FOR AN UNCONDITIONAL BASIC INCOME
By Ingrid Wagner
[This address at a demonstration in Freiberg, 6/7/2008, is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.stattweb.de/baseportal/NewsDetail&db=News&id=3212.]
There are many good reasons to be for an unconditional basic income. If I were a destitute farm worker in Catalonia, I would fight for Red Renta Basica. That way I would be protected from exploitation and violent conditions. If I were a single father in Amsterdam, I would champion a base income so I could care for my children without work coercion and without the risk of impoverishment. As a milk farmer in Baden, Germany or Switzerland, the unconditional basic income would give me independence from the market and the chain of stores. I could give my surplus milk to those who urgently need it and not pour it down the gutter to stabilize the price.
800 euro for everyone, not calculated by wage or salary, for children and adults and independent of belonging to a household, that is as an individual legal claim - these are the criteria for existence money, a basic income model as developed by the independent movement of the unemployed from the 1980s. A regionally adjusted housing allowance would be added. The existence money should be paid to every citizen from birth and not coupled to any obligation to paid work.
This sounds utopian but takes ever more concrete forms. The Basic Income European Network has developed into the Basic Income Earth Network. Projects are tested everywhere in the world as presently in Namibia for example. The next international congress will take place in Dublin June 19-21. Many church circles in Ireland support this demand.
Another dimension of this movement appeared in France in April 2008 when Christine Boutin, minister for housing and urban development sought conversation partners from all European countries to organize a European political forum on this theme. Katya Kipping and Wolfgang Strengmann-Kuhn were named from the German network. How exciting to look forward to this future!
Often I was told the BGI (Basic Guaranteed Income) is reformist and doesn't necessitate the abolition of the capitalist system. Still it shatters one essential prerequisite of capitalism that the wage-dependent person must sell his or her labor power to survive. Since the BGI ensures existence, the dependent employee can say No to miserable working conditions. What is produced and how it is produced could be influenced. The conventional idea of work is radically put in question and expanded to include unpaid activity that is not less meaningful,
Who should pay for this? The wealth of this society must be redistributed. Mismanagement, waste and overtime must disappear. We don't want American conditions with workfare, modern slavery and an underground economy. We don't want to see our children and grandchildren as 1-euro jobbers soaked to the skin.
Help make this utopia concrete!
In conclusion, I endorse the message of Finnish archbishop John Vikstrom who sought more human dignity and encouragement with a citizen income for all people:
"You are important; you are not a burden but a source of power. As a human being, you are important for your compatriots. Whatever work you do, whatever situation you are in, whether you are paid or not, you contribute your share in building our society."
A beautiful day to all of you!