Enigmatic Engels – the leveller who loved the high life

Cynics say scratch a socialist and you'll find a capitalist, but even cynics would have a tough job explaining Friedrich Engels.

The theories of Engels and the friend he idolised, Karl Marx, may in the end have been responsible for untold misery, yet the man who co-authored the Communist Manifesto was in reality a party animal who made lots of money. As Craig Brown says in The Mail on Sunday, reviewing The Frock-Coated Communist by Tristram Hunt, "the timeworn clich 'to have your cake and eat it' might have been invented for Engels".

Born in 1820, the man who coined the phrase "Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains" became an efficient manager of his family's cotton-spinning business in Manchester, earning, in today's terms, more than £100,000 a year. "In truth," says Brown, "he seems to have had no qualms about having his cake and eating it, while promising, between mouthfuls, that at some point in the not-too-distant future the workers could all enjoy their fair share of the crumbs."

While making his fortune he eventually sold his share of the business for £1.2m, and left stocks valued at £2.2m in his will Engels indulged his taste for the high life."I accuse the English bourgeoisie before the entire world of murder, robbery and other crimes on a massive scale," he wrote, aged 24, to Marx, while energetically pursuing bougeois pursuits himself with the money he'd made out of the poor in Manchester.

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He stabled his horse at a cost (in today's prices) of £8,000 a year, and, asBrown puts it, found the Manchester mill-owners too drearily provincial for his tastes. "For six months past, I have not had a single opportunity to make use of my acknowledged gift for mixing a lobster salad quelle horreur," he once complained to Marx. His 70th birthday party went on until three in the morning, with guests consuming 16 bottles of champagne and 12 dozen oysters, and after his death it emerged that, apart from his own well-stocked wine cellar, wine merchants had kept another 142 dozen bottles under lock and key for him. "A workers' paradise indeed, but one best kept well away from any thirsty workers."

This was the man ("favourite quality jollity; motto take it easy") who became a hero of the Soviet Union with a statue still standing in the city that bears his name. What an odd mixture he was: a racist who despised homosexuals and had no time for the idea of votes for women ("these little madams, who clamour for women's rights"), he was also the crusading author of The Condition of the Working Class in England who befriended Marx, sending him vast sums of money and even sparing his friend's blushes by taking responsibility for the illegitimate son Marx had with his housekeeper.

Hunt says Engels' philosophy can't be blamed for the later communist atrocities any more than Adam Smith can be blamed for the excesses of capitalism. But as Brown says, if a building flattens its inhabitants, the architects, "however congenial, must take their fair share of the blame".

Tabloid money... scrap unpopular ID cards and save £5bn

The determination of this government to get on the wrong side of public opinion is consistent if nothing else, says the Daily Mirror. "Despite opposition across the country and a mammoth estimated cost of £5bn, the decision to continue with the introduction of ID cards is not courageous politics but bloody-minded idiocy.

The government is wrong. Again. A new layer of Big Brother interference in our lives will generate a breeding ground for criminal activity forged ID cards and a fresh minefield of potential civil rights abuses." Scrap this unpopular idea now and save us all money.

"For someone who complains she looks awful naked, she certainly seems to enjoy peeling off," says the Daily Mail. "In fact, reclining against a wall wearing nothing more than skimpy underwear and her trademark pout, Victoria Beckham's latest shoot for Emporio Armani is her raciest yet." It's also lucrative: the advertising campaign based on the shoot will earn Beckham (pictured) an estimated £12m.

"Bravo for Marks & Spencer," says The Sun. "The high-street giant bows to Sun readers and scraps its £2 boob tax on DD bras. We salute Marks boss Sir Stuart Rose, who says The Sun's campaign made him realise the extra charge was a mistake. How brilliant for a big firm to show it listens to its customers. Thanks, Sir Stuart. And well done to our readers. We won the cups!"

"The latest fashion accessory for women, we're told, is a pair of £220 rhinestone-encrusted knickers which implant designs on your bottom," says Sue Carroll in The Daily Mirror. "So does cellulite, which is pain-free, permanent and costs nothing."