Ideas

Just don't say his name: the modern left on Karl Marx's place in politics

Intelligent minds have disagreed, vehemently, ever since Karl Marx wrote his ideas down in the mid-1800s. They disagree some more in this IDEAS episode about Marx and the modern political left, featuring Sheila Copps, Charlie Foran, and Rick Salutin.

'A lot of Marx is treated like scripture, or was, and that can be very oppressive,' says critic Rick Salutin

Sales of Karl Marx's 'Das Kapital', written in 1867, took off after the 2008 financial crisis. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)
Listen to the full episode53:59

"His name will endure through the ages," said the philosopher and communist Friedrich Engels at the funeral of his friend Karl Marx, in 1883. Those words have proven their worth. 

Today, the 19th-century thinker never stops being controversial.

In 2008, as soon as the financial crisis struck, Marx's name leaped back into mainstream conversation. Copies of his Das Kapital, published in 1867, began selling like… well, like hot commodities whose original labour value could be appropriated to vastly enrich the holders of capital. 

A lot of Marx is treated like scripture, or was, and that can be very oppressive.- Rick Salutin, journalist and critic

Ten years later, for Marx's "200th birthday," he was profiled in Teen Vogue magazine.

Now, as parts of the U.S. discover a new taste for self-labelled 'socialist' politicians, IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed convenes a panel at the Stratford Festival to discuss what to make of Marx's place in today's politics.

At the end of his life, [Marx] said, 'All I know is that I don't think I'm a Marxist!- Charles Foran, author
Karl Marx’s grave was vandalized at Highgate Cemetery in London, Britain, February 16, 2019. This was the second time in two weeks that Marx's tomb was damaged. (Highgate Cemetery/Twitter)

Do his ideas offer liberation to the masses of impoverished and downtrodden people around the world, or condemn those same people to inevitably vicious authoritarian regimes?

Intelligent minds have disagreed, vehemently, ever since Marx wrote his ideas down in the mid-1800s. They disagree some more in this episode about Marx and the modern political left, featuring Sheila Copps, Charlie Foran, and Rick Salutin.

  The core of his value is about living in community, and that's what makes a good society…  but if community is only based on the fact that we find ways to hate each other, that becomes ultimately poisonous.-Sheila Copps, former politician


Guests in this episode:

  • Sheila Copps is a former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada. She was in federal politics from 1984 through to 2004 as a Liberal MP. Her autobiography is Nobody's Baby.
     
  • Charles Foran is a former CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. His books include biographies of of Maurice Richard and of Mordecai Richler; the novels Carolan's Farewell, Butterfly Lovers and Planet Lolita; and a collection of essays, Join the Revolution, Comrade!
     
  • Rick Salutin, journalist, playwright, novelist, and a long-time national newspaper columnist, first in The Globe & Mail, then The Toronto Star. His books include Living in a Dark Age, Waiting for Democracy and The Womanizer.
     


** This episode was produced by Philip Coulter and Tom Howell.

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