Marx's General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels

Marx's General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels

Tristram Hunt

Language: English

Pages: 464

ISBN: 080509248X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"Written with brio, warmth, and historical understanding, this is the best biography of one of the most attractive inhabitants of Victorian England, Marx's friend, partner, and political heir."―Eric Hobsbawm

Friedrich Engels is one of the most intriguing and contradictory figures of the nineteenth century. Born to a prosperous mercantile family, he spent his life enjoying the comfortable existence of a Victorian gentleman; yet he was at the same time the co-author of The Communist Manifesto, a ruthless political tactician, and the man who sacrificed his best years so that Karl Marx could have the freedom to write. Although his contributions are frequently overlooked, Engels's grasp of global capital provided an indispensable foundation for communist doctrine, and his account of the Industrial Revolution, The Condition of the Working Class in England, remains one of the most haunting and brutal indictments of capitalism's human cost.

Drawing on a wealth of letters and archives, acclaimed historian Tristram Hunt plumbs Engels's intellectual legacy and shows us how one of the great bon viveurs of Victorian Britain reconciled his exuberant personal life with his radical political philosophy. This epic story of devoted friendship, class compromise, ideological struggle, and family betrayal at last brings Engels out from the shadow of his famous friend and collaborator.

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'conditions, confusions and fine distinctions' into a world which is much closer to nature." 31 There were more poems venerating the life of the German national icon and father of printing, Johannes Gutenberg, and even pantheistic accounts of the divine glory of the German countryside ("gaze over the vine-fragrant valley of the Rhine, the distant blue mountains merging with the horizon, the green fields and vineyards flooded with golden sunlight"). 32 Throughout his long life, Engels never

curious scene, Morris in his soft hat and blue suit, Champion, Frost and Joynes in the morning garments of the well-to-do, several working-men comrades, and I myself wearing the frock-coat in which Shaw said I was born, with a tall hat and good gloves, all earnestly engaged in selling a penny Socialist paper during the busiest time of the day· in London's busiest thoroughfare." 9 The pioneers of 1890s English socialism were a . class apart from those they hoped to emancipate. There was the

govern. Once regarded as the very bulwark of the state, Hegelian philosophy was now being deployed to undermine Prussia's religio-political foundations. Unsurprisingly, Friedrich Wilhelm IV was appalled and, in March 1842, he had the subversive Bruno Bauer dismissed from his post at the University of Bonn. But it would take more than that to temper the Young Hegelian advance. 'ilie next salvo was launched by Ludwig Feuerbach's Essence of Christianity (1841), which finally expunged the last

comforts of a holiday trip."5 6 It was at the Rastatt fortress, along the River Murg, on the very western edges of Germany, that Engels fought in the largest battle of the campaign-and discovered, as he put it to Jenny, "that the much-vaunted bravery under fire is quite the most ordinary quality one can possess."S7 Facing a Prussian force some four times the size of the 13,000-man revolutionary force, Engels fought with mettle and distinction. He led a workers' company ofWillich's troops into

Soho, Engels was in no better shape financially as he worked to drum up support for the refugee community and pursued various publishing contracts. While he lacked Marx's brood of dependents, he faced a similar absence of money, since his usually indulgent parents had finally cut off the financial tap after one arrest warrant too many. "It might be convenient to send you money to live on," Elise wrote after another request, "but I find quite extraordinary your demand that I should give financial

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