The 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth has been marked with the unveiling of a statue in the city where he was born.
The celebrations were marred by protests – the revolutionary philosopher remains a divisive figure almost three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Marx laid the foundations for communism, the ideology that aims for shared ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes.
The 18-foot statue – a gift from China – was unveiled in front of dignitaries in the German city Trier, including a Chinese delegation and the head of Germany’s Social Democratic Party.
An association representing victims of communism called for protests because they say Marx inspired Stalinist regimes.
Dieter Dombrowski, president of the Union of the Victim Groups of Communist Tyranny, said: “We want to protest loudly against the unveiling of the Marx statue and raise our voices against the glorification of Marxism.”
He said Trier’s decision to accept the gift from China is “disrespectful and inhuman” to those who suffered under communism.
Far-right party AfD, which enjoys strong support in former East German states, has separately called a silent march with the theme “Get Marx off the pedestal” through Trier’s city centre.
Marx was born on 5 May 1818 in the western German city, located close to the border with Luxembourg, and developed his theories as the Industrial Revolution gathered pace.
His works, such as the Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, became compulsory course material in countries under communist regimes, with revolutionaries from Vladimir Lenin to Mao Zedong seizing on Marx’s ideas.
China’s President Xi Jinping said China’s communist party will forever remain “guardians and practitioners” of Marxism, while Vietnamese leader Tran Dai Quang also paid tribute to Marx.
Because Marx was considered the father of communism, he was largely derided in the former capitalist West Germany during the Cold War.
Rainer Auts, director of a company set up to oversee the exhibitions on Marx’s life, works and legacy, said that more than a quarter of a century after reunification it was now time to re-examine the philosopher who left Germany deeply divided.
He said: “We’re not looking to glorify or vilify him. But we want to show him as a person in his time, as well as show where he may have gone wrong.”
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said that Marx “wasn’t responsible for all the atrocities for which his supposed heirs must answer”.
Reacting to criticism of the city accepting the statue, Trier mayor Wolfram Leibe said it was simply “a gesture of friendship” from China.
He added: “There isn’t a single Chinese company in Trier. We have no economic relations with China and that means we made this decision autonomously. We are not susceptible to blackmail.”
Marx died in London of bronchitis and pleurisy in March 1883 aged 64 and is buried in Highgate Cemetery.