Saturday, September 6, 2014

Communism and Melodrama

The Manifesto of the Communist Party is a melodramatic reaction to “the social upheavals of modernity” (Singer, 132). As Singer explained, melodrama is less an expression of the liberal and democratic uprisings of the modern era and more of a reaction to a new capitalist society.  The Communist Manifesto is a historical melodramatic document.

I agree with John that the document is also melodramatic in the way it defines the heroes in black and white. The proletariat represents the victim of the “poverty, class stratification, and exploitation…of the new capitalist social order,” while Marx’s bourgeoisie represent the “venal, abusive aristocrats” of melodramatic conventions (132). However, Marx also deviates from melodramatic conventions by stating his respect for the "modern bourgeoisie" that successfully overthrew the bondage of feudalism. Marx is able to use the working class’s attraction to melodrama to his advantage in creating a document he believes will start a revolution. Although Marx does acknowledge the greater evil of the aristocracy, he still manages to create "organize feelings of national victimization" by painting the proletariat as victimized heroes that are fated to succeed the bourgeoisie (Bousquet, 178).

Unlike John, I think the idea of fate does play into the Manifesto. John claims that the document rejects Singer’s ideas of the “individual’s powerlessness within the harsh and unpredictable material life of modern capitalism” and that fate ensures a “moral order” (134). Instead, John continues, Marx wants the proletariat to stop waiting for fate to do the work and to “unite” and execute a “forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.” However I believe that Marx does use the idea that the rise of communism and the overthrow of the bourgeoisie are inevitable in order to appeal to his working class audience. Singer writes that melodrama was seen "as a product of lowbrow vulgarity" and that the major audience, those who Marx would call the proletariat, enjoyed art that created a world where the little guys, like themselves, are guaranteed to win.

Marx writes about the communist future like it is inevitable. According to him, the “bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself,” and “its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable” (Marx, 18, 21).  He also talks about “a historical movement going on under our very eyes,” that has already begun and will succeed. (22) By describing the six stages of the world order, Marx insinuates that the last two stages, those of socialism (rebellion) and communism (utopia) are the fate of mankind. He cleverly intertwines fate with action, simultaneously calling on the proletariat to stand up, rebel, and "lose their chains" while alluding that they cannot lose, as the ever present "higher cosmic moral force" of melodramatic literature will be on their side (Marx, 35, Singer, 134).

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