Monday, January 20, 2014

Marx, Melodrama & the Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto is a document laden with melodramatic rhetoric. In this melodrama, the Communists cast the proletarians as misrecognized, victim heroes and the bourgeoisie as oppressive, aristocratic villains. The Communists also use melodramatic ethics to justify the use violence against the existing social hierarchy:

“[The Communists] openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution.  The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”

The Communist belief that their ends can only be attained by “forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions” harps on a key feature of melodrama, the revelation of truth. The Manifesto implies that only after the proletariat overcomes the oppressive rule of the bourgeoisie will the communist virtue be recognized and their aims understood. Moreover, the Manifesto’s claim that the “proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains” is a prime example of the Communist use of melodrama as a liberatory rhetoric. The Manifesto suggests that by revolting, the proletarians will be liberated from the “chains” imposed on them by the villainous bourgeoisie. And lastly, the “Communistic revolution” is portrayed in the Manifesto to be a necessary “war against evil”, a melodramatic convention frequently used throughout political culture.

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