Dead Socialist Watch, #32-33

Friedrich Engels, born 28 November 1820, died 5 August 1895 in London; his ashes were scattered off Beachy Head.

Also, one of the great economists of the twentieth century: Joan Robinson, born 31 October 1903 and died 20 years ago today, 5 August 1983. Her politics resist tidy classification, but I’m very happy to file her next to Engels in the DSW.

UPDATE: Perhaps Engels’s ashes weren’t so much scattered as buried in the sea off Beachy Head. Here’s Eduard Bernstein’s description of the occasion:

To the west of Eastbourne the cliffs along the coast gradually rise until they form the great chalky headland of Beachy Head, nearly six hundred feet in height. Overgrown with grass on the top, it slopes gently at first, and then suddenly falls steeply to the water, while down below it exhibits all manner of recesses and outlying masses. From the landward side an extremely fine drive leads up to the summit. Enterprising visitors have repeatedly attempted to climb Beachy Head from the beach at low tide, whereby many have nearly lost their lives. If they were unable to reach the top, and the tide rose in the meantime, they were left between the devil and the deep sea. From the coastguard station, which stands at the highest point of the Head, it is impossible to see what is happening on the face of the cliff, nor will a call for help carry thither. Only if he is noticed from the direction of the sea can the climber count upon help. About five or six miles off Beachy Head, in the year 1895, the Avelings, the old Communist Leaguer Friedrich Lessner, and myself, on a very rough day of autumn, cast into the sea the urn containing the ashes of our Friedrich Engels. Engels, who died on the 8th of August 1895, had directed, in a letter enclosed with his will, that his body should be cremated and the ashes thrown into the sea. And since we knew of his predilection for delightful Eastbourne, the sea off Beachy Head was chosen as the most suitable spot for the execution of this portion of his last will and testament. Since then, however, the impression has gained a hold upon me that this disposition of his ashes may perhaps have been dictated by another motive than his love of Eastbourne and the sea. The idea of Lethe may have been in his mind…

From chapter 8 of My Years of Exile. Bernstein gives the day he died as 8 August, but most sources seem to say it was 5 August.

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