Friedrich-Engels-001Frederick Engels was twenty four years old when he wrote The Condition of the Working Class in England.

Born in Germany he had been sent to Manchester in 1842  to work at the family cotton firm of Ermin and Engels. His father hoped that the young Engels, already something of a radical, would knuckle down and become a bourgeois businessman. Instead the experience of industrial Manchester, turned Engels into a revolutionary socialist. With the help of his Irish working class girlfriend Mary Burns, Engels gathered first hand evidence of the shocking living conditions of the working class. His book was a passionate denunciation of those conditions and the English bourgeoisie who profited from them. Below are some excerpts from The Condition of the Working Class in England.

the workers

cotton women…the humanity of the workers is constantly manifesting itself pleasantly. They have experienced hard times themselves, and can therefore feel for those in trouble; to them every person is a human being, while the worker is less than a human being to the bourgeois; whence they are more approachable, friendlier, and less greedy for money, though they need it far more than the property holding class.


Because the English bourgeois finds himself reflected in his law, as he does in his God, the policeman’s truncheon which, in a certain measure, is his own club, has for him a wonderfully soothing power. But for the working man quite otherwise! The working man knows too well, has learned from too-oft repeated experience, that the law is a rod which the bourgeois has prepared for him.


Another source of demoralization among the workers is their being condemned to work. As voluntary, productive activity is the highest enjoyment known to us, so is compulsory toil the most cruel, degrading punishment….Every improvement in machinery throws workers out of employment, and the greater the advance, the more numerous the unemployed; each great improvement produces, therefore, upon a number of workers, the effect of a commercial crisis, creates want, wretchedness, and crime.


…the slavery in which the bourgeoisie  holds the proletariat chained, is nowhere more conspicuous than in the factory system. Here ends all freedom in law and fact…Here the employer is absolute law-giver; he makes regulations at will, changes and adds to his codex at pleasure, and even, if he inserts the craziest stuff, the courts say to the working man: ‘You were your own master, no one forced you to agree to such a contract if you did not wish to; but now, when you have freely entered into it, you must be bound by it.’

the bourgeoisie

…the bourgeois…is saturated with class prejudices poured into him from his earliest youth. There is nothing to be done with the bourgeois; he is essentially conservative in however liberal a guise, his interest is bound up with that of the property-holding class, he is dead to all active movement;