More than a century after his death, Karl Marx is still stirring up controversy and sparking struggle.
To mark the influential German philosopher and economist’s 200th birthday on May 5th, 2018, China has announced that it plans to gift Marx’s hometown of Trier in southwestern Germany a large statue of its most notable native son.
On Monday, the Trier city council voted in favor of accepting the 6.3-meter bronze likeness of the father of Communism following months of public deliberations. The Marx monument is designed by the Chinese contemporary sculpture Wu Weishan. It will stand next to the city’s museum. To prepare residents, a wooden representation of the planned statue has been installed there for the last two weeks.
Not all residents of Trier are happy about the city council’s decision. Along with remembering the devastating divisions that communism had caused in their own country, some simply didn’t feel quite right about accepting a gift from a communist state with a nasty reputation for human rights abuses.
“Setting up a statue of a man who played a major role in the development of Communism is a shame and not an honor for Trier,” one resident wrote in the local newspaper.
“Whoever accepts the present honors the gift giver. China’s Communist party doesn’t deserve any honor,” argued Green Party politician Reiner Marz.
“China is not a free country, quite the opposite. We could draw up a long list of human rights violations. Do we want to allow such a rogue regime to set up a statue of Karl Marx in the heart of our city? Refuse this poisoned gift,” Tobias Schneider, a Free Democratic Party politican, told the media.
Still, there are some who see the Marx statue as a welcome expression of Chinese-German friendship, not to mention good for the bottom line.
“That the largest country on Earth has thought about the small town of Trier is great. 150,000 Chinese tourists come every year to Trier – and that could rise even more,” said Andreas Ludwig, head of Trier’s town planning department.
Marx spent the first 17 years of his life in Trier before going on to author a political pamphlet that would change the world. While Marx’s teachings no longer hold quite the same luster in his own home country as they once did, they still hold a place of high symbolic importance in China where each year millions of university students are given a mandatory education in what technically continues to be the Chinese Communist Party’s guiding ideology.
A notable statue of the political thinker, along his Communist Manifesto co-author Friedrich Engels, stands in Shanghai’s Fuxing Park where the two German philosophers spend day after day watching over retirees gambling and playing cards. The 70-ton statue was built in 1985 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Engels’ death.
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