GUEST BLOG: Comrade Dave Brownz – UBI distraction from capitalist reality



Not until bosses give back their profits to the generations of workers they stole them from will any redistribution of income be more than a subsidy to the bosses. Notice how all the discussion around the fashionable UBI is limited to what the bosses can afford to pay. This is magical thinking. No way will capitalist corporations and banks agree to pay for full employment and a living wage. Both have to be sacrificed in the impending global crash to restore the rate of profit.

This magical thinking has always been the fatal flaw of social democracy – the illusion that there is a peaceful, gradual road to socialism by means of bosses agreeing to ‘fair shares’ in the distribution of income. To question this assumption is to risk exposing the real truth of capitalism; that all income originates from the labour power of productive workers. If that truth was our starting point the question would be: why does capital have the right to exist and define the terms of debate around how wages are determined when it lives off the expropriation of surplus-value?

In this light it’s easy to see that the UBI is another big con to divert the class struggle away from fighting for control of jobs and a living wage in the workplace and into the dead end of parliament. If unions are too weak to win a living wage now they won’t be able to force a living UBI out of the parliamentary talkshop. Parliamentary reforms that benefit workers are concessions won from the bosses only when they fear being over-run by militant labour.

The reason the UBI has been dragged off the top shelf as a ‘reasonable’ demand by academic liberals, social democrats and union bosses is because the bosses are scared a global economic crash will spark rising worker opposition to paying for the bosses crisis and threaten the fragile hold the ruling class has over the ‘dangerous’ class – the international proletariat.

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The parties of the ‘left’ (Labour, Greens and Mana) are all run by a clique of pro-capitalist bureaucrats whose pay rests on the legal fiction that they represent the interests of the working class. This means that these parties are internally divided between a worker base and the bureaucratic leadership. This internal class division widens as such parties are torn between two class programs – to serve the top 10% and their lackeys, or the bottom 90% expected to pay for the crisis with their lives and livelihoods.

A new mass workers party is needed arising out of a split between the working class supporters of these parties and their union affiliates and the rotten labour bureaucracy that act to tie their worker organisations to the bosses state machine. Strong fighting, democratic unions that throw out their pro-capitalist leaders are the only way to claw back the surplus expropriated from workers and build a power base capable of taking on the ruling class and implementing a Transitional Program (TP) that takes workers all the way to socialism.

The TP puts up immediate economic demands that all workers need and are willing and able to fight for such as Jobs for all! A living wage! Solve unemployment by sharing work hours without loss of pay! These are immediate demands but they are also ‘transitional’ because they cannot be won without workers control of work. So rather than waiting passively for a Government cargo cult that will drop a living UBI from the sky even while an economic crash looms and global warming escalates exponentially, fighting democratic unions will defend every job with strikes and occupations against their employers. Because such struggles threaten the bosses’ control of work they will be met with inevitable state repression which will in turn force workers to develop new organisations and tactics to advance the defence of their class.

Inevitably employers backed by the state will try to deny workers defence of economic rights to work and a living wage by using the state forces to close down on freedom of expression, assembly, strike etc. When bosses use the labor laws to call in the cops the workers response is to break the law with occupations defended by picket lines. Furthermore, strike action to win in any worksite has to be generalised to involve all militant workers in struggle in every sector of the economy. In that way workplace committees, strike committees and workers defence guards, become coordinated locally, nationally and internationally.

Building unity around these demands and the organisations they throw up empowers workers to take another big step and organise a political general strike aimed at defeating the employers and their state machine and imposing workers ownership and control of the means of production. Thus the Transitional Program begins with immediate economic and political demands and leads necessarily to workers empowering themselves to the point where they can overthrow of the capitalist state and create a Workers’ Government able to implement a planned socialist economy – where the myth of the capitalist UBI is a dim memory for those whose social equity is based on the principle: “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need”.


  1. Good blog there Dave,

    That is why the egalitarian system was devised during the mid 1950’s to give the masses an even distribution of our common wealth so everyone has money to spend on consumer goods other than essentials so these “captains of industry” need to wake up and return to egalitarianism before we do crash again.

    If we don’t we will all suffer the worst economic crash/depression we have seen to date.

    • The Captains of industry are wide awake.
      The do not control events but they try to stay on top of them.

      Thus the ‘egalitarianism’ of the ’50s was not planned it was based on the short boom created by the massive defeat of workers by more than a decade of depression and world war.

      This time round the global depression and war will be totally destructive and global warming removes the basis for a boom that workers can momentarily share.

      The bosses know they are doomed without the state to pacify workers by economic, political and military repression.

      Therefore our answer to the bosses terminal crisis has to be to remove the source of the problem – the capitalists – and sort out the problem ourselves.

    • Why? The entire economy is based on moving resources and money from every conceivable area to further inflate the property bubble.

  2. Why couldn’t a UBI or social wage be a transitional demand? I mean a demand articulated by the working class including those who are currently jobless . This includes single parents and the disabled for whom the demand for full employment is not sufficient; they need living incomes without being required to be employed. Such a demand can be backed by workers taking control of their workplaces, but why shouldn’t workers do this?

    • It’s not a transitional demand because it does not activate workers to fight on the basis of building an independent movement against the employers and the state.

      It is the opposite of transitional because it traps workers as individuals in the mentality that the bosses state can be neutral and resolve class struggle by means of parliamentary reforms when history proves this is delusional. It demobilises us and weakens our ability to challenge the ruling class.

      ‘Transitional’ means workers developing our capacity to struggle for basic needs such as jobs for all (who want to work) on a living wage that cannot be met by capitalism, and go all the way “across the bridge”, as Trotsky called it, to take power and build socialism.

      Only then will the basic needs of all be met by sharing work among all those who want to work, where work is redefined as socially useful work, on the basis as I said of “from each according to ability, to each according to need”.

  3. theory and practice on specific reforms as well as “reformism” as an ideology has long been the bane of class strugglers the world over

    grants from the bourgeois state are unlikely to be refused by many in need of material assistance on principled grounds–“no thanks you can stick your paid parental leave because it impedes the class struggle”; another snag with gains made via parliamentary means is that they will always be rolled back eventually and have to be re-fought for

    UBI does hint at the ‘new society’ in some form though, where work will be what is useful and necessary rather than wealth generation for the corporate owners and in NZ particularly, petit bourgeois SME operators

    social democrat tops considering a UBI probably see it as another pressure relief valve to put off the day when a majority of people do see a change in class power as necessary

  4. I normally don’t agree with you Dave but you have nailed it: UBI is a fine idea BUT as you say a distraction from the real issue of ownership. Its a fine idea to give everybody a living wage, but that is what we would all get anyway in a socialized system. Any UBI is merely a sop to capital, maybe it is best seen as the latest version of the Keynesian accord of paying workers well to stop them revolting whilst priming the market. That was for that time and saved capitalism, the real question is whether we want to save capitalism from itself again? I would go a step further and declare the fossil fueled industrial experiment delinquent, which subtly changes the question to what we do next to provide for all on the downhill slope?

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