Last week, in honor of the 200 anniversary of his birth, Karl Marx’s home town of Trier, Germany unveiled a new 18-foot-tall statue of Marx. Mind you, statues of Karl Marx were torn down all across the former communist Eastern block just a few decades ago.
For the city government of Trier, this is part of an effort to take advantage of the fact that one of the most influential figures in history was born there. Marx authored The Communist Manifesto in 1848. Tourists come to see the Marx museum located in the house where he was born. The new statue is in the center of the city, close to the city’s most famous landmark, a gate built by the Romans centuries ago.
Who are the tourist who will come to see the statue of the father of Communism and to visit the museum in the house of his birth? The very people who commissioned, created, paid for, and erected the statue in Trier – the Chinese.
Yes, you read that correctly. In the midst of an East German city, a city formerly ruled by a communist regime, the remaining communist superpower has erected a statue of Karl Marx. The Chinese put it there for Chinese tourists to see, tourists the city of Trier welcomes in the hopes that increased tourism will improve the local economy.
The irony drips from this like the rain off the nose of Marx’s statue. China claims to be the banner child for communism in today’s world. They can make that claim because of their growing economic muscle. Their growing economic muscle has come about because they have abandoned much of Marx’s economic philosophy and embraced western capitalism, at least to some degree.
It has only been 29 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Yet, Marxism is making a surprising comeback among young adults all across the western world. The Wall Street Journal article about the unveiling of the new statue observed that there were very few people present for the ceremony who had lived through the era of communist domination. The audience was young.
On the eve of the ceremony former Czech President Vaclav Klaus walked the cobble-stoned plaza and shook his head at the banners proclaiming, “We are Marx.” It “makes a mockery of history, of the victims of the regimes that emerged based on Marx’s teaching,” Klaus said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Without question, Karl Marx’s writing are among the most influential in western civilization, but he was wrong about so many things.
He was wrong about economics. He was wrong about history. The socialist utopic culture he predicted never materialized. He was wrong about religion. He was wrong about governments and how they function. He was wrong about the nature of humanity, about education, and about social structures.
The only thing he got right was about class exploitation. The rich were exploiting the poor. But at its heart, that is not an economic problem, but a spiritual problem. And since he rejected all religion as just another tool of the rich and powerful to keep the poor in their place, his philosophy had no power for redemption. It was empty. It is still empty.
Yet, on college campuses across the West, including the USA, there is a growing movement in support of Marxism. This, despite the fact that Marxist regimes are responsible for the murder of at least 100 million lives: 65 million in China, over 20 million in the Soviet Union; over 2 million in North Korea.
Of course, it is the city of Trier’s right to memorialize their most famous son. It is their right, but is it the right thing to do? In Poland, the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps remain, but not to memorialize the builders, but to remind us – never again.