Germany: How should Marx be honored?
The birthplace of Karl Marx is thrilled with the larger-than-life statue of the far-left philosopher that was unveiled on his 200th birthday, said Katharina De Mos in Trierische Volksfreund (Germany). And that’s not only because the father of communism is “so hip right now, we can milk him for plenty of capital.” Trier, the western German town where the co-writer of The Communist Manifesto lived until age 17, is a tourist destination for Marx enthusiasts, and we’re selling posters and T-shirts as fast as they can be printed. A group representing German victims of communism has protested the erection of the 14-foot bronze, a gift from China. They blame his ideas for inspiring some of the world’s bloodiest tyrants—Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot—and causing our nation to be divided into communist East and capitalist West after World War II. Yet Marx, “in whose name working conditions were improved and terrible crimes committed,” is “inseparable from the history of this city.” He deserves a statue here.
A statue, sure, said Werner Kolhoff in Westdeutsche Zeitung (Germany). The author of Das Kapital was a towering philosopher of the 19th century and anyone who studies globalization and inequality today can’t help but admire his “theoretical penetration of the capitalist economy.” But a statue from China is “a bad joke.” Chinese President Xi Jinping is encouraging the cult of Marx while his country actually practices “a particularly stark form of turbo-capitalism.” China now has more billionaires than the U.S. and “pitilessly suppresses” anyone who dares challenge its ruling elite. Is that really what Marx would have wanted?
This slab of “bronze kitsch” from China is all wrong, said Hennig Hübert in Germany’s Deutschlandfunk.de. Marx was a complex thinker who should be pondered over and argued with, not a leader to be placed on a pedestal and worshipped, something understood by Germans who actually lived under communism. During his birthday celebration last week, authorities in Chemnitz—known as Karl Marx City from 1953 to 1990 when it was part of East Germany—brought to life with light and sound the 23-foot-high Marx bust that still sits in the city center. The philosopher’s lips appeared to move as he denounced the Trier statue as a cheap Chinese knockoff. The head also dared President Trump to get a similar bust made, advising him to suck up to the Russians because “they’re great with monuments.”
But 27 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Marx “has become an afterthought in the first country to implement his ideas as a political system,” said Evan Gershkovich in The Moscow Times (Russia). Nearly a quarter of Russians don’t even know who Marx was, and Russian authorities didn’t mark his big day at all. “The official stance is that his revolutionary ideas brought misfortune to the Russian people,” says Lev Gudkov, head of the Levada Center, an independent pollster. “Russians have all but forgotten him.”