Friedrich Engels

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The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Friedrich Engels (November 28, 1820August 5, 1895) was a 19th-century German political philosopher who developed communist theory alongside his better-known collaborator, Karl Marx, co-authoring The Communist Manifesto (1848).


  • The slave frees himself when, of all the relations of private property, he abolishes only the relation of slavery and thereby becomes a proletarian; the proletarian can free himself only by abolishing private property in general.
  • Was ist der Kommunismus? Der Kommunismus ist die Lehre von den Bedingungen der Befreiung des Proletariats. Was ist das Proletariat? Das Proletariat ist diejenige Klasse der Gesellschaft, welche ihren Lebensunterhalt einzig und allein aus dem Verkauf ihrer Arbeit und nicht aus dem Profit irgendeines Kapitals zieht; deren Wohl und Wehe, deren Leben und Tod, deren ganze Existenz von der Nachfrage nach Arbeit, also von dem Wechsel der guten und schlechten Geschäftszeiten, von den Schwankungen einer zügellosen Konkurrenz abhängt.
    • What is Communism? Communism is the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat. What is the proletariat? The proletariat is that class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labor and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence depends on the demand for labor – hence, on the changing state of business, on the vagaries of unbridled competition.
    • Principles of Communism (1847)
  • How do you think the transition from the present situation to community of Property is to be effected?
    The first, fundamental condition for the introduction of community of property is the political liberation of the proletariat through a democratic constitution.
People think they have taken quite an extraordinarily bold step forward when they have rid themselves of belief in hereditary monarchy and swear by the democratic republic. In reality, however, the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another, and indeed in the democratic republic no less than in the monarchy.
  • There is no country in Europe which does not have in some corner or other one or several ruined fragments of peoples (Völkerruinen), the remnant of a former population that was suppressed and held in bondage by the nation which later became the main vehicle of historical development. These relics of a nation mercilessly trampled under foot in the course of history, as Hegel says, these residual fragments of peoples (Völkerabfälle) always become fanatical standard-bearers of counter-revolution and remain so until their complete extirpation or loss of their national character, just as their whole existence in general is itself a protest against a great historical revolution.
    • "The Magyar Struggle" in Neue Rheinische Zeitung (13 January 1849). Völkerabfälle has been variously translated as "ethnic trash" or "racial trash."
  • Among all the large and small nations of Austria, only three standard-bearers of progress took an active part in history, and still retain their vitality — the Germans, the Poles and the Magyars.… All the other large and small nationalities and peoples are destined to perish before long in the revolutionary world storm (Weltsturm).
    • "The Magyar Struggle." Weltsturm is sometimes translated as "holocaust."
  • The Austrian Germans and Magyars will be set free and wreak a bloody revenge on the Slav barbarians. The general war which will then break out will smash this Slav Sonderbund and wipe out all these petty hidebound nations, down to their very names. The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples. And that, too, is a step forward.
    • "The Magyar Struggle"
  • Ireland still remains the Holy Isle whose aspirations must on no account be mixed with the profane class-struggles of the rest of the sinful world … the Irish peasant must not on any account know that the Socialist workers are his sole allies in Europe.
  • La Terreur, das sind großenteils nutzlose Grausamkeiten, begangen von Leuten, die selbst Angst haben, zu ihrer Selbstberuhigung. [2]
    • Terror consists mostly of useless cruelties perpetrated by frightened people in order to reassure themselves.
    • Letter to Marx (4 September 1870)
  • Labour is the source of all wealth, the political economists assert. And it really is the source -- next to nature, which supplies it with the material that it converts into wealth. But it is even infinitely more than this. It is the prime basic condition for all human existence, and this to such an extent that, in a sense, we have to say that labour created man himself.
  • Only sound common sense, respectable fellow that he is, in the homely realm of his own four walls, has very wonderful adventures directly he ventures out into the wide world of research.
  • Freedom does not consist in any dreamt-of independence from natural laws, but in the knowledge of these laws, and in the possibility this gives of systematically making them work towards definite ends.
  • Hegel was the first to state correctly the relation between freedom and necessity. To him, freedom is the insight into necessity.
    • Anti-Dühring, pt. 1, ch. 11 (1878)
  • The state is not “abolished,” it withers away.
    • Anti-Dühring, pt. 3, ch. 2 (1878)
  • The anarchists put the thing upside down. They declare that the proletarian revolution must begin by doing away with the political organisation of the state. But after its victory the sole organisation which the proletariat finds already in existence is precisely the state. This state may require very considerable alterations before it can fulfil its new functions. But to destroy it at such a moment would be to destroy the only organism by means of which the victorious proletariat can assert its newly-conquered power, hold down its capitalist adversaries and carry out that economic revolution of society without which the whole victory must end in a new defeat and in a mass slaughter of the workers similar to those after the Paris Commune.
  • We are now approaching a social revolution, in which the old economic foundations of monogamy will disappear just as surely as those of its complement, prostitution. Monogamy arose through the concentration of considerable wealth in one hand — a man's hand — and from the endeavor to bequeath this wealth to the children of this man to the exclusion of all others. This necessitated monogamy on the woman's, but not on the man's part. Hence this monogamy of women in no way hindered open or secret polygamy of men. Now, the impending social revolution will reduce this whole care of inheritance to a minimum by changing at least the overwhelming part of permanent and inheritable wealth—the means of production—into social property. Since monogamy was caused by economic conditions, will it disappear when these causes are abolished?
    One might reply, not without reason: not only will it not disappear, but it will rather be perfectly realized. For with the transformation of the means of production into collective property, wagelabor will also disappear, and with it the proletariat and the necessity for a certain, statistically ascertainable number of women to surrender for money. Prostitution disappears and monogamy, instead of going out of existence, at last becomes a reality—for men also.
    At all events, the situation will be very much changed for men. But also that of women, and of all women, will be considerably altered. With the transformation of the means of production into collective property the monogamous family ceases to be the economic unit of society. The private household changes to a social industry. The care and educatlon of children become? a public matter. Society cares equally well for all children, legal or illegal. This removes the care about the "consequences" which now forms the essential social factor—moral and economic—hindering a girl to surrender unconditionally to the beloved man. Will not this be sufficient cause for a gradual rise of a more unconventional intercourse of the sexes and a more lenient public opinion regarding virgin honor and female shame? And finally, did we not see that in the modern world monogamy and prostitution, though antitheses, are inseparable and poles of the same social condition? Can prostitution disappear without engulfing at the same time monogamy?
The only difference as compared with the old, outspoken slavery is this, that the worker of today seems to be free because he is not sold once for all, but piecemeal by the day, the week, the year, and because no one owner sells him to another, but he is forced to sell himself in this way instead, being the slave of no particular person, but of the whole property-holding class.
  • By bourgeoisie is meant the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labor. By proletariat, the class of modern wage laborers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labor power in order to live.
  • Just as Marx used to say about the French Marxists of the late ’seventies: All I know is that I am not a Marxist.
  • What each individual wills is obstructed by everyone else, and what emerges is something that no one willed.
  • People think they have taken quite an extraordinarily bold step forward when they have rid themselves of belief in hereditary monarchy and swear by the democratic republic. In reality, however, the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another, and indeed in the democratic republic no less than in the monarchy.
    • Introduction to 1891 edition of Karl Marx's, The Civil War in France
  • The first act by virtue of which the State really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society—the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society—this is, at the same time, its last independent act as a State. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The State is not “abolished.” It dies out.
    • Socialism, Utopian and Scientific (1901)

Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy (1844)[edit]

Published in the first and only issue of the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, January 1844 Full text in English Full text in German

  • Die Nationalökonomie entstand als eine natürliche Folge der Ausdehnung des Handels, und mit ihr trat an die Stelle des einfachen, unwissenschaftlichen Schachers ein ausgebildetes System des erlaubten Betrugs, eine komplette Bereicherungswissenschaft.
    • Political economy came into being as a natural result of the expansion of trade, and with its appearance elementary, unscientific huckstering was replaced by a developed system of licensed fraud, an entire science of enrichment.
  • Diese aus dem gegenseitigen Neid und der Habgier der Kaufleute entstandene Nationalökonomie oder Bereicherungswissenschaft trägt das Gepräge der ekelhaftesten Selbstsucht auf der Stirne.
    • This political economy or science of enrichment born of the merchants’ mutual envy and greed, bears on its brow the mark of the most detestable selfishness.
  • Das Merkantilsystem hatte noch eine gewisse unbefangene, katholische Geradheit und verdeckte das unsittliche Wesen des Handels nicht im mindesten. ... Als aber der ökonomische Luther, Adam Smith, die bisherige Ökonomie kritisierte, hatten sich die Sachen sehr geändert. ... An die Stelle der katholischen Geradheit trat protestantische Gleisnerei.
    • The Mercantile System still had a certain artless Catholic candour and did not in the least conceal the immoral nature of trade. ... But when the economic Luther, Adam Smith, criticised past economics things had changed considerably. ... Protestant hypocrisy took the place of Catholic candour.
  • Natürlich ist es im Interesse des Handelnden, mit dem einen, von welchem er wohlfeil kauft, wie mit dem andern, an welchen er teuer verkauft, sich in gutem Vernehmen zu halten. Es ist also sehr unklug von einer Nation gehandelt, wenn sie bei ihren Versorgern und Kunden eine feindselige Stimmung nährt. Je freundschaftlicher, desto vorteilhafter. Dies ist die Humanität des Handels, und diese gleisnerische Art, die Sittlichkeit zu unsittlichen Zwecken zu mißbrauchen, ist der Stolz des Systems der Handelsfreiheit.
    • Naturally, it is in the interest of the trader to be on good terms with the one from whom he buys cheap as well as with the other to whom he sells dear. A nation therefore acts very imprudently if it fosters feelings of animosity in its suppliers and customers. The more friendly, the more advantageous. Such is the humanity of trade. And this hypocritical way of misusing morality for immoral purposes is the pride of the free-trade system.
  • Ihr habt die kleinen Monopole vernichtet, um das EINE große Grundmonopol, das Eigentum, desto freier und schrankenloser wirken zu lassen; ihr habt die Enden der Erde zivilisiert, um neues Terrain für die Entfaltung eurer niedrigen Habsucht zu gewinnen, ihr habt die Völker verbrüdert, aber zu einer Brüderschaft von Dieben.
    • You have destroyed the small monopolies so that the one great basic monopoly, property, may function the more freely and unrestrictedly. You have civilised the ends of the earth to win new terrain for the deployment of your vile avarice. You have brought about the fraternisation of the peoples – but the fraternity is the fraternity of thieves.
  • Ihr habt ... die Kriege vermindert, um im Frieden desto mehr zu verdienen, um die Feindschaft der einzelnen, den ehrlosen Krieg der Konkurrenz, auf die höchste Spitze zu treiben! - Wo habt ihr etwas aus reiner Humanität, aus dem Bewußtsein der Nichtigkeit des Gegensatzes zwischen dem allgemeinen und individuellen Interesse getan? Wo seid ihr sittlich gewesen, ohne interessiert zu sein, ohne unsittliche, egoistische Motive im Hintergrund zu hegen?
    • You have reduced the number of wars – to earn all the bigger profits in peace, to intensify to the utmost the enmity between individuals, the ignominious war of competition! When have you done anything out of pure humanity, from consciousness of the futility of the opposition between the general and the individual interest? When have you been moral without being interested, without harbouring at the back of your mind immoral, egoistical motives?
  • Nachdem die liberale Ökonomie ihr Bestes getan hatte, um durch die Auflösung der Nationalitäten die Feindschaft zu verallgemeinern, die Menschheit in eine Horde reißender Tiere - und was sind Konkurrenten anders? - zu verwandeln.
    • The liberal economic system had done its best to universalise enmity, to transform mankind into a horde of ravenous beasts (for what else are competitors?).
  • Die Nachfrage des Ökonomen ist nicht die wirkliche Nachfrage, seine Konsumtion ist eine künstliche. Dem Ökonomen ist nur der ein wirklich Fragender, ein wirklicher Konsument, der für das, was er empfängt, ein Äquivalent zu bieten hat.
    • The economist’s “demand” is not the real demand; his “consumption” is an artificial consumption. For the economist, only that person really demands, only that person is a real consumer, who has an equivalent to offer for what he receives.

The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 (1845)[edit]

German title: Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England
Page numbers refer to 1987 Penguin edition
  • I forsook the company and the dinner-parties, the port-wine and champagne of the middle-classes, and devoted my leisure-hours almost exclusively to the intercourse with plain working men; I am both glad and proud of having done so. Glad, because thus I was induced to spend many a happy hour in obtaining a knowledge of the realities of life—many an hour, which else would have been wasted in fashionable talk and tiresome etiquette; proud, because thus I got an opportunity of doing justice to an oppressed and calumniated class of men who with all their faults and under all the disadvantages of their situation, yet command the respect of every one but an English money-monger.
    • p. 27
  • The bourgeoisie has gained a monopoly of all means of existence in the broadest sense of the word. What the proletarian needs, he can obtain only from this bourgeoisie, which is protected in its monopoly by the power of the state. The proletarian is, therefore, in law and in fact, the slave of the bourgeoisie, which can decree his life or death.
    • p. 112
  • The bourgeoisie ... lets him have the appearance of acting from a free choice, of making a contract with free, unconstrained consent, as a responsible agent who has attained his majority. Fine freedom, where the proletarian has no other choice than that of either accepting the conditions which the bourgeoisie offers him, or of starving, of freezing to death, of sleeping naked among the beasts of the forests!
    • p. 112
  • Der ganze Unterschied gegen die alte, offenherzige Sklaverei ist nur der, dass der heutige Arbeiter frei zu sein scheint, weil er nicht auf einmal verkauft wird, sondern stückweise, pro Tag, pro Woche, pro Jahr, und weil nicht ein Eigenthümer ihn dem andern verkauft, sondern er sich selbst auf diese Weise verkaufen muss, da er ja nicht der Sklave eines Einzelnen, sondern der ganzen besitzenden Klasse ist.
    • The only difference as compared with the old, outspoken slavery is this, that the worker of today seems to be free because he is not sold once for all, but piecemeal by the day, the week, the year, and because no one owner sells him to another, but he is forced to sell himself in this way instead, being the slave of no particular person, but of the whole property-holding class.
      • pp. 114-115
  • I have never seen a class so deeply demoralised, so incurably debased by selfishness, so corroded within, so incapable of progress, as the English bourgeoisie; and I mean by this, especially the bourgeoisie proper, particularly the Liberal, Corn Law repealing bourgeoisie. For it nothing exists in this world, except for the sake of money, itself not excluded. It knows no bliss save that of rapid gain, no pain save that of losing gold. In the presence of this avarice and lust of gain, it is not possible for a single human sentiment or opinion to remain untainted.
    • p. 275
  • The way in which the vast mass of the poor are treated by modern society is truly scandalous. They are herded into great cities where they breathe a fouler air than in the countryside which they have left.
  • How is it possible that the poorer classes can remain healthy and have a reasonable expectation of life under such conditions? What can one expect but that they should suffer from continual outbreaks of epidemics and an excessively low expectation of life? The physical condition of the workers shows a progressive deterioration.

Quotes about Engels[edit]

  • Engels always considered himself a junior partner, and so, without doubt, he was. But that does not lessen his role. Had he not been the junior partner, much for which his senior partner is known would not have been done.

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