WASHINGTON – It should surprise no one that the Workers World Party is celebrating the 200th birthday of Karl Marx, the father of socialism and communism.
It might be a little strange that the self-described revolutionaries are holding the conference in New York the day after his actual birth on May 5, 1818.
But what’s up with Carnegie Mellon University? Its Humanities Center has been holding symposiums on the hero of the left since Jan. 30, 2018 – all seemingly laudatory, if not worshipful.
Wasn’t Andrew Carnegie, just 17 years older than Marx, one of the infamous capitalist “robber barons” who amassed one of the greatest fortunes ever? Didn’t his Pinkerton guards break a strike in 1892 with violence that killed 10?
And, how about Andrew Mellon? He was the industrialist who famously said: “Give tax breaks to large corporations, so that money can trickle down to the general public, in the form of extra jobs.”
Is this the very definition of irony?
“Vladimir Lenin was said to have boasted that capitalists would give his communists the rope to hang them,” wrote Grove City College professor Paul Kengor, the author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism,” about some of the odd celebrations. “The self-anointed keeper of the Marxist flame, co-namesake of history’s deadliest ideology – Marxism-Leninism – would have chortled at what’s happening at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. In 2018, this prestigious university, named for two of history’s wealthiest capitalists, freshly infused with a huge quarter-billion-dollar-plus estate gift from industrialist William S. Dietrich II, and where students are hit for $70,000 per year, will be celebrating the birth of Karl Marx.”
Marx was the author of “The Communist Manifesto,” and his ideas, says Kengor, were responsible for more deaths in the 20th century than Nazism.
But Marx is still a hometown hero in western Germany where he was born. While some Americans are knocking down and defacing statues of historical figure from the past, Marx got a brand-new statue erected in April in Trier for 200th birthday celebrations. It was a gift from China.
The huge 2.3 ton bronze figure was mounted atop a pedestal right in front of the former Marx family home, but it won’t be unveiled to the public just yet. That spectacle has been reserved for his birthday next Saturday.
Not everyone in town was pleased.
“The glorifying Marx monument is a poisonous gift from China,” said Ulrich Delius, director of the Society for Threatened Peoples, adding that it was “sad,” that the city had accepted a statue from a government that “commits state terror against its own people.”
Dieter Dombrowski of the Union of Victims’ Associations of Communist Tyranny called the gesture “bizarre.” Marx was “not just a scientist and philosopher,” he said. He also “laid the spiritual foundations for the communist dictatorships that came afterwards.”
Trier’s council voted to accept the gift in early 2017. Councillor Andreas Ludwig said the statue, created by Chinese artist Wu Weishan, wasn’t about glorifying Marx’s ideology but rather aimed to encourage discussion about his work. He added that it was important to maintain ties with China given that the city is visited by 50,000 Chinese tourists annually.
“Karl Marx is one of the biggest citizens in this city and we should not hide it,” Trier Mayor Wolfram Leibe said.
Speaking of Trier, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will travel there to give a speech to celebrate Marx’s birthday in the town where he spent the spent the first 17 years of life.
The chief eurocrat’s trip has received critics, who have suggested the 63-year-old might be forgetting how Marx’s “warped ideology” led to millions of deaths across the world.
MEP Paul Nuttall said: “It is appalling that Jean-Claude Juncker feels it necessary to commemorate a man whose ideology – Marxism/Communism – led to more than 100 million deaths. Both Marx and his warped ideology should not be commemorated, they should be consigned to the dustbin of history.”
But perhaps the most ironic way the city of Trier, more often referred to today as Rheinland-Palatinate, is celebrating the big anniversary of perhaps its most famous resident is the way it is, pardon the pun, “capitalizing” on it. That’s through the sale of “zero euros.” They look just like the real thing with a zero monetary value with a photo of Marx on them. They are selling like schnitzel. The original printing of 5,000 commemorative “zero euros” sold out in one month. Since then, they have begun selling worldwide – all for the promotion of tourism in Trier.
There’s somewhere far from Trier, though, where Marx enjoys unbridled popularity – a place where “The Communist Manifesto” remains today the most popular book.
That’s on American college campuses.
That’s according to data from Open Syllabus Project, which tracks books and other works assigned to students in more than 1 million syllabi.
The database is assembled using computer algorithms that scrape the data from publicly available sites.
Each text is assigned a count, registering the number of times it appears in syllabi, and a teaching score, “a numerical indicator of the frequency with which a particular work is taught,” according to the site.
Many notable works, including the Bible and the U.S. Constitution, don’t appear in the data set. The database has analyzed more than 1 million syllabi.
The only books assigned more frequently than “The Communist Manifesto” were “The Elements of Style,” the writing guide by William Strunk, popularized by E.B. White, and “The Republic,” by Plato.
But it’s not just Marx you’ll find on American campuses. You’ll also find his followers. Decades ago, U.S. News and World Report reported there were 10,000 Marxist professors. No one is even keeping track today.