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Paul T Horgan: If King Leopold must fall, so should Marx’s Highgate tomb

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Flushed with their success in taking over the Russian Empire through a campaign of party-inspired murder and civil war, the Bolsheviks wished to celebrate their conquest. They created a latter-day Domesday Book, entitled the ‘Great Soviet Encyclopaedia’. The second edition made clear the aim of the work.

“The Soviet Union has become the centre of the civilised world.”, the introduction modestly stated. “[…]the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia should elucidate widely the world-historical victories of socialism in our country, […] it must show the superiority of socialist culture over the culture of the capitalist world. Operating on Marxist-Leninist theory, the encyclopaedia should give a party criticism of contemporary bourgeois tendencies in various provinces of science and technics.”

Heady stuff, comrades.

The information imparted was thus ideology-driven. Facts were thus secondary to world view. The application of ideology varies according to the ideologues that practise it. Marxism-Leninism is a religious idea disguised as a political philosophy. It is consistent in only being inconsistent.

In 1953, holders of the Encyclopaedia were ordered to remove the hagiographic biography of Lavrenty Beria, Stalin’s head of the KGB, and replace it with pages that expanded the articles to either side. Beria, was the man who blindly enforced Stalin’s rule using terror, murder, exile, imprisonment. He had been arrested, tried for ‘treason’ as a ‘British spy’, and executed on the orders of his fearful erstwhile colleagues on the Central Committee shortly after Stalin’s death. His published ‘achievements’ therefore were ideologically inconsistent and had to be removed from the Encyclopaedia. This was all due to public demand, apparently. This was not the only time holders of the Encyclopaedia had to ‘amend’ articles.

The authorities at Queen Mary University have bowed to a similar ideological demand and removed a foundation stone laid 130 years ago. The social criminal to be purged in this case is King Leopold of the Belgians.

It was Leopold whose contribution to the 19th Century’s ‘Scramble for Africa’ was to carve out an empire in the Congo Basin. The difference between his possessions and those of other European countries was that the other territories appropriated by the Great Powers were taken by the nation states concerned. Congo was taken by Leopold as his personal fiefdom. The Belgian state, of which he was head, had no involvement, interest, and thus no responsibility. There was thus limited scrutiny by politicians.

Leopold’s rule of the ironically named ‘Free State of Congo’ was not enlightened. The indigenous people were enslaved and murdered. Joseph Conrad’s experiences on Leopold’s patch inspired his novella Heart of Darkness. Sir Roger Casement produced a harrowing report of conditions. After a couple of decades or so of depraved governance, the other Great Powers had had enough. The British Empire flexed its muscles. Belgium took over the territory. Leopold was disgraced.

The campaign to remove Leopold’s stone was launched by Queen Mary University’s Pan-African Society. According to Wikipedia, “Pan-Africanism is a worldwide intellectual movement that aims to encourage and strengthen bonds of solidarity between all people of African descent.”. So it is identity politics once again. The campaign to remove the stone had only been running a few weeks. The aim was to have the the stone, or the plaque section of it removed from its ‘uncritical place’ and “relocated to a museum…dedicated to the memorialisation of the crimes of genocide, colonialism and imperialism”, presumably to help in people’s re-education and to foster the illusion that it was only the European colonial period that cased misery.

Tribal warfare of the kind practised in pre-colonial Africa has always been the most genocidal, being less about imposing political will and more about physical extermination or assimilation. In percentage, but not numeric terms, warfare practised by European powers is actually more humane. Our wars killed a smaller proportion of the populace. Depraved conflicts still take place in post-colonial Africa.

It is disturbing that the University should bow down to people who are barely out of their teen years and after such a short period of time. Students are by their nature immature. The whole point of a university education is to help them grow up, not to pander to their immature, absolutist needs. In Africa, teenage boys make the best soldiers for numerous guerilla groups as they lack empathy and thus will commit the most heinous crimes.

If every object has constantly to justify its existence according to shifting ideological fashions, then we may soon find ourselves obliterating the past wholesale in a way that threatens intellectual and cultural freedom. There will always be this group or that organisation that will be offended by something, and the internet facilitates and radicalises them. It was Orwell who stated that, “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

There is a sinister cultural revolution going on under our noses. We did not defeat Soviet Communism abroad only to have its vile practises repeated by people too young to remember the scourge of the hammer and sickle, but who overdose on the swastika.

If it is now time to remove monuments mentioning Leopold, perhaps it is also time to remove Marx’s tomb from Highgate. Marx’s poisonous ideas were used as justification by his followers for murdering far more people than Leopold’s rule ever did. They are still being used to justify murdering innocents today. Surely using the muddled socialist thinking that tries to find equality where none exists, and also removes Victorian monuments, this would make sense.

(Image: Alberto Garcia)

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Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan works in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.

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