David Riazanov's

An Introduction to Their Lives and Work



We have thus concluded the history of the First International, and we had no occasion to make mention of Engels. The formation of the International was accomplished without him, and up to 1870 he took only an insignificant and an indirect part in it. During these years he had written a few articles for some English labour journals. He had also been aiding Marx for whom the first years of the International were again years of bitter poverty. Were it not for the help he obtained from Engels and the small inheritance which was left to him by his old friend, Wilhelm Wolff, to whom he had dedicated his Capital, Marx would hardly have been able to overcome penury and he surely would have had no time to prepare his monumental work for publication. Here is a touching letter in which Marx informs Engels that he had at last finished correcting the last page:

"At last," he writes, "this volume is finished. I owe it only to you, that this has been possible. Without your self-sacrificing aid it would have been impossible for me to go through the colossal labour on these three volumes. I embrace you full of thanks."

  Engels has been accused of having been a manufacturer. This we must admit, but we should also add that he had become that for a short time. After his father's death in 1860, Engels continued to work in the capacity of a simple employee. Only in 1864 did he become a member of the firm and one of the directors of the plant. During all this time he was trying to rid himself of this "dog's trade." He was deterred by the thought not only of himself but of Marx. In this regard his letters written to Marx in 1868 are very interesting. In them he informed Marx that he was conducting negotiations about leaving the firm, but that he wanted to accomplish it in a way that would insure his own and Marx's economic independence. He finally succeeded in coming to an agreement with his partner. In 1869 he left his factory on conditions which enabled him to provide for his friend, thus definitely ridding Marx of the penury that had been weighing upon him. Only in September, 1870, did Engels manage to move back to London.

 For Marx, Engels' arrival meant more than personal happiness; it meant considerable relief from the colossal labour which he was performing for the General Council. There were always a countless number of representatives of various nations whom he had either to meet in person or to correspond with. Engels was noted for his linguistic abilities since his youth. He knew how to write, and, as his friends jested he knew how to stammer, in twelve languages. He was therefore ideally equipped for taking charge of the correspondence with the various countries. Besides, his long business experience proved useful in that he, unlike Marx, brought efficiency and order into his work.

 Engels took over this work as soon as he became a member of the General Council in order to spare Marx whose health was undermined by excessive poverty and privation. He also took upon himself still other parts of the work. An energetic man, Engels had long been craving for the opportunity to do this work, and judging by the minutes of the General Council, he very soon became one of its most diligent members.

 But this circumstance had another side to it. Engels moved to London after the struggle with the Bakuninists had begun and had already made itself felt in the General Council. Moreover, as we have seen, at this time there was serious discord even among the Englishmen themselves. In brief, this was a time of sharp conflict on the ground of principles and tactics.

 It is a matter of common knowledge that struggles along purely doctrinal and tactical lines are invariably complicated by a strong admixture of the personal element -- likes and dislikes, sympathies and prejudices, etc. If such a conflict breaks out within the boundaries of one region, one effective way to stop it is a temporary change of quarters. Although this method is efficacious within the limits of a district, a state, or even an entire country, it was utterly inapplicable within the International. Altogether this method of resolving contradiction has only a limited significance. It is much better to settle such contradictions either by way of agreement or by way of separation.

 We have already spoken of the objective causes which brought on the disturbance within the English section of the International. What some historians of the International, and especially historians dealing with the English labour movement, do not or cannot understand is that the General Council which from 1864 to 1872 was directing the international labour movement, was at the same time also the directing organ of the English labour movement. And if international affairs affected the English movement, then the converse was also true, that is, every change in the English labour movement was bound to be reflected in the international functions of the General Council. We have pointed out in the last chapter how, as a result of the concessions made to the English workers in the years 1867-1871 -- the right to vote for the city workers and the legalisation of trade unions -- the trade-union members of the General Council began to tend toward moderation. Eccarius, too, began to incline in that direction; he now was a prosperous man and, as it not infrequently happens with workers, became much more tolerant with the bourgeoisie. But besides Eccarius, there were a number of other members of the General Council who disagreed with Marx.

 The appearance of Engels as a member of the General Council, who was often forced to take the place of Marx added one more personal element to aggravate the already strained conditions. During the twenty years of his life in Manchester, Engels had lost almost all contact with the labour movement.

 During all that time Marx had stayed in London, had kept up his relations with the Chartists, had written for their publications, and had taken part in the German labour circles and in emigrant life. He had been meeting the comrades, had delivered lectures, had often had serious altercations with them, but on the whole the relations with "father" Marx, as we see by the reminiscences written even by those who had parted with him politically, were warm, comradely, and full of love. Particularly warm relations had been established between the workers and Marx during the period of the International. The members of the General Council who had been observing Marx in his dingy apartment, who had seen him in need -- he had not lived any better than any English worker -- who had known him in the Council, who had always found him ready to throw up his studies, his beloved scientific work, in order to devote his time and his energy to the working class, regarded him with the profoundest respect. Without compensation, rejecting all ostentatious advantages, declining all honorary titles, he had laboured without stint.

 With Engels it was quite different. The English members of the General Council did not know him at all. The other members knew him just as little. Only among the German comrades were there some who remembered him, but even there he had to work hard to win a position for himself. For to most members he was a rich man, a Manchester manufacturer, who, it was said, had twenty-five years previous written a good book in German about the English workers. Having mingled for about twenty years in an almost exclusively bourgeois environment, among stockmarket wolves and industrial hawks, Engels, who was always noted for his decorous behaviour, acquired even more fastidious manners. Always spick and span, always even, of cold exterior, invariably polite, with military mannerisms, he would not utter a strong word. He was hopelessly dry and cold.

 This was the description of Engels given by people who had known him in the forties. We know that in the editorial offices of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, whenever Marx would be on leave of absence, Engels would provoke serious objections by his haughty air of intellectual superiority. Less impulsive than Marx, he was much more unendurable in his personal relations, and in contradistinction to Wilhelm Wolff and Marx who were ideal comrades and guides, repelled many workers.

 Only gradually did Engels adjust himself to his new setting, and lose his former habits. In the meantime, and these were difficult years to boot, Engels, having to substitute for Marx more and more often, aggravated the already strained relations in the General Council. This may serve as an explanation why not only Eccarius but even Hermann Jung, an old collaborator of Marx, who for a long time had been the General Secretary of the International, had very close personal bonds with Marx and who had very willingly and most delicately been helping Marx to carry his onerous obligations, now abandoned the organisation.

 The whole affair was, alas, not without fairy tales and gossip customary in such cases. As we have already stated, many people, just because they did not know Engels, could not understand why Marx loved and lauded his friend 80 much. It is enough to read the disgusting and vile reminiscences of Henry Mayers Hyndman (1842-1923), the founder of the English social-democracy, to see how base were their explanations. According to them, it appeared that Marx valued Engels' friendship so highly because the latter was rich and was providing for him. The conduct of several Englishmen was particularly contemptible; among them was a certain Smith, who later became the interpreter at the congresses of the Second International. During the recent war he was like Hyndman, a notorious social-patriot. Engels could never forgive either him or the others their vilifying campaign against Marx. Shortly before his death Engels threw down the stairs the same Mr. Smith who now came to visit him.

 But then, in the beginning of the seventies, this calumny in its most malignant forms, was spreading also among the German workers of the Lassallean persuasion, who were coming to London. But Engels' participation sharpened the schism not only in London. We know that outside of Russia Bakunin and his adherents concentrated their work in the Latin countries -- Italy, Spain, Southern France, Portugal, the French and Italian parts of Switzerland. Italy was especially valued by Bakunin, for there was a predominance of the lumpenproletariat, the hobo-proletariat, in whom he discerned the cardinal revolutionary force. There was also the youth, which had no hope of making a career in bourgeois society. There, too, flourished banditry and robbery as forms in which the protest of the poor peasantry expressed itself. In other words, there the elements to which he was attaching such great importance in Russia -- the peasantry, the hobo-proletariat, the robbers -- were all greatly developed.

 The main correspondence with these countries was carried on by Engels. This correspondence, as may be judged by a few preserved copies (the efficient Engels would always retain a copy for himself) was conducted in a spirit of relentless opposition to the Bakuninists.

 The famous pamphlet on Bakunin's Alliance, which was a report of the commission of the Hague Congress, and which most caustically lashed and exposed the Bakuninist policy and tactics, was written by Engels and Lafargue. Marx contributed only to the concluding chapter, though he was, of course, in complete accord with the indictment of Bakuninism.

 After 1873, Marx left the public arena. In this year he completed the second edition of the first volume of Capital and was editing a French translation which was finally published in 1875. If we should add to this a postscript which he wrote for the old book about the Communist League, and the small article written for the Italian comrades it would make up the sum total of everything Marx had published up to 1880.. As much as his shattered health permitted him he continued to labour over his magnum opus, the first draft of which Marx had completed in the early sixties. But he did not succeed in making ready for publication even the second volume over which he was then labouring. We know now that the last manuscript which was incorporated in this volume was written in 1878. Any strenuous intellectual work was a menace to his overwrought brain. During these years Marx's family and Engels were in perpetual fear for Marx's life which was always threatened by a sudden stroke. The mighty organism, once capable of superhuman labour, was gradually becoming weaker. Engels' touching care, his efforts to do everything possible to restore his old friend to health, were of little avail. Before Marx lay his great work in the rough, and as soon as he would feel a trifle better, as soon as the danger of death would become more remote, as soon as the physicians would allow him to work a few hours a day, he would resume his labours. The consciousness that he would never be able to complete this work was a continuous torture to him. "To be incapable of work," Marx would say, "is to any human being who does not wish to be simply an animal the equivalent of a death sentence." After 1878 he was forced to give up all work on Capital in the hope that he would be able to return to it at some more auspicious time. This hope was not fulfilled. He was still able to make notes, he still kept up with the development of the international labour movement and took an active intellectual part in it, answering numerous inquiries which were coming to him from various countries. His list of addresses reached particularly imposing dimensions toward the beginning of the eighties. Together with Engels, who at this time took over most of the work, he again became a well-informed man, an expert on the rapidly developing labour movement within which the ideas of the Communist Manifesto were gaining ascendancy. A great deal of credit in this matter was due to Engels who, in the seventies, and while Marx was still alive, was developing a very energetic activity.

 The struggle between the Marxists and the Bakuninists in the First International has often been greatly exaggerated. There were indeed quite a few Bakuninists, but even among them there was a variety of elements, united only in their onslaught on the General Council. Things were much worse with the Marxists. Behind Marx and Engels there was only a small group of people, who were acquainted with the Communist Manifesto and who understood fully all the teachings of Marx. The publication of Capital was in the beginning of very little help. For the vast majority it was in the full sense of the words a granite rock at which they most diligently nibbled; that was all. The writings of the German socialists during the first half of the seventies, even the brochures written by Wilhelm Liebknecht, who was a student of Marx, show the deplorable state in which the study of Marxian theory was at that time. The pages of the central organ of the German party were often filled with the most grotesque mixture of various socialist systems. The method of Marx and Engels, the materialist conception of history, and the teaching about the class struggle -- all this remained a sealed book. Liebknecht himself so little grasped the Marxian philosophy that he confused the dialectic materialism of Marx and Engels, with the natural-historical materialism of Jacob Moleschott (1822-1893), and Ludwig Buchner (1824-1899).

 Finally, Engels took upon himself the task of defending and disseminating the tenets of Marxism, while Marx, as we have seen, was vainly trying to complete his Capital. Engels pounced now upon an article that especially appealed to him, now upon a fact of contemporary history in order that he might illustrate with individual cases the profound difference between scientific socialism and other socialist systems, or throw light on some obscure practical question from the point of view of scientific socialism, or show the practical application of his method.

 Since the famous German Proudhonist Mulberger was publishing in the central organ of the German Social-Democracy a series of articles dealing with the housing question Engels, seizing upon this as a good pretext showed the chasm that separated Marxism from Proudhonism (Die Wohnungsfrage). Besides this magnificent supplement to Marx's book, Poverty of Philosophy, he cast the lucid light of Marxism upon one of the chief factors determining the condition of the working class.

 He republished his old work, the Peasant War in Germany, with a new preface in order to illustrate to his young comrades the manner in which the materialist conception of history might be applied to one of the most important episodes in the history of Germany and the German peasantry.

 When the German Reichstag was discussing the question of how the Prussian landowners made secure their profitable business of rendering the Germans into a habitually drunken people, Engels proceeded to write a brochure Prussian Schnaps in the German Reichstag, in which, besides exposing the desires of the Prussian Junkers, he explained the historic role of Landlordism and Prussian Junkerdom. All these works of Engels added to his other articles dealing with German history made it subsequently possible for Kautsky and Mehring to popularise, and develop in their works on German history, the basic ideas of Engels.

 But Engels' greatest services belong to the years 1876 and 1877. In 1875 the Lassalleans and the Eisenachers had united on the basis of the so-called Gotha Programme -- a poor compromise between Marxism and its distorted double, known by the name of Lassalleanism. Marx and Engels protested most vigorously, not because they were opposed to unification but because they demanded a change in the programme in accordance with their suggestions. They insisted, with very good reason that though unification was indubitably necessary, it nevertheless, was not at all desirable to adopt a bad programme as the theoretical foundation of this unification; that it would be preferable to postpone the adoption of a programme for a little while and to be satisfied in the meanwhile with a general platform fit for everyday practical work. In this affair August Bebel (1840-1913) and Wilhelm Bracke (1842-1880), were also opposed to Liebknecht.

 Only a few months later Marx and Engels had occasion to be convinced that in the matter of theoretical preparation the two factions were on the same low level. Among the young members of the party, the intellectuals as well as the workers, the teachings of Eugen Dühring (1833-1901), the famous German philosopher and economist, were winning wide popularity. At one time he had been assistant professor at the Berlin University, and had won great sympathy owing to his personality and the daring of his remarks, unusual for a German professor. Though blind, he lectured on the history of mechanics, on political economy and on philosophy. His versatility was amazing; no doubt, he was a remarkable personality. When he came out with his caustic criticism of the recognised socialist teachings and particularly those of Marx, his lectures made a tremendous impression. To the students and the workers it appeared that his was a "voice of life in the realm of thought." Dühring emphasised the significance of action, of struggle, of protest; he stressed the political factor as against the economic one; he pointed out the importance of force and violence in history. In his polemic he knew no restraints and abused profusely not only Marx but also Lassalle. He was not even ashamed to cite the fact that Marx was a Jew, as an argument against him.

 Engels hesitated for a long time before he decided to strike against Dühring. He finally gave way to the solicitations of his German friends and in 1877 published in the Vorwarts, the central organ of the party, a series of articles in which he subjected Dühring's views to scathing criticism. This provoked indignation even among some of his comrades in the party. Dühring's followers, Eduard Bernstein (1850 -- ), the future theoretician of revisionism, and Johann Most (1846-1906), the future German-American anarchist, were the most outstanding. At the convention of the German Social-Democrats a number of delegates, among whom was also the old Lassallean Walteich, attacked Engels mercilessly. It reached the point where a resolution was almost adopted which would prohibit the further publication of Engels' articles in the central organ of the party, which regarded Marx and Lassalle as their teachers.

 An inconceivable scandal would have resulted, had it not been for one conciliator who proposed a clever way out by suggesting that the publication of Engels' articles be continued not in the central organ proper but in a special supplement. This was passed.

 These articles were collected and published in book form in 1878 under the title Herr Eugen Dühring's Umwälzung der Wissenschaft or, as it has later become known, Anti-Dühring. It was epoch-making in the history of Marxism. It was from this book that the younger generation which began its activity during the second half of the seventies learned what was scientific socialism, what were its philosophic premises, what was its method. Anti-Dühring proved the best introduction to the study of Capital. A perusal of the articles written in those days by would-be Marxists reveals a view most awry of the problems and the methods of Capital. For the dissemination of Marxism as a special method and a special system, no book except Capital itself, has done as much as Anti-Dühring. All the young Marxists who entered the public arena in the early eighties -- Bernstein, Karl Kautsky (1854 -- ), George Plekhanov (18571918) -- were brought up on this book.

 But this book left its imprint not only on the upper layers of the party. At the solicitation of the French Marxists, Engels, in 1880, extracted a few chapters which were translated into the French and which became one of the most famous Marxist books as widely read as the Communist Manifesto. This was the well-known Socialism -- Utopian and Scientific. It was immediately translated into Polish, and a year and a half later, into Russian. All this Engels accomplished while Marx was still alive. Engels benefited by his advice and even his co-operation. In Anti-Dühring, for instance, Marx wrote one complete chapter.

 At the beginning of the eighties a change took place in the European labour movement. Owing to Engels' tireless labours and his splendid popularising gifts, Marxism was steadily gaining ground. In 1876, in Germany, the Social-Democratic Party was declared illegal. After a temporary confusion Marxism began to rise to the top. Bebel shows in his reminiscences that it was the old men from London who played an important part in this turn of affairs, for they demanded, under the threat of a public protest, the discontinuance of what they called "the scandal" and the irreconcilable struggle against all attempts to enter into any relations with the bourgeoisie.

 In France at the Marseilles Congress of 1879 a new labour party with a socialist programme was organised. Here a young group of Marxists, headed by the ex-Bakuninist, Jules Guesde (1845-1921), came to the fore. In 1880, it was decided to formulate a new programme. Guesde and his comrades went to London to see Marx, who was taking an active part in the working out of the programme. Refusing to subscribe to several of the points dealing with the practical aspect of the work on which the Frenchmen were insisting because of their local propaganda value, Marx proceeded to formulate the fundamental principles of the programme. He once more demonstrated his ability to comprehend the peculiarly French conditions by formulating a programme which would be understood by every Frenchman but from which the basic ideas of communism would follow with incontrovertible logic. The French programme served as the pattern for all the subsequent programmes -- the Russian, the Austrian, the German Erfurt. After Guesde and Lafargue had composed their commentaries to this programme, Bernstein translated it into German and Plekhanov into Russian under the title, What the Social-Democrats Want. This book as well as Engels' brochure served as a text which was studied by the first Russian Marxists and which was used in the teaching of Marxism in workingmen's circles.

 Marx had also composed for the French comrades a detailed questionnaire as an aid in the investigation of the conditions of the working class. This appeared without Marx's signature. While the questionnaire drawn up by Marx for the Geneva Congress of 1866 contained only about fifteen queries, the new questionnaire was made up of over one hundred questions which covered to the minutes/index.htm" detail, the living conditions of the workers. It was one of the most exhaustive inquiries at the time and it could have been composed only by such a profound student of the labour movement as Marx. It offered additional proof of Marx's ability to approach concrete conditions, to comprehend concrete reality despite his reputed penchant for abstractions. The capacity for analysing reality and for arriving at general conclusions on the basis of such analysis does not yet signify the absence of reality, the soaring in nebulous abstractions.

 Marx and Engels followed the development of the Russian Revolution very carefully. They studied the Russian language. Marx took it up quite late in life, but he mastered it sufficiently well to be able to read Dobrolyubov, Chernishevsky, and even such writers as Saltikov-Shchedrin, who were particularly difficult for a foreigner to understand. Marx was already able to read the Russian translation of his Capital. His popularity in Russia was steadily on the increase, even after the Hague Congress. As the critic of bourgeois political economy he was regarded as a great authority and his influence, direct and indirect, was felt in most of the economic and political writings in Russia. Peter Lavrov (1823-1900), and his followers were under the direct influence of Marx, though they did manage to inject some idealist notions into Marxian materialism.

 Later in their history, the Russian Bakuninists too regarded Marx with great respect. Some of the greatest Marxians, George Plekhanov, Vera Sassulitch (1851 -- ), Paul Axelrod (1850-1928), Leo Deutsch (1855),were Bakuninists in their early years. Marx and Engels valued greatly the movement known by the name of Narodnaya Volya (the People's Will).

 There are a number of Marx's manuscripts and letters which show how carefully Marx studied Russian literature and Russian socio-economic relations. Having thoroughly mastered the data dealing with the state of agriculture in Russia, he did not merely point out the chief causes of Russian crop-failures, but he established the law of their periodicity. His deductions have been justified by history up to and including the last crop-failure in Soviet Russia. Much of the Russian material which Marx intended to utilise in his third volume in connection with the study of the agricultural question was destined to go to waste because of his failing health. The manuscript material left by Marx contains four drafts of a reply to an inquiry of Vera Sassulitch regarding the Russian system of communal landholding (Mir).

 The last year and a half of Marx's life was a slow process of dying. Before him he had the rough copy of a gigantic work to which he would turn as soon as he had a moment's respite. In the days of his prime, he had created the essential contours of a model, a draft, in which the basic laws of capitalist production and exchange were expressed. But he had not the strength left to transmit this into an organism as living as the first volume of Capital.

 Finally, when fate brought down almost simultaneously the two heavy blows of the death of his wife and his daughter, upon his exhausted, disease-ridden, emaciated organism, it could not withstand the shock. The ferocious Marx was, strange as it may seem, a most devoted family man and most delicate in his personal contacts. On reading the letters Marx had written to his daughter, whose death affected him so much that his nearest friends feared a fatal relapse, one wonders where this stern man found such a spring of tenderness and sensitiveness.

 Philistines and revolutionary novices are amazed and nonplussed when they read the last pages of Marx's life. It is not good, to be sure, when a revolutionist devotes even a part of his energy to things outside the revolution. A real revolutionist, according to those who are often only knights for an hour, ought all the time, every minute of his life, be on guard. He must be moulded of revolutionary adamant, aloof from all human emotions.

 One should judge humanly. We all enjoy the thought that those whom we have regarded with great reverence and awe are after all people like ourselves, only a bit wiser, more educated, and more useful to the cause of the revolution. It was only in the old, pseudo-classical dramas that men were depicted as heroes: they walked and the mountains would tremble, they stamped their feet and the earth would crack; they even ate and drank like heroes.

 Marx, too, has been frequently portrayed in the above manner. It is thus that he appears in the descriptions of him given by the lovely old Clara Zetkin, who is generally inclined to elevated and solemn tones. When Marx is thus represented, it seems that people forget that he himself, in answer to the question as to what was his favourite motto, replied, "I am a man, and nothing human is alien to me." Nor were sins alien to him, and he more than once regretted his excessive trust in some cases and his flagrant injustice in other. Some of his admirers found it easy to forgive Marx his inveterate love for wine (Marx was a native of the Moselle district) but they found it more difficult to bear his incessant smoking. He himself would jestingly remark that the royalties he received from the sale of Capital were not enough to pay for the tobacco he had consumed while writing it. Owing to his poverty he would smoke the cheapest brands of tobacco; a great deal of life and health was thus puffed away by him. This was the cause of chronic bronchitis which became particularly malignant during the last years of his life.

 Marx died on March 14, 1883. And Engels was right when on the day of Marx's death he wrote to the latter's old comrade, F, A, Sorge:

"All phenomena, even the most terrible, which take place in accordance with natural laws, are not without their own consolation. Such is the case now. The art of healing could probably have added to his life a couple of years of vegetating existence, the life of a helpless man, maintained by physicians as a tribute to their own skill, and dying by inches instead of suddenly; but such a life Marx would hardly have endured. To live, confronted with his many unfinished tasks, and to suffer the pains of Tantalus at the thought of the impossibility of carrying them to a conclusion, would have been for him a thousand times more dreadful than the peaceful death that fell to his lot.

 "'Death is terrible not to the dying, but to the one who remains among the living,' it was his wont to reiterate, with Epicurus, but to see this mighty genius a ruin dragging on its existence for the greater glory of medicine and to hear the jibes of the philistines, whom, in the days of his flower, he had so mercilessly flayed -- no, what has happened is a thousand times preferable; no, it will be a thousand times better, when, the day after to-morrow, we carry him out to the grave where his wife sleeps.

 "In my opinion, after all he had lived through, which was clearer to me than to all the physicians, there was no alternative.

 "Be this as it may. Humanity has grown shorter by a head, the most gifted head it has had at its disposal.

 "The proletarian movement will go on, but the centre is gone, the centre whither in crucial moments Frenchmen, Russians, Americans, and Germans hastened for aid, where they always received the clear and irrefutable counsel, which could only be given by a genius in perfect command of his subject."

  Engels was now confronted with some very harassing problems. A brilliant writer and one of the best stylists in the German language, a widely educated man yet at the same time a specialist in several domains of human knowledge, he, willy-nilly, receded to a secondary position while Marx was alive.

"I hope I may be permitted here to make a remark by way of personal explanation. Reference has frequently been made in recent days to my share in the formation of this theory, and I can therefore hardly avoid the necessity of here making, in a few words, a final statement on this subject.

 "I cannot deny that I had an independent share before as well as during my forty years of work with Marx, in laying down as well as -- more particularly -- in the elaboration of the theory. But the overwhelming part of the basic and leading ideas especially in the domains of history and economics, as well as the final and keen statement of them belongs to Marx. What I contributed, Marx could have easily filled in without my aid, with the exception perhaps of two or three special branches of knowledge. But what Marx did, I could have never done. Marx stood higher, saw farther, had a wider, more comprehensive and swifter view than all of us. Marx was a genius; we were at most talents. Without him our theory would have been far from what it is now. It is therefore justly called by his name."

  Engels, in his own words, had now to play first fiddle; he had been playing second fiddle all his life and had always found great joy in the fact that the first fiddle was played with such marvellous virtuosity by Marx. Both of them played from notes which only they could so easily read. The first Herculean task that fell to Engels was the collating of Marx's literary legacy. Contrary to the petty insinuations of an Italian professor, who had once presented himself to Marx and had showered upon him most flattering expressions of adulation, but who now dared to suggest in print that the references Marx had made in the first volume of Capital to the second and third volumes were merely calculated to deceive the public, Marx's papers revealed manuscripts for a second, third, and even fourth volume. Unfortunately, all this was left in such disorder that Engels, who was not in a position to devote his entire time to this task, was forced to work over these papers for a period of eleven years. Marx wrote very illegibly, using at times stenographic characters of his own invention. Shortly before his death, when it had finally become clear to him that he would not be able to finish his work, Marx remarked to his younger daughter that perhaps Engels would be able to do something with his papers.

 Fortunately, Engels succeeded in completing the cardinal part of this work. He edited the second and third volumes. We might admit that besides Engels there was hardly a man would be capable of performing this great task. These volumes have some faults, but, as they are published now, the name of Engels fully deserves to stand beside that of Marx. There is very little hope that we may secure Marx's original manuscripts as they reached Engels. With the exception of the first volume, Marx's Capital is accessible to us only through Engels' version of it.

 Formerly, particularly after the demise of the First International, Marx and Engels together had been performing the part of the erstwhile General Council. Now all the work of mediation and keeping up relations among various socialist groups, as well as the work of consultant and of purveyor of information, pressed as an ever-growing burden on Engels alone. Not long after the death of Marx, the international labour movement manifested vigorous signs of life. In 1886 there began talk about the organisation of a new International. But even after 1889, that is, after the first congress which organised the Second International but which did not provide for a permanent central bureau up to 1900, Engels was taking a very active part as literateur and adviser to the labour movements of well-nigh all the countries of Europe. The old General Council, which consisted of numerous members and of a number of secretaries from the several countries, was now embodied in Engels. As soon as a new group of Marxists would spring up in any country, it would forthwith turn to Engels for counsel; and with his uncanny knowledge of languages he would manage, now correctly, now interspersed with some errors, to reply in the group's native tongue. He followed the labour movements in the different countries by reading their respective publications in the original. This took up a good deal of his time, but it enabled him to strengthen the influence of Marxism in those countries by his skillful application of Marx's formula to the specific conditions of each country. There is literally no country which was not served by Engels in his capacity of writer. We find him writing articles not merely for German and Austrian organs, not only for the French, but we see him writing a new introduction to the Polish translation of the Communist Manifesto, and helping the Spanish and Danish, the Bulgarian and Serbian Marxists with his counsel and suggestions.

 The aid which Engels gave young Russian Marxists deserves special mention. Since he knew the language he could keep in direct and immediate touch with Russian Marxian literature. And it was only because of his influence that, notwithstanding the enormous prestige of the Narodnaya Volya, the Emancipation of Labour group could so speedily establish ties with German Marxism. It was solely because of Engels that they could overcome the distrust which western Europe, and Germany especially, felt toward the labour movement and the Marxism of an Asiatic country like Russia. In 1889 Plekhanov made a special trip to London to see Engels and to acquaint him with the new tendencies in the Russian revolutionary movement. Engels even wrote a special article dealing with the foreign policy of Russian Czarism for the first Russian Marxist periodical.

 Engels very soon beheld the fruits of his energetic activity. When the Second International was founded Engels did not take a direct part in the work of its congresses. He avoided public appearances and he confined himself to giving advice to those of his disciples who were now at the helm of the labour movement in various countries; they informed him of everything important that occurred, soliciting his advice and the sanction of his authority. Some parties won for themselves great influence which they maintained in the International, thanks to Engels' backing. Toward the end of his life this perpetual intercourse with only the heads of the leading parties of the different countries resulted in some inconsistencies. Thus, while he immediately rose against the infatuation of the French Marxists with the peasant question and defended the proletarian character of the programme, he capitulated before his German comrades, who fearing the revival of the law against socialists, persuaded him to modify the vigour of his introduction to Marx's study The Class Struggles in France -- a brilliant application of the ideas of a relentless class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

 In the introduction to the fourth German edition of the Communist Manifesto which he wrote on the first international celebration of the First of May (1890), Engels after pointing out the inspiring growth of the international labour movement, expressed his regrets that Marx was not alongside of him to see this with his own eyes. While Marx was known only to the advanced elements of the working-class movement, Engels, who knew the significance of advertising and revolted against the shroud of darkness which the capitalist press was trying to throw over Marx's Capital, but who shrank from any kind of self-advertising not less than his friend, did toward the end of his life become one of the most popular men in the international labour movement. He had occasion to convince himself of this when, surrendering to the insistence of his friends, he visited the European continent in 1893. Mass ovations and receptions, which Lassalle had once recommended not merely as a means of propaganda but also as a means of distinguishing, advertising and elevating the leaders above the mass -- these assumed grandiose proportions simply because of the now colossal dimensions of the labour movement. A similar ovation was arranged for Engels at the Zurich Congress where he wished to be only a guest, and where only toward the end of the celebration, he was persuaded to deliver a short speech.

 Engels, unlike Marx, retained his ability to work almost to the age of seventy-five. As late as 1895 he wrote an interesting letter to Victor Adler which contained suggestions as to how the second and third volumes of Capital should be read. At about the same time he also wrote an interesting supplement to the third volume. He was making ready to write the history of the First International. In the very heat of all this mental work he was overcome by a cruel sickness which finally brought his life to an end on August 5, 1895.

 Marx was buried in London in one grave with his wife and his grandchild. It is marked by a simple stone. When Bebel wrote to Engels that he intended to propose that a monument be erected on Marx's grave, Engels replied that Marx's daughters were unalterably opposed to this. When Engels died cremation was just beginning to come into vogue. Engels in his will asked that his body be cremated, and that his ashes be dropped into the sea. Upon his death the question arose as to whether his will should or should not be carried out. Many of his German comrades were reluctant to give up the idea of a grave and a worthy monument. Fortunately, there were enough comrades who insisted that his will be complied with. His body was burned, and the urn with the ashes was let down into the sea.

 Both friends have left behind them a monument stronger than any granite, more eloquent than any epitaph. They have left us a method of scientific research, rules of revolutionary strategy and tactics. They have left an inexhaustible treasure of knowledge which is still serving as a fathomless source for the study and the comprehension of surrounding reality.


Back to chapter 8  To Table of Contents 

Portrait of Marx 
Marxist writers'