Sunday, March 27, 2016
UBI - magical thinking in the age of capitalism
As the New Zealand Labour Party ponders the 'Future of Work', the discussion focuses on the Universal Basic Income (UBI) to "guarantee income security and dignity". This is another attempt to rewrite Labour's historic mission to convince workers that it knows best what workers want under capitalism. This is another con.
Not until bosses give back their profits to the generations of workers they stole them from will any redistribution of income be more than a subsidy to the bosses. Notice how all the discussion around the fashionable UBI is limited to what the bosses can afford to pay. This is magical thinking. No way will capitalist corporations and banks agree to pay for full employment and a living wage let alone a UBI. Both have to be sacrificed in the impending global crash to restore the rate of profit.
This magical thinking has always been the fatal flaw of social democracy – the illusion that there is a peaceful, gradual road to socialism by means of bosses agreeing to 'fair shares' in the distribution of income. To question this assumption is to risk exposing the real truth of capitalism; that all income originates from the labour power of productive workers.
If that truth was our starting point the question would be: why does capital have the right to exist and define the terms of debate around how wages are determined when it lives off the expropriation of surplus-value?
In this light it’s easy to see that the UBI is another big con to divert the class struggle away from fighting for control of jobs and a living wage in the workplace and into the dead end of parliament.
If unions are too weak to win a living wage now they won’t be able to force a living UBI out of the parliamentary talkshop. Parliamentary reforms that benefit workers are concessions won from the bosses only when they fear being over-run by militant labour.
The reason the UBI has been dragged off the top shelf as a ‘reasonable’ demand by academic liberals, social democrats and union bosses is because the bosses are scared a global economic crash will spark rising worker opposition to paying for the bosses crisis and threaten the fragile hold the ruling class has over the ‘dangerous’ class – the international proletariat.
The parties of the ‘center-left’ (Labour, Greens and Mana) are all run by a clique of pro-capitalist bureaucrats whose pay rests on the legal fiction that they represent the interests of the working class. This means that these parties are internally divided between a worker base and the bureaucratic leadership. The internal class divisions widen as such parties are torn between two class programs – to serve the top 10% and their lackeys, or the bottom 90% expected to pay for the crisis with their lives and livelihoods.
A new mass workers party is needed arising out of a split between the working class supporters of these parties and their union affiliates and the rotten labour bureaucracy that act to tie their worker organisations to the bosses state machine.
Strong fighting, democratic unions that throw out their pro-capitalist leaders are the only way to begin the claw back of the surplus expropriated from workers and build a power base capable of taking on the ruling class and implementing a Transitional Program (TP) that takes workers all the way to socialism.
The TP puts up immediate economic demands that all workers need and are willing and able to fight for such as: Jobs for all! A living wage! Solve unemployment by sharing work hours without loss of pay! These are immediate demands but they are also ‘transitional’ because they cannot be won without workers control of work.
So rather than waiting passively for a Government cargo cult that will drop a living UBI from the sky even while an economic crash looms and global warming escalates exponentially, fighting democratic unions will defend every job with strikes and occupations against their employers. Because such struggles threaten the bosses’ control of work they will be met with inevitable state repression which will in turn force workers to develop new organisations and tactics to advance the defence of our class.
Inevitably employers backed by the state will try to deny workers defence of economic rights to work and a living wage by using the state forces to close down on freedom of expression, assembly, strike etc. When bosses use the labor laws to call in the cops the workers response is to break the law with occupations defended by picket lines.
Furthermore, strike action to win in any worksite has to be generalised to involve all militant workers in struggle in every sector of the economy. In that way workplace committees, strike committees and workers defence guards, become coordinated locally, nationally and internationally.
Building unity around these demands and the organisations they throw up empowers workers to take another big step and organise a political general strike aimed at defeating the employers and their state machine and imposing workers ownership and control of the means of production.
Thus the Transitional Program begins with immediate economic and political demands and leads necessarily to workers empowering themselves to the point where they can overthrow of the capitalist state and create a Workers’ Government able to implement a planned socialist economy - where the myth of the capitalist UBI is a dim memory for those whose social equity is based on the principle:
"From each according to their ability, to each according to their need".