Classic Essays

Why Not Engelsism?

Friedrich EngelsTHAT THERE EXISTED an aspish agitator named Karl Marx should not surprise us. In Friedrich Engels (pictured), however, we are faced with a more disturbing figure. Danger is always greatest when it comes from within.

W.O. Henderson in his introduction to Engels’ Selected Writings says: “Marx and Engels collaborated so closely in their writings on economics that it is sometimes difficult to assess what each of them contributed to the final result.” If this is so, why has Marx received the lion’s share of the publicity and deification? Why hasn’t Marxism been called Engelsism?

The difficulty of separating Marx and Engels is twofold: (1) From the former’s early writings, which Engels called “unfortunate,” we know that their literary style is similar; (2) Engels was self-effacing to an abnormal degree and perhaps wanted to attach a name other than his own to a doctrine he foresaw as eventually triumphant but temporarily dangerous to his business and social life.

The first volume of Das Kapital was not so much edited by Engels as rewritten from Marx’s notes. And if Volumes II and III, which Engels organized from the ground up, are any indication of Marx’s actual writing style and mentality, they show a person who was far from a genius. The vocabulary and sentence structure of the original German edition is incredibly primitive with English words thrown in not for their meaning but because both Marx and Engels seem to have lost the grasp of their native German. For a so-called scholarly work, there is a surfeit of profanity.

The basic exposition of what is now known as Marxism first appeared in an article by Engels entitled Socialism: Scientific and Utopian, which antedates Marx’s conversion to communism by several years.

The huge Sämtliche Werke of Marx and Engels is short on theory but long on journalism and letters (including notes from Engels inviting friends to tea). But looking at Marx’s own Werke, we see that “Marxism” is more condensed than we realized. Five volumes is not a large production for a lifetime, and it turns out many of Marx’s presumably solo lucubrations have also been partly ghostwritten by Engels.

How many ideas in Marxism originated with Marx or even Engels? G. Mayer, a sympathetic biographer of the latter, says:

Kropotkin could not tolerate what he regarded as unpardonable hypocrisy. The feeling was intensified by the discovery that parts of the Communist Manifesto had been lifted almost word for word from a work by Considerant.

Communist apologists do not venture to say Marxism was original but assert evasively that it was a Great Synthesis. What are we to understand by the word synthesis? Does it suggest that both Marx and Engels stole ideas, often almost verbatim, not from one writer but from several. Mayer continues:

It must have been a welcome stroke of good luck for Marx when in 1851 the New York Tribune…offered him the post of regular correspondent. But Marx had not sufficient command of English…and was therefore forced to depend on Engels to write, or at least translate his articles. For years, indeed, countless articles which were sent under his name were actually written by his friend…When his first articles were due, Marx was deep in his economic studies and asked Engels if he would write a series for him on the German revolution. Accordingly, between August 1851 and October 1852 Engels wrote a group of articles, Germany, Revolution and Counter-Revolution, which were issued in book form after his death by Kautsky, with Marx’s name on the title page.

When it came to promoting communism, Engels again led the way. We read that Marx was often sick and had to stay at home while his partner fought out the political battles in Paris, London and elsewhere. Engels also saw to the publication of the Communist Manifesto.

Marxist arguments are easily refutable by any competent economist or historian. It is rather the mystique which challenges us, and it is fair to say that without Engels there would have been no mystique. There is obviously nothing new or inspiring about the centuries-old minority hatred for the West, Westerners and all their works.

Of Marx’s political friends — Ferdinand Lassalle, Moses Hess, Eduard Bernstein, Heinrich Heine, to mention a few — Engels was one of the very few non-Jews. Engels is interesting to us then, not just because he is one of the Communist Founding Fathers, but because of his outsider status. It is precisely because of his non-Jewishness that he was given a prominent place among the early Reds, just as, many years later, Carl Jung was a prize catch for the solidly Jewish psychoanalytic crowd in Vienna. Engels by his mere presence symbolized a communism which was to be more than just another form of Jewish nationalism. Like Christianity before it, Marxism was destined to be a universal and ‘human’ religion, and as such desperately needed a few non-Jewish proselytizers.

On the subject of Jews, Marx was obscure. Christianity, he said, is the Judaism of the modern world; and such must be abolished. In opposition to Bauer, Marx advocated unconditional freedom and equality for racial Jews, while adding that Christianity was unworthy to grant them such freedom.

For his part Engels, who was friendly with many Jews, was permitted an occasional anti-Semitic outburst. Consider this letter to Marx:

One might feel sorry for the fellow [Lassalle] because of his great talents…We always had to keep a devilish sharp eye on him. He is a real Jew from the Slav frontier and he has always been ready to exploit party affairs for his private ends. Moreover, it is disgusting to see how he is always trying to push his way into the world of the upper classes. He is a greasy Jew disguised under brilliance and flashy jewels.

How Marx, even though he wrote a few anti-Semitic tirades himself, must have blanched and squirmed. Again from Engels:

I begin to understand French anti-Semites when I see how the Polish Jews with German names everywhere worm themselves in, take liberties and everywhere push forward until they dominate public opinion in [Paris].

Engel’s own background — he was the son and heir of a rich cotton manufacturer — was that of an ultrabourgeois sophisticate. His biographers love to dwell on his love of hunting, his horses, his fine clothes and his elegant manners. They usually stress the conservative background of his parents and how, although he never married, he supported the numerous relations of his common-law wife.

The life of Engels is living proof that some of the most intelligent members of a dominant race are often the greatest enemies of their race. The Marxes could never have broken into the Sanctuaries of Western culture by themselves. They always need an Engels to sharpen their swords, to guide their pens and to ride at the head of the Fifth Column.

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Source: Instauration magazine, May 1976

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