Sunday, April 26, 2009
Hunt, Tristram. "No Marx without Engels." HISTORY TODAY 59.4 (2009).
It is a truth now universally acknowledged that capitalism’s most insightful philosopher is Karl Marx. For over a decade, the one time ideological ogre ‘responsible’ for the killing fields of Cambodia and excesses of the Soviet Union has been lauded as the first thinker to chart the true nature of the free market. ‘Marx’s Stock Resurges on a 150-Year Tip’ was how the New York Times marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Communist Manifesto – a text which, more than any other, ‘recognised the unstoppable wealth-creating power of capitalism, predicted it would conquer the world, and warned that this inevitable globalisation of national economies and cultures would have divisive and painful consequences.’ In 2005, the French politician-cum-banker Jacques Attali went further, to pinpoint Marx as the first great theorist of globalisation. Today, in the midst of a once-a-century crisis of capitalism, Das Kapital has raced to the top of the German bestseller lists and even President Sarkozy has been caught leafing through its pages. But as with so much of the Karl Marx myth, the role of his lifelong friend and ideological ally Friedrich Engels has been airbrushed from history. The co-author of The Communist Manifesto, co-founder of Marxism and architect of much of modern socialism, is nowhere to be seen in this shower of admiration. Yet when it comes to the Marxian analysis of capitalism, any credible account must have Engels alongside Marx. For Marx only gained his unique appreciation of the functioning of capitalism thanks to Engels’ first-hand experiences. Moreover, it was Engels who went on to edit the crucial passages of Das Kapital which dealt with the inherent instability of the capitalist model. If we are to look for the origins of one of the most salient criticisms of the market system, we should start with Engels. . . .