End of Workfare? Citizens’ Basic Income and migration

Once again, Johhny Void provides what could be this week’s crucial news. The DWP’s Universal jobmatch, a key underpinning of the mis-named ‘Universal Credit’, is to be scrapped. Another powerful account is ‘Another Angry voice.  We may need two reports, because it has not yet been announced publicly, and the unspeakable workfare farce is to continue until 2016. But it is high time the Green Party had the imagination and the courage to use Dynamic Benefits to bring the whole Workfare shambles to an end now.

I could have been despondent this week. The Green Party is down to 3% in an early European election poll. The public seem mesmerised by a party whose record of gaffes and, outrageous quotes does nothing to dent the power of its simplistic blame game. Meanwhile, the Green Party is downplaying its Limits to Growth message in favour of one which would have suited the Labour Party prior to Tony Blair. Admittedly, what used to be our core message, which stood us in good stead in 1989, will only work now if there is a further string of extreme weather events. If that 3% rating is any guide, the Green Party needs a rather more distinctive message if it is to get a fair hearing. I would like to see condemnation of a dependency on growth, using fracking as an example of a symptom of that dependency. How desperate for a fix are we if we have to use such a clumsy, violent technology? But yet again I must stress the importance of a strategy which allows whole populations to accept the absence of growth.

Last week I credited Carrie Bowes with having taken the trouble to find out what the Green Party was really about and asked others to do the same. But just as Josiah Mortimer wanted to share the credit for dismembering the Green Party with others, Carrie has asked me to point out that the Philosophical Basis motion was not ‘hers’, it was from Medway GP.

The strategy on which the Citizens’ Basic Income is based brings me back naturally to the exchange of views with Benali Hamdache starting with my post of 7th March. To share basic needs, however defined, and have whatever rules you like for anything not defined as essential can be applied as between nations in a world community, as well as between individual within each nation. I envisage an ecologically sustainable world in which each nation state is allocated sufficient resources for its population’s basic needs, and a Basic Income within each nation state for individuals vis a vis the state. Just as within each state, the Citizens’ Basic Income will take no more from the rich than is necessary to guarantee basic needs for all, in the same way, rich nations, or those endowed with resources will keep the greater part of their wealth, though just as individual taxation on the rich will rise, I expect that most of the developed nations will find themselves giving rather more than the current 0.7% of GDP target.

Of course anything less than confiscation, either at an individual or international level will disappoint those who still think a) that the Capitalist 1% are the problem (I agree they are a large part of the problem) , and b) that the 1% can be defeated any time soon. But for some of us the object of the exercise is still a long term sustainable world with all inhabitants guaranteed sufficient for them not to need to damage the environment. To get those currently destroying the ecosphere on side, recognizing that sustainability with a communal element in wealth sharing is in their long term interests will do for me as a first step. That does not rule out other aims later.

What has all this to do with Benali? I confused him with the hard core ‘Pirates’ because I first became aware of him in the debate about immigration. A letter in the Guardian had given him and others the impression that some Green Party members were joining in the chorus of demonizing economic migrants. I suspect that like the Bible and the Koran, Green Party policies can be perused for support for different points of view. But what has always sharply differentiated the Green Party from critics of immigration before ecological issues were seen as relevant, is our respect for immigrants and would-be immigrants, and our wish to understand and deal with the pressures they are under. But it is an inescapable part of an ecological world view that this planet is overcrowded already, and certain places, including Britain, are more crowded than most, large apparently empty tracts of Scotland notwithstanding.

I am distinctly uneasy at support for immigration on the grounds that it benefits Britain. Of course it does! Just why it does was starkly illustrated by a news item today on Radio 4 about hospital staffing levels in Bulgaria. But if the communal (not egalitarian) wealth sharing regime outlined above becomes accepted, then the sheer economic pressures now driving much migration, including doctors and nurses trained by a country much poorer than Britain, will be considerably reduced. The principle on which the Citizens’ Basic Income is based is not a panacea, but it is an essential foundation stone.

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