If someone in the 1990s, when we had a difficult time dealing with our communist past and becoming part of the West, would have told me that young people in Central Europe would later spray derogatory inscriptions on Winston Churchill’s statues while a statue of the mass murderer Vladimir Ilyich Lenin would be ceremoniously erected in Germany, I would not have believed him. And yet, it is our reality today.
According to current thinking, Churchill was a racist, imperialist and war criminal and, therefore, supporters of the radical left demand the removal of statues honoring him. At the same time, in Germany, specifically in Gelsenkirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia, a two-meter-tall statue of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin has been recently erected.
So up goes a statue of a mass murderer and the creator of the Soviet Union – the “evil empire” that history tells us inflicted such incredible suffering on so many people and left tens of millions dead. To top it all off, the statue was cast in 1957 in former communist Czechoslovakia.
Behind the initiative aiming to install the statue in Gelsenkirchen is the far-left Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany (MLPD), founded in 1982 by members of the Communist Workers Union of Germany (KABD). This political party openly advocates for the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and the creation of a “classless society.” In addition to honoring the founding fathers of communism, i. e., Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, it also proudly upholds the legacy of two of the three greatest criminals in modern history, Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin and Mao Zedong.
Although the Gelsenkirchen City Hall tried to prevent the installation of the statue, pointing out that “Lenin is the embodiment of the violence, oppression, terror and immense human suffering that engulfed the Soviet Union after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917,” the court did not accept its objections.
Gabi Fechtner is the fanatical head of the MLPD: a freelance publicist and, among other things, the author of a 60-page pamphlet entitled “The Most Beautiful Thing in the World: Fighting for the Liberation of Humanity” (“Das Schönste auf der Welt: Der Kampf um die Befreiung der Menschheit”). Fechtner said that installing the statue of Lenin is appropriate, as he was “a world-famous progressive thinker and fighter for freedom and democracy for the masses.”
Does it sound unbelievable? The mass murderer Lenin, a “progressive thinker and freedom fighter”? It seems that even the general knowledge of his crimes does not prevent some from celebrating and glorifying him. They also do not mind that in the name of Marxism-Leninism, tens of millions of people were murdered, not only during Lenin’s and Stalin’s era, but also during the rule of Mao Zedong in China, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Pol Pot in Cambodia and Castro in Cuba.
However, not only historians have tried to warn people of the dangers behind this ideology. Numerous authors, including prose writers such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn (The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich), Arthur Koestler (Darkness at Noon), George Orwell (1984 and Animal Farm) and Artur London (The Confession), could still be writing today, and it would not change a thing for certain people.
Some might say that the German “Leninists” are really a negligibly small group that is not even worth commenting on. But that would be inaccurate. Although members of the radical left are not numerous, they are increasing – not only in Germany but also in other mainly European countries – by luring in the younger generation. Leftists often appeal to youth via popular initiatives such as climate protection in order to legitimize their school of thought.
Defaming Churchill and other significant historical figures and installing a statue of Lenin – this is just the beginning. As soon as we shrug it off, there will be statues of Stalin for “defeating fascism.” There might also be attempts to fundamentally reinterpret our modern history. Indeed, it is easier for the leftists to appeal to the younger generation, as its knowledge of history is not that great.
So what should we do about this? First of all, we must be precise and consistent in how we name figures and ideologies. We must say that Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and his comrades belong to the same category as Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. We must be clear that communism is an evil completely comparable to Nazism and Fascism and that if the latter two cannot be tolerated, we cannot tolerate the former.
Being quiet and just letting it be is the worst thing we can do.
Title image: A man on a bicycle passes the controversial Lenin statue in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, on Sunday, June 21, 2020. The statue of the former Soviet leader has been unveiled yesterday by the tiny Marxist-Leninist party MLPD, the installation comes amid global protests against monuments to controversial historical figures. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)