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Universal basic income movement

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cardy lady's picture
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Jan 18 2013 10:38
Universal basic income movement

what do people think about this movement? Seems to be gaining widespread support, especially in Spain and Germany, although essentially reformist, could help develop solidarity networks and abolish the need to work for some if it was successful?

also rather than be on the defensive all the time about benefit "scroungers" surely there's a need to be more assertive about the right of people not to work for a wage if they wish so that they have the time to pursue their own interests and spend more time with their friends and families

there are various proposals about how this could be implemented within the current framework and quite a lot of money would be saved by cutting down on the bureaucracy involved in means testing and coercing people into low paid jobs

is this basically propping up the capitalist system or worth pursuing on the way to getting rid of it?

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Jan 18 2013 20:15

FWIW, I don't think the problem is seeking (or achieving) reforms. Rather it's a matter of means: If we do it through political parties, politicians, lobbying, subsitutionalist activism (or even the trade unions), it's reformism. If it's done through mass protest, direct action, and self-organisation, well, that's building the revolutionary capacity and general confidence of the class.

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Jan 19 2013 09:08

thanks, that makes sense

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Jan 19 2013 10:18
Quote:
also rather than be on the defensive all the time about benefit "scroungers" surely there's a need to be more assertive about the right of people not to work for a wage if they wish so that they have the time to pursue their own interests and spend more time with their friends and families

Rather than focus on what I don't agree with or don't understand on Libcom I'm trying to look for things that I do agree on as a way of trying to figure out where my thinking 'fits'. The quote above strikes a chord right at the heart of my dislike of our current way of life. On the subject of benefits etc practically everyone I know seems to feel some resentment towards benefit claimants. They moan about how they spend too much time at work yet feel that it is wrong when others don't work. They also have the bizzare idea that those on benefits have an easy life while they themselves struggle to make ends meet. Obviously, the very minimum that anyone deserves is a roof over their head and food in their belly but those that bleat on about scroungers seem to be totally unaware of this.
So much work that is done that just DOESN'T NEED DOING. We're all so busy doing this work that we don't have time for the activities that we pretend as a society are most important to us.
I'm lucky in that I like my job but 2 or 3 days a week would be far more enjoyable than the 5 or 6 that I currently do. When people talk about there being 3 million unemployed I say, yes, it's terrible isn't it, there's still 20 milion poor bastards that have a job! Joking of course but there is some truth in it. Most people don't like their job and most don't have any choice but to just get on with it. To me that alone means that we don't live in a free society. Obvious to you guys but seemingly not so to the general population.

RC
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Jan 19 2013 18:22

What an idea: first, establish a mode of goods production with the sole aim of making profit in the form of money, so that production is done at the lowest possible cost – especially the lowest labor costs! –; then create a lot of paupers with and without jobs who lack the money they need to live; and afterwards, supply these people with enough money so that they can play their role as consumers – the same people who were earlier laid off because paying them wages is not worthwhile for the profitability of production.

http://www.ruthlesscriticism.com/guaranteedincome.htm

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Jan 19 2013 21:56

FWIW, I think the concept of the wages for housework could relate to your point iexist:

http://libcom.org/library/wages-against-housework-silvia-federici

Also, Cardy Lady, I fucking love your username and avatar. Just sayin'.

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Jan 19 2013 23:33

It's an old egalitarian concept harkening back to a post-tribal communistic value system for labour. Firstly, a unified global economic benchmark for currency must be realized and the exchange by bartering accepted as legitimate tender. It basically means that celebrities will be paid by the hour at the same rate as dishwashers, and a painting by Picasso will cost you 50 quid, which means that capitalism must be destroyed firstly.

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Jan 19 2013 23:50

WTF are you talking about? Useless, pointless, and unproductive post.

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Jan 20 2013 08:33

ha ha, thanks Chilli, glad you like it!

yes thinking along the wages for housework line, lots of people in the current system don't get paid for the work they do, also been reading Guy Standing's 'Precariat', anyone else read this?

When I think of the situation in the UK, especially with recent changes to the benefits system but even before, there is so much bureaucracy, negativity and downright viciousness injected into it in the name of ensuring that money goes to the 'deserving' and the 'underserving' are punished and forced off benefits. When you look at the figures it doesn't actually make sense to create such negativity and hatred as a universal basic income, non means tested and given to all could be done at almost the same cost. Added to that (waged) work is actually disappearing, that's a fact and even capitalists and the state will wake up to that fact sooner or later.

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Jan 20 2013 15:28

As other have pointed out on this thread i don't think theres much to be said for it
Its impossible to implement as a reform, since it would obviously require a revolution to enforce and in the long term it offers little more than a stagnant re-run of state socialism.

More to the point, in much of western europe and the US rent and living costs have spiraled and wages have stayed low leaving large swathes of the working class dependent on state subsidies which are now being taken away. Obviously we're against benefit cuts but extra subsidies are hardly much of a solution. Ireland has an unemployment rate of £180 odd a week, better than £70 a week for sure but only in the same way that a slap in the face is better than a kick in the teeth.

Frankly libertarian communism may seem ''utopian'' but its infinitely more desirable and realistic than ''guarenteed universal income'' and similar social democracy-lite type stuff...

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Jan 20 2013 16:36

But how do we get there? libertarian communism is a big leap for vast majority of people. As you said, guaranteed income would probably take a revolution to implement anyway, just interested in different approaches/experimentation that have potential of creating solidarity networks and where more revolutionary ideas can be discussed, though obviously see the problems with this approach. Just think you need something tangible/concrete to focus on. Libertarian communism or full communism is quite an abstract concept for most people how do we actually get there without experimenting with different approaches?

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Jan 20 2013 17:39
Quote:
Its impossible to implement as a reform

FWIW, when Nixon ran as the Republican nominee for president in 1968 he had a plan for guaranteed universal income. Best source I could find is here:

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Jan 20 2013 18:02
cardy lady wrote:
But how do we get there? libertarian communism is a big leap for vast majority of people.

I seriously think that standing up collectively to demand respect/more control/better conditions at work is just as big a leap, I'm in the rural US btw.

I think building class confidence by focusing on building combative organizations that fight for all of the above is tangible and concrete enough for a start.

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Jan 20 2013 18:34

I haven't read everything posted on this thread but I think the way this 'universal basic income' would be implemented is by establishing a global institution that taxes every nation's income, especially that of the First World, and then re-distributing it to every member on Earth, but leaning more in favor of the Third World. Its an okay idea, but a utopian attempt to 'humanize' capitalism.

Card Lady wrote:
But how do we get there? libertarian communism is a big leap for vast majority of people.

Do you need to be recommended to a few pamphlets? How about a bit of 'Fighting for Ourselves'?

I think now is the time that a fight for revolutionary social transformation is more important than ever because as global capitalism continues to stagnate and provide the mass of people nothing but increasing misery, ruling classes everywhere (but particularly in the First World) are going to look for alternative means of maintaining their class position and privileges. I've heard of two possible directions that they might be willing to take: 1) global social democracy, 2) global fascism. I find the first one highly unlikely. The reasons why they would consider such alternatives in the first place is because ruling classes everywhere are going to find it quite difficult to keep class conflict (working-class struggle from below) to a minimum. But of course, you guys probably know this already. All of this is backed up by world-systems analysts like Immanuel Wallerstein and William I. Robinson. Its up to the working-class to shape the world within the vision of their own alternative: an international libertarian communism.

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Jan 21 2013 23:13

Yeah, Thomas Paine was the only ok capitalist. He was like, set a super progressive inheritance tax and then give the same basic income given to everyone on becoming a citizen. Now that's equality of opportunity in capitalism.

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Jan 23 2013 11:03

The thing with the basic income for me is that it seems like a retreat into liberal politics and maybe a sign that we're not confident to take on capital in a radical way (as in going to the root of the problem). Instead of advocating a politics of revolution/insurrection (or even resistance) we're seeking a negotiation with capital through liberal politics which from what has happened is inherently defeatist, as many of us are experiencing social democracy was the best this sort of method can achieve.

What I find worrying is the imbedded ideology in the guaranteed income of the liberal concept of human nature which is to say the guaranteed income works because really all man is a selfish consuming lazy beast seeking to "get paid". What changes is nothing, power is concentrated into capital whom having supreme agency can exploit our earthly commons as long as we're in on the profits through a tax scheme that creates a pseudo egalitarian society that survives from the profits of capitalist degradation. Someone had mentioned the oil operations in Alaska as an example which has created a semi welfare state based on the oil industry which not at all surprisingly hasn't created any revolutionary subjects (as far as I know) who use their improved material conditions to transform society, if anything they may recognize that attacking their benefactors "big oil" would put their lifestyle at risk and would likely a guaranteed income would have the same pacifying effect on the rest of society.

My main concern is that we've fallen into a reductionist language where in order not too offend liberal sentiments we can only speak in such terms: incomes, wages, prices, etc or simply speaking the kings language something that always feels disgusting. Then again no revolution will come from a theoretical discussion or reasoning with liberal cynics (although that would be pretty cool) historically the idea of revolution only arrives after the institutions meant to replace the old order in place and this gives us a glimpse to a part of the libertarian project. To make a paraphrased point by David Graeber, capitalism as a means of organizing society came into being after its institutions and relations were already in place the events of the French revolution was just the icing on the cake in capitals rise out of feudalism.

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Jan 23 2013 20:19

I think any movement involving people on the dole, whether of a revolutionary or reformist bent needs to challenge the whole rhetoric thats placed between low paid workers and 'dole scroungers'. I wont rehash why that is the case, been done on here much better than i could ever do, but i'd say in the present context in the UK its probably going to have to be claimants that take the lead in challenging that negativity since even on the mainstream left, whenever arguments are made about the injustice of restricting benefits, the examples that are always chosen are about how it impacts on in-work benefits, thus tacitly confirming that deserving/undeserving poor dichotomy.

On a practical level, if we are to be talking about immediate concerns of people on welfare then one probably has to engage in the language already in circulation, that is reformist, and once gains are made i guess the more ambitious demands of a revolutionary bent will naturally come into being.

One of the arguements i've not really seen happening, which im surpised at, since measures like quantitative easing to stimulate purchases and sales has been well documented as a failure, has been about the efficacy of raising benefits to stimulate the economy. In any economics 101 course one will come accross the concept 'marginal propensity to consume' ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marginal_propensity_to_consume ), which basiclly states that people on a lower income will spend more whereas people who have higher incomes will save more. Thus all the stuff that has been seen to fall on its arse through quantitative easing, where extra cash has not filtered down to the real economy would happen if people on low incomes were given more money.

So yeah that argument is totally reformist (you cant get more unrevolutionary than quoting neoclassical economics chapter and verse ha!), but as a person on JSA id be quite up for getting double or triple what i currently get and id probably feel more up for pushing for something more substantial..

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Jan 23 2013 19:53

Sorry for the spam, but is that Vegan reich avatar?

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Jan 23 2013 19:53

yes... and before you say thats proper dodgy man, already had that discussion on this forum when i signed up!

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Jan 23 2013 19:58
Quote:
My main concern is that we've fallen into a reductionist language where in order not too offend liberal sentiments we can only speak in such terms: incomes, wages, prices, etc or simply speaking the kings language something that always feels disgusting.

But surely we have to start with those terms which are the ones from daily life before showing the shortcomings of such terminology...

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Jan 23 2013 22:49
Chilli Sauce wrote:
FWIW, I don't think the problem is seeking (or achieving) reforms. Rather it's a matter of means: If we do it through political parties, politicians, lobbying, subsitutionalist activism (or even the trade unions), it's reformism. If it's done through mass protest, direct action, and self-organisation, well, that's building the revolutionary capacity and general confidence of the class.

I have to think more about this. This would suggest, I think, that 'direct action reformism' is a contradiction in terms, and that the difference between reformism and radicalism is just a matter of methods of action. I don't think that makes sense. (I realize this is just a forum comment and I don't expect a fully worked out theory of reform vs revolution here and I also don't mean to uncharitably read into your comment.)

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Jan 24 2013 09:36

No, fair enough Nate, obviously our direct action should be tied into revolutionary ends and a revolutionary outlook generally--which will be damn well needed if we don't want our efforts to get co-opted by the state/those who are ideologically reformists.

But, as revolutionaries, there's nothing wrong with demands short of revolution. I mean, we do it all the time--from seeking a raise at work to a change in gov't policy to demanding and end to military aggression.

Good to see posting more on libcom lately, btw.

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Jan 24 2013 11:46

Of course I agree that in order to speak to others we're going to have to find a new common language but this language will be something likely developed through the practice of revolutionary politics itself which includes (but certainly not limited to) action and everyday dialogue. In order to prevent domination by liberal politics it is best to be clear that from the start of any political alliance of our own objectives, yes ally with reformist liberals as a means of solidarity however from the start they should know our goals are anarchist.

As I understand it what makes anarchist distinct from liberals (and even some communist) is that not we simply seek to redistribute the wealth of the state to create an equitable material condition rather we go further in our critique to add the abolition of the social relations that construct power as well as its varying degrees of human subjectivity. I don't have a recipe for how this exactly works, we are fortunate to be born into a time informed by centuries of revolutionary history and this can sharpen our critique and practice. Referring back to language my belief is that our common language is the struggle itself that in the process of combating (transforming) society itself in action the everyday language shifts in order to explain the action a posteriori
, of course more can be said on this matter as well.

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Jan 24 2013 11:53
xslavearcx wrote:
yes... and before you say thats proper dodgy man, already had that discussion on this forum when i signed up!

Just asking. I like a few of their songs, and I'm pretty much hardline.

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Jan 24 2013 12:26

@ Agent of the Fifth International - thanks for the recommendation, I skimmed through FFO, I like the idea of the 'Local', though not so sure about 'fundamental change can only come about through the power of organised labour' - just don't think that that is a realistic possibility in the UK or the US for that matter, maybe in other parts of the world such as China and India, where labour is on the up, but as I say I do like the idea of the Local, and I guess other organisations have similar notions, such as indignados/occupy with the idea of local assemblies

as to universal basic income, I guess my main reservation is the idea that we might be legitimising the state as current thinking would mean it would be the main mediator of such a scheme, but maybe if the campaign was to demand the funds directly from the largest corporations, circumnavigating the state, that might be more effective/less reformist

it's true however that a certain section of the capitalist class and some right wing libertarians support such a scheme also, for them the state is also problematic and no longer efficiently acts in their interests and some smarter capitalist realise that lots of people without jobs means not only less of a market for their goods but will inevitably have a destabilising effect

however the idea that the state somehow serves 'the greater good' through tax collection and redistribution needs to be taken apart, a campaign that went directly to the capitalist instead of via the state would better do this but how the hell that would be done i have no idea, maybe small scale initially

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Jan 24 2013 14:22

@ CanIsggestsomethingtasty - i don't fully get the final point you make (via graeber quote) but yeah I agree that basic income wouldn't necessarily create revolutionary subjects, however the process of fighting for it might/probably would, especially if it was fought for on our terms, i guess the alternative is that we try to socially reproduce ourselves outside of capital/state and find the resources somehow to do this - there are various experiments around this, occupy being one recent example but there are also others

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Jan 24 2013 14:37
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Its impossible to implement as a reform, since it would obviously require a revolution to enforce and in the long term it offers little more than a stagnant re-run of state socialism.

This line of thinking has an obvious flaw: Anarchists I know, are engaged in plenty of reformist organisations and actions, building unions, fighting wage-wars. So, to me it is just cherry picking some reformist agenda for the purpose of some anarchist wants to do something even if it doesn't lead to the revolution.

Now, the argument is pretty flamebait, that many, if not most of anarchist organisation and individual is actually already engaged in this or that reformist strand, but I have to put this down before I move on with my argument. I think this is the case, even if some anarchist would regard their work in these activist orgs and unions as a revolutionary brick, or "fighting for ourselves" in our everyday life, hence it is revolutionary, even it is on the whole, operates just like our everyday social democratic movement.

With that in mind, I think among other reformist ideas, this one actually attractive because it is actually impossible. It's like demanding 1 hour work week. And what do you know, anarchist, actual, revolutionaries did engage in such a demands, exactly for the reason, that it is more demonstrative than all of the theoretical work within the anarchist movement about the communist prospects and organisation. Sure, it is unlikely that any universal unconditional citizen income is would become a standard on global level, and will stay, just as it is today, a localised phenomena within capitalism. However, to demonstrate the broader idea of communism, this is one of our best shot.

From my personal perspective, at the very core of the communist idea is, that if we can provide the basic human needs for all, that there would be no intentional and deliberate mechanism to starve half of the population, frustrate an other 40% with the starvation, and channel this productivity which only based on the fear of not having a place to sleep, enough food, and proper healthcare (numbers are arbitrary, you get the idea I hope), the face of our species would change fundamentally. Trying to imagine that all those kids who are dying from undernourishment, or shot to the death just for being poor, all those people who are engaged in permanent struggle for their very-very immediate needs, would get this chance and would the world open to them where they could enrich our collective being by contributing, sharing their ideas and experience, and would be able to engage in any social project by the virtue that their brain and body would not be pre-occupied with the struggle for bread.

People with complete access to their productive and creative being are harder to rule by force or mindless propaganda. Power structures would be harder if not impossible to maintain over a population that is completely aware and in touch with the rest of the human race. Well, it won't be won by parliamentary scuffles for sure, it won't be won by voting for A or B in presidential elections. But the vision is more inspiring in terms of communist appeal for exactly this reason, that with a clear line of reasoning you can get from the prospect of a free society, in all communist meaning of the term, to a revolutionary movement, that is communism. And all that sidetrack that became single issue on our way, like lifestyle fetish, RBE fetish, democracy fetish, union fetish, insurrection fetish, could connect in a meaningful unity. After all, to get to this prospect, we will need the knowledge how to organise our means (RBE), how to make our decisions (democracy), how to struggle in the workplace (unions), how to fight with the armed forces (insurrectionists), how to organise our individual life to accommodate ideas of gender-equality and diversity, how to engage with each other as an organic community (lifestylism), and so on.

The real dichotomy between reformism and revolution is exactly this: reformism demands things that are possible within the framework of capitalism, and it is possible for the individual to solve immediate existential problems, thus aimed to abolish the need of revolution. Impossible demands, like universal citizen income, pushed to its well understood meaning is about pushing the entire idea of society out of the realms of capitalist meaning.

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Jan 24 2013 17:01
Chilli Sauce wrote:
our direct action should be tied into revolutionary ends and a revolutionary outlook generally--which will be damn well needed if we don't want our efforts to get co-opted by the state/those who are ideologically reformists. But, as revolutionaries, there's nothing wrong with demands short of revolution.

Agreed on all counts, thanks for clarifying. As you may know this is a preoccupation of mine, because I feel like I get confused a lot on this.

Chilli Sauce wrote:
Good to see posting more on libcom lately, btw.

Thanks, that's kind of you.

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Jan 24 2013 17:05

One more thought on universal income. The stuff on this I'm most familiar with is by Negri and people in his orbit. They may not mean it, but my understanding is that they pose universal basic income as something that will ultimately be more productive for capitalism. So they talk about it as a feasible thing which will produce a form of capitalism better for all involved. They may not be saying that sincerely. But if they really think that then that seems important to me. In principle I'm not against demanding things that are good for capitalists (sometimes short term demands are part of where we bump up against inefficiencies and irrationalities within capitalist's control over our lives), people should demand things that they want and need, as they see fit, but I think that distinction matters quite a bit and that there's more work to be done, at least theoretically (or maybe I've not read the right stuff) connecting demands for a more livable capitalism to the process of building a movement to end capitalism.

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Jan 24 2013 21:52

The distinction between reformists and revolutionaries is that the former sees reforms as ends in themselves, while the latter sees reforms as means to a much larger end (i.e. libertarian-communism). In terms of strategy and tactics used to achieve ends, whether its mere reforms or a revolutionary transformation of society, reformists tend to adopt organizational practices (political parties, unions, etc.) that seeks to compromise with the established social order. Rather than threatening the power of capital and the state, it seeks to get in bed with them, thus the result is that they are emptied out of whatever commitment and aspiration they may have previously held. So ironically, the approach taken by reformists is much less likely to achieve reforms.

Revolutionaries like ourselves on the other hand need to approach class-struggle politics with the aim of threatening capital and the state; based on a realization that we cannot be accommodated to or reconciled with the interests of the dominant powers. That means embracing forms of self-organization independent of, and against, both capital and the state. Reforms are concessions by the ruling class in fear of a large and militant mobilization of the working-class set with long-term goals. Not some kind of well-thought out and good-intentioned charity by the philanthropic section of the bourgeoisie. The approach taken by revolutionaries is much more likely to achieve reforms than that taken by the reformists.

Its also important to distinguish revolutionaries (defined as those seeking the long-term goal of abolishing capitalism and the state) whom embraces the same dead-end approach (political parties, etc.) taken by reformists. I have in mind the Leninists for example; although the capture of state power is not exactly the same as the Democratic Party in the United States or the Labour Party in the UK. And I not even sure if they actually seek the revolutionary transformation of society since they believe the immediate stage after a revolution is state capitalism. They could be distinguished as reactionaries.

As for social anarchists (or 'libertarian socialists') like ourselves, we need organizational forms democratically controlled by the participants themselves from the bottom-up, if they are to prefigure the kind society we aim to achieve. And its very important that we organize workplaces as well communities. Although I may admit, I believe workplaces to be far more important than communities; excuse my bias. Now, there is the problem that workplaces are becoming increasingly difficult to organize and direct towards revolutionary goals because the most practical way of organizing a workplace is through a union, which itself has a few problems. One, as cardy lady has pointed out, they have become almost nonexistent in the US and the UK. And two, they are plagued by bureaucratic tendencies. If I manage to finish reading 'Fighting for Ourselves', I might have some hope in the possibility in revolutionary unions. But I'm like still half way there. All in all, I think the issue of unions and their place in a revolutionary movement is important to discuss. And I assert if workplaces can't be organized and be the central force of any movement, than reforms, as well as revolution, cannot be achieved.

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Jan 25 2013 18:05

I was only trying to highlight Graebers point that the forms of capitalism was in place before it became an social institution something that can inform our own analysis going forward.

I do support a guaranteed income (no workfare attached) in principle more so as an impossible demand. We should be weary not so much of the subjects that a guaranteed income can't produce but the types of subjects it can produce; pacified subjects suited to mere existence in capital with all its class systems, hierarchies in place which is something important when we ask ourselves about social reproduction.