Political instructions to the demand for basic income
There are enough descriptions of the state of affairs. For avoiding
further repetition, well only give a rough outline of the situation
in this essay: in the course of establishing new conditions of exploitation
and their standards, the capitalist world market is changing. New
forms of international exploitation and competition and of national
and international adjustment come into existence. At the same time,
notions about life and the way of life have changed both in the
course of discussions on and struggles about and attempts at reform
of the households adjusted to fordism and in the course of 1968
and the new social movements. The concepts of globalisation and
postfordism are an attempt to name these changes. A pragmatic
purpose of this designation may consist in criticizing the transformation
of capitalism in the height of its time instead of only describing
it. This amounts to speculating that theoretical critique will form
a productive part of an anti-capitalist policy.
In this train of thought, basic income for everyone may or may
not be an anti-capitalist demand reacting to the dismantling of
the so-called welfare state. It is an ambivalent demand in a contradictory
society. There is no such thing as a policy which automatically
implies an anti-capitalist tendency. The demand for basic income
can be viewed as part of a vocabulary of a program of capitalist
modernisation, just as the concepts of postfordism and globalisation
can be viewed in such a light. It is situated in the centre of a
There are various discourses about basic income, social basic income,
citizen income or however else these different concepts may be called.
Most of them are based on a similar perception of high unemployment
rates, social exclusion, and a crisis of the welfare system. However,
while the neoliberals, for example, want to create a new cheap and
flexible workforce, which the state is to protect from absolute
poverty by an additional payment of 400 to 500 marks per month and
person, the conference on basic income will try to place the demand
for basic income in the context of leftist debates. Political issues
thus begin by differentiating between neoliberalism or social democratic
social technology on the one hand and anti-capitalist methods on
Civic concepts of basic income refer all of them to the decline
of a particular historical relation betweeen labour and subsistence.
They look for a new form of the relation between labour/ social
subsistence. This debate evolves around the so-called normal labour
conditions, which are being replaced by atypical forms of labour.
It also evolves around the economic unit of the family, which is
being replaced by a process of individualisation and amalgamation
by and by. It evolves around women, who are no longer part of a
system of provision by marriage but have their own place on the
labour market. And it evolves around rigid regulations concerning
the maintenance of industrial health and safety standards, which
have to be made flexible, and so on. This motley accumulation of
arguments is often summarised by the sociological slogan of the
end of the labour society. As such, it is part of the discharge
of the so-called keynesian welfare state. Because of an increase
of international competition and exploitation, the welfare state
lays down too many limits to the possible accumulation of assets.
Civic visions of the welfare state work on the symptoms described
above; they want to reform capitalist regulations somehow or other.
The objectives are: less bureaucracy, cheaper and more flexible
labour, a modernisation of the national insurance system, and the
avertion of a pauperisation which might no longer be socially acceptable.
Social basic income and citizen income are traded as a possible
solution in these debates.
Principally, the requirement to work remains; as does the patriarchal
encoding into productive and reproductive work, and into objective
and care work; as do racial exclusion of refugees and the fact that
it is taken as a matter of course that there is badly paid though
labour-intensive work, which is more often than not carried out
by female migrants.
The demand for basic income is usually estimated at 1500 marks
plus rent for everyone by initiatives of the unemployed, jobber-initiatives
, and leftist groups. By this demand, we want to try to attack capitalist
modernisation from inside. This aim is to be reached by linking
the demand to various political procedures already in existence
- presupposing the fact that there is no outside, nothing like a
possibility of being outside of the capitalist search for new forms
of regulation . The objective is, then, to build up political connections,
to make visible overlapping relations of power, and to change them.
Doing so, different movements like e.g. feminist politics, jobber-initiatives,
initiatives against racism etc. will be able to interlink and strengthen
The demand for basic income winds ist way between unclear lines.
Political demands can add on this Taking a closer look at the results
of an introduction of basic income into society, we can about say
the following: no more cheap labour (a person who gets 1500 marks
plus rent a month does not perform cleaning jobs); no requirement
to work but a reduction in working hours; no link between labour
and the question of the meaning of life; no fetishism of achievements;
no division of labour along the lines of company/firm/freelancing
on the one hand and domestics/social work on the other; no exclusion
from the welfare system, and no downgrading of immigrants and refugees
or housewifes and women who perform so-called side-jobs - though
their downgrading derives from different traditions. This means
the end of a long tradition of capitalist policies for the relief
of poverty , the modern form of which is supplementary benefit,
which includes all kinds of measures for control over the individual.
These effects are neither automatically implied in the demand nor
are they utopian. They are simply outlines of a political discussion
which postulates that there will be no revolution but only a process
of becoming revolutionary - this is to say that there will be an
extension and intensification of politics at many different places
at the same time. Therefore Sunday, the second day of the conference
in March, will be reserved for a debate about whether or not people
want to make a demand for basic income and if they do, how they
want to do this in both a political and a practical way.
In accordance with this, the demand does not aim for a bill, which
is to be carried out in the running or the following parliamentary
term. Instead, it aims for the fulfillment of the promise of a good
life for everyone. The demand for basic income appears as a demand
for money. Thus, the political question arises, which policies are
to constitute the basis of the above mentioned sum, and how the
transformation from money into life can be brought about; how capitalism,
this monster of integration, selection, and exploitation, can be
Therefore there are people who have criticized that a reference
to the history of the demand for basic income does not suffice as
a limitation against civic concepts of social basic income or citizen
income. When, at the beginning of the eighties, the initiatives
of the unemployed demanded a basic income for everyone, the exploitative
employer-employee relationship was placed at the centre of critique.
Yet even then, there was a blind spot concerning the function of
a redistributive state. The essence of the welfare state remained
undefined, as did the way of handling ist benefits and restrictions.
At that time, political perspectives were changed from a critical
evaluation of the state to policies of appropriation. As a result,
the subjects of appropriation replaced state institutions as the
objects of application. In the seventies, they had shown - in Italy
and France mainly - how to cope with monetary demands for electricity,
telephone and rent in a different way - autoriduzione, reducing
them on their own account. Marxist critiques usually refer to the
gap between what is to be appropriated, i.e. social riches, and
the way in which these riches are portrayed and produced, i.e. in
form of money and by a well-defined hierarchy of assets/labour/private
and social existence. It is this hierarchy which has to be changed.
The question of this gap plainly arises in the context of the presently
declining social movements and political methods. However, this
gap never appears in singular. They are gaps which are not only
of a value-theoretic or economic kind - marxist critique does not
consider this. By a governmental payment of 1500 marks, no patriarchal
relation of power is touched upon, nor any racist structure, nor
any wish for oppression or hatred towards the other. It depends
on political links and connections, it depends on a coming together
of different methods and procedures and their extension. Thereby
radical leftist theorists and pinchers moved by a will of appropriation
would leave their respective and relative isolation (this is only
meant to be an example).
You can find links of this kind in any left newspaper. The relation
between labour and subsistence appears in many facets; be it the
discussion on the requirement to work led by initiatives of the
unemployed or of supplementary benefit; be it the struggle against
racist policies of migration and labour; be it the feminist critique
on a permanently renewed division between productive and reproductive
labour, between governmental policies on labour and the poor; be
it the critique on a gendered encoding of personal and low-budget
services; or be it the discussion on the gradual approach of labour
towards leisure between the terror of exploitation and a kind of
minimal happiness which is an immanent feature of capitalism (not
to get up, no stress, to do projects).
On the conference, these questions are taken up in various study-groups.
The way in which they are going to be discussed and answered depends
on the participants.