Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Truth about Friedrich Engels: An Entitled Jerk

By  Joe Malchow

Prussian louse Friedrich Engels, you probably recall from an ornery high school history teacher pining for his resurrection, was one of the fathers of communism. That’s a common way to describe Engels, but it’s even more accurate when you recall that Engels bankrolled the perpetually financially floundering Karl Marx. They did co-author The Communist Manifesto together, but the relationship seemed, more or less, to be one in which Engels constantly made donations to the Karl Marx Charity Fund.
Would it surprise you to learn that Engels was more or less a rich jerk who did not understand the value of work?
That seems to have been precisely the case. The blog of the Smithsonian has a nice piece on Engels just now, titled “How Friedrich Engels’ Radical Lover Helped Him Father Socialism.”
Engels came, of course, from a wealthy family. The Engels in question are the Engels of the Ermen & Engels Co., a large manufacturer of cotton. The young Friedrich Engels was sent to the office in Manchester. The whole business of finding a job and competing based upon the usefulness of one’s labor, he did not try. Engels quickly divined a nice way of getting ahead. He accused his father’s business partner (the aforementioned Ermen) of fraud. Karl Marx’s wife Jenny thought this was a great idea. “Get yourself firmly entrenched between the two hostile brothers,” she wrote to Engels in February 1851. “Their enmity gives you the opportunity to make yourself indispensable to your worthy papa. In my mind’s eye I can already see you as Friedrich Engels, junior, a partner of Friedrich Engels senior.” Oh, Lady Macbeth!
Engels did just that, and was soon part owner of the cotton company. “As part-owner of the mill, he eventually received a 7.5 percent share in Ermen & Engels’ rising profits, earning £263 in 1855 and as much as £1,080 in 1859–the latter a sum worth around $168,000 today.” Where did that money go?
He also offered financial support to a number of less-well-off revolutionaries—most important, Karl Marx, whom he had met while traveling to Manchester in 1842. Even before he became relatively wealthy, Engels frequently sent Marx as much as £50 a year—equivalent to around $7,500 now, and about a third of the annual allowance he received from his parents.
Engels enjoyed an allowance from his parents too! So here we have a chap whose only work experience is to be given a job, and then to connive his way into a senior job, at a cotton refinery. By the bye, what would Engels have done if he had even more money. Given it, perhaps, all over to Karl Marx? Ha, ha, no.

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