The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels

The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels

Tristram Hunt

Language: English

Pages: 450

ISBN: B002RI9X9M

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Friedrich Engels is one of the most attractive and contradictory figures of the nineteenth century. Born to a prosperous mercantile family in west Germany, he spent his career working in the Manchester cotton industry, riding to the Cheshire hounds, and enjoying the comfortable, middle-class life of a Victorian gentleman. Yet Engels was also the co-founder of international communism - the philosophy which in the 20th century came to control one third of the human race. He was the co-author of The Communist Manifesto, a ruthless party tactician, and the man who sacrificed his best years so Karl Marx could write Das Kapital. Tristram Hunt relishes the diversity and exuberance of Engels's era: how one of the great bon viveurs of Victorian Britain reconciled his raucous personal life with this uncompromising political philosophy. Set against the backdrop of revolutionary Europe and industrializing England - of Manchester mills, Paris barricades, and East End strikes - it is a story of devoted friendship, class compromise, ideological struggle, and family betrayal.

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Trollope's coruscating novel The Way We Live Now – the London of joint-stock capitalism, a roaring exchange, Mansion House and a cast of international financiers beautifully embodied in the baroque crook Augustus Melmotte, who ‘could make or mar any company by buying or selling stock, and could make money dear or cheap as he pleased’. It was the London of an army of black-coated clerks populating the endless offices of commerce, banking, shipping, insurance and real estate. In Marxian terms, the

encouraged by the ‘American vigour’ of the US labour movement, in contrast to Britain's still quiescent working class, eking out the last embers of the mid-Victorian boom. ‘The last Bourgeois Paradise on earth is fast changing into a Purgatory, and can only be prevented from becoming, like Europe, an Inferno by the go-ahead pace at which the development of the newly fledged proletariat of America will take place,’ he wrote to his US translator, Florence Kelley-Wischnewetzky (who, in time,

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development of communist doctrine. And, again, it was Friedrich Engels who was far more adventurous when it came to exploring the ramification of his and Marx's thinking in terms of family structure, scientific method, military theory and colonial liberation. As Marx immersed himself ever deeper in the second half of the nineteenth century in economic theory and primitive Russian communism, Engels ranged freely on questions of politics, the environment and democracy, with unexpectedly modern

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