GUARANTEED BASIC INCOME
A proposed method of trying to keep capitalism from self-destructing by granting every adult a state-funded guaranteed minimum income even if there are no jobs for them.
There are today constant technical advances and a continuous growth of labor productivity. And with the elimination of more and more jobs—not only in manufacturing, but with the development of more sophisticated computers and artificial intelligence—also clerical jobs and even “knowledge work” too, it is now possible to produce all the goods and services for which there is a profitable market with fewer and fewer workers. Thus the further continuation of capitalism is in growing conflict with the welfare and livelihood of more and more people. The scheme of implementing a guaranteed basic income is put forward as a means of pacifying the expanding numbers of the unemployed masses and, in accordance with liberal sensibilities, at least keeping them from starving to death.
There are lots of difficulties for the capitalist ruling class in actually attempting to implement any program of guaranteed minimum incomes, however. If one country implements such a plan and others do not, then the economy of the “liberal” country will be at a serious economic disadvantage compared with the more dog-eat-dog capitalist state. (This is the same sort of competition for profits that keeps any individual corporation from paying its workers significantly above the going wage rates. Capitalism is always a “race to the bottom” as far as the pay, benefits and welfare of the working class is concerned.) Moreover, it is to the economic advantage of the capitalists to have a mass of desperate unemployed workers around. As one 19th century capitalist (Samuel Insull) put it, “My experience is that the greatest aid to the efficiency of labor is a long line of men waiting at the gate.”
There are now, however, a few beginning experiments with a guaranteed basic income, including a small-scale trial (of just 5,000 people) in Finland. There is also growing discussion of the idea all around the world, including in relatively poor countries like India. It is perhaps true that a growing number of countries will be forced to try such schemes as the world capitalist economic crisis further worsens. But it is virtually certain that these programs—even if they are actually implemented on a wide scale—will be more hype than reality, and will be pathetically inadequate. Moreover, it is very wrong for Marxists to promote such schemes, as the first quotation below brings out. A social program focused on promoting a guaranteed basic income in effect acquiesces in the lumpenproletarianization of the working class.
[In response to growing fears about automation and the elimination of
jobs during the 1960s, and the popular liberal document of those times in reaction to
this, known as “The Triple Revolution”:]
“It is against this background that one must evaluate the central proposal of ‘The Triple Revolution,’ that society should guarantee to all an adequate income regardless of whether they work or not. The authors see this guaranteed income as taking the place of what they call the patchwork of welfare measures designed to ensure that no one shall actually starve, and they believe that its enactment will inaugurate an era of social and moral regeneration. If the proposal is addressed to the oligarchy which now controls the surplus out of which these guaranteed incomes would have to be paid, its acceptance, we fear, would have a different meaning and different consequences. It would be a streamlining of the present patchwork of welfare measures, not a replacement of them. And far from inaugurating an era of regeneration, it would merely tend to dull the sense of anger and outrage which is the natural human reaction to a society as corrupt and shameful as ours, and which we can at least hope is the harbinger of a genuinely revolutionary movement to come.
“Our conclusion can only be that the idea of unconditionally guaranteed incomes is not the great revolutionary principle which the authors of ‘The Triple Revolution’ evidently believe it to be. If applied under our present system, it would be, like religion, an opiate of the people tending to strengthen the status quo. And under a socialist system, as we argued above, it would be quite unnecessary and might do more harm than good.”
—The Editors [Paul Sweezy & Leo Huberman], “The Triple Revolution”, Monthly Review, November 1964, p. 422.
“The idea of the basic income was first posited by those on the left in the 1960s as a response to an initial automation scare, and this led to a lively debate. It was regarded skeptically by those who saw it as no solution at all, but merely a way for the wealthy to bribe the bulk of the population so they could keep their system and their privileges. At the heart of many basic-income proposals is a calculus that says that once people get their annual check sent to them by a government, that is the end of any services they get from that government. If they want healthcare or transit, or quality education, they have to go buy it in the marketplace, like they would a hamburger or a pair of shoes. In this scenario, all public services would be privatized. The grand irony of ‘basic income’ thinking along these lines is that it leads to the precise opposite of where John Stuart Mill and John Maynard Keynes wanted to end up. Instead of reducing commercialism and the market in a post-scarcity world, it elevates commercialism and the market so that everything is for sale. Hardly a recipe for human happiness. And economist Tyler Cowen makes the astute point that even if this looks like a terrific deal for society’s millionaires, it is almost certain they will resist paying taxes to sustain those they regard as deadbeats and freeloaders. Then there develops a massive popular struggle to win and maintain the basic income. If people are going to organize a gigantic battle, they ought to fight for more than this. They ought to fight for a world where their concerns are central, and not struggle to be extras in a world of, by, and for the rich.” —Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy (2016), p. 250. [We are impressed that even the more sophisticated social-democrats such as these authors see how deeply mistaken (and bourgeois!) it would be to build a political program for the “left” based on the demand for a guaranteed minimum income! —Ed.]
[To be added... ]
See also: ARBENZ GUZMÁN, Jacobo
GUESDE, Jules (1845-1922)
One of the founders and leaders of the Socialist Party of France and of the Second International. Before World War I he led the the Left wing of the Socialist Party, but at the beginning of the war he entered the French bourgeois government. (See also GUESDISTS below.)
The Left socialists in France during the period before World War I.
“Guesdists—followers of Jules Guesde and Paul Lafargue. They constituted a Left Marxist trend that stood for the independent revolutionary politics of the French proletariat. They retained the name of Workers’ Party of France and remained true to the Havre Party Programme adopted in 1880, the theoretical part of which was written by Marx. They had considerable influence in French industrial centers and united the progressive elements of the French working class. In 1901 the Guesdists founded the Socialist Party of France.” —Note 46, Lenin: SW I (1967).
GUEVARA, Ernesto “Che” (1928-67)
Famous Argentinian Marxist revolutionary who played an important role in the Cuban Revolution, and through a firm internationalist perspective attempted to help promote revolutions throughout the world. While in many respects a great and appropriately honored revolutionary, some of his political views and theories were seriously wrong, and even led to disaster both for others and himself. (See: FOCO THEORY.)
In 1951 Che took a year off from his medical studies and travelled around South America on a motorcycle. He later wrote up his experiences in his Motorcycle Diaries, eventually made into a well-known and excellent film. Che was transformed by the horrible poverty and conditions of the people that he saw on this trip, and soon came to understand that the great inequalities of wealth in Latin America were due to the domination of capitalism, neocolonialism and imperialism. He graduated with a medical degree from the University of Buenos Aires in 1953.
Che participated in the social reform program of the government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in Guatemala, and the 1954 CIA-organized overthrow of that democratically elected government further radicalized him.
Che met Fidel Castro in Mexico and joined his 26th of July Movement. He was with Castro in December 1956 when they “invaded” Cuba and then set up guerrilla operations in the Sierra Maestra mountains. Che played an important leading role in the two years of low-level guerrilla warfare in Cuba. This guerrilla warfare was one of the factors that led to the collapse of the Batista dictatorship around January 1, 1959.
Che also played an important role in the first years of the Cuban revolutionary government. He served at various times as Minister of Industry, president of the national bank, and a high-level Cuban diplomat. He played an important role in agreeing to bring Soviet nuclear-armed missiles to Cuba, about which President John F. Kennedy and U.S. imperialism came very close to starting a nuclear world war.
While Castro tended to lean toward Soviet revisionist ideology (as well as toward the Soviet Union for economic support and military protection), Che was more ambivalent and on a few questions took a position closer to that of Maoism. Che always firmly upheld the need for revolutionary armed struggle, though it seems he did not fully appreciate the importance of the peasantry in Third World countries. However, for him moral incentives under socialism were much more important than material incentives. He argued that it was necessary to work toward forging a new political consciousness, or toward creating a “new man”, as a means of promoting socialist production, whereas revisionists typically argue that production must be hugely expanded first before any progress toward creating a “new man” can be achieved (or even be seriously attempted).
Perhaps partly because of the intensifying Sino-Soviet split and Castro’s siding with the revisionists, Che gradually became more and more disatisfied with his role in the Cuban government. Finally, in 1965 he resigned from all roles in that government and first headed off to the Congo (Kinshasa) in Africa to participate in revolutionary guerrilla warfare there. After that failed, he headed to South America, and made another attempt at his foco strategy in Bolivia. This failed even more disastrously. In 1967 Che was captured by the Bolivian Army (with the help of the CIA), and was then secretly tortured and executed. It was the sad end to the life of a sincere and dedicated revolutionary.
But even in death, Che Guevara still serves the world revolution as an honored and respected martyr. He is perhaps as famous and influential today as he has been at any time since the late 1960s.
See also the important 1985 essay, “Guevara, Debray, and Armed Revisionism”, by Lenny Wolff, at http://www.bannedthought.net/Cuba-Che/Guevara/Guevara-Debray-Wolff.pdf for a strongly critical appraisal of Che, Régis Debray, and focoism.
GUILD SOCIALISM [Britain]
“Guild socialists—a reformist trend in the British trade
unions, which arose before the First World War. They denied the class character of
the state and sowed illusions among the workers that it was possible to get rid of
exploitation without the class struggle, by establishing, on the basis of the
existing trade unions, special associations of producers, so-called guilds whose
federation was to take over industrial manaagement. In this way the guild socialists
hoped to build socialism.
“After the October Socialist Revolution the guild socialists stepped up their propaganda, contraposing the ‘theory’ of guild socialism to the ideas of the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the 1920s guild socialism lost all its influence on the British workers.” —Note 79, LCW 31.
See: DEFEATING AN ENEMY WITHOUT FIGHTING A BATTLE
GUN BOAT DIPLOMACY
The use of military might in the realm of diplomacy and state-to-state relations to intimidate adversaries and rivals, while not engaging in actual combat between the antagonists. The name derives from the British practice, during the height of their imperial hegemony, of parking large boats mounted with cannons near the coast of China to threaten and cajole the royal family into allowing the British more leverage in their trade. Today, gun boat diplomacy is used by the major imperial powers. The US, during the administration of George W. Bush, constantly rotated aircraft carrier battle groups in and out of the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz to maintain psychological pressure on the leaders of Iran. The Chinese and the Japanese have engaged in various naval exercises in the Pacific as a way of demonstrating their resolve over disputed maritime borders and resources, while the United States has beefed up its military presence in the region as a way of containing China. The United States has also recently sailed warships off the west coast of Latin America and set up more military bases in Colombia to send a warning to the populist nationalist governments of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagaski were brutal displays of gun boat diplomacy intended to send a clear signal to the then-socialist Soviet Union about the willingness of American imperialism to murder and destroy anything that got in its way.
Gun boat diplomacy can also take the form of sales of military equipment to neighbouring states and the establishment of new military outposts and equipment in the particular region in question. —L.C.
See also: MILITARISM
GUOMINDANG (GMD) [Old Style: KUOMINTANG (KMT)]
The Nationalist Party in China. It was organized in 1912 by Sun Yat-sen and became a major bourgeois nationalist political force in China. After Sun Yat-sen died, Chiang Kai-shek became its dominant leader in 1928, and after that the Party took on more and more of a comprador and big bureaucrat capitalist character. The GMD, in control of the government of China, waged war against the Communist Party of China for decades and was defeated and expelled from the mainland in 1949. For decades after that it still retained power in Taiwan.
“The Kuomintang of China was originally a democratic political
party of the bourgeoisie founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen.
“Dr. Sun organized the Tung Meng Hui (the Chinese Revolutionary League) in 1905 and became its president. Under the leadership of the Tung Meng Hui, the Revolution of 1911 succeeded in overthrowing the government of the Ching Dynasty and the monarchy in China and setting up the Provisional Government of the Republic of China in Nanking with Dr. Sun Yat-sen as the Provisional President.
“Shortly afterwards, a split took place within the Tung Meng Hui and the bourgeoisie made a compromise with the feudal forces. As a result, state power fell into the hands of the northern warlord Yuan Shih-kai and the revolution failed. In 1912, the Tung Meng Hui and other smaller parties reorganized themselves into the Kuomintang which actually became a clique made up mainly of bureaucrats and politicians.
“Dr. Sun Yat-sen, however, continued to press ahead with the bourgeois-democratic revolution and started an anti-Yuan campaign in 1913, but without success. The following year when he was in Japan, he assembled part of the Kuomintang members to form the Chinese Revolutionary Party which was reorganized into the Kuomintang of China after the May 4th Movement in 1919.
“The Kuomintang issued a manifesto on its reorganization in November 1923 and held its First National Congress in January 1924. It accepted the Chinese Communist Party’s political stand for opposing imperialism and feudalism and put into practice the Three Great Policies of alliance with Russia, co-operation with the Communist Party and assistance to the peasants and workers. Thus the old Three People’s Principles developed into the new Three People’s Principles and the first co-operation between the Communist Party and the Kuomintang was effected. At that time, the Kuomintang was revolutionary.
“After the death of Dr. Sun Yat-sen on March 12, 1925, the Northern Expedition took place between 1926 and 1927. From April through July 1927, Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Ching-wei successively staged counter-revolutionary coups d’etat in opposition to communism and the people and in betrayal of Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionary stand. From that time on, the Kuomintang collaborated with imperialism and feudalism in opposing the masses of the people and became a reactionary clique of the landlords and big bourgeoisie. In the ten-year period between 1927 and 1937, Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang fought an anti-communist and anti-popular civil war, and there were endless wars among the various groups of Kuomintang warlords. All this encouraged the Japanese imperialists to invade China.
“Following the outbreak of the War of Resistance Against Japan in 1937, the Communist Party and the Kuomintang co-operated for a second time, thanks to the former’s policy of forming the Anti-Japanese National United Front and pressure from the people of the whole country. However, after the fall of the important city of Wuhan in central China in October 1938, Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang switched over to a policy of passive resistance to Japan and active opposition to the Communists.
“Immediately after the victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan in 1945, Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang, backed by U.S. imperialism, launched a full-scale anti-popular civil war which continued until its total defeat by the Chinese people in 1949. Thus the Kuomintang reactionary rule on the Chinese mainland was toppled and its remnant forces fled to Taiwan Province.
“The patriotic democrats who broke away from the Kuomintang were against Chiang Kai-shek’s policy of national betrayal and dictatorial rule; they supported the Chinese Communist Party’s political stand against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism. So they organized the Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang in 1948 which has since become one of the democratic parties in China.” —Note in Peking Review, #1, Jan. 6, 1978, p. 21.
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