The European Commons Assembly: a brief report

Hundreds of people gathered last week in Brussels (15-17 november) for a very first ‘assembly of the commons’. No doubt about it: this was a success and the meeting on the 16th in the European Parliament was very interesting.

I attended only two meetings: the first one on the evening of the 15th was a discussion with representatives of DiEM25, the European movement initiated by Yannis Varoufakis. The second one was the formal gathering in  the European Parliament for a discussion with the existing ‘intergroup’ of the commons (with members of different political groups).

Though very different in nature I was mostly surprised by the very high quality of all discussions. Continue…

(Un?) socializing the European Union: a history of some ups and many downs

‘Social Europe’ has followed a very bumpy road since the inception of the European Community. This is not only a consequence of the lack of competences at the European level, or the lack of ‘political will’ at the level of Heads of State and Governments, but also and mainly of the ideological tendencies that have permeated all policies for the past six decades.

Since the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, most social movements in Europe have been demanding a ‘social and democratic’ Europe. However, never has it been clarified what this could or should mean. Even today, there are no clear demands on what precisely the European Union should do or not do. This article is meant to shed some light on the past, the present and the possible future of ‘social Europe’.[1] Continue…

Questions for the commons movement (including myself)

I guess I am not alone in finding the commons literature highly confusing. And I guess it is normal that in a new field of research and practice many debates concern definitions and an attempt to streamline the great diversity of practices. The concepts of common, commons, common goods and the common good are still awaiting a clear demarcation, but this is only one of the many problems I see, and it is not the most difficult one.


Commons and re-production

Production is not possible without re-production, we all agree on this obvious truth.

The emerging commons movement however has been focusing largely on production, whether it be material or immaterial, and much less on re-production. In a commons approach, this production is looked at from the vantage point of capital control/ownership and self-determination/autonomy of workers. These two points automatically lead to the question of re-production: what about the status of workers and their labour rights in P2P, cooperatives or social and solidarity economy contexts? How to avoid exploitation and self-exploitation of workers? How to protect the health and safety of workers and their families? Or simply put, how to protect the livelihoods of people? Continue…

Universal Basic Income is a neoliberal plot to make you poorer

Basic Income is often promoted as an idea that will solve inequality and make people less dependent on capitalist employment. However, it will instead aggravate inequality and reduce social programs that benefit the majority of people.
 At its Winnipeg 2016 Biennial Convention, the Canadian Liberal Party passed a resolution in support of “Basic Income.” The resolution, called “Poverty Reduction: Minimum Income,” contains the following rationale: “The ever growing gap between the wealthy and the poor in Canada will lead to social unrest, increased crime rates and violence… Savings in health, justice, education and social welfare as well as the building of self-reliant, taxpaying citizens more than offset the investment.”
(by Dmytri Kleiner)


Preliminary Report on UBI Experiment in Finland

This report confirms what was said in the previous post: it is far far from simple to introduce a basic income scheme. While the report is mainly on the questions concerning the experiment itself, it already concludes that a ‘full’ basic income will be too expensive and that certain social security elements will have to be maintained, even if taxes will be high. Also, the question on who benefits and who does not leads to surprising results! Another dificult point is how to make the system compatible with EU law.

Read the report:


Our main problem: the dismantlement of economic and social rights

Acceptance speech of Francine Mestrum at the ceremony of the ‘Jaap Kruithof Award’ in Ghent, 21 July 2016

Thank you very much for this wonderful award.

Its topic allows me to tell you something about solidarity, social protection and basic income. I want to be extremely clear.

First, poverty is a problem of income deficit. Poor people need to receive, without too many conditions, a serious allowance in order to be able to live a life in dignity. This is a matter of human rights. It means that our social assistance systems will have to be reformed, that rights have to be individualized, that humiliating controls have to be abolished, that allowances have to be at least at the level of the poverty line. That this still did not happen in a rich country such as Belgium is a real shame.

However, it is also a shame that at the same time some people are campaigning to give such an allowance to people who are not poor and even to the wealthy. They campaign for a universal basic income. It is something I cannot understand, probably because my priorities are different from theirs. Giving poor people an allowance equal to the poverty line hardly costs a couple of billion Euros; it is perfectly possible, right now. Giving one thousand euros to all people in Belgium will cost more than one hundred euros. This is far more difficult. Trying to promote such a ‘solution’ is a smokescreen in order to hide the real problems of our society. I cannot agree. Continue…

Social Justice: social protection for all, decent work, essential services, tax justice and other egalitarian alternatives to debt and austerity measures

Background note to the Asia Europe People’s Forum 11, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 4-6 July

At the level of people, the system does not work’ (J. Stiglitz)

Common challenges

When I started my research on poverty some twenty years ago, more particularly on the international poverty discourse of international organisations, I soon found out that this new focus in development had nothing to do with poverty, poor people or, for that matter, development. Ten years after the introduction of neoliberal structural adjustment programmes, it was mainly meant as a legitimation of these policies. Indeed, not only were there no worldwide poverty statistics, but the World Bank, who was the main proponent of this poverty approach, did not propose any change in its policies. From that moment onwards, 1990, neoliberalism was ‘sold’ in the name of poverty reduction. Continue…