Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Analysis of Melodrama in "Manifesto of the Communist Party"

While the political validity of of Marx's and Engels' "Manifesto of the Communist Party" is questionable at best, the essay's well documented persuasive properties are in no small part the result of effective melodramatic writing. The text simplifies the complex relationships in societal power dynamics into two main groups: the bourgeoisie and the proletarians. This sets up the all to familiar theme of good vs. evil where the "black hat" bourgeoisie are demonstrated to be "robber barons" seizing the means of production and wealth while the proletarians are are depicted as victimized working men. Regardless of how accurate Marx and Engels demonstrate the economic situation in 1848, their writing is quite masterful in it ability to convince a member of the working class that a new political system would be to his benefit.

The first quote demonstrates what the working man has lost since the bourgeois have taken power:

Owing to the extensive use of machinery, and to the division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character , and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him."

while the second quote explains that working man has the power to overcome his oppressors using a concrete example of success in the ten-hours's bill :

"This organisation of the proletarians into a class, and, consequently into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier. It compels legislative recognition of particular interests of the workers, by taking advantage of the divisions among the bourgeoisie itself. Thus, the ten-hours’ bill in England was carried."

The "Manifesto of the Communist Party" uses textbook melodramatic devices such as the victimized hero (proletarians), the mustache twirling robber barons (bourgeois), the white hats vs. black hats argument (proletarians in a struggle against the bourgeois), and most importantly the synthesis of these themes in conjunction with effective writing and political analysis to organize public opinion. The document's effect on how governments were shaped in the 20th century shows the power of the melodramatic techniques that were in the communist manifesto. 

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