Below is an article written by Friedrich Engels in Der Sozialdemokrat in Germany on March 22, 1883 reporting on the funeral in London of Karl Marx, and it includes his own speech at the graveside. LALIT is publishing the article to mark the date of his death, 129 years ago. Engel’s simple exposition of Marx’s contribution really makes his detractors seem what they are: people criticizing what is not what Marx said.
On Saturday, March 17, 1883, Engels wrote, Marx was laid to rest in Highgate Cemetery, in the same grave in which his wife had been buried fifteen months earlier.
At the graveside Gottlieb Lemke laid two wreaths with red ribbons on the coffin in the name of the editorial board and dispatching service of the Sozialdemokrat and in the name of the London Communist Workers’ Educational Society.
Frederick Engels then made the following speech in English:
"On the 14th of March, at a quarter to three in the afternoon, the greatest living thinker ceased to think. He had been left alone for scarcely two minutes, and when we came back we found him in his armchair, peacefully gone to sleep - but forever.
"An immeasurable loss has been sustained both by the militant proletariat of Europe and America, and by historical science, in the death of this man. The gap that has been left by the departure of this mighty spirit will soon enough make itself felt.
"Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc; that therefore the production of the immediate material means of subsistence and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.
"But that is not all. Marx also discovered the special law of motion governing the present-day capitalist mode of production and the bourgeois society that this mode of production has created. The discovery of surplus value suddenly threw light on the problem, in trying to solve which all previous investigations, of both bourgeois economists and socialist critics, had been groping in the dark.
"Two such discoveries would be enough for one lifetime. Happy the man to whom it is granted to make even one such discovery. But in every single field which Marx investigated -- and he investigated very many fields, none of them superficially -- in every field, even in that of mathematics, he made independent discoveries.
"Such was the man of science. But this was not even half the man. Science was for Marx a historically dynamic, revolutionary force. However great the joy with which he welcomed a new discovery in some theoretical science whose practical application perhaps it was as yet quite impossible to envisage, he experienced quite another kind of joy when the discovery involved immediate revolutionary changes in industry and in historical development in general. For example, he followed closely the development of the discoveries made in the field of electricity and recently those of Marcel Deprez.
"For Marx was before all else a revolutionist. His real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the state institutions which it had brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the modern proletariat, which he was the first to make conscious of its own position and its needs, conscious of the conditions of its emancipation. Fighting was his element. And he fought with a passion, a tenacity and a success such as few could rival. His work on the first Rheinische Zeitung (1842), the Paris Vorworts! (1844), Brusseler Deutsche Zeitung (1847), the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (1848-49), the New York Tribune (1852-61), and in addition to these a host of militant pamphlets, work in organisations in Paris, Brussels and London, and finally, crowning all, the formation of the great International Working Men`s Association -- this was indeed an achievement of which its founder might well have been proud even if he had done nothing else.
"And, consequently, Marx was the best-hated and most calumniated man of his time. Governments, both absolutist and republican, deported him from their territories. Bourgeois, whether conservative or ultra-democratic, vied with one another in heaping slanders upon him. All this he brushed aside as though it were cobweb, ignoring it, answering only when extreme necessity compelled him. And he died beloved, revered and mourned by millions of revolutionary fellow-workers -- from the mines of Siberia to California, in all parts of Europe and America -- and I make bold to say that though he may have had many opponents he had hardly one personal enemy.
"His name will endure through the ages, and so also will his work!"
Then Marx`s son-in-law Longuet read the following addresses which had been received in French.
I. On the Grave of Karl Marx from the Russian Socialists
"In the name of all Russian socialists I send a last farewell greeting to the outstanding Master among all the socialists of our times. One of the greatest minds has passed away, one of the most energetic fighters against the exploiters of the proletariat has died.
"The Russian socialists bow before the grave of the man who sympathised with their strivings in all the fluctuations of their terrible struggle, a struggle which they shall continue until the final victory of the principles of the social revolution. The Russian language was the first to have a translation of Capital that gospel of contemporary socialism. The students of the Russian universities were the first to whose lot it fell to hear a sympathetic exposition of the theories of the mighty thinker whom we have now lost. Even those who were opposed to the founder of the International Working Men`s Association in respect of practical questions of organisation were obliged always to bow before his comprehensive knowledge and lofty power of thought which penetrated the substance of modern capital, the development of the economic forms of society and the dependence of the whole history of mankind on those forms of development. Even the most vehement opponents that he found in the ranks of the revolutionary socialists could not but obey the call that he and his lifelong friend sent into the world 35 years ago:
" ‘Proletarians of All Countries, Unite!’
"The death of Karl Marx is mourned by all who have been able to grasp his thought and appreciate his influence upon our time. I allow myself to add that it will be still more deeply mourned by those who associated closely with Marx, especially by those who loved him as a friend.
"P. Lavrov." Paris, March 15, 1883.
"The Paris branch of the French Workers` Party expresses its grief at the loss of the thinker whose materialist conception of history and analysis of capitalist production founded scientific socialism and the present revolutionary communist movement. It also expresses its respect for Marx as a man and its complete agreement with his doctrines.
"The Secretary, Lipine." Paris, March 16, 1883.
"In my own name and as a delegate of the Spanish Workers` Party (Madrid Branch), I share the immense grief of the friends and daughters of Marx at the cruel loss of the great Socialist who was the master of us all.
Jose Mesany Leompart. Paris, March 16, 1883.
Then Wilhelm Liebknecht made the following speech in German:
"I have come from the heart of Germany to express my love and gratitude to my unforgettable teacher and faithful friend. To my faithful friend! Karl Marx’s greatest friend and colleague has just called him the best-hated man of this century. That is true. He was the best-hated but he was also the best-loved. The best-hated by the oppressors and exploiters of the people, the best-loved by the oppressed and exploited, as far as they are conscious of their position. The oppressed and exploited people love him because he loved them. For the deceased whose loss we are mourning was great in his love as in his hatred. His hatred had love as its source. He was a great heart as he was a great mind. All who knew him know that.
"But I am here not only as a pupil and a friend, I am here as the representative of the German Social-Democrats who have charged me with expressing their feelings for their teacher, for the man who created our party, as much as one can speak of creating in this connection.
"It would be out of place here to indulge in fine speeches. For nobody was a more vehement enemy of phrase-mongering than Karl Marx. It is precisely his immortal merit that he freed the proletariat, the working people`s party, from phrases and gave it the solid foundation of science that nothing can shake. A revolutionary in science and a revolutionary through science, he scaled the highest peak of science in order to come down to the people and to make science the common good of the people.
"Science is the liberator of humanity.
"The natural sciences free us from God. But God in heaven still lives on although science has killed him.
"The science of society that Marx revealed to the people kills capitalism, and with it the idols and masters of the earth who will not let God die as long as they live.
"Science is not German. It knows no barriers, and least of all the barriers of nationality It was therefore natural that the creator of Capital should also become the creator of the International Working Men’s Association.
"The basis of science, which we owe to Marx, puts us in a position to resist all attacks of the enemy and to continue with ever-increasing strength the fight which we have undertaken.
"Marx changed the Social-Democracy from a sect, a school, into a party, the party which is now fighting undaunted and which will be victorious.
"And that is true not only of us Germans. Marx belongs to the proletariat. It was to the proletariat of all countries that his life was dedicated. Proletarians who can think and do think in all countries have grateful reverence for him.
"It is a heavy blow that has fallen on us. But we do not mourn. The deceased is not dead. He lives in the heart, he lives in the head of the proletariat. His memory will not perish, his doctrine will be effective in ever broader circles.
"Instead of mourning, let us act in the spirit of the great man who has died and strive with all our strength so that the doctrine which he taught and for which he fought will be put into practice as soon as possible. That is the best way to honour his memory!
"Deceased, living friend, we shall follow to the final aim you showed us. We swear it on your grave!"
Besides those mentioned there were also present at the grave, among others, Karl Marx’s other son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, Friedrich Lessner, who was sentenced at the Cologne Communist Trial in 1852 to five years’ imprisonment in a fortress, and G. Lochner, also an old member of the Communist League. The natural sciences were represented by two celebrities of the first magnitude, the zoologist Professor Ray Lankester and the chemist Professor Schorlemmer, both members of the London Academy of Sciences (Royal Society).
Signed: Fr. Engels