The Sarvodaya Movement Ecosocialist Movement

The Sarvodaya Movement (SM) is a rare example of a local DIY cooperative ecosocialist movement willing to take over the national government.[1] Teachers and students at Nalanda College, the second largest Buddhist high school, began the movement in 1958 in Sri Lanka, a primarily (about 70%) Buddhist country. Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne began the movement when he took 40 students and 12 teachers to work in an outcaste village. SM provides an alternative to the Western development model: The name means “awakening of all through collective labor.” The goal was not to take over the national government, but to awaken individuals around the world to a better form of economics. They organized holiday camps in remote villages for students to do volunteer work. The founders went door-to-door to recruit people in collective work projects in villages such as community kitchens,\ and pre-schools designed to match needs of the particular community, applied in over 15,000 villages by 2015. Gradually, SM expanded to social infrastructure providing conflict resolution, participatory budgeting, democratic planning and meditation. The local banks’ main goals are not to provide loans, unlike the Grameen micro-lending banks, but to provide training. Over a million people received training so far. Over 2,000 villages are almost totally independent and locally managed, according to Quincy Saul who visited some of the SM villages.[2] (Saul is co-founder of Ecosocialist Horizons.) He observed that women do most of the organizing work, similar to Venezuelan cooperatives. When he asked women in Kalutara village if they could run the country, they said yes, but not through political parties.


[2] Quincy Saul, “The Awakening of Economics: Sri Lanka’s Sarvodaya Movement,” TelSur, May 7, 2015.


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