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Marx family

Engels as dickhead? Great novel, bad history

Mrs Engels
By Gavin McCrea
Melbourne: Scribe, 2015,
352 pages, A$29.99

Read more on the Marx household

Review by Barry Healy

August 13, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- For those hankering to know what Friedrich Engels’ erect penis looked like, page 37 of this novel is for you. “In its vigours, it points up and a bit to the side”, says Lizzie Burns, the first-person narrator of the entire story.

She goes on: “Its cover goes all the way over the bell and bunches at the end like a pastry twist. Before he does anything he spits on his hand and peels this back.” Engels is quite enamoured of his member, it seems.

Gavin McCrea’s Lizzie Burns is a brilliant narrative voice and his writing sparkles. Lizzie’s rich brogue and her incisive humour are wonderful.

Eleanor Marx and the dawn of socialist feminism

Eleanor Marx: A Life
By Rachel Holmes
Bloomsbury 2014, £25

Review by Alex Miller

February 2, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- This new and very well-written biography tells the story of the life of Eleanor Marx (known to her family and friends as “Tussy”). Tussy was the third and youngest daughter of Karl and Jenny Marx.

The first part of the book deals with her childhood in London, and recounts her growing up in the the financially insecure and often poverty-stricken Marx family home, where she rubbed shoulders with the likes of Friedrich Engels and William Liebknecht. That part of the story is relatively well known through the many biographies of Karl Marx that have been published over the years.

The story of Tussy’s adult life is less well known, and Rachel Holmes seeks to right this, with the first full-length biography of Tussy since the 1970s.

Jonathan Sperber's new bio seeks to bury Karl Marx, not praise him

Karl Marx, A Nineteenth Century Life
By Jonathan Sperber,
Liveright Publishing, 2013

Click for more on Karl Marx and Marxist theory.

By Barry Healy

September 26, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In life Karl Marx lived a tumultuous, revolutionary life and in death he has likewise been less than tranquil. Alive, he was the best hated man in Europe. For the ruling classes and police spies he personified the “spectre” that was haunting the continent, the demonic rise of communist revolution.

After his death he was bleached of his humanity, canonised by his admirers and slandered by his bourgeois enemies. Both misrepresented him.

His enormous collection of notes and half-formulated writings were bequeathed first to his long-time political collaborator Frederick Engels and later to the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). Engels laboured long and hard and managed to produce the second and third volumes of Capital.

How Friedrich Engels’ radical lover Mary Burns helped him father socialism

Mary Burns’ younger sister, Lizzie, c.1865. Lizzie lived with Engels after her sister died, and married him a day before she herself died. No image of Mary is known to exist.

By Mike Dash

The 'Marx party' -- Karl Marx's revolutionary household

Jenny and Karl Marx, 1869.

Love & Capital: Karl & Jenny Marx & the Birth of a Revolution
By Mary Gabriel,
Little, Brown & Company 2011
707 pages, $39.99

Review by Barry Healy

October 19, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly -- The spectre of Karl Marx still haunts the capitalist world. Only 11 people attended his funeral in 1883 and the corporate press still loves to dance on his grave, constantly declaring that his ideas are irrelevant. Yet with every economic crisis all eyes return to Marx's masterpiece, Capital, to understand what is really going on in our economic system.

How did this extraordinary work get produced? What circumstances fed the creative process?

Through Mary Gabriel’s intimate biography we see that hardship ― unrelenting, heartbreaking miserable poverty ― was the physical context. But in greater measure, love and unstinting generosity of the spirit nurtured the flame of creativity and rebellion.

The author of The Communist Manifesto and Capital, Marx was hounded from country to country in Europe before settling in London to further his revolutionary work. With him every inch of the way, physically, intellectually and emotionally was his family.

Few lives have been lived as intensely as that of Karl Marx. And through this book the zeal that his entire family shared is honoured.

New books reveal Friedrich Engels’ revolutionary life

Engels: A Revolutionary Life, by John Green, Artery Publications, 2008.

Marx’s General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, by Tristram Hunt, Macmillan/Metropolitan, 2009. (First published in Britain as The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels.)

Reviewed by Ian Angus

August 24, 2009 -- Socialist Voice -- Most people on the left know that Friedrich Engels was co-author of the Communist Manifesto and Karl Marx’s lifelong collaborator. But few of today’s radicals know much more than that about the man who built barricades and fought a guerrilla war in Germany in the 1848-49 revolution, the indefatigable organiser who played a decisive role in building the Marxist current from a handful of exiles in the 1850s into the dominant trend in the international working-class movement by the time of his death in 1895.

They can scarcely be blamed for their lack of knowledge: it hasn’t been easy to learn about Engels’ life. In the 110 years after he died, only two substantial biographies were published in English – by Gustav Mayer in 1936 and by W.O. Henderson in 1967 – and both have long been out of print.

Friedrich Engels: the Che Guevara of his day

Review by Alex Miller

Engels: A Revolutionary Life

By John Green

Artery Publications

Paperback 2008

347 pages, £10

Most people know that Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) was the lifelong friend and collaborator of Karl Marx, and for most people the image of Engels that springs most readily to mind is of a heavily bearded, earnest old Victorian gentleman (most likely standing in the background of a group consisting of Marx and his family).

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