What do you want to be when you grow up sonny?
"I wanna change the world - and I mean it, right!"
EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT FRED ENGELS
Born in Barmen, Germany, in 1820, young Fred was a major trouble maker after he discovered politics, so his dad – a rich mill owner – packed him off to Salford when he was 22 to work for the family's joint owned Ermen and Engels' Victoria Mill in Weaste, which made sewing threads.
By this time Fred already spoke 25 languages, was a top horseman, swordsman, swimmer, skater, artist, journalist, composer and philosopher – well, there was no telly in those days. And he'd published loads of political articles, stirring it up in his home town and prompting his dad to write "I have a son at home who is like a scabby sheep in a flock…"
En route to Salford, Fred stopped off in Cologne where he met his future best mate, Karl Marx.
When Fred arrived in Salford in 1842, by day he worked at Victoria Mill in Weaste and in the company's office in Deansgate (now Kendals' perfume counter), and was an outwardly respectable business type. But at night he slummed it, spending all his time going around the working class areas observing the shocking conditions that working people were living in.
Fred had copped off with a young Irish girl called Mary Burns, who probably worked at his dad's mill, and she took him out at night in disguise so that he wouldn't get his German bourgeois head kicked in.
After twenty months Fred went home and wrote The Condition of the Working Class in England 1844 (published 1845). It was"dedicated to the working classes of Great Britain" but wasn't available in English until 1892. The explosive book described in intimate detail, street after street, the total squalor that working people were living in, based on what he'd seen in Salford and Manchester.
But he didn't just write about the conditions, and his hatred for the ruling class that allowed working people to live like that. Once back in Germany he got his sword out and took part in the revolutionary uprising against the Prussian army. It was after this, in 1848, that Fred and Karl Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto urging a worldwide socialist revolution.
With the authorities after him, Fred took refuge in Switzerland before arriving back at his dad's factory in 1850, exiled in Salford. He stayed for 19 years. This time, Fred was under surveillance from the secret police, and had `official' homes and `unofficial homes' all over inner city Manchester where he lived with Mary under false names to confuse the cops.
While Fred was in Salford and Manchester, Karl Marx used to come and visit him at least once every year. They would sit for hours researching in Chetham's Library – and then go drinking for hours in pubs all over town – possibly the Crescent and The Grapes in Salford, and the Gold Cup and Coach and Horses in Manchester.
The prime reason why Fred worked at his dad's mill for 20 years was to get money to support Marx, so he could complete his masterwork, Das Kapital, which showed exactly how capitalism worked – basically the economic exploitation of the working class by the ruling class.
Fred `slaved' in Weaste until 1869 but most of what he was up to during his stay is up for speculation as he destroyed over 1500 letters between himself and Marx after his mate died, so as not to expose their secret life in the north west. In 1870 Fred left Salford and Manchester for London, and world infamy. He died in 1895.
WHAT FRED SAID...
"I once went into Manchester with a bourgeois and spoke to him of the bad, unwholesome method of building, the frightful conditions of the working people's quarters…The man listened quietly and said when we parted `And yet there is a great deal of money to be made here; good morning sir'…
"All the conditions of life are measured by money, and what brings no money is nonsense, unpractical idealistic bosh !"
"Urban authorities…almost everywhere in England are recognised centres of corruption of all kinds, nepotism and jobbery – the exploitation of public office to the private advantage of the official or his family." The Housing Question 1887
"If we cross the Irwell to Salford, we find…one large working men's quarter, penetrated by a single wide avenue…All Salford is built in courts or narrow lanes, so narrow, that they remind me of the narrowest I have ever seen, the little lanes of Genoa….The working men's dwellings between Oldfield Road and Cross Lane…vie with the dwellings of the Old Town in filth and overcrowding.
In this district I found a man, apparently about 60 years old, living in a cow stable...which had neither windows, floor, nor ceiling…and lived there, though the rain dripped through his rotten roof. This man was too old and weak for regular work, and supported himself by removing manure with a hand-cart; the dung heaps lay next door to his palace.
The working people live, almost all of them, in wretched, damp, filthy cottages…the streets which surround them are usually in the most miserable and filthy condition, laid out without the slightest reference to ventilation, with reference soley to the profit secured by the contractor…"
The Condition of the Working Class in England 1844
"A class which bears all the disadvantages of the social order without enjoying its advantages…Who can demand that such a class respect this social order ?"
The Condition of the Working Class in England 1844
"Exploitation is the basic evil which the social revolution strives to abolish, by abolishing the capitalist mode of production." Fred Engels 1887
"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles…" Marx and Engels: Communist Manifesto
"Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletariat have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win…Working Men of All Countries, Unite!" Marx and Engels: Communist Manifesto
"To get the most out of life you must be active, you must live and you must have the courage to taste the thrill of being young…" Fred Engels 1840
See Fred Engels Part 2 here
See Fred Engels Part 3 here
See Fred Engels Part 4 here
Engels Trivia and limited edition poster here
Who was Mary Burns?