Chinese scholars discuss Engels in Eastbourne

The English coastal town of Eastbourne was the venue for an international conference on the life and work of Friedrich Engels’, Karl Marx’s closest comrade, friend and collaborator, in early June. The conference was co-hosted by the University of Brighton, which has a campus in Eastbourne, and the International Association of Marx & Engels Humanities Studies (MEIA).

Marxist scholars from more than 10 countries participated, marking the 175th anniversary of the publication of the Communist Manifesto, authored by Marx and Engels, and which remains a programmatic document of the communist movement worldwide. 

Eastbourne was chosen as the location as it was Engels’ favoured holiday location. After his death, and in accordance with his wishes, his ashes were scattered in the sea by Marx’s daughter and others from Beachy Head, a famous nearby landmark. An ongoing campaign to honour Engels with a commemorative plaque in the town has the support of Eastbourne Labour Party, Eastbourne Trades Council and local union branches, including those of Unite, Unison and the University & College Union (UCU). The conference was held at the View Hotel, which is owned by Unite.

Chinese scholars played a prominent role in the conference, addressing the influence of Marxism on China’s development path among other topics. 

According to Christian Høgsbjerg, the conference was, “an incredible opportunity to have so many Chinese scholars of Marxism here in Britain and to have those dialogues and make connections.” Høgsbjerg, who is senior lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Brighton, is most well-known for his work on CLR James, the famous Trinidadian Marxist, and his pioneering work on the 1791-1804 Haitian revolution, first analysed by James in his seminal work, Black Jacobins.  Høgsbjerg is an author or editor of numerous books, including CLR James in Imperial Britain and Toussaint Louverture: A Black Jacobin in the Age of Revolutions. The Red and the Black: The Russian Revolution and the Black Atlantic (Racism, Resistance and Social Change), co-edited by Høgsbjerg, together with David Featherstone, outlines how the Russian revolution of 1917 was not just a world-historical event in its own right, but also struck powerful blows against racism and imperialism, and thereby inspired many black radicals internationally.

According to the publishers, Manchester University Press, it “explores the implications of the creation of the Soviet Union and the Communist International for black and colonial liberation struggles across the African diaspora…Challenging European-centred understandings of the Russian revolution and the global left, [it] offers new insights on the relations between communism, various lefts and anti-colonialisms across the Black Atlantic – including Garveyism and various other strands of Pan-Africanism.”

The following article was originally published by the Xinhua News Agency. We also embed a video report from New China TV, which is the broadcasting arm of Xinhua.

The seaside resort of Eastbourne in East Sussex, England, is hosting an international conference titled “Engels in Eastbourne,” which kicked off on Thursday and runs to Saturday.

Nearly a hundred professors, experts and scholars from more than 20 universities and research institutions in more than ten countries, including the United Kingdom, China, Germany, the United States, Ireland, Spain, Romania, Denmark, Turkey and India, hold in-depth discussions to commemorate the 175th anniversary of “The Communist manifesto.”

The conference is co-hosted by the University of Brighton and the International Association of Marx & Engels Humanities Studies (MEIA).

According to the MEIA, a British independent non-governmental organization, the subjects discussed include Friedrich Engels’ life and experiences, his contribution to the development of Marxism, the influence of Engels’ theories on the development of the contemporary world, and the influence of Marxism on China’s modernization path.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to have so many Chinese scholars of Marxism here in Britain and to have those dialogues and make connections at a conference,” Christian Hogsbjerg, senior lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Brighton, told Xinhua.

Terrell Carver, professor of political theory at the University of Bristol, said that he expects the conference to promote communication between Western and Chinese scholars on Marxism.

“I think this is a really good occasion,” Carver said.

Engels contributed substantially to the Marxist theory, not least with his acute observation of workers’ conditions and the exploitation by capitalists. Karl Marx and Engels co-authored “The Communist Manifesto” and co-founded the first proletarian party in the world to change the fate of the working class.

After the death of Marx, Engels took on the role of leading the international workers’ movement, sorting out and publishing Marx’s unfinished work, including “Das Kapital,” while continuing to defend and develop the Marxist theory.

According to the University of Brighton, after the death of Engels, Marx’s daughter, among others, threw Engels’ ashes into the sea near Eastbourne.

The international conference was originally scheduled in 2020 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the philosopher’s birth, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For me, probably the most significant element is the celebration of the 175th anniversary of ‘The Communist Manifesto.’ Has there been a more epoch-making and significant publication for social revolutionaries, for social radicals, for the history of the world than that publication? How incredibly fitting that this event celebrates that and reflects on where we are now,” Professor Stephen Maddison, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Brighton, said.

Several Chinese scholars took the stage to share their academic research results. Wang Binglin, professor of the School of Marxism at Beijing Normal University, delivered a speech titled “Marxism and Chinese Modernization” at the event.

He told Xinhua that Chinese modernization not only has the common features of modernization of other countries but also has Chinese characteristics. He introduced this to foreign scholars at the conference, hoping it will help them better understand the development and practice of Marxist theory in China.

Wang Xinyan, professor of humanities and social sciences at Wuhan University, shared his findings on Engels’ conception of nature and its contemporary significance.

He said that Engels not only understood the division and opposition between humans and nature, but also explored the coordination and unity of humans and nature in practice, which has outstanding significance in today’s times and is an important guiding theory for Chinese modernization.

“This conference provides a platform for Chinese scholars to discuss with their foreign counterparts the common problems facing mankind and to provide Chinese wisdom to solve them,” he told Xinhua.

“As a Western politician, I can see that Marxism works and has made China great,” George Pippas, ex-mayor of Cambridge, said at the conference.

Pippas said he has visited China more than 20 times and was impressed by the high-speed railway technology, the high level of education, history and tradition blended beautifully with the political system, which are examples of how well Marxism works in China.

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