Hello, I'm Fabian W. W. Mauruschat, author of the graphic novel "Engels" about the life of Friedrich Engels together with illustrator Christoph Heuer and co-author Uwe Garske. The comic was published in German in 2020 and depicts the life of revolutionary and entrepreneur Friedrich Engels, who together with Karl Marx wrote "Capital: A Critique of Political Economy" and numerous other works analyzing basic mechanisms of capitalism.AMA!

My proof: https://fabian-mauruschat.de/ama-proof/

EDIT: Okay, I'm logging of now but maybe I can answer some more questions tomorrow. (Sorry, forgot to write EDIT earlier.)

EDIT: Thank you for all the questions and I hope I was able to answer them to your satisfaction. It was a bit to be expected that the discussion is partly about communism - however it is defined - and not so much about the life of Friedrich Engels, but that's just the way it is. Hopefully our book will be available in English soon so you can get a better picture of it. In any case, I enjoyed this AMA very much.

Comments: 172 • Responses: 41  • Date: 

orangeneon38 karma

What's a fun fact about Friedrich Engels?

FabianWWM77 karma

He was very nearsighted, but also very vain. There is no photo of him with glasses. So our illustrator drew him with glasses on if possible.

DigiMagic31 karma

I'm living in a former communist country. It seems that whenever there is a communist revolution or equivalent events, it always ends up in one guy essentially becoming a new "king". It happened that way in Russia, China, Cuba, ... everywhere; and it still is that way. So that made me wonder - were those guys that became "kings" in their countries just literally following works on Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc; was that meant to happen?

Or it was the opposite, they knew that point of the books were worker's rights etc, but they've seized the power for themselves anyway when they've got the chance? If this is the case, did Engels and others predict that instead of people there will be "kings" ruling countries, or they've missed that?

FabianWWM21 karma

I think partly this is due to the claim of the communist ideology to be a total ideology that should cover all areas of life. This made it very easy for dictators like Stalin to establish their totalitarian rule.
Partly, this is because of terms like "dictatorship of the proletariat" that was used by Engels and Marx. What was envisioned was the rule of the working class after a revolution that would usher in a classless society. But thus the term dictatorship itself became something positive - which Lenin and later Stalin also used.
The great influence of the Soviet Union later also ensured that the self-designated communist states later became similar dictatorships.

Iregularlogic-44 karma

This is actual nonsense that you’re writing here. Communism will always require complete top-down control, this isn’t something that’s been abused by dictators that are just trying to seize power.

The state needs to control the supply of every item (and food), the state needs to control every job and who gets to fill it, and the state needs to control where you live. These are fundamental to these sociopathic systems. The system of communism is inherently authoritarian.

I’m leaving a George Orwell quote that’s always relevant when communism pops up:

During the 1930s, there were many apologists for Joseph Stalin's brutalities, which he committed in the name of building a workers' paradise fit for an improved humanity. The apologists complacently said, 'You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs.' To which George Orwell acidly replied: 'Where's the omelet?'

FabianWWM18 karma

I would say that's exactly what communist dicators say: "Everything needs to be controlled by the party."

Thewalrus5156 karma

How do you have centralized economic planning without complete control by the state?

FabianWWM23 karma

According to Engels, there would be no state. Just means of production owned by the people and the state dying as he is no longer necessary. He did write about that in "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific"

Morthra-9 karma

Engels and Marx were hacks and their work should be treated like the intellectual garbage it is, especially for inspiring genocidal monsters in Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, Kim Il Sung, and basically every communist regime in history.

Das Kapital and similar belong right next to Mein Kampf - they have similar literary value.

FabianWWM0 karma

As I see it, you can't compare the scribbled manifesto of a genocidal megalomaniac with the serious written attempt to understand and analyze the dominant economic system. No matter how much you think it contributed to the atrocities of the soviet regimes, it is not a pamphlet of hate. And, besides, it is a far more difficult read than Mein Kampf.

Thewalrus515-15 karma

That’s not a real answer, more of a deflection.

FabianWWM18 karma

But I can't answer how to have centralized economic planning without complete control by the state. And since this AMA is about the graphic novel about Friedrich Engels I did write what I know he thought.

Thewalrus515-30 karma

When’s your graphic novel apologia about Stalin or Mao going to come out?

FabianWWM21 karma

There is already "The Death of Stalin" by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin, you should read that.

luftwaffle0-19 karma

What would happen to Ukraine if they had decided in January 2022 that they were going to get rid of their state and be true communists?

What would happen to Taiwan if they did that?

FabianWWM24 karma

According to Engels and Marx, states have no say in this. A state can't decide to be a communist society in their argumentation.

Goukaruma8 karma

What I find curious is that "communists" may made reasonable complains about capitalism but then do the same things. They ban unions because they "aren't needed. ", they pay their employees bad and don't care for their health or the environment.

FabianWWM29 karma

That's a bit complicated. Marx for example wrote about unions: "Trade union cooperatives originally arose from the spontaneous attempts of workers [...] to enforce contract terms that would at least elevate them above the position of mere slaves. The immediate aim of the trade-union cooperatives was therefore confined to the requirements of the day, to means of warding off the constant encroachments of capital, in a word, to questions of wages and working hours. This activity of the trade union cooperatives is not only legitimate, it is necessary."

In so-called communist countries, the leadership usually claims that the working class is free and in possession of the means of production, so there is no need for unions and minimum wages, etc. Yet the means of production are usually owned by the state, not by society.

BringMeInfo1 karma

In astronomy, a revolution is a journey back to where you started. Political revolutions seem to not be much different.

FabianWWM17 karma

Well, tell that the French Kings. Or George Washington.

DaYooper2 karma

Well, tell that the French Kings

When they ended up with a total emperor? Or the restoration of the monarchy?

FabianWWM2 karma

The Ancien Régime was no more. France and most of Europe were very different places, even after the Congress of Vienna.

BringMeInfo-4 karma

Yep, it’s amazing how far back you have to look to find an exception.

EverythingsStupid3214 karma

I would argue that in Washington's case it was more evolutionary, in that much of the U.S. Constitution was the next step forward in civil liberties from the Magna Carta.

FabianWWM3 karma

That's also what communist thinkers say about the revolution: That it is a natural phenomenon bound to happen, like a evolutionary step.

igenus44-15 karma

They missed it. As does all the people clamoring for communism today.

Marx and Engels forgot the basic human instinct of greed. Everyone wants more, no matter what they have. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, is the definition of insanity.

But it will work this time, right?

FabianWWM30 karma

They did not forget greed. According to Engels, "Flat greed has been the driving soul of civilization from its first day until today, wealth and again wealth and for the third time wealth, wealth not of society but of this single ragged individual, its only decisive goal." as he wrote in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.

SapirWhorfHypothesis11 karma

I’d hate to turn your ama into just a question and answer about communism, but what did Engels then say we should do about this greed?

FabianWWM24 karma

I was a little afraid it would turn out that way, but no problem.

It's not so easy to say what paths to a classless society Engels envisioned, anyway. He wrote political texts for about 60 years and changed his mind from time to time. He and Marx lived in societies deeply defined by class and property. I think his path away from greed is a path of rethinking property. He had hoped and expected society to evolve.
In the End of "The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State." he quoted the American anthropologist Lewis H. Morgan:
" The time will comenevertheless, when human intelligence will rise to the mastery over property, and define the relations of the state to the property it protects, as well as the obligations and the limits of the rights of its owners. The interests of society are paramount to individual interests, and the two must be brought into just and harmonious relations. A mere property career is not the final destiny of mankind, if progress is to be the law of the future as it has been of the past."

igenus44-12 karma

This is talking about greed in the sense of money, monetary wealth, etc.

The greed that was forgotten is in power. Power over others. Once a man gets a taste of power, nothing else matters. Especially for a greedy man.

Look at Donald Trump, Hitler, Putin, Mao, Castro, etc. for examples.

Marx and Engels had good concepts, but didn't factor in multiple aspects of the human psyche. They didn't understand the narcissistic mind.

FabianWWM11 karma

Well, with Engels, you can't really separate money and power. Power and property are inseparably linked in most societies.
Every dictator I can think of was or is one of the richest people in his country, even in communist states and even if they tried to appear modest.

igenus44-9 karma

But, they are separate entities. While they coincide in many aspects, they are separate.

That is the main flaw in his theory.

FabianWWM16 karma

That's probably where he would disagree. Money and power are not the same, but usually there is no money without power and vice versa.Interestingly, Engels liked to have money but didn't have a problem with giving a lot of it away to help friends - especially Marx and his family.

terribleatlying12 karma

Socialists believe that greed is an outcome of a person's conditions, not an intrinsic part of being human.

igenus44-2 karma

And Christians think a man was raised from the dead by his father/god.

Just believing something doesn't make it true.

How is it that Ronald Trump is still so greedy? He's been rich his entire life. His monetary greed should be quenched by now.

Are poor people not greedy? Or, is it only when they gain a modicum of wealth that greed sets in?

Animals are greedy. Look at the ones that guard their food. Greed is a basic concept that can be found in many species, not just humans. It can be overcome, but not merely 'wished away' by not believing the intrinsic aspects of it.

FabianWWM11 karma

Engels and other thinkers of communism did not argue with belief but usually also tried to prove their results scientifically. Especially concerning the nature of man. Engels did write that when social institutions are very strong, people come to take them for granted as if they were part of human nature: "The more a social activity, a series of social proceses, becomes too powerful for men's conscious control and grows above their heads, and the more it appears a matter of pure chance, then all the more surely within this chance the laws peculiar to it and inherent in it assert themselves as if by natural necessity."

terribleatlying11 karma

The analysis is we are conditioned to be greedy via capitalism. It's not a matter of being poor or rich.

igenus446 karma

And the analysis is flawed. Greed of monetary aspects are found in every form of economic system. Greed of power aspects are found in every form of government and economic system.

If monetary greed were simply Capitalistic, then why are Putin and his Oligarchs so greedy? They were raised in a Communist economy, yet are more greedy than most capitalists.

FabianWWM9 karma

Putin and the Oligarchs grew up in a communist system where poverty and bribery were commonplace and which was moving ever closer to collapse. Who lived in the Soviet Union must have realized that their system was unlikely to be truly based on equality sooner or later.

dooferoaks11 karma

Is this book available in English? And if so, where? Thanks.

FabianWWM20 karma

Not yet, we are looking for a publisher.

1zzie14 karma

Verso might be interested, they work with Jacobin magazine. Good luck, post back when the book is translated!

FabianWWM4 karma

Thank you, that is a good idea!

Ok-Feedback560410 karma

And from where you gathered infos and hidden facts about Friedrich Engels?

FabianWWM17 karma

A lot from his and Marx' letters, but also from Tristram Hunts ingenious biography "The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels", the novel "Mrs. Engels" by Gavin McCrea and many more books. Also since I live in the town where he was born the museum and town archive could help me very much.

Ok-Feedback56049 karma

How relevant is Friedrich Engels in present time?(in you view)

FabianWWM17 karma

I think that many of Engels' insights into the foundations of capitalism are still valid today. For example, that exploitation is a necessary part of this system or his analysis of global crises. He also had in mind the finite nature of natural resources. So in that sense, Engels is still relevant.

phyrgx7 karma

What would a successful communist society look like in the modern world? How would such a society avoid falling into dictatorship?

FabianWWM13 karma

At the beginning of my research, I thought that I would surely be able to answer such questions easily afterwards. But the more I studied Engels' and Marx's ideas, the more I understood that there are simply no easy answers.
Modern technologies such as global networked communications and 3D printers (means of production) would perhaps be answers to part of this question.

SoSorryOfficial6 karma

What are your thoughts on On Authority?

FabianWWM10 karma

This is a very interesting text. Ultimately, Engels legitimizes authoritarian rule here with political necessities. But at the same time, it is also a realistic text, which assumes that revolutions do not simply happen, but have to be carried out, maintained and defended. Whereby, of course, he also simplifies much in order to discredit his political opponent Bakunin and his anarchism.

robotlasagna4 karma

Don’t you mean “We wrote a novel about Friedrich Engles?”

FabianWWM15 karma

It is short for "I wrote the script for the Graphic Novel about Friedrich Engels with additions and an epilogue by Uwe, drawn by Christoph who had also some additions" The overall structure, the scenes and most of the dialogues is from me.

phyrgx17 karma

pretty sure it was a communism joke lol

SlitScan3 karma


FabianWWM2 karma

Yes, exactly.

CommanderMcBragg4 karma

I read that, in a letter to Engels, Karl Marx wrote "I am not a communist". What do you know of the letter and it's context?

FabianWWM14 karma

As far as I know, Engels wrote in a letter the sentence "All I know is that I am not a Marxist." but that was a quote from Marx himself. It was about the ideas of French Marxists, from whom Marx wanted to distance himself.

The_Great_Evil_King3 karma

What ideas were these?

FabianWWM6 karma

A leader of the French Communists, Guesde, made demands to improve the condition of the workers - which was well within Marx's interests. But for Guesde, this was a kind of bait with which to draw the workers to his side, convince them of the unachievability of reform under capitalism, and trick them to be revolutionaries instead. Marx heard about this and told his son-in-law Lafargue - a comrade-in-law of Guesde: "if this is supposed to be Marxism, then I am not a Marxist."

escape582 karma

ISBN? Als Unterbarmer, unweit von seinem Haus aufgewachsen, besonders interessant.

FabianWWM4 karma

Ah, das kann ich gut verstehen: Die ISBN ist 978-3-948755-49-2.

KillRoyTNT1 karma

Has any country been able at least for a while to reach the economic prosperity using the method that Engels suggested ?

My first take would be Tito's Yugoslavia.

FabianWWM2 karma

As I understand it, Engels had rather little plans for the economic prosperity of nations. After all, his political conviction was that the capitalist system and states must end. However, this did not stop him personally from being a successful entrepreneur.

Comfortable_Tap_85001 karma

Did you know Friedrich Engels once beat Karl Marx in a dance-off? He's got some moves!

FabianWWM1 karma

Sounds reasonable. Marx was probably a no-dance-guy.

dark_lord_of_theSith1 karma

Is your graphic novel available in English?

FabianWWM2 karma

Not yet, but we are looking for a publisher for that market.

ChapoClub1 karma

Is their any money to be made as an author in german market? Can you live of your publishings or do you plan/hope to if not?

FabianWWM3 karma

We received funding from the city of Wuppertal for this comic. In 2020, the 200th birthday of Friedrich Engels was celebrated here and numerous art and cultural projects were funded to mark the occasion. Engels was born here, even though the city of Wuppertal didn't exist at the time. I have written another book about the history of videogames and a fantasy comic, but I also depend on my work as a journalist and lecturer. To live only from writing books doesn't really pay off at the moment.

SureParking2351 karma

Did you know Engels once mistook a banana for a capitalist and called it 'the fruit of exploitation'?

FabianWWM1 karma

Never heard of that. I wish we had put that in our graphic novel.

waitingForMars-12 karma

I spent a lot of years studying the USSR and living there, including grad-level coursework in Marxist economic theories. I have to say when I saw this title come up on Reddit, I was really expecting a link to a The Onion subreddit. Why does anyone invest time in this discredited infantile disorder of an economic theory?

FabianWWM9 karma

From our experience people who had to study Marxism in the GDR hat no idea of the life of Engels and were really surprised about all the things their leaders didn't tell them.

FaustusC-21 karma

Legitimate question:


FabianWWM22 karma

Why not? He was one of the most influential thinkers of the 19th century.

FaustusC-25 karma

Arguably Hitler was one of the most influential politicans of the 20th century, doesn't mean we should write any comics about him.

Just seems distasteful to me. The man helped put out ideas that caused millions of people to suffer and die. Unless it's an objective account that deals purely with facts, it just comes off as a glamorization.

FabianWWM21 karma

I don't think you should compare Hitler and Engels. One was a dicator, the other one a philosopher. And Engels' ideas weren't as inhumane as for example Gobineaus. He did not propose genocide. He analyzed capitalism, noted that it leads to injustice, and proposed how to abolish the system. Dictators have invoked him, as have social reformers, decent politicians, and anti-fascists.

And besides, there is a comic about Hitler. An illustrator called Shigeru Mizuki published it 1971.

jjcpss-11 karma

In term of consequences, Marx and Engels ideas are likely more inhumane than those of, say, Gobineaus. Countries applied their ideas cause long-term disastrous results for everyone involved, not just a subset of people. And you can make the same excuses for Gobineaus. He (wrongly) analyze biological inheritance, (wrongly) noted that it leads to bad society outcome, and proposed a new better society (that is actually much worse). Everyone who invoked Engels and his terrible idea, has brought nothing but terrible outcomes on variety of scales, regardless of intention. In fact, only a particularly terrible idea would turn a good intention to the worst outcome.

Are you gonna be as critical of Hitler as Mizuki in depicting Engels or are you gonna follow most communist propaganda depiction Engels as final prophet of objective truth (like Marx&Engels proclaim their socialism is scientific and communism is historically inevitable?)

FabianWWM10 karma

There are more than two ways of looking at Engels. In our graphic novel, we depict the life of the historical figure and his development. Engels was neither a saint nor a devil, and we show that in the comic as well.

jjcpss-5 karma

Without looking at the validity of their ideas and its consequences, none of any other details of their life are of any substance or with concrete evidence. You might as well as fill in with any variety of your preconception of them. With enough ink, you can paint it in any brush you like, in any style you wish. How are you confident that your reading of Engels' life be any more concrete or valid than, say, the CCP's slice-of-life anime, the adventure of Marx and Engels?

FabianWWM4 karma

Well, I don't know that anime but we have been researching for years. That gives me the confidence.

STFU_Donny724-23 karma

Did you make sure to mention the 8 figure body count that came with applying his theories to the real world in the 20th Century?

FabianWWM23 karma

We could not ignore the criminal dictatorships that refer to Engels and Marx. They are mentioned in the epilogue.

call_of_ktullu12 karma

Capitalism kills a lot of people everyday, everywhere. Or did you forget to mention that?

FabianWWM14 karma

That we had to mention in our graphic novel, too. We think that's what motivated Engels to think about capitalism.