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Friedrich Engels

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Friedrich Engels
Engels in 1879
Born(1820-11-28)28 November 1820
Barmen, Jülich-Cleves-Berg, Kingdom of Prussia
(now Wuppertal, Germany)
Died5 August 1895(1895-08-05) (aged 74)
London, England
Political party

Philosophy career
EducationGymnasium zu Elberfeld
University of Berlin
(no degree)[1]
Notable workThe Condition of the Working Class in England, Anti-Dühring, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, The German Ideology, The Communist Manifesto
(m. 1878; died 1878)
PartnerMary Burns (died 1863)
Era19th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolContinental philosophy
Main interests
Political philosophy, political economy, class struggle, criticism of capitalism
Notable ideas
Alienation and exploitation of the worker, dialectical materialism, historical materialism, false consciousness

Friedrich Engels (/ˈɛŋɡəlz/ ENG-gəlz;[2][3][4] German: [ˈfʁiːdʁɪçˈʔɛŋl̩s]; 28 November 1820 – 5 August 1895) was a German philosopher, political theorist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. He was also a businessman and Karl Marx's closest friend and collaborator, serving as a leading authority on Marxism.

Engels, the son of a wealthy textile manufacturer, met Marx in 1844. They jointly authored works including The Holy Family (1844), The German Ideology (written 1846), and The Communist Manifesto (1848), and worked as political organisers and activists in the Communist League and First International. Engels also supported Marx financially for much of his life, enabling him to continue writing after he moved to London in 1849. After Marx's death in 1883, Engels compiled Volumes II and III of his Das Kapital (1885 and 1894).

Engels wrote eclectic works of his own, including The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), Anti-Dühring (1878), Dialectics of Nature (1878–1882), The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884), and Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy (1886). His writings on materialism, idealism, and dialectics supplied Marxism with an ontological and metaphysical foundation.[citation needed]

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Life and work

Early life

The Engels family house at Barmen (now in Wuppertal), Germany

Friedrich Engels was born on 28 November 1820 in Barmen, Jülich-Cleves-Berg, Prussia (now Wuppertal, Germany), as the eldest son of Friedrich Engels Sr. (1796–1860) and of Elisabeth "Elise" Franziska Mauritia van Haar (1797–1873).[5] The wealthy Engels family owned large cotton-textile mills in Barmen and Salford, England, both expanding industrial cities. Friedrich's parents were devout Calvinists and raised their children accordingly—he was baptised in the Calvinist Reformed Evangelical Parish of Elberfeld.[6][7]

At the age of 13, Engels attended secondary school (Gymnasium) in the adjacent city of Elberfeld but had to leave at 17 due to pressure from his father, who wanted him to become a businessman and work as a mercantile apprentice in the family firm.[8] After a year in Barmen, the young Engels was, in 1838, sent by his father to undertake an apprenticeship at a trading house in Bremen.[9][10] His parents expected that he would follow his father into a career in the family business. Their son's revolutionary activities disappointed them. It would be some years before he joined the family firm.

While at Bremen, Engels began reading the philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, whose teachings dominated German philosophy at that time. In September 1838 he published his first work, a poem entitled "The Bedouin", in the Bremisches Conversationsblatt No. 40. He also engaged in other literary work and began writing newspaper articles critiquing the societal ills of industrialisation.[11][12] He wrote under the pseudonym "Friedrich Oswald" to avoid connecting his family with his provocative writings.

In 1841, Engels performed his military service in the Prussian Army as a member of the Household Artillery (German: Garde-Artillerie-Brigade). Assigned to Berlin, he attended university lectures at the University of Berlin and began to associate with groups of Young Hegelians. He anonymously published articles in the Rheinische Zeitung, exposing the poor employment and living conditions endured by factory workers.[10] The editor of the Rheinische Zeitung was Karl Marx, but Engels would not meet Marx until late November 1842.[13] Engels acknowledged the influence of German philosophy on his intellectual development throughout his career.[9] In 1840, he also wrote: "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."[14]

Engels developed atheistic beliefs and his relationship with his parents became strained.[15]

Manchester and Salford

In 1842, his parents sent the 22-year-old Engels to Salford, England, a manufacturing centre where industrialisation was on the rise. He was to work in Weaste, Salford,[16] in the offices of Ermen and Engels's Victoria Mill, which made sewing threads.[17][18] Engels's father thought that working at the Salford firm might make his son reconsider some of his radical opinions.[9][18] On his way to Salford and Manchester, Engels visited the office of the Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne and met Karl Marx for the first time. Initially they were not impressed with each other.[19] Marx mistakenly thought that Engels was still associated with the Berliner Young Hegelians, with whom Marx had just broken off ties.[20]

In Manchester, Engels met Mary Burns, a fierce young Irish woman with radical opinions who worked in the Engels factory.[21][22] They began a relationship that lasted 20 years until her death in 1863.[23][24] The two never married, as both were against the institution of marriage. While Engels regarded stable monogamy as a virtue, he considered the current state and church-regulated marriage as a form of class oppression.[25][26] Burns guided Engels through Manchester and Salford, showing him the worst districts for his research.

Engels was often described as a man with a very strong libido and not much restraint. He had many lovers and despite his condemnation of prostitution as "exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie" he also occasionally paid for sex. In 1846 he wrote to Marx: "If I had an income of 5000 francs I would do nothing but work and amuse myself with women until I went to pieces. If there were no Frenchwomen, life wouldn't be worth living. But so long as there are grisettes, well and good!" His most controversial relationship was with the wife of his rival Moses Hess, Sibylle, who later accused him of rape.[6]

While in Manchester between October and November 1843, Engels wrote his first critique of political economy, entitled "Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy".[27] Engels sent the article to Paris, where Marx published it in the Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher in 1844.[17]

Engels observed the slums of Manchester in close detail, and took notes of its horrors, such as child labour, the despoiled environment, and overworked and impoverished labourers.[28] He sent a trilogy of articles to Marx. These were published in the Rheinische Zeitung and then in the Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher, chronicling the conditions among the working class in Manchester. He later collected these articles for his influential first book, The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845).[29] Written between September 1844 and March 1845, the book was published in German in 1845. In the book, Engels described the "grim future of capitalism and the industrial age",[28] noting the details of the squalor in which the working people lived.[30] The book was published in English in 1887. Archival resources contemporary to Engels's stay in Manchester shed light on some of the conditions he describes, including a manuscript (MMM/10/1) held by special collections at the University of Manchester. This recounts cases seen in the Manchester Royal Infirmary, where industrial accidents dominated, and which resonate with Engels's comments on the disfigured persons seen walking round Manchester as a result of such accidents.

Engels continued his involvement with radical journalism and politics. He frequented areas popular among members of the English labour and Chartist movements, whom he met. He also wrote for several journals, including The Northern Star, Robert Owen's New Moral World, and the Democratic Review newspaper.[23][31][32]


An early photograph of Engels, thought to show him aged 20–25 (c. 1840–45)[6][33][34][35]

Engels returned to Germany in 1844. On the 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, after the Rheinische Zeitung was banned in March 1843 by the Prussian government.[36] Prior to meeting Marx, Engels had become established as a fully developed materialist and scientific socialist, independent of Marx's philosophical development.[37]

In Paris, Marx was publishing the Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher. Engels met Marx for a second time at the Café de la Régence on the Place du Palais, on 28 August 1844. The two quickly became close friends and remained so their entire lives. Marx had read and was impressed by Engels's articles on The Condition of the Working Class in England in which he had written that "[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?"[38] Marx adopted Engels's idea that the working class would lead the revolution against the bourgeoisie as society advanced toward socialism, and incorporated this as part of his own philosophy.[39]

Engels stayed in Paris to help Marx write The Holy Family.[40] It was an attack on the Young Hegelians and the Bauer brothers and was published in late February 1845. Engels's earliest contribution to Marx's work was writing for the Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher, edited by both Marx and Arnold Ruge, in Paris in 1844. During this time in Paris, both Marx and Engels began their association with and then joined the secret revolutionary society called the League of the Just.[41] The League of the Just had been formed in 1837 in France to promote an egalitarian society through the overthrow of the existing governments. In 1839, the League participated in the 1839 rebellion fomented by the French utopian revolutionary socialist, Louis Auguste Blanqui; as Ruge remained a Young Hegelian in his belief, Marx and Ruge soon split and Ruge left the Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher.[42] Following the split, Marx remained friendly enough with Ruge that he sent Ruge a warning on 15 January 1845 that the Paris police were going to execute orders against him, Marx and others at the Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher requiring all to leave Paris within 24 hours.[43] Marx was expelled from Paris by French authorities on 3 February 1845 and settled in Brussels with his wife and one daughter.[44] Having left Paris on 6 September 1844, Engels returned to his home in Barmen to work on his The Condition of the Working Class in England, which was published in late May 1845.[45] Even before the publication of his book, Engels moved to Brussels in late April 1845, to collaborate with Marx on another book, German Ideology.[46] While living in Barmen, Engels began making contact with Socialists in the Rhineland to raise money for Marx's publication efforts in Brussels; these contacts became more important as both Marx and Engels began political organising for the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Germany.[47]


La Maison du Cygne (the Swan Tavern), Brussels, where The Communist Manifesto was written[48]

The nation of Belgium, founded in 1830, had one of the most liberal constitutions in Europe and functioned as refuge for progressives from other countries. From 1845 to 1848, Engels and Marx lived in Brussels, spending much of their time organising the city's German workers. Shortly after their arrival, they contacted and joined the underground German Communist League. The Communist League was the successor organisation to the League of the Just which had been founded in 1837 but had recently disbanded.[49] Influenced by Wilhelm Weitling, the Communist League was an international society of proletarian revolutionaries with branches in various European cities.[50]

The Communist League also had contacts with the underground conspiratorial organisation of Louis Auguste Blanqui. Many of Marx's and Engels's current friends became members 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 physician 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. Carl Wallau and Stephen Born (real name Simon Buttermilch) were both German immigrant typesetters who settled in Brussels to help Marx and Engels with their Communist League work. Marx and Engels made many new important contacts through the Communist League. One of the first was Wilhelm Wolff, who soon became one of Marx's and Engels's 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 were Belgians. Phillipe Gigot, a Belgian philosopher and Victor Tedesco, a lawyer from Liège, 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.[51][52]

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.[53] 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!"[9]

Engels's mother wrote in a letter to him of her concerns, commenting that he had "really gone too far" and "begged" him "to proceed no further".[54] She further stated:

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.[54]

Return to Prussia

There was a revolution in France in 1848 that soon spread to other Western European countries. These events caused Engels and Marx to return to Cologne in their homeland of Prussia. While living there, they created and served as editors for a new daily newspaper called the Neue Rheinische Zeitung.[17] Besides Marx and Engels, other frequent contributors to the Neue Rheinische Zeitung included Karl Schapper, Wilhelm Wolff, Ernst Dronke, Peter Nothjung, Heinrich Bürgers, Ferdinand Wolff and Carl Cramer.[55] Engels's mother gave unwitting witness to the effect of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung on the revolutionary uprising in Cologne in 1848. Criticising his involvement in the uprising she states in a 5 December 1848 letter to Friedrich 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."[56]

Engels's parents hoped that young Engels would "decide to turn to activities other than those which you have been pursuing in recent years and which have caused so much distress".[56] At this point, his parents felt the only hope for their son 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 relationship between Engels and his parents was worked out without Engels having to leave England or being cut off from financial assistance from his parents.[56] In July 1851, Engels's father arrived to visit him in Manchester, England. During the visit, his father arranged for Engels to meet Peter Ermen of the office of Ermen & Engels, to move to Liverpool and to take over sole management of the office in Manchester.[57]

In 1849, Engels travelled to Bavaria for the Baden and Palatinate revolutionary uprising, an even more dangerous involvement. Starting with an article called "The Magyar Struggle", written on 8 January 1849, Engels, himself, began a series of reports on the Revolution and War for Independence of the newly founded Hungarian Republic.[58] Engels's articles on the Hungarian Republic became a regular feature in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung under the heading "From the Theatre of War"; however, the newspaper was suppressed during the June 1849 Prussian coup d'état. After the coup, Marx lost his Prussian citizenship, was deported and fled to Paris, then London.[59] 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.[60][61][62] Engels also brought two cases of rifle cartridges with him when he went to join the uprising in Elberfeld on 10 May 1849.[63] Later when Prussian troops came to Kaiserslautern 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.[64] 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's life until they heard from him.[65]

Engels travelled through Switzerland as a refugee and eventually made it to safety in England.[9] On 6 June 1849 Prussian authorities issued an arrest warrant for him which contained a physical description 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".[66] As to his "short-sightedness", Engels admitted as much in a letter written to Joseph Weydemeyer on 19 June 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".[67] Once he was safe 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 as "The Campaign for the German Imperial Constitution".[68]

Back in Britain

Engels's house in Primrose Hill, London

To help Marx with Neue Rheinische Zeitung Politisch-ökonomische Revue, the new publishing effort in London, Engels sought ways to escape the continent and travel to London. On 5 October 1849, Engels arrived in the Italian port city of Genoa.[69] There, Engels booked passage on the English schooner, Cornish Diamond under the command of a Captain Stevens.[70] The voyage across the western Mediterranean, around the Iberian Peninsula by sailing schooner took about five weeks. Finally, the Cornish Diamond sailed up the River Thames to London on 10 November 1849 with Engels on board.[71]

Upon his return to Britain, Engels re-entered the Manchester company in which his father held shares to support Marx financially as he worked on Das Kapital.[72][73] Unlike his first period in England (1843), Engels was now under police surveillance. He had "official" homes and "unofficial homes" all over Salford, Weaste and other inner-city Manchester districts where he lived with Mary Burns under false names to confuse the police.[30] Little more is known, as Engels destroyed over 1,500 letters between himself and Marx after the latter's death so as to conceal the details of their secretive lifestyle.[30]

Despite his work at the mill, Engels found time to write a book on Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformation and the 1525 revolutionary war of the peasants, entitled The Peasant War in Germany.[74] He also wrote a number of newspaper articles including "The Campaign for the German Imperial Constitution" which he finished in February 1850[75] and "On the Slogan of the Abolition of the State and the German 'Friends of Anarchy'" written in October 1850.[76] In April 1851, he wrote the pamphlet "Conditions and Prospects of a War of the Holy Alliance against France".[77]

Marx and Engels denounced Louis Bonaparte when he carried out a coup against the French government and made himself president for life on 2 December 1851. Engels wrote to Marx on 3 December 1851, characterising the coup as "comical"[78] and referred to it as occurring on "the 18th Brumaire", the date of Napoleon I's coup of 1799 according to the French Republican Calendar.[79] Marx later incorporated this comically ironic characterisation of the coup into his essay about it. He called the essay The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte using Engels's suggested characterisation.[80] Marx also borrowed Engels' characterisation of Hegel's notion of the World Spirit that history occurred twice, "once as a tragedy and secondly as a farce" in the first paragraph of his new essay.[81]

Meanwhile, Engels started working at the mill owned by his father in Manchester as an office clerk, the same position he held in his teens while in Germany where his father's company was based. Engels worked his way up to become a partner of the firm in 1864.[citation needed] Five years later, Engels retired from the business and could focus more on his studies.[17] At this time, Marx was living in London but they were able to exchange ideas through daily correspondence. One of the ideas that Engels and Marx contemplated was the possibility and character of a potential revolution in Russia. As early as April 1853, Engels and Marx anticipated an "aristocratic-bourgeois revolution in Russia which would begin in "St. Petersburg with a resulting civil war in the interior".[82] The model for this type of aristocratic-bourgeois revolution in Russia against the autocratic Tsarist government in favour of a constitutional government had been provided by the Decembrist Revolt of 1825.[83]

Despite the unsuccessful revolt against the Tsarist government in favour of a constitutional government, both Engels and Marx anticipated a bourgeois revolution in Russia would occur, which would bring about a bourgeois stage in Russian development to precede a communist stage. By 1881, both Marx and Engels began to contemplate a course of development in Russia that would lead directly to the communist stage without the intervening bourgeois stage. This analysis was based on what Marx and Engels saw as the exceptional characteristics of the Russian village commune or obshchina.[84] While doubt was cast on this theory by Georgi Plekhanov, Plekhanov's reasoning was based on the first edition of Das Kapital (1867) which predated Marx's interest in Russian peasant communes by two years. Later editions of the text demonstrate Marx's sympathy for the argument of Nikolay Chernyshevsky, that it should be possible to establish socialism in Russia without an intermediary bourgeois stage provided that the peasant commune were used as the basis for the transition.[85]

In 1870, Engels moved to London where he and Marx lived until Marx's death in 1883.[9] Engels's London home from 1870 to 1894 was at 122 Regent's Park Road.[86] In October 1894 he moved to 41 Regent's Park Road, Primrose Hill, NW1, where he died the following year.[citation needed]

Marx's first London residence was a cramped flat 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 in Belsize Park from 1875 until his death in March 1883.[87]

Mary Burns died suddenly of heart disease in 1863, after which Engels became close with her younger sister Lydia ("Lizzie"). They lived openly as a couple in London and married on 11 September 1878, hours before Lizzie's death.[88][89]

Later years

Later in their lives, Marx and Engels came to argue that in some countries workers might be able to achieve their aims through peaceful means.[90] In following this, Engels argued that socialists were evolutionists, although they remained committed to social revolution.[91] Similarly, Tristram Hunt argues that Engels was sceptical of "top-down revolutions" and later in life advocated "a peaceful, democratic road to socialism".[28] Engels also wrote in his introduction to the 1891 edition of Marx's The Class Struggles in France that "rebellion in the old style, street fighting with barricades, which decided the issue everywhere up to 1848, was to a considerable extent obsolete",[92][93] although some such as David W. Lowell empashised their cautionary and tactical meaning, arguing that "Engels questions only rebellion 'in the old style', that is, insurrection: he does not renounce revolution. The reason for Engels' caution is clear: he candidly admits that ultimate victory for any insurrection is rare, simply on military and tactical grounds".[94]

In his introduction to the 1895 edition of Marx's The Class Struggles in France, Engels attempted to resolve the division between reformists and revolutionaries in the Marxist movement by declaring that he was in favour of short-term tactics of electoral politics that included gradualist and evolutionary socialist measures while maintaining his belief that revolutionary seizure of power by the proletariat should remain a goal. In spite of this attempt by Engels to merge gradualism and revolution, his effort only diluted the distinction of gradualism and revolution and had the effect of strengthening the position of the revisionists.[95] Engels's statements in the French newspaper Le Figaro, in which he wrote that "revolution" and the "so-called socialist society" were not fixed concepts, but rather constantly changing social phenomena, and argued that this made "us socialists all evolutionists", increased the public perception that Engels was gravitating towards evolutionary socialism. Engels also argued that it would be "suicidal" to talk about a revolutionary seizure of power at a time when the historical circumstances favoured a parliamentary road to power that he predicted could bring "social democracy into power as early as 1898". Engels's stance of openly accepting gradualist, evolutionary and parliamentary tactics while claiming that the historical circumstances did not favour revolution caused confusion. Marxist revisionist Eduard Bernstein interpreted this as indicating that Engels was moving towards accepting parliamentary reformist and gradualist stances, but he ignored that Engels's stances were tactical as a response to the particular circumstances and that Engels was still committed to revolutionary socialism.[96] Engels was deeply distressed when he discovered that his introduction to a new edition of The Class Struggles in France had been edited by Bernstein and orthodox Marxist Karl Kautsky in a manner which left the impression that he had become a proponent of a peaceful road to socialism.[95] On 1 April 1895, four months before his death, Engels responded to Kautsky:

I was amazed to see today in the Vorwärts an excerpt from my 'Introduction' that had been printed without my knowledge and tricked out in such a way as to present me as a peace-loving proponent of legality [at all costs]. Which is all the more reason why I should like it to appear in its entirety in the Neue Zeit in order that this disgraceful impression may be erased. I shall leave Liebknecht in no doubt as to what I think about it and the same applies to those who, irrespective of who they may be, gave him this opportunity of perverting my views and, what's more, without so much as a word to me about it.[97]

After Marx's death, Engels devoted much of his remaining years to editing Marx's unfinished volumes of Das Kapital, but also contributed significantly in other areas. Engels made an argument using anthropological evidence of the time to show that family structures 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 of economic constraints. Some of the best examples of Engels's thoughts on these issues are in his work The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. On 5 August 1895, Engels died of throat cancer in London, aged 74.[98][99] Following cremation at Woking Crematorium, his ashes were scattered off Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, as he had requested.[99][100] He left a considerable estate to Eduard Bernstein and Louise Freyberger (wife of Ludwig Freyberger), valued for probate at £25,265 0s. 11d, equivalent to £3,686,193 in 2023.[101][102]


Engels in 1868[103]

Engels's interests included poetry, fox hunting and hosting regular Sunday parties for London's left-wing intelligentsia where, as one regular put it, "no one left before two or three in the morning". His stated personal motto was "take it easy" while "jollity" was listed as his favourite virtue.[104]

Of Engels's personality and appearance, Robert Heilbroner described him in The Worldly Philosophers as "tall and rather elegant, he had the figure of a man who liked to fence and to ride to hounds and who had once swum the Weser River four times without a break" as well as having been "gifted with a quick wit and facile mind" and of a gay temperament, being able to "stutter in twenty languages". He had a great enjoyment of wine and other "bourgeois pleasures". Engels favoured forming romantic relationships with women of the proletariat and found a long-term partner in a working-class woman named Mary Burns, although they never married. After her death, Engels was romantically involved with her younger sister Lydia Burns.[105]

Historian and former Labour MP Tristram Hunt, author of The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels,[6] argues that Engels "almost certainly was, in other words, the kind of man Stalin would have had shot".[28] Hunt sums up the disconnect between Engels's personality and the Soviet Union which later utilised 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.[6][28]

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 [Wilhelm and Friedrich, priest trainees and former classmates of Engels].[6]

Engels was a polyglot and was able to write and speak in numerous languages, including Russian, Italian, Portuguese, Irish, Spanish, Polish, French, English, German and the Milanese dialect.[106]


In his biography of Engels, Vladimir 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."[107] According to Paul Kellogg, there is "some considerable controversy" regarding "the place of Frederick Engels in the canon of 'classical Marxism'". While some such as Terrell Carver dispute "Engels' claim that Marx agreed with the views put forward in Engels' major theoretical work, Anti-Dühring", others such as E. P. Thompson "identified a tendency to make 'old Engels into a whipping boy, and to impugn him any sign that once chooses to impugn subsequent Marxsisms'".[92]

Tristram Hunt argues that Engels has become a convenient scapegoat, too easily blamed for the state crimes of Communist regimes such as China, the Soviet Union and those in Africa and Southeast Asia, among others. Hunt writes that "Engels is left holding the bag of 20th century ideological extremism" while Karl Marx "is rebranded as the acceptable, post–political seer of global capitalism".[28] Hunt largely exonerates Engels, stating that "[i]n 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".[28] Andrew Lipow describes Marx and Engels as "the founders of modern revolutionary democratic socialism".[108]

While admitting the distance between Marx and Engels on one hand and Joseph Stalin on the other, some writers such as Robert Service are less charitable, noting that the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin predicted the oppressive potential of their ideas, arguing that "[i]t is a fallacy that Marxism's flaws were exposed only after it was tried out in power. [...] [Marx and Engels] were centralisers. While talking about 'free associations of producers', they advocated discipline and hierarchy".[109] 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 them in a finished form and commentated on them. Engels attempted to fill gaps in Marx's system and extend it to other fields. In particular, Engels is said to have stressed historical materialism, assigning it a character of scientific discovery and a doctrine, forming Marxism as such. A case in point is Anti-Dühring which both supporters and detractors of socialism treated as an encompassing presentation of Marx's thought. While in his extensive correspondence with German socialists Engels modestly presented his own secondary place in the couple's intellectual relationship and always emphasised Marx's outstanding role, Russian communists such as 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.[110]

A 1985 1 rouble coin from the Soviet Union commemorating the 165th anniversary of Engels' birth

Since 1931, Engels has had a Russian city named after him—Engels, Saratov Oblast. It served as the capital of the Volga German Republic within Soviet Russia and as part of Saratov Oblast. A town named Marx is located 50 kilometres (30 miles) northeast.[111]

In July 2017, as part of the Manchester International Festival, a Soviet-era statue of Engels was installed by sculptor Phil Collins at Tony Wilson Place in Manchester.[112] It was transported from the village of Mala Pereshchepina in Eastern Ukraine, after the statue had been deposed from its central position in the village in the wake of laws outlawing communist symbols in Ukraine introduced in 2015. In recognition of the important influence Manchester had on his work, the 3.5-metre statue now stands in a prominent eatery district on Manchester's First Street.[113][114] The installation of what was originally an instrument of propaganda drew criticism from Kevin Bolton in The Guardian.[115]

The Friedrich Engels Guards Regiment (also known as NVA Guard Regiment 1) was a special guard unit of the East German National People's Army (NVA). The guard regiment was established in 1962 from parts of the Hugo Eberlein Guards Regiment and given the title "Friedrich Engels" in 1970.

Friedrich Engels Guard Regiment, East Berlin, 1990


In spite of his criticism of the utopian socialists, Engels's beliefs were influenced by the French socialist Charles Fourier. From Fourier, he derives four main points that characterise the social conditions of a communist state. The first point maintains that every individual would be able to fully develop their talents by eliminating the specialisation of production. Without specialisation, every individual would be permitted to exercise any vocation of their choosing for as long or as little as they would like. If talents permitted it, one could be a baker for a year and an engineer the next. The second point builds upon the first, as with the ability of workers to cycle through different jobs of their choosing, the fundamental basis of the social division of labour is destroyed and the social division of labour will disappear as a result. If anyone can be employed at any job that they wish, then there are clearly no longer any divisions or barriers to entry for labour, otherwise such fluidity between entirely different jobs would not exist. The third point continues from the second as once the social division of labour is gone, the division of social classes based on property ownership will fade with it. If labour division puts a man in charge of a farm, that farmer owns the productive resources of that farm. The same applies to the ownership of a factory or a bank. Without labour division, no single social class may claim exclusive rights to a particular means of production since the absence of labour division allows all to use it. Finally, the fourth point concludes that the elimination of social classes destroys the sole purpose of the state and it will cease to exist. As Engels stated in his own writing, the only purpose of the state is to abate the effects of class antagonisms. With the elimination of social classes based on property, the state becomes obsolete and a communist society, at least in the eyes of Engels, is achieved.[116]

Major works

The Holy Family (1844)

Cover of the first edition of Engels's The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, first published in 1884

This book was written by Marx and Engels in November 1844. It 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 suggested by the publisher and is meant as a sarcastic reference to the Bauer Brothers and their supporters.[117]

The book created a controversy with much of the press and caused Bruno Bauer to attempt to refute the book in an article published in Wigand's [de] 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 published in the journal Gesellschaftsspiegel [de] in January 1846. Marx also discussed the argument in chapter 2 of The German Ideology.[117]

The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845)

A study of the deprived conditions of the working class in Manchester and Salford, based on Engels's personal observations. The work also contains seminal thoughts on the state of socialism and its development. Originally published in German and only translated into English in 1887, the work initially had little impact in England; however, it was very influential with historians of British industrialisation throughout the twentieth century.[118]

The Peasant War in Germany (1850)

An account of the early 16th-century uprising known as the German Peasants' War, with a comparison with the recent revolutionary uprisings of 1848–1849 across Europe.[119]

Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science (1878)

Popularly known as Anti-Dühring, this book 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 seeking 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. Three chapters of Anti-Dühring were later edited and published under the separate title, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880)

In this work, one of the best selling socialist books of the era,[120] Engels briefly described and analyzed the ideas of notable utopian socialists such as Charles Fourier and Robert Owen. Engels pointed out their strongpoints and shortcomings, and provided an explanation of the scientific socialist framework for understanding of capitalism, and an outline of the progression of social and economic development from the perspective of historical materialism.

Dialectics of Nature (1883)

Dialectics of Nature (German: "Dialektik der Natur") is an unfinished 1883 work by Engels that applies Marxist ideas, particularly those of dialectical materialism, to science. It was first published in the Soviet Union in 1925.[121]

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

In this work, Engels argues that the family is an ever-changing institution that has been shaped by capitalism. It contains a historical view of the family in relation to issues of class, female subjugation and private property.


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  52. ^ Gary Tedman, Aesthetics & Alienation (Zero Books: Hampshire, 1973)
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  54. ^ a b Elisabeth Engels's letter contained at No. 6 of the Appendix, Collected Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Volume 38 (International Publishers: New York, 1982) pp. 540–541.
  55. ^ Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, "Banquet in Gürzenich" contained in the Collected Works: Volume 9 (International Publishers: New York, 1977) p. 490.
  56. ^ a b c Elisabeth Engels's letter to Friedrich Engels contained at No. 8 of the Appendix in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Volume 38, p. 543.
  57. ^ Friedrich Engels letter to Karl Marx dated 6 July 1851 and contained at No. 186 of the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Volume 38, p. 378.
  58. ^ Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, "The Magyar Struggle" contained in Collected Works: Volume 8, pp. 227–238.
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  62. ^ Mike Rapport, 1848 Year of Revolution, London: Little Brown, 2008, p. 342, ISBN 978-0-316-72965-9.
  63. ^ Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, "Elberfeld" contained in the Collected Works: Volume 9 (International Publishers: New York, 1977) p. 447.
  64. ^ Heinrich Gemkow, et al., Friedrich Engels: A Biography (Verlag Zeit im Bild: Dresden, 1972) p. 205.
  65. ^ "Letter from Engels to Jenny Marx" (25 July 1849) contained in the Collected Works: Volume 38 pp. 202–204.
  66. ^ Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works: Volume 9, p. 524,
  67. ^ Friedrich Engels letter contained at No. 183 of the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Volume 38, p. 370.
  68. ^ Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works: Volume 10, p. 147.
  69. ^ See the "Letter from Engels to George Julian Harney" dated 5 October 1849, in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Volume 38 p. 217.
  70. ^ Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, "Letter from Engels to George Julian Harney (5 October 1849) Collected Works: Volume 38 p. 217.
  71. ^ Heinrich Gemkow et al., Friedrich Engels: A Biography p. 213.
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  73. ^ "Legacies – Engels in Manchester". BBC. p. 5. Retrieved 13 February 2010.
  74. ^ "The Peasant War in Germany" and s contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Volume 10 pp. 397–482.
  75. ^ The article called "The Campaign for the German Imperial Constitution" is contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Volume 10 p. 147
  76. ^ The article "On the Slogan of the Abolition of the State and the German 'Friends of Anarchy'" is contained in the Collected Works of Marx and Engels: Volume 10 p. 486.
  77. ^ The pamphlet "Conditions and Prospects of a War of the Holy Alliance against France" is contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Volume 10 p. 542.
  78. ^ Friedrich Engels's letter to Karl Marx dated 3 December 1851 contained in the "Collected Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Volume 38", p. 503.
  79. ^ See note 517 located at p. 635 in the "Collected Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Volume 38.
  80. ^ Karl Marx, "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Volume 11, p. 98.
  81. ^ Karl Marx, "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Volume 11, p. 103.
  82. ^ Letter from Engels to Joseph Weydemeyer dated 12 April 1853, contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Volume 39 (New York: International Publishers, 1983) pp. 305–306.
  83. ^ W. Bruce Lincoln, The Romanovs: Autocrats of All the Russias (New York: Dial Press, 1981) pp. 408–413.
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Further reading

Commentaries on Engels

Fiction works

Graphic novel

A biographical German graphic novel called Engels – Unternehmer und Revolutionär ("Engels – Businessman and Revolutionary") was published in 2020. ISBN 3948755493

External links

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