The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels
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Friedrich Engels is one of the most attractive and contradictory figures of the nineteenth century. Born to a prosperous mercantile family in west Germany, he spent his career working in the Manchester cotton industry, riding to the Cheshire hounds, and enjoying the comfortable, middle-class life of a Victorian gentleman. Yet Engels was also the co-founder of international communism - the philosophy which in the 20th century came to control one third of the human race. He was the co-author of The Communist Manifesto, a ruthless party tactician, and the man who sacrificed his best years so Karl Marx could write Das Kapital. Tristram Hunt relishes the diversity and exuberance of Engels's era: how one of the great bon viveurs of Victorian Britain reconciled his raucous personal life with this uncompromising political philosophy. Set against the backdrop of revolutionary Europe and industrializing England - of Manchester mills, Paris barricades, and East End strikes - it is a story of devoted friendship, class compromise, ideological struggle, and family betrayal.
before accusing his mother of forgetting ‘the 40,000 men, women and children whom the Versailles troops massacred with machinery after people disarmed’. Beyond Engels's exaggeration of the casualty figures, what is historically noteworthy is that Mrs Engels clearly thought Marx himself responsible for the entire dreadful episode and was furious that he had dragged her beautiful, innocent son into it. Engels, who always put friend before family, cleared Marx of any responsibility for the
science workers who are concerned with approaching and developing the problems of their science from the standpoint of Marxism-Leninism’, its aim was to combat reactionary tendencies in science, counter ‘misuse’ of scientific knowledge by the West and to take a stand ‘against very long-term objectives, divorced from contemporary problems of practice’ and to oppose ‘agnosticism and impotence, which are characteristic of decaying capitalism’. Discussion groups in London, Birmingham, Manchester and
Protestant eschatological inheritance he had abjured as a teenager. His telos was a dialectical culmination of the global class struggle: the withering away of the state, the liberation of mankind and a workers’ paradise of human fulfilment and sexual possibility – in sum, a leap from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom. Neither a Leveller nor a statist, this great lover of the good life, passionate advocate of individuality and believer in the open battle of ideas in literature,
practise law. Rather than becoming ‘breadless’, Heinrich converted. In doing so, he abandoned a rabbinical lineage stretching back to the early 1700s, which had included Karl Marx's grandfather and uncles as rabbis of Trier. However, Heinrich – the Enlightenment acolyte of Newton and father of nine hungry children – did not seem overly upset about extinguishing his Judaic lineage. His wife, Henriette, found it a more difficult departure: she spoke Yiddish and kept certain Jewish customs alive in
Westphalen. And, to everyone's surprise, Jenny – the sophisticated daughter of a Prussian aristocrat and ‘the most beautiful girl in Trier’ – fell in love with the lively wit and dashing bravado of the hairy Jewish boy. In 1836 she broke with her officer fiancé and promised herself to the man she would come to call her ‘wild black boar’, her ‘wicked knave’ – and, the tag that finally stuck, her ‘Moor’ (or ‘Mohr’) with all its implications of Levantine mystery and hirsute Oriental ‘otherness’.