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Friedrich Engels (1820 – 1895) was a German political philosopher who co-authored early communist theory with Karl Marx. Labor is the source of all wealth

Friedrich Engels

Friedrich Engels, economic philosopher of Communism

Quotations of Friedrich Engels from sources: WikiQuote, EGS, GoodReads, BrainyQuote,

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 …

What each individual wills is obstructed by everyone else, and what emerges is something that no one willed.

Women can be emancipated only when she can take part on a large social scale in production and is engaged in domestic work only to an insignificant degree.

Freedom does not consist in any dreamt-of independence from natural laws, but in the knowledge of these laws, and in the possibility this gives of systematically making them work towards definite ends.

By bourgeoisie is meant the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labor. By proletariat, the class of modern wage laborers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labor power in order to live.

The history of the proletariat in England begins with the second half of the last century, with the invention of the steam-engine and of machinery for working cotton.  These inventions gave rise, as is well known, to an industrial revolution, a revolution which altered the whole civil society; one, the historical importance of which is only now beginning to be recognized.

The way in which the vast mass of the poor are treated by modern society is truly scandalous. They are herded into great cities where they breathe a fouler air than in the countryside which they have left.
How is it possible that the poorer classes can remain healthy and have a reasonable expectation of life under such conditions? What can one expect but that they should suffer from continual outbreaks of epidemics and an excessively low expectation of life? The physical condition of the workers shows a progressive deterioration.

They could rarely read and far more rarely write; went regularly to church, never talked politics, never conspired, never thought, delighted in physical exercises, listened with inherited reverence when the Bible was read, and were, in their unquestioning humility, exceedingly well-disposed towards the “superior” classes.  But intellectually, they were dead; lived only for their petty, private interest, for their looms and gardens, and knew nothing of the mighty movement which, beyond their horizon, was sweeping through mankind.  They were comfortable in their silent vegetation, and but for the industrial revolution they would never have emerged from this existence, which, cozily romantic as it was, was nevertheless not worthy of human beings.

Truth, which it is the province of philosophy to recognize, was no longer, according to Hegel, a collection of ready-made dogmatic statements, which once discovered must only be thoroughly learned; truth lay now in the process of knowledge itself, in the long historical development of learning, which climbs from lower to ever higher heights of knowledge, without ever reaching the point of so-called absolute truth, where it can go no further, where it has nothing more to look forward to, except to fold its hands in its lap and contemplate the absolute truth already gained.

With the transformation of the means of production into collective property the monogamous family ceases to be the economic unit of society. The private household changes to a social industry. The care and education of children become a public matter. Society cares equally well for all children, legal or illegal.

Labor is the source of all wealth, the political economists assert. And it really is the source — next to nature, which supplies it with the material that it converts into wealth. But it is even infinitely more than this. It is the prime basic condition for all human existence, and this to such an extent that, in a sense, we have to say that labour created man himself.

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 ?

Political economy came into being as a natural result of the expansion of trade, and with its appearance elementary, unscientific huckstering was replaced by a developed system of licensed fraud, an entire science of enrichment.

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!

All successive historical conditions are only places of pilgrimage in the endless evolutionary progress of human society from the lower to the higher. Every step is necessary and useful for the time and circumstances to which it owes its origin, but it becomes weak and without justification under the newer and higher conditions which develop little by little in its own womb, it must give way to the higher form, which in turn comes to decay and defeat.

The first act by virtue of which the State really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society—the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society—this is, at the same time, its last independent act as a State. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The State is not “abolished.” It dies out.

The superstition that philosophical idealism pivots around a belief in moral, that is in social ideals, arose with the German non-philosophical Philistine, who commits to memory the few philosophical morsels which he finds in Schiller’s poems. Nobody has criticised more severely the feeble Categorical Imperative of Kant—feeble because it demands the impossible and therefore never attains to any reality—nobody has ridiculed more cruelly the Philistine[Pg 73] sentimentality imparted by Schiller, because of its unrealizable ideals, than just the idealist par excellence, Hegel.

Without Friedrich Engels the social revolution known as Communism wouldn’t have happened, but perhaps that form of social organization would have come about without them because of the natural social-economic forces they describe. Engels wrote about evolution of these social forces long before Darwin published his theories of biological evolution, but Adam Smith in 1776 and Malthus in 1798 had prepared a path for those evolutionary ideas to be applied to economic situations. Engels writes, Labor is the source of all wealth, the political economists assert. There are other things which are more important than manual labor: a horse can be used to plow a field, while the more human labor is mental and it comes in many forms. Much of the mental labor is simple or complex but can now be replaced by computers and so it too is now degraded. The form of mental exertion that is still human is creative work of devising new and useful things with the intent of human betterment. That may also be done by computing machines in the lifetime of people now living, when they come to understand humans and their motivations. The withering away of the state may come with the rise of machines watching over us, and clearly that is already being done, so it is only a matter of time and the manufacture of more equipment even at the technological level already attained. Some people may dread this and worry about it, but I don’t. What is inevitable, and those things over which I can have zero control, are simple to be accepted and worked with, as there is no opposing them.