TRIER, Germany (Reuters) - Protesters held banners reading “Down with capitalism” and “Father of all dictators” at Saturday’s unveiling of a statue of Karl Marx in the German city of Trier, reflecting the polarising legacy of the philosopher in his birthplace and beyond.
The bronze sculpture, which towers over 5 metres (16 feet) high including the plinth, is a gift from China to mark Saturday’s 200th birthday of the founder of Communism.
Marx spent the first 17 years of his life in Trier, a small town on the Moselle River in Germany’s far west.
Many see the post-World War Two division of Germany and the erection of the Berlin Wall to divide the Communist east from the capitalist West as a result of his ideas, but Trier mayor Wolfram Leibe said historical controversies should be acknowledged.
“In Germany, we have this situation again and again with difficult, complex personalities of history - we want to hide them in the woods,” he said. “So it was a conscious act to bring Karl Marx into the city ... We don’t have to hide him.”
The city council voted to accept the gift from the Chinese government by 42 members to seven in March 2017.
While some see it as recognition of Trier’s most famous son, others argue that accepting the gift from China is not compatible with criticising human rights abuses there.
Since 2015, China’s President Xi Jinping has presided over a widespread crackdown on human rights activists.
The statue depicts a thoughtful Marx, holding a book in one hand.
“Yes, we stand by the child of our city. And we deal with Karl Marx in a constructive and active way,” said Malu Dreyer, premier of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, to which Trier belongs. “We are glad to receive this present, this gesture of friendship.”
Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Kevin Liffey