Sidelight on Engels

Marx’s lifelong friend rarely refers to his own distinct activity and personality in his writings. For information concerning Engels’ personality we must have recourse to those who were acquainted with him. But there is an exception! On one occasion and this at the early age of 25, Engels tells us in English something about himself. Yet even this English writing has never been presented to the English reader. It must have been Engels himself who insisted on its exclusion (although written as a preface in English) from the translation of his work Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 authorised by himself. The Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England in 1844 published in Germany in 1845, from which the Winchnevitsky was made contains this preface (in English) in full, and in the 1892 final edition of this work, authorised by Engels, the preface (in English) is re-included.

A certain explanation is necessary to the reader concerning Engels’ expression “middle class” or “middle classes”. By this Engels does not mean highly paid workers or shopkeepers etc. but the actual capitalist class itself. There existed in England in 1844 three distinct groups of the community – the proletariat, the landed aristocracy and the bourgeoisie or industrial capitalists. Until 1832 the landed aristocracy had held control of political power and had fleeced the bourgeoisie for its own benefit. Engels then refers to the bourgeoisie as the “middle class” i.e. the class between the proletariat and the landed aristocracy. It should be noted, however, that not three years later Engels abandoned this categorization of his – the landed aristocracy – a social class. In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels write:

“Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie possesses however, this distinctive feature: it has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile classes directly facing each other – bourgeoisie and proletariat.”

Marx, too, in one of his other writings refers to the landlord as a sleeping partner to the capitalist.

At the present day landlords, so-called industrial capitalists, merchants and bankers are economically directly interwoven and intermingled – a collective holding group for the most part – one social class.

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