Friedrich Engels (Germany, 1820-95)

Figure 1.--Here we see Marx, Engels with Marx's three daughters: Jenny Caroline (1844–83), Jenny Julia Eleanor (1855–1911), and Jenny Laura (1845–1911). It is undated, but would have beeb takeb about 1865. There were no children from the two Engles marriages.

Friedrich Engels was born in Barmen, Rhine province, Prussia (1820). He was the son of a wealthy businessman. His parents were fervent Christians. He would reject both capitalism and Christianity, but never broke with his family. Engles was an important German socialist philosopher and businesman. He became the friend of and close collaborator of Karl Marx in the founding of the modern communist movement. And after moving to Manchester publishd the ground-breaking 'The Condition of the Working Class in England'. The two men jointly published the 'Communist Manifesto' (1848). Engels affter Marx's death edited the second and third volumes of Marx's great work --Das Kapital. Engels organised Marx's notes on the 'Theories of surplus value' which he then published as the fourth volume of .


Engles father was Frederich Engles Sr., who owned a textile mill in Barmen, Prussia. Barmen was located in modern North Rhine-Westphalia, east of Rhine river, south of the what would become the industrial Ruhr. Barmen while only a town of some 20,000 people would prove to be a pioneering center for both the early industrial revolution beyond Britain and ironically the theoretical socialist movement. Prussia was at at the stage of its industrial development. As in Britain, the first economic activity to be industrialized was textiles. Unlike many Prussians, the Engles family had British connections. Engles was a partner in Ermen & Engels cotton mill in Manchester, England. Manchester at the time was the center of the booming English textile industry which was becoming increasingly dependent on the rapidly expanding production of collton from the American South. As an adult, even after Engles enter the area of revolutionary socialism attacking capitalism, his family continued to support him. The principal factor here seems to have ben his doting mother to whom Engles was closely attached throughout her life. It was apparently his mother's love that prevented a breech in the frayed ties between father and son. As a result, Englscnever experienced the adult poverty from which his friend and colleage Karl Marx endured.


Friedrich was raised in a family with moderately liberal views. This was after the Naopleonic era when Prussia and most of the rest of Europe was governed by conservative monarchies with few political limitations. Along with their liberalism, his parents were dedicated Prussian patriots and dedicated Lutherans. Friderich's father, Friedrich Engles Sr., was a stern disciplinarian, but not excessively strict in contemporary terms. His parents were Pietistic Lutherns, a movement that strongly influenced Protestantism. Pietism (pietism)) merged the Lutheran emphasis on Biblical conservatism with a Reformed emphasis on individual piety and the need to live a vigorous Christian life. This affected how the Engles children were raised and what the parents expected from their ekdest son. His farther saw his son as rebelious, although again would not be seen this way in modern terms. The one area in which his father really imposed his will on Friederich was in selecting a career path. His mother was dedidicated and loving, but not uncritical, especially as her son adopted views and values that put him at adds with his family--especiallyb his rejection of Christinity.


Friederich was a gifted student. Prussia like most German states had an excellent public education system. Unlike Britain, the well to do did not commonly send their children to privte schools and boarding schools except for military academies were even less common. And the state schools commonly had higher academic standards than the private schools. Friederich attended a Gymnasium (selective secondary school). He left school a year before graduation which seems rather unusual and it is not clear why he did this (1838). The most common explanation is that his father did not like where is schooling was leading his son who was howing increasing interest in literature and poetry. It is likely that his father though that as he got older and possibly entering univesity that he would be more difficult to control. His father provably thought that his son needed to learn about real life and that a good deal to do this was by finding a job for him.

Life in Bremen (1838-41)

After leaving school, Friderich at age 17 years was set to work in a Bremen export firm with which his father's firm had commercial connections. Bremen was a much larger city, a Hanseatic city with a long history of trading and a North Sea port. Engles worked here as an unsalaried apprentice (1838–41). He learned about business and export operations. It is at this point that Engles began to lead what might be called a double life. his was because his father disapproved of both his interest in literature as well as his political thinking and because he still wanted to fit into Prussian society and the comfortable life his family situation offered. He appears to have worked diligently as a young business apprentice during working hours. He had a friendly, outgoing person and enjoyed personal relations and popular diversions with friends of similar interests. He appreciated nusic and joined a choral society. He was often seennin the famed Ratskeller tavern. He also enjoyed phsical activity in a time beffore modern sports. He became a skilled swimmer. He practiced fencing, especially popular in Prussia, but unlike Marx never fought a duel. He became a skilled horseman. Notably bcause of his connection with Communism, he could outride most British aristicrats and businessmen in fox hunts after he moved to England. While his father ended his academic career, he could not stop his son's seeking to educate himself. Engles was not only bright, he had an unmatched interest in and capacity to learn languags. He is said to have boasted to his sister that he knew an amazing 24 lanuages. There is no record of his level of fluency in these 24 languages, but he is known to have mastered several and the ability to function in many others. All of this was the open Engles that his family and friends saw. There was also a private Engles who dabled in not only in liberal, but also revolutionary writings. At the time in Prussia even the most moderate liberal literture was banned and the subject of police investigation. Engles was a voration reader, abd despite not even finishing secondary school, consumed far more than even conscientious moder university students. He followed the Young German authors like Ludwig Börne, Karl Gutzkow, and Heinrich Heine. They were all banned, but in the days before the totalitarian state which Engles and Marx helped create, easy to obtain. He was intrugued, but ultimately rejected their ideas as too moderate and undisciplined. He did not think that they led anywhere. Who he did find that appealed to him was G.W.F. Hegel and the 'Young Hegelians' who he found offered a more systemized historical construct. Th admiration for Hegel would prove to be the connecting link with fellow German socilist thinker, Karl Marx. The Young Hegelians would go far beyond the Young Germans. They included a diverse group of intellectuals, theologians, and historians. One of the most prominent was the historian Bruno Bauer. Many more radical thinkersere involved like the anarchist Max Stirner. What appealed most to the Young Hegelians was Hegel's dialectic. This was the idea that historical change resulted from the conflict of opposing views, producing a new synthesis. The Young Hegelians anted to accelerating historical change and directit toward rational progress. As aesult they criticized all that they found irrational, outmoded, and repressive. And as an outgrowth of the Enlightenment, one of their primary trgets was Christianity. It is at this time that as a result of his readings and , conversations that an already agnostic Engels was converted unto a militant atheist. This perhaps more than his political and economic views grealy disturbed his parents. While still in Bremen, Engels began his journalism career and found that despite the lack of a ormal education that he was good at it. So as not cause a problem with his family, he used the pseudonym of Friedrich Oswald. He expressed biting critical abilities in a clear, direct style. This seems to have influnced Marx's work after they began collaborating.

Military Service and Berlin (1841-42)

Engles unlike Marx had an interest in the military and actually some military experince. Engles returned to Barmen and his family (1841). The big question at this point was the young man's career. But this was put aside after he enlisted as a one-year volunteer in a Berlin artillery regiment. Interestingly while he had anti-militarist attitudes, he was interested in the military and military history. In Berlin, he again led a double life. He performed commendably as a recruit. His officers had no idea that their new recruitwas becoming a revolutionary. The military would become a life-long interest and something he would comment on at length. His friends would even take to calling him 'the General'. In their future collaboration, Marx would often defer to him on military matters, not to say he was always right. Engles thought that the Confederacy would prevailmin the american Civil War because they had the strongest military at the onset of the War. Marx differed with him and of course was correct. (At the time the War broke out, Marx had been supporting his family by writing for American newspapers.) Military service afforded Engles the time to pursue even more compelling interests in the capital which was becoming a major European city. Although lacking thecreqyuisite academic requirements, he attended university lectures. His Bremen Friedrich Oswald articles and quick mind had been noted in Berlin. He thus found entrée into the Young Hegelian circle of The Free. It had founded as the Doctors Club. He anonymously published articles in the Rheinische Zeitung which addressed the poor working and living conditions of factory workers. The editor of the Rheinische Zeitung was Karl Marx, although th two men did not neet until later. Engles earned among The Free as a formidable debater in their heated philosophical discussions. His passion was most notable in debates about religion.


Engles completed his military enlistment in Berlin (1842). While in Berlin he met Moses Hess (1812-75) who like himself was the son of wealthy parents. Unlike Engles, his parents were Jewish. Hess was a 8 years older than Marx and already radicalized. H was a firy promoter of radical causes. this and his Jewishness would had brought him to the attention of Prussian authorities. He would eventually lay the foundation for secular Zionism. The two ad intense discussions and it was Hess who converted Engels to Communism. The connecting link was the Hegelian dialectic. Prussia was at an erly stage of industrialization. Hess insisted that Britain which launched the Industrial Revolution and had the most advanced industry in the world would play a central role in future historical development and coming revolution. They would have laughed at anyone who suggested that it would be backward Russia that would play that role. Britain not only had advanced industry, but a growing proletariat laying the groundwork for class conflict.

Manchester (1842-46)

Manchester in what was becoming the English Industrial Midlands was the center of the British textile industry which had launched the industrial revolution. And as a result of his discussions with Moses Hess, Engles had become convinced that English industry would play a cntral role in future hstorical and economic developments. Thus when the opportunity to travel to England opend up, Engles seized on it. His father wanted Engles to continue his business training. And the family owned a share in a Manchester mill. Engles continued his Bremen/Berlin double life. H fulfilled his duties during business hours. After work, however, he pursued his interests, He wrote articles on communism for both European and English journals. He voraciously read books and parliamentary reports on economic and political issues to lear about conditions in England. Until this point his experibces xand reading was almost entirely German, but he already spoke english. It was atime. He associated with workers, discussed issues with radical leaders, and began gathering material for a new project. He decided to write a history of England that would focus on the industrial revolution and the poverty of the workers. Coming from Germany neither he or Marx appreciated the potential of democracy, wither in Britain or still unindustrialized America, reforming industrial society Engels from Manchester contributed two articles to the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (German-French Yearbooks). They were were edited by Marx in Paris. Engels by this time had begun to formulate many of his key concepts. The articles describe a basic formulation of what would be called 'scientific socialism'. He described what he saw as the contradictions in liberal economic theory. He insisted that the industrial system developing in Britain and Germny based on private property would lead ultimately to a world consisting of 'millionaires and paupers'. Rather he advovated a communiet revolution that would eliminate private property and to a 'r;reconciliation of humanity with nature and itself.' While this was not apparent when he wrote these articles, it was apparent well before he died that the most capitalist of all countries (the United States) would pay the higest salaries in the world which is why workers from all over Europe flocked to America. Of course the other end of the calculation was not yet apparent, that Commuist countris with sovilist countris could not pat their workers decent salaries.


It was in Manchester that Engels met Mary Burns, an uneducated Irish working girl. The two could have been more different backgrounds. Mary was unducated, but had radical views that of course appealed to Engles. It is thought that she would guide him around wirkin-class slums in Manchester. They developed a life-long association. Just as Engles rejected Christianity, he also rejected the institution of marriage. And Mary hared his opinions, seeing marriage as another form of working-class oppression. This would be another problen for Engles' family in Germany. They lived together faitfully as husband and wife. The attachment was so strong that it would produce the one severe strain in his relationshipwith Marx. Mary died suddenly (1863). Engels was offended that Marx did not respomd in a humane way to her death. Marx actually changed his behavior as a result. He tried to be more considerate in the future. Engels later lived with Mary’s sister Lizzy along the same line as he had lived ith her sister. Marx began closing his letters with greetings to 'Mrs. Lizzy' or 'Mrs. Burns'. Engels was faithful to Lizie as he had beem to Mary. He ultimately married Lizzy, but only as a deathbed concession to please her. Neither marriage produced any children.

Karl Marx (1818-83)

Karl Marx was another scion of a well-to-do Germany family, although not as wealthy as the Engles family. They were both born at about the same time and grew up in the repressive Prussian Kingdom. The revolutionary Communism that they expoused is today known as Marxism not Englesism. This is probably because it was Marx who offered the monumental Das Kapital. The two men were, however, life-long associates and the ideas in Das Kapital or an amalgum, the product of inumerable disussion and exchange of letters. There was no fundamental issue on which they disagreed. And Engles helped support Marx and his family which lived in near poverty. The stressed the same maters and conveniently igored the same facts that would havecalered to the problems with rgeir scirbtific socialist theoroies. Engles lived longer than Marx and wouls edit volumes II and III of Das Kapital which Marx had not yet published at the time of his death. Engles was able to do this becme he lived more than a decade after his friend Marx died.

Collaboration with Marx

Marx after encountering problems with Prussian authorities went to Paris planning to publish a journal to promote his ideas about social reform (1843). The two met in Paris (1844). The two began participating in different groups that shared the same views. Marx and Engles reached the conclusion that reorm was not possible and that only revolution could trns firm industrial society. Engels went to Paris for a 10-day visit with Marx . This visit was a huge success and led to a life-long aassociation beteen the still young men. Tohether they would promote the still infant socialist movement. Engels published 'Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England' (The condition of the working class in England) (1845), a ground-breaking work aboit a subject on which Marx would focus. Their first collaboration was 'Die deutsche Ideologie' (The German ideology), which was, however, not published until decades later. They denounced and ridiculed many of their earlier Young Hegelian associates and sharply attacked German socialists who rejected the idea of revolution. It expressed a division that would fundamentally divide the world socialist movement. Marx and Engles would condemn their socilist brethern intelectually. Stalin would codemn then with either a bullet in back of the head or a slower death in the Gulag. Engles joining Marx in Brussels (1845). Engels appreciated Marx's evolving ideas materialistic interpretation of history which would lead to a communist revolution and triumph of the proloterit. He brought Marx on a tour of England which led Europe in industrializing. Engles was living in England at the time and would make several trips to Paris. It was not just to discuss issues with Marx. They were involved in efforts to convince worker groups and French socialists of their ideas about cimmunism and revolution. One such group was the Bund der Gerechten (League of the Just), a group of émigré German worker groups which began as a utopian society. The League held its first congress in London (1847). Engels helped convince them to become the Communist League. Together Marx and Engles persuaded a second Communist Congress in London to endorse their views (1848). It was not a quiet time, beginning in France, Europe was in tumault--the Revolutions of 1848. The League authorized the two men to draft a statement of communist principless, which appeared as the Manifest der kommunistischen Partei (Communist Manifesto). It suumarized in more vivid terms Engles earlier article 'Grundsätze des Kommunismus' (Principles of communism) but was primarily ideas formulated by Marx. After overthrowing King Louis Philippe the focus shifted to the German states, including the Austrian Empire. The revolutions were liberal efforts to establish constitutional, representative givernment. They were a far cry from communist revolution. Marx and Engles did not play an importnt role in the revolutiins as they played out. But the conservative regimes which survivd were less willing to tolerate radicls and their publications. Marx and Ebgles were isappointed with failure of the revolutions. Some were suceeding, but supressed by Tsarist forces. And even in France the outcome would B Louis III's dictatorship. Engels and Marx returned to England. They reorganized the Communist League and began sending directives to followers on the continent, vonvinced that a second stronger wave of revolutions would soon follow. It is interesting that the English Goverment permitted all of this. The main problem faced by the two men was finances. This was essentially Engles probem and he was supporting both his own and Marx's family. Ironically, his sollution was to become what one might call a card-carrying capitalust. He accepted a position in the Manchester offices of Ermen & Engels. He eventually became a full partner. He functioned as a serious businessman. He managed to avoid allowing his communist principles and opposition to capitalisn interfere with the profitable operations of his comoany. He was sucessful enough that two decades later he was able to sell share of the partnership (1869). The money he receive allowed him to live comfortably until his death (1895). It also allowed him to support Marx whi was thus free to pursue his studies leasing to Das Capital

Modern Views

During his life time, Engles was seen on aart with Marx ans the founding voices of communism. This mean both recognition nd criticism. In our modernage, Marx has eclipsed Engles. Th term Marxism masks the important contribution of Engles. Only in the Soviet Union nd to aesser xtent other Communist countries did Engles receive the attention he merirs. We talk about Marxist0Leninism, but not Marxist-Engelism. Some scholars have sought to ferit out differencs between the two without much success. Neother of the two dspitecountless discussions, articles nd letters ever ifentufied a differenc of any sigbificance. What we find is interesting is how the two saw competition leading to war while in reality, competition has been the driving force for innovation and advance in the West amd the lack of competition was a major reason Communist countries failed. And it is fascinating to see how insteas of the historiacal dialectic leading capitalist countries to become communist, the trend as been for communist countries to wither fail or adopt capitalist economies.


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Created: 11:34 AM 3/21/2017
Last updated: 11:34 AM 3/21/2017