"Eternal memory of the great fighter and teacher of the proletariat Friedrich Engels!"



Friedrich Engels

Against Opportunism

On the 125th anniversary of his death on August 5, 1895

written by Wolfgang Eggers
published by the Comintern (SH)


On the occasion of the 125th anniversary of Friedrich Engels' death, we focus on the struggle of Marx and Engels, which they waged against opportunism throughout their lives.

Marxism developed out of the struggle against opportunism. Lenin, Stalin and Enver Hoxha continued the struggle against opportunism. It is now on us Stalinist-Hoxhaists to continue this struggle against opportunism.

Just as Friedrich Engels defended Marxism against opportunism, so today we defend the 5 classics of Marxism-Leninism against opportunism.



It was Friedrich Engels who faithfully defended Marxism against all kinds of opportunism until the death of Karl Marx and until the end of his own life in 1895. In addition, it was Friedrich Engels who further developed Marxism even after the death of Karl Marx and carried it into the international labor movement.

And finally Friedrich Engels not only waged a theoretical struggle, but was also at the forefront of the practical proletarian class struggle against opportunism. Friedrich Engels remained the Marxist leader of the international communist movement in the fight against opportunism into old age.

All of this distinguished Friedrich Engels - alongside Karl Marx - as the 2nd classic of Marxism-Leninism, as the pioneer on the all-round battlefield against opportunism.

On the 125th anniversary of Friedrich Engels' death, we want to pay tribute to his titanic life's work in the struggle against opportunism and draw lessons from it for our struggle today. It goes without saying that, in view of the extensive works in which Friedrich Engels dealt with the fight against opportunism, we can only make a modest selection within the scope of this article.

* * *

Historically, Marxism made its long way into the international labor movement step by step, developed in struggle against opportunism. In Marx' and Engels' lifetime, Marxism had not yet become the dominant ideology of the proletariat as it was in the time of Lenin, Stalin and Enver Hoxha.

And also after 20 years Comintern (SH), the doctrine of Stalinism-Hoxhaism will be still far from becoming the predominant doctrine in the world. The victory over opportunism is a long and winding road of ideological class struggle.

What was the central question for Engels in his struggle against opportunism ?

That was the question of

"Reform or Revolution?"

The fundamental question on which the world proletariat and the world bourgeoisie are irreconcilably opposed to one another is then as now:

Will the political power of the proletariat be conquered by means of a violent revolution, by means of the smashing of the world capitalist system,will the building of world socialism be achieved through the establishment of the dictatorship of the world proletariat ?
Or can capitalism be overcome peacefully through reforms, can socialism be built up without overthrow of the bourgeoisie and violently smash its state?

In the fight against opportunism, the crucial question has always been:

Does the world proletariat have to establish its own dictatorship by means of the revolutionary smashing of the dictatorship of the world bourgeoisie or not?

Marx and Engels had chosen the revolutionary path, while the opportunists had chosen the reformist path - the one opportunists openly (rightists), and the others masked behind "revolutionary " phrases ("leftists").

The question: "Reform or Revolution?" can only be anwered on the scientific basis of Marxism.

"Revolution in words, reform in deeds".

This is the phenemenology of "leftist" opportunism.

"Leftist" opportunism is only different from rightist opportunism in its form but it is equal in its contents (nature).

At first sight it seems “revolutionary” to speak out against reforms on principle. And so the “left” opportunists reject principally the necessary struggle for reforms and condemn it as allegedly “opportunistic”. It is the “left” opportunism that recognizes the necessity of the revolution in words, but denies the reforms in capitalism as indispensable levers of the revolution.

The opportunists do not understand the dialectical relation between revolution and reform. The struggle for reforms must be subordinated to the struggle for the revolution, serves the revolution. Reforms are a "side effect of the revolution" as Lenin put it. However the revolution is an objective necessity and can never be overridden by reforms. It is the opportunists who call the revolution "superfluous".

And in fact Marx and Engels have their strategy and tactics on the question: “Reform or Revolution?” developed and consolidated against both right-wing opportunism and “left” opportunism.

It is true that the ideological two-front war was mastered and further developed by Lenin, Stalin and Enver Hoxha, But it was Marx and Engels who created it and who applied it differently in all historical phases throughout their lives. For example, Engels exposed the opportunistic tendency of the anarchists, who invoked petty-bourgeois Proudhonism. Bakunin saw Proudhon as “the master of all of us”. (Engels, preface to the second, revised edition “On the Housing Question” from January 10, 1887).

The practical political consequences of “left” opportunistic views often met with reformist, right-wing opportunist practices and vice versa, even in the pre-imperialist period.

Marx and Engels were strictly against sectarian "revolutionary" machinations that worked into the hands of reformism. You can read about this in Friedrich Engels' work : “On the history of the Communist League” (1885).

* * *

The struggle against opportunism waged by the 5 Classics of Marxism-Leninism was waged under two fundamentally different historical conditions of the proletarian class struggle - namely under the conditions of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and under the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Stalinism-Hoxhaism distinguishes three dialectical phases in the appearance of opportunism.

In its first phase, opportunism is directed against the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

In the second phase, opportunism is directed towards the degeneration and destruction of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

And in the third phase, this development is repeated on a higher scale, namely on a world scale.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels waged the struggle against opportunism under the conditions of world domination of the bourgeoisie, just as we Stalinist-Hoxhaists have to do it again today.

On their part, Lenin, Stalin and Enver Hoxha struggled against opportunism under the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

And while Marx and Engels waged the struggle against opportunism in the beginning phase of bourgeois class rule, we continue this struggle against opportunism today in the decaying phase of capitalism.

Stalinism-Hoxhaism teaches that the forms and methods of opportunism do differ from one another under the various historical conditions of the class struggle, but that opportunism in its essence, i.e. as the ideology of the bourgeois agent in the labor movement, does not fundamentally change.

And this cannot be otherwise as long as the bourgeoisie and with it the capitalist class society exist.

By means of opportunism the proletariat remains chained to capitalism. That was the case in Friedrich Engels' time and it is still the case today: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are antogonistic classes, irreconcilably opposed to one another. Opportunism is the ideology of the reconcilation of antagonistic classes.

For what purpose does the bourgeoisie need its opportunist ideology?

The bourgeoisie needs opportunism to prevent the working class from socialist revolution in order to forestall or thwart the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

And what is in the case if opportunism can not fulfill this purpose because it has failed because of the strength of Marxism?

In this case, the bourgeoisie employs those forms and methods of opportunism that are best suited to subvert, weaken and ultimately smash the dictatorship of the proletariat. Here opportunism serves to restore the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

And today the opportunism of the bourgeoisie serves to prevent any re-establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat on a global scale from the outset and to keep the world proletariat away from the world socialist revolution.

* * *

Lenin gave a historical overview of the development of Marxism's struggle against opportunism:

"Marxism by no means consolidated its position all at once. In the first half-century of its existence (from   the 1840s on) Marxism was engaged in combating theories fundamentally hostile to it. In the early forties Marx and Engels settled accounts with the radical Young Hegelians whose viewpoint was that of philosophical idealism. At the end of the forties the struggle began in the field of economic doctrine, against Proudhonism. The fifties saw the completion of this struggle in criticism of the parties and doctrines which manifested themselves in the stormy year of 1848. In the sixties the struggle shifted from the field of general theory to one closer to the direct labour movement: the ejection of Bakuninism from the International. In the early seventies the stage in Germany was occupied for a short while by the Proudhonist Mühlberger, and in the late seventies by the positivist Dühring. But the influence of both on the proletariat was already absolutely insignificant. Marxism was already gaining an unquestionable victory over all other ideologies in the labour movement.

By the nineties this victory was in the main completed. Even in the Latin countries, where the traditions of Proudhonism held their ground longest of all, the workers’ parties in effect built their programmes and their tactics on Marxist foundations. The revived international organisation of the labour movement—in the shape of periodical international congresses—from the outset, and almost without a struggle, adopted the Marxist standpoint in all essentials. But after Marxism had ousted all the more or less integral doctrines hostile to it, the tendencies expressed in those doctrines began to seek other channels. The forms and causes of the struggle changed, but the struggle continued. And the second half-century of the existence of Marxism began (in the nineties) with the struggle of a trend hostile to Marxism within Marxism itself.

Bernstein, a one-time orthodox Marxist, gave his name to this trend by coming forward with the most noise and with the most purposeful expression of amendments to Marx, revision of Marx, revisionism. Even in Russia where—owing to the economic backwardness of the country and the preponderance of a peasant population weighed down by the relics of serfdom—non-Marxist socialism has naturally held its ground longest of all, it is plainly passing into   revisionism before our very eyes. Both in the agrarian question (the programme of the municipalisation of all land) and in general questions of programme and tactics, our Social-Narodniks are more and more substituting “amendments” to Marx for the moribund and obsolescent remnants of their old system, which in its own way was integral and fundamentally hostile to Marxism.

Pre-Marxist socialism has been defeated. It is continuing the struggle, no longer on its own independent ground, but on the general ground of Marxism, as revisionism.

( Lenin: "Marxism and Revisionism" )


We distinguish 6 historical periods of Marxism in the fight against opportunism:



1845 – 1852

Against petty-bourgeois socialism


1864 - 1876

- The struggle of Marxism against “socialism” as it was understood and spread by its petty-bourgeois and bourgeois representatives. In particular against the opportunism during the bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1848/49 and shortly thereafter.



Marx and Engels and their criticism of the Gotha program



Engels' "Anti-Dühring"


1878 – 1890

Engels in his fight against the opportunist conceptions of social democracy (role of the party during the anti-socialist laws / question of parliamentarism)


1891 – 1895

Engels against the bourgeois revision of Marxism (Bernstein etc.)

* * * * * *


1845 – 1852

Against petty-bourgeois socialism

Today, some bourgeois opportunists still refer to the first period of the works of Marx and Engels to misuse it as an anti-communist tool for allegedly "liberating Marxism from the old guard of mummified Stalinists." These bourgeois intelectuals call themselves "Neo-Marxists". However, they are Marxists only in words and Anti-Marxists in deeds.

The first period in which Friedrich Engels defended Marxism against opportunism was the years 1845 to 1852.

The question of reform or revolution played a decisive role in Friedrich Engels' life from an early age. At that time the proletarian revolution was not yet on the agenda of the proletariat, which was still very inexperienced in the class struggle. That was the time when the proletariat had only just begun to see itself as an independent class, to rally, to form, to organize and to create its own revolutionary class party.

In his "Obituary for Friedrich Engels" Lenin wrote:

Marx and Engels were the first to show that the working class and its demands are a necessary outcome of the present economic system, which together with the bourgeoisie inevitably creates and organises the proletariat. They showed that it is not the well-meaning efforts of noble-minded individuals, but the class struggle of the organised proletariat that will deliver humanity from the evils which now oppress it. In their scientific works, Marx and Engels were the first to explain that socialism is not the invention of dreamers, but the final aim and necessary result of the development of the productive forces in modern society.”

Before Marxism gained a foothold in the awakening proletariat, it first had to deal with the petty-bourgeois views of socialism that had emerged on the eve of the bourgeois revolutions. In contrast to the petty-bourgeois representatives of “true” socialism, Marx and Engels developed the proletarian ideology.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels criticized "true socialism" in their works "Die deutsche Ideologie", "Zirkular gegen Kriege", "Deutscher Sozialismus in Versen und Prosa", "Die wahren Sozialisten" and in the "Kommunistisches Manifest". Marx and Engels dealt with the German so-called "true socialism" especially in the second part of their work: "The German ideology".

"A number of writers have appeared who have absorbed a few French and English communist ideas and amalgamated them with their own German philosophical premises. These “socialists” or “true socialists”, as they call themselves, regard foreign communist literature not as the expression and the product of a real movement but as purely theoretical writings which have been evolvedin the same way as they imagine the German philosophical systems to have been evolvedby a process of “pure thought”. (Marx-Enegls; Volume II of The German Ideology, "True Socialism")

Marx and Engels proved that the "true socialists" sought to eclectically combine French petty-bourgeois socialism with the Hegelianism and philosophy of Feuerbach.

To paraphrase Friedrich Engels, Hegel's merit was that he was the first to consider all phenomena from the dialectical point of view in their development, from the point of view of their becoming and passing away. The "true" Socialists, on the other hand, were esotericists and understood neither the French nor the German philosophy of history, because they persisted in the standpoint of philosophical idealism. The "true" socialists (Karl Grün, Moses Hess, Herrman Kriege, etc.) denied the necessity of bourgeois-democratic revolution and the revolutionary role of the proletariat associated with it in the early 1840s.

These people did not want to understand that socialism is a class question in which the proletariat plays the decisive role.

True socialism is a perfect example of a social literary movement that has come into being without any real party interests and now, after the formation of the communist party, it intends to persist in spite of it.“ (German edition; MEW, Volume 3, page 443)

"Even the German police find little to criticize about it - proof enough that it is not one of the progressive, revolutionary, but rather one of the stable, reactionary elements of German literature. (from: Engels "The Status Quo in Germany" - March/April 1847)

In 1888 Engels wrote retrospectively about the "true" socialists:

“True Socialism”, putting literary phrases in the place of scientific knowledge, the liberation of mankind by means of “love” in place of the emancipation of the proletariat through the economic transformation of production. Another thing we must not forget is this: the Hegelian school disintegrated, but Hegelian philosophy was not overcome through criticism. Feuerbach smashed the system and simply discarded it. But a philosophy is not disposed of by the mere assertion that it is false. And so powerful a work as Hegelian philosophy, which had exercised so enormous an influence on the intellectual development of the nation, could not be disposed of by simply being ignored. It had to be “sublated” in its own sense, that is, in the sense that while its form had to be annihilatedhrough criticism, the new content which had been won through it had to be saved.

But in the meantime, the Revolution of 1848 thrust the whole of philosophy aside as unceremoniously as Feuerbach had thrust aside Hegel. And in the process, Feuerbach himself was also pushed into the background. (German edition, MEW, Volume 21, pages 272 – 273.)

Engels repeatedly declared that Feuerbach remained "in spite of the" materialistic "foundation caught up in the traditional idealistic bonds," that the "real idealism of Feuerbach" appears "as soon as we come to his philosophy of religion and ethics. (Friedrich Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy)

"The great basic question of all philosophy", Engels wrote, "especially of more recent philosophy, is that concerning the relation of thinking and being".

"The answers which the philosophers gave to this question split them into two great camps. Those who asserted the primacy of spirit to nature ... — comprised the camp of idealism. The others, who regarded nature as primary, belong to the various schools of materialism. (Friedrich Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, chapter II)

And in his preface to the fourth German edition (1890) of the "Manifesto of the Communist Party" [ German edition, MEW, Volume 22, page 57] Friedrich Engels wrote:

"... make the revolution permanent until all more or less possessing classes are driven out of power, until state power is conquered by the proletariat, and until the association of proletarians not only in one country but in all the ruling countries of the whole world is so far advanced that the competition of the proletarians of all countries has ceased, and at least the decisive productive forces are concentrated in the hands of the proletarians.

This brings us to the First International:


1864 – 1876

The First International

The question of reform and revolution was also central when Marxism united with the international workers movement, in the period of the First International.

"When the European workers had again gathered sufficient strength for a new onslaught upon the power of the ruling classes, the International Working Men's Association came into being. Its aim was to weld together into one huge army the whole militant working class of Europe and America. Therefore it could not set out from the principles laid down in the Manifesto. It was bound to have a programme which would not shut the door on the English trade unions, the French, Belgian, Italian, and Spanish Proudhonists, and the German Lassalleans." (Friedrich Engels; German edition, MEW, Volume 22, page 57)

This was a great challenge for Marx and Engels, which they mastered brilliantly by clearly and unambiguously dissociating the First International from opportunism and asserting their Marxist principles there.

Now it was no longer a question of fighting opportunism in Germany alone, but of opposing it just as resolutely on the international stage.

Thus the demands of the English Trade Unions, which consisted primarily of members of the working class aristocracy, were essentially limited to social and political improvements within the capitalist class order, that is, to further privileges for the better-paid workers.

In the other capitalist countries of Europe, at the time of the founding of the First International, there was not yet a workers aristocracy as there was in England. Among the workers there the influences of petty-bourgeois reformism still prevailed, which demanded the elimination of the ills of capitalism but was still far from the communist goal of the revolutionary smashing of capitalism. The workers movement was then still under the dominant influence of Proudhon, who did not think too much of the trade-union organization of the working class, its strike struggles and the revolutionary struggle for its political emancipation. Instead, Proudhon propagated his barter banks, cooperatives and credit institutions, which is why Engels described his books as "a last attempt to hold the bourgeoisie in theory. (Letter from Engels to Marx, August 21, 1851, in MEW, Volume 27, page 314, German edition)

While Engels propagated proletarian internationalism in his series of articles entitled

What have the working classes to do with Poland?

Proudhon withdrew to the bourgeois-national position of "neutrality" when the Polish workers uprising was stifled in blood by Prussian and Tsarist troops.And finally Marx and Engels also resolutely opposed German Lassalleanism. Lassalle was not a proletarian internationalist, but was among the representatives of nationally limited petty-bourgeois socialism. Lassalle wanted to abolish the laws of capitalist production without touching capitalist production itself. He had succumbed to the reformist illusion that the working class could achieve socialism under the rule of the Junker-Prussian state. He was thus one of the first representatives of the peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism. For this reason, Marx and Engels had theoretically separated from Lassalle as early as the late 1850s and then in the 1860s practically refused to participate in the Lassallean Workers Party.

In his 1865 writing

The Prussian Military Question and the German Workers' Party,

Engels developed the conception of the proletarian party for the fight against the reactionary Prussian government in indirect polemics with the state-socialist Lassenalleanist views. With this work, Engels made an important contribution to the implementation of the Marxist goals of the First International in the German labor movement and to preparing the founding of the first Marxist party in the world.

And Lenin honored the First International in its struggle against opportunism as follows:

In 1864 (September 28) the International Working Men’s Association—the celebrated First International—was founded in London. Marx was the heart and soul of this organization, and author of its first Address and of a host of resolutions, declaration and manifestoes. In uniting the labor movement of various forms of non-proletarian, pre-Marxist socialism (Mazzini, Proudhon, Bakunin, liberal trade-unionism in Britain, Lassallean vacillations to the right in Germany, etc.), and in combating the theories of all these sects and schools, Marx hammered out a uniform tactic for the proletarian struggle of the working in the various countries. Following the downfall of the Paris Commune (1871)—of which gave such a profound, clear-cut, brilliant effective and revolutionary analysis (The Civil War in France, 1871)—and the Bakunin-caused cleavage in the International, the latter organization could no longer exist in Europe. After the Hague Congress of the International (1872), Marx had the General Council of the International had played its historical part, and now made way for a period of a far greater development of the labor movement in all countries in the world, a period in which the movement grew in scope, and mass socialist working-class parties in individual national states were formed. ( Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 21, page 37, German edition)

The "circle" period of the Russian movement, in which Lenin participated, developed from that of the German movement in times of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Karl Marx wrote in a letter to F. Bolte which is of great significance for the history of the whole development of of the proletarian international, especially in its struggle against sectarianism:

I was greatly astonished to see that German Section No. 1 suspects the General Council of a preference for bourgeois philanthropists, sectarians, or amateur groups.
The position is quite the contrary.
The International was founded in order to replace the socialist or semi-socialist sects by a real organisation of the working class for struggle. The original Rules and the Inaugural Address show this at a glance. On the other hand, the International could not have asserted itself if the course of history had not already smashed sectarianism. The development of socialist sectarianism and that of the real labour movement always stand in indirect proportion to each other. So long as the sects are justified (historically), the working class is not yet ripe for an independent historical movement. As soon as it has attained this maturity all sects are essentially reactionary. For all that, what history exhibits everywhere was repeated in the history of the International. What is antiquated tries to reconstitute and assert itself within the newly acquired form.
And the history of the International was a continual struggle of the General Council against the sects and attempts by amateurs to assert themselves within the International itself against the real movement of the working class.

(Marx to Friedrich Bolte, letter from 23. November 1871. Source: MEW, Volume 33, pages 328/329)

Finally, the struggle of Marx and Engels against Bakunism should also be emphasized. In 1873 Engels wrote an article on this:

The Bakunists at Work



Marx and Engels and their criticism of the Gotha program


Engels wrote to August Bebel in March 1875:

"Generally speaking, less importance attaches to the official programme of a party than to what it does. But a new programme is after all a banner planted in public, and the outside world judges the party by it. Hence, whatever happens there should be no going-back ..."

Marx's critique of the Gotha draft program is the most comprehensive, profound and passionate examination of Lassalle's reformist conception. With the consistently principled stance of the Eisenachers, who defended the standpoint of Marx and Engels-who were more closely associated with the German labor movement than with the labor movements of all other countries-, the standpoint of proletarian internationalism and the standpoint of the Paris Commune, the Lassalleans were forced to dissolve their "General German Workers' Association. On the other hand, a certain conciliatory attitude toward some of Lassalle's decisive influences meant an increase in opportunist and reformist views, especially through the associated influx of petty-bourgeois elements into the proletarian party. The compromise with Lassalle, which was bought at far too high a price, provoked sharp criticism from Marx and Engels.

In a letter to Wilhelm Bracke (5th of May, 1875), Karl Marx draw the demarcation line of both Marx and Engels against the coalition program in form of his so called "critical marginal notes":

After the Unity Congress is over, Engels and I will publish a short statement to the effect that we entirely disassociate ourselves from the said programme of principles and have nothing to do with it.
This is indispensable because of the view taken abroad—a totally erroneous view, carefully nurtured by party enemies—that we are secretly directing the activities of the so-called Eisenach Party from here. Only recently, in a newly published Russian work,b Bakunin suggests that I, for instance, am responsible, not only for that party's every programme, etc., but actually for every step taken by Liebknecht from the day he began co-operating with the People's Party.
Aside from this, it is my duty to refuse recognition, even by maintaining a diplomatic silence, to a programme which, I am convinced, is altogether deplorable as well as demoralising for the party.
Every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programmes. Hence, if it was impossible to advance beyond the Eisenach Programme—and circumstances at the time precluded this—they should simply have come to an agreement about action against the common foe. But to draw up programmes of principles (instead of waiting till a longish spell of common activity has prepared the ground for that sort of thing) is to set up bench marks for all the world to see, whereby it may gauge how far the party has progressed.
The leaders of the Lassalleans came because circumstances forced them to. Had they been told from the start that there was to be no haggling over principles, they would have been compelled to content themselves with a programme of action or a plan of organisation for common action. Instead, our people allow them to present themselves armed with mandates, and recognise those mandates as binding, thus surrendering unconditionally to men who are themselves in need of help. To crown it all, they are holding another congress prior to the congress of compromise, whereas our own party is holding its congress post festum* Obviously their idea was to elude all criticism and not allow their own party time for reflection.
One knows that the mere fact of unification is enough to satisfy the workers, but it is wrong to suppose that this momentary success has not been bought too dear.
Besides, the programme's no good, even apart from its canonisation of the Lassallean articles of faith.

(MEW, Volume 34, pages 137/138).

We strongly recommend studying the criticism of Friedrich Engels, which he formulated in his letter to Bebel of March 18/28, 1875. In this letter it says, for example:

The people’s state has been flung in our teeth ad nauseam by the anarchists, although Marx’s anti-Proudhon piece and after it the Communist Manifesto declare outright that, with the introduction of the socialist order of society, the state will dissolve of itself and disappear. Now, since the state is merely a transitional institution of which use is made in the struggle, in the revolution, to keep down one’s enemies by force, it is utter nonsense to speak of a free people’s state; so long as the proletariat still makes use of the state, it makes use of it, not for the purpose of freedom, but of keeping down its enemies and, as soon as there can be any question of freedom, the state as such ceases to exist. We would therefore suggest that Gemeinwesen ["commonalty"] be universally substituted for state; it is a good old German word that can very well do service for the French “Commune.”

The struggle to free the working people from the influence of the bourgeoisie in general, and of the imperialist bourgeoisie in particular, is impossible without a struggle against opportunist prejudices concerning the "state". In criticizing the Gotha Programme of 1875 Marx mercilessly castigated the opportunist character of that programme.

The supersession of the bourgeois state by the proletarian state is impossible without a violent revolution. The abolition of the proletarian state, i.e., of the state in general, is impossible except through the process of “withering away".

The Marxist definition of the state is the state of the proletariat organized as the ruling class, the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The necessity of systematically imbuing the masses with this and precisely this view of violent revolution lies at the root of the entire theory of Marx and Engels

This revolutionary theory of Marx and Engels of the state was ignored or had been distorted by the opportunists.

Lenin comments on this letter from Engels to Bebel on the question of the state ("State and Revolution") as follows:

The “free people's state” was a programme demand and a catchword current among the German Social-Democrats in the seventies. this catchword is devoid of all political content except that it describes the concept of democracy in a pompous philistine fashion. Insofar as it hinted in a legally permissible manner at a democratic republic, Engels was prepared to “justify” its use “for a time” from an agitational point of view. But it was an opportunist catchword, for it amounted to nothing more than prettifying bourgeois democracy, and was also a failure to understand the socialist criticism of the state in general. We are in favor of a democratic republic as the best form of state for the proletariat under capitalism. But we have no right to forget that wage slavery is the lot of the people even in the most democratic bourgeois republic. Furthermore, every state is a “special force” for the suppression of the oppressed class. Consequently, every state is not “free” and not a “people's state". Marx and Engels explained this repeatedly to their party comrades in the seventies.

It should be borne in mind that this letter refers to the party programme which Marx criticized in a letter dated only a few weeks later than the above (Marx's letter is dated May 5, 1875), and that at the time Engels was living with Marx in London. Consequently, when he says “we” in the last sentence, Engels undoubtedly, in his own as well as in Marx's name, suggests to the leader of the German workers' party that the word “state” be struck out of the programme and replaced by the word “community”.

What a howl about “anarchism” would be raised by the leading lights of present-day “Marxism”, which has been falsified for the convenience of the opportunists, if such an amendment of the programme were suggested to them!

"The 'people's state' has been thrown in our faces by the anarchists". In saying this, Engels above all has in mind Bakunin and his attacks on the German Social-Democrats. Engels admits that these attacks were justified insofar as the "people's state" was as much an absurdity and as much a departure from socialism as the "free people's state". Engels tried to put the struggle of the German Social-Democrats against the anarchists on the right lines, to make this struggle correct in principle, to ride it of opportunist prejudices concerning the “state”.

In regard to the republic, Engels made this the focal point of this criticism of the draft of the Erfurt Programme. And when we recall the importance which the Erfurt Programme acquired for all the Social- Democrats of the world, and that it became the model for the whole Second International, we may say without exaggeration that Engels thereby criticizes the opportunism of the whole Second International.

"The political demands of the draft," Engels wrote, "have one great fault. It lacks [Engels' italics] precisely what should have been said."

The compromise with Lassalle led to a split in the German labor movement, which later reached its peak worldwide with the founding of the Communist International and this split continues to exist today on the question: "Reform or Revolution?"

There are still both camps in the world communist movement, the bourgeois camp of the reformists, revisionists, neo-revisionists etc., and the proletarian camp of the world revolution which draws its demarcation line against both rightist and "leftist" opportunism.



Engels' “Anti-Dühring”

A rotten spirit is making itself felt in our Party in Germany, not so much among the masses as among the leaders (upper class and “workers”). The compromise with the Lassalleans has led to compromise ... with Dühring and his “admirers,”. (Marx, Letter to Sorge from 19. Oktober 1877)

Dühring represented a reactionary petty-bourgeois socialism. In his theories he eclectically combined idealism, vulgar materialism and positivism. His views coincided with Lassalleanism in the illusion of the peaceful integration of capitalism into socialism. Unlike earlier opponents of Marxism, Dühring attacked all the components of Marxism, claiming to have created a new, all-encompassing system of philosophy, political economy and socialism. Since the influence of pre-Marxist socialism had not yet been overcome, it became necessary for Friedrich Engels to defend Marxism on all sides, to present it in a unified way and to propagate it widely.

In May 1876, Engels decided to interrupt his work on the book "Dialectic of Nature" in order to settle accounts with Dühring and subject it to a scathing critique.

Engels himself explained why the task of fighting Dühring and others had fallen to him:

"As a consequence of the division of labour that existed between Marx and myself, it fell to me to present our opinions in the periodical press, that is to say, particularly in the fight against opposing views, in order that Marx should have time for the elaboration of his great basic work. Thus it became my task to present our views, for the most part in a polemical form, in opposition to other kinds of views". (MEW, Volume 21, page 328, German edition)

Two reasons led Engels to his detailed criticism of Dühring. First, Dühring was a typical representative of the vulgar democratism which were widespread even among the socialists at that time and especially among the opportunistically minded social-democratic intelligentsia. It was necessary to cure the labor movement of this "teething trouble. Secondly, the criticism of Dühring gave the opportunity to confront the principles of Marxist theory on all the fundamental problems of philosophy, political economy and socialism. Anti-Dühring is thus one of the most important Marxist books in which the question "reform or revolution"? was answered on a scientific basis. The Anti-Dühring is a true encyclopedia of Marxism.

The "Anti-Dühring" became the manual of every class-conscious worker, helping him to gain clarity on many theoretical questions and to recognize and reject unscientific views hostile to Marxism as such. In the preface to the third edition Friedrich Engels wrote.

The "system" of Herr Dühring which is criticized in this book ranges over a very wide theoretical domain; I was compelled to follow him wherever he went and to oppose my conceptions to his. As a result, my negative criticism became positive; the polemic was transformed into a more or less connected exposition of the dialectical method and of the communist world outlook represented by Marx and myself -- an exposition covering a fairly comprehensive range of subjects. (MEW, Volume 20, page 8, German edition)

"For the rest, I can be fully satisfied with the spread of the views represented in this writing, since the previous edition, in the public consciousness of science and the working class, in all civilized countries of the world." (MEW, Volume 20, page 15, German edition)

Lenin wrote in his "Obituary to Friedrich Engels":

Engels, in simply written works, often of a polemical character, dealt with more general scientific problems and with diverse phenomena of the past and present in the spirit of the materialist conception of history and Marx’s economic theory. Of Engels’ works we shall mention: the polemical work against Dühring (analysing highly important problems in the domain of philosophy, natural science and the social sciences)."

And in his most famous theoretical work "Materialism and Empirio-criticism" Lenin writes about the "Anti-Dühring" of Engels:

The genius of Marx and Engels consisted in the very fact that in the course of a long period, nearly half a century, they developed materialism, that they further advanced one fundamental trend in philosophy, that they did not stop at reiterating epistemological problems that had already been solved, but consistently applied—and showed how to apply—this same materialism in the sphere of the social sciences, mercilessly brushing aside as litter and rubbish the pretentious rigmarole, the innumerable attempts to “discover” a “new” line in philosophy, to invent a “new” trend and so forth. The verbal nature of such attempts, the scholastic play with new philosophical “isms,” the clogging of the issue by pretentious devices, the inability to comprehend and clearly present the struggle between the two fundamental epistemological trends—this is what Marx and Engels persistently pursued and fought against throughout their entire activity.

Entirely in the spirit of Marx, and in close collaboration with him, Engels in all his philosophical works briefly and clearly contrasts the materialist and idealist lines in regard to all questions, without, either in 1878, or 1888, or 1892, taking seriously the endless attempts to “transcend” “one-sidedness” of materialism and idealism, to proclaim a new trend—“positivism,” “realism,” or some other professorial charlatanism. Engels based his whole fight against Dühring on the demand for consistent adherence to materialism, accusing the materialist Dühring of verbally confusing the issue, of phrasemongering, of methods of reasoning which involved a compromise with idealism and adoption of the position of idealism. Either materialism consistent to the end, or the falsehood and confusion of philosophical idealism—such is the formulation of the question given in every paragraph of Anti-Dühring ; and only people whose minds had already been corrupted by reactionary professorial philosophy could fail to notice it. And right down to 1894, when the last preface was written to Anti-Dühring, revised and enlarged by the author for the last time, Engels continued to follow the latest developments both in philosophy and science, and continued with all his former resoluteness to hold to his lucid and firm position, brushing away the litter of new systems, big and little. (Lenin, Band 14, Seite 342)

The "Anti-Dühring" provoked an angry reaction among the enemies of Marxism. At the Socialist Workers Party Congress in Gotha (1877), attempts to ban the "anti-Dühring" were unsuccessful. And in 1878, under the anti-Socialist Law, Engels' book was banned in Germany.


1878 – 1890

Engels in his fight against the opportunist conceptions of social democracy (role of the party during the anti-socialist laws / question of parliamentarism)

With the theoretical and practical help of Marx and Engels, the revolutionary forces in German social democracy led by August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht prevailed against the advocates of the emotional-socialist opportunist direction. Under the new conditions of the anti-Socialist Law, they worked out their revolutionary strategy and tactics of struggle against the Prussian-German state and, supported by Marx and Engels, developed new methods of class struggle, such as the combination of legal and illegal work, the linking of party, trade union and other mass organizations. During the anti-socialist laws, the right to vote remained in force, so that the Marxist party was represented in the Reichstag. But the opportunist forces in the social-democratic Reichstag faction tried to divert the party from its revolutionary course and push it onto the path of reformism. Engels intervened, arguing that the advocates of petty-bourgeois socialist views did not belong in the ranks of the Social Democracy.

* * *

Engels' support was not limited to the German party. He fought against the opportunist tendencies that emerged in the parties of other countries.

These were expressed in the 1980s in England mainly in reformist Trade Unionism (making the economic struggle of the working class absolute) and in France in the Positivist direction within the labor movement. Engels demanded that the Marxist party is indispensable and cannot be replaced by the unions, that the working class must stand against the working aristocracy.

The struggle against the opportunist direction in the French labor movement took place primarily in connection with the preparation and founding of the Second International. Engels prevented the French representatives of opportunism from usurping the leadership of the international labor movement. He saw their historical parallel in the First International, especially with Bakunism.

Engels demonstrated that both "left" and right opportunism led to the subjugation of the working class to the bourgeoisie:

The point of all this—and the reason why I've thrown myself into it as I have done—is that what we are now witnessing is the re-enactment of the old rift in the International, the old battle of the Hague. The antagonists are the same, save only that the anarchist flag has been exchanged for the Possibilist—principles sold to the bourgeoisie in return for concessions on minor points, more particularly in return for well-paid positions for the leaders (Municipal Council, Labour Exchange, etc.). And the tactics are identical.

(Friedrich Engels, Letter to Sorge from 8. Juni 1889. In: MEW, Volume 37,pages 231/232, German edition)

It was above all through the great personal commitment of Engels - despite his old age - that the foundation of the Second International took place on the soil of Marxism and reflected in the first years of its existence the great influence that the ideas of Marx and Engels had had on the international labor movement. But history proved that the reformist worm was already on its way to eat away the enthusiastic Marxist spirit in the beginning period of the Second International from within. The replacement of revolutionary Marxism by reformism was connected with the death of Friedrich Engels. And after the death of Friedrich Engels it was Lenin who defended revolutionary Marxism against reformism and revisionism.


1891 – 1895

Engels against the bourgeois revision of Marxism

(Bernstein etc.)

After the workers' victory over the anti-Socialist Law, Engels intervened in the discussion on the program of the 1891 Erfurt Party Congress. He pointed out the working class's path to the conquest of political power. This was urgently needed because the opportunist forces in Germany, but also around the world, were increasing their reformist influence on the working class. Engels opposed these opportunist forces and exposed the illusion of the peaceful path to socialism through parliamentarism. Such opportunists as George of Vollmar in Germany rejected socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. But thanks to his intensive work, Friedrich Engels succeeded in getting the Erfurt Party Congress to adopt a Marxist program, the first Marxist program in the world.

Engels pushed through Marxism not only on the question of "reform or revolution?" or on the question of the state, but also on many other fundamental questions of the proletarian class struggle, including the question of agriculture and the alliance with the peasants. Not only did he criticize the harmful influence of the opportunists, but he worked out comprehensively and convincingly the theoretical foundations of the proletarian party's agricultural program under socialist conditions.

From the second half of the 1990s onward, the development of German social democracy, despite its great successes and victories for the working class, which it owed not least to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, was marked by the fact that opportunism was able to spread more and more and gain the upper hand in the form of Bernsteinian revisionism both in the leadership of German social democracy and in the leadership of the Second International.

“The movement is everything, the ultimate aim is nothing"—this catch-phrase of Bernstein’s expresses the substance of revisionism better than many long disquisitions.

And with the predominance of imperialism, opportunism finally acquired a new quality. But it is the historical merit of Lenin to have uncovered this dialectical connection between the further development of opportunism and the analysis of imperialism. But Lenin has always linked his struggle against opportunism with that of Marx and Engels and further developed.

In his writing "Marxism and Revisionism" Lenin wrote:

Marx is attacked with equal zest by young scholars who are making a career by refuting socialism, and by decrepit elders who are preserving the tradition of all kinds of outworn “systems”. The progress of Marxism, the fact that its ideas are spreading and taking firm hold among the working class, inevitably increase the frequency and intensity of these bourgeois attacks on Marxism. The ideological struggle waged by revolutionary Marxism against revisionism at the end of the nineteenth century is but the prelude to the great revolutionary battles of the proletariat, which is marching forward to the complete victory of its cause despite all the waverings and weaknesses of the petty bourgeoisie.


* * *

Finally, we add a collection of quotations from Marx and Engels about their struggle against

The intellectual - opportunistic elements

(only available in German language)


Closing Words


It is known that there were (and still are!) attempts that Friedrich Engels allegedly "deviated" from Marxism in his old age. Still in his lifetime Engels gave such falsifiers a decisive rebuff and resisted being portrayed as an advocate of "legality at any price.

Engels, letter to Richard Fischer, March 8, 1895:

"No party in any country goes so far as to renounce the right to resist illegality with arms in hand. Lawfulness as long and as far as it suits us, but no lawfulness at any price, even in the phrase!"

Marx and Engels dealt with opportunism until they broke with its representatives. They said, "Such people must be expelled from the party."

* * *

Engels distinguished two currents of opportunism, the "left" and the right opportunism. Here we finally present both types by means of two quotations from Engels:

1st quotation from Engels:

They push general, abstract political questions into the foreground, thereby concealing the immediate concrete questions, which at the moment of the first great events, the first political crisis automatically pose themselves. What can result from this except that at the decisive moment the party suddenly proves helpless and that uncertainty and discord on the most decisive issues reign in it because these issues have never been discussed?

2nd quotation from Engels:

This struggling and striving for the success of the moment regardless of later consequences, this sacrifice of the future of the movement for its present, may be “honestly” meant, but it is and remains opportunism, and “honest” opportunism is perhaps the most dangerous of all!" (both quotations in: Engels: A Critique of the Draft Social-Democratic Program of 1891)

The experiences of the Communist World Movement show that the struggles of the world proletariat have always been crowned with success when the proletarian International stands up consistently against all manifestations of opportunism and builds its strategy on the revolutionary lessons of the 5 Classics of Marxism-Leninism, especially on the Marxism that Marx and Engels created together.

To learn from the struggle against opportunism is to learn from Friedrich Engels !

Long live the 125th anniversary of the death of Friedrich Engels, the 2nd Classic of Marxism-Leninism!

Long live the invincible teachings of the 5 Classics of Marxism-Leninism: Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Enver Hoxha!

Long live the violent, proletarian, world socialist revolution and the armed dictatorship of the world proletariat!

Long live world socialism and world communism!

Long live the Comintern (SH)!


Wolfgang Eggers

Comintern (SH)

05. 08. 2020




125 years ago today, on August 5, 1895, Friedrich Engels died.

Long live Friedrich Engels, the 2nd classic of Marxism-Leninism and, together with Karl Marx, the pioneer of the world socialist revolution!