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Engels, Friedrich

Friedrich Engels

Friedrich Engels
Full name Friedrich Engels
Born 28 November 1820
Barmen, Prussia
Died 5 August 1895(1895-08-05) (aged 74)
London, England
Era 19th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Marxism
Main interests Political philosophy, Politics, Economics, class struggle, capitalism
Notable ideas Co-founder of Marxism (with Karl Marx), alienation and exploitation of the worker, historical materialism

Friedrich Engels (German pronunciation: [ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈɛŋəls]; 28 November 1820 – 5 August 1895) was a German social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of communist theory, alongside Karl Marx. Together they produced The Communist Manifesto in 1848. Engels also edited the second and third volumes of Das Kapital after Marx's death.


[edit] Life

[edit] Early years

Friedrich Engels was born in Barmen, Rhine Province of the kingdom of Prussia (now part of Wuppertal in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany) as the elder son of a German textile manufacturer, with whom he had a strained relationship.[1] Due to family circumstances, Engels dropped out of high school and was sent to work as a nonsalaried office clerk at a commercial house in Bremen in 1838.[2][3]

During this time, 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.[4][5]

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, began to associate with groups of Young Hegelians and published several articles in the Rheinische Zeitung.[3] Throughout his lifetime, Engels would point out that he was indebted to German philosophy because of its effect on his intellectual development.[2]

[edit] Manchester

Friedrich Engels' house in Primrose Hill

In 1842, the 22-year-old Engels was sent to Manchester, Britain to work for the textile firm of Ermen and Engels in which his father was a shareholder.[6][7] Engels' father thought that working at the Manchester firm might make Engels reconsider the radical leanings that he had developed in high school.[2][7] On his way to Manchester, Engels visited the office of the Rheinische Zeitung and met Karl Marx for the first time - though they did not impress each other.[8]

In Manchester, Engels met Mary Burns, a young woman with whom he began a relationship that lasted until her death in 1862.[9] Mary acted as a guide through Manchester and helped introduce Engels to the English working class. The two maintained a lifelong relationship; they never married, as Engels was against the institution of marriage, which he saw as unnatural and unjust.[10]

During his time in Manchester, Engels took notes of the horrors he observed there, notably child labor, the despoiled environment, and overworked and impoverished laborers.[11] These notes and observations, along with his experience working in his father's commercial firm, formed the basis for his views on the "grim future of capitalism and the industrial age", outlined in his first book The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844.[11]

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.[9][12][13]

[edit] Paris

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 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.

Engels ended up staying in Paris to help Marx write The Holy Family, which was an attack on the Young Hegelians and the Bauer brothers. 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 the same year.[6]

[edit] Brussels

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 and were commissioned by the League 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.[2]

[edit] Return to Prussia

Friedrich Engels

During February 1848, there was a revolution in France that eventually spread to other Western European countries. This event caused Engels & 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.[6]

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.[14][15][16] When the uprising was crushed, Engels managed to escape by traveling through Switzerland as a refugee and returned to England.[2]

[edit] Back in Manchester

Once Engels made it to Britain, he decided to re-enter the commercial firm where his father held shares in order to help support Marx. He hated this work intensely but knew that his friend needed the support.[17][18] He started off as an office clerk, the same position he held in his teens, but eventually worked his way up to become a partner in 1864. Five years later, Engels retired from the business to focus more on his studies.[6]

At this time, Marx was living in London but they were able to exchange ideas through daily correspondence. In 1870, Engels moved to London where he and Marx lived until Marx's death in 1883.[2] His London home at this time and until his death was 122 Regent's Park Road, Primrose Hill, NW1.[19] 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.[20]

[edit] Later years

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.[21] Following cremation at Woking Crematorium, his ashes were scattered off Beachy Head, near Eastbourne as he had requested.[21][22]

[edit] Personality

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."[11] 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.[11]

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."[11]

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.

[edit] Ideological legacy

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."[11] 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."[11]

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." [23]

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 honestly presented his own secondary place in the couple's intellectual relationship, Russian communists who had no available direct evidence, 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.[24]

[edit] Major works

[edit] 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.[25]

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.[25]

[edit] The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 (1844)

The Condition of the Working Class is a detailed description and analysis of the appalling conditions of the working class in Britain during Engels' stay in England. It was considered a classic in its time and still widely available today. This work also had many seminal thoughts on the state of socialism and its development.

[edit] Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science (1878)

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.

[edit] Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880)

In what Engels presented as an extraordinarily popular piece,[26] Engels critiques the utopian socialists, such as Fourier and Owen, and provides an explanation of the socialist framework for understanding capitalism.

[edit] The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884)

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.

[edit] Sources

  • 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)

[edit] Notes and references

  1. Frederick Engels. "Letters of Marx and Engels, 1845". Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Lenin: Frederick Engels". Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  3. ^ a b Tucker, Robert C. The Marx-Engels Reader, p.xv
  4. Progress Publishers. "Preface by Progress Publishers". Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  5. "Footnotes to Volume 1 of Marx Engels Collected Works". 1941-11-15. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Biography on Engels". Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  7. ^ a b "Legacies - Work - England - Manchester - Engels in Manchester - Article Page 1". BBC. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  8. Wheen, Francis Karl Marx: A Life, p. 75
  9. ^ a b "Legacies - Work - England - Manchester - Engels in Manchester - Article Page 2". BBC. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  10. Frederick Engels. "Origins of the Family". Retrieved 2010-02-13.Books By This Author

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