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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unexpected empathy. "The weather, like the inhabitants, has a more acute character," ran one ofthe more purple passages of Engels's aborted history. "It moves in sharper, more sudden contrasts; the sky is like an Irish woman's face: here also rain and sunshine succeed each other suddenly and unexpectedly and there is none of the grey English boredom." 48 Perhaps because the Irish peasantry had yet to let him down, he felt far more passionately about their exploitation than about that of the

Russian women, there were four or five with wonderfully beautiful shining eyes."67 He found the details of the Zurich debates deeply tedious and, excusing himself from the complicated motions, sped off to the canton of Graubunden to visit his brother Hermann. Engels had parted ways with Hermann, the former commander of counterrevolutionary forces in 1848, in the wake of the failed uprising. But in recent years the brothers' relationship had warmed and the two elderly men now exchanged frequent

diminishing possibility of constitutional reform-many of Hegel's disciples could not accept that their mentor (who had once planted a liberty tree in honor of the French Revolution) really believed this state of affairs to constitute the pinnacle of reason. Indeed, history seemed to be moving in a decidedly unprogressive direction when in 1840, as Engels put it, "orthodox sanctimony and absolutist feudal reaction ascended the throne" with the succession of Friedrich Wilhelm IV.14 If not quite a

every \)Oint the S"Qedflc "Qro\etarian character which it THE INFINITELY RICH '48 HARVEST 157 could not yet inscribe once for all on its banner." 11 In the long run, the democratic initiatives would help bring the proletariat to greater consciousness arming them with the political tools to take on the bourgeoisie when the time was right. Week in and week out, the paper hurled insults at Prussian bureaucrats and Junker aristocrats, but the reforms it was arguing for were fairly modest,

a tussle over dispersing charitable funds for impoverished emigres. Marx and Engels had quickly reverted . to type, undermining the existing German Refugee Relief Committee and establishing their own Social Democratic Relief Committee forGerman Refugees. After fleeing Prussian sharpshooters and enduring the ennui of Switzerland, this rats-in-a-sack politics was a welcome return to the good times Engels remembered from Brussels and Paris. "All in all, things are going quite well here,'' he wrote

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