Karl Marx’s Views on Wine
Karl Heinrich Marx (also known as Karl Max) lived from May 5, 1818, to March 14, 1883. He was a reformer, sociologist, historian, and economist. Along with Friedrich Engels, he is famed for co-authoring Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (1848), generally known as The Communist Party Manifesto, the most well-known pamphlet in the background of the socialist movement. He also wrote Das Kapital, the pivotal book of the movement. Marxism is primarily a collection of ideas and an ideology founded on Marx and Engels’ writings, including those mentioned above.
Marx’s family held a vineyard in Trier, Germany’s Mosel valley. Karl’s father, Trier lawyer Heinrich Marx, purchased the vineyard slopes as an investment and cultivated them for the next 30 years. Karl kept running the vineyard when his father died in 1838 until his mother bought him out. It continues to produce wine with the image and name of the famous philosopher on the label.
Did you know? Nestled among the rolling hills of the Rhine Valley, there is a particular type of vineyard that has been cultivated for centuries. These small vineyards, now known for their fruity white wines, played a large role in the history of leftist thought. The vineyard earnings were essential to the philosopher’s life because they helped him pay for his early education.
Marx’s Early Life
In the early 1840s, the economic struggles of these very vineyards inspired Marx to criticize the draconian Prussian government—and in the process, some historians argue, begin developing the theory of historical materialism for which he is best known. Though Marx would eventually move on to other projects, his early writings on the plight of these vineyards helped to crystallize his beliefs about class struggle and government oppression. As such, they provide a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of history’s most influential thinkers.
In his student days, though, Marx was more interested in drinking wine than writing about its economics. Son of a bourgeois Jewish family that had converted to Christianity in accordance with the reigning Prussian religion, Marx grew up at a time when wine was a staple beverage, not considered alcohol the way liquor was. Like many of their wealthy contemporaries, who acquired land as an investment and to stock their own cellars, the Marxs’ owned part of a vineyard.
When 17-year-old Marx moved to Bonn as a college student in 1835, he brought these boozy proclivities with him. Marx’s drinking habits continued when he transferred to the more liberal atmosphere of Berlin a year later. There, he frequented the taverns and biergartens of the city’s vibrant nightlife scene. In one famous incident, Marx got so drunk that he stripped naked and tried to swim across the River Spree. He was rescued by some students who were also drinking at the tavern.
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Though his academic career suffered because of his drinking, Marx continued to enjoy wine throughout his life. In later years, he even wrote about it occasionally, describing the wine as “pleasure reduced to mathematics.” Given his well-known hatred of capitalism, it’s ironic that Marx’s favorite drink was a product of the very economic system he despised.
Mosel Winegrowers Helped Develop Marx’s Philosophies
The youthful Marx worked as an editor for a newspaper in Cologne after completing his philosophy studies in Berlin. Using the platform, he wrote extensively on the troubled Mosel winegrowers and poverty in the region.
Friedrich Engels—Marx’s friend, colleague philosopher, and drinking companion—believed that the plight of the Mosel peasants led Marx from mere politics to the harsh economic realities of the labor class in society. These thoughts finally steered him to develop the conceptual framework of socialism.
Did you know? Marx was a lifelong wine connoisseur. Even though he resided a great distance from their Trier home, his father, Heinrich, would give him a case of the family wine. He was a frequent writer on the quality of the vintages produced by his family’s vineyards.
It is not clear if there are any bottles of wine from Karl Marx’s family winery that have survived to the present day.
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This Day in Wine History
Karl Heinrich Marx was born on this day, May 5, 1818. On March 14, 1883, he passed away. He was a well-known revolutionary, sociologist, historian, and economist. He co-authored The Communist Manifesto (1848), also known as Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei, with Friedrich Engels, the author of the most famous book in the history of the socialist movement.
1838 – In 1838, Mark lost his father. Marx’s family held vineyards in Trier, Germany’s Mosel valley. The vineyard continues to produce wine with the image and name of the famous philosopher on the label. Karl’s father, Trier lawyer Heinrich Marx, purchased the vineyard slopes as an investment and cultivated them for the next 30 years. When his father passed away, Karl’s mother bought him out of the vineyard.
In the 1830s and 1849s, Marx’s interest in economics was also aroused by problems experienced by vineyard workers during the 1830 s and 1840 s: when he was studying the family wine company and learning about the Mosel issue.
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“Karl Marx.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. Accessed October 27, 2022. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Karl-Marx.
frostysramblings. 2019. “Red, Red Wine.” Frostys Ramblings a Left Look at Life. August 7, 2019. https://frostysramblings.wordpress.com/2019/08/07/red-red-wine/.