Friedrich Engels – a tribute by Wilhelm Liebknecht (1895)

Wilhelm Liebknecht‘s speech on behalf of the Social Democratic Party of Germany on 10 August, 1895 in London at the funeral for Friedrich Engels, published in Vorwärts, 189, 15 August, 1895 – reproduced with thanks to the Marxists Internet Archive

As Engels’ oldest friend in Germany, it fell to me to speak for German social democracy and to express our pain at the loss that affected us. No such blow has fallen on us since Karl Marx was taken from us. Marx died for the second time in Friedrich Engels. And he himself no longer has his own kind among the living. The number of those standing here at the coffin is small. If all were present in the body who are in the spirit – millions and millions would be here and the whole of London would not be big enough to accommodate them all. The simple sense of the dead forbade any public demonstration, and so there are only a few here, but these few represent millions, represent a world which Friedrich Engels discovered and conquered together with Karl Marx and which will bring down the world of capitalism.

Friedrich Engels created scientific socialism with Karl Marx, from whom he is inseparable, with whom he – the intellectual giant with the intellectual giant – has grown into one; He has put socialism from the cloud home of dreams, the philanthropic utopia, on the hard ground of facts and revealed the secret of the laws of development, the knowledge of which, excluding any wrong path, shows the sure way to victory. Already at the age of twenty-three, more than half a century ago, he became a guide for the proletariat in his “situation of the working class in England”. From the high international vantage point of England, which dominated the economic world and the world market, he – like Karl Marx – overlooked the course and the gears of economic development and, jumping over the barriers of nationalities, he grasped the internationality of the labour movement. The class struggle has divided the world into two hostile camps – there are really only two peoples: the people of the capitalists and the people of the proletarians.

Friedrich Engels worked for half a century, and how worked! Half a century of sowing and harvesting. This half century is the history of international social democracy. And when Friedrich Engels visited Germany and Austria two years ago he was able to keep a watchful eye on part of the mighty army which he called up with his Karl Marx. Engels once received the nickname General from his friends as a joke and kept it later. But he was a general, a real military leader. Had things come to a head in a really great battle on the battlefield, he would have been our general at our head. He was a signpost and a guide, a champion and a fellow campaigner, theory and practice were united in him. He stood as a spiritual leader at our head and in his thinking and feeling in action in our midst.

He was a wonderfully versatile and at the same time firmly closed personality, a personality in large and small – capable of the greatest, not neglecting the smallest. Selflessly, always subordinating himself to the matter, sacrificing himself to his great friend until Marx’s death and even after Marx’s death, he always lived his duty, always making the highest demands on himself. A member of his family who is politically distant from us has just told us how he has done his duty in the family. That characterizes him. above humanity he has not forgotten the family – nothing human was alien to him, he always and everywhere did his duty and was loving and cheerful – cheerful even in the most serious battles. In 1849, smiling and joking, he exchanged the pen for the musket, and he stood smiling and joking in the fire. He retained this cheerfulness to the end. Death, the all-conqueror, could probably fell it, not overcome it.

I can’t tell his life. He and Marx gave us the Communist Manifesto; he and Karl Marx founded the International Workers’ Association, which, dead in its old form, is today far, far more than the founders hoped for in their boldest hope – the organized proletariat of the world. The workers of all countries are united, and nothing can stop their victorious course.

The spirit of John Brown advanced the Americans in their struggle against slavery and the slave barons. Your spirit pulls ahead of the proletariat of the world, Friedrich Engels! Your spirit and the spirit of your and our Karl Marx, together like a flaming double star leading us to victory!

We mourn for you as we mourned Karl Marx – but we do not consume each other in inactive mourning! We do not set a monument of ore and stone for you and you both. You are too big for such a monument. And you are not dead. You live in us, and the immense debt of gratitude we owe to both of you can only be removed by putting your teaching into practice. We will do your will! We promise that on your coffin, Friedrich Engels.

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