200th anniversary of Friedrich Engels’ birth

The revolutionary actions and thought of Engels are present today as a guide to action to settle scores with the old conscience of society and permit the emergence of the modern democratic personality.

Two hundred years of history have flowed since Friedrich Engels was born in Barmen, Germany on November 28, 1820. Despite the passage of so much time and so many events, the revolutionary actions and thought of Engels are present today as a guide to action to settle scores with the old conscience of society and permit the emergence of the modern democratic personality.

The Manifesto of the Communist Party, written by Engels and Karl Marx in 1848, presented communism to the world as the necessary condition to complete the emancipation of the working class. Engels dedicated his entire life to the advance of the working class movement, despite relentless attacks on his person by the German, French and other states and political personalities. Engels demonstrated in practice, as Hardial Bains said at the meeting held on the 100th anniversary of Engels’ death in 1995: “Communism cannot be cowed down; it cannot be afraid of pinpricks. It must attract the best minds of our era, as it did in the past. It must present to the working class what is best in every sphere. It must open a future for human beings and not for angels. It must create a society that human beings want, not perfection, not some dream world. The society to be created is that which the working class must create for itself, a world where it no longer faces humiliation, degradation and the crimes of the oppressors. The working class must create a society in which humanity does not face wars, disease, poverty and marginalization.”

Engels began his political work for communism together with Marx by settling scores with their former philosophic conscience. They did so to raise the banner of the working class within the social conditions of the day and the requirements of revolutionary practice. In settling scores with their former conscience they sought to provide themselves and the working class with a manifesto that would guide them in life, enable them to engage in actions based on analysis which would open a path for the New and contribute to the emancipation of the working class.

Engels explains the settling of accounts with their erstwhile philosophical conscience in his work Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy. To settle accounts required among other things turning the idealist philosophy of the great German philosopher Friedrich Hegel upside down and developing in practice the philosophy of dialectical and historical materialism. Engels writes:

“Dialectical philosophy dissolves all conceptions of final, absolute truth and of absolute states of humanity corresponding to it. For it [dialectical philosophy], nothing is final, absolute, sacred. It reveals the transitory character of everything and in everything; nothing can endure before it except the uninterrupted process of becoming and of passing away, of endless ascendancy from the lower to the higher. And dialectical philosophy itself is nothing more than the mere reflection of this process in the thinking brain. It has, of course, also a conservative side; it recognizes that definite stages of knowledge and society are justified for their time and circumstances; but only so far. The conservatism of this mode of outlook is relative; its revolutionary character is absolute – the only absolute dialectical philosophy admits. […]

“The whole dogmatic content of the Hegelian system is declared to be absolute truth, in contradiction to his dialectical method, which dissolves all dogmatism. Thus the revolutionary side is smothered beneath the overgrowth of the conservative side. And what applies to philosophical cognition applies also to historical practice. […]

“According to Hegel the dialectical development apparent in nature and history – that is, the causal interconnection of the progressive movement from the lower to the higher, which asserts itself through all zigzag movements and temporary retrogression – is only a copy [Abklatsch] of the self-movement of the concept going on from eternity, no one knows where, but at all events independently of any thinking human brain. This ideological perversion had to be done away with.

“We again took a materialistic view of the thoughts in our heads, regarding them as images [Abbilder] of real things instead of regarding real things as images of this or that stage of the absolute concept. Thus dialectics reduced itself to the science of the general laws of motion, both of the external world and of human thought – two sets of laws which are identical in substance, but differ in their expression in so far as the human mind can apply them consciously, while in nature and also up to now for the most part in human history, these laws assert themselves unconsciously, in the form of external necessity, in the midst of an endless series of seeming accidents.

“Thereby the dialectic of concepts itself became merely the conscious reflex of the dialectical motion of the real world and thus the dialectic of Hegel was turned over; or rather, turned off its head, on which it was standing, and placed upon its feet. This materialist dialectic for years has been our best working tool and our sharpest weapon.”

The obscurantist imperialist conscience asserts the notion that all things and relations are immutable. The ruling elite do everything to block the people from building the New and moving society forward to the emancipation of the working class. They declare that no alternative is possible to their program to pay the rich to overcome the recurring economic crises no matter what difficulties they cause for the people and the wars and destruction of productive forces they unleash. The oligarchy rejects the modern era that is staring it in the face, where people are born to society and possess rights by virtue of being human, because to accept it would destroy the oligarchs’ class privilege and paradise on earth of colossal private wealth and power.

Dialectical philosophy as Engels asserts, and life itself proves, is a firm repudiation of the current imperialist inability to reckon with the demands of the times whereby they push bankrupt theories about end of history, end of ideology and end of science. The dialectical philosophy dissolves “all conceptions of final, absolute truth and of absolute states of humanity corresponding to it.” The New must come into being and the working class is the social force that can accomplish it consciously through organized actions with analysis.

Let us honour the legacy of Friedrich Engels by redoubling our efforts to organize the institutions of the working class and strengthen its revolutionary outlook and conscience to accomplish the historic mission to open a path to its emancipation.

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Filed under History, Working Class

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