Unconditional Basic Income, formerly derided as a utopia, is increasingly stimulating public interest as a necessary alternative. For some it is a cure-all, for others the last outgrowth of neoliberalism, for increasingly more people it appears to be a milestone on the pathway out of capitalist wage-labour society and towards a solidary society.
Symposium at the Volkshaus in Klagenfurt
8 – 10 March 2019
Beginning with the realisation that there is no single thing that represents ‘the’ unconditional basic income but that now there are many diverse, even conflicting models in circulation, we have tried to illuminate the issue, its possibilities and opportunities as well as its traps and stumbling blocks, with the help of speakers from Austria, Germany, Italy, and Slovenia.
The focus was on the following questions, among others: How far can Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) contribute to a solidary society? What role does the welfare state play in this? What changes will it effect vis-à-vis wage-labour society, but also what inequities could it solidify? And how might the idea of UBI take hold under conditions of the current Europe-wide dismantling of the social welfare state?
Melina Klaus and Martin Diendorfer moderated the symposium. We thank them for their work and of course we thank the many others who contributed to the symposium’s success, with special mention of the very active, collegial, and professional work of the VolXhaus team, which included far more than technical facilitation. Our heartfelt thanks also go to the many artists and the People’s Chorus that organised the evening programme on International Women’s Day, Elisabeth Rausch for her introductory talk on Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, Bettina Pirker and Marjeta Einspieler of the project team for their organisation, as well as the cabaret artist Aigelsreiter for the ‘Shrink Back’ Retrospective 2018 on Saturday evening.
In the name of all co-organisers who participated under the banner of Kärnten Andas [A Different Carinthia], we of course thank especially our main sponsors the Party of the European Left and transform!, as well as all other sponsors, the translators, and our other sponsors. Without their support the symposium could not have taken place.
With an overview of the current situation in the international and Austrian labour market, Reitter observed that although paid employment has become a scarce good, although the situation in the world of work has clearly deteriorated, the jobs! Jobs! Jobs! orientation has continued unabated. In view of this, Reitter posed the question of whether and how far the current social and economic developments will have as a natural consequence – or will enable or even require – the relativisation of paid employment and what fundamental social changes are presupposed – and enabled – by the orientation to UBI
The frequently voiced assumption of critics that the division of labour can remain they way it is should be taken seriously. In her presentation, Margit Appel suggested how UBI could contribute to a substantial change in the gender concepts.
The Slovenian political organisation Levica (Left) had nearly adopted the positions espoused by proponents of UBI, but then a majority confirmed the view that a pared-down variant would be more sensible. In his talk, Gerlič explained what this means. In any case, he said, the discussion is ongoing, and he was confident that progress would be made because the younger generation is gaining an increased understanding of the issue.
Beginning with a clarification of what constitutes an emancipatory Basic Income, Ronald laid out the strands of the debate taking place in Germany. His central point was: Emancipatory Basic Income has to be part of a socio-ecological transformation of society. From this he derived strategies and possible allies in the political process of introducing Basic Income.
A few days before the symposium, Italy introduced a so-called ‘Citizens’ Income’, which much of the media erroneously called a kind of ‘basic income’. Nor is it really a Citizens’ Income. Instead of combating poverty the government is combining labour-policy measures with reckless conditions and giving it a false label. In reality, the ‘Citizens’ Income’ – or to be precise the ‘Income for Citizens’ – is a discriminating and ostracising measure for poor families. Its goal is the destructive regulation of people’s autonomy by subordinating the individual’s family space – which it treats as a closed community – to a kind of clan liability, while outside of this living space ‘market discipline’ is enforced. The ‘Citizens’ Income’ is in the last analysis just another form of the transferring of resources to firms, exactly in the way the so-called Open Contract With Increasing Protections (contratto indeterminato a tutele crescenti) of Renzi’s Jobs Act provided.
UBI per se has no ecological benefit, Markus Ertl said. Different overarching conditions and ways of financing it result in different ecological and economic variants as well as different possible effects on our environment and our economic system. In his talk he laid out what these are.
Originally published on the website of the CPA Carinthia