communist statue

“[The working class] must act in such a manner that the revolutionary excitement does not collapse immediately after the victory.  On the contrary, they must maintain it as long as possible.  Far from opposing so-called excesses, such as sacrificing to popular revenge of hated individuals or public buildings to which hateful memories are attached, such deeds must not only be tolerated, but their direction must be taken in hand, for examples’ sake.”

From Karl Marx, Address to the Communist League (1850).

Having grown up in DC, statues of various dead guys on horses are basically background radiation, or they were before I became Hamilton trash and started noticing them again. Now it’s like every time I turn around there’s a Founding Father looking at me like I personally disappointed him, and it’s getting a little unnerving.

Although: as a result, I sort of want to write a magical realism thing where that can really happen. Where if you do something they would have disagreed with strongly enough, the statues climb down off their columns and lumber down Mass Ave to the Russell Building or the Capitol, where they stand on the sidewalk, arms crossed, glaring into the window of whoever’s just introduced legislation that offended them. They don’t speak, or attack anyone, or damage anything– well, they do tend to bump their heads on low-handing streetlights, sometimes, but that doesn’t count. Mostly they just stand there, mournful, accusing, for everyone to see.

Sometimes lawmakers can talk them around, convince them they’re not actually betraying the political ideals of their predecessors. Politicians who are good at this tend to have much, much longer careers than the ones who aren’t. Politicians who piss off the wrong statues seldom get reelected.

George Washington rarely budges, and when he does it’s front-page news, nationwide. Madison’s always been easier to talk around than most. Hamilton spend more time off his plinth than on it, but he cools off fast. Jefferson holds grudges, to the point that hardly anyone worries too much about making him mad. 

It’s not just politicians, either, and they don’t always come to life in anger. Joan of Arc’s bronze horse will shiver to life in Malcolm X Park, sometimes, and carry her off to join protest marches, when she thinks their cause is just. Gandhi walked with Iraq War protestors. The Spirit of American Womanhood, outside Constitution Hall, danced on the day that Roe v. Wade was decided, and when Obergefell vs. Hodge went through, Eleanor Roosevelt taught a clumsy Lindy to Baron von Steuben. 

Lincoln has only risen from his seat once since he was put there in 1922, and that was to nod in solemn approval at LBJ from the White House lawn.

Some cities rarely put up statues, and many have taken theirs down. Paris has a great many artists and writers memorialized, and curiously few politicians. In London, during the Blitz, Nelson shinned down his column to help dig people out of collapsed buildings, until he was broken to pieces himself; he stands atop the column again today, reassembled, but has never moved since. In the last months of the Soviet Union, a desperate Communist Party had the statues of Moscow chained in place. These days, Monument Avenue in Richmond is punctuated with  a long series of empty plinths and bare columns. 

But DC keeps theirs, and keeps building more.

Friendly and timely reminder that the poem of a Jewish communist plastered on the Statue of Liberty is not a binding foundational document for the United States, nor should it determine US immigration policy.


Here’s a personal heroine of ours and one of the bravest women ever: Dolores Ibárruri “La Pasionaria” (1895-1989).

Dolores was born in Gallarta in 1895 in a traditional family of miners so she knew since she was a child how hard the mine workers’ life was. She was raised as a devoted Catholic and wanted to be a teacher, but had to drop her studies out due to the financial problems of her family. Who would pay for my travels, books, food, tuition? (…) I was prepared to serve as a maid or to marry and become a miner’s wife, the long history of my family.”, she wrote.

In 1916 she married a mining union socialist leader, Julián Ruiz, and she became interested in marxism. So much, in fact, that she began to question her traditional and Catholic education. Along with her husband, she began to fight for the rights of miners and workers in general and helped to found the Spanish Communist Party.

She educated herself in politics and in 1918 she started writing some articles in several working class publications. Since her first article was published during the Holy Week, she adopted the nickname “Pasionaria” (literally “passionflower”) refering to the Passion of Christ. The inflammatory tone of her writings and speechs led her to jail several times but, during the II Spanish Republic, she was elected MP (1936).

However, it was during the Spanish Civil War when La Pasionaria would become a myth for the “red” faction. Her harangues to the Republican army and voluntaries were always inspiring and let some unforgettable quotes such as “It is better to be the widow of a hero than the wife of a coward”. The phrase she pronounced during the Madrid siege, “They shall not pass!”, became the motto of the Republic defenders.

When the war finished, she took up exile in the USSR and became the president of the then banned Spanish Communist Party. By the way, one of her sons, Rubén, died as a lieutenant of the Red Army in the Battle of Stalingrad.

She returned to Spain after Franco’s death and was again elected MP in the first election after the dictatorship. Dolores died in Madrid in 1989 and was proclaimed Perpetual Honorary President of the Spanish Communist Party.

Pic below: statue of La Pasionaria in Glasgow, Scotland. Thanks for remembering her, Scots!

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