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A Communist Icon Toppled in Ukraine Is Restored. In England.

The Engels project was funded by the Manchester City Council and was featured recently as the closing event of the biennial Manchester International Festival of the arts. The statue was ceremonially welcomed in front of an art theater called HOME, as a high-spirited crowd gathered in the parking lot to watch the film. The singer Gruff Rhys performed “Communism’s Coming Home.”

“Engels changed the course of history,” said Noel Callaghan, 45, a local resident.

The ceremony also marked the centennial of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which was inspired by the ideas of Marx and Engels in their “Communist Manifesto” of 1848. And much of their analysis was based on Engels’s own masterwork, “The Condition of the Working Class in England,” published three years before.

In Manchester, Engels is still revered. Alexandra Prodan, a 27-year-old medical secretary from Romania who has been living in Manchester for eight years, said the problem with communism was not with Marxist theory per se. “In practice,” Ms. Prodan said, communist regimes “became totalitarian and oppressive.”

Mr. Callaghan agreed. “Corrupt people,” he said, “they corrupt things, don’t they?”

Ms. Prodan added: “Even in the countries where people were oppressed, people were looking out for each other in a way. There was still a feeling of togetherness against the regime. This is basically what Engels wrote about. You know, it’s about the people coming together.”

Manchester is still mourning after a terrorist attack in May. “We’re still conscious of it,” Mr. Callaghan said. But in some respects residents seem more united than ever. “You saw people mobilizing and coming together,” Ms. Prodan said.

The newly erected statue is not the only tribute to Engels in the city. At the University of Salford, not far from where Engels worked at his family-owned mill, an innovative sculpture of Engels’s iconic beard, meant to be climbed, is intended, the university claims, “to inspire the next generation of artists, musicians and performers.”

Photo

Mr. Collins found the statue at an agricultural compound in eastern Ukraine. It had been cut in half and dumped. Credit Yevgen Nikiforov, via Shady Lane Productions

The statue is now installed in the city center to grant Engels “official recognition,” Mr. Collins said. Of course, things have changed a bit since his day. The statue now stands among such temples of Western capitalism as a McDonald’s and a Hilton.

The festival’s artistic director, John McGrath, said he expected the statue’s new location to “invite people to think and ignite debate.” In Mr. Collins’s words: “What’s interesting about socialism is that it announces itself.”

Why Engels? To Mr. Collins, it’s all about contradictions, “the contradictions we all live in.”

“Engels ran his family’s factory,” and yet he was dedicated to the emancipation of the working class, Mr. Collins said.

“He was a capitalist by day and a communist by night,” he added.

Like Engels, Mr. Collins suggested: “Nobody’s outside of a system. We’re all kind of bound to it.” He deemed Manchester to be home to “important movements connected with social justice and with resistance.”

Manchester retains a strong air of socialism. Not only did it elect a Labour member of Parliament in the recent general election, but 94 of the 96 city councilors are members of the Labour Party.

“We’ve got lots of statues for other 19th-century figures,” said the leader of the Manchester City Council, Richard Leese. “Why not give one to a German Manchester socialist?”

It was hard to find a dissenting voice at the dedication of the statue. When asked about possibly glorifying a figure whose life’s work came to be associated with political regimes that ended up immiserating countless millions of people, Mr. Callaghan said that was not the point.

“I don’t think we’re necessarily celebrating it,” he said. “With time, you’ve got to acknowledge what happened in the past, don’t you?”

Barbara Woods, 70, who had accompanied her husband to the event, was practically alone in mildly criticizing the idea. “We are for the working class,” she said. “But I’m not 100 percent sure about a statue.

“Personally, I don’t see any need for it,” she continued. “I think we should let things lie and rather have a statue of somebody representing the region, not somebody who’s come from somewhere else.”

She suggested another influential part-time Mancunian, who worked at The Manchester Evening News for three years: “Why not George Orwell?”

Source: NYT > World

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