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Impressions by Namrata Acharya

Marx: The fallen hero in Germany

In Germany, the birthplace of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, one doesn’t often stumble upon the statues of the twin socialist thinkers. Hence, on a summery afternoon, the sudden confrontation with gigantic scluptures of Marx and Engels came with a sense of revelation. What we thought as a sprawling walkway turned out to be Marx-Engel Forum, a park developed by the government of erstwhile East Germany. I am told, before the World War II, the park was a densely populated locality, reduced into relics after bombing by the Allied Forces. Later in 1970s, the GDR authorities developed it as a green spot. After the German Unification, Marx-Engel Forum became a subject of public controversy, but nevertheless, the place was preserved for its historical merit.

As a precursor of my surreptitious belief that Marx and Engel’s spirits still consume the place, as my colleague lifted her newly-purchased i-Phone for a picture with the socialist stalwarts, it spiraled straight with a bang onto the metallic podium of the statue, shattering the screen in into shreds. Marx surely wouldn’t have approved of a phone worth about Rs 50000, that too owned by a proletariat journalist. Nonetheless, we continued clicking pictures.

Coming from Kolkata, which boasts statues of Marx at the heart of the city and a street named after him, I expected bit more from Germany. But history has painted a different perception of the Marxist thinker in his birthplace. The only other time I remember seeing a Marx statue in Germany was at the Stasi Museum, the former headquarters of East German secret police, and not a very coveted place to be sculptured. The museum exhibits the excess of GDR regime—how friends, relatives were planted against each other for snooping, and how mistrust in every citizen epitomized into surveillance of the highest level through absurd devices like hidden infra red beamers. Would Marx have approved of all this? Not sure!

Marx is perceived as an outdated thinker in Germany and not much discussed in academic discourses, not only in Germany but also elsewhere. Possibly because Marxism does not hold good as a theory in the present context and capitalism is the reality of present days. However, at the same time it is difficult to find an anti-thesis to Marxist theories like that of class struggle and religion even today. How rightly he predicted, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles" or that “religion is the opium of people”

In March this year, China shipped about a 20 feet statue of Marx to Germany as a gift. Now that’s an irony! Do we really need China to ship Marx back to Germany?"

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