Marxist Monument Preservation
by Rembrandt Clancy
On 5 May 2018 an eighteen-foot-high bronze statue of a book-toting, forward-striding Karl Marx, donated by the Communist Chinese government, was erected in Marx’s birthplace of Trier in honour of his 200th birthday. Gates of Vienna has already posted a video on this subject, a speech by Václav Klaus, former President of the Czech Republic.
The present translation is of an editorial opinion called Marxist Monument Preservation by Prof. Wolfgang Ockenfels, who likens the Marx statue in Trier to Brutalism in architecture. Prof Ockenfels’ most recent contribution at Gates of Vienna was The Yearning for and the Right to a Homeland wherein he dealt with the threat to German “cosmo-politicians” of an increasingly urgent “longing for one’s ‘homeland’“ in the face of rising “identity movements” and “alternative parties” which “can no longer be suppressed”.
Forming the background to Prof. Ockenfels’ remarks are speeches by two European politicians who use disclaimers to sanitise Marx and distance him from “these colossal crimes against humanity” which “Karl Marx himself had already announced” (Ockenfels). The two main speakers were the Minister-President of Rhineland-Palatinate, Frau Malu Dreyer (SPD), and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission.
Frau Dreyer made this disclaimer:
The crimes against millions of people, which were committed in the 20th century in his [Marx’s] name, cannot be blamed on him. (Phoenix, 0:58)
The following excerpts from Jean-Claude Juncker’s speech were taken from two separate videos, which were themselves excerpts. The speaker shows his consciousness of a continuity with post-war socialism going back to socialist Chancellor Willy Brandt, who was in office from 1964 to 1987 (see also endnote 3). Noteworthy also is Mr. Juncker’s choice of quotation from Karl Marx, as well as his comment on Marx’s works, which together emphasise social engineering as the matter-of-fact vehicle of social change as opposed to an unconscious, organic cultural unfolding.
Marx is not responsible for all the horror for which his alleged heirs are responsible (applause). Willy Brandt recognised that very well, because Willy Brandt said: Whatever one has made of Marx, striving for freedom, the liberation of men from servitude and ignoble dependence constituted the motive for his actions”… One must understand Marx from the standpoint of his times… (0:36 min.)… Marx, a politically active philosopher, once wrote: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” That which he left behind by way of interpretation and demonstration, Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto, has contributed to the changing of the world… Karl Marx cannot be held responsible for the fact that some of his later disciples used the values he formulated, and the words he used to describe these values, as a weapon against others (2:02 min.). (cf. RT video in German)
Karl Marx was a philosopher who thought into the future with a claim to creativity, and today he represents things for which he is neither responsible nor culpable, because much of what he formulated was virtually reformulated into its opposite. But I would nevertheless like to draw attention to the fact that the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and the city [of Trier] are correct to remember Marx, because remembering and understanding has to do with securing the future… (cf. Phoenix video, 2:29 min.)
There are some referenced endnotes available which provide some literary or historical context.
About the Author
Rev. Prof. Wolfgang Ockenfels OP was born in Bad Honnef am Rhein in 1947. Having entered the Dominican Order in 1967, he studied Philosophy and Theology and was ordained in 1973. From 1974 to 1978 he read Social Ethics and Economics in Freiburg, Switzerland. His doctoral thesis was on the theme of Unions and the State. In 1984 he completed his habilitation in the field of Christian Social Doctrine at the University of Augsburg on the subject of faith and politics. Since 1985 Prof. Ockenfels has been a (full) professor for Christian Social Science in the theological faculty in Trier. He has published a very long list of monographs, articles and contributions. Since 1985 he has been Chief Editor of Die Neue Ordnung, a Christian journal founded in 1946 by opponents of National Socialism.
The original source appeared in Die Neue Ordnung, Nr. 3/2018 June
by Wolfgang Ockenfels
Marxist Monument Preservation
Translation by Rembrandt Clancy
A spectre is moving about the world, and on its 200th birthday it alights in the centre of Trier as a monstrous bronze Brocken, as a rocher de bronze belonging to the antiquated Left-progressives from an eternal yesterday, all to the sheer delight of the home-tourist-industry and the Chinese guests, who are able to feel at home now that they are in the homeland of the homeless Karl Marx. On aesthetic grounds alone, out of revulsion at this Chinese state-art, the more sensitive contemporaries avoid looking at the monument, which is nothing but grotesque supremacy-art, monumental and imperial. This Brutalism characterises, sure enough, the entire Marxist-Leninist art style, which was not much better than the propaganda art of the Third Reich. Hence now as then, the politico-ideological client is to be taken into account: Marx is still regarded in the political dictatorship of China as the great prophet. And China can easily afford such gifts.
Karl Marx, upon whose “shoulders we stand” — as Oswald von Nell-Breuning SJ all too naively expressed it — can “not be blamed”, of course, for the millions of crimes which were committed in his name, as Malu Dreyer or Jean-Claude Juncker credulously maintained at the ceremony in Trier.
In fact, Karl Marx himself had already announced these colossal crimes against humanity. In Marx, many extremist justifications for revolutionary violence are to be found. Marx legitimised the bloody “anti-capitalist class warfare”, to which more than a hundred million people fell victim. Of course one cannot attribute every single one of these crimes committed by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot and Fidel Castro to Marx. Unfortunately, however, most of these mass murderers, their accomplices and the leftist armchair perpetrators have to this day not been brought before a court of law. And the Marxist intellectuals, journalists and politicians have continued to be spared a Vergangenheitsbewältigung [an overcoming of a (holocaust) past]. The victims’ associations, who have now also made themselves known in Trier, are unfortunately not heard.
According to Frau Sahra Wagenknecht, [high-profile member of parliament in the Bundestag for the die Linke or Left Party], “democracy” was Marx’s noble aim, which is why he is to be counted as a model for “young people”. However, “democracy”, as we understand it also in the Church today, plays no role at all in Marx. It is bound neither to the principle of majority rule nor to a constitutional state, which guarantees inalienable human rights according to natural law which is antecedent to the state. Issues of rights in Marx are purely issues of power. And the “dictatorship of the proletariat” for which he strove did not lead to a “kingdom of freedom”, but to a collective servitude such as the world had not seen up to that time. For that reason alone his ideas should be placed under surveillance in line with constitutional law. And as far as his conduct of life and character are concerned, he is rather a cynical model for “young people”: he contracted debts, speculated on the stock exchange, defamed political opponents and agitated against the Jews. At the same time he lived as a parasite off of his capitalist friend Friedrich Engels — a quite up-to-date behavioural model incidentally.
As far as his historical influence is concerned, Marx drew from his own historical-metaphysical premises, according to which his sociological theory of evolution, by necessity, leads to a “kingdom of freedom” — without private property and without state domination. Indeed, world history is open to the possibility of unprognosticated errors, sure enough. Admittedly, Marxist ideology was certainly politically successful — at least for a certain period of time. Precisely therein lies the problem, above all, for the class of opportunistic intellectuals who willingly submit to the prevailing power. And after their failure, only rarely show remorse and come to their senses. Playing the role of the “critical intellectual” in the last century has proved to be a painfully embarrassing disgrace. And it extends right up to the present, if one considers the ideological affinity of the Zeitgeist, resistance to experience and the historical amnesia of supposedly critical spirits.
In addition, surplus value theory and the immiseration theory, [that proletarian working conditions worsen by the nature of capitalist production], as well as other assumptions made by Marx, have long since been empirically invalidated. These problems do not preclude that many of his prognoses have retained an astounding topicality. Some passages of his “Communist Manifesto”, for example, are suited to elucidating the current “globalization” of unfettered capitalism; although far from solving the problems, his solutions have simply made them worse. His analyses, prognoses and treatments are not value-free, but succumb to Weltanschauung-like implications and dogmas, which materially call into question his scientific pretensions. Inseparable from his “scientific” theory is the ideological dogma with its atheistic view negating the precepts of God, faith and reason — and therefore also property rights. Marx never came to terms with Thomas Aquinas; he simply ignored him. The Hegel-student was in any case not historically and philosophically educated. He simply did not understand the world — as society and history — which he wished to change, and therefore he also interpreted it falsely.
The 68er movement culminated in the terrorist Baader-Meinhof Gang, the RAF or “Red Army Faction”. It was on this subject that Bettina Röhl, the daughter of Ulrike Meinhof, recently wrote a harrowing book based on her own experience. In it she describes with clarity the connection between Marxism and terrorism, from which the neo-Marxists of the “Frankfurt School” have distanced themselves ever so little. And there are still many who collaborate with the emergence of this violence, for instance with the street terrorism of the “Antifa” Forms of this misanthropic revolution aimed at the production of the “new man” are to be found today in feminism, the gender movement and in multiculturalism; new social experiments, which easily fit in with Marxist preservation of monuments and generate ever new victims.
1. “A spectre is moving about the world and on its 200th birthday alights in the centre of Trier as a monstrous bronze Brocken, as a rocher de bronze belonging to the antiquated Left-progressives of an eternal yesterday [ewiggestriger Linksprogressiver]…”
“A spectre is moving about the world”: This phrase differs by only one word from the first sentence of Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto whose publication coincided with the mostly failed liberal revolutions of 1848 in Europe. The original sentence reads in full: “A spectre is moving about Europe — the spectre of communism” (Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa — das Gespenst des Kommunismus.).
“Bronze Brocken”: By this simile, which likens the gigantism of the Marx statue to Brocken or Blocksberg, the highest point of the Harz mountains in Northern Germany, Prof. Ockenfels alludes to Marx as a Mephistophelian spirit which is now worldwide. Brocken is the locale for the Walpurgis Night or the Witches’ Sabbath (April 30), where in Goethe’s Faust Part I, Mephistopheles leads Faust into a chorus of dancing and singing demons.
“Rocher de bronze” is a synonym for eherner Fels or ‘rock of bronze’. French is used here to emphasise unshakeable steadfastness, for it evokes King Frederick William I of Prussia (1688-1740): “I attain to my purpose and stabilise sovereignty and plant the crown firmly like a rocher de bronze and leave the wind of the Landtag to the Messers Junker”. Hence the French phrase, together with the idea that progressives live steadfastly in an eternal yesterday, creates an extended oxymoron exposing liberalism as a surface progression mired in a substantial regression.
The above quotation is translated from: Radbruch, Gustav. Rechtsphilosophie I. Heidelberg: C.F Müller Juristischer Verlag, 1987, p. 248.
“Left progressives from an eternal yesterday [ewiggestriger Linksprogressiver]”: Progressives in Germany routinely use ewiggestrig, eternal yesterday, to describe their opponents as ‘living in the past’, backward, antiquated, outmoded or retrogressive. Here Prof. Ockenfels points the phrase toward the liberals to expose their latent regression (cf. endnote 1, rocher de bronze).
An Ewiggestriger (ewig-Gestriger) is best translated, at least in this context, literally as “eternal yesterday”. Prof. Ockenfels uses it adjectivally, a form which is extremely awkward to render in English.
The expression may originate with Schiller. Samual Coleridge translated “ewig Gestrige“ as “eternal yesterday” in his rendering of these famous lines in Schiller’s “The Death of Wallenstein”, Act 1 scene IV (1799):
‘Tis a foe invisible
The which I fear—a fearful enemy,
Which in the human heart opposes me,
By its coward fear alone made fearful to me.
Not that, which full of life, instinct with power,
Makes known its present being; that is not
The true, the perilously formidable.
O no! it is the common, the quite common,
The thing of an eternal yesterday [ewig Gestrige].
Whatever was, and evermore returns,
Sterling to-morrow, for to-day ‘twas sterling!
Ironically, and perhaps unwittingly, the German Wikipedia implies that the National Socialists thought of themselves as progressive. Their entry for “Ewiggestriger“ attributes usage of the term, by way of an example, to NS students’ organisations (Kameradschaften), who in the 1930’s denounced traditional students as Ewiggestriger.
2. “…all to the sheer delight of the home- [heimischen] tourist-industry and the Chinese guests, who are able to feel at home [zu Hause] now that they are in the homeland [Heimat] of the homeless [heimatlos] Karl Marx”:
The obvious play on the concept of “home”, and the word Heimat itself, alludes to the connection between globalism, communism and wandering homelessness without identity. This relationship becomes apparent after reading Prof. Ockenfels’ recent contribution, “The Yearning for and the Right to a Homeland”, at Gates of Vienna (30 April 2018).
3. “A Karl Marx upon whose ‘shoulders we stand’, as Oswald von Nell-Breuning SJ all too naïvely expressed it”.
Some might say that the word “naïve” is an understatement, for mention of Oswald Nell-Breuning (1890-1991) hints at an increasingly unofficial, but nevertheless politically effective Marxist tendency in the Catholic Church after 1965. Like Marx, Nell-Breuning was born in Trier. He was a Jesuit priest with an aristocratic background and was highly respected in the field of Catholic social teaching. For example, Nell-Breuning is well-known for his part in drafting the social encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (Pius XI, 1931), which was opposed to socialism and liberalism. He was a prolific writer, and there is even an Oswald von Nell-Breuning-Institut in Frankfurt.
But after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), Nell-Breuning may have undergone a transition from Catholic Social teaching to “social justice”. At the age of 75 (about 1965) he appears to have it both ways in an interview with the TV personality by the name of Gunter Gäus:
Karl Marx — we came out of the same Gymnasium [high school] — certainly realised an impressive intellectual accomplishment. We all stand on Marx’s shoulders, whether we know it or not. And today we call the errors of Karl Marx, Marxism. (Konrad Löw. Wir alle stehen auf den Schultern von Karl Marx, Theologisches. 1990, 147-8).
Nell-Breuning was also sufficiently well-known in German socialist circles to have been “quoted with much praise on a solemn occasion” by Willy Brandt; it was a speech which is now in book form: “Friedrich Engels and Social Democracy: Speech on the 150th birthday of Friedrich Engels “(Löw, ibid. p. 148).
More recently, Nell-Breuning received favourable mention from Cardinal Marx, the current head of the German Bishops’ Conference, who quotes the phrase “We all stand on the shoulders of Karl Marx” in an interview with Rheinische Post Online (20 April 2018) in anticipation of the bicentennial of the birth of Karl Marx:
Catholic social teaching has put an intensive effort into Marx, hence the words of Oswald von Nell-Breuning: “We all stand on the shoulders of Karl Marx”. This does not mean that he [Marx] is a “church father”. But his position has always been a point of discussion for Catholic social teaching, mostly by way of critical dismissal, but also in posing the question: What does he actually mean, what is preoccupying him? Is his analysis of capitalism correct? [Emphasis added.]
There is a more complete context for this quotation in English at Crisis Magazine.
4. “And the Marxist intellectuals, journalists and politicians have continued to be spared a “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” [overcoming of the past]”:
The point here is that German Marxists are spared the obligation of overcoming their own past atrocities.
Vergangenheitsbewältigung, or overcoming the past, is an unspoken reference to the 12-year period of National Socialism, which in this usage stands more precisely for the Holocaust: Vergangenheitbewältigung refers to “a nation’s confrontation with a problematical period of its recent past, in particular with National Socialism in Germany” (Duden). It has the effect of creating a negative national identity founded on collective guilt stemming from an atrocity, being that their history is limited in public consciousness to the 12-year period of National Socialism.
In his book Finis Germania, in the chapter entitled “The Mythos of Overcoming the Past”, Rolf Peter Sieferle indentifies Vergangenheitsbewältigung as having the features of a state religion. He treats it as a broad ideological container for what he calls the “Auschwitz-mythos”, by which he means a “unique and irredeemable guilt”, the source of which is the historical event of “Auschwitz”. As such, Vergangenheitsbewältigung, is the negative founding principle of Germany, which maintains the German people in a perpetual state of collective guilt. (cf. Gates of Vienna, December 2017).
5. “Inseparable from his “scientific” theory is the ideological dogma with its atheistic view negating the precepts of God, faith and reason — and therefore also property rights. Marx never came to terms with Thomas Aquinas; he simply ignored him.”
In this passage, Thomas Aquinas, as the main philosopher in the springtime of Western culture, is a metonym for the tradition which applies and modifies Aristotelian reasoning in the light of Christian revelation. There is no faith without reason:
For, if we do not demonstrate that God exists, all consideration of divine things is necessarily suppressed. (Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Contra Gentiles, trans. Anton C. Pegis. IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975, I.9)
Ockenfels presents Thomas Aquinas (reason) and Marx as mutually exclusive sets in this passage. Marx’s dialectical materialism, as historical and environmental determinism, determines thinking itself. It is also an evolutionist theory (Hegel), with the blind mechanism of natural selection as its biologistic prototype. For Marx, Darwin’s Origin of the Species (1859) is the very “basis” of dialectical materialism (cf. Darwin’s metaphor: Nature’s Place in Victorian Culture by Robert M. Young). By the starkness of this contrast between dialectical materialism and reason, Ockenfels implicitly understands Marx as a rebel against Logos and also against Western culture.
Marxism surfaced unofficially in the Church after 1965 along with the gradual rehabilitation of the pantheistic evolutionist, Teilhard de Chardin (The Phenomenon of Man). This tendency was identified, for example, as early as 1968 in a now obscure, but well-referenced pamphlet published by Twin Circle:
St. Thomas Aquinas has been toppled from his throne as the universal doctor of the Catholic Church and supplanted by a new champion, Teilhard de Chardin. (Monsignor Leo S., Schumacher. The Truth About Teilhard, p. 37)
6. “It was on this subject that Bettina Röhl, the daughter of Ulrike-Meinhof, recently wrote a harrowing book based on her own experience.”:
The Baader-Meinhof Gang, as if by a kind of synchronicity, can be compared in their activities with other violent, left-wing “68er” groups in the 1970s, such as the Weathermen in the United States and the Red Brigades in Italy. Bettina Röhl’s book is about a life caught up in history, for it was lived during events which, because of the political murders, shook the prosperous, pre-unified Bundesrepublik to her foundations.
Bettina Röhl’s six hundred-page book is entitled “Die RAF hat euch lieb“ (2018) or “The RAF loves you”. The author writes in the forward to her book that its title is a quotation from a letter which Ulrike Meinhof wrote to her twin daughters, Bettina and Regina, during the early period of her imprisonment around 1972 or 73. The girls were born in 1962.
Bettina Röhl is a journalist and prolific writer, having had experience in a number of Germany’s well-known magazines and journals. She currently writes for a conservative German opinion magazine called Tichys Einblick.
In 2001, when Joschka Fischer (Greens) was Foreign Minister in the cabinet of Gerhard Schroeder (SPD), she exposed his violent street-fighting past during the 1970s. A contemporary article in The Guardian has its own way of framing the event.