IT has become relatively commonplace in the past couple of decades to acknowledge the contemporary relevance of Karl Marx's critique of capitalism.

Towards the very end of his entertaining biography of Friedrich Engels, Tristram Hunt takes a step further, citing the comparison made by a Chinese scholar, Ching Kwan Lee, between the horrific working conditions in an 1840s Manchester cotton mill described by Engels, and the factory experiences of a migrant workers in Shenzen 160 years later.

He then points to the irony ''that such unleavened exploitation is actively sanctioned by the Communist Party of China''.

Engels description comes from The Condition of the Working Class in England, the seminal text he wrote at 24, shortly before he embarked on a bromance that evolved into an unparalleled intellectual double act.

Born 200 years ago into a deeply religious German capitalist family, 'Freddy' was pushed into the family trade at 16, before he had completed his schooling. 

A sojourn away from home made it easier to satiate his intellectual thirst, and following a fling with the Young Hegelians in Berlin, he was converted to Communism by Moses Hess, a correspondent for the radical  Rheinische Zeitung, published in Cologne.

The newspaper's editor was Marx, just two years older than Engels. They did not hit it off right away, but Engels contributed thoughtful articles from Manchester, where the family business had a branch.

He managed to get himself posted there because England England was then seen as Europe's most advanced capitalist economy, and therefore the likeliest location for a revolution.

When the two of them encountered each other again in Paris in 1844, they focused themselves in agreement on everything that mattered and just four years later they shared a byline on one of the 19th century's most enduring tracts :

Engels is credited with the first draft, while Marx was responsible for the final shape and form of The Communist Manifesto.

Their collaborations continued for the next 40 years - and, in fact beyond Marx's demise in 1883.

It was Engels who published the second and third volumes of this Marxian magnus opus Das Kapital -he alone was able to decipher his comrade's scribbles. Marx's notes also provided the step ladder for Engels seminal work The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.

Engels was consistently modest about his contributions to Marxist doctrine. He declared in 1884 : ''All my life I have done what I was cut out for - namely to play second fiddle - and I think I have done quite well in that capacity.

And I have been happy to have had such wonderful first violin as Marx.''

The honor and serving of that latest great writings on Marx and Engels continues to Part 2. The World Students Society thanks author Marhir Ali.


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