The Guardian November 22, 2000


Engels: "We are confident of victory"

To mark the 180th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Engels on 
November 28, 1820, Czech historian JOSEPH HAUBELT reminds us of his 
contribution to the development of scientific socialism.

The 3rd Congress of the International Association of Socialist Parties (the 
2nd International) was held in Zurich from 6-12 August 1893. Friedrich 
Engels (1820-95) took part. He also met the Czech delegates. He told them: 
"I'm sorry my age prevents me mastering Czech. Your nation's history is 
full of social and democratic phenomena which could help the development of 
our movement. Those among you who demand self-government (the Czechs were 
then still part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Ed.) are right, it is 
natural and we should support you. It's a pity too that they show such 
little understanding of a natural social movement. We are confident of 
victory, and with it too will end all subjugation of nations."

These comments of Engels were reported by Josef Steiner, the Czech social 
democrat and co-founder of the daily Pravo Lidu and the Workers' 
Academy.

Engels spoke quite good Czech. He understood Czech, and he was also 
familiar with conditions in the Czech lands. His work was and still is of 
fundamental importance for us. And not just for us.

Proletariat

Engels was co-author with Karl Marx of The Manifesto of the Communist 
Party (1848).

It was the outline of a critique of capitalist society which was 
universally understood and also a revolutionary programme  what the Czech 
pedagogue Jan Amos Komensky (1592-1670) called "a panacea for humanity".

He finished and published the second and third volumes of Marx's 
Capital (1885 and 1894), which show that it is the mission of the 
exploited, the proletariat, and its revolutionary party to lead society to 
vanquish capitalism and lay socialist foundations for its further 
development.

Marxism originated on ground which had been prepared with materialist 
dialectics and dialectical materialism.

The German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's dialectics were 
separated from idealism and the German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach's 
materialism from metaphysics.

The result was dialectical materialism and materialist dialectics, which 
provide a unique and irreplaceable rationale in the struggle to overcome an 
exploitative society.

Engels, together with Marx, accomplished this mainly in their works The 
Holy Family (1843-4) and The German Ideology (1845-6), and 
Engels himself later consummated it in his philosophical treatise Ludwig 
Feuerbach and the End of German Classical Philosophy (1888).

Revolution

Important for the emergence of Marxism as a conscious ideological system 
was an evaluation of the fundamental changes which had occurred in the 
history of civilisation.

Marx's first scientific work in this respect was his dissertation on 
Differences between the Natural Philosophy of Democritus and 
Epicurus (1841) and his later investigation of the history of ancient 
thought.

Engels wrote monographs on the origins of civilisation which culminated in 
his work The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State  
translated into Czech in 1920 by Bohumir Smeral, founder of the Communist 
Party of Czechoslovakia.

Engels dealt with events from the beginning of the 16th century in his work 
The Peasant War in Germany (1850), which gave rise to the concept of 
an early bourgeois revolution as a fusion of the mainly Calvinist 
Reformation and the peasant war.

The possibility of further revolutionary change, this time with socialist 
elements, came in 1848.

Engels threw new light on this in his work The Condition of the Working 
Class in England (1844), which we can regard as a lead-in to The 
Manifesto.

It was also the first of Engels' works which, thanks to the historian Anton 
Springer, could be read in Czech in the Journal of the Czech Museum, under 
the title A Study of Social Life in England (1850 and 1851).

Engels and Marx then worked together on the anatomy of bourgeois democratic 
revolution in Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany (1851-2).

These works led to the recognition that revolutions are the prime 
mover in history. We know no reasons why this should be any different 
in the future.

The first encyclopaedic work of Marxism was Engels' polemic Anti-
Duhring or Herr Eugen Duhring's Revolution in Science (1878), in 
which he drew on his personal experience of revolutionary struggles and his 
work in the first revolutionary organisations, mainly the 1st 
International.

The manuscripts published in 1925 under the title Dialectics of 
Nature, which Engels worked on before he became fully occupied with 
finishing Capital after Marx's death, also have special significance 
in understanding the philosophical dimensions of the theory and practice of 
Marxism.

It synthesises his philosophical work and tells us that everything is in 
motion and that this leads to quantitative growth and qualitative change, 
with an evolutionary stage leading on to revolutionary change.

Trees do not grow to the sky, and nothing lasts for ever. Every situation 
brings new knowledge, requires fresh investigation and demands new 
conclusions for social practice.

The struggle for a socialist "panacea for humanity" has not ended.

History never repeats itself, not even on the threshhold of the third 
millennium! And it does not forget!

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Postmark Prague

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