As we reported here the weekend before last, May 5 was Karl Mark’s 200th birthday, and his hometown of Trier held a gala celebration that day in his honor. Former Czech President Václav Klaus spoke that day in Trier at an event sponsored by the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland, Alternative for Germany).
Rembrandt Clancy has translated and subtitled President Klaus’ speech, and includes an introduction.
Should Karl Marx Receive a New Colossus as a Memorial in Trier?
Marxism is coming back in novel forms and under new flags; this time, it is less red and more green and rainbow. Marxism is coming back as the revolutionary utopianism which rejects the capitalism of today as strongly and as resolutely as did Marx one hundred and fifty years ago.
— Václav Klaus
by Rembrandt Clancy
On 5 May in Trier, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz), a Communist Chinese-funded memorial colossus was formally erected in honour of the ideological patriarch of modern collectivism, Karl Marx. The venerable city of Trier, Marx’s birthplace, was celebrating the two-hundredth birthday of the intellectual forerunner of modern communist experiments. Among the dignitaries in attendance was the socialist Minister-President of the Palatinate, Frau Malu Dreyer (SPD). Most distinguished of all, however, was Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and the supreme unelected representative for all of Europe. Also present was His Excellency, the Most Reverend Stephan Ackermann, Bishop of Trier, representing the once anti-Communist Roman Catholic Church. The German edition of The Epoch Times reported on the initial festivities this way:
It is similar to the dance around the golden calf: while some, with their eyes closed, celebrate that Red cult which claimed more sacrificial victims than both world wars together, other people wish to march through the city commemorating the victims.
Already on Friday, May 4, at the grand ceremony in the Basilica of Constantine [Konstantinbasilika], on the occasion of the opening of the Marx Exhibition, EU Chief Juncker and also Malu Dreyer, Minister-President of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, walked up to the pulpit under the great crucifix in the Basilica [6 May 2018].
In addition to a silent march through the city, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party sponsored an event held in the Best Western Hotel on 4 May; its theme, “Take Marx off His Pedestal”. Among the speakers was the economist and former President of the Czech Republic (2003 -2013) Václav Klaus, who in just a few words summarised how Marx’s influence in the contemporary world has been made all but invisible to ordinary people due to the aptitude of the ideology for changing its colour from red through green to all the colours of the rainbow. The subtitled video of the President’s speech, along with the English transcript, are presented below.
President Klaus, having experienced communism first hand in the former Czechoslovakia, identifies Marx as the father of political correctness, which itself is an attack on reason, or in the President’s words, “a struggle against individually responsible and independent thinking”.
The video includes only the text of President Klaus’ speech taken from the original copy found on the YouTube channel of AfD Rhineland-Palatinate.
Should Karl Marx Receive a New Colossus as a Memorial in Trier?
May 4 2018
Translation by Rembrandt Clancy
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am really only a speaker, not a keynote speaker, right? I have to say that.
Many thanks for your invitation. I have never before been in Trier; so, today is the first time for me. Your city is for me an unexpected, absolute positive surprise. I have to say that very clearly.
I thank you for the invitation to this event. I wrote this in Prague very much hoping — but now I must say it as it is — hoping this event is only a recollection of Marx and not a celebration of him. Even the word recollection is not fitting. Our gathering today should be a warning against the trivialisation of the destructive influence which Karl Marx has had over the last 150 years, and, as it turns out, is continuing to have. For some of us it is incomprehensible. The unhappy experience of the 20th century should be sufficiently convincing and decisive for everyone. Unfortunately that is not so. Also for Herr Juncker that is not so.
I attentively followed all of today’s speeches. Everything has already been said. I am no expert on Karl Marx. I will not speak for long. I do not intend to analyse Karl Marx’s work or his central theses on this occasion; for that, there are other events. As a former academic, I am not given to simplified and superficial judgments.
Karl Marx was without doubt a significant and very influential thinker and ideologue. We must not oversimplify our present quarrel with Karl Marx. Marx was in any event an important representative of the social sciences — even though in my specialty of political economy he was only of secondary importance. He has not been quoted and taught in the field of economics for a long time.
I recall the statement made a half-century ago by one of the most famous economists of the second half of the twentieth century, the American Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson, who in 1968 said: Marx was an important social scientist, but “from the viewpoint of pure economic theory, he can be regarded as a minor Post-Ricardian”: “post-Ricardian” means ‘of lesser importance’ [David Ricardo (1772-1823)].* I recall this statement very well. This was a severe declaration for the times, and he made it on the occasion of Karl Marx’s hundred and fiftieth birthday. At that time, Karl Marx was, in my country — in Communist Czechoslovakia — still an important part of the official ideology. Today it is different. The star of Marx no longer shines nearly so brightly.
Nevertheless, here today in Trier, he received a new memorial. It has to be said: it is a memorial to a fame which has long since paled, nothing more. We ought to use this anniversary as a warning concerning the end to which the apparently harmless, academically articulated ideas of an ambitious, unbelievably diligent and single-minded intellectual can lead in reality.
I say this as someone who has spent more than four decades in a political, economic and social system that Marx propagated. Even then, I believe, I understood Karl Marx well. Owing to my personal, overlong experience, the debate over Karl Marx is, for me, no mere theorisation. I felt the tragedy of the communist system; and I still feel it today very strongly.
Often we are confronted with his present-day followers, who claim that Marx gave the world tremendous ideas, which were unfortunately not correctly understood, interpreted and realised. His teaching, according to them, was misused, simplified and trivialised. This statement I cannot accept. Someone once said that the strength of a doctrine is best recognised in its trivialisation. That is exactly what happened with Marx. That is why he is regarded as a tribune of the people and has become an icon of socialism and communism.
What makes Marx so attractive, not only to the masses, but as we can discern, also to the elites of this world? Certainly it is not just the promise of creating a paradise on earth. More important for the elites, Marx stands for the lordship of man over man. Naturally, he makes the related claim that he and his brothers in the faith, as the intellectual elite, are to take the leadership, since they, on the grounds of their wisdom and intelligence, are qualified to have lordship over other men. Marx was also a precursor of today’s political correctness. Political correctness is for me, and for all of us, nothing more than a struggle against individually responsible and independent thinking.
His attack on capitalism and the market economy shaped the entire twentieth century with all its destructive ideologies and human tragedies. Marx wanted to abolish capitalism and the market economy and knew well enough (and said so explicitly) that the realisation of the communist ideal requires the dictatorship of the proletariat. As we know, these dictatorships — though they were not of and by the proletariat — were first put into effect in Russia after 1917, and then in other countries of the world, bringing millions of victims with them.
Marx reiterated — and Dr. Frisch has already quoted it — Marx reiterated that thinkers must not just interpret the world, but they must change it. That is what he succeeded in doing. His ideas were put into practice. One cannot detach the communist dictatorships of the twentieth century from Marx, notwithstanding the wishes of his followers today.
The erection of his memorial, here in Trier, which was financed by Communist China, is criticised by many in Germany as well as by many amongst us in the Czech Republic. They understand it as a mockery of history, as a mockery of the victims of the regimes which arose on the basis of Marxist doctrine, but they also understand it as a mockery of the contemporary era.
This memorial is a product of the present day, which once again shifts a free society and a free market economy into the background. This memorial represents a continuation into the present day of Marxist doctrine in the form of cultural Marxism, which originated not far from here in the Frankfurt School of Adorno, Horkheimer and Habermas. Marxism is coming back in novel forms and under new flags; this time, it is less red and more green and rainbow. Marxism is coming back as the revolutionary utopianism which rejects the capitalism of today as strongly and as resolutely as did Marx one hundred and fifty years ago.
What did Marx and the millions of his followers bring to the world? Above all, there is no humility before mankind and before human history. In the face of the injustices and incompleteness inherent in every society, Marx and his followers have proclaimed and have very decisively affirmed that it is possible and necessary to start from nothing. That means, Difference and the New; without respect for the-already-created; without attempting to link up with the past; and, without being content with partial changes. Marxism arose as a product of the misunderstanding of and the lack of respect for the laws of society and human nature.
Also, today’s generations must strive to understand the real substance of Marxism. There will always be new, freedom-threatening ideologies, which at first sight have nothing in common with Marxism, but which in reality represent its authentic continuation.
Today’s anniversary ought to be accepted as a warning about Marx and taken as an appeal to an eye-opening. It should serve as a means to see through the new ideologies, which, although they do not like to admit it, correspond directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, to Marxism.
It is almost unbelievable that the highest representative of the European Union is present for the unveiling of the Marx memorial here in Trier. For many people in Europe it is a sad disappointment. I must say, I am not disappointed and I am not surprised. For me, it is a clear confirmation of the influence of Karl Marx on the present day and on the progressivist and — at its core — Marxist project of European integration in its current form, in the form of the European Union.
Thank you very much for your attention.
|*||Translator’s Note: For the interested reader, Paul Samuelson’s remarks on Marx as a “minor post-Ricardian” can be found at bradford-delong.com in an excerpt from Samuelson sourced to The American Economic Review, Vol. 52, No 1 (Mar., 1962).