Written by Antonio Brizioli
Translated in english by Nadia Pasanisi
While Italy was celebrating the Labour Day the 1st of May with the usual cocktail of dreary rethoric, from beyond the Alps came a piece of news that could rekindle the hopes of anyone who aspires to a world in which freedom is more than a slogan.
In Zurig, a city that evidently has a privileged relationship with innovation, as it was in 1918 Dada’s birthplace, hundreds of robots demonstrated for the basic income. Not a citizen’s income, but a basic income, that is to say an income for all the people who live in Switzerland, regardless of their citizenship, nationality, wealth or social differences. Indeed the next 5th of June, citizens of the Federal Government will be asked to vote in a referendum that aims to bring a law to ensure to all adults a monthly allowance of 2.500 Swiss francs (about 22.300 euros) and a monthly cheque of 500 swiss francs to all teenagers, since their birth. This has the flavour of an authentic revolution, since it would make work a voluntary choice, free from the survival needs it would only pursue to personal vocations and/or to the improvement of the personal condition with a budget surplus.
This referendum, besides making Switzerland a virtuous example for all the countries of the world, rekindles a fundamental battle of the artistic and political avant-garde movements that have crossed the last century and that has been inexplicably set aside in recent years (at least in Italy) even by the most Radical Lefts. Those will continue to talk about “the right to work”, “employment needs”, “employment creation”, and never of the abolition of work. Actually in Italy the only ones who have proposed a citizen’s income (as explained before it is a more restrective concept compared with the basic income) are the spokepeople of the Movimento Cinque Stelle, received with a disconcerting coldness by all the Italian political forces and the majority of the national public opinion.
This is very unusual since the battle for the abolition of work crosses the contemporary history. It was launched by Marx himself, who had supposed the overcoming of capitalism and wage labour through the development of the role of knowledge and science, which would have provided man with a system of semi-automatic machines. We also need to consider all the celebrations that the artistic avant-gardes spent in favour of progress, precisely intended as a liberation of man: from the Futuristic technological celebrations, to the Russian constructivism experimentations, till the rejection of work of Dada who was born in Zurig in 1918 as an anti-authoritarian movement of radical reconsideration of society.
However it was in Berlin that Dada, animated by interpreters who gathered the message of its founder Tristan Tzara, was radicalized in relation with the political emergencies of the Germany of the time, it clearly theorized the abolition of work. In the manifesto “What is Dadaism and what does it mean in Germany?” signed in 1919 by Raoul Hausmann, Richard Huelsenbeck and Jefim Golyscheff it is asked to “establish a progressive unemployment through the mechanization of every activity” because “only with unemployment the people have the possibility to understand life’s reality and finally get used to live”.
We could also speak about the Parisian demonstrations in May ’68, when on the walls of the French Capital stood out the situationist slogan “Ne travaillez jamais”, that even the less francophones of you understand its meaning “Never work”.
The only radical criticism to the society we belong is a criticism to work. A disapproval that has to consider the fact that despite it has been presented as natural the idea that man is born to work, so much that Adriano Celentano felt bound to warn us in 1968 with a disturbing “Chi non lavora non fa l’amore (Who doesn’t work, does not make love)”, indeed there’s nothing innate in man in the idea of work, at least in the idea of work as a mean of social validity through sacrifice. This is demonstrated by the 370 millions of indigenous, among many difficulties, they still live in various zones of every continent of the planet with an idea of work linked to the satisfaction of the basic necessities of life, and secondary to play activities, rest and entertainment.
I don’t want to delve deeper into the ethic or philosophical debate about work, we dedicated and will dedicate other articles. In the time between us and Max, or between Zurig in 1918 and the first of May 2016, society hasn’t just got mechanized, but it also got digitalized, in this way many problems connected to work have been solved. In a nice article of the “Manifesto” about the Zurig facts it is said that Instagram has produced and developped with 15 workes an app used by 130 billions users. The digitization of work is one of the cause of unemployment, but it’s not the only and the main one. However it represents an occasion.
In Italy youth unemployment has recently reached the 40% of the population under 25, the 19% of the under 35, numbers that prevent to be positive if we talk about work. The brain drain contributes to save someone braver or smarter than others, but it doesn’t soften at all such eloquent statistics. The unemployment rate isn’t intended to decrease in a resolving way and youth employment continues to move in the swirly world of vouchers, stages, fixed-term contracts, VAT numbers.
In this scenario youths legitimately demonstrate, ask for jobs, ask for work, ask for social security contributions for a retirement that the President of INPS Tito Boeri explained some days ago, won’t be given before 75 years old, essentially they ask to get involved in a system that, clearly, isn’t build to please them.
So a question arises.
Wouldn’t it be more simple to free the half of the employed youths by the burden of work instead of creating employment for the unemployed half?
Nowadays the soil is fertile, not only in Italy, to rekindle the secular battle for the abolition of work.
Some pics of the demonstration on 30th April in Zurig.