"Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you." – William Blake (1757-1827) from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Saturday 28 November 2020

Friedrich Engels (1820-1895): Born 200 Years Ago Today!

Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels (1820-1895)
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Friedrich Engels, German-born author, journalist, philosopher, historian, political activist was born 200 years ago today, in 1820.

As chief collaborator with Karl Marx, together they made and important and ground-breaking discoveries in both general and particular fields of social science, primarily by pioneering and advancing a materialist conception of history, based on a dialectical understanding of human society, in much the same vein as what Darwinism was accomplishing, around the same time, in the field of natural science.

Engels both completed and continued Marx's work following his death in 1883, before his own death, twelve years later in 1895. He also made individual contributions, contained in such works as The Condition of the Working Class in England (published in 1845), Dialectics of Nature (1883), The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884).

As one notable revolutionary and commentator or a later period observed, a key to understanding the motives and disposition of Marx and Engels is that "they both became socialists after being democrats, and the democratic feeling of hatred for political despotism was exceedingly strong in them. This direct political feeling, combined with a profound theoretical understanding of the connection between political despotism and economic oppression, and also their rich experience of life, made Marx and Engels uncommonly responsive politically." – V.I. Lenin, Frederick Engels

They were "the first to show that the working class and its demands are a necessary outcome of the present economic system … 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 … the first to say that the proletariat is not only a suffering class; that it is, in fact, the disgraceful economic condition of the proletariat that drives it irresistibly forward and compels it to fight for its ultimate emancipation." – Ibid

Friedrich Engels was born on 28 November 1820, in Barmen in the Rhine Province of what then constituted Prussia. His life and work took him to many countries of Europe, meeting with revolutionaries and important intellectual figures of the 19th century but also and most importantly, with the downtrodden and oppressed, with whom he was never out of contact.

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