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The Militant, 17 March 1945

Friedrich Engels

The 62nd Anniversary of Karl Marx’s Death

(March 1883)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 11, 17 March 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


March 14 marks the sixty-second anniversary of the death of Karl Marx, the founder of scientific socialism, who showed the workers of the world the way to their liberation.

For almost a hundred years, since the publication of the Communist Manifesto of 1848, the capitalist rulers and their servants of all countries have recognized in the ideas of Marx the doom of their system of exploitation, wars and repression. And in every country in the world, the most politically educated workers have recognized that Marxism provides the indispensable methods of struggle for a world of freedom and security.

Armed with the weapon of Marxism, the Russian masses in October 1917 under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky broke the first link in the world chain of capitalist domination. Today, the masses of Europe are turning once again to the teachings of Karl Marx, to the program of socialist internationalism, for the revolutionary way out of imperialist war and savagery. In the richest capitalist country, the advanced American workers too are learning about the program of Marxism through the Socialist Workers Party and preparing to meet the coming economic crisis and deepening political reaction with the fight for socialism.

We here reprint the farewell speech which Friedrich Engels, the intimate co-worker of Marx, made at the grave of his dead friend in 1883. The words of Engels sum up truthfully and straightforwardly and in simple words what Karl Marx was to mankind, and what he will always remain.

* * *

On the afternoon of the 14th of March at a quarter to three, the greatest living thinker ceased to think. Left alone for less than two minutes, when we entered we found him sleeping peacefully in his chair – but forever.

It is impossible to measure the loss which the fighting European and American proletariat and historical science has lost with the death of this man. Soon enough we shall feel the breach which has been opened by the death of this tremendous spirit.

The Scientific Discoveries of Marx

As Darwin, discovered the law of evolution in organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of evolution in human history: the simple fact, previously hidden under ideological growths, that human beings must first of all eat, drink, shelter and clothe themselves before they can turn their attention to politics, science, art and religion; that therefore the production of the immediate material means of life and thereby the given stage of economic development of a people or of a period forms the basis on which the state institutions, the legal principles, the art and even the religious ideas of the people in question have developed and out of which they must be explained, instead of exactly the contrary, as was previously attempted.

But not only this, Marx discovered the special law of development of the present-day capitalist mode of production and of the bourgeois system of society which it has produced. With the discovery of surplus-value, light was suddenly shed on the darkness in which all other economists, both bourgeois and socialist, had lost themselves.

Two such discoveries would have been enough for any life. Fortunate indeed is he to whom it is given to make even one. On every single field which Marx investigated, and there were many and on none of them were his investigations superficial, he made independent discoveries, even in the field of mathematics.

That was the man of science, but that was by no means the whole man. For Marx, science was a creative historic and revolutionary force. Great as was his pleasure at a new discovery on this or that field of theoretical science, a discovery perhaps whose practical consequences were not visible, it was still greater at a new discovery which immediately affected industrial development, historical development as a whole in a revolutionary fashion. For instance, he closely followed the development of the discoveries on the field of electrical science and toward the end the work of Marc Deprez.

For Marx was above all a revolutionary, and his great aim in life was to co-operate in this or that fashion in the overthrow of capitalist society and the State institutions which it has created, to co-operate in the emancipation of the modern proletariat, to whom he was the first to give a consciousness of its class position and its class needs, a knowledge of the conditions necessary for its emancipation.

“Marx Was Above All A Revolutionary”

In this struggle he was in his element, and he fought with a passion, tenacity and success granted to few. The first Rheinische Zeitung in 1842, the Vorwärts in Paris in 1844, the Brüsseler Deutsche Zeitung in 1847, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung from 1848 to 1849, the New York Tribune from 1852 to 1861 – and then a wealth of polemical writings, the organizational work in Paris, Brussels and London, and finally the great International Workingmen’s Association to crown it all. In truth, that alone would have been a life’s work to be proud of if its author had done nothing else.

And therefore Marx was the best-hated and most-slandered man of his age. Governments, both absolutist and republican, expelled him from their territories, while the bourgeois, both conservative and extreme-democratic, vied with each other in a campaign of vilification against him. He brushed it all to one side like cobwebs, ignored them and answered only when compelled to do so. And he died respected, loved and mourned by millions of revolutionary workers from the Siberian mines over Europe and America to the coasts of California, and I make bold to say that although he had many opponents he had hardly a personal enemy.

His name will live through the centuries and so also will his work.

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