On economic decentralisation and cooperatisation ===================== L

von On economic decentralisation and cooperatisation » Donnerstag, 23. September 2004



On economic decentralisation and cooperatisation ...

Cooperatives

As you know, human society is one and indivisible. A human being cannot live alone. If a person wants to drink water from a well, he or she needs a rope and a bucket, and to tie the rope one needs a hook. For all these things, the help of the others is indispensable. In society human beings have to work jointly with others so that everybody can move forward collectively.

That is, society is the collective movement of a group of individuals who have made a unanimous decision to move towards a common goal. If human beings move closely together in all aspects of life, except for those few aspects, which are very personal, the better it will be for the welfare of society. Only those things that cannot be done collectively should be done individually. So, it is always better for people to work together as far as possible -- the more that human beings work together, the better it is. If this principle is not followed the spirit of society will be broken, adversely affecting the very existence of human beings. People have to eat food individually -- another person cannot eat your food for you -- however a meal can be shared collectively. Where individuality dominates human life, the environment, the welfare of different groups and even the continued existence of humanity may be adversely affected.

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Cooperatives not communism and not capitalism

In communism the slogan is, "From each according to his capacity, to each according to his necessity," but in the cooperative system the slogan is, "Each will get according to his or her capacity." Due to this slogan, a person will try to do more labour. People will put all their talent and energy into a task and production will increase.

In communism the leaders themselves try to avoid labor. They prefer to sit in an office rather than work hard, thus there is sluggish production. In the cooperative system, for example, people are issued shares in farming cooperatives based on the amount of land that they farm under cooperative management. Similar concepts apply to producers and consumers cooperatives and all manner of industrial enterprise. In the communist system, this type of participation is absent, so people do not feel oneness with their work. They are led to believe that their needs will be supplied by the state, so they have no incentive or interest in the system.

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On decentralization

At the beginning of civilization, the desire to create arts and crafts arose in the human mind. At that time artisans used to work at home, and arts and crafts were produced in cottage industries. Men, women, boys and girls --
all participated in the creation of arts and crafts. Later people realized that some arts and crafts could not be produced in every village; so a few combined villages produced certain artifacts. If artisans had not combined together, they would have suffered losses in the market place, and their numbers would have been significantly reduced. So gradually human beings started to go and work in places where production was done collectively, or the first factories. At that time the few industries that existed were decentralized. In this connection one thing should be remembered -- the more that arts and crafts are decentralized, the greater the benefits for human society.

Decentralization does NOT diminish or dissipate economic potential. Rather, decentralization removes regional disparity because wealth is distributed almost equally everywhere. We do not find situations where people in some places cry out in agony due to scarcity and starvation, while people in other places become immoral due to excessive affluence and over abundance. Such problems only arise from economic centralisation (whether capitalist in the hands of few corporations or communist in the hands of party bureaucrats of the state). In fact, industrial centralization is detrimental to a well-knit social order.

In a decentralized economy people do not have to leave their homes to work in an industry or work is close at hand in the collective enterprise, and consequently they are saved from the expenditure of maintaining two establishments or travelling long distances. Moreover, decentralization increases the possibility of saving labour, because people can earn their livelihood while simultaneously taking care of their household responsibilities. This arrangement is not possible under capitalism. Capitalism will never support decentralization, because capitalist production exists to maximize profits. Centralization means industry for profit, while decentralization means industry for consumption - for the benefit of the consumer.

PROUT's approach, which will be supported by all rational people, is production for consumption. PROUT's maxim is, "Production for consumption, not production for profiteering."

Capitalists want to produce commodities at the lowest costs and sell them at the highest prices. To produce commodities cheaply, there must be efficient transportation, cheap raw materials, cheap labor, cheap energy, adequate water supply, etc. No matter what form capitalism takes -- individual capitalism, group capitalism or state capitalism -- capitalists will always prefer centralized production. All these forms of capitalism are essentially the same. Thousands of industries have mushroomed around major cities due to this capitalistic mentality. Remote places such on the other hand have been neglected. They have gone to sleep, crying in cimmerian darkness. Perhaps only a few people have even heard of these places. How could they? The people living there are extremely poor. They are incapable of purchasing a woollen wrapper for winter, what to speak of expensive woollen clothing. Take an example. In India regional disparity is increasing. Calcutta's per capita income is twenty percent higher than the rest of Bengal, while the Punjab's per capita income is higher than Haryana's and Orissa's. The people of Delhi enjoy much greater liberty and comfort than the villagers of Purulia district. Regional disparity is detrimental to the cause of a healthy social order. A progressive utilisation theory is the only panacea. There is no other solution.

Communism is state capitalism, which is why it is not free from the defects of capitalism. State capitalists, like individual and group capitalists, control industries. State capitalism means state controlled industries. In other words, in state capitalism industries are centralized. Communist countries support state capitalism, which means centralized production. While communism appears to differ from capitalism on the question of popular liberation, capitalism and communism are the same internally. Fruits of the same variety may have different colour skins, but their seeds are the same. Capitalism and communism are fruits of the same variety.

To ensure the social and economic liberation of human beings, the maximum amount of socio-economic decentralization is essential. While it may be difficult to establish village-level economic infrastructure at present, there is no insurmountable obstacle preventing us from establishing block-level or quasi-regional economic infrastructure. As far as possible, the establishment, operation and distribution of all industries should be done at block level. Only when this cannot be done should industries be organized at a higher level. Obviously, industries such as iron and steel factories cannot function in every village, block and district, so they should function in a larger area. There are some special types of key industries, which can conveniently function as either small-scale industries or medium-scale cooperative industries. If some key industries are structured in this way, they must be under state regulation. Care should be taken to ensure that they are properly organized and widespread.

Capitalists should never control key industries, such as electricity grids, telecommunications backbone networks, dams, roads, essential oil and gas supplies, etc; otherwise the interests of the people will be partially if not fully ignored. Moreover, if they are left in the hands of capitalists, many different kinds of problems will arise. Normally only very large-scale key industries should be under state control, and these industries should be centralized instead of decentralized. The local government can often be the agent managing such enterprises.

But industries that cannot be readily decentralized today may be decentralized in the future due to changing circumstances. At that time the decentralization of key industries must be implemented. That process will be one of cooperatisation not privatisation.

There are also many other adverse effects of industrial centralization. For example, in large cities it is difficult for people to remain healthy because of the scarcity of fresh fruits, vegetables and milk. Junk food sales become prolific. Immorality and corruption are rampant. Thieves, criminals, drug addicts, alcoholics and antisocial elements easily conceal themselves and prey on innocent people. Malnutrition, air pollution, water pollution as well as other problems also exist in many cities in the West tend to be hidden from view - rather the image is one of glorifying the city. All large industrial centers presently suffer from these defects.

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Decentralized economy

The most important economic issue before the leaders of all the countries in the world today is how to increase the standard of living of their citizens through the economic prosperity of the state. This is a burning question, especially in those countries that are economically backward. The matter is not very simple because in many countries people are still directly dependent on nature for their subsistence. Only in a few countries have people been able to utilize their knowledge and wisdom to solve their economic problems. Most countries in the world -- whether capitalist or communist -- have adopted the policy of economic centralization.

While the economies of the capitalist countries are centralized in the hands of a few capitalists or a few capitalist institutions, the economies of the communist countries are or were centralized in the hands of the party. After so many years of economic centralization, how successful have these countries been in improving the standard of living of the people? To assess this, the main issue is whether or not 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.

In many countires the common people have been led astray time and again by vested interests. Innumerable promises have been made by political leaders, but they have proved to be nothing more than cruel hoaxes. The policy of economic centralization stands exposed as merely a strategy to accumulate increasing capital in the hands of the capitalists. On the one hand the incredulous masses are kept in good humor by promising them something negligible, and on the other hand the capitalists go on amassing enormous wealth.

If we examine why this is happening, we will find that the cause is clearly evident. All the economic policies in the country are formulated by a handful of people who are pillars of capitalism. There is only one way to stop economic exploitation and alleviate the plight of the common people, and that is to implement a policy of decentralized economy in all the sectors of the economy. Successful planning can never be done by sitting in an air-conditioned office thousands of miles away from the place where planning is to be undertaken. Centralized economy can never solve the economic problems of remote villages. Economic planning must start from the lowest level, where the experience, expertise and knowledge of the local people can be harnessed for the benefit of all the members of a socio-economic unit. All types of economic problems can be solved only when economic structures are built on the basis of decentralized economy.

The basic question is how to remove the unhealthy influence of centralized economy. The real issue is, who will bell the cat? If the vested interests fail to be guided by righteous intellect, then people will have to take matters into their own hands. They will have to create circumstantial pressure from all sides, uniting around the slogan: "Abolish centralized economy to end exploitation; establish decentralized economy." Decentralized economy is the only way that people can attain all-round welfare because it will not only guarantee economic prosperity, but also pave the way for individual and collective psycho-spiritual progress. Once people's mundane problems have been solved, they will have greater opportunities to develop their potentialities in the psychic and spiritual spheres.

With the establishment of decentralized economy, economic and psycho-economic exploitation will be eradicated, the gap between the rich and poor will be minimized and individual and collective welfare will be greatly enhanced. This in turn will create greater opportunities for the psychic and spiritual progress of all members of society.

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Control by local people

The first principle of decentralized economy is that the local people should control all the resources in a socio-economic unit. In particular, the resources that are required to produce the minimum requirements must be in local hands, and all the industries based on these resources will have to be controlled entirely by the local people. Local raw materials must be fully utilized to produce all kinds of commodities necessary for the economic development of a socio-economic unit.

Local people are those who have merged their individual socio-economic interests with the socio-economic interests of the socio-economic unit they live in. People may travel and live anywhere around the world. Wherever their base is, it is natural to establish community links there and help develop that community. Movement from one community to another simply means a reestablishment of individual socio-economic intersts. Clearly, this concept of local people has nothing to do with physical complexion, race, caste, creed, language or birthplace. The fundamental issue is whether or not each person or family has identified their individual socio-economic interests with the collective interests of the concerned socio-economic unit. Those who have not done so should be branded as outsiders. No outsider should be allowed to interfere in local economic affairs or in the system of production and distribution, otherwise a floating population will develop, causing the outflow of economic wealth from the local area. Whose interests do they serve? What balance do they represent between individual and collective rights. How can it be ensured that collective rights will prevail against parasites willing to control but not participate in the local community? If this occurs the area will become vulnerable to outside economic exploitation and decentralized economy will be undermined.

The surplus wealth, after meeting the minimum requirements of the people in the local area, should be distributed among the meritorious people according to the degree of their merit. For example, doctors, engineers, scientists and other capable people engaged in various activities require extra amenities so that they can perform greater service to society. While a common person may require a bicycle, a doctor may require a car. But there must also be provision in the economy for reducing the gap between the minimum requirements of all and the amenities of meritorious people. To increase the standard of living of common people, they may be provided with scooters instead of bicycles. Although there is some difference between a scooter and a car, the gap that existed between a car and a bicycle has been partially reduced. The economic gap between common people and meritorious people should be reduced as much as possible, and ceaseless efforts must be made in this regard, but this gap will never vanish altogether. If the gap increases, the common people will be deprived and exploitation will re-emerge in society in the guise of amenities not rationally distributed. Decentralized economy leaves no such loophole because on the one hand the standard of the minimum requirements must be increased, and on the other hand the provision of amenities will be assessed from the viewpoint of the collective welfare.

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All above articles or extracts are by P.R. Sarkar.

Shrii Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar (1921-90), philosopher, social reformer and spiritual teacher. Born in India. Sarkar inspired people to develop themselves to their fullest, and to assume greater responsibility for the welfare of humanity and the entire creation. Sarkar propounded PROUT in 1959.

"Sarkar, in his own way, is more than the equal of the great historian Arnold Toynbee. Sarkar not only illuminated the growth and inevitable decline that comes from the 'acquisitive-Capitalist' stage in societal evolution that has now deeply infected the West, but offers wise counsel on what to do instead."

Oliver W. Markley, Professor of Human Sciences, University of Houston at Clear Lake

"Sarkar was one of the greatest modern philosophers of India."

Former President of India, Giani Zail Singh

"Sarkar, who did more than thirty years of studies and practical concrete work with the poor population of India, is very important for all who yearn for a liberation which starts from economics and opens to a totality of personal and social human existence . . ."

Leonardo Boff, Brazilian founder of Liberation Theology

"Sarkar's theory is far superior to Adam Smith's or that of Karl Marx."

Johan Galtung, Founder UN Institute of Peace Studies







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