Karl Marx and Eric Hobsbawm, if they had met, would have had much to discuss and probably disagree on but they both would have been critical of the BBC2 programme on Marx in Masters of Money, aired last Monday.
Presenter and economist Stephanie Flanders, in an otherwise generous presentation of Marx's ideas, left one major question unanswered.
What alternative to capitalism did Marx offer? Her answer was "None."
This is clearly untrue because Marx wished to see the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie replaced by the dictatorship of the proletariat.
In essence, he wanted to see a society run for the benefit of the masses by representatives, in the same way that the bourgeoisie runs capitalist society in its own interests.
This means a transfer of the means of production, distribution and exchange into the hands of the working class, and in other words, socialism.
Her real question should have been: "Does a socialist state have to copy the inequality and oppression of dissidence as carried out by the bourgeois state?"
This was the question which tormented the great Marxist historian Hobsbawm.
He was described on the BBC on Monday as a "life-long communist." This did not mean that he was uncritical of what he called "real existing socialism" but he was equally critical of what followed the collapse of socialism in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.
Marx was not a utopian and his understanding of dialectics would have meant that he understood an attempt to replace a system based on profit with another based on human need would involve serious setbacks, violent confrontations and failures, as has always occurred in the history of human advance from primitive to modern industrial society.