Friedrich Engels was a German economist, philosopher, historian and socialist. He was also a businessman, journalist and political activist. His father owned the large textile mills in the United Kingdom, and former Prussia, now Germany. Friedrich Engels is best known for his theory of Marxism, which he developed together with Karl Marx.
In 1845 Engels published the book ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’. He based this book on personal observations and researches in various English cities. Engels is also the co-author of ‘The Communist Manifesto’, with Karl Marx. Engels supported Marx financially, which allowed him to write ‘Das Kapital’. After Marx’s death, Engels published the fourth volume of ‘Das Kapital’.
Biography Friedrich Engels
Engels’ Early Years
Friedrich Engels was born on November 28, 1820 in Barmen, province of the Kingdom of Prussia, present-day province of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. He is the eldest son of a German textile manufacturer with whom he had a difficult relationship. He dropped out of high school early and in 1838 became an office clerk at a trading office in Bremen. During this time his interest in Hegel’s philosophy was awakened. Hegel dominated German philosophy at the time. In 1838, Engels published his first work, a poem named ‘The Bedouin’.
In 1841, Engels joined the Prussian army, with the Household Artillery. It was during this time that he came into contact with groups of Hegel’s followers. He published anonymous articles in the ‘Rheinische Zeitung’, in which he mainly exposed the poor working and living conditions of factory workers. The editor of that magazine was Karl Marx. Engels repeated several times in his life that he was indebted to German philosophy because of its influence on his intellectual development.
Formative Years Engels
In 1842 Engels was sent to Manchester to work in the offices of entrepreneurs Ermen and Engels’s Victoria Mill where sewing threads were produced. Engels’ father did this in the hope that Engels would reconsider his radical views. In Manchester Engels met Mary Burns. She was a fierce young Irish woman with radical views somewhat like those of Friedrich Engels. They got into a relationship but never got married because of their views on marriage. During his time in England, Engels also studied the greatest economic writers, including Adam Smith, Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, and Pierre Joseph Proudhon.
On his way back to Germany, Engels met Karl Marx for the second time in Paris. There, a lifelong intellectual understanding was formed, when they discovered that they had the same opinion about almost everything. From then on, the two began collaborating on their writing.
Marx had read Engels’s articles about the class bearing the disadvantages of the social order without enjoying its advantages. Marx took Engels’ idea that the working class would lead a revolt against the bourgeoisie and adopted it as part of his own philosophy.
Engels decided to stay in Paris to help Marx write ‘The Holy Family’, an attack on the Young Hegelians. In 1845 Engels published ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’. Next, Engels joined Karl Marx, this time on the mainland in Brussels. He worked closely with Marx over the following years to build the intellectual and political foundations of their movement.
Together they wrote ‘The Holy Family’, ‘The German Ideology’ and ‘The Communist Manifesto’. Together they joined forces to encourage various working-class groups to enter politics. When hopes for a revolution disappeared in the early 1940s, Marx and Engels moved to England.
Frederick Engels resumed his work at the family business while Marx went to live and work in London. Engels supported Marx with money and also pursued his own ideas. He became Karl Marx’s most successful popularizer and propagandist.
Engels’ Later Years
After Karl Marx’s death in 1883, Engels was the main authority on Karl Marx and Marxism. He completed parts 2 and 3 of ‘Das Kapital’. He completed the works based merely of Marx’s notes and incomplete manuscripts. Even in later life he still defended the need for social reforms, despite the progress of European parliamentary democracy. Friedrich Engels died of cancer in London in 1895.
Friedrich Engels quotes
- “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.”
- “If there were no Frenchwomen, life wouldn’t be worth living.”
- “The emancipation of woman will only be possible when woman can take part in production on a large, social scale, and domestic work no longer claims anything but an insignificant amount of her time.”
- “The middle classes have a truly extraordinary conception of society. They really believe that human beings . . . have real existence only if they make money or help to make it.”
- “The free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”
- “All that is real in human history becomes irrational in the process of time.”
- “Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this crime we plead guilty.”
- “A change in Quantity also entails a change in Quality”
- “What each individual wills is obstructed by everyone else, and what emerges is something that no one willed.”
- “The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles.”
- “In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”
- “The state is nothing but an instrument of oppression of one.“
Publications, books and articles of Friedrich Engels
- 1908. Introduction, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co.
- 1884. The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. (Original (German: Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigenthums und des Staats).
- 1883. Dialectics of Nature. (Original German: Dialektik der Natur).
- 1880. Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.
- 1878. Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science.
- 1850. The Peasant War in Germany.
- 1845. The Condition of the Working Class in England.
- 1844. The Holy Family.
- 1838. The Bedouin.
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