Saturday, 28 November 2020

Commemorating Friedrich Engels on his 200th Birth Anniversary

    Friedrich Engels, the person who with Karl Marx revolutionised human thought, completes 200 years today. He was, in the words of Lenin, “the finest scholar and teacher of the modern proletariat” after Marx. Engels, along with Marx, devoted his entire life for a common cause and gifted the world proletariat a tool to establish a classless society, free from exploitation of man by man.

Friedrich Engels, 1840

    Engels was in service of his fathers firm, based in Manchester. There, he observed the condition of the working class. The condition of the working class tempted Engels, not towards greed, as an heir of his fathers firm, but towards hatred for capitalism, and his quest of a system that would replace it. It led to his authoring of The Condition of the Working Class in England, his first book, which was, as Lenin puts it, a terrible indictment of capitalism and the bourgeoisie. In this book, Engels mentions a prolonged period of wage-stagnation of the workers. It is the period that is referred to as “Engels’ Pause by the economic historian Robert C. Allen. Engels also describes the health condition of the working class. Compared to the countryside, the working class living in the highly developed cities like Manchester and Liverpool were worse affected by diseases. Such conditions of the working class made him determined to find an alternative to the capitalist system. He became convinced that the salvation of the working class lies only in scientific socialism or communism.

    What would a communist society look like? What are the class forces that would fight to establish such a society? What will happen to the other existing classes? And what will happen to the state? Engels attempts to answer all these questions.

    In June, 1847, Engels wrote his Draft of the Communist Confession of Faith for the Communist League. Later, in October-November 1847, he wrote Principles of Communism. A comparison between these draft programmes of the Communist League shows the development of the ideas of Engels.

    On 23-34 November, 1847, Engels wrote to Marx: 

Give a little thought to the Confession of Faith. I think we would do best to abandon the catechetical form and call the thing Communist Manifesto. Since a certain amount of history has to be narrated in it, the form hitherto adopted is quite unsuitable. I shall be bringing with me the one from here, which I did [in Principles of Communism]; it is in simple narrative form, but wretchedly worded, in a tearing hurry. I start off by asking: What is communism? and then straight on to the proletariat – the history of its origins, how it differs from earlier workers, development of the antithesis between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, crises, conclusions.

    It was the beginning of Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto, that cut the ground under the feet of the exploiters. They published the Manifesto in late February 1848. Engels and Marx wanted a new system, i.e. communism. One thing is clear: Engels was always ready to amend his ideas for the sake of the emancipation of mankind. It suggests that he had a flexible mind, in the sense that he did not hesitate to revisit his own ideas, and a fixed purpose, i.e. to establish a society free from exploitation.

    Dialectics of Nature is one of his greatest gifts to the Marxist philosophy. His essay The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man analyses the evolution of human beings from a dialectical materialist perspective. It shows how materialist conditions have contributed to the evolution of human beings from apes. Engels claimed, as it reflects in the title, that labour played a role in the transition from ape to human. It is labour that forced the apes to use their forelimbs. This led to the development of hands. The human hand, in the words of Engels, has been highly perfected by hundreds of thousands of years of labour.” He said, “the hand is not only the organ of labour, it is also the product of labour.” With the development of hands, our ancestors engaged in communal labour, which further necessitated language. With labour, they developed tools and learnt how to use them. Labour and language, thus, influenced the brain of the ape in developing into what it is today.

    However, at the same time, it is labour that paved the way for exploitation. The increase of production demanded labour. It gave rise to the origin of private property and opened the possibility of slavery. Engels, in his The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, showed how the human society had developed through the ages, how the family had originated, how private property had originated and paved the way for the first forms of exploitation, from a materialist perspective. This book was written after the demise of Karl Marx. It provided “a slight substitute” for what Marx no longer had the time to doThe Origin also deals with the state, which was created by the first exploiters to keep the slaves bounded. According to Engels: 

“The state ... is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel. But in order that these antagonisms, these classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power, seemingly standing above society, that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of order’; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state.”

    Marx and Engels concluded that all forms of exploitation will disappear with the disappearance of classes. It can happen only if the means of production are possessed communally. It will be a classless society, where no exploiter will exist. This is what is called communism. Since the state was created in favour of the exploiters, with their disappearance, the state will disappear too. Engels, in a letter to August Bebel, writes about the disappearance of the state: with the introduction of the socialist order of society, the state will dissolve of itself and disappear.” The confiscation of state power by the proletariat makes the state an organisation of the proletariat. Capital and the means of production within the state will no longer remain a private property, but will belong to the state, which will be in the hands of the proletariat. As Marx and Engels write in Communist Manifesto:

“The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class.”

    Thus, capturing of the state will be the beginning of the world proletarian revolution. The state in the hands of the proletariat, in the words of Marx, will be “the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat”.

    Another of the most valuable gifts by Engels to the world proletariat is his Herr Eugen Dührings Revolution in Science, popularly known as Anti-Dühring. This book has three parts, namely Philosophy, Political Economy and Socialism. This book is a detailed description of the idea of Marxism. A part of this book was later published as Socialism: Utopian and ScientificMoreover, Engels has done a great favour to the world proletariat by publishing the second and third volumes of Marx’s Capital. There are many such writings of Engels, some of which were written collaboratively with Marx.

Engels, 1893

    Engels was a communist, not of words, but deeds. In early 1846, he, along with Marx, set up the Communist Correspondence Committee in Brussels. They joined the League of the Just in early 1847, on the condition of acceptance of their ideas. In June, Engels took part in a Congress of it, which tasked him with drafting a programme. The name of the League was changed to the Communist League. On Marx and Engels’ suggestion, the Congress also adopted the motto “Working Men of All Countries, Unite!” Engels also took part in the Elberfeld uprising in May 1849.

    In October 1870, Engels was elected to the General Council of the First International. In May 1871, Marx and Engels organised workers’ demonstrations in support of the Paris Commune, gave recommendations to the communards and campaigned in defence of the commune.

    Engels immensely helped Marx financially in publishing his writings. He also aided his family. Had Engels not agreed with Marx and supported him financially, the world would not have been introduced to the revolutionary ideas of the latter directly.

    Even today, Engels is amongst us – not physically, but in the form of his revolutionary ideas. Although it was Engels who coined the term Marxism after Marx, we must not forget the former’s contribution to the science. The revolutionary party must deliver the teachings of Engels to the proletariat, and guide it, so that it can struggle to achieve scientific socialism.

    Engels left the world on 5th August 1895 and left his ideas for the world proletariat. His revolutionary thought still inspires the workers of the world to achieve world socialism. Let us arm the workers and youth with the revolutionary ideas of Friedrich Engels.

No comments:

Post a Comment