The 5th of May was Karl Marx’s 200th birthday and amidst celebrations and demonstrations was the unveiling of China’s gift: a 5.5m tall statue of the Trierer himself.
One of the several demonstrations was ran by the Alternative für Deutschland, who lead a silent march through the city in commemoration of the victims of communist regimes, such as the one in China. Many see the acceptance of the statue as an endorsement of the authoritarian regime’s actions that have abused human rights. Amnesty International named China as the country with the most executions in 2017 and reports of organs being harvested from political prisoners have become disturbingly prolific in recent years. (Add Human Harvest (2014) to your film list). Scattered throughout the city were followers of Falun Dafa, a spiritual movement that began in Northeastern China. Its members have been persecuted, imprisoned and killed because of their spiritual teachings and increasing influence, which contradict the Marxist administration’s beliefs.
Then there were those against the AfD in general. Although we can all agree (I hope) that human rights are to be respected (and therefore in this instance the AfD have a good point), the party were nonetheless criticised for their harsh viewpoints on migration. Marching a slightly different route through the city were Die Linke, an anti-capitalist group protesting exploitation. Although China calls itself a communist state and is run by the Communist Party, its capitalist system feeds an enormous wealth gap and state-funded health-care and education are respectively lacking and non-existent.
Local politicians hope that people will use the statue as a means to reflect and question the philosopher, his ideas and the world we live in. It’s true that there are (and have been) regimes in the world that neglect human rights whilst basing their beliefs on Marx’s theories. Others have argued that Marx isn’t the one responsible for crimes made in the name of communism or socialism. His contemporaries Jules Guesde and Paul Lafarge had anarchist ideas that contradicted Marx’s belief that social reform was the way to change. When they coined the word “Marxist” to describe their theories, he famously responded, “I’m not a Marxist” in protest against their misuse of the term.
Despite all these groups marching about, there are others in favour of the statue. Left-wing politician Gregor Gysi believes that it’s high time that we, as a society, finally establish an open and relaxed relationship to Marx. According to the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, we should neither vilify nor glorify Marx, neither “banish nor inflate him”, but respect a man, who chose a life in exile in virtue of his beliefs.