Movements for resilient local economies, as per Progressive Utilisation Theory
The ideal of the Transition Town Movement is to create a sustainable and ecologically viable thriving local economy. This can not be done soon enough, and the risk with delaying this great work any longer is for society to slip back into neo feudalism or extreme corporatism (also called Fascism by some) and the destruction of the life carrying properties of Mother Earth.
Cool hard rationality dictates this, but rationality and deep thinking is a minority interest, and it is necessary to inspire larger majorities and sweep them along in socio economic movements. The PROUT philosophy of P. R. Sarkar has pointed out a number of universally applicable approaches to this.
If any of the points mentioned in this piece seems to pertain especially to our local area, is it not time to do something concrete, to start our socio economic movement with a view to materialize the vision of Transition Town? – Ed
P. R. Sarkar – 31 December 1984, Calcutta
In nearly all countries of the world economically privileged or advanced groups are mercilessly exploiting other economically backward groups and sucking their vitality, gagging their voice and closing all the doors of their future progress. To overcome this tyranny and exploitation, movements will have to be launched for those suppressed people so that they can stride boldly forward, fight against all exploitation and attain economic independence. Nobody can deny the need of such an approach, of such movements, because such an approach is truly humanistic. If such an approach is not adopted, it be something unnatural and anti-human. In fact, to oppose such movements amounts to working as an agent to protect the interests of the exploitative and reactionary forces.
PROUT always stands for the cause of exploited people, irrespective of race, nation, religion etc., and always opposes all types of exploitation. But as poverty is the main problem in the world today, PROUT gives top priority to opposing economic exploitation, as this affects the livelihood and existence of the people.
To solve this problem and other pressing socio-economic problems, popular movements based on anti-exploitation and universal sentiments should be launched throughout the world. Such movements should oppose all forms of economic, psychic, cultural and psycho-economic exploitation. In addition they should undertake appropriate practical programs to enhance the all-round welfare of the people.
In order to root out exploitation and build a just and benevolent society, the following six points should be borne in mind.
1) 100% Employment for Local People
First, there should be 100% employment for the local people. The basic right of all people is to be guaranteed the minimum essentials for their existence, including at least proper food, clothing, housing, education and medical care. This basic right should be arranged through cent per cent guaranteed employment, not through welfare or dole-outs. Unemployment is a critical economic problem in the world today and 100% employment of the local people is the only way to solve this problem.
Local people are defined as those who have merged individual socio-economic interests with the socio-economic interests of the socio-economic unit they live in. The primary consideration is whether or not people have merged their individual interests with their socio-economic unit, regardless of their colour, creed, race, mother tongue, birthplace, etc. Those who earn their livelihood in a particular socio-economic unit but spend their earnings in another socio-economic unit should be considered as outsiders or non-local people, as this practice is not in accordance with the interests of the socioeconomic unit in which they are employed. It results in the drainage of the capital necessary for the continued growth of that unit and undermines its economic development.
Capitalists, in either their singular or collective forms, are the most pernicious economic exploiters today. All over the world they are continually exploiting local economies and draining their wealth. In nearly all cases the profits they accrue are spent outside the local area and remitted to outside stockholders and parent companies. An essential measure to control this economic exploitation is that the speculative markets in all countries of the world should be closed down immediately.
To create 100% employment among local people, PROUT supports both a short term and a long term economic plan. In the short term plan, labour intensive industries based on the collective minimum requirements of life should be started immediately or made more productive where they already exist. These industries should be based on the consumption motive. They should also provide a rational profit in order to guarantee adequate purchasing capacity to those employed in them and to ensure their continued existence and growth. In North Bihar, for example, where there is virtually no industry, all kinds of agrico and agro-industries can be developed to alleviate the unemployment problem there.
In the long term plan, capital intensive industries should also be developed to increase the productive capacity of the socioeconomic unit. PROUT advocates a three-tiered economic structure, that is, small scale privately owned businesses, medium scale cooperatives and large scale key industries managed by the immediate government. Such an economic structure should be based on the principles of self-reliance, maximum utilization, rational distribution, decentralization, rationalization and progressive increases in the standard of living of all people. Through the never ending creation of new industries, new products and new production techniques incorporating the latest scientific discoveries, the vitality of the economy can be increased. As part of the long term economic plan, working hours may also be progressively reduced to maintain full employment.
To solve the unemployment problem in both the short and long term there must be an accurate understanding of the surplus and deficit manual and intellectual labour trends. In India, for example, there is surplus manual labour in North Bihar, which is based upon an agricultural economy, and surplus intellectual labour in Calcutta. In both places there is high unemployment. In most of the countries of the world where there is high unemployment, there is surplus manual labour. So manual labour intensive industries are required to create employment. In some instances where deficit labour exists for an expanding industry, retraining programs may equip workers with the necessary skills for employment.
Another way to help solve unemployment, especially in rural communities, is the utilization of plants for economic selfreliance. All socio-economic units have the potential to increase their plant and crop varieties by properly matching these with the soil, topography and climatic conditions etc. in their units. Reforestation can reclaim arid and semi-arid regions, and some unique plants like the Puranica or fern, which has the capacity to attract clouds, can help radically transform the rainfall and weather patterns of a region. Agro- and agrico-industries based upon the productive potential of different plants can also help solve rural unemployment by creating a range of new goods and services. There are many dimensions to this revolutionary plant rationalization program, which is also a practical expression of the ideals of Neohumanism.
2) Maximum Industrial Development
The second point of PROUT’s approach is that maximum industries should be developed in the local area according to the availability of raw materials or local consumption. This principle will develop the economic potential of a socioeconomic unit by placing economic power into the hands of the local people and divesting outsiders of their control over the economy. In a economy most industries will be run as agricultural, producer or consumer cooperatives creating a new kind of cooperative spirit or cooperative dynamo. Such an approach will place economic power into the hands of those who work physically or intellectually for proper production, stripping capitalists of their exploitative economic power. Thus maximum industrial development will be assured.
Several corollaries arise from this second principle.
a) Industries should utilize locally available local raw materials and should not import raw materials from outside the socioeconomic unit
First, industries should utilize locally available local raw materials and should not import raw materials from outside the socioeconomic unit. Raw materials are the basic ingredients or resources necessary to make finished products. The tyre industry, for example, requires rubber plantations as rubber sap is the basic raw material for this industry. If the topography of the local area favours the ample growth of rubber trees, then industries may be created around this raw material. Or, if alternative synthetic materials are available, a synthetic tyre industry may be developed.
There are several reasons why industries should utilize locally available raw materials. First, not all areas have the same socio-economic potential. Different areas will naturally be conducive to producing different kinds of raw materials, as in the case of plant-based raw materials. Industries based on locally available raw materials can produce commodities cheaply, be located near ready supplies of raw materials, and ensure their self-reliance. These advantages are not apparent where there is a dependence on outside raw materials.
Secondly, raw material producers, especially producer cooperatives, will prosper as there will be ready markets for their products.
Thirdly, industries will feel secure when they know that sufficient raw materials are available to supply their needs, and they will be able to plan their future production efficiently.
Fourthly, many large capitalists deliberately influence the economic and political policies of a local area by preventing the growth of local industries based on the local raw materials. They further exploit the local people by selling manufactured goods in the local markets which are made from locally produced raw materials. Australia, for example, imports many manufactured goods from Japan which are produced from Australian raw materials. Encouraging the growth of local industries based on local raw materials will terminate the dominance individual and collective capitalists exercise over the local markets, ending the drainage of capital vital for the local area’s economic growth.
b) Local raw materials should not be exported – only manufactured goods should be exported
A second corollary of the second point is that local raw materials should not be exported – only manufactured goods should be exported. Local raw material prices in the export market are subject to manipulation and erratic fluctuations as they are currently traded through speculative commodity markets which are controlled by vested interests. To root out dishonesty from the field of trade, free trade should be established throughout the world as far as possible.
Manufactured goods, on the other hand, are generally subject to less price manipulation and command better prices than raw materials. By manufacturing locally finished products, a socioeconomic unit can conserve its reserve bullion and improve the purchasing capacity of the local people.
c) If no potential exists to produce the manufactured goods required by industry in the local area, only then should the importation of such goods be allowed
A third corollary is that if no potential exists to produce the manufactured goods required by industry in the local area, only then should the importation of such goods be allowed. Importation of manufactured goods means that local capital is being transferred to another socio-economic unit which has produced the product. The drainage of capital is always detrimental to the economic growth of a socio-economic unit, therefore unnecessary importation should always be discouraged. Barter agreements should be arranged between trading units so that no net loss occurs to either of the trading partners. Barter agreements in foreign trade are especially beneficial for those socio-economic units which have very few commodities to sell but a large number of commodities to buy, and their saleable commodities, though few in number, are large in quantity.
Thus, where there is a plentiful supply of local raw materials, industries can be developed for local demand according to local consumption, and if applicable the surplus may be exported. The availability of raw materials will ensure the long term viability of local industries.
3) Avoid Importing Outside Products
The third point of PROUT’s approach is that outside finished products which can be locally produced should not be imported. This point implies that the local people should support their local industries by purchasing their own finished products. They should buy the finished goods of the local industries even if initially they may be of lesser quality than the finished goods manufactured outside the socioeconomic unit, as this will ensure the continued economic viability and growth of the industries in the unit. With continued local support, the local industries will develop to a stage when they will be able to produce goods of better quality. But, if due to economic, political or psycho-economic exploitation, people purchase finished goods made outside their socio-economic unit rather than those made locally, then local developing industries may be forced to close down creating unemployment and other social and economic problems. Thus, people’s sentiments should be aroused so that they buy locally produced products rather than outside finished products wherever possible. To achieve this, popular movements should be started so that the economic awareness of local people is increased.
When the British were ruling India, India imported salt even though the potential for manufacturing local salt existed in India. The Indian leaders then organized a civil disobedience movement and proceeded to make their own salt, boycotting British made salt. This movement caught the imagination of the people and won their support, thus the Indian people became conscious of British exploitation. This movement brought down the price of salt, an indispensable part of most Indian dishes, and provided employment by building up the local salt industry. It also saved the country from the drainage of wealth which previously went into the coffers of the British salt manufacturers. In addition, it heightened the consciousness of the Indian people and helped polarize the population into the pro and anti-British camps.
4) The Local Language as the Medium of Instruction
The fourth point of PROUT’s approach is that the medium of instruction from primary to tertiary level should be in the local language. The sum total of human expression is culture, and language is the best medium to express human culture. While different socio-economic groups should encourage every language, each socio-economic unit should use the local language to inspire self-confidence and self-respect amongst the local people. Encouraging a positive cultural identity is an important ingredient in the socioeconomic development of the local area, and is an essential factor in generating a sense of affinity and unity amongst the people.
The use of non-local languages as the medium of instruction only results in the suppression and subjugation of the local language and inevitably means the suppression of the local culture. This in turn leads to psychic demoralization, inferiority complexes and a defeatist mentality. Whenever the sentimental legacy of a group of people is undermined, they become easy prey to the economic, political and psycho-economic exploitation of vested interests. Such a strategy of cultural suppression was adopted by the English, French, Dutch, Spanish, American and other colonial powers. If local people develop a sublime awareness of their cultural heritage they can readily throw off all psychic inferiority complexes which prevent them from attaining socio-economic self-reliance.
The introduction of the local language as the medium of instruction from primary to tertiary level will also put the local people in control of their educational institutions, thus ridding them of those cultural prejudices, biases and teachings which perpetuate subjugation. In Bengal and Chattisgarhi, for example, many of the educational institutions are controlled by non-local people who have migrated from outside the region and who still maintain their cultural prejudices. The same situation occurs in many undeveloped and developing countries.
5) The Local Language as the Primary Means of Communication
The fifth point of PROUT’s approach is that the local language should be the medium of communication in governmental, and non-governmental institutions and offices. When the British were ruling India, they concentrated their economic activities in a few centers like Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Madras. The indigenous capitalist class, who were in collusion with the Britishers, usually brought in labourers and managers from outside the local area to disrupt the local economy and make it amenable to their control. The English language was imposed on local people, and the British administration went to great lengths to train up tens of thousands of Indian clerks in the English system of education to ensure British cultural dominance of the Indian economy.
So, if the local people demand that the local language should be the medium of expression in the workplace, the nonlocal people who control the local industries can be forced out of the local area, creating more opportunities for the local people.
6) Local Socio-Economic Demands
The final point of the approach of the socio-economic movements of PROUT is that particular demands pertaining to the local area should be implemented. The local situation should be carefully studied and programmes should be adopted as per the requirements of the particular locality. For the socio-economic groups in Germany, Ireland and Korea for example, the major focus should be on the unification of their divided nations. In other socio-economic groups, local people may demand the construction of bridges and roads to make raw materials more accessible as the first step in developing new industries. And in those places which are dependent on agriculture, small scale irrigation projects may be necessary to increase the availability of irrigation water and thus increase the number of crops grown per year. Thus, this last point includes all the local needs necessary to expedite the socio-economic development of the local area.