In the winter of 1845–6, during which Marx worked with Engels on The German Ideology, Mrs Marx’s brother, the unsatisfactory Edgar, came to stay with the family in Brussels.footnote Though she had disclaimed tender feelings for him, and disapproved of this inveterate sponger of no settled occupation at the age of 26, she was genuinely fond of him and glad that he now sought and found employment in a newspaper office. There he was joined in the spring by one of Marx’s closest friends and a fellow revolutionary, Wilhelm Wolff, known as Lupus, to whom Marx was to dedicate the first volume of Das Kapital. At the start of the year 1846 Marx and Engels set up the Brussels Communist Corresponding Committee with the aim of providing information and an exchange of ideas between German, French and English socialists. It was not a political party but a loose organization whose main adherents were in Paris to which, in August, Engels was sent as a delegate from the Brussels Committee, living from October that year until the following March at 23 rue de Lille.

Meanwhile that spring, Mrs Marx, this time alone, visited her mother who was ill and thought to be dying. She was in fact to live for another ten years and, once her recovery was assured, Mrs Marx returned to Brussels where, for reasons of financial stringency, the family gave up the house in the rue de l’Alliance and in May—Jenny now just two and Laura eight months—went back to live in the little Bois sauvage pension until 23 October when they moved to 42 rue d’Orléans in the faubourg d’Ixelles. Here the boy Edgar, named after the uncle who stood as titular godfather, was born. Though he was given the name Edgar, and only Edgar, his mother later confided to a friend that, should her mother-in-law, improbably, ever loosen the purse-strings again, the ‘Edgar’ might, for the occasion, be suppressed and the name Henry (Heinrich)—that of his father and paternal grandfather—be assumed. This did not happen and Edgar he remained, though generally known as Musch, or Mouche.

It was at this period that the League of the Just—originally founded in the mid-1830s in Paris by German artisans and spreading to England, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden—was reorganized and changed its name to the Communist League. Having persuaded Marx in Brussels and Engels in Paris to join its ranks, they in their turn persuaded the League to adopt their principles of socialism. That was in February 1847 and, under its new title, the League held its first congress from 2 to 9 June—to which Engels and Wilhelm Wolff went—in London where the executive committee established itself in November 1846 following ceaseless persecution by the Paris police. A second congress was held in the same year, from 29 November until 8 December, attended by both Marx and Engels who played a leading part in the proceedings and were assigned the task of writing a manifesto.

During this first year of Edgar’s life, when his father was writing The Poverty of Philosophy—published simultaneously in Brussels and Paris in July 1847—he thrived, though he was not, it appears, of those who have only to be seen to be admired. His mother, indeed, took an exceedingly poor view of his looks. Her girls were lovely, she wrote to Mrs Herwegh, the wife of the poet, but ‘the boy, the boy’, she moaned, ‘is a little monster’; while she told Lina Schoeler, the long-term fiancée though never the bride of Edgar von Westphalen, that he was assuredly no Adonis. She was thankful, she said, that, at a year, he had lost some of his earlier frightfulness (she used the word Schrecklichkeit), but she did wish this whey-faced infant would not always wear such a bellicose expression.

That was in January 1848, at the onset of the year of revolutions, ‘the Springtime of the Nations’, as it has been called, one of whose early side-effects was Engels’s expulsion from France on the 29th. He was back in Brussels two days later, by which time the central authority of the League had been pressing for the manifesto, going so far as to say that if Marx did not deliver it by 1 February, he should return all the documents entrusted to him. It must have arrived by that date, for The Manifesto of the Communist Party was published in London on or about 24 February, in German, with the imprint Gedruckt in der Office der Bildungsgesellschaft für Arbeiter (printed in the office of the Workers’ Educational Society).footnote1

Though conceived by both Marx and Engels, to some extent derived from ideas already expressed in their joint work The German Ideology, and largely based upon Engels’s two documents—the so-called Credo (or Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith) and the Principles of Communism—the Manifesto was in fact written by Marx alone, Engels having gone back to Paris. The manuscript, save for one page in a notebook dated Brussels, December 1847, has vanished.

Events now moved swiftly: the French government collapsed, the Kingfootnote2 abdicated, fleeing to England, and on 26 February the French (Second) Republic was proclaimed. It did not take long for the Belgian authorities to pounce. On 2 March King Leopold issued a decree expelling Marx forthwith. Two days later, after nightfall, as he was preparing to leave, the police burst into his house and arrested him. As they took him away to the Amigo prison his wife rushed out in a vain attempt to follow, then frantically sought help, hurrying in the dark from one friend’s house to another until she, too, was seized by the police and unceremoniously flung into a lock-up with vagrants and prostitutes. From its window the next morning she saw her husband being marched off under military guard. Later that day she was lengthily interrogated and only in the evening allowed to go home to her children. Meanwhile Marx reached Paris where he put up on the boulevard Beaumarchais in Ménilmontant.