Communist emblems were seen on the streets of western Germany on August 27 as a Marxist political party unveiled a controversial monument.
GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany -- A statue of communist figurehead Karl Marx was unveiled on August 27 in Gelsenkirchen, a former mining town in western Germany, outside the headquarters of the country’s radical left-wing Marxist-Leninist Party (MLPD).
A crowd of some 1,200 people sang the communist anthem and some waved flags featuring the hammer and sickle as the 2.1-meter aluminum monument was unveiled alongside an existing statue to Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin that had been installed in 2020. According to the MLPD, the custom-made Marx statue cost $50,000 to make and install and was funded through donations.
Karl Marx (1818-83) was a radical German economic theorist whose writings served as an inspiration for the 1917 communist takeover of Russia and the subsequent Soviet Union.
Estonia, Poland, and Latvia have torn down Soviet-era statues in recent days amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, but MLPD party leader Gabi Fechtner insisted to RFE/RL that links drawn between the Soviet Union and the Kremlin’s attempted war of expansion into Ukraine are unfair.
“They use this as a reason to tear down monuments to Lenin or to the Great Patriotic War (World War II). But [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is a contradiction to socialism, Stalin, and Lenin,” she claimed. “So these monuments should remain in place.”
Ruth Plotzer held a sign during the unveiling saying, “Shame on you!!!” before being jostled out of the crowd and harassed by several people. She staged the lone protest because, she said, “I’m against a party that stands for communism in a democratic state,” adding that the German Marxists “enjoy all the benefits of living in a democratic society, then go and preach communism.”
Fechtner says erecting the Marx monument was important, regardless of how divisive it is, because “we like to be contradictory,” adding: “Contradiction is what keeps us alive and moves us forward.”
Local authorities lost a court case in 2020 that would have blocked the installation of the original Lenin monument.
Local politician Sascha Kurth told German media ahead of the 2022 Marx unveiling: “We consistently reject both a Lenin and a Marx monument -- as do the vast majority of Gelsenkirchen citizens. Incredible crimes were committed in the name of Marx and Lenin. You don't have to celebrate that in the cityscape. The monuments cast Gelsenkirchen in a bad light and further damage the image of the city.”