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Engels: The Man and His Work - Part One

(The first of a two part tribute to Marx’s co-worker Friedrich Engels)

Seventy six years have passed since the death of Friedrich Engels, the friend and co-worker of Karl Marx. Much of the interest that has been shown over the years in the Socialist movement has tended to obscure the reputation of Engels by an exclusive pre-occupation with that of Marx — a process which Engels himself encouraged — so it seems more than fitting that we should pay tribute, in recognition of the debt present-day Socialists owe to Friedrich Engels.

Marx’s pre-eminence in their partnership was stressed by no one more emphatically than by Engels himself:

Communist Measures?

In the Guardian (10 May), Ellie Mae O'Hagan wrote of Marx, 'plenty of his proposals – just as radical when he wrote them – are common sense today. These include free education, abolition of child labour, a progressive income tax, a national bank, and closing the gap between town and countryside.' This is true but these, taken from the Communist Manifesto weren't what he meant by 'communism', as we explain here.

A Hundred Years Since the Charter

May, 1838—May, 1938: one hundred years pregnant with profound changes in social and political development. May, 1838, saw working-class discontent and agitation for political enfranchisement reach organised expression in the production of the “Charter" from which the Chartist movement took its name. The Charter was written by William Lovett, an "uneducated" working man who was a leading figure in the London Working Men’s Association, an organisation formed to pursue agitation for Universal Suffrage. The basic demands of the Charter were: (1) Annual Parliaments, (2) Universal Suffrage, (3) Payment of Members, (4) Abolition of Property Qualification, (5) Equal Electoral Districts.

The First Mass Movement in History

The Chartists struggled for political democracy in nineteenth-century Britain, but did they need a revolutionary leadership” any more than we need one today?

The Chartist movement, which lasted from 1836 to the 1850s, has been described as the first mass workers movement in history. In some ways it was. Chartism was a movement composed mainly of the working class that demanded the enactment of the People’s Charter, which would grant the vote to working class men.

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