Thursday, January 23, 2014

Melodrama in the Communist Manifesto (Take 2)

In contemporary society, most readers, myself included, lack a strong working knowledge of the definition of Communism. In 1848, the year that Marx wrote the manifesto, the general public knew even less about Communism. Then and now, people generally regard Communism as negative. Marx employed several aspects of melodrama to ingratiate himself and his ideas with the layperson. First, he identified with the working class, acknowledging the “history of class struggles” of which they have constantly been on the worse end. He quickly separates good from bad, hero from villain, “oppressor and oppressed.”
At this point, he has captured the readers’ interest, perhaps offering a path to end the eternal struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletarian. He has linked his ideas, Communism, with championing the underprivileged, underappreciated worker. He plays to the situation of the time, as is popular in melodrama, by exaggerating the threat posed by the bourgeoisie. He refers to their power as “the weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground” and indicates that such weapons are putting the proletarians in imminent danger. The unlikely hero, in his case Communism, has the ability to save the proletarians in distress from the dark and powerful bourgeoisie.

Marx cleverly takes a genre that perfectly suits the time and has gained favor with the masses and applies it to his ideas, attempting to popularize his beliefs. The proletarians would hardly argue that they are against family and property, or that they are for being used as mere tools for manufacturing. Therefore, in the dichotomous nature of melodrama, they must be with the Communists, because they are against the bourgeoisie. In Marx’s framework of hero and villain, Communism shifts from “a spectre… haunting Europe” to the general public’s best hope of salvation.

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