Because what if Marx and Engels had actually been...more than just fellow Dialectical Materialists?
Y'know that saying, if something exists, there's a porn of it? Take that, double it, add the occasional William Howard Taft RPF and it's also true for fanfic. And as any reader of the genre knows, the creativity is incredible. The historical accuracy, now...
The following is the recently discovered discarded first draft of Friedrich Engels' preface to the 1885 draft of Marx's Das Kapital. After Marx's death in 1883, Engels worked on compiling and editing the remaining manuscript, drawing on his experience of co-operating with Marx. The document presented here was found among a selection of Engels papers which passed to a distant relative after Engels' death in London in 1895. While the authenticity of said document has been questioned by some, it is presented here in the hope of shedding new light on the character of so important and influential a historical partnership.
Karl Marx and I began working together in 1844. We shared similar ideas – what would later become known as dialectal materialism – and we didn't annoy each other too much. Eventually, we even got to like each other. I'm afraid to say that we wrote much of the Communist Manifesto while drunk. Not paralytically drunk, I hasten to add, merely merry. About as drunk as I am now, I'd say. Drunk enough to be honest.
We used to meet in a nice little pub just round the corner from the meeting place of the Communist League. The meetings were more often stressful than not and it would often take a good three or four pints before Karl calmed down enough to stop ranting and start writing. His rants, while entertaining, generally contained more in the way of personal insults than political theory. We always said that history is the story of people. Suffice to say that our writing partnership had its share of history. Only occasionally did it dissolve into violence, but I'm sure you can imagine the tensions involved in ironing out a mutually acceptable position on the nature of revolution. And, of course, the eternal dilemma of who was going to pay the bar bill at the end of the night.
It usually ended up being me, but I didn't particularly mind. Aside from the fact that I tended to be more solvent, the sheer wonder of seeing that brilliant mind at work was ample compensation for a few shillings. Karl was often the inspiration of our partnership, with gleaming flights of genius - wait, I'm waxing effulgent about the man, and that's just not what I'm supposed to be doing. A lot of the time he behaved like an absolute idiot. He learned tact over the years, and I like to give myself a small part of the credit for that; however, while we were working together, tempers could run high. I didn't mind. He never looked as good as he did with that spark in his eye. Well, Karl was never exactly handsome in any sense of the word, but somehow, whenever he got fired up, he just had an aura that was utterly irresistible. I would have done anything for him when he got stuck in to an argument, raising his voice, gesturing vehemently, truly passionate about his point of view… Is that wrong of me? I don't think it is.
He wrote a lot. I think that's fairly evident from the size of this book, but it's an important enough facet of his existence that it bears stating. The man wrote a huge amount of polemic, rhetoric and discourse. Huge amount. Ridiculous amount. And so much of it means something. So much of it is right.
I always envied his confidence. I had to find a way to back my beliefs up, a correlation in science, a reference, a... something. I had to find someone else who agreed. Often enough that was Karl himself, but I never felt it could work like that. He was probably a more reliable source than many, but since I knew him, that just wasn't allowed. He was my friend. How could he be the source of a political movement? How could he be the author of a philosophy? How could he? How could I?
He wrote a lot, it is true, but much of it was only comprehensible to those educated in political theory. He had an instinctive understanding of the most difficult of abstract concepts. He was... brilliant. One of the greatest minds of our time. He will be sorely missed. Sorely, sorely missed. I will miss him. He just didn't realise, some of the time, that not everyone was as intelligent or as educated as him. That the proletariat, the men he wrote for, would not follow his erudition. He looked at me, so bemused, when I toned down his language, when I inserted explanations, when I laid my hand on his knee...
He was married, you know. Whole bunch of children. Most of them died. I don't mean to sound heartless, but I didn't exactly see much of them. I went back home to my father, worked for him, worked at a boring job with boring people, all so I could send money to Karl to support him and Jenny and the children. Jenny was a sweet girl. Very hard to hate. I managed, now and again, but most of the time I just couldn't. Which is, of course, a good thing.
He loved her. Of course. It was remarkable, the way they stayed loving through such hardship and poverty. The bastard.
I loved him. I loved him, and I took care of him, and her, and his children, and he never loved me back. Does that make it any less worthy? Does that make me any less of a lover?
But I digress. This book is a remarkable work, intelligent, insightful and influential. In this book you will find the perfect symmetry of the communist existence, inspiration for a more satisfying way of life.
Failing that, you could always use it as a paper-weight. It's a big book, isn't it? I told you he wrote a lot. If you're reading this a hundred years from now, it's either because it's a set text in a Communist Utopia, or at least the proletariat are educated. Which is always a start. Karl used to have a lot of problems with that. Because, face it, he was bourgeois. I am as well, but I never managed to shout quite as loudly as he did. Part of him, I think, was peculiarly at peace with living in a slum. As though in some way he finally felt like he belonged.
Of course, that didn't mean he couldn't have washed a bit more often than he did. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, although obviously we didn't believe in God. Opium of the masses, and all that.
I must be coming across as bitter, here. Of course I'm bitter! I loved the man, and what did I get out of that? He didn't love me, and it's not called Engelsism, is it? Of course, if I hadn't been so bitter, we might not have spent so much of our time talking about politics, and people a hundred years from now might still be living in poverty. It's probably a good thing that he didn't love me... I can't... oh fuck, this is no preface at all.
I need another drink.
The text ends at this point. No further drafts of this "alternative" preface have so far come to light. Obviously, the events described in the document may not have occurred quite as they are presented, and it would be unwise to encourage further speculation as to the nature of the relationship between Marx and Engels until more evidence can be produced. Nevertheless, it presents an intriguing new angle for biographical researchers to pursue. Hopefully, with the discovery of further documents, fact will finally triumph over fiction.
One can only hope!