Sunday, September 20, 2015

Frederick Engels in Manchester: His Relations with Marx (1933)

Letter to the Editor from the March 14, 1933, issue of The Manchester Guardian

To the Editor of the Manchester Guardian.

Sir, - The note on "Links with Engels" in your issue of March 11 concludes with the observation that "Oddly enough, neither the directories of the time nor the accessible biographies tell us where Engels lived  . . . Here is a problem for some local historian." May I inform your readers that Engels lived at two addresses during his stay in Manchester; first in Tennant Street, then at 86, Mornington Street, Stockport Road?

What the local historian is needed for is something more important. An effort ought to be made to trace the activities of Frederick Engels during his stay in Manchester.

He came here in 1842 from Barmen, where he had been engaged in his father's mill. His transference to the Manchester business, which was under the name of Ermen and Engels (later Ermen and Roby), brought him in touch with the appalling factory conditions and roused him to write his famous book on the question. He contributed to Bronterre O'Brien's "The Northern Star" and Robert Owen's "New Moral World." This before he had seen, met, or corresponded with Karl Marx. Socially he was a bit of a lion, riding to hounds, shooting (he was an expert shot) and participating in the "high" social life of the district.

He returned to Germany for a few years, and, after a series of political adventures in association with Marx, retuned to Manchester in 1850, residing here until 1870. He was a member of the Royal Exchange—that ought to help the "local" historian—and was a frequent contributor to the "Manchester Guardian." On foreign affairs, military matters, and later the volunteer movement, Engels was considered the most authoritative person in the North of England. His contributions to the "Pall Mall Gazette" were on occasion reprinted in the "Times." He was accepted as an expert on the rifle and artillery.

He was a welcome—and constant—visitor to Owens College, being very intimate with most members of the faculty, but particularly with Professor Schorlemmer, who in the late sixties acted as intermediary for the correspondence of Marx and Engels. Despite these activities little or nothing has been gleaned in Manchester about the life of Engels. He was responsible with Marx for the founding of the modern Labour movement. Surely these facts are sufficient to induce some student—or graduate—of Manchester University to undertake the research to disclose the immensity of Engels intellectual attainment.

A careful study of the works of both Marx and Engels convinces me that Engels was the greater genius. Marx time after time admitted this mental superiority. Engels could analyse a situation and come to a scientific conclusion with greater facility than Marx, who never came to a political decision without first consulting his friend. Marx's reference to Engels is appropriate. He said Engels "was a real walking encyclopædia, capable of work at any hour of the day or night, drunk or sober, swift with his pen, and alert as the devil." Though Engels could have been a success at press or literary work, he decided in the spring of 1854 to remain here in Manchester, in this "damned business," instead of undertaking other work in London. As we know, that decision was final.

A survey of Engels' work in Manchester will disclose that he was mainly responsible for brilliant articles written by Marx on foreign affairs and military matters. The shrewd speculations on diplomacy and politics, part of Marx's published works, germinated in the head of Engels. His encyclopædic knowledge was ever at the disposal of Marx. To study any subject Engels would not rely upon a translation. He would learn the language first. He was proficient in twenty languages, these including Russian, Arabic, Persian, Ancient Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Erse. His linguistic proficiency was much praised by some of the great Owens College professors.

When he became partner in his father's firm, he allowed Marx 350 per year, besides handing over much extra money for other purposes. After Marx's death he enlarged, revised, and prepared the third edition of "Das Kapital" for the issue, supervised the English translation undertaken by Aveling and Moore, and arranged the whole of the material for the second and third volumes. A careful study of these volumes proves that the work was that of Engels, not Marx. Before his death in 1895, Engels was revising the whole of the literary efforts of Marx. Unfortunately his illness in Eastbourne became serious and he returned to London to die. Having no issue he left the bulk of his fortune to Marx's children. It may seem curious to take so much credit from Marx, but these are undeniable facts.

Manchester has something to her credit of which she ought to be proud. If civic consciousness counts for anything, some Mancunian ought to begin research into the life of one of the finest men who ever honoured the city with their presence.
Moses Baritz.
2, Alford Road,
Heaton Chapel,
March 10.


imposs1904 said...

The letter from Baritz to the Manchester Guardian which probably prompted him to do his own research, and write the article 'Engels - his 20 years in Manchester', which appeared in The Manchester Guardian the following year.

Two minor points from the letter:
1) Take into account when Baritz wrote both this letter and the article on Engels in Manchester. 'Marxology', for want of a better term, was still in its infancy in the 30s. (For example, it's now understood that Engels had met Marx - briefly - before arriving in Manchester in 1842.
2) Though Bronterre O'Brien did write for the 'Northern Star', it was more the paper of Fergus O'Connor. O'Brien's paper was 'Bronterre's National Reformer'.

imposs1904 said...

Again, hat tip to 'Pik Smeet' and ALB for digging out this old piece from The Guardian.