What is “capital”? To Karl Marx, it was a social, political, and legal category—the means of control of the means of production by the dominant class. Capital could be money, it could be machines; it could be fixed and it could be variable. But the essence of capital was neither physical nor financial. It was the power that capital gave to capitalists, namely the authority to make decisions and to extract surplus from the worker.
Thomas Piketty has written a book called Capital that has caused quite a stir. He advocates progressive taxation and a global wealth tax as the only way to counter the trend towards the creation of a “patrimonial” form of capitalism marked by what he dubs “terrifying” inequalities of wealth and income. He also documents in excruciating and hard to rebut detail how social inequality of both wealth and income has evolved over the last two centuries, with particular emphasis on the role of wealth.
Social movements can be fast, and they can be slow.
Mostly, the work of social change is a slow process. It involves patiently building movement institutions, cultivating leadership, organizing campaigns and leveraging power to secure small gains. If you want to see your efforts produce results, it helps to have a long-term commitment.
A former leader of the Green Party of England and Wales (2008-2012). Is an active campaigner and writer on green economics, alternatives to globalization, trade justice, animal welfare and food. Was named MP of the Year in 2013, has been voted the UK's most ethical politician and received Red magazine's Woman of the Year Award 2010 in the ethical/eco category. Is an acknowledged expert on climate change, international trade and peace issues.
This is a frequent question on the left, but it’s the wrong question, about the wrong thing. Talking about the environment lumps together many different things that have little in common, like the ugliness of litter and the deaths of millions each year from coal dust in the air. And this leads us to ignore the one environmental issue is of vastly more importance than the others – climate change. So the important question is: Why does climate change matter to socialists?
The truth is that if we are going to make the global transition to protect the world from catastrophic climate change on an equitable basis, then the rich countries will need to reduce their carbon emissions annually by 10 percent or so. Such measures are not going to come from the top in capitalist society, though there may be splits at the top that open the way to more radical and revolutionary change. The enormous changes that are needed can only be accomplished by the kind of “acceleration of history”...
Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change started the publication of its 5th Assessment Report (or AR5), initially showing the work by the Working Group I, which deals with the physical basis of climate change. Now, the AR5 process continued with the publication of the “Summary for Policy Makers” by the Working Group II, concerning “impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.”
In her editorial in the last issue of Jacobin, Alyssa Battistoni makes an eloquent case for a more ecologically-minded left politics. “It’s ridiculous that we still bracket climate change and water supplies as specifically environmental issues,” she writes. “The questions at hand are ones of political economy and collective action . . . things the Left has plenty to say about.”