Lords of the Drinks

Karl Marx, the Drunkard who Laid the Foundation for Communism


Karl Marx posing and – at least we suspect – reaching for a flask with alcohol.

Karl Marx (1818-1883) is mostly known as one of the founders of Communism. His ideology was the foundation for dictatorships all over the world. What a lot of people don’t know s that Marx and his comrade Friedrich Engels were usually pretty smashed when they discussed their ideas for a perfect socialist society. These nights of drunken philosophizing resulted in the Communist Manifesto and the book Das Kapital. That’s right, this heavy boozing resulted in the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall, the Cold War and communist regimes all over the world. Speaking of impact.

The word about Marx’ drinking skills first got around in his days as a student.  In 1835 he had a promising start at the University of Bonn, but soon got slightly distracted from his studies, as he was the co-president of his tavern club. Marx even got imprisoned for a day for “disturbing the peace with drunken noise”. His period of “wild rampaging”, as his father Heinrich Marx called it, in Bonn lasted only a year. After which his father transfered Karl Marx to the University of Berlin, where he actually took his Philosophy studies serious. Still this didn’t stop him from consuming large amounts of beer and taking drunken donkey rides through the villages nearby.

In 1844 Marx and Engels bonded for life in what historians referred to as 10 beer-soaked days. Another drinking buddy of Marx was Edgar Bauer. He accompanied him on his drunk donkey rides and in the 1850’s the duo was reunited in London, England. The writer Wilhelm Liebrecht described how the German group took a drink in every bar between Oxford Street and Hampstead Road. For the people who are not familiar with the 19th century English capital, this was quite an ambitious plan given the enormous amount of pubs on the route.

At a certain point some loud singing lured Marx and his company into a bar. The foreigners were welcomed by the English with plenty of drinks. Liebrecht: “For a while, everything went smoothly. We had to drink many healths and to bring out and listen to many a toast. Then the unexpected suddenly happened… Edgar Bauer, hurt by some chance remark, turned the tables and ridiculed the English snobs. Marx launched an enthusiastic eulogy on German science and music – no other country, he said, would have been capable of producing such masters of music as Beethoven, Mozart, Haendel and Haydn, and the Englishmen who had no music were in reality far below the Germans who had been prevented hitherto only by the miserable political and economic conditions from accomplishing any great practical work, but who would yet outclass all other nations. So fluently I have never heard him speak English.”

The English hosts weren’t too pleased and the Germans left the scene in a hurry. A little later Liebrecht describes how they turned to hooliganism. “Now we had enough of our “beer trip” for the time being, and in order to cool our heated blood, we started on a double quick march, until Edgar Bauer stumbled over some paving stones. ‘Hurrah, an idea!’ And in memory of mad student pranks he picked up a stone, and Clash! Clatter! a gas lantern went flying into splinters. Nonsense is contagious – Marx and I did not stay behind, and we broke four or five street lamps – it was, perhaps, 2 o’clock in the morning and the streets were deserted in consequence. But the noise nevertheless attracted the attention of a policeman who with quick resolution gave the signal to his colleagues on the same beat. And immediately countersignals were given. The position became critical.”

In the end Marx and his friends managed to lose the cops on their tail, but the incident paints a good picture of the drinking habbits of this founder of Communism. Although by now we can conclude that Marx’s dream of a socialist state didn’t work out, it is impressive how the product of a drunken mind had such a huge impact on the world. Meaning that drunks can absolutely make a difference.

Micky Bumbar

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