May 22, 2017

"Maybe a certain naïveté is not always bad if it prevents over-interpretation, so you don’t always dissect things in detail and suspect everything."

Said Wolfram Leibe, the mayor of Trier, Germany, where Karl Marx was born. He's talking about the town's acceptance of a gift, a 18-foot-tall statue of Karl Marx, to be erected in a public square, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth. Leibe asserts that “It was a gesture of friendship and has nothing to do with ideology,” and yet he recounts the statement of the sculptor, Wei Weishan, on seeing the square: "This square is too small and cramped. Karl Marx was a great man and we can’t put him in a small square." 

The NYT reports, noting that "[m]illions* died in Communist political campaigns after the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, and in a famine precipitated by an effort to collectivize agriculture in the late 1950s," but "Marx is officially revered in China."

The article also quotes Chang Ping, "a Chinese journalist who has lived in exile in Germany since 2011":
“This is not just a question of commemorating a historical figure. It’s also a question of how to deal with the Chinese government’s ambition to shine on the world stage. I think that I can see better than ordinary Germans the hideous grin behind the statue that is to be erected in Trier, and the threat it represents to the civilized political cultures of the world.”
And Geremie Barmé, "a founder of the Wairarapa Academy for New Sinology in New Zealand, the sculpture is an expression of party power":
“The Germans’ suggestion was for an early, humane, humanist Marx, a source for change in China — not the heroic, sclerotic, formalized Marx used for party purposes that Wu offered. Since we’re the only one that’s been successful and adapted Marxism to state leadership, we’ll tell you what it’s about.”
Meanwhile, in America, we're not putting up statues of heroes — revered or rejected — we're taking them down.

_________________

* "Millions" is not an adequate way to express what is something more like 45 or 65 million.

39 comments:

Laslo Spatula said...

It's Germany: they put up a statue of Marx because they couldn't put up a statue of Hitler.

Preemptive Godwin.

There was a word Althouse used for this kind of action, but I can't find the post.

I am Laslo.

rhhardin said...

Put a Groucho statue facing it.

traditionalguy said...

Religions need icons to remember what they worship.

Wilbur said...

The Little Girl statue facing ol' Karl might be perfect.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Closer to 100 million if you include the nations other than China

rhhardin said...

"Either this man is dead or my watch has stopped." groucho statue inscription

Bob Ellison said...

Good writing trumps good thinking. Freud, Marx, Mao, Lenin. Mobs follow good writers.

Laslo Spatula said...

"Maybe a certain naïveté is not always bad..."

Naïveté is the fertile ground for Communism.

Dismiss understanding of how people function in groups and anything is possible.

And there are always people ready to take advantage of naïveté.

With the proper guidance the Naïve will learn to identify the Kulaks soon enough.

I am Laslo.

Humperdink said...

Maybe we could send them a few of our confederate statues.

rhhardin said...

Ghost Town (2008) the hero advocates human rights for all except the Chinese because the Chinese have such stupid names.

(mocking the heroine's out-of-the-room boyfriend who is a human rights nut)

Boyfriend returns from the telephone and has to leave because "Ming Wa Men and Ho Lee Park have been arrested in Shaolin."

Tommy Duncan said...

My neighbor (a retired public school teacher) is an avowed socialist. Our discussions become heated when I point out the humanitarian records of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot.

My neighbor predictably makes the case that Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were anomalies and communism is the most peaceful ideology possible.

Hitler was a piker compared to the communists.

Bay Area Guy said...

Good link to "The Black Book of Communism." Should be required reading at all college campuses, but probably it is largely unknown.

Many "naive" people think that because we joined with Soviet Russia to fight Nazi Germany in 1941, that the Soviets were our friends. Au contraire. The Soviets were just as bad as the Nazis, and murdered millions. It was more of a temporary marriage of convenience, I'd say.

Larry J said...

"It's my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of sommbitch or another. Ain't about you, Jayne. It's about what they need."
- Malcolm Reynolds, "Firefly" (Jaynestown)

Clyde said...

Maybe a statue of Richard Oakes on the Google campus...

campy said...

"[m]illions* died in Communist political campaigns after the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, and in a famine precipitated by an effort to collectivize agriculture in the late 1950s," but "Marx is officially revered in China."

"[m]illions* died in Communist political campaigns after the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, and in a famine precipitated by an effort to collectivize agriculture in the late 1950s," therefore "Marx is officially revered in China."

FTFY

tcrosse said...

While we're at it, we could litter the landscape with statues of Hegel and Nietzsche.

William said...

Collective farms must rank as one of the really, really bad ideas of all time, but their squalor and horror has never been dramatized. I venture everyone here can name someone who suffered under the Holocaust or the Gulags or chattel slavery, but can anyone name a single person who weakened and starved on a collective farm? Some victims are more victims than other victims. Collective farm victims barely have victim status.

Earnest Prole said...

Mistakes were made.

Marc Puckett said...

If you close your eyes so that you can't see the monster then obviously it's not there. It worked when I was four and was sure a wolf lived in the closet after bedtime.

John said...

I think 45-65mm is just in China. the generally accepted murder toll for socialism is 100mm 1900-2000

Death is baked into socialism of whatever flavor. You don't have to read any further than about page 4-5 of Marx's Capital to see why.

John Henry

Ann Althouse said...

To be fair to the mayor: tourism.

Who goes to Trier, Germany? The statue has got to mean some decent money for the people there.

Which is, ironically, capitalism.

John said...

the sheer magnitude of the 45-65mm murdered is horrible enough but the range of estimate just now struck me.

We are talking about a range in estimates of the total of 20,000,000 murders.

That is 2 cities the cities of Los Angeles. Just lost in the estimates.

Yuri had a pretty good speech in Fargo last week. Alas, not on YouTube but he explained why the snow falls white in Siberia. It is to hide the blood. He told Nikki Swango that he could see in her face that she could not even begin to imagine the number of murders.

Just before he and Meemo proceeded to beat her nearly to death.

John Henry



John said...

Blogger Tommy Duncan said...


My neighbor predictably makes the case that Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were anomalies and communism is the most peaceful ideology possible.

No surprise there, Tommy.

The standard, and pretty much only, defense of socialism/communism is the "no true Scotsman" line. True socialism has never been tried but if it were, it would be groovy. (They, not me, say)

It's why many folks try to argue that German National Socialism was not really socialism. Hitler's biggest offense, to many, was not the 12mm people he murdered in the death camps. Stalin and Mao murdered far more. No, Hitler's biggest sin was that he gave socialism a bad name. Because of that they call the National Socialists "Nazis" or "fascists" to try to hide it.

You need to argue from socialist theory. It doesn't take a lot of knowledge. In fact it take damn little. The first half chapter of Capital is about as far as you need to go to show how murder is baked in to socialism. (You really should read the whole thing)

Then you can take the theory and show how it always works in practice.

Arguing empirically is a losing game.

Sometimes fun to do, though. "Hey! How about those Venezuelans, huh?"

John Henry

John said...

Blogger Bay Area Guy said...

Many "naive" people think that because we joined with Soviet Russia to fight Nazi Germany in 1941, that the Soviets were our friends.

Include FDR among those naive people. He really did think "Uncle Joe" Stalin was our friend and his personal buddy.

His VP, Henry Wallace, was friendly enough that he was taking money from them for sharing information.

John Henry

TwilightofLiberty.com said...

Currently reading Mao's Great Famine by Frank Dikotter (i think, book's in other room). Did you know that when people eat mud, the mud absorbs all the liquids in your body, making your feces too hard to pass, requiring you or a neighbor to dig it out with their hands or a stick? Starving villagers in China found that out the hard way. Any political system that imposes that on its people, through whatever means, is pretty evil.

I don't usually recoil when reading a book, but i did at that passage. Pretty sure none of our own commie types have had to deal with that. Feel like we would have heard about it...

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...* "Millions" is not an adequate way to express what is something more like 45 or 65 million.

Goodness, that almost sounds like there's some moral judgement behind it, Professor.
We talked about this already--in the context of New Orleans taking down a bunch of statues of Confederate figures--and you were pretty clear: the people have spoken.
If the people want to honor a guy partially responsible for the most murderous ideology in human history (aside from "mongolianism" in relative terms I guess), well, that's their business. By what right can we object, etc, etc?
Right?

robother said...

Wu is peeing on your rug, Trier.

buwaya said...

Trier sounds like an interesting place to visit.
Its a truly ancient place by German standards, not too terribly blown up in WW2, and its in the valley of the Moselle, which means wine tours, if thats your thing.

Ambrose said...

Maybe the iconoclasts were right after all.

campy said...

Someday we'll have statues of Hillary all over this country, after we've finally solved the problem of the irredeemable deplorables.

Sebastian said...

"Trier sounds like an interesting place to visit." It is.

They've already got a Marx bust in the backyard of the Karl Marx Haus. Why do they need a statue too?

urbane legend said...

We can elect her next time, campy, and be well on our way. She will only be, what, 96? And certainly as capable as ever.

Scott M said...

Does nobody sculpt except the Chinese anymore? A Chinese artist was used for, of all the mind-boggling things, the MLK monument (not a single, capable black artist out there?) and now this?

Ann Althouse said...

"They've already got a Marx bust in the backyard of the Karl Marx Haus. Why do they need a statue too?"

The statue is by an artist well-known in China, and I'm reading that a lot of the tourists who go to Trier are Chinese. It's a good way to capture the Chinese tourism market.

And, actually, this story about the controversy made me notice a town I'd never noticed before and I looked up to see what tourism attractions are there and learned that there are a whole lot of them -- old churches and the like. It worked as advertising toward me.

Scott M said...

The other obvious thought that comes to mind is that New Orleans and elsewhere are tearing down their Confederate leader statues, Because Triggered, while someone who's ideology is responsible for the deaths of (at least) tens of millions has one put up.

Jamie said...

I used to live in north Queen Anne, the Seattle neighborhood just across the Ship Canal from Fremont. Fremont was, at least then (and I suspect even more so now), the beating heart of Seattle's loony leftism. And a Czechoslovakian statue of Lenin, salvaged by a Washington schoolteacher (of course) from what is now Slovakia after the 1989 revolution, still stands there today... unironically.

Yeah, they dress it up from time to time, but it was our experience in seven years of walking over to Fremont for tacos and beer that the denizens of that neighborhood were very fond of their pet revolutionary.

John said...

Tommy Duncan said..."My neighbor predictably makes the case that Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were anomalies and communism is the most peaceful ideology possible."

Like Al Quaeda and ISIS are anomalies of ...? and cancer and the plague were/are anomalies of health?

Earnest Prole said... "Mistakes were made."

What difference, at this point, ...

Marc Puckett said...

The Holy Tunic of Our Lord is kept at the Trier Cathedral, drawing thousands of pilgrims when it is exposed for veneration.

Zach said...

One of the most poignant eulogies of Communism features a statue of Marx and Engels in East Berlin:

http://www.mindfuckbox.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/smiDC0a.jpg

Caption: "Next time, everything will be better"