Socialist Worker

Genius of the modern world - Marx’s ideas shine through the sneers

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2508

Historian Bettany Hughes stands next to a piece of the Berlin Wall

Historian Bettany Hughes stands next to a piece of the Berlin Wall


Marx, Genius of the modern world
BBC Four, Thursday 16 June, 9pm


Karl Marx’s revolutionary ideas aren’t often discussed on television. But BBC Four’s three-part series Genius of the Modern World kicks off with an hour long programme on Marx.

But don’t expect the “expert opinion” used to reveal his “groundbreaking ideas” to be much more than the usual hostile establishment voices.

For a show about left wing ideas, there are an awful lot of right wingers on it. Journalist Paul Mason is the only leftist.

Marx, the “angry, idealistic radical”, is portrayed as an obsessive.

In one particularly bizarre scene, supposed proof is offered that he had self loathing “by the gallon”, and was therefore unstable. He lanced boils on his skin caused by a condition that gave him lots of pain and distress.

It’s not all so ridiculous, and there are more intellectual attempts to discredit him.

Yet even the “experts” admit through gritted teeth how influential his ideas continue to be, though they fail to understand why.

If you don’t know who Karl Marx was the programme will teach you about some of his life and how his ideas developed.

Yet there is no mention of the resurgent interest in his writings as people try to understand a world in turmoil.

It’s worth a watch. But if you really want to explore revolutionary ideas come to Marxism 2016 at the end of the month. You’ll learn more about Marx than his itchy skin.


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