Delivering an impassioned defence of Karl Marx’s legacy, EU boss Jean-Claude Juncker argued the radical should not be judged for the Communist atrocities that took place in his name.
The President of the European Commission defied protests to deliver his speech at an event commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto writer’s birth in Trier, west Germany.
Speaking at a church in the city, he said: “Karl Marx was a philosopher, who thought into the future, had creative aspirations, and today he stands for things which is he not responsible for, and which he didn’t cause, because many of the things he wrote down were redrafted into the opposite.
He added: “One has to understand Karl Marx from the context of his time and not have prejudices based on the review, these judgements shouldn’t exist.”
During the event, where he unveiled a statue of Marx donated by China’s authoritarian government, Juncker also highlighted goals of furthering EU integration and “social rights” in the bloc as Marx’s contribution to the European project.
His speech, which was briefly interrupted by an anti-Communist protest, came in the face of pleas from politicians around the world for him to boycott the event, which critics argued represented a whitewashing of “the most destructive ideology in human history”.
The decision is a slap in the face of the almost 100 million EU citizens who were forced to live under communist occupation after 1945. pic.twitter.com/Mqzyc4bTlB
— Poland Daily (@PolandDaily) April 28, 2018
Members of the U.S. Congress urged the top Eurocrat “not to honour Karl Marx in any way”, asserting that with a death toll of more than 100 million, Marxism is a “toxic ideology that has led to mass death, torture, and enslavement wherever it has been applied.”
“Marx’s defenders often say he cannot be held accountable for what Communist regimes did long after his life and death; but Marxist dictators who massacred their own people were applying Communist ideology to political practice,” the U.S. Congressional group on Victims of Communism wrote in a letter last week.
“Violence and Marxism go hand in hand,” said caucus chair Representative Chris Smith, pointing to examples including Marx’s praise of “revolutionary terror” as the only method that can shorten “the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society.”
The letter concludes with a plea to Juncker “not to honour Karl Marx in any way, rather to speak the truth about this man whose writing indeed called for the tyranny and murder that have been and continue to be committed in his name.”.
Juncker was also urged not to attend by a group of MEPs from Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, who warned the EU boss that his gracing the event would be “particularly appalling for the citizens of countries which suffered for decades under Communist dictatorships”.
Hungarian prime minister says the EU and many in the West "are still making excuses for the crimes of communism". https://t.co/9HzqWyNC4V
— Jack Montgomery ن (@JackBMontgomery) February 28, 2017
Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski, who fled Soviet-ruled Poland with his family when he was a child, added his voice to calls for Juncker to cancel his appearance at the lavish ceremony, urging the EU leader to “remember that Marxism was all about ripping power and individual means away from people and giving to State.”
“Marxism led to the killing of millions around the world as it allowed a small band of fanatics to suppress the people,” he added.
“We must learn the lessons from this and share with our children.”
A spokesman for the European Commission defended Juncker’s speech and appearance at the event, claiming that “not speaking of [Marx] would come close to denying history.”
“After decades of experience in politics at a national and European level, President Juncker is very well aware of the historical facts and sensitivities,” she said.
“Whatever peoples’ views on Karl Marx, I think that nobody can deny that Karl Marx is a figure who shaped history in one way or another.”