Bru Laín Escandell – Property, Government and Basic Income

Bru Laín Escandell – Property, Government and Basic Income

Interview with Bru Laín Escandell

Maciej Szlinder: You worked a lot on the topic of American republicanism, especially on the role of Jefferson. What is his most important contribution to the republican thinking?

Jefferson modernized the republican thought at the end of 18th century, although he kept a strong classical pastoralism ideal. He adapted the ancient republican thought to a new society living on (and creating) the new world. They were creating a new country, but also a new way of thinking. Jefferson concentrated on two main points: 1) the natural sovereign of individuals, and 2) the relation between the republican understanding of property with the idea of fiduciary government. He never considered property as something separated from the forms of government. When he was advocating for “republic of small republics” he meant the form of government consisting in the government of the Union, the 13 state republics, and the sovereign citizens at the bottom. Both these three elements were necessary to think about a real republic.

This structure of government was deeply influenced by his thinking on property that, for him, was not a natural right, but a civil one. “Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society”, he stated in 1813. In other words, in the fiduciary relationship, the principal is the people in itself, the only natural proprietor of all the wealth. “We the people” are the fundamental words in the Declaration of Independence stating that idea. So that, it is only such a people the only one entitled to allocate national wealth and resources. The private owner, therefore, becomes just the agent, the usufructuary of the principal’s wealth. The yeoman, the small farmer who possesses the land is not an absolute proprietor of the land, he’s rather a tenant. In sum, according to Jefferson’s view on property, private property is an act of private appropriation of resources by means of a public fideicommissum shaped by a fiduciary relationship of the principal (the sovereign people who retains the right of alienation) and its agent (State or private owners, who just use it as usufruct).

What does it mean?

To usufruct means not to have the absolute dominium nor possession of a particular resource. It’s a right to use and get benefit from the land you’re working on. If you usufruct the land you’re not the last proprietor of it, since the land belongs to the whole society, the people. So that, private owner is nothing but a trustee of public or sovereign property. “Who plants a field” Jefferson defended in 1814, “keeps possession till he has gathered the produce, after which one has a right as another to occupy it […] Till then the property is in the body of the nation, and they or their chief as their trustee, must grant them to individuals”. This is the core idea of the fiduciary relationship on property. The important thing is that the same relation occurs in the government. The people is the sovereign, the principal. The representatives (first the King and after the senators and counsellors and public officers alike) are nothing but its agent, secretaries entrusted by the nation as a whole.In the US there are no Ministries, like in Spain, but Secretaries. The difference corresponds to a difference in the way of perceiving their role. For the Americans, their representatives just exercise some political function on behalf of the people and hence, subject to its trust. Put it in this way: why the French and the Americans republicans started their revolutions? Because both kings (French and English) betrayed the fiduciary relationship with the people. By nature, the principal always retains the right to take away its trust from its agent when it pleases. In 1792 Maximilien Robespierre clearly illustrated this point: “The source of all of our evils is the absolute independence of the representatives. They were nothing but the people’s agents, and they made themselves sovereigns, despots. For despotism is nothing else than the usurpation of the sovereign power.”

The conflict about taxes between the UK and American colonies was the very beginning of the revolution. Jefferson said that government imposing taxes without a voice in the government was nothing but a tyranny, an act of “despotism” or “usurpation of the sovereign power” in Robespierre’s terms. Those taxes were unacceptable, because they were not an effect of the voluntary decision of Americans, but something imposed by the king unilaterally. The right to decide about ourselves, taxes, the division of land etc. – belongs to the people. While English Parliament gave no voice to its colonies, the only authorized agent as the King. And, in doing so he betrayed the “English citizens” in the Americas.

What is the difference between Jeffersonian republicanism and the one of Robespierre?

For Robespierre the principal was everyone, all of the French population (including waged workers, women, child and slaves). For Jefferson, just white owners, yeoman, and small and independent farmers. Women and slaves were excluded alike. Democracy, in Robespierre’s mind, included the whole nation, while by Jefferson, it extinguished in the front door of the yeoman’s farm.

There were, of course, some crucial ideological differences. In the sense of social ontology all republicans are similar: they assume the existence of social classes, power relations, conflicts. The ideological difference, on the other hand, was to which extent does the democratic republican citizenry (the free or sui iuris individuals) must be extended, namely, which individuals must be free and therefore citizens, and which others must remain excluded from this republican civil society. Most of such ideological differences were due to different economic and political context. Initially, in the American colonies, there were no feudal relations, nor feudal property regime. So, no feudal lords were expected, and so, neither private dominiums. Unlike the Old world, Americans didn’t have this tradition and didn’t have this structure to overcome. They were creating a new world. That’s why the “liberation” of land was so important for Jefferson who defended the classical republican requirement of material independence by means of “40 acres and a mule”. Having a piece of land meant to be independent, meant to be a free citizen. And the only way to achieve independence was through private property of small pieces of land.

Was it different for the Jacobins?

Yes, that was not exactly the case in France. Jacobins didn’t stick only to the private property. They also claimed for the use the public, state tenure of land (the state decides how it would be divided) and common land as well. The communes before the French Revolution were very important and, in fact, they were the primary source of the jacqueries (the peasant revolts promoting the French revolution). Peasant were organised along common property, woods, land, animals, etc. They were dispossessed during 17502 by the Quesnay’s and Turgot’s phisiocratic reforms, a dispossession that continued during the first period of the French revolution by the Liberal policies passed by the new landlords of the Third Estate. The promise of the second (Jacobin) part of the French revolution was that these lands had to be returned to the commons to be used by peasantry.

So, while the American republican freedom was mainly based on the independent-private properties (the freehold), the French republican freedom was based on at least 3 different kinds of properties: small private property, public property (belonging to the state) and communal property. Americans would have never accepted the idea that the state possesses all the land. Seeing the European despotic kingdoms, for the Americans State represented the idea of imperium (the threat to the republican freedom from above public institutions). So, the government was always a second-best option; we need it not to live in chaos. Instead, for the French, the civil government was an achievement since they created it by replacing the feudal kingdom.

What about republicanism after those two revolutions? How it transformed in the face of industrial revolution?

Jefferson died in 1826 and he didn’t face the effects of the industrial revolution. The French already were witnessing the rise of the industrial world. In the US in the second part of the 19th century there was an important group called the Knights of Labor who were partially the heirs of Jeffersonian republican thought. They have updated the republican way of thinking in the world of industrial capitalism with the dominant wage-labour relationship (the new private dominiums). And that meant claiming democracy within the factories, mainly creating cooperatives. The capitalist-wage-labourer relation is unacceptable from this point of view, it’s against republican freedom. The republicanism of the Knights of Labor is still based on material independence but now it’s a collective one, not individual, not farming but working in the factory. A cooperative is a coordination and collaboration between independent workers who are the equal owners of the factory.

Talking about cooperatives. As you are a member of the basic income movement, do you think that BI can strengthen the cooperativist movement?

Yes, it creates the possibility to establish a cooperative based on the joined money got through basic income and can also make it easier for the existing cooperatives to survive.

What do you think about the concept of property-owning democracy?

Many people used this term in different meanings, even Margaret Thatcher presented herself as a supporter of a property-owning democracy. Nevertheless, the most progressive and interesting framing of POD was held by the Novel prize-awarded, James Meade in his influential work: Efficiency, Equality, and the Ownership of Property (1964). His proposal included a) a radical reform of death duties turning it in a progressive tax on inheritance, b) to apply it on inter vivos gifts, c) the creation of a public budget surplus (provided by these taxes revenues and wealth taxes) to reduce national debt and to invest in new forms of public properties, and d) to make institutional reforms (profit sharing schemes, purchase municipal houses by their tenants, investment trusts) which would make easier the accumulation of small properties. All of these measures would promote that “the ownership of property could be equally distributed over all the citizens in the community”. In that case, every citizen possesses some significant share of the national assets, so even in case of some losing a job he or she can easily subsist him/herself. In Alaska model the idea is similar, but obviously that dividend is to small fluctuating around 2,000 dollars per year and comes from oil, not from tax revenues on wealth and inheritance. As far as you are the owner of these national assets you will never lose your economic capacity. Of course, Meade showed we can apart from making a dividend do other things with these national assets – invest them or convert them into common property organised by municipalities.

The moral and economic justification of Basic Income is that the wealth in a country belongs to everyone, insofar is the output of a collective effort (which is appropriated and accumulated unequally), and thus, it must be spread to everyone in equal part. As we, the government, decides which part of the revenues goes to public schools or health service, we can also decide a part of these collective revenues going to fund a Basic Income.

You have written some articles about collaborative economy. How we should analyse it and what political stakes are connected with it?

There is huge misunderstanding with the so called “collaborative economy”. In fact, capitalist markets in themselves are the most collaborative systems ever, since they cannot exist without collaboration. Of course it’s not a democratic collaboration. We must be quite careful in using the term “collaborative economy”. For now the most collaborative platforms in our society are the labour market and the social security system. There are millions of people collaborating in them, people working, others getting unemployment benefits, and more than 6 million people receiving pensions. Uber is nothing in comparison to that. There is no collaboration there. There are people working for the owners. The only thing is that you can get in touch with your taxi driver directly, you don’t have to ask a taxi by talking to the central. This is the only collaborating element that Uber represents.

Another example, Airbnb, is supposedly to be the most collaborative platform, since connects the landlords with the tenants all around the world. But, we have been doing this for a long time without it. The only difference is that they have a huge capital to invest in advertising. The only difference is that I can upload your advertisement on their site that gives you the chance to get in contact with a lot of people. Airbnb is a private company who extracts its surplus not from the wage labour of their peers, but from what you possess –your house– and your daily activity –web connection–. This whole model is just the way of profit-making –using not your work, but your assets (your house, car, daily activities, and even more, also the collective ones like the city in itself). It is far beyond the classical exploitation relationship; it’s not the labour time that is the basis of exploitation but the leisure time. So, all of my life, not only work time, is a part of the alienation. There is nothing democratic about this.

So there are 2 main problems: First, that it’s overwhelmingly taking all of our time. And second that it is not democratic. Peter Frase concentrates on that second feature. He thinks that just destroying Uber or Airbnb is not the best idea. It would be better to take them over and democratise, to change it into cooperative. You can still use some of the technological and organisational tools but you completely change the property relations. Every Uber driver would be a cooperator having his own equal share in the firm. What do you think about that?

There are already taxi cooperatives, very old ones here in Barcelona. You can get in touch with a particular driver if you like. In that sense it’s the same service that Uber provides. In case of people renting their flats or rooms – would it be a good idea to create a cooperative of them? It’s easier to have a cooperative of landlords. But what about the problems connected with excessive tourism? What about gentrification? What about housing bubble? At some point we need the state or municipality intervention to correct or to fix negative externalities of “collaborative” activity, whereas it may be public-communitarian or private-parasitize. In any case, the house market has to be regulated. Even with taxis – it’s one of the most regulated sectors; they need licences, pay high taxes, obligatory assurances, etc. That’s why these people are complaining on Uber – they don’t follow those rules. Collaborative economy is not a problem if it is not avoiding taxes, regulations and not eroding the state and really collaborative affords. If there is, in other word, a possibility to unionise and the labour rights are respected. Otherwise it’s the savage and unregulated capitalism.

Bru Laín Escandell is PhD in Sociology at the University of Barcelona where teaches Sociology, Sociology of Knowledge and Introduction to Economics. His research is mainly on the topic of property and related issues like the common property, fiduciary theories, natural right, basic income, distribution and pre-distribution, among other. His main interests are on Political Philosophy, Political Economy and History of Political Ideas. He is the Secretary of Spanish Basic Income Network and advisor of the Barcelona City Council on the B-MINCOME pilot testing cash transfers benefits when combining with public active policies in reducing inequalities.

The interviewer received funding for preparation of PhD thesis from Polish National Science Centre as part of PhD scholarship decision DEC-2015/16/T/HS1/00295.

David Casassas – Non-capitalist markets? Basic income as part of an anti-capitalist project

David Casassas – Non-capitalist markets? Basic income as part of an anti-capitalist project

Interview with David Casassas

Maciej Szlinder: In your book La ciudad en llamas [The City in Flames. The Validity of Adam Smith’s Commercial Republicanism], you’ve analysed the thought of very well-known philosopher and classical economist Adam Smith. Being a leftist what have you found interesting in this icon of free-market and contemporary liberal thinkers?

David Casassas: One thing you can do if you want to think in emancipatory terms is to try to defend your allegedly own values and goals, such as community, equality, etc. This is very important. But there has been a huge mistake within the emancipatory thinking of the twentieth century: that of offering very important values in our left-wing tradition as a present for the conservatives, fort the right. For instance, freedom has supposed to be liberal; the individual seems to be bourgeois; the private sphere seems to be something necessarily atomistic that can only be dominated by the few. I think it is very important that we go into these values and concepts and try to make and emancipatory sense of them, as they only make full sense through emancipatory lenses. If this is your goal, you should go to some classical thinkers that have been kidnapped by the liberal hermeneutics, which has given an interpretation of them that has nothing to do with the kind of world they were aspiring to. I’m thinking of political philosophers such as, for instance, Locke, Kant, Robespierre, or Adam Smith. They all have been related to the liberal tradition by liberals, and sometimes also by some Marxists for whom they were all liberal-bourgeois intellectuals. In my opinion, this is completely false. Adam Smith, as the other members of the Scottish Enlightenment did, thought about manufacture and commerce in a way that has nothing to do with the features of really-existing capitalism. Capitalism is something incompatible with free market, at least as it was defined by Smith.

So you propose some kind of strategy of re-capturing or regaining the notions that have been appropriated by the right? A kind of Trojan strategy?

You can say that, yes. The important thing is to go in depth into the works of these authors, see “the text in context”, to put it in the terms of Skinner, and realise that there was an emancipatory project of abolishing serfdom, of creating undominated social relations. In fact, all this is strongly connected with the long republican tradition, which was still very important in the seventeenth and eighteenth century in Scotland, England, France, North America etc. I think it is important to recover these authors from the claws of the liberal interpretation.

One of the ways to recover Adam Smith is to fully understand and present his social ontology, that is, his vision of what a society is. What was his view of the individual, of power relations in the making of the collective and how it differs from the liberal point of view?

If you are a liberal (in the European sense of the term), you tend to think that the world is made of psychological relations. If I sign a contract with you, it is because I prefer what you have and you prefer what I have, this being the reason why we make an exchange. Sometimes the thing you have is your labour force, and what you prefer is to work for me. This is all a matter of preferences. A republican social ontology shows a world which is criss-crossed by all kinds of (materially- and culturally-based) power relations. This is very clearly present in the works of Adam Smith. In a long passage from the Wealth of Nations on the fixation of wages, Smith describes a world which is completely pervaded by strong forms of power relations, in which workers are very likely to lose a lot in an interaction that is defined by a very dissimilar access to resources. Smith uses a very nice image to show this when he says: “In the long-run the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him; but the necessity is not so immediate” (WN, I, viii, 12). In other words, workers need capitalists (or income from them) right now, because the alternative is dying from starvation. On the contrary, capitalists need workers too, but only in the long-run. In this conflictive interaction, capitalists have many more opportunities to win, to end up building social relations that respect their wishes and whims and that are extremely exploitative for others. You can find this presence of power relations in the analysis of social life all along the work of Adam Smith, as well as in Aristotle, Cicero, Machiavelli, the Levellers and the Diggers, Locke, Robespierre, Jefferson, Kant: in all the republican tradition.

But what about the probably most well-known Smithian metaphor, that of “the invisible hand”, which is used by liberals against any regulation of the market? What is the significance and place of this metaphor in Adam Smith’s theoretical construction?

First of all, it is important to know that this metaphor appears seriously only twice in his works (and once as a sort of a joke in the History on Astronomy): once in the Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and another time in the Wealth of Nations (1776). However, liberal hermeneutics has turned it into the allegedly main idea within Adam Smith’s thought. But let’s take the metaphor seriously. What is Adam Smith exactly telling us? He is telling us that he believes in a world in which we can enjoy undominated decentralised exchanges of goods and services, where we can conduct them without having to ask at all time for the permission of the State or the leadership of guilds. When these undominated decentralised exchanges take place, societies tend to achieve higher degrees of efficiency, freedom, happiness and self-realisation – Adam Smith is one of the main theorists of alienation and self-realisation: in fact, Marx picks up Adam Smith’s views when he writes his 1844 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts. But the most important issue is that such decentralised exchanges need to be effectively undominated, that is, they need to be free from any power relations or bonds of dependence binding the many to the few. Thus, for these decentralised exchanges to take place in a free way that respects everyone’s wishes, preferences and interests, that is truly tolerant vis-à-vis everyone’s life plans, it is extremely important that State intervenes in order to cut bonds of dependence and to create social spheres where you and I can meet and look, as Philip Pettit would put it, “at each other’s eyes”, without me having to turn my head down because it occurs that I depend on you in order to live. There is something like “the invisible hand”, but such “invisible hand” is far from being a metaphysical entity, but something to be constituted by the republican polity. You don’t have any “invisible hand” without State intervention. So we can say that Adam Smith’s thought has to do with the civilising project of politically instituting the invisible hand. All markets are of course politically constituted, and Adam Smith is very well-aware and clear about it all.

In one of your articles you say even a little bit more, namely, that all markets are a result of State intervention, and you add that markets have always existed. Which is then your understanding of the State?

I understand the State – or, rather, political institutions in a broad sense of the term – as normative bodies that have been created by men and women – mainly man – in order to organise social life. Of course, as Polanyi teaches us – and anthropologists like Jack Goody and others insist on that –, markets have existed since the Bronze Age, or even before. So you can’t say that “the market” – in singular – is the result of capitalism or the modern State. What it seems to me is that we have always had, at least from the Bronze Age, a political and cultural “Polanyian decision” on how to exchange goods and services. If I say that all markets are politically constituted, it is because they all are the result of the sedimentation of many layers of implicit or explicit rules of what to commodify and how to commodify it. Of course, the making of these rules depends on a certain correlation of forces between social groups – between social classes. Markets are not metaphysical entities, they don’t fall from heaven. They are forms – in plural – of decentralised exchanges that emanated from the introduction of certain rules. Do left-wing political forces intervene in the making of markets? Yes, of course they do, and I think they should do it still more precisely. And does the right intervene in the making of markets? Of course it does, and it does it massively! It is a myth that the right does not regulate markets. Markets are always the result of layers and layers of legislation. And when I use the term “legislation”, I do it in a broad sense of the term, as any kind of regulation, from what we can find within the civil code and the commercial law to the “moral economy of the crowd”, as E.P. Thompson put it, which, by the way, was oriented to a political constitution of inclusive markets that was finally blocked by the unfolding of capitalist modernity.

In what sense then capitalist markets are not “free markets”? You say capitalist markets block competition and other values and procedures defended by Adam Smith.

There are two things to say with regards to all this: one is related to workers and the other one is connected with Adam Smith’s ideal of the “free producer”. Both things, I believe, should be central in the analysis of contemporary capitalism. The problem with capitalist markets, which Adam Smith knew very well, is that they rest on a massive process of dispossession of the vast majority, which forces the commodification of the labour force of this majority of people. Markets, including labour markets, are something that you should be able to access when you wish to access them – and when I say “you”, I mean every individual and the society as a whole. On the contrary, forced commodification is a problem from the republican point of view, that is, from Adam Smith’s point of view. Another problem is that capitalism creates very harsh entry barriers: there are monopolies, oligopolies, predatory price fixation processes, dumping, advertisement, etc. These are many forms of expelling from markets potential producers that might want to access them. I think it is very important not to see market as the devil, but as a space where part of the externalisation of our capacities can occur. For this to happen, markets should be institutions that we, as a society, decide to use in certain moments, scenarios and contexts. And this includes the idea that we should also have the possibility to say “no” to markets. This is the only way we can really conceive of “free markets”. This is like in a marriage: marriage is only free and potentially civilising when you can choose to leave it – because you have the right to divorce – and then you maybe decide not to leave it, but to nourish it. But we need that right to divorce. And capitalism denies us the right to divorce from markets, from mercantile relationships. We need the real possibility of choice. I’m not saying that all spheres of social life should be decommodified; what I’m saying is that all of them should be at least decommodifiable. And capitalism denies that possibility.

One of the measures you propose to enable us to say “no” is basic income. What do you mean by that?

I think that if we try to present basic income itself as a sufficient way to guarantee social power to leave markets, to decommodify the labour force, we would make a mistake. But we can present it as a part of a project of contradicting the dispossessing nature of capitalism by helping create, as a right, a set of material and immaterial resources that could guarantee an existence in dignity. And this right to a decent existence, which is guaranteed by other rights to related things such as health care, education, care policies, etc., would give you the kind of bargaining power that you lose when you are dispossessed. Basic income plays a crucial role in this context because it can help consolidate sets of resources that could give us this bargaining power to say “no” to what we don’t want to do. It is a capacity to oppose social relations that shouldn’t be linked to the idea of building an atomised world, without social relations, but to that of building an interdependence – which is unavoidable – that is truly based on autonomous decisions by all parties. In any case, basic income shouldn’t be a “unique” measure, but a part of a package of measures. But because of its unconditional, universal and individual nature, it is an excellent example of the kind of counter-dispossession policies we should endeavour in present times.

How this possibility of having an exit option and this rise in bargaining position that basic income could help to give us is related to the amount of such basic income?

This is very relevant. Basic income only works when this set of resources allows you to cover your basic needs. A partial basic income could be important in terms of fostering your well-being, but not in terms of fostering your freedom. Having 200 euros every month unconditionally allows you to buy some food or books, but if you want to be effectively free, what you need to have is a basic income at the level of the poverty line and a package of measures guaranteeing that you have your basic needs fully covered. If you are not above this threshold, the freedom-enhancing potential of these measures vanishes. Without that, you lack the exit option and the bargaining position deriving from it, and therefore you don’t have the kind of republican, effective freedom that we need. It is important that all societies interpret what this threshold is and how to achieve it for all.

How this republican freedom-based defence of basic income differs from other freedom-based justifications of this proposal, such as libertarian ones like Philippe Van Parijs’ “real libertarian” scheme?

Philippe Van Parijs’ views on basic income – and here I’m referring to Real Freedom for All – are very interesting from an abstract point of view, but they are a little bit vague in sociological terms, when it comes to assess the material conditions for this kind of freedom to emerge. Having “the capacity to do whatever you might want to do” – which is Van Parijs’ idea of freedom – is something that I buy, but I think we need to go down in terms of levels of abstraction and analyse the economic institutions that really promote this capacity. The republican tradition gives you this kind of sociological awareness on these institutions. Related to this, another thing that is absent in Van Parijs’ approach is the importance of bargaining power, which is not mentioned in Real Freedom for All. All this is a problem of the social ontology you operate with. If you still operate with a social ontology that is related to neoclassical economics – which, in some way, is what happens when you embrace Rawlsian schemes –, you don’t need to think about power relations. But if you acknowledge that world is criss-crossed by many forms of power relations – which is what republicanism does –, you should get into deep institutional analysis. In general terms, libertarian thinking is far from these ontological concerns on bonds of dependence and power relations, which is highly problematic, especially in the context of contemporary capitalism. Another problem within (right- and left-)libertarians is that they “just” think that the world was owned in common, then there was an unfair appropriation of resources that left many people without them, and they add that this needs to be repaired. In practical terms, the (left-)libertarian “reparation rationale” and the republican rationale of ex-ante empowering people might tend to converge, but things can work in a very different way as well. If this is only a question of reparations, you might forget plenty of situations in which we can’t identify that there was a concrete violation of property rights, and therefore we wouldn’t bother ex-ante distributing to everybody the kind of packages of measures I was mentioning before. I think that the pre-distribution debate that is nowadays emerging thanks to the work of philosophers such as Stuart White or Martin O’Neill and Thad Williamson, which is related in many ways to the republican approach to freedom, is broader and aims at guaranteeing that all of us effectively access these sets of resources. But if you limit yourself to a “mere” reparation of the violation of property rights, you might end up leaving people without the kind of socio-economic empowerment I’m pleading for.

In one of your articles you use the notion of “political economy of democracy”. What is that?

Only liberals – again: in the European political sense of the term – can deny that democracy requires material conditions. As stated by the bulk of the republican tradition, freedom and democracy can only appear when certain social and economic conditions have been implemented in order to help us co-determine how we live in common. There’s a long history of republican thinking about freedom and democracy, although it must be added that not all republicans have been democrats. According to the republican point of view, democracy is connected to collective projects of self-determination, and these can only occur when all of us enjoy real voice and the capacity to codetermine social relations. And his requires that all of us be equally empowered so that all of us can enjoy material independence. Otherwise, a really democratic polity cannot emerge.

And what do you mean by saying that republicanism is, in itself, true political economy?

I’m very much worried about romanticised approaches to republicanism as a tradition. You can find this in the nineteenth century, as well as in the works of Hannah Arendt and, more recently, authors such as Michael Sandel or Richard Dagger. In some way, they all say that republicanism has to do with very much appreciating the public sphere, with fostering warm ties with others, with promoting a true vita activa, as Hannah Arendt would say, without considering the material conditions of all these projects. This is highly problematic for conceptual reasons but also from an hermeneutical point of view. If you go to the classics of republicanism, from Aristotle to Marx, you very easily realise that the bulk of this tradition defines “civil society” as a normative concept that has to do with creating a public space where we all have been empowered in order to build an undominated interdependence. Republicanism does two things: the first one is a descriptive analysis of power relations – with their material and cultural dimensions – and the second one is a definition of a normative endeavour suggesting measures of many sorts in order to eradicate bonds of dependence and promote undominated social relations. To the extent that republicanism does this, we can’t limit ourselves to say that it is a vague political theory claiming that the political realm is important, but we must underline it is a very definite political economy recognising the presence of bonds of dependence – and showing their exact form – and suggesting ways of getting rid of them. Classical political economists, from Adam Smith to Ricardo and Marx, did exactly those two things.

Which measures does republicanism, as a political economy, suggest?

Firstly, there’s need for an “economic floor” – hence basic income and the packages of measures such as those presented in Guy Standing’s Precariat’s Charter. What I appreciate from this idea of a charter of rights is that it can allow us to rethink welfarist measures in a fully universal and unconditional way. Secondly, there’s need for an “economic ceiling”. Even if you have been ex-ante empowered with some basic and relevant resources, when you try to enter the economic sphere as a “free producer”, as Adam Smith would put it, it occurs that there are some powerful actors – strong oligarchs or “economic monarchs”, to put it in Roosevelt’s terms – preventing you from doing so. When this is the case, you have a big problem in terms of republican freedom. We may want to develop a project as free cooperative producers, but if we can’t access the space where production, distribution and exchange occurs because there are three or four guys controlling it and turning it into a “select” club of economic vampires, we lose our republican freedom. Therefore, thinking about freedom and democracy requires also conceiving of an economic ceiling. To put it in simple terms, we can say that there are two strategies to achieve that. First, there is the “Rousseaunian strategy”, according to which we should directly and actively cut inequalities by, for instance, reducing top salaries – hence Sam Pizzigati’s work, for instance. The second strategy is the “Rooseveltian” one, which is connected to the progressive side of the North American self-understanding. It is a strategy according to which we may accept the presence of people with a lot of money and other resources, but we must politically restrict their opportunities set to avoid those freedom-limiting practices that seek to expel the vast majority of the population from the social and economic spheres where we expect to operate as free agents.

Which of these two approaches is, in your opinion, the best one?

I don’t want to act as a “creationist”, as Toni Domènech used to say, and decide ex nihilo what each and every particular society needs to do. But I have the Rousseaunian intuition that an ex-ante measure avoiding the emergence of huge inequalities is preferable to an ex-post restrain of the opportunities sets of the most powerful economic actors. At the same time, I should also add that I tend to appreciate diverse societies where diverse people with diverse life plans end up with very different material outcomes. This is not necessarily unfair or unjust. If we take Marx’s criterion to make distributive arrangements within a communist society – “from each one according to their ability, to each one according to their need” –, we will immediately realise that this can lead us to a world with people with unequal outcomes. So the problem is not that there are economic inequalities, but that they are so big that they prevent most of us from developing our own life plans.

So we have and economic floor, certain economic ceilings, and…

In order to make both the economic floor and the economic ceiling possible – and to make sure that they both serve the republican goal of creating social positions of invulnerability for all –, we need the third component of our republican political economy: we need democratically controlled public intervention. This is very important within the republican tradition and within its contemporary heir – namely, the socialist tradition. We shouldn’t delegate these tasks of imposing economic floors and ceilings to alleged experts that will make decisions without our collective supervision. Rather, our task is to inhabit all those institutional spheres – the State, self-managed spaces, etc. – where these arrangements are made. We need to control them all and, in the end, co-determine the making of such arrangements. These institutions should be our institutions. This is crucial: in the end, we are constructing complex apparatuses that have a very important task to do in terms of the enhancement of our freedom, so we should make sure that they really work for all of us. And the problem is that under capitalism – especially under neoliberal forms of capitalism – they work for the few. So the bottom line of all this is that of course we need a vita activa within the agora, as Hannah Arendt would put it, but we need it not in abstract terms or for voluntarist reasons, but for instrumental reasons: the ultimate goal is to make sure that these institutions guarantee the material conditions of freedom – and I fear Arendt’s “republicanism” was very much against this project. In sum, if we have those three things – the floor, the ceiling, and the democratic control over the ways institutions implement them –, we count on the necessary conditions for people to live freer lives, which, by the way, entails the collective control over the means of production – these means broadly understood.

But if republican freedom is something to be guaranteed individually and is based on “property”, how do you reconcile it with this idea of a “collective” control over the means of production? Do you wish to abolish the private property?

Not at all. I think private property is something we should also reconquest from the right, which has a very narrow “absolute” vision of it. I don’t think that the fact that you create a productive space of your own – in this sense, a “private” space – is necessarily problematic. It can be a huge problem, on the one hand, if it is related to the dispossessing processes that force all of us to do wage-earning work, and, on the other hand, if it has the do with the capacity of certain powerful actors to limit our access to the economic space as free producers. In fact, this is what is nowadays happening. Current forms of interdependence are ruled by the wishes and interests of the few. But what about universalising the running of such interdependence so that we all can decide which (im)material goods and services we wish to produce with others, and how? How to create (re)productive spaces that respect everyone’s freedom and autonomy? Unconditional measures such as basic income can help a lot. For instance, they can help us decommodify the labour force – as Aristotle and Marx said and should be recalled once again, wage-earning work is incompatible with freedom – and create productive spaces, private or common, in which we can collectively control the many ways in which they operate. I think this is a contemporary way of interpreting the old motto of the “collective control over the means of production”. “Collective control” means democracy: we all should be entitled to participate in the decision-making processes on what to produce, on how to make it, on how to allocate the tasks – avoiding social, sexual, and racial division of labour –, on how to distribute it all, etc. And the idea of certain sets of “means of production” has to do with the presence of all those material and immaterial assets that we can use in these productive processes. I know I’m talking in abstract terms, but I want to leave it open for different societal interpretations about proper institutions and procedures to achieve these goals.

Which contemporary movements are fighting for the goals you present?

I think that many movements that have appeared after the rupture of the post-World War II social deal are claiming that we need to recover what the left had renounced to around 1945, with these deal, namely: the control over production – and reproduction, we must add. If you take a look at the 15-M Movement, at Occupy, at Nuit debout and many other social movements in Europe or Latin America – the Chilean student movement is also a very good example of this –, you’ll find that they are all concerned about collective economic sovereignty. And these movements try to overcome the neoliberal turn of capitalism by developing projects of social, cooperative, and solidary forms of organizing social and economic life. But they do not limit themselves to the task of fostering projects within the domain of self-management; they also claim that there is need to empower all individuals with unconditional public policies – the language of rights is very much present within these political environments – in order to help all of them make many kinds of undominated decisions within such social and economic life, which means that these movements are very keen to explore the synergies between public policy and self-management. To go no further, this is the reason why these movements ask for true “citizen rescue plans” providing everyone with an equal footing to conceive of and put into practice many projects of our own, from urban vegetable gardens to cooperative housing, caregivers support groups, and self-managed forms of production and distribution, among many others.

Are these demands related to the neoliberal dismantling of the welfare state and the current crisis of such neoliberal form of capitalism?

The post-World War II social consensus was an arrangement for the Western world in which we, the working population, were guaranteed some economic security, in return of our explicitly renouncing to the control over production. Some people – some far and autonomous lefts, etc. –, always said that this was too much of a renunciation, that this was a huge mistake. There’s no time here to dwell into this, but the fact is that we took part in this agreement. On the other side of the table, capitalists agreed on something they really didn’t want, which is the guarantee for all of us of certain degrees of social and economic security – hence welfare-state measures. I think this was a very imperfect arrangement, but still it has reformed capitalism for many years and decades. What we are witnessing today is very well explained in an article Marco Revelli, the Italian social theorist, wrote in 2010. The title of this article is really telling: “The first infuriate generation of post-growth”. In this text, Revelli mentions a painting on a wall at the Polytechnic Institute of Turin that reads as follows: “You’ve taken too much from us; now we again want it all.” The bottom line of the painting is that we had renounced to the most important goal within contemporary emancipatory traditions: the control over production. And then it occurs that neoliberalism constitutes a unilateral move of the oligarchy breaking the deal in question – as we all know, social and economic security for all is no longer possible under the current form of capitalism. Therefore, it is completely legitimate that we do not limit ourselves to the act of defending those partial goals that were part of the former agreement, but that we go back to the original scenario, which is the point in which we were still aiming at controlling production. In this vein, I think basic income, the package of measures accompanying it, the ceiling and the democratic control over these institutions we have been discussing constitute a very clear strategy aiming at putting back to the agenda, and using 21st Century terms, the old project of collective control over production – and reproduction, we must add. Of course, the crisis of capitalism and the oligarchic attempt at responding to it again in neoliberal terms have helped people understand that the old welfare consensus won’t be politically possible any more – the rentier oligarchy is no longer interested in it –, which has urged many social actors to seek for new rebel ways not only to achieve security, but also to (try to) recover higher degrees of freedom and economic sovereignty.

Your vision of “our” struggle for basic income against “them” – the economic oligarchy – stands in contradiction with the strategy of convincing “them”. Many proponents of basic income claim that it can be good for “both sides” – hence the use, for instance, of Milton Friedman’s arguments for a negative income tax while discussing basic income with Friedman’s neoliberal heirs. Can we say that your position in this point is different from, for instance, Guy Standing’s attempt at convincing “them” all too?

I think this is all very contextual. Standing’s strategy might make sense in some societies in certain moments. And I know that this view is widespread in the basic income movement all over the world – many people have embraced it. But I think this is very dangerous. There is need to think which basic income society we are interested in. I really think some models of a neoliberal basic income society constitute a real dystopia. For instance, when the goal is to have a basic income for workers to enjoy higher degrees of security – which is good – while capitalists pay lower salaries – which means that an important part of salaries are paid by tax-payers –; when the objective is to have a basic income to dismantle the welfare state; in none of these cases there is an inter-class handshake or some kind of a win-win scenario. I really think this approach has a very limited political and social ambition. For me and for other people like Daniel Raventós, Antoni Domènech and other members of SinPermiso – and for Guy Standing himself in many texts and talks, and for Louise Haagh and Michael Krätke, and for Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght in some passages of their new book, and for Erik Olin Wright and Carole Pateman, and for the basic income supporters within German left-wing party Die Linke, etc. –, the aim is to create a world in which you can decommodify the labour force. This does not necessarily mean that you’ll have to become an individual or collective entrepreneur. It “just” leads you to a more diverse world with many other economic options and projects. And I do not think this will help us convince the capitalist oligarchy. I do not think they will easily agree with providing all of us with very relevant levels of bargaining power to determine the share of the product and to decide what and how we produce or whether we do it with/for them or on our own. When the goal is placing basic income within a broader project of an essentially anti-capitalist nature, I very much doubt capitalists will be happy. This is why it is much more important that we build a coalition with all those who are really aiming at contradicting the dispossessing nature of capitalism, and then see what role basic income and other specific measures can play within this project. I think this is better than trying to build a coalition with every single basic income advocate: this might lead us to a world where we had a basic income but not the kind of “social power” republican and socialist proponents of basic income seek to achieve for all of us to avoid wage-earning work – if we wish that – and for all of us to easily enter into markets as free producers or to develop many forms of self-managed cooperative economic environments. I think Guy Standing is a really inspiring progressive thinker, but I do not agree with this particular idea of a handshake with those that want all of us to remain obliged to sell our labour force to them.

The interviewer received funding for preparation of PhD thesis from Polish National Science Centre as part of PhD scholarship decision DEC-2015/16/T/HS1/00295.

Antoni Domènech – Republicanism, Socialism and Basic Income

Antoni Domènech – Republicanism, Socialism and Basic Income

Interview with Antoni Domènech

Maciej Szlinder: You perceive your academic work as a part of Marxist, socialist tradition. What in your opinion are the most important Marxist’s arguments for basic income?

Antoni Domènech: I’ve been interested in basic income for 20 years. I sympathise with this idea, but I’m not so much engaged theoretically and politically like, for example, Daniel Raventós. I think that there is a connection between basic income and a socialist tradition. If we understand the latter that has descended from the democratic republican tradition. The key point is that the origin of all modern ideas of basic income is The Agrarian Justice by Tom Paine1 . This is very interesting pamphlet, also from a historical point of view. The idea that something like a universal basic income is necessary for guaranteeing the right to existence is a very old idea of Robespierre with whom Paine was disputing. Later, Paine understood his mistake. He didn’t support Robespierre before the Thermidor and Agrarian Justice could be perceived as an amendment to this mistake reconnecting with Robespierre’s views: the idea of guaranteeing the right to existence in the situation of the rise of privatising powers which are hostile to any kind of the commons. It is a fundamental, terrific rise in eighteenth century in England, but also in France, of what Robespierre called the “tyrannical political economy”, which is probably the best name for capitalism. Robespierre presented the program of “popular political economy” in opposition to this. In my opinion, this program of the extreme Jacobin left was retrieved 2 years after the Thermidor in 1796 by Tom Paine in his program of agrarian justice. The idea behind this is that we need a social republic which will guarantee the global rights of existence. But how we can achieve that? Paine’s answer was that we can achieve it by universalising a small agrarian propriety. It was also a dream on the other side of the Atlantic, Jefferson’s dream that all people should be small, free and independent farmers. Robespierre had already understood that guaranteeing everyone basic living conditions was impossible before the industrial revolution. And guaranteeing that nobody needs to ask for permission of others to be able to live – this is the basis of a republican freedom. I perceive a basic income as a part of this tradition. Socialism is the other form of defending these values of the First French Republic, by trying to universalise republican freedom after the industrial revolution. Marx defines socialism in different ways but in a famous passage from Instructions for the Delegates of the Provisional General Council written for the First International, he defines it as “the republican and beneficent system of the association of free and equal producers2 who appropriate together the means of production. So “republican association.” The other famous definition of socialism by Marx at the end of chapter 32 of Capital Volume 1 is “the expropriation of the expropriators”3 . I perceive the fight for basic income in this context.

Do you think that basic income can be a means of “expropriating the expropriators”?

No, but basic income could be understood as a common means of de-commodifying vast areas of the social and economic life and, also as a means of empowerment of the wage labourers in the relations of power. The first thing I told you are the basic values of the republican democracy of the revolution. The second idea has more to do with the modern socialism of the nineteenth century, the idea of a strengthening the bargaining position of the workers’ negotiators and strengthening the possibility of remodelling the economy by, for example, industrial, trade and agricultural cooperatives. Basic income favours cooperative movement.

Your connection between republicanism and socialism stands in contradiction to the probably more popular current vision of republicanism presented by people like Quentin Skinner, about whom it’s hard to say he is a socialist or even a leftist.

Quentin Skinner is interesting because he is trying to rescue the idea of republican freedom as something different from the liberal freedom that was imposed in the nineteenth century. But there are two things that seem to me to be completely insufficient in his perspective. The first is that he is completely blind to the democratic tradition of republicanism. In his writings, it is like Athens had never existed, nor had The First French Republic. There was only Rome. And the former was the most important in terms of the democratic point of view. It is very significant that for him republicanism is the debates made by Cicero at the end of the republic and Machiavelli interpreted in a very questionable way. In his vision, Aspasia, Cleon, Ephialtes, Pericles just don’t exist. He also has no understanding of the economic and fiscal foundations that led to the fall of the Roman Republic, which was basically oligarchical. Moreover, even inside Rome, Quentin Skinner is completely blind to the democratic elements: the plebeian reform of the constitution in the third century BC, Lex Agraria, Lex Frumentaria. The republic of Cicero was the last oligarchy which tried to defend itself from an uprising of the people which ended up with Julius Caesar.

The third point of my disagreement with Skinner is that he doesn’t realise the republican freedom has its roots in the notion, the structure and the institutionalisation of property and the correlations of social powers. For him the political philosophy is an analysis of texts and discourses. For instance, he has no historical understanding of the English Revolution of 1640. He just doesn’t see the social powers there. And these events were wonderfully analysed by serious Marxists like Christopher Hill, George Rudé and maybe the greatest of them, Rodney Hilton (who was a medievalist but also wrote very interesting things about the English Revolution). That is, in my opinion, the most important historiography done in the twentieth century – a very serious way of thinking.

And what are the relations between Skinner and Philip Pettit one of the most important current republican thinker and a defender of basic income?

Skinner is very close to the philosophical approach of Philip Pettit. We can find the same blind spots in their writings that Greece and the First French Republic don’t exist. Neither does Jefferson, there are only Anti-Federalists. But Pettit tried to build a definition of republican freedom against the backdrop of nineteenth and twentieth century liberalism. His definition is that one is free (in the republican way) if there can’t be any arbitrary interference in his/her life from anyone (neither private nor by the state). This is a psychological definition; I don’t mean that it doesn’t capture something, but it misses the essence. And the essence in the republican tradition, both oligarchic and democratic, is that you are free if your material existence doesn’t depend on another. Of course, if you depend on me because you’re my slave, salary worker or my wife, I can interfere arbitrarily in your life. In this point, these definitions intersect. But I can interfere arbitrarily in your life in forms that have nothing to do with political freedom. For example, I can come to your friend and tell him a white lie: I know that his wife is cheating on him but I’m telling him that she’s not so as not to upset him. It’s an arbitrary interference but has nothing to do with the material conditions that have always been the central issue of the republican tradition. Pettit, by ignoring that, is psychologising social relations. All the neo-republican approach of historians like Skinner or philosophers like Pettit completely ignores the democratic tradition. They also misinterpret the meaning of Cicero and Latin republicanism in the context of a terrible war in Europe from the third century BC to the end of the republic in the first century BC. And philosophically, Pettit and Skinner psychologise the freedom, by eradicating it from its institutional, economic, material and social conditions of possibility. I’m very critical about this. Skinner also works with a similar approach to John G. A. Pocock, the author of The Machiavellian Moment4 . They both were starting with a very interesting, and sometimes forgotten Marxist called Neil Wood, husband of Ellen Meiksins Wood. These two did a lot of relevant things in reference to republicanism (for example a very interesting book about Cicero – Cicero’s Social and Political Thought5 ), but contrary to Skinner or Pettit, they are not academic stars, purely for political reasons.

What do you think of other traditions among basic income supporters that declare themselves Marxists or defend this proposal on the basis of Marx’s writings? One of the most important articles in the history of the basic income debate was A Capitalist Road to Communism6 written by Philippe Van Parijs and Robert van der Veen in which the authors propose that basic income can be a means of transforming the capitalist society to a communist one. What do you think of this kind of idea?

I have translated this very early article by my old friend Philippe Van Parijs into Spanish. But I think it’s not the best way to argue for a basic income. It’s totally disconnected from the economic reality of factual capitalism. There are many people like those who work with the idea of basic income and use some of the Marxist notions, but who are totally neoclassical. They have no idea of Luxemburgian, Kaleckian or even Keynesian perspectives. For them, Marxism is just scholastic thinking. I think that this analytical Marxism is a dead end.

And what about the works of Erik Olin Wright?

I am very disappointed by his book Envisioning Real Utopias7 , as for me that’s “methodological creationism.” If Marxism has been an important intellectual tradition, it is because of his understanding of the historical and dynamical processes and that has political consequences in the sense that you can say: ok, we are in this historical situation with such a correlation of forces, and we have two, three, four possible paths to take. That is a sort of Darwinist perspective, in the best sense of Darwinism, understanding that we are path-dependent. And these people think like a creationist – we have a wonderful idea of basic income and a just society, we construct a wonderful utopia because of some moral reasons and one must aspire to this, regardless of the material, social, political, institutional conditions we have. There is an American leftist critic Russell Jacobi who has devastated the book by E.O. Wright from a historical perspective.

Other Marxists that defend basic income and attack the formerly mentioned for being detached from the current, historical development of capitalism are the autonomist Marxists. What do you think of their approach?

I have a very bad opinion on this. For me, it is a speculative Marxism. I perceive Van Parijs and Wright as late scholastic philosophers like Francisco Suarez from the sixteenth and seventeenth century who at least have an analytical and conceptual apparatus that is precise and strict. But Negri is as speculative as they are but without this apparatus. It’s almost like “anything goes.” In the books of Negri and Hardt, there are almost no facts, no statistics, it’s a bad philosophy. Marx said about Feuerbach that he was ahistorical when he was materialist and he was non-materialist when he was historical – that’s also true about Negri. When he is historical, he speaks of cognitive capitalism with no understanding of the real dynamical forces of capitalism. It’s a neo-Hegelian bastard philosophy. I met Negri in the seventies in Italy and I have a very bad opinion not only of his philosophy but also of his political attitude. Socialism is also the real history of the working class with the labour unions, worker’s parties etc. You can think what you want about labour unions, you can say that social democratic parties have been horrible reformists, but these were the concrete, historical, real crystallisations of the working-class movement. Negri comes from a Catholic movement in Italy; he has been always a strong anti-communist and anti-syndicalist thinker. He was always against the real, concrete institutionalisations of the working-class movement, against the Communist Party, against the Italian Socialist Party of Pietro Nenni, against the CGIL (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro – Italian General Confederation of Labor). Pasolini said about Negri: that’s the Catholic utopia of a bourgeoisie communism8 , and that’s exact in my opinion.

So, what is your proposition to convince these real institutions of the working-class movement, namely labour unions, to understand the historical dynamics and stop demanding a step back to the Fordist era and take a move forward fighting for a universal basic income?

That’s very difficult indeed. I’ve spoken with labour union leaders and they stick to the classic welfare state. But they are starting to understand that this is an old world which won’t come back. You can try to convince them to open their minds to solutions like basic income, but this would be very difficult. In fact, most of the big labour unions are totally defeated. They must understand we are in a historical stage in the European Union and United States and that they must radically change their minds.

The French, British or German labour unions can relate to the “golden age of capitalism” of the fifties and sixties, but the Spanish ones cannot do that, because you’ve never had a “golden age” here – until 1975 you had a fascist, Francoist regime without freedom of association, when labour unions were controlled by the government or illegal. Does this historically specific situation make Spanish unions more open to the new political propositions?

On the contrary. To understand the Spanish transition to a parliamentary monarchy, one must consider that the aim of antifascist restoration was to become a reformed capitalist system of Western Europe, the welfare state and the democratic state of rights. If you look at the Spanish Constitution of 1978, you can see that it was inspired by the German Constitution of 1949. But the Spanish transition happened to be in the moment of a total change in welfare state capitalism. So, in Spain, a welfare state has never been developed like it was in other Western European countries. The Spanish labour unions have never had the opportunity to become great organisations such as German or Italian ones, not to mention Sweden. The rate of affiliation was always much smaller than countries like Germany, Sweden or Italy. Spanish unions became public assistance organisations and have been very much devolved into corruption. Spanish capitalism after Francoism has developed a very special form of economy – it was a corrupted political economy, with co-optation of the left formations and union workers. People see that and this is one of the reasons why unions are discredited and so weak here. It has been similar to the Polish neoliberal transition but not so radical like in your case.

Antoni Domènech (1952) Spanish philosopher, professor of methodology of social sciences at the Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Barcelona. Translator. Author of several book, including El eclipse de la fraternidad. Una revisión republicana de la tradición socialista (Crítica, 2004) [The Eclipse of Fraternity: A Republican Revision of the Socialist Tradition]. The editor of journal Sin Permiso.

Polish translation of this interview is available here.

Former interviews about basic income:

Lluís Torrens, Basic income, economic growth and the city

José A. Noguera, Basic income as a political horizon

Jurgen De Wispelaere, Exciting Times Ahead: Experiments and the Politics of Basic Income

Erik Olin Wright, Sociology and Epistemology of Real Utopias

Daniel Raventós, Basic Income in the Spotlight in Spain

Guy Standing, The Strategy for Basic Income

The interviewer received funding for preparation of PhD thesis from Polish National Science Centre as part of PhD scholarship decision DEC-2015/16/T/HS1/00295.

  1. Thomas Paine. Agrarian Justice, 1797. []
  2. Karl Marx, Instructions for the Delegates of the Provisional General Council. The Different Questions¸ 1866. []
  3. The centralization of the means of production and the socialization of labour reach a point at which they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.” Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy; Volume I. Penguin Harmondsworth, London, 1976, p. 929. []
  4. John G.A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition, Princeton University Press, Princeton&Oxford, 1975. []
  5. Neal Wood, Cicero’s Social and Political Thought, University of California Press, Berkeley 1988. []
  6. Robert van der Veen, Philippe Van Parijs, A Capitalist Road to Communism, „Theory and Society” 15 (5), 1986, pp. 635–655. []
  7. Erik O. Wright, Envisioning Real Utopias, Verso, London and New York, NY, 2010. []
  8. Pier Paolo Pasolini, La prima, vera rivoluzione di destra, Il Tempo, 15 july 1973. []
Antoni Domènech – Republikanizm, socjalizm i dochód podstawowy

Antoni Domènech – Republikanizm, socjalizm i dochód podstawowy

antoni-domenechWywiad z Antonim Domènechiem

Maciej Szlinder: Sytuujesz swoją pracę akademicką w łonie tradycji marksistowskiej, socjalistycznej. Jakie Twoim zdaniem są najważniejsze marksistowskie argumenty za dochodem podstawowym?

Antoni Domènech: Interesuję się dochodem podstawowym od dwudziestu lat. Sympatyzuję z tą koncepcją, ale nie jestem tak zaangażowany teoretyczne i politycznie, jak choćby Daniel Raventós. Uważam, że dochód podstawowy łączy się z tradycją socjalistyczną, jeśli rozumiemy tę ostatnią jako wypływającą z tradycji demokratycznego republikanizmu. Kluczową kwestią jest to, że źródłem wszystkich nowoczesnych koncepcji dochodu podstawowego jest praca Toma Paine’a pt. Agrarian Justice (1797). To bardzo interesujący pamflet, także z historycznego punktu widzenia. Idea, że coś na kształt powszechnego dochodu podstawowego jest niezbędne, aby zapewnić prawo do życia, jest bardzo starą ideą Robespierre’a, z którym Paine się spierał. Później Paine zrozumiał swój błąd, że nie wsparł Robespierre’a przed Thermidorem. Agrarian Justice można postrzegać jako naprawę tego błędu i nawiązanie do poglądów Robespierre’a: idei gwarantowania prawa do życia w sytuacji wzrastających sił prywatyzacji, które są wrogie jakiejkolwiek formie dóbr wspólnych. W osiemnastowiecznej Anglii, ale także we Francji, miał miejsce fundamentalny i przejmujący wzrost tego, co Robespierre nazwał „despotyczną ekonomią polityczną”, co jest prawdopodobnie najlepszym określeniem kapitalizmu. W opozycji do niego Robespierre przedstawił program „ludowej ekonomii politycznej”. Moim zdaniem ten program radykalnej, jakobińskiej lewicy został odzyskany dwa lata po Thermidorze, w 1796 roku, przez Toma Paine’a w jego programie sprawiedliwości agrarnej. Stoi za nią przekonanie, że potrzebujemy republiki społecznej, która zagwarantuje globalne prawa do życia. Jak możemy jednak to osiągnąć? Paine odpowiada: poprzez upowszechnienie drobnej własności rolnej. Ta idea była marzeniem także po drugiej stronie Atlantyku – marzeniem Jeffersona o tym, że wszyscy ludzie powinni być drobnymi, wolnymi i niezależnymi rolnikami. Robespierre jednak rozumiał już, że zapewnienie wszystkim podstawowych warunków życiowych było niemożliwe przed rewolucją przemysłową. Zapewnienie, że nikt nie musi pytać innych o pozwolenie, by móc żyć – oto podstawa wolności republikańskiej. Pojmuję dochód podstawowy jako element tej tradycji. Socjalizm jest inną formą obrony tych wartości I Republiki Francuskiej, przez upowszechnienie wolności republikańskiej po rewolucji przemysłowej. Marks definiuje socjalizm na różne sposoby, ale w słynnym ustępie z instrukcji dla delegatów Rady Centralnej na pierwszy kongres Międzynarodówki określa go jako „republikański i dobroczynny system zrzeszenia wolnych i równych wytwórców” (Marks 1968a, 214), którzy wspólnie przywłaszczają sobie środki produkcji. Zatem „republikańskie zrzeszenie”. Inna słynna Marksowska definicja socjalizmu znajduje się na końcu 24 rozdziału I tomu Kapitału: „wywłaszczenie wywłaszczycieli”1 . Postrzegam walkę o dochód podstawowy w tym kontekście.

Czy sadzisz, że dochód podstawowy może być sposobem na „wywłaszczenie wywłaszczycieli”?

Nie, ale może być on rozumiany jako wspólny sposób odtowarowienia znacznych obszarów życia społecznego i gospodarczego, a także sposób na wzmocnienie pracowników najemnych w ramach stosunków władzy. Pierwszą rzeczą, o której już wspomniałem, są podstawowe wartości rewolucyjnej demokracji republikańskiej. Druga idea wiąże się bardziej z nowoczesnym, dziewiętnastowiecznym socjalizmem, ze wzmacnianiem pozycji przetargowej negocjatorów robotniczych i wspieraniem możliwości przemodelowania gospodarki poprzez, na przykład, spółdzielnie przemysłowe, handlowe czy rolne. Dochód podstawowy sprzyja ruchowi spółdzielczemu.

Wskazywane przez Ciebie powiązanie między republikanizmem i socjalizmem stoi w sprzeczności z zapewne bardziej obecnie popularnym ujęciem republikanizmu przez ludzi takich jak Quentin Skinner, o którym trudno powiedzieć, że jest lewicowcem, a co dopiero socjalistą.

Quentin Skinner jest interesujący, ponieważ próbuje uratować ideę wolności republikańskiej jako odmiennej od wolności liberalnej, która została narzucona w dziewiętnastym wieku. Jednak dwa elementy jego spojrzenia wydają mi się całkowicie niewystarczające. Pierwszym jest kompletne prześlepienie demokratycznej tradycji republikanizmu. W jego pismach Ateny zdają się nie istnieć, podobnie I Republika Francuska. Był wyłącznie Rzym. A to właśnie Ateny były najistotniejsze z perspektywy demokratycznej. To bardzo znamienne, że dla niego republikanizm ogranicza się do dyskusji toczonych przez Cycerona pod koniec republiki i do Machiavellego interpretowanego w bardzo problematyczny sposób. W jego ujęciu nie ma słowa o Aspazji, Kleonie, Efialtesie czy Peryklesie. Skinner nie rozumie również ekonomicznych i fiskalnych podstaw, które doprowadziły do upadku republiki rzymskiej, która była zasadniczo oligarchiczna. Co więcej, nawet gdy Skinner pisze o Rzymie, ignoruje zupełnie elementy demokratyczne: plebejską reformę konstytucji w III wieku p.n.e. (Lex Hortensia), Lex Agraria, Lex Frumentaria. Republika Cycerona była ostatnią oligarchią, która próbowała bronić się przed ludowym powstaniem, co skończyło się Juliuszem Cezarem.

Po trzecie, nie zgadzam się ze Skinnerem, ponieważ nie zdaje on sobie sprawy z tego, że wolność republikańska zakorzeniona jest w pojęciu, strukturze i instytucjonalizacji własności oraz w układzie sił społecznych. Dla niego filozofia polityczna jest analizą tekstów i dyskursów. Dla przykładu, nie rozumie on znaczenia angielskiej rewolucji z lat czterdziestych XVI wieku. Nie dostrzega on tam po prostu sił społecznych. A wydarzenia te zostały wspaniale zbadane przez poważnych marksistów takich jak Christopher Hill, George Rudé, a także przez, może największego z nich, Rodneya Hiltona (który był co prawda mediewistą, ale napisał również bardzo interesujące prace na temat rewolucji angielskiej). Moim zdaniem jest to najważniejsza historiografia dwudziestego wieku – bardzo poważny sposób myślenia.

Jakie są relacje między Skinnerem i Philipem Pettitem, jednym z najważniejszych współczesnych myślicieli republikańskich i obrońców dochodu podstawowego?

Prace Skinnera są bardzo bliskie filozoficznemu podejściu Pettita. Możemy dostrzec u niego te same luki: pominięcie Grecji, I Republiki Francuskiej. W jego pracach nie ma również Jeffersona, są tylko antyfederaliści. Jednak Pettit starał się stworzyć definicję wolności republikańskiej przeciwko dziewiętnastowiecznemu i dwudziestowiecznemu liberalizmowi. Jego definicja brzmi: dana osoba jest wolna (na sposób republikański), jeżeli nie może wystąpić żadna arbitralna ingerencja nikogo (ani osoby prywatnej, ani państwa) w jej życie. Ta definicja ma charakter psychologiczny. Nie oznacza to, że nic ona nie uchwytuje, ale że nie oddaje istoty.

A istotą wolności w tradycji republikańskiej, zarówno w nurcie oligarchicznym, jak i demokratycznym, jest to, że jesteś wolny, jeżeli twoja egzystencja materialna nie zależy od kogoś innego. Oczywiście jeżeli zależysz ode mnie, bo jesteś moim niewolnikiem, pracownikiem najemnym lub moją żoną, mogę ingerować arbitralnie w twoje życie. W tym punkcie obie definicje są zbieżne. Ale mogę ingerować arbitralnie w twoje życie na takie sposoby, które nie mają nic wspólnego z wolnością polityczną. Dla przykładu, mogę przyjść do twojego przyjaciela i powiedzieć mu niewinne kłamstewko: wiem, że jego żona go zdradza, ale mówię mu, że tego nie czyni, aby go nie martwić. Ingeruję arbitralnie, ale nie ma to nic wspólnego z materialnymi warunkami, które zawsze znajdowały się w centrum zainteresowania tradycji republikańskiej. Pettit ignoruje tę istotę, psychologizując relacje społeczne.

Całe podejście neorepublikańskie historyków takich jak Skinner i filozofów takich jak Pettit kompletnie lekceważy tradycję demokratyczną. Błędnie interpretują oni również znaczenie Cycerona i łacińskiego republikanizmu w kontekście strasznej wojny w Europie toczącej się od III w. p.n.e. aż do końca republiki w I w. p.n.e. Filozoficznie Pettit i Skinner psychologizują pojęcie wolności poprzez oderwanie jej od jej instytucjonalnych, ekonomicznych, materialnych i społecznych warunków możliwości. Odnoszę się do tego w bardzo krytyczny sposób. Skinner stosuje również podobne podejście do Johna G. A. Pococka, autora książki The Machiavellian Moment (1975). Obaj rozpoczynali swoją akademicką drogę wraz z bardzo interesującym i czasami zapomnianym marksistą Neilem Woodem, mężem Ellen Meiksins Wood. Oboje robili interesujące rzeczy w odniesieniu do republikanizmu (np. Wood napisał bardzo ciekawą książkę o Cyceronie pt. Cicero’s Social and Political Thought, 1988), jednak w przeciwieństwie do Skinnera i Pettita nie zostali akademickimi gwiazdami, wyłącznie z powodów politycznych.

Co sądzisz o innych tradycjach pośród zwolenników dochodu podstawowego, którzy uznają się za marksistów lub bronią tej propozycji na bazie pism Marksa? Jednym z najważniejszych artykułów w historii debaty o dochodzie podstawowym był tekst A Capitalist Road to Communism (1986) napisany przez Philippe’a Van Parijsa i Roberta van der Veena, w którym autorzy uważają, że dochód podstawowy może być sposobem na przekształcenie społeczeństwa kapitalistycznego w komunistyczne. Co sądzisz o tym pomyśle?

Przełożyłem ten bardzo wczesny artykuł mojego starego przyjaciela Philippe’a Van Parijsa na język hiszpański. Sądzę jednak, że nie jest to najlepszy sposób na argumentowanie za dochodem podstawowym. Jest on całkowicie oderwany od ekonomicznej rzeczywistości faktycznego kapitalizmu. Wiele osób, w tym autorzy tego artykułu, pisze o dochodzie podstawowym i wykorzystuje niektóre Marksowskie pojęcia, będąc jednak zupełnie neoklasyczni. Nie mają pojęcia o perspektywach takich myślicieli jak Luksemburg, Kalecki czy nawet Keynes. Dla nich marksizm jest jedynie myśleniem scholastycznym. Sądzę, że marksizm analityczny to ślepa uliczka.

A co myślisz o pracach Erika Olina Wrighta?

Jestem bardzo rozczarowany jego książką Envisioning Real Utopias (2010), ponieważ podejście w niej zawarte reprezentuje dla mnie „metodologiczny kreacjonizm”. Jeżeli marksizm był istotnym elementem tradycji intelektualnej, to ze względu na zrozumienie historycznych i dynamicznych procesów. Ma to swoje konsekwencje polityczne, w tym sensie, że można powiedzieć: ok, znajdujemy się w takiej sytuacji historycznej z określonym układem sił i mamy dwie, trzy, cztery, pięć możliwych dróg do wyboru. To rodzaj perspektywy darwinistycznej, w najlepszym znaczeniu tego terminu – zrozumienie, że nasze działania zależne są od wcześniej obranej ścieżki. A ci ludzie myślą jak kreacjoniści: mamy taką cudowną ideę dochodu podstawowego i sprawiedliwego społeczeństwa, tworzymy wspaniałą utopię z uwagi na jakieś moralne powody i uznajemy, że należy do niej dążyć bez względu na materialne, społeczne, polityczne i instytucjonalne warunki, jakie zastaliśmy. Amerykański lewicowy krytyk Russell Jacobi rozprawił się z tą książką Wrighta z perspektywy historycznej (Jacobi 2011).

Inni marksiści, marksiści autonomistyczni, bronią dochodu podstawowego, jednocześnie atakując wcześniej wymienionych autorów za oderwanie od obecnego, historycznego stanu rozwoju kapitalizmu. Jak oceniasz to podejście?

Mam o nim bardzo złą opinię. Dla mnie to marksizm spekulatywny. Uznaję Van Parijsa i Wrighta za późnych filozofów scholastycznych w rodzaju Francisco Suareza z XVI i XVII wieku, którzy przynajmniej dysponują aparatem analitycznym i pojęciowym, który jest ścisły i precyzyjny. Jednak Negri jest tak spekulatywny jak oni, ale nie posiada tego aparatu. To niemal przypomina „wszystko ujdzie”. Książki Negriego i Hardta pozbawione są niemal faktów, statystyk, to zła filozofia. Marks powiedział kiedyś o Feuerbachu, że jest ahistoryczny, gdy jest materialistą, a niematerialistyczny, gdy uwzględnia historyczność – to twierdzenie jest prawdziwe również w stosunku do Negriego. Gdy jest historyczny, mówi o kapitalizmie kognitywnym bez zrozumienia rzeczywistych dynamicznych sił kapitalizmu. To neoheglowska filozofia z nieprawego łoża. Spotkałem Negriego w latach siedemdziesiątych we Włoszech i mam bardzo złe zdanie nie tylko o jego filozofii, ale również o jego stanowisku politycznym. Socjalizm jest również realną historią klasy robotniczej ze związkami zawodowymi, partiami robotników itd. Możesz myśleć, co chcesz o związkach, możesz powiedzieć, że partie socjaldemokratyczne były strasznie reformistyczne, ale to te instytucje stanowiły konkretne, historyczne, rzeczywiste krystalizacje ruchu robotniczego. Negri wywodzi się z włoskiego ruchu katolickiego, zawsze był myślicielem antykomunistycznym i antysyndykalistycznym. Zawsze przeciwstawiał się realnym, konkretnym instytucjonalizacjom ruchu robotniczego, Partii Komunistycznej, Włoskiej Partii Socjalistycznej Pietro Nenniego, CGIL (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro – Włoska Powszechna Konfederacja Pracy). Pasolini powiedział kiedyś o poglądach Negriego: to katolicka utopia burżuazyjnego komunizmu (Pasolini 1973). Moim zdaniem to właściwe określenie.

Jak zatem proponujesz przekonać te rzeczywiste instytucje ruchu robotniczego, tj. związki zawodowe, do zrozumienia dynamiki historycznej, porzucenia żądań powrotu do epoki fordyzmu i zrobienia kroku naprzód, tj. podjęcia walki o powszechny dochód podstawowy?

To faktycznie bardzo trudne. Rozmawiałem z liderami związkowymi i trzymają się oni klasycznej wizji państwa opiekuńczego. Zaczynają jednak rozumieć, że to stary świat, który już nie wróci. Możesz starać się ich przekonać do otwarcia swoich umysłów na rozwiązania takiej jak dochód podstawowy, jednak byłoby to nie lada wyzwanie. W rzeczywistości większość dużych związków zawodowych została całkowicie pokonana. Muszą pojąć, że znajdujemy się na takim historycznym etapie rozwoju Unii Europejskiej i Stanów Zjednoczonych, na którym muszą radykalnie zmienić zdanie.

Francuskie, brytyjskie czy niemieckie związki mogą nawiązywać do „złotego wieku kapitalizmu” z lat pięćdziesiątych i sześćdziesiątych, ale hiszpańskie związki zawodowe nie mogą tego uczynić, bo nie doświadczyły nigdy żadnego „złotego wieku”. Do 1975 roku panował faszystowski, frankistowski reżim, w którym nie było wolności zrzeszania się, a związki zawodowe były kontrolowane przez rząd bądź nielegalne. Czy to specyficzne uwarunkowanie historyczne czyni hiszpańskie związki bardziej otwartymi na nowe propozycje polityczne?

Wręcz przeciwnie. Żeby zrozumieć hiszpańską transformację w kierunku monarchii parlamentarnej, trzeba wziąć pod uwagę, że celem antyfaszystowskiej restauracji było stanie się zreformowanym systemem kapitalistycznym zachodniej Europy, państwem dobrobytu i demokratycznym państwem prawa. Jeżeli spojrzysz na hiszpańską konstytucję z 1978 roku, zobaczysz, że została zainspirowana przez niemiecką konstytucję z roku 1949. Jednak hiszpańska transformacja zdarzyła się w momencie całkowitej przemiany kapitalistycznego państwa opiekuńczego. W Hiszpanii państwo opiekuńcze nigdy nie rozwinęło się tak, jak te w krajach Europy Zachodniej. Hiszpańskie związki zawodowe nigdy nie miały sposobności stać się wielkimi organizacjami, jak te w Niemczech czy we Włoszech, nie wspominając nawet o Szwecji. Poziom uzwiązkowienia był tutaj zawsze niższy niż ten notowany w tych krajach. Hiszpańskie związki stały się organizacjami pomocy socjalnej i w znacznym stopniu popadły w korupcję. Hiszpański kapitalizm po frankizmie rozwinął bardzo szczególną formę gospodarki – skorumpowaną ekonomię polityczną, wchłaniając i przeciągając na swoją stronę formacje lewicowe i związkowców. Ludzie to widzą i stanowi to jeden z powodów, dla których związki są tutaj zdyskredytowane i słabe. Istnieje w tym kontekście wiele podobieństw do polskiej neoliberalnej transformacji, choć nasza nie była tak radykalna jak w waszym przypadku.

Antoni Domènech (ur. 1952 r.) filozof hiszpański, profesor metodologii nauk społecznych na Wydziale Ekonomii i Biznesu Uniwersytetu Barcelońskiego. Tłumacz. Autor El eclipse de la fraternidad. Una revisión republicana de la tradición socialista (Crítica, 2004) [Zmierzch braterstwa. Republikański przegląd tradycji socjalistycznej]. Redaktor czasopisma Sin Permiso.

Wykaz literatury

Jacobi, Russell. 2011. „Real Men Find Real UtopiasDissent.

Marks, Karol. 1968a. Instrukcje dla delegatów Tymczasowej Rady Centralnej w poszczególnych sprawach. W Karol Marks i Fryderyk Engels. Dzieła, t. 16. Warszawa: Książka i Wiedza.

Marks, Karol. 1968b. Kapitał. Krytyka ekonomii politycznej, t. 1. W Karol Marks i Fryderyk Engels, Dzieła, t. 23. Warszawa: Książka i Wiedza.

Paine, Thomas. 1797. Agrarian Justice.

Pasolini, Pier Paolo. 1973. „La prima, vera rivoluzione di destra.” Il Tempo, 15 czerwca.

Pocock, John G.A. 1975. The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition. Princeton–Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Van der Veen, Robert i Philippe Van Parijs. 1986. „A Capitalist Road to Communism.” Theory and Society 15(5): 635–655.

Wood, Neal. 1988. Cicero’s Social and Political Thought. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Wright, Erik O. 2010. Envisioning Real Utopias. London–New York: Verso.


Oryginalna, angielska wersja wywiadu dostępna jest tutaj.


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Przeprowadzający wywiad uzyskał środki finansowe na przygotowanie rozprawy doktorskiej z Narodowego Centrum Nauki w ramach finansowania stypendium doktorskiego na podstawie decyzji nr DEC-2015/16/T/HS1/00295

  1. Centralizacja środków produkcji i uspołecznienie pracy dochodzą do punktu, gdy już się nie mieszczą w swej kapitalistycznej skorupie. Skorupa zostaje rozsadzona. Wybija godzina kapitalistycznej własności prywatnej. Wywłaszczyciele zostają wywłaszczeni” (Marks 1968b, 905). []