The other day, my daughter asked if there were any countries playing in the World Cup that were still communist countries. Good grief. Why couldn’t she just ask me why it looks like Puma collaborated with Spanx for their contribution to World Cup jerseys??
The short answer to her question is no. But my daughter is the Queen of Why, so I knew she wasn’t going to let it go at no. Plus, my parents paid a lot of money for me to get a degree in Political Science, so I thought I’d at least try to answer her question with more than one syllable.
Let’s see . . . there’s Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovia — they used to be the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. She didn’t ask why (oh, Happy Day!). And then there’s Russia — we’ll just call them communist-light since Putin’s favorite color these days seems to be Red. She shrugged and said, “Putin kinda looks like Dobby from Harry Potter.” OK, he kinda does. And then she asked, “Isn’t the Republic of Korea a Communist country?” So we talked about difference between the Republic of Korea (Democratic South Korea) and the oxymoronically named Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (Communist North Korea), who didn’t qualify for this year’s World Cup. I’m sure that went over well with The Supreme Leader.
And then she lobbed this one at me: What’s the difference between communism and socialism? Again with the big questions. So I went with this: Socialism is an economic system dreamed up by a guy named Karl Marx. Communism is a form of government that uses socialism. By that point, she seemed a little bored and asked if she could go watch Chopped! Yes!! Please. Go. Watch.
Is she ever going to get to the wine?? Stay with me . . .
Somewhere underneath a pile of cobwebs in my brain, I remembered (or thought I remembered) that Karl Marx (socialist dreamer) was a wine lover. True story?
Karl Marx was born in the town of Trier, Germany. Trier is in the heart of the Mosel wine region (The Cradle of Riesling). And Marx’s family owned several vineyards in the Ruwer Valley. Can you grow up near a vineyard and not be a wine lover?
A lot of Marx’s early socialist economic writings were in support of the winemakers from the Mosel Valley. Without putting you into a narcoleptic seizure, all you need to know is that the Mosel winemakers were the oppressed peasants and the Prussian government was the Bourgeoise oppressors. Class struggle was imminent. Beyond that, it’s pretty dry stuff.
Karl Marx lived most of his adult life in London. And he was indeed a big fan of the Rieslings from his home town. He often asked friends to send him wine from Mosel. Having friends ship you special wine doesn’t seem like the Badge of the Proletariat to me, but when you’re craving a crisp Mosel Riesling, I suppose a London pint just won’t cut it.
I’ve come across this quote many times, and as a student of history (not a fan of oppressive government regimes) I’ve always liked it:
I haven’t had much success in finding a direct attribution for Marx’s words. But I did find a letter Marx wrote to his son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, in November of 1866. BTW, Lafargue’s best known piece of writing is an essay called, The Right to be Lazy. Lafargue somehow managed to remove himself from his thinking-couch long enough to send his father-in-law some wine:
“My sincere thanks for the wine. Being myself from a wine-growing region, and former owner of a vineyard, I know a good wine when I come across one. I even incline somewhat to old Luther’s view that a man who does not love wine will never be good for anything.”
Wine-drinkers of the world . . . unite!