial articles that help us gain a deeper understanding of Prout theory and how it can be applied. And please help us in spreading Prout news by sharing the newsletter with others.

Global Impact Team

Global Impact: Prout News and Commentaries is a quarterly publication of the Proutist Universal Global Office, Copenhagen, Denmark

Editor: Ac. Ambareshvarananda Avt.          Email: globalimpact@prout-global.org    
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The views expressed in this newsletter are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the editorial staff of Global Impact.
PROUT NEWS

A New Economy Movement Launched in Hualien, Taiwan


By Jiivandeva (Chiu Yie-Ru), Hualien

 

Turning Point for Hualien: Centralization or Decentralization?

MapHualien is a small and renowned beautiful county on the mountainous pacific coast of Eastern Taiwan with a mid-sized population of 300,000, 25% of which is aboriginal (by far the greatest number of aboriginals in any city), with strong ties to traditional Taiwanese and Aboriginal culture. The economic and social needs of this quaint city have been neglected by Taiwan’s centralized economic policies, which are strongly oriented towards the global market. To promote the economic development in Hualien, the Central Government in 2011 budgeted 40 billion NT$ (about 1.33 billion USD$) over 10 years to facilitate the development in Hualien. The key issue, of course, is how to use this money. In the eyes of the local government, the best use of this special budget would be to build several huge projects that have no connection to the social legacy of the population, such as a remotely located F1 racecar track with the intention of raising land values and generating a concentration of wealth (while devastating the pristine, natural environment): or a huge, culturally inappropriate Opera House that offers no benefits to the aboriginals. Such attempts by the local government caught the attention of local, progressive-minded activists who consequently united to demand a new approach that involved citizen participation in formulating proposals for the use of this special budget. Eventually, the activists were successful in involving citizens in the proposal process. 
 

A New Approach Becomes Visible

In 2012, local Proutists in Hualien, together with these activists, prepared the first economic development proposal, Cooperatives Economy Promotion Program, which aims to promote co-operative economic systems, train more Proutists, and prepare the ground for future block-level planning. To meet the requirement of community participation, all major discussions for this proposal were conducted in a public setting (the local Permaculture Association) and the discussions used various public forum techniques (such as World Café and Open Space Technology) to involve community members. After a long process of negotiation, lobbying, and reassessing in the government, the Executive Ministry eventually accepted, for the first time, a program that was based on civilian proposals; seven million NT$ (about 233,333 USD$) were budgeted for the Integrated Industry Development Program (IIDP) for the first year. The program has four objectives:
  • To investigate and survey the potential and challenges of the primary, secondary and tertiary industry in Hualien and TaiDown
  • To train cooperative activists and seed-teachers who will also prepare the teaching materials for promoting cooperatives
  • To help at least six local villages and communities to develop cooperatives
  • To set up an office, a website, and a GIS (Geological Information System) platform for supporting future local economic planning.
 
An organic farmer is presenting the action plan from his group discussion in the Permaculture Open Forum for preparing the civilian proposal for the special budget.
 

Team Work in Action

A team composed of Proutists, progressive-minded professors, and local activists was formed and won the bid to manage the IIDP program. Members of this team have a widely varied expertise.  Although they generally did not know each other before forming the team, their collective vision and zeal for a better Hualien has facilitated cooperation and motivates them to work hard. Since the budget for this program was reduced dramatically, most of the members work for such low pay that they are practically volunteers. Nevertheless, they move ahead unimpeded.
 

The First Step for Public Attention

The first cooperative seminar and forum to bring the program to the public attention was held in the International Hall of Tzu Chi University on February 7th and 8th. We invited several keynote speakers, including an economics professor who analyzed the real causes for the economic crisis in Taiwan, a leading activist for cooperatives from Korea who presented the rapid development of cooperatives in Seoul, a young activist who shared her experience working with the cooperatives of landless farmers in Brazil, and a government officer in charge of cooperative development.
 
After the Keynote Speeches, a world café[1] discussion was conducted and groups of participants identified the local economic issues and formulated action plans. After presenting all the action plans, the participants voted on the best action plan. 

 Participants in six groups presenting their action plans for building a cooperative system
in Hualien
 

Training of future Activists and Seed Teachers

A 120-hour certification training course for activists and seed-teachers was developed by one of the sub-teams of the working team. The trainers for this training course include professors, officers, activists, experienced farmers, and business people. Participants who want to get a certificate for seed-teacher will have to develop his or her own teaching materials and practice teaching. Those who wish to receive the certificate for cooperative activist will have to prepare a feasible cooperative-based, local business plan. The first stage of training started on 7th March, with 45 people attending.
 
The abilities to clearly express and attentively listen are two of the most essential skills needed to inspire and mobilize people; leading discussions is an important part of the training to become an activist.
You may find updated information about the training by visiting the Facebook group titled Citizen Economy School.
 

Identifying Challenges

Program funding is presently dependent on government decisions, which are more aligned with political goals than the practical welfare of people.  It was only through activist pressure that the government listened to our voices—not out of an awakened concern for the welfare of the people, but due to political pressures created on the local level. Hence, there is always the danger that subsequent funding will be withdrawn if the political interests of the government make them turn a deaf ear to the voice of the people. Therefore, we are seeking non-governmental sources of funds to ensure the continuity of this program and the cooperative movement. Hualien has very potential for building a cooperative ecosystem and a progressive community due to its high level of social capital and relative isolation (for geographical and historic reasons).  We see here the seeds for profound transformation of the economic and social situation in Hualien and are very excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.
 
[1]http://www.theworldcafe.com/method.html

PBI competes in Delhi Assembly Elections

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PBI candidates campaigining in Delhi Assembly elections.

In the recently concluded elections for the Delhi Assembly, Proutist Bloc of India's four candidates did not make any significant political gain. The highest amount of votes polled for a candidate was 350 (Baijnath Sah from Najafgarh) which, on the face of it, appears a very meagre number. However, there were gains in other respects.

During election campaign, the activists were able to introduce Prout to the masses in their respective constituencies. PBI candidates have acquired better experience in contesting elections and understanding the political realities on the ground. They are now preparing for future elections with a more practical approach and realistic vision. The Indian political scene has witnessed the rise and fall of various parties and leaders in the electoral politics, but it is yet to witness the success of a party or leader that was able to bring genuine happiness and peace to the people.

Proutists feel confident that the current rise of the Aam Admi ('Common Person') Party will strengthen the antithesis against the existing policies which will help bring Prout into the limelight. But they have realised that they have to work hard to snatch success from others who are more concerned with cosmetic changes rather than eliminating the exploitative system itself.

 

Prout Discussion Group in Harayana




 











Ac. Vandananda Avt. and participants of the Prout discussion group in Hissar.

A group discussion on Prout was organised in Hissar, Haryana at the residence of Swami Sahajananda, a social activist. The program was attended by more than thirty people from different walks of life, including professors, social activists and advocates, and was widely covered by the media.

The program began by addressing a critical issue today in India – corruption. Ac. Vandanananda Avt. explained that there are two causes for corruption — lack of wealth and excess of wealth. Most corruption takes place because people have no economic security. In the past, when people had no political security, murders, private armies and countless conflicts were the facts of life for most people. Today, as many people lack economic security, we see so many different ways of systematically looting the state. For social peace and order, we need to guarantee people economic rights so they are able to purchase their basic necessities.
 
Then a question was raised about the solution to the Kashmir problem. Currently Kashmir has economic independence while most of India does not. However, Kashmir exploits Jammu and Laddakh while complaining about Delhi control. The solution given by Prout’s founder, P. R. Sarkar, was first to create economically independent regions, or samajas in Prout terminology, in the present states of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. These regions would include Pahari, Srimaori, Dogri, Kashmiri, Laddakhi and Kinnauri samajas. Then, all of these regions would form one political state called KAJAHILL. The participants appreciated this practical and humane solution.
 

Prout Parikrama in Purulia

 

Ac. Kalyaneshvarananda Avt.

 

After several months of organizing, an intensive Prout pracar caravan called Prout Parikrama began its 4 day, 450 km. journey on March 30, 2015 from the Upper Hotel of Ananda Nagar. This Prout Parikrama consisted of thirty-one motorcycles, two trucks, one bus and two smaller four-wheelers, with more than 150 Proutists and Wholetimers. The vehicles were decorated with Prout posters, flags, and festoons.

The procession passed through 49 villages and towns in the area, distributing more than 100,000 leaflets, wrote Prout slogans on 200 walls and held 40 public meetings. Finally, on the last day, the caravan ended in the center of the city of Purulia where a public meeting attracted more than a thousand people who listened to lectures by senior Proutists like Ac. Mantreshvarananda Avt. and Ac. Raviishananda Avt.

 

Ac. Mantreshvarananda Avt. addressing the crowd in Purulia during the Prout Parikrama

 

Maharlika in Cebu

 
Devajinana
Our Proutist samaja movement in Cebu, Maharlika Sa Sugbo (which means ‘Maharlika in Cebu’), is working on developing our first model ecological, typhoon-resistant community centered around a progressive school.  Our concept is to involve maximum volunteers in construction and agricultural work, together with Prout discussions. Thus, the development of the community becomes an on-going consciousness-raising experience. The community that develops in this way is founded along principles beneficial to the whole society. Once this work goes well, it leads on not only to other community development, but also to other aspects of samaja work.
One of the core members of Maharlika Sa Sugbo, City Councilor Nestor Archival, has donated a piece of land where we will build our first model house. We are working with two architects and some architect-students who will come to the site and propose a building plan.
 
Grace Ferreros, a Steiner/Waldorf school principal, is coordinating the team developing the project. She has been promised some land from the parents of a child in her school. She is collaborating with the parents to expand the school and integrate it with the sustainable community. They are open to incorporating neo-humanistic practices into the educational system of the school.


Representatives of Maharlika Sa Sugbo, joined by Nick Brown, the global CEO of Young Pioneers Disaster Response with some experience in building sustainable houses, surveying the land.

New Prout Research Institute in Italy

Conditions today in Italy are extremely serious—economically, politically and socially. Over 10% of the population lives below the poverty level, which means they are unable to meet their basic needs. We have a 43% unemployment rate among young adults. There is extreme corruption in politics and tax evasion has reached more than US$ 218 billion, on a national revenue of about US$ 2 trillion.
However, the main problem is the lack of new ideas to solve the socio-economic problems of the country. In this environment, there is an opening for Prout to come forward with a new vision for a spiritual–humanistic society.

Prout has been present in Italy since 1978, with various activities, such as lectures, books, websites, and seminars, but since 2013, there has been a new momentum:
  • In 2013, a group of senior Proutists—Tapan, Druva, Amara, Vikranta, Damayanti and Pranesh—registered an association called IRP - Istituto di Ricerca Prout (Prout Research Institute).
  • In 2014, we received a donation of a house in the town of Salsomaggiore Terme, near Parma, to serve as our main headquarters for the IRP. The building can accommodate up to 12 people overnight, with a big hall for more than 30 people. The house has a photovoltaic system for hot water and sits on approximately 1.5 acres of land which has a spring for irrigation. We have planted 70 fruit trees and 15 grape vines of different varieties.
  • We are using the house as a Prout office and for seminars and meetings with people from all over Italy.  Several well-publicized lectures and vegetarian dinners have been organized.
  • We created a website— http://irprout.it (email: ricercaprout@gmail.com)--where we publish articles about Prout and commentaries on the situation in Italy with Proutist solutions. Soon we will start to publish an online newsletter.
Prout conference in the new Prout Research Institute in Italy
 
At the moment, we have four Prout units in four towns: Treviso, Verona, Manerbio and Salsomaggiore/Parma, in the north of Italy, plus some sympathizers in Rome and Trani, in the south.

Tapan inspired a research project on meditation at Verona University and gives a relaxation and yoga class in the main Hospital in Verona.  From these activities, a researcher at the University became a sympathizer who initiated self-sufficiency projects in some villages in north and central Italy. After Tapan gave a TV interview about Prout economy, many viewers started calling us and some businessmen offered to start an alternative economic project.

PRI members are cooperating with “Movimento 5 Stelle”, the only political movement/party that is fighting against corruption and promotes progressive political ideas. Through our participation, we have begun to introduce Prout principles and policies.
Pranesh was elected as a Town Councilor in Salsomaggiore; he is the first elected Proutist in Italy!

For this year (2015), we are planning to extend our lectures and seminars throughout the country, focusing on universities and schools. We will also be contributing articles to important newspapers and online magazines. A publication on Proutist economy is planned as well as a campaign to introduce new laws for cooperatives in Parliament.

Update from Prout in Norway

 

Divya Jyoti


The ‘Initiativet for Nyorientering’ (Initiative for New Orientation – a progressive movement in Norway with Prout leadership) has now entered the phase of slogan creation and signature collection. We meet about twice a month. As I hoped, the ex-Green Party leader who approached us recently has become a new, dynamic member of our working group. He is a lawyer and expert on international law, besides being a very articulate leftist. Our aim is still to form a Folkefront (popular front) that can contest elections.
 
The other movement that I’m leading, Bevegelsen for Sosialisme (Movement for Socialism) has published four issues of our magazine last year and we have again received substantial grants from the Art Council of Norway. After the new rightist government came to power, the Art Council received much less funding, and our magazine was cut off the list of receivers. I appealed and we received new funds since we are printing so many of our articles (25 %) in nynorsk, a rural dialect of the main language. And for this year, 2015, we received ordinary production funding as well.
 
Recently, I have been busy preparing a public forum on the crisis in Ukraine, and the Nordic response to it. The meeting will happen in central Oslo on the 11th of April. I’ve sent out invitations to experts on Eastern Europe, asking them to provide an introduction to a general discussion, and some positive responses have already come back. The purpose of the meeting is to question the aggressive rhetoric and sanctions against Russia, prompted by US and EU policies, which are clearly contrary to Norse security and economic interests.

 
Proutists in Norway were also approached to comment on the economic situation in Greece and the new Syriza government. The commentaries in Norway are divided, like Syriza itself. We believe, like Greek economists abroad who are not so influenced by the EU, that Syriza must have a plan B, that is, a return to their own national currency. The Greeks are negotiating with the EU inside a trap! Even if the Greek public is afraid of that move, the leaders have to show leadership in a most crucial moment in the nation’s history, like the Icelandic president did a couple of years ago.

Adventures with the Sharing Economy in Denmark


Ac. Krsnasevananda Avt.

You cannot start a samaj movement by yourself...

...so for a while in Copenhagen, I have been doing a lot of networking, meeting some wonderful young people and exploring some inspiring and enjoyable experiments in sharing economy. I am now part of a monthly “gift circle” and something called “HOffice” (Home Office) where people gather to work in each other’s homes, set goals and lively routines, and monitor each other’s progress. It’s mostly the same group of idealistic young people involved in both of them. They are tired of an alienated, unsustainable consumer society that has surrendered itself to the control of banks and elites and they long for something more human with a sense of autonomy, community, and awareness of the environmental crisis. And they don’t want to wait till tomorrow—they want it now. I realize I am no different. I am tired of gadgets (well, not completely) and longing for a tribe.
 

Copenhagen Gift Circle

This idea was inspired by a visit from Charles Eisenstein (author of The Sacred Economy—Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition) to Copenhagen about a year-and-a-half ago where he spoke to a full house on the topic: Beyond the Green Economy. Believe it or not, he was sponsored by the Copenhagen Business School, which, despite its suspicious name, is quite a progressive institution that is not afraid to explore the frontiers of entrepreneurial experimentation. Whether you agree with the idea that a gift economy is possible on a global scale or not, in a world of jaded self-interest, Eisenstein’s message of giving and sharing is a breath of fresh air.
 
Some months after the conference, I heard from one of my students about a group of people forming a gift circle. I began attending the meetings and found the group to have a youthful optimism and idealism, a close family feeling and a healthy group process. Along with promoting gift economy as an alternative to capitalism, the group also gives importance to a consent-based, decision-making method known as sociocracy, which manages to combine inclusiveness and efficiency in a very appealing way.  This created a feeling of intimacy and caring in the group which is another aspect of social change that people are looking for.

 

The social and economic ideas of Prout are rooted in the view that humans and all living creatures are members of one universal family. Often, however, our group processes as Margiis and Proutists don't feel as if they are coming from the same paradigm. They feel untrained and out of date and reflect the competitive, dominating paradigm of the old rather than a more caring and inclusive paradigm which we would all prefer if we knew how to do it. People are not just looking for new ideas; they are looking for new ways of being together. So the challenge for us is to bring the sweetness of our meditation and philosophy into the way we work together as well. These are learnable skills but they take quite a bit of practice. If we can master them, we will greatly strengthen our ability to attract and retain active participants.
 
Here is the routine we follow in our gift circle:
  1. Everyone shares a little about where they're at
  2. Short meditation
  3. Collective meal
  4. Five minutes to make a list of 5 personal needs
  5. A round where everyone reads out their needs to the group.
  6. Twenty minutes for participants to approach each other and arrange some exchanges
  7. Five minutes for each person to make a list of 5 things they can offer (can be a thing or a service)
  8. Everyone shares their list with the group
  9. Another 20 minutes for participants to approach each other and arrange exchanges
  10. Closing circle which includes a few short sentences from each person
It is a simple process and I am always surprised at how much useful exchange happens even amongst a small group. I have received carpets, a bicycle, orange socks, seeds for the master unit, translation work and professionally-made designs for pracar posters. I have given away two old phones, meditation guidance, help with moving house, proofreading help and workshop space. In a situation where economic and social conditions are breaking down, having a gift circle can create helpful opportunities for economic exchange and community building.
 

HOffice

I often have to spend days on end alone in my small room in Copenhagen working on upcoming programs. This can sometimes feel lonely and claustrophobic. So my ears pricked up when I heard that some of my young friends had started a project that created simulated office environments in people’s homes where you could go and work along with other people. The project is known as "HOffice" (Home Office) and was started a couple of years ago in Stockholm and is now spreading rapidly around the world. The concept starts off by recognizing that humans are social creatures and that most of us need a working environment that has some degree of social interaction to function at our best. People who work from home or are unemployed don't have access to such a supportive work environment and, as a result, often find themselves getting lonely and distracted, wasting time on the Internet and generally feeling unmotivated. Someone with a stroke of genius realized the problem could be solved if people simply met in each other’s homes and created a simulated office.



My first HOffice experience began a couple of months ago at nine o'clock on a Monday morning. The location was only a ten minute walk from the jagrti and, as I walked along the sidewalk, I smiled to myself thinking, “I feel like I’m going to the office”. We were a group of about eight people in a small living room. Our host explained the process—we would each announce our work goals for the next three-quarters of an hour and then work individually during that period. After 45 minutes, we would come together again and share how far we had been successful at achieving our goals. Then we would take a short break for a game or some other group activity and then set some new goals for the next 45 minutes. We would continue like this through the day with a break for lunch.

So I found some space for my laptop at the dining table and noticed that having all the others working close by created a serious working atmosphere. Further, as I had announced my goals to everyone, I felt very motivated to try and get through them. I was happy that I could accomplish most of what I had set out to do and I was rather proud to share that when we came back together. The games were fun and allowed my mind to refresh itself and my body to move and get the blood circulating. I was ready for the next work session. And so it went throughout the day. We shared a nice meal together (all was vegetarian) and had a very productive and enjoyable day.

Since we started, I have participated in HOffices in many people's homes. I have also been invited regularly to lead some meditations. It's a great away to spend more time with your friends, find out more about them and still get a lot of work done. It's also a perfect opportunity to network, share information about what you're doing, and find ways to collaborate on projects.

Gift circles and Hoffice are manifestations of an emerging new trend that emphasizes community and sharing. Though not Prout in name, they are Prout in spirit. By getting involved in these activities, I feel that I am not only meeting a variety of needs, I am also building community and relationships with people who could very well be Proutists or sympathizers in future.

German Prout Party Running First Election Campaign

 

Ac. Dhiirabhadra Brc.


Menschliche Welt, the Proutist political party in Germany, has initiated its first election campaign. Through this campaign, we will reach millions of people with our Proutist message, policies, and services. Thus far, two candidates have been selected to run in the state elections in Baden-Württemberg (a state in southwest Germany) in 2016. The photo on the right is candidate Katrin Messinesis, who is a biologist and teacher.

We are now collecting the 150 supportive signatures required for each candidate.  Menschliche Welt is already officially recognized as a political party in Germany.  However, in order to be recognized by the state election commission, we must have a minimum of 400 members.  We have already crossed the halfway mark.  If you would like to help Proutists compete in elections in Germany, you can become a supportive member of Menschliche Welt. The supportive membership is free and open to all citizens of all countries. To receive a membership form, you can email kontakt@menschlichewelt.de or click here. Fill out the form legibly, scan it, and send it to our email address.  Your support would be much appreciated. ---

TV Interview about MENSCHLICHE WELT and PROUT


In early March, Ac. Madhuvidyananda Avt. gave a TV interview on Neo-humanistic and Proutist approaches to the global crisis and effective social change. It was aired by Bewusst.TV, an alternative German online TV channel that reaches hundreds of thousands of viewers worldwide. Last year, Dada gave his first interview at this TV station. As a result, several people attended our training courses and seminars. At least four of them became spiritual practitioners, and one is living with us now in our center.
To hear Dada’s interview in German, click here: bewusst.tv

New Prout Group in Inanda, South Africa


Ac. Mantrasiddhananda Avt.

 

In a beautiful rural village of Inanda, about 45 kms from Durban, we organized a Prout study group with members of the community. Started as a basic Yoga and Meditation course, the weekly session became regular and now includes cooperative planning and Prout studies.



The group acquired an acre of ancestral land from one of the members and is planning to start a Master Unit. Another four acres was also given for free. With the government’s active encouragement of cooperative formation and funding, the Prout group (see photo above) is now in the process of being registered. Some of the group members are Isvara Nkosi, a PhD in political science and former communist youth organizer, Krpamaya Clemence, a former freedom fighter working as a head of a government Anti-Corruption Department based in Kwa-Zulu Natal province, and Vinesh Jitu, also a former freedom fighter. Besides the Master Unit, other current activities of the group include the feeding of orphan children in Amaoti Township in Inanda, the planting and distribution of various trees seedlings, and an organic produce collective operating in the plots at members’ homes. The harvest is being sold to a local market.  

The group is now planning to register a Prout Research Institute and to organize a Prout Debate/Conference in September that will invite prominent South African intellectuals and Proutists from other countries.

From Book to Co-op: A Tale of Inspiration and Creation in Mexico

 

By Saul Escobedo

More than ten years ago, someone recommended a book to me: After Capitalism: Prout's Vision for a New World by Dada Maheshvarananda. The book was written in English, a language which I didn’t know too well, but after thumbing through it, I decided to buy it. Until then, I was a firm believer that the capitalist system represented the pinnacle of civilization. Suddenly “cooperativism” appeared to me as a viable alternative movement, upholding the values I’ve always embraced, including the wellbeing of every individual as well as of the entire community.

As I read further, I realized that during different phases of my life I had already worked cooperatively: the theater group I formed in high school, and later the silkscreen workshop and the audio-visual production studio. Yet the principles and policies that I read about helped me understand why my previous endeavors had not been completely successful or had lacked clear consensus or agreements.

I wanted to create a cooperative of professionals in cinematography, animation, graphic design, photography and illustration. I embarked on a quest to find representatives of the cooperativist movement. That was a difficult task in Monterrey, with a huge capitalist influence and strong admiration for the so called “captains of industry” I found that there were cooperatives of coffee producers, fishing, transportation, cement and even bakeries, but no film producer co-ops. Eventually I found a man who was quite active and respected in the cooperative movement, but after a couple of meetings I gave up because he was unable to clearly understand my dream.

Any time I mentioned my intentions to anyone, their response was “Why would you get into that sort of trouble?”, or “Why not establish a public limited company and just work cooperatively?” So I kept the dream in the back of my mind for a few years, while I continued to study as much as I could about cooperativism.

A new leftist political party had a brief reference to cooperativism in their platform. However, when I met their state leader, he was unaware about the subject. Surprisingly, though, the very next day he called me and offered to introduce me to an expert. That is how I found Mateo Rangel. This professional social worker had great experience with credit unions and housing co-ops, and a profound knowledge of the history of the cooperative movement. The empathy was instantaneous. In no time we were excitedly planning how to make this crazy idea real.

It’s been nearly a year since then, and we've been joined by Araceli Collazo, singer and songwriter of Mexican-American descent, Alberto Barrera, photographer, Rafael, a pilot whose dream is to make films, Jesus, owner of an academic support school, Isabel, a social worker, Nivia, an actress of Cuban origin, Francisco, a business administrator, Hermilo, a painter who also writes songs, Luz Elena, with experience in sales, Maria Esther and Laura Reyes Sosa.

None of the co-op members had the financial means to pay for the rather large registration expense, so we accepted the kind help of a local public figure who arranged this for us. Now we are all members of the legally established Semilla Creativa Sociedad Cooperativa (The Creative Seed Cooperative Society), which focuses on film production. The name also implies our goal of promoting and assisting other new cooperatives.


Through a concession agreement, we got a building that is very beautiful but very old. We have spent many months doing hard restoration work ourselves, without hiring a contractor—electrical installation, plumbing, sanitary installation, renovating old wood roofs, walls, doors and windows, breaking old walls and erecting new ones. Friends have offered professional advice and guidance to maintain the original architecture, built of “sillar” stone blocks.

Semilla Creativa SC has become a benevolent multi-headed hydra that mutates in shape and ideas as people join us. For example, Araceli offers art workshops to the community that have inspired neighbors to collectively create beautiful mosaic art murals in the building as part of the restoration. Another member, Maythé Cantú, brought her professional machinery and taught us many secrets about how to make gourmet coffee.

Because all professionals involved in video production or animation are avid consumers of food and beverage, we decided to offer healthy and nutritious options to choose from at any hour, not only to ourselves but also to the neighborhood. Hence K’iin Café coffeehouse was born. Of Mayan origin, the world “k’iin” means “sun”. We also hold neighborhood meetings to discuss how to make our downtown area flourish, as it has been hit hard by violence and abandonment by property owners and local government. We are starting to hold movie nights, music and poetry recitals, theatrical performances, book releases, workshops and conferences. Because of the coffeehouse's popularity, a more diverse crowd is getting to know us and aspiring to be members.

      K’iin Café coffeehouse started by the co-op.

Another one of our projects, Colibrí Films (the name means “hummingbird”), is providing audio-visual communication solutions, employment, social security, professional development, and access to state-of-the-art video equipment. The studio is attracting professionals in art, design, film and communication. Our first video production will be a documentary about cooperative movements in Mexico; simultaneously we will publish a comic book about cooperatives for children.

Semilla Creativa is filling a gap in this part of the planet. Many are paying close attention to our progress that promises many more surprises and will also undoubtedly set a precedent for creating economic alternatives for talented individuals who seek their personal and professional growth, for their families and their community.
From left to right:  Back row:  Alberto Barrera, Saul Escobedo, Francisco Rios, Luz Elena Góngora, Isabel Cristina Reséndiz Briseño, Mateo Rangel.
         Front row:  Jesus Medina, Nivia Clavijo Cruz, Asha (Araceli Collazo) and Rafa Cantú.
COMMENTARIES & ANALYSIS

Elevating the Status of Agriculture and Supporting Local Production


By Nada Khader


Who are the most important people in our lives?  Our children, our spouses, our firefighters, our teachers?  What about our farmers?   They are among the most important people in our lives and yet our current socio-economic system treats them so poorly.  They are among the most exploited workers on our planet today.
 

Building a Prosperous Agricultural Sector

P. R. Sarkar, founder of Prout, has stated that part of the solution to regaining the balance in our economic system is to elevate the status of agriculture to that of manufacturing and industry.  According to Prout, around 30% of the population of a region should be employed in agriculture, another 30% in agriculture-related industry (canning, pickling, teas, plant medicine etc), 30% in industrial manufacturing and 10% in services.  In 1870, 70-80 percent of the US population was employed in agriculture; as of 2008, less than two percent of the United States population is directly employed in agriculture (United States Department of Labor).  Hence, Sarkar’s proposal would have far reaching ramifications for our current food system, employment rates and standard of living.  Agricultural workers that are respected, paid well and receive full labor protections will be better able to take care of their families and will be able to participate more fully in the local economy and society with living wages and adequate purchasing power.

In our current agricultural system, agro-corporations hire migrant labor to minimize their expenditures and very often engage in abusive labor practices that also place farm workers in dangerous working conditions, exposing them to pesticides and other toxins, skin and lung diseases, hearing loss, certain cancers and excessive sun exposure.   As a result of the existing working conditions for farm workers, very few Americans are willing to undergo the risk of the work as well as accept the poor financial compensation that goes with it.  Each year, farm owners hire hundreds of thousands of temporary agricultural workers from south of the border (Latin America) to engage in back breaking work in poor working conditions.  The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (tomato farm workers in Florida) has exposed and assisted in the prosecution of numerous multi-state farm slavery operations across the Southeastern United States, helping to free over a thousand agricultural workers that were being held against their will (http://ciw-online.org/slavery/).
 

Supporting Local Farmers through CSAs

In this context, there is currently a movement of young people in the United States and abroad that is rekindling interest in returning to the land, nurturing the soil, growing food and building community.  These young farmers are struggling very hard to maintain their farms and livelihoods while competing with an agro-business machinery capable of producing cheap, conventional food at great cost to both our ecosystems and farm workers.  It is the responsibility of people with conscience to reach out to these independent small farmers and support them.  We may need to prepare ourselves to pay a little more for fresh local produce so that farmers can earn a living wage.

One way to support these local farmers is through Community Supported Agriculture or CSAs.  A CSA is a group of individuals or families who have pledged to support one or more local farms, with growers and consumers sharing the risks and benefits of food production. There are so many benefits to signing up with a CSA:
  • supporting more natural and organic agricultural practices and not chemical intensive agri-business
  • enjoying fresh, local produce with every meal
  • having our food travel a much shorter distance to get to us so we use less fossil fuels in food transportation
  • keeping dollars in our local economy and not funneling them to far away corporate headquarters who have no interest in our local economy and ecosystem
  • building community by meeting like-minded people, sharing recipes, and more. 
Perhaps the most important aspect of belonging to a CSA is developing an authentic relationship with the people who grow the food that we eat.  We visit our CSA farmers at their farms and learn about the challenges they are encountering while growing our food, including issues around climate change, land ownership, and labor.   Sarkar always encouraged us to know where our food comes from and that includes learning about the conditions in which our food is grown and the people who dedicate themselves to this purpose.  

I live in Westchester County, New York.  We are a county of 930,000 people.  If even 25% of the families in the county signed up with a local CSA, there would be an enormous demand for New York grown produce and family farms would be able to thrive in such a market. Such a trend would greatly increase the number of people employed in the agricultural sector. The strong relationship with the farmers would encourage safe working conditions and adequate compensation for the farmers. A summer volunteer day at the farm also helps us to understand the labor of love involved in growing food and the delicate relationship we have with the soil and the ecosystem. 

Within the emergent CSA movement is a growing awareness about our responsibility in ensuring that fresh, local, high quality produce is accessible for all income levels, especially the very low income communities. I am a member of the Lineage Farm CSA here in the Hudson Valley and I was very pleased to learn that the farmers have made a commitment to grow additional food for over fifty families in need in their community.  In order to provide that support, members must step forward who can afford to pay more for their CSA share in order to subsidize the cost of the free or low cost shares. Access to healthy food is a very basic human right that our current socio-economic system does not address.


                       Members of Lineage Farm CSA planting seeds for this year's production.

In short, there are various ways we can go about elevating the status of agriculture to that of industrial manufacturing.  We can agitate for much better legislation that would allow agricultural workers to form a union and create worker safety standards.  These legislative changes are important in the short term but are not sufficient to transform our food and agricultural system into one consistent with Prout values of regional self-sufficiency, local control of local resources, full employment and a balanced economy.  We need very large percentages of our local population to make a commitment to purchase foods from local farmers who have merged their interests with the interests of our communities and in so doing become stewards of mother earth for generations to come.

Nada Khader has been the Executive Director of WESPAC Foundation, a peace and justice action network in Westchester County, New York, for the past fourteen years.

Hugo Chávez Rewrote the Textbook for Social Change:


Activists should learn from both his successes and failures

 
 

by Ac. Maheshvarananda Avt.

From an impoverished family, Hugo Chávez joined the army for a chance to play baseball, but soon came to love the service that offered opportunities for advancement to anyone who worked hard and performed well. Over time, he became disgusted with the corruption, censorship and human rights abuses of the Venezuelan government and started a secret organization in the military, the Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement-200 (MBR-200), to overthrow the dictatorship. As one of the most popular teachers in the Venezuelan Military Academy, he recruited young officers for ten years. Caught red-handed twice and brought before a tribunal for subversion, Chávez managed to brazenly talk his way out of the charges both times. He was so successful that by the time he led a coup d’état in 1992 to overthrow President Carlos Andrés Pérez, he had 130 officers and nearly 900 soldiers under his command, approximately ten percent of the Venezuelan military.
 
Though the rebels came within a few meters of capturing Pérez, they failed. The military high command arrested Chávez and ordered him to tell the rest of his men to lay down their arms. Wearing his military uniform and red paratrooper beret, this unknown lieutenant-colonel was put in front of live television cameras for 72 seconds so that he could order all his men to surrender. What he said electrified the nation. Invoking the Independence hero Simón Bolívar, Chávez assumed full responsibility for the failure, which almost no Venezuelan leader had ever done before.
 
Then he said that the objectives of this movement were not achieved "for now". As he went to prison, he had suddenly become a national hero to millions who realized that these soldiers were not hungry for power, rather they were risking their lives to save their country. A group of 62 retired generals ran full-page advertisements in newspapers attacking the government and supporting the coup leaders. In his cell, Chávez began receiving hundreds of letters a week from supporters.

After two years, all the coup leaders received amnesty, and Chávez started a four-year electoral campaign for president. He ignored the existing political parties and formed his own. Until voting day, he was discounted by political analysts because everyone they polled lived in the rich parts of Caracas; they didn't grasp that Chávez was effectively campaigning in the poor barrios and villages, organizing the silent masses that had always been ignored. When he assumed office at the beginning of 1999, he formed a commission to write a new constitution that was open to all suggestions; a group of Proutists also submitted our proposals. The new constitution, approved in a national referendum, is one of the most progressive in the world, guaranteeing many more human rights, including free education up to tertiary level, free quality health care, access to a clean environment, and the right of indigenous peoples and other minorities to uphold their traditional cultures, religions, and languages.

Justice for All Venezuelans

The "Dutch Disease" is a term used by economists to describe how manufacturing and agriculture decrease if a country receives a huge influx of money from petroleum sales, resulting in a stronger currency due to the exchange rate. For fifty years oil has made Venezuela the richest country in Latin America, but the poor people saw very little of that wealth. Chávez coined a slogan, “Venezuela now is for everyone,” that symbolized his use of petroleum wealth to help the poor.

Many social welfare missions were begun, including subsidized food stores and free kitchens, free health care, educational programs, and the building of more than 700,000 houses for the homeless.
 
The gains in social justice have been dramatic. During the last decade, the percentage of households in poverty was reduced by 39 percent, and extreme poverty by more than half. Inequality, as measured by the Gini index, fell substantially, from 48.1 in 2003 to 39.0 in 2011.
 
 
The number of primary care physicians in the public sector increased 12-fold from 1999-2007, providing health care to millions of Venezuelans who previously did not have access.The mortality rate for children under five years of age, which according to the World Health Organization is one of the best indicators of overall health in society, has fallen by 33 percent in Venezuela since 1999 (from 22.1 to 14.9 deaths per thousand live births in 2013).
 
There have also been great advances in education since Chavez took office. Pre-school enrollment rose from 43.4 to 70.7 percent; primary attendance from 85 to 92.2 percent; and secondary from 47.7 to 75.1 percent. Meanwhile higher education enrollment has increased from under 900,000 students to almost 2.5 million; UNESCO now ranks Venezuela 5th highest in the world in university matriculation rate.
 
These and more social programs won the hearts of the masses, so that by December, 2012, his coalition had won 16 out of 17 national elections due to successful consciousness-raising and politicization among the masses.
 

Economic Policies Gone Awry


Unfortunately, while Chávez successfully redistributed wealth and reduced inequality, his economic policies caused the productive sectors of the economy to decline. Though there was a big imbalance in the economy even before he was elected, with petroleum emphasized at the expense of everything else, this trend increased during the Chávez presidency.
 
Some of the major policy mistakes were:
 
  • Maintaining strict currency controls that led to an overvalued currency. While this was done to insure that goods were cheap, and it worked for some time, it made imported goods much cheaper than anything that could be produced locally. These currency controls were probably the most damaging mistake, because they destroyed the foundation of the local economy, hurting both industry and agriculture. Oil money was used to import even essential food products.
  • Strict currency controls created opportunities for high level corruption. As the official exchange rate was always lower than the parallel market rate, importation permits became an invitation to make a huge profit from the difference. Government officials who granted these permits could make enormous amounts in bribes. Whereas corruption is an old problem throughout Latin America and the world, it has spread in all areas of government, and become one of the biggest problems of the country. This year, a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that wealthy Venezuelans were among the top Swiss clients of the international banking giant HSBC, holding more than $14.8 billion in secret accounts—more than any other country except Switzerland and the UK.
  • The government subsidizes gasoline, selling it for only US$0.02 per liter. Since this is significantly less than the actual cost of extraction, refining and transport, the government is paying for every liter that is sold. More than 40 percent the gasoline sold in Venezuela is smuggled to neighboring countries, creating another very lucrative source of corruption.
  • Following the Marxist model of rigid price controls for all essential items has meant that neither Venezuelan private businesses nor even cooperatives can afford to produce basic necessities. With inflation at more than 60 percent per year, fixed price controls have forced many manufacturers and retail businesses into crisis and, in many cases, failure. Chávez took over companies that he considered were making excess profits, but the newly nationalized enterprises were not managed effectively. As a result many of the nationalized companies became liabilities to the government rather than assets.
  • From 2002 to 2006, the government actively promoted cooperatives. However, due to a lack of training in managerial skills and insufficient access to finance, as well as the very difficult business climate, more than two-thirds of the more than 200,000 registered co-ops failed. After that, Chávez withdrew support for them and instead promoted “socialist enterprises” that the government owned and controlled.
 
These economic failures provided the opposition with an opportunity to attack the social and redistributive policies of Chávez, when in fact they were not to blame for the failure. Had the proper economic policies been put in place, Chávez’s social reforms would have worked well.
 

Opposition from the North

The capitalist-led opposition attempted a military overthrow of Chávez in 2002 with U.S. government knowledge and support; two days later, the masses and the military united and brought him back from the island naval base where he was held prisoner. Subsequently, Chávez became much more strident in his rhetoric about class warfare against the oligarchy, calling them “squalids.” He announced that he was committed to “the elimination of capitalism” and to “socialism for the twenty-first century.” Socialist and military values have influenced the masses to a great extent in terms of participatory democracy, grassroots communal councils, frequent military parades, the new national police force and other initiatives.
Awry
 
The U.S. press regularly condemns "human rights abuses" and "the corruption of democracy" in Venezuela. However, none of the incidents are comparable to Mexico, where human rights workers and journalists are regularly murdered, or to Colombia where more trade unionists are killed than anywhere else; still the United States gives both these countries huge amounts of financial aid, including military and police funding and weapons. The Carter Center, after observing several elections in Venezuela, along with delegations from the European Union and the Organization of American States, has publicly declared that the country has the "freest and fairest elections in the Americas."
 
On March 9, 2015 President Barak Obama declared “a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela.” What threat could Venezuela possibly hold for the greatest military power on earth?

It is the threat of a good example. If a country replaces free market capitalism with a socialist economic system, and people’s living standards improve, it would send a signal all over the world that an alternative exists to the economic, political and military domination of the United States.
 
U.S. corporations have been making tremendous profits from their business in Venezuela for decades; now, according to Reuters, 40 of them, all members of the S&P 500, together face a total loss of at least $11 billion due to currency restrictions and the devaluation of the Venezuelan currency.
 
The U.S. government has openly funded $90 million to Venezuelan opposition parties since 2000 with the pretext of "promoting democracy". With this same purpose, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has covertly funded strikes and economic sabotage, armed proxy armies, and assassinated heads of state. The list of U.S. interventions includes Guatemala, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Congo, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Nicaragua, Granada, Chile, Panama, Brazil, Ghana, Greece, Uruguay, Angola, Jamaica, the Philippines, Honduras, Fiji, Surinam, Guyana, South Yemen, Chad, Bolivia, Peru, Algeria, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti.
 

Chavez's Legacy

What are the lessons that Hugo Chávez taught us about social change? First that a radical anti-capitalist message can resonate with the poor even though it may alienate the rich―the radical parties Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece have succeeded with this approach. Second, that after 500 years of European descendants heading all the governments of Latin American, it is possible for people of color like Chávez, Lula de Silva of Brazil, and Evo Morales of Bolívia, to usher in Leftist governments. Third, that it is possible to mobilize the poor to win elections, and by creating social programs that benefit them, to do it again and again. Fourth, that by strengthening ties with other countries of the Global South, it is possible to forge new alliances and new institutions independent of the United States, such as Telesur TV, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) and the Bank of the South. Fifth, these new alliances can provide enough strength to successfully stand up to the might of the United States and win.
 
We should learn from Chávez’s mistakes as well. Good political policies and poverty reduction are not substitutes for sound economic policies. Both are necessary to have a long term impact.
 
Chávez also failed to effectively tackle corruption; violent crime rose to dangerous levels during his rule, as well. In his constant preoccupation with votes, he turned a blind eye to evidence of corruption by some influential party leaders. If he had courageously launched popular educational campaigns about ethics in every level of school and in the popular media, and if he had denounced and punished wrongdoers, ending impunity, he would have actually strengthened the Bolivarian Revolution.
 
Another disappointment is that Chávez did not encourage constructive criticism by his followers, nor did he open channels for respectful dialogue and criticism from members of the opposition. A more inclusive stand, like the Occupy slogan, “We are the 99 percent,” could have won the allegiance of many good people among the middle class.
 
Otto van Bismarck said, “Politics is the art of the possible.” For activists around the world, Hugo Chávez dramatically showed the possibilities of changing a society within a short period. Activists have a lot to learn from Hugo Chávez, both from what he got right and from what he got wrong.
Ac. Maheshvarananda Avt. is yogic monk, activist and writer. He is the director of the Prout Research Institute of Venezuela. He can be reached at maheshvarananda@prout.org.ve, and website www.priven.org.

Free Trade and Economic Centralization:
The TPP and TTIP

 

by Alex Jackimovicz

One of the main issues confronting the world today, facing leaders and those who shape and control economic policy, is how to increase the economic livelihood of all citizens, how to increase “growth”, how to create jobs, and how to utilize trade to increase jobs.  In the minds of policy leaders around the world, the question of how trade should be structured to improve the economy has been mostly answered. Increasing exports and imports creates jobs and spurs “growth”. But is this really true, and at what price? Who really benefits?

P.R. Sarkar, in his lectures on decentralized economy, side-steps and counters the usual questions of economic growth. In particular, he asserts that international and national economies, as well, just need an adjustment to be better suited to meet the needs of all. According to Sarkar, it’s not just a redistribution of wealth in the welfare state that will guarantee minimum necessities for all.  Focusing only on reform to lessen the pain of economic inequality for the masses isn’t the requirement of the day. Reform doesn’t lead to economic liberation and self-sufficiency, or put an end to exploitation. The problem is deeper. As he puts it, the main issue is not the health of the economy and whether it is serving the needs of the people. Nor is it “whether economic exploitation has been eradicated and the common people have been guaranteed ever increasing purchasing capacity. The fact is that in a centralized economy there is no possibility that economic exploitation can ever be eradicated or that the economic problems of the common people can ever be permanently solved."[i]
 

Not a Level Playing Field

The problem with the centralization of the international economy is that centralized production leads to further monopolization of control and leverage over the economy. A handful of people make nearly all of the important economic decisions for whole nations even as they increasingly accumulate incredible levels of wealth to the detriment of the general population. According to Oxfam, “Just 80 people now own as much wealth as half the world's population, while nearly a billion people can barely afford to feed their families. And inequality is rising: the combined wealth of the richest 1 per cent will overtake that of the other 99 per cent of people next year unless the current trend is checked.”[ii]
 
In our current economic system, international “investors” and major corporations have increased their monopoly power over economic decisions by controlling the democratic processes of national governments and undermining the potential of political democracy—the rule of the people. The policies of economic growth and productivity are mostly seen through the lens of economic centralization and consolidation. And this is expedited by liberalized trade policies that reduces barriers for import and export. 
 

One of the major components of this trend towards concentrating wealth and economic power are tradeagreements. These international treaties allow corporations greater access to foreign markets for selling their goods and services by lowering trade barriers. They also allow centers of production to be shifted quickly, allowing increased capital mobility. Companies shift production to places with weaker labor standards, cheaper labor, and lower environmental regulations.  The result has been a global ‘race to the bottom’, with developing nations forced to buy into the global economy—sold on the promise of economic development, greater jobs and profits through increased trade. 
 

Trade for Corporate Profits

One of the major trade deals currently being negotiated secretly—a massive agreement affecting nearly 40% of the world’s economy—is the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Interestingly, in addition to falling in the vein of other trade agreements where local jobs will certainly be outsourced as capital moves to more profitable areas, the TPP is really a major investors’ rights agreement.
 
Twenty-six of the 28 chapters of this agreement have nothing to do with trade. TPP was drafted
with the oversight of 600 representatives of multinational corporations, who essentially are awarding themselves whatever they want: new ground rules for environmental and public health protection, worker safety, and further off-shoring of what was once a domestic workforce.[iii]

 
Negotiated with almost absolute secrecy, its effects undermine the democratic decision-making of national laws in each of the twelve signatory nations (so far) proposing to sign on to it. David Korten talks about its impact just on the USA:

TPP provisions will likely have significant implications for nearly every aspect of American life—
including intellectual property rights, labor and environmental protections, consumer safety
and product labeling, government procurement, and national resource management….And once
the agreement is approved, its provisions will trump national and local laws.”… [It] “will not be
subject to review or revision by any national legislative or judicial body—including, for instance, the US Supreme Court.
[iv]

Most disturbingly, the TPP aims to set up a system of independent, extra-governmental secret tribunals to allow corporations the right to sue for losses from ‘expected future profits’ where the business profits could be hurt by environmental or regulatory standards which rise above an accepted standard for all signatory nations--except as they pertain to ‘investor rights’. “TPP would allow plunder of our natural resources by foreign corporations allowed to bypass US law. Disputes over Western land contracts for mining and timber, for example, would be settled by international tribunals.”[v]
 
In short, leaked documents of the TPP suggest that it will make it a lot easier to sue for profits lost.
 
Comprised of three private attorneys, the extrajudicial tribunals are authorized to order unlimited
sums of taxpayer compensation for health, environmental, financial and other public interest policies seen as frustrating the corporations' expectations. The amount is based on the "expected future profits" the tribunal surmises that the corporation would have earned in the absence of the public policy it is attacking. There is no outside appeal.”[vi]

There are currently about 500 cases of corporations versus national or local governments, and the ad hoc ‘arbitration tribunals’ overwhelmingly favor the corporate over local interests. The TPP would greatly expand the ability of corporations to sue, likely resulting in an explosion of litigation.
 
Similarly, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—which is a re-branding of the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), is a proposed bi-lateral secret trade negotiation between the EU and US. TTIP would require all signees to adapt their national regulations to TTIP standards. Like the TPP, the TTIP “is about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations. It is, as John Hilary, Executive Director of campaign group “War on Want”, said: “An assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations.”[vii]
 
The TTIP aims to open up Europe’s “public health, education and water services to US companies.”[viii] It could mean the privatization of European public healthcare systems, including the NHS in the UK. As a Free Trade Zone, standards on food and safety would be systematized across the board with European protections for food and the environment being downgraded to US standards. GM foods virtually not allowed by the EU makeup as much as 70 percent of US food.  The US has many fewer restrictions on the use of pesticides and the use of growth hormones as well—both linked to increased rates of cancer. Restrictions on US imported food would be reduced.
 
Conversely with the TTIP, the US, which has relatively stronger banking regulations than Europe, could see a loosening. The TTIP will likely lift those restrictions on speculation. As with the TTP, unemployment in the EU is likely to rise as jobs shift to the US where there are weaker trade unions and lower labor standards. Also similar to the TPP, the TTIP would introduce Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which expand the right of companies to sue governments over ‘expected future profits’. Here again, unelected corporate lawyers would circumvent national sovereignty of democratically elected governments and change laws which impinge upon profits.
 
Article to be continued in July issue of Global Impact as: Fair Trade and Economic Decentralization: Moving toward Regional Self-sufficiency
 
[i] Sarkar, P.R., “Decentralized Economy – 1.” 1982. Proutist Economics: Discourses on Economic Liberation. Kolkata: Ananda Marga Publications, 1992.
[ii] "Inequality and Poverty." Oxfam. Oxfam, 2015. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.
[iii] Moench, Brian. "Death by Corporation: America's Corporate Deathstar." Truthout. Truthout, 13 Aug. 2013. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.
[iv] Korten, David. "Do Corporations Really Need More Rights? Why Fast Track for the TPP Is a Bad Idea." YES! Magazine. 9 Mar. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.
[v] Ibid, Brian Moench.
[vi] "Investor-State Attacks: Empowering Foreign Corporations to Bypass Our Courts, Challenge Basic Protections." Investor-State System. Public Citizen, 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.
[vii] Williams, Lee. "What Is TTIP? And Six Reasons Why the Answer Should Scare You." The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 7 Oct. 2014. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.
[viii] Ibid. Lee Williams.
Alex Jackimovicz is an activist from Maine who works with the Maine Fair Trade Campaign that collaborates with a national campaign to stop trade agreements like the TPP and the TTIP which threaten domestic jobs and the environment.

The Cult of Personality in Indian Politics
and Selecto-Electional Leadership


Prof. Ravi Pratap Singh


The cult of personality, highly visible in American presidential elections, has been a common phenomenon throughout history.  Periods of economic crises are particular fertile ground for the rise of such personalities, who are viewed as heroes or saviors. In modern times, mass and social media have facilitated greatly the creation of personality cults. Over the past five years, India has seen it happen with at least three people - Anna Hazare (a popular Gandhian social activist), Narendra Modi (the current Prime Minister of India) and Arvind Kejriwal (the current Chief Minister of Delhi). In each of these cases, a movement or party identified with their larger-than-life leader. 

As per recent observations by the media, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of Kejriwal has been the latest - and perhaps greatest - beneficiary of the personality cult politics. Despite being a movement of volunteers, of ordinary citizens, it has sold itself in the recent elections through one man—Kejriwal. Its election slogans were centered on the carefully cultivated persona of Arvind Kejriwal as an everyday hero. Two AAP stalwarts, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, who have now raised the issue of the growing Kejriwal cult in AAP, were involved in this electioneering strategy. In fact, before the elections, when Prashant Bhushan was asked whether it was right to project Kejriwal instead of the party, he admitted that these things have to be done during an election campaign. However, it is somewhat utopian to accept Bhushan's belief that things will normalize after the elections, as if the Cult of Personality will suddenly be replaced by complete inner party democracy. In politics, there is no such magic personality cult switch that you can switch on when you want to win an election and then switch off when you want a more participatory decision-making process.
 

Towards Selecto-Electional Leadership

To me, this personality cult is in fact a by-product of charismatic leadership.  Charisma is the compelling appeal of a leader that inspires devotion or commitment in the followers. Anna Hazare, Mahatma Gandhi, Napoleon and many others have exhibited this quality. However, charismatic leadership has always been a risky proposition for the world, as many of these leaders became autocrats, such as Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, Osama Bin Laden, etc. Ironically, it is the very political parties that build personality cults around their charismatic leaders to sway voters and win elections. Afterwards, it becomes difficult to control the power concentrated in their leader.
 
To manage this risk, a selecto-electional system has been proposed by P.R. Sarkar, an eminent Indian social thinker. This electoral system first selects the candidates based on specific criteria—professionalism, vision, strategy, nurturance, ethical conduct—which the public then elects.

The Indian Supreme Court along with the High Courts, Committee on Election Reforms and Election Commission has taken measures to discipline democracy in recent times. Charisma supported by a leader’s past record, impression and expectations creates faith among people. But this is not sufficient for a responsible and responsive leadership. The obvious risk is that in many cases, a leader emerging through his charismatic personality and unconventional behaviour loses touch with reality and incurs calamities. Hence charisma needs to be supported by:

1) Visionary Leadership—A clear, just and realizable vision.
2) Strategic Leadership—A clear strategy paving the path to that vision.
3) Nurturant (Task) Leadership—A system of nurturing successor or second line of leaders. This includes providing transformation-oriented training, skill development, inner moral-spiritual development, morale-building and wholehearted mental-material support to an emerging cadre of leaders. Personality cults have led to a vacuum in leadership and wars of succession within the parties or institutions as well as outside. This system of nurturing successor or second line of leaders also helps in evolution of leaders with professional and responsible capabilities.
 
The conditions gradually imposed by the Indian courts and committees/commissions in combination with a system of nurturance mentioned above and the recent talks about electoral college and state funding of elections (which is also prevalent in a few developed countries) are in the direction of first selecting right candidates before fielding them in the elections—hence the selecto-electional system. For example, a provision preventing a person charged with a criminal offense from contesting elections until s/he has been proven guiltless or has completed his/her sentence, has successfully put a selective restriction on persons with criminal records. But such preventive measures have to be supplanted (not just supplemented) by more affirmative and assertive measures leading to a full selecto-electional system. There are still miles to go before we reach our destination of insuring competent, responsible, and accountable leadership in our political systems.
Prof. Ravi Pratap Singh is a faculty member in the Department of Commerce, DDU Gorakhpur University and Training Secretary, Proutist Sarva Samaj Coordination Committee, India. Email: rp_singh20@rediffmail.com
VIEWS AND OPINIONS

The Search for Justice in the L.M. Mishra Case


On December 18, 2014, Ac. Santos’ananda Avt., Ac. Sudevananda Avt., Ranjan Dwivedi, and Gopalji were sentenced to life imprisonment for the bombing murder of Railway Minister L N Mishra that occurred almost 40 years ago. The case has a long and twisted history. When initial investigations failed to turn up credible suspects, Indira Gandhi’s intelligence officers began to focus on her political opposition and finally decided to arrest members of Ananda Marga almost six months after the incident. By then, the Gandhi administration had already declared a state of emergency throughout the country and had imprisoned many opposition leaders and Ananda Marga workers. The prosecution’s main evidence was the testimony of two accused people who turned approvers for the CBI (India’s Central Bureau of Intelligence).
 
The entire case has long been suspected of being politically motivated. Even close relatives of the late railway official who have been following the case all these years have voiced their suspicions. Both Mishra's wife, Kameshwari Mishra, and son, Vijay Mishra, have stated that the Ananda Margiis charged with the crime were innocent and were being framed. It is significant to note that Ac. Santos’ananda Avt. is a long-time Prout worker and the current editor of an international Prout magazine published from New Delhi. Defense lawyers are currently appealing the conviction.

 

* * * * Breaking News * * * *

April 7, 2015: The Delhi High Court granted bail to Ac. Santos’ananda Avt. Ac. Sudevananda Avt, Ranjan Dwivedi, and Gopaliji. The convicted had appealed their verdict to the High Court and requested bail. Granting bail after a conviction on a murder case is almost unheard of in any country, including India, so this seems to indicate that the High Court have strong reasons to believe that the conviction was wrongful. Given the time that an appeal will take in the slow processes of the Indian courts, it is likely that none of the accused will ever go back to jail in their lifetimes.
PROUT EVENTS

Prout Global Convention 2015

 
The Prout Convention will take place on July 17-23, at the Ananda Gaori Master Unit in Denmark. This will be a week-long program integrating spirituality, activism, creativity and fun. The theme for the retreat is:
 
Building Movements for Equality, Sustainability and Self-Reliance

This year’s program focuses on developing local and regional movements for self-reliance as a means of getting away from global corporate control. We will look at what Proutists are doing in Europe and other parts of the world and work on ways of mutual support and cooperation.

The world has changed drastically since last year’s convention. The rise of Isis and the war in Ukraine bring new uncertainties. Social structures continue to decay in Southern Europe particularly in Greece and Spain. Having a keen sense for the future is a vital asset for those working for a better world. So we are inviting prominent futurist Sohail Inayatullah (Subodh) to help us take a provocative look at near, mid-term and long term futures. 

For those interested in Master Units and living on the land we’ll be having hands on workshops on food-growing, yurt construction, water management and other practical topics.

We’ll hear what Proutists around Europe and other parts of the world have been doing and experiencing in their local regions. 

And much more. We’ll post the full program on our Facebook Page as soon as possible. You can download the convention brochure here.
 
Registration
To register, you must pay the advanced booking fee (40 Euro/300 Dkk) or the full amount and fill out the registration form. Space is limited (except for camping). Paying the advanced booking fee gives you the opportunity to secure your preferred accommodation and special needs if you have them.
To register:  http://goo.gl/forms/zCC8DEamCq
 
Cost
(Note: Registration fee covers accommodation, food and program participation.)
Standard €210 (1580 DKK)
Students, pensioners, unemployed €150 (1120 DKK)
Children 5—12 €100 (750 DKK); Children 0—5 Free
Portugal, Spain, Iceland, Greece €145 (1100 DKK)
Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Romania €125 (950 DKK)
Balkan countries and countries outside Europe: concessions will be available when registering in advance or at registration.
 
Account Information 
Account name: Ananda Gaorii MU.
Bank: Danske Bank;
Account No.: 0297 4614434090;
Swift/Bic: DABADKKK 
IBAN: DK1330004614434090
NB! Please include the words "Prout Convention" in the message line. 
 
 
Contact Information
Site: Ananda Gaorii, Holbækvej 56A, 4560 Vig, Denmark
Tel. +45 47314731
Mob. +45 71417362
Copenhagen (Prout Global Office) 
Tel. +45 33241244
Tel. +45 33256671
Mob. +45 26453521
Mob. +45 71881273
Email: proutconvention15@gmail.com

5th Annual Prout Activist Training

Ananda Gaorii Master Unit, Vig, Denmark
July 24 to 28, 2015

 
As Prout activists from all over Europe gather once again to immerse themselves in practice and theory, this year's Prout Activist Training session promises to be the most exciting one yet. The focus of the training this time will be very  practical and hands-on: to plan for a large public conference in 2016 envisioning a new European and World Economy by highlighting Prout speakers alongside other progressive leaders, economists, writers and activists.

The tentative theme of the conference: Creating a New Economy: Economic Democracy, Equality and Sustainability for All. But we will together create the final conference title.

Together, we will also plan all the details of organizing the conference—creating measurable goals, finding a location, creating a website, contacting speakers, publicity, logistics, press campaign, planning the program and schedule, creating a budget, incorporating diversity, program booklet, and follow-up.

After the training, we will work together for the next 8-10 months to create the conference somewhere in Europe in 2016. Let us come together to create a new era for Prout action by collaborating with other progressive thinkers, writers and activists.
 

Cost: 100 Euros

Registration:

Account Information 
Acount name: Ananda Gaorii MU. Bank: Danske Bank; Account No.: 0297 4614434090; Swift/Bic: DABADKKK 
IBAN: DK1330004614434090
NB! Please include the words "Prout Activist Training" in the message line. 
 

Contact Information

Site: Ananda Gaorii, Holbækvej 56A, 4560 Vig, 
Denmark
Tel. +45 47314731
Mob. +45 91490811

Copenhagen (Prout Global Office) 
Tel. +45 33241244
Tel. +45 33256671
Mob. +45 26453521
Mob. +45 71881273
Email: proutconvention@prout-global.net
 

Visa for Denmark

Those of you coming from outside Europe may require a visa to enter Denmark and some of you may need an invitation letter from the Prout Convention organizers before you can get a visa. If you send an email with your name, birth date, address, telephone number, nationality and passport number to Vishvashanti at obrekke@commediaschool.com he will send you an invitation letter and visa application forms.
Copyright © 2015 Proutist Universal, All rights reserved.

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