Frederick Engels

August 5 marks the 115th death anniversary of Frederick Engels, one of the greatest leaders and teachers of the international proletariat.  It was Engels who, together with his closest friend and comrade-in-arms, Karl Marx, laid the foundations of the doctrine of scientific socialism.

In his speech commemorating Engels on his passing away in 1895, the great Lenin said that “the services rendered by Marx and Engels to the working class may be expressed in a few words thus: they taught the working class to know itself and be conscious of itself, and they substituted science for dreams.”

It was Karl Marx and Frederick Engels who first showed the working class its true position within the capitalist system of exploitation and also awakened it to its historic mission as the gravedigger of capitalism.  Before Marx and Engels, many thinkers and activists had drawn attention to the exploitation and oppression of the workers under capitalism and had dreamt of socialism, a society in which there would be no exploitation.  However, Marx and Engels were the first to show, on the basis of science, that the working class was not only an oppressed class, but the class which through its ceaseless struggle against the capitalists would bring about the downfall of capitalism and the entire system of exploitation, and build socialism.  They dedicated their whole lives to arming the working class with the theoretical tools and political and organisational preparation needed to carry out its mission.

Frederick Engels was born in Prussia (Germany) in 1820.  As a young man he was deeply influenced by the dialectical philosophy of Hegels, which expounded that that the universe and everything in it is at all times undergoing a constant process of change and development.  In 1840, Engels moved to Manchester, England, to work in a firm of which his father was a shareholder.  Manchester had one of the main concentrations of the industrial working class in the world at that time.  Engels deeply studied the conditions of life of the working class there, and on this basis produced a masterly study entitled “The Condition of the Working Class in England”, which remains to this day one of the most accurate and incisive pictures of the exploitation and oppression that the working class suffers under the capitalist system.  It was in England that Engels first identified himself with the socialist movement.

In 1844, in Paris on his way back to Germany, Engels first met Karl Marx, with whom he was to build the closest lifelong partnership for the cause of revolution and socialism. About this partnership, Lenin was to say: “The European proletariat may say that its science was created by two scholars and fighters, whose relationship to each other surpasses the most moving stories of the ancients about human friendship.” One of the early and most enduring products of their collaboration was the programmatic document of communism that they wrote together in 1848, The Communist Manifesto. In this work, Marx and Engels summed up the entire essence of the doctrine of scientific socialism in a most profound and powerful way.  Of The Communist Manifesto, Lenin said that “this little booklet is worth whole volumes.”

In the late 1840s, revolutionary struggles against political despotism broke out in many countries of Europe.  Marx and Engels participated wholeheartedly in these struggles.  Back in Prussia, they took charge of the revolutionary-democratic newspaper, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung.  For their revolutionary activities, they were exiled and hounded from one country to another by the reactionary authorities on the European continent, compelling them to eventually settle in England.

For the next 3 decades, until Marx’s death in 1883, the intellectual partnership of Marx and Engels produced a series of theoretical and political works of the greatest importance for scientific socialism.  Marx pursued his intensive study of political economy, and in particular of the working of the capitalist system, resulting in his monumental work, Capital.  After Marx’s death, it was Engels who prepared for publication the 2nd and 3rd volumes of Capital.  In addition, Engels wrote a number of works on a diverse range of subjects.  His Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State laid bare the roots of class exploitation as well as of the oppression of women. Other works by him, including Peasant War in Germany, Anti-Duhring and Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy analysed important political issues as well as problems of philosophy, and the natural and social sciences. In Anti-Duhring, Engels expressed the profound thought that “Freedom does not consist in any dreamt-of independence from natural laws, but in the knowledge of these laws, and in the possibility this gives of systematically making them work towards definite ends.”

Engels collaborated with Marx also in setting up and guiding the First International Workingmen’s Association, set up in 1864.  After Marx’s death, Engels continued to be the most widely respected leader and teacher of the international working class until his death.

On the anniversary of the passing of this great classic of Marxism-Leninism, Mazdoor Ekta Lehar salutes the memory of this towering personality and fighter for the working class and socialism. The name and work of Frederick Engels will live forever!


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International Workingmen’s Association    Manchester    Socialism    Karl Marx    Germany    Neue Rheinische Zeitung    Aug 1-15 2010    Communist School    Philosophy    History   

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