Engels revisited

Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels

Friedrich Engels died, aged seventy-four, of cancer of the throat on August 5th, 1895. Ever since his death, Engels has been overshadowed by his lifelong friend Karl Marx, whose work Engels, as the editor of volumes two and three of Capital, himself did so much to perpetuate. Typically, whilst Marx's tomb at Highgate remains a place of socialist pilgrimage, Engels instructed that his body should be cremated and his ashes were scattered in the sea off Beachy Head by Eleanor Marx, Edward Aveling and Eduard Bernstein. Yet, although always eclipsed, by Marx's genius, Engels was a remarkable thinker and character in his own right. As is well known, Engels' financial support was vital for Marx throughout the latter's years of exile. Yet, it could be argued that Engels has served Marx even more usefully for the last century in the role of a convenient scapegoat for all those aspects of Marxism which, at any particular time, Marx's followers have wished to shed without ever abandoning the claim to be loyal to Marxism itself.

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