Left and Right Unite! – For the UBI Fight!

May 2021 Forums General discussion Left and Right Unite! – For the UBI Fight!

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    The French media view


    70 percent of Europeans support the concept of a basic universal income

    “In the crisis we’re in, I don’t see how a government would embark on a universal income, with the pressure of financial markets, banks and international financial organisations on countries’ budgets,” said Joan Cortinas-Munoz, a researcher at the Centre for Sociology of Organizations at Sciences Po Paris and a specialist in social policies in Spain.

    Some on the left warn it could be something of a Trojan horse, leading to less protections in the labour market as employers seek to take advantage of the income already provided by governments to pay workers lower wages.
    “In its neo-liberal conception, the universal income is supposed to replace social welfare protections (health coverage, housing allowance…). But the latter is essential as a safety net to avoid falling into extreme poverty,” notes ATD Fourth World, a social justice advocacy group based in France.


    A headline in today’s Times echoes the title of this thread: “Coronavirus  has united left and right on value of universal basic income” in which their Economics Editor says:

    If nothing else, the crisis has proved that there is a role for a guaranteed minimum income. Recessions are indiscriminate and means-testing is intrusive and dehumanising, not to mention expensive (£8 billion of the Department for Work and Pensions’ budget is spent on administration).”

    Of course a guaranteed minimum income is not the same as a universal basic income. That exists today (in Britain it’s called Income Support) but is not unconditional as it’s means-tested. The term is being used here to mean that an unconditional minimum income.

    And the idea is that it would be paid through the tax system as a “negative income tax” ie anyone whose tax return showed an income below the minimum income level would receive a payment from the state to make it up to that level. Nobody else would notice anything dramatically different.

    Not quite the same as everyone receiving a cheque or bank transfer from the state for a given amount. It would also be sort of checked up on as the tax authorise will presumably want to do at least some sample checking that the figures in anyone’s tax return were accurate.

    But this, rather some radical reform that would supposedly undermine capitalism and aid the struggle against it, is  the most that all the campaigning for UBI will end up achieving.

    One of the reason the “right” want this system is that they prefer to give people the money to spend rather than provide free services for them. For instance, they would abolish free health care and give people enough money to buy private health care. A fact alluded to in the report from France as you why some on the “left” are opposed to UBI.


    Free money in Germany – I believe it is called helicoptering

    Families will receive a one-time transfer of €300 for each child.



    These amounts are relatively trivial and are unlikely to have any negative effect on wage levels. In fact the amounts paid under the Alaska scheme are for most people about the same as the $1200 cheque the US government recently handed out and so too are unlikely to affect wage levels. You only get a significant amount if you have 3 or more children and then that would reduce any amount you might be getting under the US equivalent of the UK tax credit scheme.

    Such payments are more xmas bonuses and in fact in Alaska are paid just before xmas. Crumbs for workers to pick up and eat without saying thank you is a better description than helicopter money.

    A weekly payment to everyone of these amounts, on the other hand, would exert some downward pressure on wage levels. And that’s why UBI is a dangerous reform.


    Young Master Smeet


    Kim Stanley Robinson goes old school and proposes instead a job guarantee, which IMNSHO is better than UBI, but the issue is that actually, in abolishes the labour market outright, and the appeal to MMT is dangerous social credit crankery, effectively, it is a socialist revolution, because the jobs would have to be regulated/planned somehow.

    However, as Charlie put it:

    “The right to work was first advanced by Fourier, <sup class=”enote”>[6]</sup> but with him it is realised only in the phalanstery and therefore presupposes the adoption of the latter. The Fourierists – peace-loving philistines of the Démocratie pacifique, as their paper was called, disseminated that phrase precisely because it sounded innocuous. The Paris workers of 1848 – with their utter confusion in theoretical matters allowed this phrase to be palmed off on them because it looked so practical, so non-utopian, so readily realisable. The government put it into practice – in the only way capitalist society could put it into practice – by building nonsensical national workshops. In the same way the right to work was realised here in Lancashire during the cotton crisis of 1861-64 by building municipal workshops. And in Germany it is also put into operation by establishing starvation and flogging colonies for the workers, which are now arousing the enthusiasm of the philistines. Put forward as a separate demand the right to work cannot be realised in any other way. One demands that capitalist society should make that right effective but this society can do that only within the framework of its conditions of existence and if one demands the right to work in this society one demands it subject to these definite conditions; hence one demands national workshops, workhouses and colonies. But if the demand of the right to work is supposed to include indirectly the demand for the transformation of the capitalist mode of production, it is a cowardly regression in comparison with the present state of the movement, a concession to the Anti-Socialist Law, a phrase that can serve no other purpose than to confuse and muddle up the workers with regard to the aims they have to pursue and the sole conditions under which they can achieve their aims…”

    Young Master Smeet

    Actually, he also had this to say, which I may have been remembering:

    “The first draft of the constitution,<sup class=”enote”>[86]</sup> made before the June days, still contained the droit au travail, the right to work, the first clumsy formula wherein the revolutionary demands of the proletariat are summarized. It was transformed into the droit à l’assistance, the right to public relief, and what modern state does not feed its paupers in some form or other? The right to work is, in the bourgeois sense, an absurdity, a miserable, pious wish. But behind the right to work stands the power over capital; behind the power over capital, the appropriation of the means of production, their subjection to the associated working class, and therefore the abolition of wage labor, of capital, and of their mutual relations. Behind the “right to work” stood the June insurrection. The Constituent Assembly, which in fact put the revolutionary proletariat hors la loi, outside the law, had on principle to throw the proletariat’s formula out of the constitution, the law of laws; had to pronounce its anathema upon the “right to work.” But it did not stop there. As Plato banned the poets from his republic, so it banished forever from its republic the progressive tax. And the progressive tax is not only a bourgeois measure, which can be carried out within the existing relations of production to a greater or less degree, it was the only means of binding the middle strata of bourgeois society to the “respectable” republic, of reducing the state debt, of holding the anti-republican majority of the bourgeoisie in check.”



    “The right to work is, in the bourgeois sense, an absurdity, a miserable, pious wish. But behind the right to work stands the power over capital; behind the power over capital, the appropriation of the means of production, their subjection to the associated working class, and therefore the abolition of wage labor, of capital, and of their mutual relations.”

    Good description of socialism by Marx from 1850. But Lafargue wrote The Right to be Lazy in answer to the Right to Work as the Right to be Exploited. Which brings us back to UBI as envisaged by its more radical advocates who invoke Lafargue’s Right in support of it. Of course under capitalism it too is a “pious wish” even if not quite so miserable a one.



    Another pro-UBI article

    We Need a Universal Basic Income Now and After COVID-19

    But this mentions how Iran tried to introduce its version between 2010 and 2011

    Although Iran was the first to adopt an income program at a national level, it ended up facing backlash and was reined in after some argued that it disincentivized work, a notion which was later dispelled. When first introduced, the program was widely rejected by the public as it replaced large state subsidies to energy and grain, yet overtime support for the program grew as Iranians saw a 29 percent median household income increase. The gain equated to a $1.50 increase per day for households, which in the U.S. would equate roughly to an extra $16,389 annually.

    Having sung the praises of UBI the article adds its reservations.

    UBI alone would have limited impact on improving the precarious lives of workers and isn’t an end-all-be-all policy. Questions of workers’ relationship to production would still remain. 


    The Citizens’ Basic Income Feasibility Study Steering Group is looking into whether Scotland should implement a pilot scheme. It said a pilot – which would run for three years – could provide a better understanding of how a universal basic income could impact on poverty, child poverty, unemployment, health and financial wellbeing.

    Models vary, but the idea is based on an unconditional, regular payment made instead of benefits. A range of different figures have been suggested, but it would be enough to cover the basics of life and would serve as a replacement for all existing benefit payments.

    The study suggests trialling two levels of payment – one that is broadly in line with current benefit entitlements, and another at a higher level which experts think is likely to be able to reduce or eradicate poverty.




    Interview with Pavlina Tcherneva, an economics professor at Bard College and a research scholar at the Levy Economics Institute, author of  The Case for a Job Guarantee.


    I don’t understand the attraction of these “simple solutions” as opposed to socialism, as the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources. Socialism may seem remote at the present time but at least it is possible.

    What these reformist propose may seem more realistic but they are impossible. No government is going to introduce a jobs guarantee or a state payment to all of an amount more than the poverty line. These go against the logic of capitalism and the wages system and could only be financed out of profits. But taxing profits to the extent these reforms would require would provoke an economic downward and demands that they be abandoned or watered down; which, to get production going again, would be acceded too.

    They would also require majority support to be attempted in the first place; obtaining which, quite apart from wasting time, would be no easy task. Such efforts would be better directed at campaigning and organising for socialism as something possible.

    • This reply was modified 10 months, 3 weeks ago by ALB.

    At the present time, the Stalinists and Maoists  Leftwingers are supporting the possible armed confrontation between North Korea and South Korea as an antiimperialist struggle, these peoples never learn from past history


    Guaranteed Income

    Eleven cities are pledging to explore direct cash payments to help residents deal with economic insecurity.

    The cities that have joined the initiative also include  Los Angeles and Atlanta, St Paul, Minnesota; Jackson, Mississippi; Newark, New Jersey; Oakland and Compton, California; Shreveport, Louisiana; Columbia, South Carolina; and Tacoma, Washington.

    It’s not yet clear how much money the cities might hand out, or how many residents might actually receive a check in the near future.

    “It’s not scary. It doesn’t destroy our country. It doesn’t destroy work ethic. It makes us stronger,” said Michael Tubbs, the mayor of Stockton, California, which launched a small guaranteed income experiment in early 2019, offering $500 a month to 125 residents to spend on whatever they chose. Most often, they spent it on food.

    Melvin Carter, the mayor of St Paul, said the aim is long-term change, not just a “Band-Aid” over the next few months.

    But as he explains – it all comes down to financing such schemes and we know the money will not be there without strict means testing.



    Yes, ever since it came into being capitalism has had a problem of what to do about “the poor” as those who, for one reason or another such as illness, disability or old age, are not able to maintain themselves. Hence the “poor law” and its various successors in Britain (National Assistance, Social Security, Income Support, etc), payable mainly to the “unemployable”, i.e those no employer is going to employ because the quality of their labour power is so low. Even capitalism can’t let such people — and they amount to some 10 percent of the population — die and so has to provide them with the minimum necessary to keep them alive. UBI in its basic form, and in any form that is likely to be adopted, is merely a reform of existing “poor law” provisions, as are the various cash handouts that are also being discuss.

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