About Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels (German pronunciation: [ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈɛŋəls]; 28 November 1820 – 5 August 1895) was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research. In 1848 he co-authored The Communist Manifesto with Karl Marx, and later he supported Marx financially to do research and write Das Kapital. After Marx's death Engels edited the second and third volumes. Additionally, Engels organized Marx's notes on the "Theories of Surplus Value" and this was later published as the "fourth volume" of Capital.
Friedrich (Frederick) Engels was born in Barmen, Prussia (now Wuppertal, Germany), at the time an expanding industrial metropole, as the eldest son of a wealthy German cotton manufacturer. As his father was a Methodist, Friedrich was raised Christian Pietist. As he grew up, his relationship with his parents became strained because of his atheist beliefs. Parental disapproval of his revolutionary activities is recorded in an October, 1848 letter from his mother, Elizabeth Engels. In this letter his mother berates him for having "really gone too far" and "begged" him "to proceed no further.". "You have paid more heed to other people, to strangers, and have taken no account of your mother's pleas. God alone knows what I have felt and suffered of late. I was trembling when I picked up the newspaper and saw therein that a warrant was out for my son's arrest." At the point this letter was written Frederick Engels was in hiding in Brussels, Belgium and was soon to make his way to Switzerland and then in 1849 make his way back into Germany to participate in the revolutionary uprising in Baden and Palatinate.
Earlier when he was merely 18 years of age, young Frederick had been dropped out of high school because of family circumstances. At this point, he had been sent, by his family to work as a nonsalaried office clerk at a commercial house in Bremen. His parents expected that he would begin a career in business like his father. Accordingly, Frederick's revolutionary activieties were a definite disappointment to his parents.
Whilst at Bremen, Engels began reading the philosophy of Hegel, whose teachings had dominated German philosophy at the time. In September 1838, he published his first work, a poem titled The Bedouin, in the Bremisches Conversationsblatt No. 40. He also engaged in other literary and journalistic work.
In 1841, Engels joined the Prussian Army as a member of the Household Artillery. This position moved him to Berlin where he attended university lectures and began to associate with groups of Young Hegelians. He anonymously published articles in the Rheinische Zeitung exposing the working and living conditions workers in the factories had to endure. Editor of the Rheinshe Zeitung was Karl Marx. However, Engels never met Karl Marx until they had a brief encounter near the end of November 1842. Throughout his lifetime, Engels would point out that he was indebted to German philosophy because of its effect on his intellectual development. A remarkable quotation from that period: "To get the most out of life you must be active, you must live and you must have the courage to taste the thrill of being young ... " (1840)
In 1842, the 22-year-old Engels was sent by his parents to Manchester, Britain, to work for the Ermen and Engels' Victoria Mill in Weaste which made sewing threads. Engels' father thought that working at the Manchester firm might make Engels reconsider the opinions he had developed at the time. On his way to Manchester, Engels visited the office of the Rheinische Zeitung and met Karl Marx for the first time - they were not impressed by each other. Marx mistakenly thought that Engels was still associated with the Berliner Young Hegelians, with whom he (Marx) had just broken.
In Manchester Engels met Mary Burns, a fierce young working woman with radical opinions with whom he began a relationship that lasted until her death in 1862. The two never married, as both were against the institution of marriage. While Engels regarded monogamy as a virtue, state and church regulated marriage were to him a form of class oppression. Burns guided Engels through Manchester and Salford, showing him the worst districts for his research. While in Manchester, Engels wrote his first economic work. This article was called "Outline of a Critique of Political Economy" and was written between October and November 1843. Engels sent the article to Paris, where Marx published it in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher which Marx was now publishing in Paris. Engels also wrote a three part series of articles called "The Condition of England" in January, February and March 1844.
While observing the slums of Manchester in close detail, Engels took notes of the horrors he observed, notably child labor, the despoiled environment and overworked and impoverished laborers. and sent back a series of articles to Marx, first for publication in the Rheinische Zeitung and then for publication in Deutsch–Franzosische Jahrbucher, chronicling the conditions amongst the working class in Manchester. These he would later collect and publish in his influential first book, The Condition of the Working Class in England. The book was written between September 1844 and March 1845 and was printed in German in 1845. In the book, Engels gave way to his views on the "grim future of capitalism and the industrial age", and described in detail, street after street, the total squalor in which the working people were living. The book was published in English in 1887.
While writing it, Engels continued his involvement with radical journalism and politics. He frequented some areas also frequented by some members of the English labour and Chartist movements, whom he met, and wrote for several journals, including The Northern Star, Robert Owen’s New Moral World and the Democratic Review newspaper.
After a productive stay in Britain, Engels decided to return to Germany in 1844. On his way, he stopped in Paris to meet Karl Marx, with whom he had an earlier correspondence. Marx had been living in Paris since late October 1843, following the banning of the Rheinsche Zeitung by Prussian governemtal authorites in March 1843. In Paris, Marx was now publishing the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher. Marx and Engels met at the Café de la Régence on the Place du Palais, 28 August 1844. The two became close friends and would remain so for their entire lives. In late May 1845 Engels published the English version of his first book - a quotation: "A class which bears all the disadvantages of the social order without enjoying its advantages…Who can demand that such a class respect this social order ?"
Engels stayed in Paris to help Marx write The Holy Family. The Holy Family was an attack on the Young Hegelians and the Bauer brothers and was published in late February 1845. Engels' earliest contribution to Marx's work was writing to the Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher journal, which was edited by both Marx and Arnold Ruge in Paris in 1844. However, as Ruge remained a Young Hegelian in his belief, Marx and Ruge soon split and Ruge left the Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher. Nonetheless, even following the split, Marx remained friendly enough to Ruge that Marx sent Ruge a warning on January 15, 1845 that the Paris police were going to execute orders against both Marx and Ruge and others at the Deutshe-französische Jahrbücher requiring all to leave Paris within 24 hours. Marx, himself, was expelled from Paris by French authorities on February 3, 1845 and settled in Brussels, Belgium with his wife and one daughter. Having left Paris on September 6, 1844, Engels returned to his home in Barmen, Germany, to work on his The Condition of the English Working Class, which was published in late May 1845. Even before the publication of his book, Engels moved to Brussels in late April 1845, to collaborate with Marx on another book - German Ideology. While living in Barmen, Engels began making contact with Socialists in the Rhineland to raise money for Marx's publication efforts in Brussels. However, these contacts became more important as both Marx and Engels began political organizing for German Workers Party.
From 1845 to 1848, Engels and Marx lived in Brussels, spending much of their time organizing the city's German workers. Shortly after their arrival, they contacted and joined the underground German Communist League. The Communists League was the successor organization to the old League of the Just which had been founded in 1837, but had recently disbanded. Influenced by Wilhelm Weitling, the Communist League was an international society of proletarian revolutionaries with branches in various European cities. The Communist League also had contacts with the underground conspiratorial organization of Louis Auguste Blanqui. Many of Marx's and Engels' current friends became member of the Communist League. Old friends like Georg Friedrich Herwegh, who had worked with Marx on the Rheinsche Zeitung, Heinrich Heine, the famous poet, a young doctor by the name of Roland Daniels, Heinrich Bürgers and August Herman Ewerbeck all maintained their contacts with Marx and Engels in Brussels. Georg Weerth, who had become a friend of Engels in England in 1843 now settled in Brussels. Karl Wallau and Stephen Born (whose real name was Simon Buttermilch) were both German immigrant typesetters who settled in Brussels to help Marx and Engles with their work in the Communist League. Additionally, Marx and Engels made many important new contacts through the Communist League. One of the first was Wilhelm Wolff, who was soon to become one of Marx's and Engels' closest collaborators. Others were Joseph Weydemeyer and Ferdinand Freiligrath, a famous revolutionary poet. While most of the associates of Marx and Engels were German immigrants living in Brussels, some of there new associates were Belgians. Phillipe Gigot, a Belgian philosopher and Victor Tedesco, lawyer from Liege both joined the Communist League. Joachim Lelewel a prominent Polish historian and participant in the Polish uprising of 1830-1831 was also a frequent associate of Marx and Engels. The Communist League commissioned Marx and Engels to write a pamphlet explaining the principles of communism. This became The Manifesto of the Communist Party, better known as the Communist Manifesto. It was first published on 21 February 1848 and ends with the world famous phrase: ""Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletariat have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win ... Working Men of All Countries, Unite!"
Return to Prussia
There was a revolution in France in 1848 that eventually spread to other Western European countries. This event caused Engels and Marx to go back to their home country of Prussia, specifically the city of Cologne. While living in Cologne, they created and served as editors for a new daily newspaper called the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Besides Marx and Engels, other frequent contributors to the Neue Rheinische Zeitung included Karl Schapper, Wilhelm Wolff, Ernst Dronke, Peter Nothjung, Heinrich Bürgers, Ferdinand Wolf and Carl Cramer. Frederick Engels' mother, herself, gives unwitting witness to the effect of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung on the revolutionary uprising in Cologne in 1848. Criticizing his involvement in the uprising she states in a December 5, 1848 letter to Frederick that "nobody, ourselves included, doubted that the meetings at which you and your friends spoke, and also the language of (Neue) Rh.Z. were largely the cause of these disturbances." At the time of this letter, Frederick Engels even more dangerous involvement in the revolutionary uprisings in Baden and the Palatinate in 1849, still lay ahead him. Engels' parents hoped that young Frederick would "decide to turn to activities other than those which you have been pursing in recent years and which have caused so much distress." At this point Frederick's parents felt the only hope for Frederick was to emigrate to America and start his life over. They told him that he should do this or he would "cease to receive money from us." However, the problem in the relations between Frederick and his parents was worked out without Engels having to leave England or to be cut off from any financial assistance from his parents. In July 1851, Frederick Engels father arrived to visit him in Manchester, England. During the visit his father arranged for Frederick to Peter Ermen of the office of Ermond & Engels to move to Liverpool, England and for young Frederick to take over sole management of the office in Manchester, England.
Starting in with an article called "The Magyar Struggle" written on January 8, 1849, Frederick Engels, himself, began a series of reports on the Revolution and War for Independence of the newly founded Hungarian Republic. Engels' articles on the Hungarian Republic became a regular feature in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung under the heading: "From the Theater of War."
However, during the June 1849 Prussian coup d'état the newspaper was suppressed. After the coup, Marx lost his Prussian citizenship, was deported, and fled to Paris and then London. Engels stayed in Prussia and took part in an armed uprising in South Germany as an aide-de-camp in the volunteer corps of August Willich. Engels also brought two cases of rifle cartridges with him when he went to join the uprising in Elberfeld on May 10. 1849. Later when Prussian troops came to Kaiserlautern to suppress an uprising there, Engels joined a group of volunteers under the command of August Willich, who were going to fight the Prussian troops. When the uprising was crushed, Engels was one of the last members of Willich's volunteers to escape by crossing the Swiss border. Marx and others became concerned for Engels life until they finally heard from him. Engels traveled through Switzerland as a refugee and eventually made it to safety in England. On June 6, 1849 Prussian authorities issued an arrest warrant for Frederick Engels which contains a physical description of Frederick Engels as "height: 5 feet 6 inches; hair: blond; forehead: smooth; eyebrows: blond; eyes: blue; nose and mouth: well proportioned; beard: reddish; chin: oval; face: oval; complexion: healthy; figure: slender. Special characteristics: speaks very rapidly and is short-sighted." As to his "short-sightedness," Engels, himself, admitted as much in a letter written to Joseph Weyedemeyer on June 19, 1851 in which he says he was not worried about being selected for the Prussian military because of "my eye trouble, as I have now found out once and for all which renders me completely unfit for active service of any sort." Once he was safely in Switzerland, Engels began to write down all his memories of the recent military campaign against the Prussians. This writing eventually became the article published under the name "The Campaign for the German Imperial Constitution."
Back in Britain
In order to help Marx with the new publishing effort in London, Neue Rheinsche Zeitung Politisch-ökonomische Revue, Engels sought ways to escape the continent and travel to London. On October 5, 1849, Engels arrived in the Italian port city of Genoa. In Genoa, Engels booked passage on the English schooner, Cornish Diamond under the command of a Captain Stevens. The voyage across the western Mediterraean, around the Iberian Peninsula by sailing schooner took about five weeks. However, finally on November 10, 1849 the Cornish Diamond sailed up the Thames River to London with Engels on board.
Once Engels made it to Britain, Engels decided to re-enter the Manchester company in which his father held shares, in order to be able to support Marx financially so he could work on his masterpiece "Das Kapital". Engels didn't like the work but did it for the good of the cause. Unlike the first time he lived in England, in 1843, this time, Engels was under surveillance from the secret police, and had 'official' homes and 'unofficial homes' all over inner city Manchester where he lived with Mary Burns under false names to confuse the police. Despite his work at the mill, Engels found time to wrote his monumental work on Luther, the Reformation and and the revolutionary war of the peasants in 1525. This work was entitled The Peasant War in Germany. Engels also wrote some important newspaper articles like "The Campaign for the German Imperial Constitution which he finished in February 1850," and "On the Slogan of the Abolition of the State and the German 'Friends of Anarchy'" written in October 1850. In April 1851, Engels wrote the pamphlet, "Conditions and Prospects of a War of the Holy Alliance against France."
When Louis Bonaparte carried out a coup against the French government and made himself president for life on December 2, 1851, Marx and Engels, like many people, were shocked. In condemning this action, Engels wrote to Marx on December 3, 1851 about the coup. Engels characterized the coup as "comical" and referred to coup as occurring on "the 18th Brumaire" - the date of the coup according to the 1799 republican calendar of France under Napoleon I. Marx was later to incorporate this comically ironic characterization of Louis Bonaparte's coup into his book on the coup. Indeed, Marx even called the book "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Lois Bonaparte" again using Engels suggested characterization of the coup. Marx also borrowed Engels quote of Hegel that "history occurred twice, once as a tragedy and secondly as a farce" on the very first paragraph of his new book.
Meanwhile, while working at the mill in Manchester, England owned by his father, Engels started off working as an office clerk, the same position he held in his teens while in Germany where is father's company was based. However, Frederick worked his way up to become a partner of the firm in 1864. Five years later, Engels retired from the business and could focus more on his studies. At this time, Marx was living in London but they were able to exchange ideas through daily correspondence. How Engels lived in Weaste until 1869 is open to speculation as he destroyed over 1500 letters between himself and his friend after Marx's death, so as not to expose their secret life in the north west.
In 1870, Engels moved to London where he and Marx lived until Marx's death in 1883. His London home at this time and until his death was 122 Regent's Park Road, Primrose Hill, NW1. Marx's first London residence was a cramped apartment at 28 Dean Street, Soho. From 1856, he lived at 9 Grafton Terrace, Kentish Town, and then in a tenement at 41 Maitland Park Road from 1875 until his death.
After Marx's death, Engels devoted much of his remaining years to editing Marx's unfinished volumes of Capital. However, he also contributed significantly to other areas. Engels made an argument using anthropological evidence of the time to show that family structures have changed over history, and that the concept of monogamous marriage came from the necessity within class society for men to control women to ensure their own children would inherit their property. He argued a future communist society would allow people to make decisions about their relationships free from economic constraints. One of the best examples of Engels' thoughts on these issues are in his work The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.
Engels died of throat cancer in London in 1895. Following cremation at Woking Crematorium, his ashes were scattered off Beachy Head, near Eastbourne as he had requested.
Engels is commonly known as a "ruthless party tactician", "brutal ideologue", and "master tactician" when it came to purging rivals in political organizations. However, another strand of Engels’s personality was one of a "gregarious", "bighearted", and "jovial man of outsize appetites", who was referred to by his son-in-law as "the great beheader of champagne bottles." His interests included poetry, fox hunting, and he hosted regular Sunday parties for London’s left-wing intelligentsia where as one regular put it, "no one left before 2 or 3 in the morning." His stated personal motto was "take it easy", while "jollity" was listed as his favorite virtue.
Tristram Hunt, author of Marx’s General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, sums up the disconnect between Engel's personality, and those Soviets who later utilized his works, stating:
"This great lover of the good life, passionate advocate of individuality, and enthusiastic believer in literature, culture, art and music as an open forum could never have acceded to the Soviet Communism of the 20th century, all the Stalinist claims of his paternity notwithstanding."
As to the religious persuasion attributable to Engels, Hunt writes:
"In that sense the latent rationality of Christianity comes to permeate the everyday experience of the modern world - its values are now variously incarnated in the family, civil society, and the state. What Engels particularly embraced in all of this was an idea of modern pantheism (or, rather, pandeism), a merging of divinity with progressing humanity, a happy dialectical synthesis that freed him from the fixed oppositions of the pietist ethos of devout longing and estrangement. “Through Strauss I have now entered on the straight road to Hegelianism. ... The Hegelian idea of God has already become mine, and thus I am joining the ranks of the 'modern pantheists",' Engels wrote in one of his final letters to the soon-to-be-discarded Graebers." Marx's General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels By Tristram Hunt. 2010. Page 43.
Lenin wrote: "After his friend Karl Marx (who died in 1883), Engels was the finest scholar and teacher of the modern proletariat in the whole civilised world...In their scientific works, Marx and Engels were the first to explain that socialism is not the invention of dreamers, but the final aim and necessary result of the development of the productive forces in modern society. All recorded history hitherto has been a history of class struggle, of the succession of the rule and victory of certain social classes over others."
But Tristram Hunt argues that Engels has become a convenient scapegoat, too easily blamed for the state crimes of the Soviet Union, Communist Southeast Asia and China. "Engels is left holding the bag of 20th century ideological extremism," Hunt writes, "while Marx is rebranded as the acceptable, postpolitical seer of global capitalism." Hunt largely exonerates Engels stating that "in no intelligible sense can Engels or Marx bear culpability for the crimes of historical actors carried out generations later, even if the policies were offered up in their honor."
Other writers, while admitting the distance between Marx and Engels and Stalin, are less charitable, noting for example that the anarchist Bakunin predicted the oppressive potential of their ideas. "It is a fallacy that Marxism's flaws were exposed only after it was tried out in power.... [Marx and Engels] were centralizers. While talking about 'free associations of producers', they advocated discipline and hierarchy."
Paul Thomas, of the University of California, Berkeley, claims that while Engels had been the most important and dedicated facilitator and diffuser of Marx's writings, he significantly altered Marx's intents as he held, edited and released in a finished form, and commentated on them. Engels attempted to fill gaps in Marx's system and to extend it to other fields. He stressed in particular Historical Materialism, assigning it a character of scientific discovery and a doctrine, indeed forming Marxism as such. A case in point is Anti-Dühring, which supporters of socialism, like its detractors, treated as an encompassing presentation of Marx's thought. And while in his extensive correspondence with German socialists Engels modestly presented his own secondary place in the couple's intellectual relationship and always emphasized Marx' outstanding role, Russian communists like Lenin raised Engels up with Marx and conflated their thoughts as if they were necessarily congruous. Soviet Marxists then developed this tendency to the state doctrine of Dialectical Materialism.
The Holy Family (1844)
The Holy Family was a book written by Marx & Engels in November 1844. The book is a critique on the Young Hegelians and their trend of thought which was very popular in academic circles at the time. The title was a suggestion by the publisher and is meant as a sarcastic reference to the Bauer Brothers and their supporters.
The book created a controversy with much of the press and caused Bruno Bauer to attempt to refute the book in an article which was published in Wigand's Vierteljahrsschrift in 1845. Bauer claimed that Marx and Engels misunderstood what he was trying to say. Marx later replied to his response with his own article that was published in the journal Gesellschaftsspiegel in January 1846. Marx also discussed the argument in chapter 2 of The German Ideology.
The Condition of the Working Class in England (1844) Main article: The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844
The Condition of the Working Class in England is a detailed description and analysis of the appalling conditions of the working class in Britain during Engels' stay in Manchester and Salford. The work also contains seminal thoughts on the state of socialism and its development. It was considered a classic in its time and must have been an eye-opener for most Germans. The work is still widely available today.
Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science (1878) Main article: Anti-Dühring
Popularly known as Anti-Dühring, Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science is a detailed critique of the philosophical positions of Eugen Dühring, a German philosopher and critic of Marxism. In the course of replying to Dühring, Engels reviews recent advances in science and mathematics and seeks to demonstrate the way in which the concepts of dialectics apply to natural phenomena. Many of these ideas were later developed in the unfinished work, Dialectics of Nature. The last section of Anti-Dühring was later edited and published under the separate title, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880) Main article: Socialism: Utopian and Scientific
In what Engels presented as an extraordinarily popular piece, Engels critiques the utopian socialists, such as Fourier and Owen, and provides an explanation of the socialist framework for understanding capitalism, and an outline of the progression of social and economic development from the perspective of historical materialism.
The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884) Main article: The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State
The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State is an important and detailed seminal work connecting capitalism with what Engels argues is an ever-changing institution - the family. It was written when Engels was 64 years of age and at the height of his intellectual power and contains a comprehensive historical view of the family in relation to the issues of class, female subjugation and private property.
- Carlton, Grace (1965), Friedrich Engels: The Shadow Prophet. London: Pall Mall Press
- Carver, Terrell. (1989). Friedrich Engels: His Life and Thought. London: Macmillan
- Green, John (2008), Engels: A Revolutionary Life, London: Artery Publications. ISBN 0-9558228-0-7
- Henderson, W. O. (1976), The life of Friedrich Engels, London : Cass, 1976. ISBN 0-7146-4002-6
- Hunt, Tristram (2009), The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, London: Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0-7139-9852-8
- Mayer, Gustav (1936), Friedrich Engels: A Biography (1934; trans. 1936)
Friedrich Engels's Timeline
November 28, 1820
Barmen, Wuppertal, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
September 11, 1878
Manchester, Greater Manchester, England, United Kingdom
August 5, 1895
London, London, England, United Kingdom