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Friedrich Engels
November 28, 1820–August 5, 1895

 

 


Born

November 28, 1820 in Barmen, Prussia (now Wuppertal, Germany) the eldest son of a wealthy German cotton manufacturer.

As his father, Friederich Sr., was a Methodist., Frederick was raised Christian Pietist (Pietism is a reform movement in the German Lutheran Church during the 17th and 18th centuries. )

Early Life

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.

when he was 18 years of age, young Frederick had been dropped out of high school because of family circumstances.

At this point, he was 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.

Frederick's revolutionary activities 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.

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 ... "

About Engels

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."

Manchester

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.

The 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.

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.

Died

Engels died of throat cancer in London in 1895.

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




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