Friedrich Engels: The Revolutionary Philosopher Who Transformed History

Friedrich Engels: The Revolutionary Philosopher Who Transformed History

Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher, socialist, and co-founder of Marxist theory alongside Karl Marx. Born on November 28, 1820, in the city of Barmen, Prussia, Engels dedicated his life to the study and promotion of revolutionary socialism. He proved to be one of the most influential and significant figures in Marxist and socialist philosophy.

Early Life and Education

Friedrich Engels was born to a wealthy family that owned a cotton textile factory. Despite being born into an affluent family, Engels developed early on a sympathy for the working-class and a dislike for the capitalist system. He initially studied commerce in Bremen to join his family textile business but then went to Berlin in 1841 to study philosophy.

While at Berlin University, Engels became embroiled in revolutionary activities, which led to his expulsion from university. In 1842, he moved to Manchester, England, to work at one of his father’s textile factories. It was here that he became aware of the appalling working conditions and exploitation of the working-class, which further strengthened his resolve to fight for workers’ rights and a socialist revolution.

Meetings with Karl Marx

In 1844, Engels met Karl Marx in Paris, and they soon became lifelong friends and collaborators in philosophical and political thought. They shared the same vision that economic systems were the driving force of history and that capitalism had to be overthrown to make way for socialism. They worked together, co-authoring The Communist Manifesto in 1848.

Engels’s contribution to The Communist Manifesto was extensive, and the work advocated ideas such as the inevitability of the revolution and the need for a proletarian dictatorship to establish a socialist society. These ideas became foundational to Marxist theory and inspired revolutions across Europe and the world.

Personal Life

Engels was a lifelong bachelor and never married. However, he was devoted to a working-class Irishwoman named Mary Burns, whom he lived with for nearly twenty years. She introduced Engels to the plight of the working-class in Manchester and aided him in his research on the economic conditions of the city’s textile workers.

Engels’s relationship with Burns was influential in shaping his views on the struggle for workers’ rights and the plight of women toiling in factories. Burns’s death in 1863 was a great loss for Engels and left him feeling alone and isolated, despite his continued work towards revolution and socialist ideals.

Career as a Revolutionary

After the publication of the Communist Manifesto, Engels became a full-time revolutionary and worked tirelessly in the radical political underground. He collaborated with Marx on many major writings, including The Conditions of the Working Class in England. Engels also wrote several books in his own right on topics such as communism, history, and political economy.

His expertise in political economy made him an essential figure in socialist circles, and his writings provided a theoretical basis for the socialist movement.

Engels was also politically active, serving as an advisor and supporter of several socialist parties and movements across the world. He was a founding member of the German Social Democratic Party and played a crucial role in its formation.

Engels believed that the working-class was the engine of social change and spent his life fighting for their liberation from capitalism’s oppression. He believed that human society could only reach its full potential once the workers’ control production and that this was the only way to create a universally just society.


Friedrich Engels was a revolutionary figure who made significant contributions to Marxist theory and socialist philosophy. He helped found Marxism alongside Karl Marx, and his writings were instrumental in shaping socialist theory and practice.

His dedication to the struggle for workers’ rights and his passion for socialist ideals inspired many socialist and socialist movements across the globe. Engels’s contributions to the fields of political economy, history, and sociology continue to influence researchers and scholars worldwide.


Friedrich Engels was a brilliant thinker and political activist who devoted his life to revolution and the establishment of a socialist society. His contributions to Marxist theory continue to inspire many to this day, and his ideas remain fundamental to the socialist movement.

Engels’s work also highlights the importance of solidarity and the need for activists to engage with the struggles of the working-class. His life was dedicated to the emancipation of workers, and his legacy serves as a reminder that the fight for socialism is still ongoing.

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