Marxists Unveil Controversial Lenin Statue In western Germany
June 20, 2020 18:01 GMT – RFE/RL
GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany —
A life-sized statue of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin was unveiled on June 20 in Gelsenkirchen, a former mining town in western Germany by the radical left-wing Marxist-Leninist Party Of Germany (MLPD).
Several hundred people gathered for the ceremony, with scores of police barricading the busy street corner where the monument to the founder of the Soviet Union was revealed.
The statue was initially set to be installed in time for Lenin’s 150th birth anniversary in April, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed the event.
The installation of Germany’s first large public statue of Lenin outside the former communist East Germany was fiercely opposed by many Germans.
Gelsenkirchen’s city council took the Marxists to court in an attempt to stop the action, calling Lenin a “representative of violence, suppression, terror, and immense human suffering.”
But the council’s case that the statue would “disturb the view” of a nearby historic bank was thrown out and the Marxists were given the green light to erect the monument.
Martin Schulmann, a spokesman for Gelsenkirchen’s city council, told RFE/RL in April that “only a very few people around the Marxist Party want [the Lenin monument], no one else.”
But after the council’s legal defeat, “we have no choice but to accept the court’s rulings, since the piece of land where the statue is due to be installed is privately owned [by the MLPD].”
The erection of Lenin’s statue comes amid global protests against racism in recent weeks that have witnessed numerous statues of controversial figures toppled or vandalized in the United States, Britain, Belgium, Germany, and elsewhere.
At a press conference before the unveiling, MLPD’s leader Gabi Fechtner told RFE/RL that measures have been taken to reinforce the Lenin statue.
“I won’t say exactly how but it has been very firmly fastened in place.”
The 1.3-ton, cast-iron statue was made in the former Czechoslovakia in 1957 and bought by the MLPD in an online auction for 16,000 euros ($18,000).
As speeches were under way, Russian woman Yekaterina Maldon stood amongst the crowd with an anti-Soviet placard and a vodka bottle filled with red liquid.
Maldon had the bottle pulled from her hand and was hauled away by members of the crowd as she shouted, “Lenin was a mass killer.”
A few dozen right-wing demonstrators opposed to the installation of the Soviet leader gathered outside the police barricades, including a small group wearing black jerseys branded with “Defensive West MG.”
The group drew chants of “Fascists out!” from the MLPD supporters.
A short distance from the Defensive West group, Marco Graeber, a supporter of Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), Germany’s right-wing, anti-immigrant political party, held a sign reading: “Freedom instead of socialism.”
Graeber told RFE/RL that he was there to oppose “a monument to a mass murderer,” adding that “if there was a statue here to Hitler we would oppose that, too.”
Another protestor next to him leaned in to add, “socialism just doesn’t work, we can see it everywhere from North Korea to Venezuela. These [Marxist-Leninists] want to bring back the past.”
Stefan Engel, the former head of the MLPD, says the organization aims to install a “true version of socialism” in Germany, a political ideology which he told gathered media was “betrayed” after Josef Stalin died and his reign of mass murder and repression was denounced by the Soviet leadership beginning in 1956.
Engel says the party is now planning to erect a statue of Karl Marx to stand next to the controversial Lenin, but gave no timeline for the emplacement.
In 2018, the western German city of Trier unveiled a controversial statue to the communist philosopher to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his birth.