Friedrich Engels

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Engels, Friedrich

Engels, Friedrich (frēˈdrĭkh ĕngˈəls), 1820–95, German socialist; with Karl Marx, one of the founders of modern Communism (see communism). The son of a wealthy Rhenish textile manufacturer, Engels took (1842) a position in a factory near Manchester, England, in which his father had an interest, where he saw child labor and other examples of the exploitation of workers. In 1844, while passing through Paris, he met Marx, and their lifelong association began. His experiences in Manchester led to Engels's first major book, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 (1845, tr. 1887), which attracted wide attention. From 1845 to 1850 he was active in Germany, France, and Belgium, organizing revolutionary movements and collaborating with Marx on several works, notably the Communist Manifesto (1848). The failure of the revolutions of 1848 caused his return (1850) to England, where he lived the rest of his life. He was a successful businessman, and from his income he enabled Marx to devote his life to research and writing.

Engels played a leading role in the First International and the Second International. After Marx's death, Engels edited the second and third volumes of Das Kapital from Marx's drafts and notes. The intimate intellectual relationship between Marx and Engels leaves little doubt that there was complete harmony of thought between them, although critics have sometimes questioned their full agreement. Marx's personality has overshadowed that of Engels, but the influence of Engels on the theories of Marxism, and particularly on the elaboration of dialectical materialism, can scarcely be overestimated. Engels's Anti-Dühring (1878, tr. 1934) and The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884, tr. 1902) rank among the fundamental books in Communist literature and profoundly influenced Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Among his other works is The Peasant War in Germany (tr. 1926).


See selected correspondence with Marx, ed. by D. Torr (1942); the collected works of Marx and Engels (50 vol., 1975–); his Socialism, Utopian and Scientific (1883, tr. 1892) and Dialectics of Nature (1925, tr. 1940); R. C. Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader (1972); biographies by G. Mayer (1936, repr. 1969) and T. Hunt (2009); S. Marcus, Engels, Manchester and the Working Class (1974); J. Sayers et al., ed., Engels Revisited: New Feminist Perspectives (1987); W. O. Henderson, Marx and Engels and the English Workers and Other Essays (1989).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Engels, Friedrich


Born Nov. 28, 1820, in Barmen, now Wuppertal; died Aug. 5, 1895, in London. One of the founders of Marxism; leader and teacher of the international proletariat; friend and colleague of K. Marx.

Engels’ father, Friedrich Engels, was a textile manufacturer who advocated pietism and strove to give his children a religious upbringing. Engels attended a municipal school until the age of 14, and in 1834 he enrolled in the Gymnasium. In his formative years he benefited from the influence of his mother, Elise van Haar, who imbued him with love for literature and art.

“While still at high school,” wrote V. I. Lenin of Engels, “he had come to hate autocracy and the tyranny of bureaucrats” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 2, p. 7). In the Gymnasium, Engels was an eager student of history, foreign languages, and German literature; his first attempts to write poetry date back to this period. In 1837, at his father’s insistence, Engels was compelled to leave the Gymnasium without completing his studies in order to devote himself to business. In 1838 his father sent him to Bremen to work in a business firm. A stranger to commerce, Engels spent most of his time studying philosophy, history, and literature; he also wrote poetry, studied music, and engaged in sports.

In Bremen, Engels became a regular reader of foreign books and periodicals; he read the opposition literature, which he disseminated among his friends, and adhered to Junges Deutschland (Young Germany), the literary movement of the radical opposition. In 1839, Engels became a regular contributor to the movement’s publication Telegraf für Deutschland, in whose pages he pronounced himself a revolutionary democrat. As early as 1839, in his Letters From the Wuppertal, Engels declared his opposition to pietism and religious fanaticism, as well as to the exploitation, poverty, and spiritual backwardness of his native city’s working people.

Engels’ letters to his Gymnasium friends F. Gräber and W. Gräber (1838–41)—a brilliant example of the epistolary genre—are further testimony of the revolutionary-democratic views formed in the writer’s youth. Here Engels openly declared his revolutionary attitudes, as he did in various articles—for example, “Requiem for the German Adelszeitung” and “Ernst Moritz Arndt” (1840). His acquaintance with the philosophy of G. Hegel dates back to 1839. While criticizing Hegel’s conservative political views, Engels nevertheless subscribed to his theory of development and dialectics.

In September 1841, Engels was sent to Berlin for military service. He was already well known for his literary and journalistic works (written under the pen name F. Oswald), and in 1840–41 he composed the libretto for an opera, Cola di Rienzi.

During his free time while in military service, Engels attended lectures at the University of Berlin and devoted himself intensively to the study of philosophy; he was close to the “young Hegelians,” who drew radical and atheistic conclusions from Hegel’s philosophy. The Prussian government, frightened by the proclamations of the young Hegelians, invited F. von Schelling to lecture at the University of Berlin. Engels was the most outspoken of Schelling’s opponents among the young Hegelians; he expressed his own views in various articles and brochures (1841–42), of which the most famous was “Schelling and Revelation.” In these articles, Engels proclaimed his atheistic beliefs and adopted the revolutionary-democratic position, criticizing not only Schelling but also Hegel’s conservative political views.

To Schelling’s irrationalism, Engels opposed the philosophy of L. Feuerbach, whose materialist views had influenced him. Basically, however, Engels was still an idealist in his beliefs, sharing the theory of self-consciousness of B. Bauer. At the same time, he differed significantly from the young Hegelians by actively engaging in political work and by his awareness of the need to support the oppositionist bourgeoisie in its struggle against absolutism.

In October 1842, Engels completed his military service and returned to Barmen. His father, in an effort to detach Engels from his radically inclined friends, sent him to Manchester (Great Britain), where the senior Engels was joint owner of the Ermen and Engels factory. On his way to Great Britain, Engels stopped in Cologne to visit the editorial offices of the Rheinische Zeitung, a newspaper to which he contributed for half a year. It was here that Engels first met Marx, the paper’s editor in chief, who agreed to take on Engels as the paper’s English correspondent.

The move to Great Britain was an important milestone in Engels’ life. As early as November-December 1842, in his first English articles in the Rheinische Zeitung, he emphasized that Great Britain was faced with social revolution, and that the proletariat would be the revolution’s decisive force. It was in England that Engels finally became a socialist. Having met the leaders of the Chartist movement (G. Harney and J. Leach), Engels contributed to the Chartist publication The Northern Star, attended various workers’ assemblies and meetings, and joined the Chartist party. At the same time he studied the writings of R. Owen and his followers and attended meetings of their socialist clubs.

In Manchester, Engels became acquainted with the world of the English workers and with their day-to-day life. Here, too, he met his future wife, the Irish working girl Mary Burns. While Engels’ final shift from idealism to materialism took place in Great Britain, the major influences that shaped his views were the works of Feuerbach and of the 18th-century French materialists.

The study of political economy proved particularly fruitful for Engels; its first result was the article “Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy” (1844), in which, as Lenin pointed out, Engels “examined the principal phenomena of the contemporary economic order from a socialist standpoint, regarding them as necessary consequences of the rule of private property” (ibid., p. 10). Through his masterful use of dialectics, Engels revealed the profoundly contradictory nature of capitalist society and the apologetic character of bourgeois economics.

Marx was delighted with Engels’ work, describing it as a brilliant critique of economic categories. Engels’ article was one of the stimuli that moved Marx to study political economy in depth. From this time on, the two men corresponded regularly. On his way back to Germany in 1844, Engels stopped in Paris and spent ten days there with Marx. This new meeting marked the beginning of their friendship and close collaboration. Marx and Engels found themselves in complete agreement on theoretical questions. They were both, by that time, materialists and communists. They decided to join forces against the young Hegelians, who had not relinquished their idealism and bourgeois radicalism and were opposed to democratic and communist ideas. Marx’ and Engels’ collaboration on this project resulted in their first joint work, The Holy Family, or Critique of Critical Criticism: Against Bruno Bauer and Company (published in February 1845), which was a milestone in the development of the Marxist world view.

Returning to his native land in September 1844, Engels established ties with the German socialists and contributed to socialist periodicals; his correspondence from Germany was published in The Northern Star. In Barmen he wrote The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 (1845), a book based on material gathered by him in Great Britain. In it, Engels set forth a number of profound ideas about strikes as a means of struggle, the trade unions, the party, the need to build a mass labor movement (that is, Chartism) in close conjunction with socialist thought, and the historic mission of the proletariat. Engels was now well on his way toward the materialist concept of history. His book evoked widespread reactions in the German press as well as in other countries. It facilitated the transition to the socialist point of view on the part of the progressive members of the German intelligentsia, and it proved accessible to progressive workers.

Engels was one of the initiators of organized discussions in Elberfeld on the subject of communism. Two speeches given by Engels at such discussions were published under the title Speeches in Elberfeld (1845). The public appearances of Engels and of other Elberfeld communists caused the police authorities to prohibit such gatherings. Engels was placed under observation and threatened with arrest. This was also a period during which Engels’ relations with his father took a sharp downturn.

In the spring of 1845, Engels left Germany and moved to Brussels, where Marx, exiled from France, had already been forced to settle. Marx presented to Engels the basic outline of the materialist concept of history—an idea that Engels was already close to. Together they embarked on the detailed elaboration of these new viewpoints. They continued to study political economy, which provided them with extensive material not only for economic research but also for further elaboration of the materialist concept of history; in July-August 1845 they visited Great Britain and carried on their research in the libraries of London and Manchester. Here they met with leaders of the left wing of the Chartist party, suchas Harney, and with the leading figures of the London communities of the League of the Just, a secret communist organization (including K. Schapper, J. Moll, and H. Bauer); they also became acquainted with W. Weitling.

From November 1845 until the summer of 1846, Marx and Engels worked on a new book, The German Ideology. In it they contrasted their own dialectical-materialist views to the inconsistent and contemplative anthropological materialism of Feuerbach, to the idealism of the young Hegelians, especially as exemplified by M. Stirner, and to “true socialism,” which was then spreading among sections of the German workers and intelligentsia. The German Ideology contained the first full-scale exposition of the materialist interpretation of history as an integral conception; it set forth the underlying principles of a new and revolutionary world view—that of scientific communism—and the theoretical bases of the historically inevitable establishment of the communist system.

Marx and Engels were not merely the founders of the revolutionary science of the proletariat; they also created the proletariat’s revolutionary party. This was their goal when they organized the Brussels Communist Correspondence Committee (founded 1846) and called on their followers in Germany and in other European countries to organize similar committees. The Brussels Committee declared its opposition to Weitling’s egalitarian communism, to petit bourgeois “true socialism,” and to Proudhonism. In order to combat the “true socialism” of K. Griin, which was very influential in the communities of the League of the Just in Paris, and to establish contacts with French democrats and socialists, the Brussels Committee sent Engels to Paris in August 1846.

Having established relations with L. Blanc and with F. Flocon, editor of the newspaper La Reforme, Engels became one of the latter’s regular correspondents. He was notably successful in propagandizing revolutionary ideas among the German workers in Paris. As a result of Engels’ activity, the local communities of the League of the Just rid themselves of the influence of “true socialism” and embarked on a revolutionary course.

In early 1847, influenced by Marx’ and Engels’ propaganda speeches and writings, the League of the Just invited them to join the organization. Marx and Engels played the leading role in the radical reorganization of the League and in the elaboration of its scientific program. In June 1847, Engels participated in the League’s first congress, held in London. As a result of his efforts, the League’s newly adopted charter affirmed the organizational principles of democratism and centralism. The congress approved the substance of the “Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith,” as it was then called—a programmatic document of which Engels was the principal author. The draft was transmitted to the League’s local organizations for further discussion, so that the final draft of the program could be drawn up by the time of the League’s second congress. As proposed by Marx and Engels, the League of the Just was renamed the Communist League, and its previous Utopian slogan “All men are brothers” was replaced by a new one—“Workers of the world, unite!”

After the congress, Marx and Engels engaged in extensive organizational work. In Brussels they set up a League district committee headed by Marx and organized the German Workers’ Society. Under Marx’ and Engels’ influence’, the newspaper Deutsche Brusseler Zeitung in mid-1847 became the leading organ of communist propaganda; from the fall of that year, those of its articles that dealt with matters of principle were written by Marx and Engels. The two were the guiding spirit in the formation of the Brussels Democratic Association, in which democrats of various nationalities were brought together.

In mid-October of 1847, Engels returned to Paris and directed his efforts toward strengthening the local communities of the Communist League. He took an active part in the preparations for the League’s second congress and in discussions of its programmatic documents. He expanded and corrected the League’s draft program, which he called “The Principles of Communism.” In his letter to Marx on the eve of the congress, Engels proposed changing the format of the program, which he had written as a catechism, and calling it the Communist Manifesto.

At the second congress of the Communist League (November-December 1847), Marx’ and Engels’ views were given unanimous support and approval, and they were entrusted with drawing up the final version of the League’s program. With the publication of the Communist Manifesto in February 1848, the revolutionary proletariat acquired a scientifically grounded theoretical and tactical program.

In Paris, after the February Revolution of 1848, Engels and Marx jointly worked out the “Demands of the Communist Party in Germany” (March 1848)—the communists’ political platform in the incipient Revolution of 1848–49. They decisively opposed the adventurism of certain democrats and members of the Communist League (such as G. Herwegh and A. von Bornstedt) who were attempting to “import” the revolution into Germany with the help of a German legion hastily assembled in Paris. With the outbreak of the revolution in Germany, the Central Committee of the Communist League adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a press organ in Cologne in order to weld together all the genuinely revolutionary and democratic forces. In April 1848, having arranged for the transport of several hundred German revolutionary workers to Germany, Marx and Engels arrived in Cologne.

The first issue of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, founded by Marx and Engels, was published in Cologne in June 1848. The newspaper’s editorial board, which was headed by Marx and included Engels, W. Wolff, G. Weerth, F. Freiligrath, and E. Dronke, was a veritable general staff of the mass revolutionary movement. Most of the newspaper’s editorials and other articles were written by Engels. In a series of articles devoted to the debates in the all-German parliament in Frankfurt and in the Prussian National Assembly, Engels exposed the treachery of the bourgeoisie, calling on the people to wage a resolute struggle against the vestiges of feudalism and absolutism and to establish a revolutionary dictatorship. In June 1848, Engels wrote a series of articles about the Paris workers’ June uprising, which he called the first civil war between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

During the revolution, Engels participated in the people’s mass demonstrations, and in September 1848 he was forced to flee from Germany. In Lausanne (Switzerland), where he took up residence, he was active in the labor movement and continued to collaborate on the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. In January 1849, Engels returned to Cologne and again plunged wholeheartedly into the newspaper’s editorial activity. He was particularly interested in the Hungarian and Italian peoples’ struggle for national liberation; almost every day, Engels’ articles discussed the course of the war in Hungary.

In May 1849 the people were taking up arms in the Rhine Province and in southwestern Germany. Engels took an active part in that struggle, as well as in the Elberfeld uprising and in the four large-scale battles and numerous small clashes in Pfalz and Baden. After the defeat of the revolutionary army, Engels was forced to seek asylum in Switzerland.

In November 1849, Engels arrived in London and devoted himself to reorganizing the Communist League; he also wrote various works that generalized the experience of the revolution and that further elaborated the theory and tactics of the revolutionary proletariat, such as “The Campaign for the German Imperial Constitution” and “The Peasant War in Germany” (1850).

As a member of the Central Committee of the Communist League, Engels collaborated with Marx in drawing up the League’s most important programmatic and tactical documents—for example, the “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League” of March and June 1850. Engels criticized the leaders of the petit bourgeois democrats and fought to preserve the political independence of the proletarian party. When the adventurist minority members of the Central Committee (specifically, K. Schapper and A. Willich) began to lean toward an alliance with petit bourgeois leaders, supporting their call for an immediate revolution in Germany, Engels resolutely opposed the put-schists and their divisive activity, defending the unity of the League and its theoretical principles.

After the defeat of the revolution, Marx and Engels concentrated primarily on theoretical development. In November 1850, Engels moved to Manchester, where he worked in the office of his father’s business. This allowed him to render regular aid to Marx, who was in extremely difficult material circumstances. “Had it not been for Engels’ constant and selfless financial aid,” wrote Lenin, “Marx would not only have been unable to complete Capital but would have inevitably been crushed by want” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26, p. 49).

Engels also helped Marx in the latter’s journalistic work—namely, when Marx began to write for the New York Daily Tribune, a progressive American newspaper. At Marx’ request, Engels wrote a series of articles entitled “Germany: Revolution and Counter-Revolution,” which were published in 1851–52 over the signature of Marx, the newspaper’s official correspondent. These articles played an important role in the elaboration of the Marxist tactic of revolutionary leadership and armed struggle.

In 1851, Engels embarked on the systematic study of military theory; in 1858 his interest shifted to philosophical issues in the natural sciences. He wrote articles about the Crimean War, the wars for national liberation in India and China, the Italo-Franco-Austrian war, the Civil War in the USA, and the Franco-Prussian War (“Notes on the War,” 1870–71). He also wrote various articles and notes on military matters for the New American Cyclopaedia. Marx had a high opinion of Engels’ military expertise and referred to him jokingly as “my war ministry in Manchester.” Engels became, in effect, the military theoretician of the proletarian party. Together with Marx, he worked out the proletarian party’s strategy in national liberation movements.

The correspondence between Engels and Marx stands as an admirable monument to their unexampled friendship and intellectual communion. Their letters, written from the dialectical-materialist point of view, shed light on the most diverse questions arising in Marx’ and Engels’ research work and revolutionary activity. Much of the correspondence deals with questions of political economy related to Marx’ work on Das Kapital. In his letter to Engels of August 1867, having corrected the last sheet of the first volume of Das Kapital, Marx wrote, “It is thanks to you alone that I was able to do this!” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 31, p. 275). Engels was also very actively involved in publicity work on behalf of Das Kapital.

With the founding of the International Workingmen’s Association, or First International, on Sept. 28, 1864, Engels became in effect one of its leaders. He was very helpful to W. Liebknecht and A. Bebel in the struggle against Lassalleanism and in the creation of a revolutionary workers’ party in Germany. Engels also gave very substantial support to the Irish democrats as well as to socialists in other countries. Together with Marx, he worked out the tactical platform of the International regarding the Irish question, the means to achieve Germany’s national unification (“The Prussian Military Question and the German Working-class Party,” 1865), and the position of the international proletariat with respect to the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars.

Engels played an increasingly important role as leader of the International after his move to London in September 1870. He was a member of the organization’s General Council, and he ardently defended the Paris Commune of 1871 at council meetings, in the press, and in the many letters that he and Marx jointly wrote and sent to various countries. At the London conference of the International of September 1871, Engels actively called for implementation of the Commune’s demands and particularly for the establishment of a revolutionary workers’ party in every country, stressing the need to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. These were the ideas that Marx and Engels defended after the conference as well, in the struggle against M. A. Bakunin and other anarchists, in such works as “The Alleged Divisions in the International” (1872) and The Alliance of Socialist Democracy and the International Workingmen’s Association (1873).

In 1873, Engels began to write his own major work devoted to the philosophical problems of natural science—the Dialectics of Nature, in which he intended to set forth his dialectical-materialist generalization of all the most important achievements of natural scientific thought. Engels worked on the manuscript of the book, with prolonged interruptions, over a ten-year period (1873–83), but he failed to complete it. The book contains many profound statements that have been confirmed by contemporary natural science and philosophy.

Engels was instrumental in the development of the socialist parties of various countries, including Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and the USA. His struggle against nonproletarian trends was carried on through his letters to the socialist parties’ leaders and through such works as The Housing Question (1872–73), On Authority (1873), The Bakuninists at Work (1873), and Emigré Literature (1874–75). Addressing the leaders of the socialist parties, Engels called for greater thoroughness in mastering revolutionary theory and working out party programs. Thus, when the German Social Democrats founded a united party and adopted the Gotha Program, Engels resolutely opposed any theoretical concessions to the Lassalleans. In his letters on the Gotha Program—to A. Bebel on March 18–28 and to W. Bracke on Oct. 11, 1875—Engels clarified and supplemented Marx’ famous Critique of the Gotha Program.

Engels was also very helpful to the French socialists in developing the program adopted by them in 1880. At the time of the struggle over the party’s program between the Marxists (J. Guesde and P. Lafargue) and the reformists (P. Brousse and B. Malon), Engels decisively supported the French Marxists. After the split in the French Workers’ Party, the Marxist wing formed its own independent party; the new party was regularly assisted by Marx and Engels, who contributed to its publications and defended it against the attacks of right-wing elements in other socialist parties.

A constant subject of Marx’ and Engels’ letters was the growth of opportunism and ways of combating it, this being one of the major problems that faced the growing socialist movement in France and Germany in the 1870’s and 1880’s. The most intense struggle against opportunism was that waged by Marx and Engels in Germany’s Socialist Workers’ Party. In September 1879, Marx and Engels addressed a circular letter to the party leadership; the letter was designed to expose the opportunists and the unfound-edness of their capitulatory tactics, as well as their rejection of the revolutionary class struggle and of the party’s consistently proletarian position.

The German Social Democrats’ theoretical positions were greatly strengthened by Engels’ articles in Der Sozialdemokrat and by his Anti-Dühring (1877–78), which was directed against the vulgar materialist and positivist E. Dühring. In his critique of Dühring’s philosophical eclecticism, Engels based his arguments primarily on his defense of the materialist dialectic as the foundation of the Marxist world view as a whole; criticizing Dühring’s views on political economy and socialism, Engels juxtaposed to them the fundamental principles of Marxist political economy and scientific communism.

Lenin described Anti-Dühring as a wonderfully rich and instructive book “analyzing highly important problems in the domain of philosophy, natural science and the social sciences” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 2, p. 11). In order to make the major theoretical positions of Anti-Dühring more accessible to the mass reader and in accordance with requests by Lafargue and by socialists in other countries, Engels reworked three chapters of Anti-Dühring and published them in the form of a pamphlet entitled The Development of Socialism From Utopia to Science (1880). Both these works were enormously important in propagandizing Marxism as an integral world view, in the ideological victory of Marxism in the international workers’ movement, and in the training of Marxist cadres throughout the world.

Engels’ work was frequently interrupted by the practical tasks involved in revolutionary activity as well as by demands of a personal nature. His second wife, Lydia Burns, died in 1878; she was the sister of Mary Burns, who had died in 1863. In the years that followed, Marx’ family suffered tragic losses, and Marx himself became seriously ill. Engels was greatly affected by the loss of those closest to him, and he made intensive efforts to help Marx. Marx died on Mar. 14, 1883. “The most powerful mind in our party has ceased thinking; the mightiest heart that I have ever known has ceased beating,” wrote Engels at the time (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 35, p. 384).

Engels was now faced with an extremely difficult task—namely, to put together in final form the still unpublished volumes of Das Kapital out of Marx’ innumerable rough drafts and even fragments of manuscripts. Engels was engaged in this task until almost the end of his life; the second volume of Das Kapital was published in 1885, and the third volume in 1894. “Indeed,” wrote Lenin, “these two volumes of Capital are the work of two men: Marx and Engels” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 2, p. 12). In addition, Engels prepared the third and fourth German editions of the first volume of Das Kapital, as well as the English edition of the first volume—all of which entailed an enormous amount of work on Engels’ part.

At the same time that he was working on Das Kapital, Engels produced two works that have since become classics and that marked a further stage in the development of Marxist thought—The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884) and Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy (1886). The former was adjudged by Lenin “one of the fundamental works of modern socialism” (ibid., vol. 39, p. 67). Engels’ ideas, as set forth in this work, significantly enriched the Marxist doctrine on socioeconomic formation and on the emergence and development of the family, of classes, and of the state.

In Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy, Engels particularly emphasized the class and party nature of philosophy—this being a time when the bourgeoisie and part of the Social Democratic intelligentsia in Germany could be seen to shift from Hegelianism and vulgar materialism to neo-Kantianism and positivism. Asserting that the roots of all political and ideological superstructures must be sought in the material, or economic, base of society, Engels at the same time warned against vulgar interpretations of this tenet. He argued decisively against ignoring the reverse influence of society’s superstructure on its base. Engels’ letters on historical materialism (1890–94), with their profound analysis of the basic tenets of the materialist concept of history, are an essential supplement to this work.

“After the death of Marx,” wrote Lenin, “Engels continued alone as the counsellor and leader of the European socialists. . . . They all drew on the rich store of knowledge and experience of Engels in his old age” (ibid., vol. 2, p. 13). Continuing the struggle against opportunism, Engels in several of his works revealed its roots, which were to be found specifically in Germany’s Social Democracy. In 1890, when Liebknecht in one of his speeches tried to defend the Gotha Program, Engels responded by publishing Marx’ Critique of the Gotha Program (1891). He also criticized a preliminary draft program prepared for the party’s congress in Erfurt in 1891, and he gave the following accurate definition of opportunism: “It means letting the great basic considerations be consigned to oblivion by transient daily interests . . . it means sacrificing the future of the movement to the present” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 22, p. 237). At the same time, Engels warned the British and American socialists against the dangers of dogmatism and left-wing sectarianism, urging them to go out among the working masses, to work in the trade unions, and to create mass labor parties.

When conditions were ripe for setting up a new international union of socialist parties, Engels undertook preparations for convoking an international congress in Paris in 1889. Supported by the followers of Guesde and by the German Social Democrats, he achieved his goal—the creation of the Marxist-based Second International. At this time, too, Engels warned the European socialists against the impending threat of a world war and called on the working class to fight for the reduction of armaments. He wrote a series of articles on the question. In a pamphlet written in 1894, The Peasant Question in France and Germany, Engels sought to explain the Marxist tactics on the agrarian question to the German and French socialists and at the same time to strike a blow against opportunism; emphasizing the importance of an alliance between the working class and the peasantry, he pointed out the only way of saving the small peasants from being converted into wage laborers—namely, socialist cooperation accompanied by strict observance of the principle of voluntarism.

Engels followed with great interest the revolutionary movement in Russia and was in communication with its leading figures, including P. L. Lavrov, G. A. Lopatin, and S. M. Stepniak-Kravchinskii. While holding in high esteem the critical thought of N. G. Chernyshevskii and N. A. Dobroliubov and their followers, their attempts to formulate a revolutionary theory, and their tenacity, firmness of character, and self-denial, Engels nevertheless criticized their populist illusions. It was with great joy that he greeted the news of the founding of the first Marxist group, Liberation of Labor, by the Russian socialists.

Engels corresponded regularly with G. V. Plekhanov and V. I. Zasulich, helping them with advice and personally participating in their struggles. Engels nourished the profound hope that he would live to see the fall of Russian tsarism and the victory of the socialist revolution in the developed countries of Europe. He believed that a Russian revolution would exert enormous influence on revolutionary developments throughout the world. It was his dream to witness the triumph of the socialist revolution.

Engels’ health, however, was already undermined by disease—cancer of the esophagus. His condition worsened greatly in 1894; he died on Aug. 5, 1895. In accordance with his wishes, Engels’ body was cremated, and the urn containing his ashes was cast into the sea at Eastbourne (Great Britain)—Engels’ favorite vacation spot.

Lenin made the point that “it is impossible to understand Marxism and to propound it fully without taking into account all the works of Engels” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26, p. 93).

The course of Engels’ life and his intellectual development provide convincing evidence of his outstanding contribution to Marxism. Engels, as much as Marx, was one of the founders of the materialist interpretation of history. Together with Marx, Engels undertook the dialectical materialist transformation of bourgeois political economy. Engels performed his greatest service in completing, publishing, and promulgating Das Kapital—the product of Marx’ lifelong labor. Having created, together with Marx, dialectical materialism, the materialist interpretation of history, and scientific communism, Engels in his own works proceeded to set forth Marxism as an integral world view in a rigorously systematic fashion, showing its constituent elements and its theoretical sources. He thereby contributed to an enormous extent to the victory of Marxism in the international workers’ movement during the 1890’s.

Joining Marx in working out the doctrine of socioeconomic formations, Engels revealed the specific objective laws governing the primitive communal order and ancient and feudal societies, the emergence of private ownership and classes, and the development of the state. During the last years of his life Engels devoted special attention to the interrelationship of the economic base and the political and ideological superstructure. He emphasized the need to disclose in concrete terms the enormous influence exercised on society by the policies of specific classes, by the latter’s struggle for political dominance, and by their legal relationships and ideology.

Engels’ contribution to the Marxist doctrine on art and literature was likewise great. A number of areas of Marxist science were developed to a large extent through Engels’ independent efforts. Such areas include the doctrine of the dialectical laws existing in nature and in the natural sciences—a doctrine that, contrary to the assertions of contemporary falsifiers, was fully approved by Marx—and the dialectical-materialist doctrine regarding the army and military matters.

Marx and Engels insisted on the unity of revolutionary theory and practice in the international workers’ movement. They jointly formulated the scientific program, strategy, and tactics of the proletariat; they substantiated the latter’s role in world history as the founder of a new society as well as the need to create the proletariat’s own revolutionary party, to carry out the socialist revolution, and to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. Marx and Engels were the fiery prophets and propagandizers of proletarian internationalism and the organizers of the first international unions of the working class—the Communist League and the First International. They regarded adherence to the principles of internationalism as an inalienable feature of any genuinely proletarian party. Marx and Engels constantly demonstrated the creative nature of revolutionary theory.

Engels performed his greatest services during the last few years of his life. He developed Marxist science and enriched Marxist strategy and tactics with new theoretical generalizations; he carried on the struggle against opportunism, left-wing sectarianism, and dogmatism within socialist parties. While working to complete the third volume of Das Kapital, Engels added his comments on certain characteristic features of imperialism—the new stage in the development of capitalism.

The assertions of contemporary apologists of capitalism with respect to the obsolescence of Marxism demonstrate the bankruptcy of bourgeois ideology and fear of the growing influence of Marxism in public life. The doctrine of Marx and Engels, representing the highest achievement of scientific thought, is not obsolescent. It is, in Lenin’s words, “omnipotent because it is true” (ibid., vol. 23, p. 43).

Lenin’s name and Lenin’s activity marked the beginning of a new stage in the development and dissemination of Marx’ and Engels’ ideas and their widespread implementation in practice. The great Marxist-Leninist doctrine, enriched by revolutionary practice as well as by the theoretical activity of the CPSU and of the international communist movement, is exerting increasing influence on mankind’s historic destiny.


Marx, K., and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vols. 1–47, 49.


Lenin, V. I. Chto takoe ’druz’ia naroda’ i kak oni voiuiut protiv sotsial-demokratov? Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 1.
Lenin, V. I. “Fridrikh Engel’s.” Ibid., vol. 2.
Lenin, V. I. Dve taktiki sotsial-demokratii v demokralicheskoi revoliutsii. Ibid., vol. 11.
Lenin, V. I. “Gosudarstvo i revoliutsiia.” Ibid., vol. 33.
Lenin, V. I. “Marksizm o gosudarstve.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. Konspekt “Perepiski K. Marksa i F. Engel’sa 1844–1883,” 2nd ed. Moscow, 1968.
Lenin, V. I. Marx, Engel’s, marksizm (a collection), 7th ed. Moscow, 1974.
Osnovopolozhnik nauchnogo kommunizma: Tezisy k 150-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia K. Marksa. Moscow, 1968.
“Postanovlenie TsK KPSS o 150-letii so dnia rozhdeniia Fridrikha Engel’sa.” In Kommunisticheskaia partiia Sovetskogo Soiuza v rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s”ezdov, konferentsii i plenumov TsK (1898–1971), 8th ed., vol. 10. Moscow, 1972. Pages 216–17.
Riazanov, D. B. Ocherki po istorii marksizma, 2nd ed., vols. 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1928.
Kedrov, B. M. Engel’s i estestvoznanie. Moscow, 1947.
Kedrov, B. M. Klassifikatsiia nauk, book 1. Moscow, 1961.
Kandel’, E. P. Marks i Engel’sorganizatory Soiuza kommunistov. Moscow, 1953.
Kandel’, E. P. Fridrikh Engel’s. Moscow, 1960.
Vospominaniia o Markse i Engel’se. Moscow, 1956.
Stepanova, E. A. Fridrikh Engel’s, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1956.
Serebriakov, M. V. F. Engel’s v molodosti. Leningrad, 1958.
Korniu, O. Karl Marks i Fridrikh Engel’s: Zhizn’ i deiatel’nost’, vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1959–68. [Translated from German.]
Marks i Engel’s ipervyeproletarskie revoliutsionery. Moscow, 1961.
Leont’ev, L. A. Engel’s i ekonomicheskoe uchenie marksizma. Moscow, 1965.
Malysh, A. I. Formirovanie marksistskoi politicheskoi ekonomiki. Moscow, 1966.
Tartakovskii, B. G. F. Engel’ssovetnik i uchitel’ mezhdunarodnogo proletariata (1875–1895). Moscow, 1966.
K. Marks i F. Engel’s i revoliutsionnaia Rossiia. Moscow, 1967.
Mikhailov, M. I. Istoriia Soiuza kommunistov. Moscow, 1968.
Russkie sovremenniki o K. Markse i F. Engel’se. Moscow, 1969.
Babin, A. I. F. Engel’svydaiushchiisia voennyi teoretik rabochego klassa. Moscow, 1970.
Engel’steoretik. Moscow, 1970.
Fridrikh Engel’smyslitel’ i revoliutsioner. Prague, 1970.
Fridrikh Engel’sodin iz osnovopolozhnikov nauchnogo sotsializma. Berlin, 1970.
Engel’s i problemy istorii. Moscow, 1970.
Chagin, B. A. Sozdanie i razvitie K. Marksom i F. Engel’som teorii nauchnogo kommunizma. Leningrad, 1970.
Kolpinskii, N. Iu. Deiatel’nost’ F. Engel’sa v gody I Internatsionala. Moscow, 1971.
Fridrikh Engel’s: Biografiia. Moscow, 1972. [Translated from German.]
Bagaturiia, G. A. Kontury griadushchego: Engel’s o kommunisticheskom obshchestve. Moscow, 1972.
Oizerman, T. I. Formirovanie filosofii marksizma, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1974.
Fridrikh Engel’s: Biografiia, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1977.
Literaturnoe nasledstvo K. Marksa i F. Engel’sa: Istoriia publikatsii i izucheniia v SSSR. Moscow, 1969.
Mayer, G. Friedrich Engels: Eine Biographie, 2nd ed., vols. 1–2. The Hague, 1934.
Förder, H. Marx und Engels am Vorabend der Revolution. Berlin, 1960.
Bartel, H. Marx und Engels im Kampf um ein revolutionäres deutsches Parteiorgan 1879–1890. Berlin, 1961.
Ullrich, H. Der Iunge Engels: Eine historisch-biographische Studie seiner weltanschaulichen Entwicklung in den Jahren 1834–1845, parts 1–2. Berlin, 1961–66.
Kundel, E. Marx und Engels im Kampf um die revolutionare Arbeitereinheit: Zur Geschichte des Gothaer Vereingunigskongresses von 1875. Berlin, 1962.
Becker, G. Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels in Köln, 1848–1849. Berlin, 1963.
Strey, J., and G. Winkler. Marx und Engels 1848–49. Berlin, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.