As you may know, the Cold War is over. What many people regard as the definitive symbol of this end is not the lowering of the Soviet flag, but rather the collapse of the Berlin Wall, what many view as the visual metaphor for the so-called ‘iron curtain’. On November 9th, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and not long after, the German Democratic Republic did as well, with all the socialist iconography of the east coming down soon after.
The removal of statues of Lenin by helicopter was an especially striking incident, used most notably in the fantastic 2003 movie Good Bye Lenin!, a semi-nostalgic look at the period of reintegration following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany itself, told through the eyes of a young man trying to convince his die-hard communist mother, who had been in a coma during the fall of the wall, that the country was still socialist after all.
It seems that now, things would have been a whole lot easier. Not only is Lenin back, he’s in the west this time! After a long legal dispute about whether or not it could happen at all, permission was finally given for the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany (MLDP) to erect a statue of the great Bolshevik leader in the west German city of Gelsenkirchen. The reaction from the communists was one of celebration, with many red flags a-fluttering and apparently with many sausages grilled openly for the crowd of several-hundred social-distancing onlookers. Quite thoroughly German indeed.
It’s notable that the erection of this statue comes alongside a worldwide spate of statues being torn down for their ugly history. Confederate generals, slave traders and more had their likeness torn down and destroyed throughout much of the western world, with many panicking about the fate of what statues remain. Even in Germany, a statue to German leader Otto von Bismarck had his hands covered in red paint in open critique of the legacy of German imperialism. Meanwhile, the visage of Lenin stands high above them all. The MLPD’s chairperson Gabi Flechtner stated “The time for monuments to racists, antisemites, fascists, anti-communists and other relics of the past has clearly passed,” and “Lenin was an ahead-of-his-time thinker of world-historical importance, an early fighter for freedom and democracy,”.
Whatever one might think of these statements, the courts have had their say. It may be appealed, it may not be. For the time being, it appears like Lenin is here to say. Who knows? Maybe there’ll be a Stalin statue next. Or one of GDR president Erich Honecker… Highly unlikely, but you never know with this crazy world. For all I know, Lenin could be torn down by a protest mob before I even have time to publish this! What this means for Marxist prospects in Germany is… Very little. I mean, let’s be real here, it doesn’t take mass support to get a statue put up. You just need the money and the permission. Maybe they’ll get some more attention out of it, but any German businessmen reading this probably don’t need to fear the distant singing of the Internationale just yet. Give it a few years, then we’ll see.
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