Q:yo, what are your thoughts about basic income? there's apparently some kind of movement working for it atm.
In principle, something like basic income is a minimum demand of communists. People’s ability to live a healthy and comfortable life should not be limited by their ability to sell their labour to capitalists. In a socialist society, establishing a guaranteed minimum income would be — I think most communists would agree — more or less a first-day task.
In terms of the practical effects: in Canada, there was an experiment with basic income in the town of Dauphin, Manitoba in the 1970s. Contrary to right-wing fears, everybody didn’t suddenly decide to stop going to work. The only demographic sectors that saw a major decrease in work hours were new mothers (who, with fewer economic obligations, opted on average to spend more time with their newborns) and teenagers (who, without having to worry about supplementing the family’s income, tended to focus more on education). At the same time, there were increases in graduation rates and in adults pursuing further education, meanwhile “hospital visits dropped 8.5 percent, with fewer incidences of work-related injuries, and fewer emergency room visits from car accidents and domestic abuse. Additionally, the period saw a reduction in rates of psychiatric hospitalization, and in the number of mental illness-related consultations with health professionals.”
People continue to work when a minimum income is guaranteed for a number of reasons. First, it has to be pointed out that, in Dauphin as well as in the early stages of the Marxist conception of socialism (and I include here the USSR and the PRC in its socialist stage), despite the existence a minimum income, doing more work still did result in receiving more material compensation. However, even without this material reward (and a society transitioning to communism would seek to abolish it eventually), people still do have motivations to work. When you investigate how systems of motivation, value. and reward function within the brain, you find that through a variety of mechanisms, the basic reward value that the necessities of life (e.g., food) have, can be attained by other things, such that these other things come to be just as strong a motivating factor as e.g., access to food would be. To elaborate on this would be the domain of a psychology paper (which, if you give me a few weeks to trawl through my undergrad notes, I might be willing to write), but for now, I think it suffices to point to the numerous present-day examples of people doing hard and not necessarily enjoyable work in situations in which there is no direct material reward, from the gamer who spends a thousand hours grinding professions in World of Warcraft, to the groups of volunteers who get together to pick up trash in a park.
The other main question I think people might ask w/r/t basic income is “if we’re able to provide a good enough basic income to workers under capitalism, is there really a need to overthrow it?” First of all, I need to point out that this right now is a purely academic question, because, even if it is possible to support a universal basic income in say Canada, (where there is a movement for it), while still having an economy dictated by capitalist logic and the capitalist law of value — which I doubt — it’s still very unlikely that such a measure would pass through a bourgeois parliament beholden to bourgeois business interests. Assuming it is possible though, then this becomes the age-old question of whether we really need a socialist revolution at all, or whether it really is possible to reform capitalism to such an extent that socialism is no longer necessary. Reluctantly, I have to say that this is not possible (although I think my life would be a hell of a lot easier if it was). There are a lot of reasons for this, which have been written about for more than a century (the section of Lenin’s Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism where he refutes Kautsky’s ideas about “ultra-imperialism”, and Rosa Luxembourg’s essential Reform or Revolution are both classic examples in the literature); to briefly summarize some key points though:
- with the rich still holding a disproportionate amount of property and power, all the problems of a capitalist-run government would still persist. Even with extensive social welfare, capitalism means a dictatorship by the rich. Government posts are occupied typically by rich people, who attain their positions typically because of their ability to appease the interests of groups of other rich people. Beyond the basic problem of a lack of democratic representation — which even left-liberals these days recognize — this also means foreign policy being profit-driven (which includes the possibility of profit-motivated military endeavours), environmental policy being a joke, and the likelihood that social welfare programs, including basic income, will eventually be cut, because:
- social welfare programs are temporary concessions to the working class, made when the bourgeoisie finds that the decreased chance of revolt makes up for the costs of the program. These concessions are repealed, or at least minimized when the trade-off is no longer worthwhile for the ruling class. We see this effect when an economic crisis occurs and the media and government begin clamouring for spending cuts and “fiscal responsibility” (keep in mind that despite the disastrous effects they have for the lower classes, economic crises in the modern West don’t actually mean there is a shortage of essential goods, merely that it has become less profitable for capitalists to sell them — the cure for the crisis is to take back some of the wealth invested in the social safety net and through lower taxes and/or subsidies, allow that wealth to make its way back to the bourgeoisie). In the first world, most of our social safety net has its roots in the era immediately after World War Two, when socialism was at its zenith and there was a very real threat to capitalism’s global dominance; it was very worthwhile for the ruling classes and their governments to buy off their working populations with social reform (in the case of the Marshall Plan, it was worthwhile for the ruling class of the USA to attempt to buy off an entire continent). Since the late 1970s however, and especially since 2008, these trends have begun to reverse, and there has been a steady dismantling of these reforms, as well as a steady decline in real wages for the working class (that is, how much our wages can actually buy, not just their dollar value). For a concise overview of this process, I very much recommend David Harvey’s A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Now, even if it were possible to hold on to these reforms indefinitely, the issue remains that
- social welfare in the capitalist first world is made possible by the exploitation of the third world. The main way that capitalists can afford to make the concessions mentioned above while still preserving healthy profit margins is through the extraction of value from other countries. This is done through paying very low wages to workers in the exploited countries and then selling their products in the West for super-profits, as well as through extracting natural resources from the countries and taking the profits abroad (some states, like the Philippines and Colombia, have governments that more or less go along with this exploitation; some, like Iraq and Libya, have clauses allowing it written into their new constitutions immediately after their governments are toppled by Western intervention). This process, which we refer to as imperialism, results in a flow of wealth from the third world to the first, and it is with this wealth that capitalists in the imperialist countries are able to buy off their workers. When people laud the happy, healthcare-having welfare states in Scandinavia or even Canada and wonder what more a socialist could ever ask for, they often neglect to mention the brutal international exploitation and poverty upon which these welfare states are built. Any basic income scheme enacted within the context of capitalism and imperialism would be founded upon this same exploitation. The only way to end this system and allow for a fair and acceptable standard of living worldwide is to dismantle imperialism and excise the parasitic capitalist class from the body of society — doing so demands the establishment of socialism on a global scale.
So um, tl;dr: basic income is a good demand, but capitalism still has to go.
To those upon the menu, the sauce is no concern
I hate the indifferent. I believe that living means taking sides. Those who really live cannot help being a citizen and a partisan. Indifference and apathy are parasitism, perversion, not life. That is why I hate the indifferent.
Plato’s Republic shows at the outset that artisans don’t have the time to do anything other than their work: their occupation, their timetable and the capabilities that adapt them to it prohibit them from acceding to this supplement that political activity constitutes. Now, politics begins precisely when this impossibility is challenged, when those men and women who don’t have the time to do anything other than their work take the time they don’t have to prove that they are indeed speaking beings, participating in a shared world and not furious or suffering animals. This distribution and this redistribution of space and time, place and identity, speech and noise, the visible and the invisible, form what I call the distribution of the perceptible. Political activity reconfigures the distribution of the perceptible. It introduces new objects and subjects onto the common stage. It makes visible what was invisible, it makes audible as speaking beings those who were previously heard only as noisy animals.
The expression ‘politics of literature’ thereby implies that literature intervenes as literature in this carving up of space and time, the visible and the invisible, speech and noise. It intervenes in the relationship between practices and forms of visibility and modes of saying that carves up one or more common worlds.
First, human rights literature relies on a framework of a modernized first world that should go in and rescue, civilize and liberate those facing yet another crisis in the third world, always imagined as a ‘region of aberrant violence’. Second, human rights discourse presumes women only as individual, autonomous beings who can be rescued, rather than as members of families or other group identities. This demonizes socioeconomically disempowered men in particular ways as the oppressors of women, pits marginalized groups against and in competition with one another, and promotes international organizations as the saviors when marginalized men, as a group, also lack systematic access to resources and decision-making power. Third, this paradigm presumes that women can be identiﬁed as a group. In other words, to argue the collective rights of women ‘assumes women live their lives solely as women, a universalizing move that ignores the fact that women are not all gendered in the same ways’
No one has the right to say, “Revolt for me; the final liberation of all men depends on it.” But I am not in agreement with anyone who would say, “It is useless for you to revolt; it is always going to be the same thing.” One does not dictate to those who risk their lives facing a power. Is one right to revolt, or not? Let us leave the question open. People do revolt; that is a fact. And that is how subjectivity (not that of great men, but that of anyone) is brought into history, breathing life into it. A convict risks his life to protest unjust punishments; a madman can no longer bear being confined and humiliated; a people refuses the regime that oppresses it. That doesn’t make the first innocent, doesn’t cure the second, and doesn’t ensure for the third the tomorrow it was promised. Moreover, no one is obliged to support them. No one is obliged to find that these confused voices sing better than the others and speak the truth itself. It is enough that they exist… A question of ethics? Perhaps, A question of reality, without a doubt. All the disenchantments of history won’t alter the fact of the matter: it is because there are such voices that the time of human beings does not have the form of evolution but that of “history,” precisely.
A semiotic chain is like a tuber agglomerating very diverse acts, not only linguistic, but also perceptive, mimetic, gestural and cognitive: there is no language in itself, nor are there any linguistic universals, only a throng of dialects, patois, slangs, and specialized languages.
There is no ideal speaker-listener, any more than there is a homogeneous linguistic community. Language is, in Weinreich’s words, “an essentially heterogeneous reality.” There is no mother tongue, only a power takeover by a dominant language within a political multiplicity.
Too many have denied the Holocaust. Even more have perpetuated the myth of passivity, the fallacy that six million Jews went docilely to their deaths, like lambs to the slaughter. It is important that future generations should know this to be untrue. In reality, wherever there was the slightest opportunity, Jews fought back. The Jewish people did their utmost to survive under unfathomably difficult circumstances in the forests, in the ghettos, and in the camps. We all fought for our lives and for the lives of our loved ones. Many fought with weapons in hand in the ghettos, as underground fighters in occupied cities and villages, as partisans in the forests, and simply as individuals who resisted those who came to destroy them.
In the context of a materialist feminist discourse, we know bodies matter. But we also know that our bodies are not our destiny. We are more than our bodies. It’s this very spiritual concept that got my slave ancestors through the horrors of that experience, knowing that we are more than our bodies, finding a space to transcend this material we’re living in. But as a liberatory stance it’s important for black people to reclaim our bodies, historically sold raped, lynched, generally devalued as not beautiful and savage even. But as we reclaim our bodies it’s important not to buy into the racialized mythology about them. My transsexual body often sought only as a site of sexual conquest and objectification is an interesting potential site for the subversion of that racist history. So many of the issues that plague African American culture today are rooted in my assessment in an uncritical relationship by both many black men and women to Patriachy or institutionalized sexism. This system is inherently heterosexist, homophobic and, of course, transphobic.
Laverne Cox, keeping it real (via mansplainedmarxist)
I looked this up because Laverne Cox talking about materialist feminism, so on is just.. A feminist in the mainstream that’s THIS radical AND a trans woman. I love her so much.
Capitalism would have us believe that we only deserve to be here because of what we produce, and even in our counter- cultures, even in our movements we reproduce the same idea. We only deserve to be here because of what we can produce that other people will buy with their money, time or attention. Our experience of our own lives is secondary, it is only the means of production, it is the products that matter, and unless we make ourselves into both factories and widgets we are not valuable.
As much as neoliberals might like to think that there is ‘no alternative’ to further neoliberalization, history is not over and even within capitalism there are possibilities for expanding limited choices and altering the outcomes people fact: there are better and worse forms of capitalism. Citizens should not be forced to accept the world as it is by being encouraged to take up a disempowered, consumerised and depoliticised ‘responsibility’ that ultimately is irresponsible as it lets us off the hook for supporting an economic system and an individualised risk management strategy that will only ever benefit the few at the expense of the many. Financial literacy education… should enable us to see that treating macroeconomic issues as individual, consumer problems is an irresponsible abandonment of our global civic duty to create relations of production, distribution and consumption that offer the possibility of universal freedom from scarcity: a goal predicated on the equality of human beings.
Nobody in history has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who are oppressing them.