FRANCE: Basic income in the heart of French citizens’ awakening
Sunday #41 March (April 10th), place de la République in Paris. Hundreds of people were present to discuss the basic income and other topics related to employment. The French Movement for Basic Income attended the meeting thanks to the invitation of the #NuitDebout movement. This citizens’ movement was created following demonstrations against the proposed French labour reforms and has since organized several popular gatherings in Paris as well as in dozens of towns in France and abroad.
Employment, housing, refugees, feminism, participatory democracy, constitution. Many subjects, concerns and values were discussed every day at the Place de la République since March 31. These discussions demonstrated the real concerns of citizens without the filter of the media. With the revelations from the Panama Papers, public institutions, particularly political parties, do not seem to inspire much confidence.
On this #41 March (lets accept this new calendar!) two dozens of MFRB members from all over France have met on the Place de la République to take part on the first day of the convergence of struggles. The atmosphere was rather cordial. Questions and answers were exchanged with passers-by all day long. A conference was held with the MFRB, the Réseau Salariat network and the Economist and basic income supporter Baptiste Mylondo.
Workshops, co-facilitated by members of the MFRB and the network Réseau salariat, have enabled hundreds of people to discuss the basic income, living wage and on matters related to work as well as education, equal opportunities, free time, and many other topics. By late afternoon, a debate enabled participants to better understand these topics.
At the beginning of the afternoon, Nicole Teke, international coordinator of the MFRB, introduced the conference presenting the French Movement for a Basic Income, the notion of basic income and how the idea is currently progressing in France, Europe and the world. Past experiments in Brazil, Namibia and India were also presented, the results of which in terms of health, schooling, women’s emancipation and economic recovery are very convincing.
Benoît Boritz, member of the CGT trade-union (General Confederation of Labour), journalist and author of the book Coopératives contre capitalism (“Cooperatives against capitalism”) has presented examples of companies that are self-managed by their employees in forms of cooperatives (SCOP). This form of organisation has been gaining ground since 2010, as a number of companies have chosen it for its greater capacity to ability adapt to an evolving economy. The SCOP often aims at integrating ecological issues in their production and daily operations. Since 2013 the SCOPs’ number has grown considerably, and today they employ about 51,000 workers.
Following this, Baptiste Mylondo, member of Utopia and teacher in economy and political philosophy presented his counterproposal to the labour reforms, in five articles:
Article 1: Recognize everyone’s work by giving everyone the status of producers and contributors, whether one is unemployed or employed, active or considered inactive.
Article 2: Free work from the constraint of employment. “We all work every day as volunteers in a large organisation called society” said Baptiste Mylondo.
Article 3: Establish a sufficient citizen’s income to a level equivalent to the poverty line calculated at 60% of median income, i.e. 1,000€.
Article 4: Set up a cooperative working model to free us from the grip of capitalism and exploitation.
Article 5: Free our lives of work’s temporal control by a reduction of working time and the creation of an unconditional right to chosen part-time work.
In conclusion, Baptiste Mylondo specified his thoughts and suggested what could be the first reform to be associated with the introduction of a basic income:
“I speak about a sufficient income, not a minimum income. About a space of acceptable inequalities. To escape poverty and exploitation, to create a society where everyone can participate in democratic life. I am in favor of a ratio of 1: 4 between the lowest income and the highest one.”
Finally, Stéphane Simard, member of the network Réseau Salariat, presented the living wage project – different from basic income, even though some similarities can be noticed. Starting from 18 years old, this life-long living wage is based primarily on the evolution of labour in the twentieth century, mainly through the creation of the general scheme of Social Security in 1945. The amount could increase by validation of qualifications – in regard to the individual’s contribution to the society in the previous years. This living wage would be financed through an overhaul of the contributions’ system. Each company would contribute with 60% of its added value to the salary fund, meaning the same 1250 billion now paid for salaries, and another part would be paid into an investments office that would be dedicated to financing projects as an alternative to bank loans.
Convergence of struggles
Dissociation of labour and income, the need to change subordination to work, the willingness to recognize everyone’s contribution to the common good, the recognition of social utility, the interest to the SCOP initiatives… The convergence of struggles supported by the #NuitDebout from the very beginning of the movement has definitely enabled basic income to take a prominent place in the public debate.
To see the photos of the event: https://www.flickr.com/photos/revenudebase/
Collectively written by the MFRB – translated by Celine Le Carpentier