Audiences from around the world watched the latest Doha Debates forum where newsmakers from three continents debated whether the coronavirus pandemic should serve as a catalyst for more – and lasting – socialist global policies.

The virtual debate featured renowned Pakistani, British and Brazilian figures arguing three points of view on socialism – for, against and a refined balance between socialism and capitalism.

The solutions-focused forum, a production of Qatar Foundation’s Doha Debates, included author and commentator Fatima Bhutto; former UK Foreign Secretary and House of Commons Leader Lord William Hague; and Brazilian congresswoman and activist Tabata Amaral.

Citing how inequalities was further exposed and heightened by the COVID-19 crisis, Bhutto argued for a radically reimagined system.

Our world is broken beyond repair, and capitalism doesn’t work the way it’s advertised. More and more people the world over see socialism as an alternative to this very broken system.

Lord Hague warned against a tilt toward socialism. He said that we do have to address inequality in the world, but the answer is not holding people back.

We need more innovation, enterprise and freedom for a new generation, and less socialism so that generation can use their talents to the full.

Amaral, meanwhile, called for a more ‘nuanced’ approach. She said that as polarisation increases, people tend to see economic growth and social development as opposite goals, when, in reality, both things must and do go hand in hand. She added that we need to combine the ideals of both capitalism and socialism.

Programme host and moderator Ghida Fakhry, and conflict resolution expert Govinda Clayton, urged the debaters to bridge their differences in an effort to find a consensus on the best socio-economic path forward.

The programme’s millions of viewers included a select group of young people who formed the voting panel on the merits of the arguments presented by the debaters.

In the first of two rounds of voting, Bhutto’s argument resonated the most with the audience, garnering 44.73% of the vote, with Amaral coming in second with 37.04% and Lord Hague with the remaining 18.23%. In the second round of voting, Amaral gained a few more votes with 42.06% of the vote, but Bhutto kept her lead at 43.23%. Lord Hague’s argument lost some of its popularity and got only 14.71% of the vote.

Encouraged to join the conversation, viewers around the world provided real-time feedback. Ogova Ondego from Nairobi, Kenya said that at this juncture, it does no harm to try out this strategy – any useful strategy.

Brandon Ferderer, from Brooklyn, New York added that the problem is unfettered capitalism. He said that just as socialism may lead to communism at its extreme, he said that we need to recognise that there is a tendency for capitalism to become [an] oligarchy, wherein the political classes and the corporate elites work together to maintain a stranglehold on wealth.

We tend not to critique the extreme ends of capitalism in the same way we do socialism.

Doha Debates’ managing director Amjad Atallah, praised everyone involved in the first-ever marquee Doha Debates programme to be produced remotely, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The debate was provocative and timely, with compelling speakers and helpful feedback from the young voting panel and viewers around the world.

He said that despite the pandemic ruling out an in-person convening of the debate, their team rose to the challenge, as always, producing a first-rate solutions-focused programme.

The recent debate can still be viewed on demand via the Doha Debates YouTube, Twitter and Facebook pages. Visit dohadebates.com for more details.