Since the financial crisis in 2008, there has been a renewed interest in Marx and Engels amid deepening social divisions and sharpening of social conflicts.

Engels has contributed substantially to the Marxist theory, not least with his acute observation of workers’ condition and exploitation of capitalists.

Instead of utilizing the theory rigidly, over the past century, the CPC has combined the fundamental principles of Marxism with the reality of China, working miracles from revolution to the opening up.

LONDON/BERLIN/BEIJING, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) — In downtown Manchester, England, frock-coated and bearded Friedrich Engels crosses his arms over the chest, contemplating at the heart of a posh, modern business district.

The statue was installed three years ago in the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, which, along with much of Europe, had witnessed the darkest, most inhuman side of capitalism.

Nicknaming himself «the second fiddle,» Engels worked arduously with his confidant Karl Marx. The pair explored the truth and rules behind the capitalist system, concluding that the capital was governed primarily by the pursuit of profit with no regard for human life. The groundbreaking theories changed the course of history in the 19th century.

Photo taken on Nov. 17, 2020 shows a statue of Friedrich Engels in Manchester, Britain. (Photo by Jon Super/Xinhua)

Two hundred years after his birth, the world Engels is gazing at from his pedestal is again undergoing unprecedented changes: the most serious pandemic in the past century, the worst global economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the ever-pronounced social conflicts since the financial crisis, which have prompted a second thought about the role of capital and a complete rethink of governance.

It is clear that the far-reaching influence of Marx and Engels’ contribution to the world is not confined to their age. Rather, their insights could well shed much light on the future path the world needs to embark on at a time of profound uncertainty.


Engels was born into an affluent capitalist family in a baroque house in Wuppertal, a town at the heart of western Germany’s Ruhr industrial region, where he spent his childhood and youth.

Wuppertal labeled 2020, the bicentenary of his birth which fell on Nov. 28, «the Year of Engels.» Posters featuring a young spirited Engels, renowned as «a thinker, a doer and a Wuppertaler,» are seen across the city.

One can’t help but wonder why Engels is still widely remembered in Germany, where Marxism is not considered a mainstream school of thought, and also in Manchester, where the statue, brought to Britain from a village in eastern Ukraine through Europe, was erected in his honor.

Photo taken on April 17, 2018 shows different English editions of «The Communist Manifesto» at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, Greater Manchester, Britain. (Xinhua/Han Yan)

Dr. Lars Bluma, a scholar at Historic Center of Wuppertal, told Xinhua it is because some of his thinking, despite being rooted in his time, «is beyond his time, and is still meaningful and inspiring today.»

Even today, capitalism in the West is different from before, and people are still seeking to use his theory to avoid «the flaws of capitalism,» said Bluma.

In the German capital of Berlin, inside Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, a group of scholars are making tremendous efforts, along with international partners, to collect and proof-read a sea of original scripts by Marx and Engels.

Under the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA) project, the scholars aim to publish a complete edition of the works, manuscripts and correspondence of Marx and Engels «as comprehensively true to the original as possible.»

Photo taken on Sept. 16, 2020 shows a baroque house where Friedrich Engels was born in Wuppertal, Germany. (Xinhua/Ren Ke

Gerald Hubmann, chief of the editorial department, told Xinhua that the meaning of their works is profound.

Since the financial crisis in 2008, there has been a renewed interest in Marx and Engels amid deepening social divisions and sharpening of social conflicts, said Hubmann.

His department also plans to publish a scholarly version of The Condition of the Working-Class in England this year to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Engels’s birth.

«As long as basic social problems of capitalism and this misery persist, Marx and Engels will remain the classical theorists and critics of capitalism,» he said.

Waterstones, a British book retailer, has reported soaring sales of the Communist Manifesto since the global financial crisis, along with «Das Kapital,» Marx’s masterpiece of political economy, and the «Grundrisse,» or in English, the «Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy.»

«People are going back to their classics to find solutions and inspirations for today’s society,» Hubmann said.


In the autumn of 1842, Engels, 22, moved to Manchester then known as «Cottonopolis» and started working for his family’s textile business. In Engels’s «second hometown,» Engels and Marx consolidated their friendship and started to develop groundbreaking theories.

Little Ireland, now a red-bricked residential area in Manchester, looks serene and unimpressive. But according to Engels, the former residence of Irish workers was once «the worst of the slums of the township» with appalling living conditions that tested the very limit of human beings.

Photo taken on Nov. 17, 2020 shows a plaque on a building at the site where Friedrich Engels once lived in Manchester, Britain. (Photo by Jon Super/Xinhua)

It was the tragic conditions of workers that prompted Engels to write his landmark work The Condition of the Working-Class in England. It is believed that Marx was «bewitched» by the book, and the pair, who belonged to substantially different classes, embarked on a journey that changed the course of human history.

Chetham’s Library, a light-brown medieval sandstone building in Manchester, testifies to such solid friendship between the two. A stained oak desk known as Marx’s desk remains almost unchanged in the window alcove of the reading room.

The library, according to senior librarian Fergus Wilde, played a «crucial» role in forming their theories and arguments and ultimately led to their work «The Communist Manifesto» that was published in late February 1848.

Even though Engels was often seen as playing a supporting role to Marx, there is no denying Engels contributed extensively to the development of Marxism.

The «second fiddle,» a nickname that Engels gave himself, shows his modesty as he always prioritized Marx’s study and supported him financially and academically, Wilde told Xinhua.

«We shouldn’t forget that such a supporting role was utterly vital to Marx. Had Engels not supported him, he would probably never have been able to write Das Kapital,» Wilde said.

Bluma, the scholar at Historic Center of Wuppertal, also stressed the noble character of Engels.

«In a way, he was very modest about himself and he knows how to be a friend by offering all. Their friendship was rather solid since they have the same view on world, life, and values.»

Indeed, Engels has contributed substantially to the Marxist theory, not least with his acute observation of workers’ condition and exploitation of capitalists.

They co-authored the Communist Manifesto and co-founded the first proletarian party in the world to change the fate of the working class.

Photo taken on April 16, 2018 shows the oak desk known as Karl Marx’s desk remaining almost unchanged in the window alcove of the reading room at Chetham’s Library in Manchester, Britain. (Xinhua/Han Yan)

After the death of Marx, Engels shouldered the role of leading international workers’ movement, sorting out and publishing Marx’s unfinished work including Das Kapital, while continuing to defend and develop Marxist theory, whose influence goes far beyond their time and the European borders.


A permanent exhibition in the Exhibition Hall of Marxism Communication in Beijing, China, draws thousands of visitors each year. The exhibits include some 500 pieces of publications and manuscripts about Marxism and some 300 photos and drawings of Marx and Engels.

A white bust of bearded Engels is surrounded by various versions of the Communist Manifesto and some early versions of Engels’s works such as Anti-Duehring.

Zang Fengyu, dean of School of Philosophy at Renmin University of China, has been studying Engels for a decade. Apart from his role in developing Marxism, Engels made significant contributions to helping translate Marxist theories into practice, Zang said.

«Engels made substantial contributions to helping us understand Marxism, socialism as well as governance of modern society. The works by Engels in his late years about socialist governance have proved very inspiring for modern countries,» Zang told Xinhua.

In the West, since the financial crisis, more countries are enhancing regulations on the economy instead of relying on sheer market competition. The Western governments are also seeking to improve social welfare by enacting laws about working hours and minimum wages, all testifying to the wisdom in Marxism.

Engels once said: «A nation that wants to climb the pinnacles of science cannot possibly manage without theoretical thought.»

In China, ever since the birth of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1921, the party has been holding Marxism as its flagship theory.

Instead of utilizing the theory rigidly, over the past century, the CPC has combined the fundamental principles of Marxism with the reality of China, working miracles from revolution to the opening up.

«The essence of socialism with Chinese characteristics is to combine Marxism with the Chinese reality and find a path of development of our own,» said Tao Wenzhao, deputy dean of the School of Marxism Studies at Renmin University of China.

Han Yuhai, a leading scholar from Peking University who studies Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the latest achievement in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context, said history has shown that Marxism can only maintain its vitality in China when it is rooted in the Chinese civilization and combined with Chinese practice, to meet the demand of the Chinese people and solve China’s practical problems.
In recent years, despite continuing sluggish growth among many developed countries, China has maintained medium to high speed of growth, contributing about 30 percent to world economy growth.

In the fifth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee held in Beijing in late October, the CPC raised a set of long-range objectives for China to basically achieve socialist modernization by 2035. Marxism has continued to play a guiding role in China, and its impact extends apparently beyond its borders.

As Phil Collins, the British artist who transported the statue of Engels from Ukraine to Manchester, has once said, Engels is a writer «with whom we can engage today, with the questions he raises. He isn’t to be confined to his time and forgotten.»

From the West to the East, this has proved more than true.

(Video Reporters: Zhang Yuan, Zhang Yirong, Ren Ke, Liang Xizhi, Jin Jing, Wang Pu, Tian Chenxu, Oliver W Jarvis; Editor de video: Ma Ruxuan)