Monday, September 8, 2014

Communist Manifesto: a Melodramatic Lens

The Communist Manifesto, at its essence, breaths melodrama. This is apparent through its over-dramatic language, and also through its natural appeal to the sympathies of its audience. Engels writes the manifesto in this way in order to enlist support for his cause, which is done most effectively if seen as a battle between fundamental rights and wrongs.

In establishing the manifestation of the proletarians, Engels uses polarizing language to clearly establish the right and the wrong. He simplifies history as a series of class struggles, from the freeman and the slave, to now the Proletarians and the Bourgeois. The same kind of classification of good and evil is seen in the black hats versus white hats theme in melodrama. To describe the proletariat, he refers to them as "special," whereas he refers to the evil as the "callous 'cash payment'" bourgeois. The intent of the bourgeois is evident when he accuses them of "drowning the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor" in the "icy water of egotistical calculation." The imagery produced from this language clearly portrays the bourgeois as a menace that performs sinful acts to rid society of its religious ties, or in its essence its inherent wholesome virtues. This is all done for personal gain and greed, calling it an "exploitation of the world." The evil bourgeois even attempt to destroy family, reducing it to a "mere money relation," one which the bourgeois have total control over. Their modes of control, being cheap products, labor, and a pervasive city system, are what Engels calls "the heavy artillery with which it battles down all Chinese walls." Engels is clearly trying to incite a notion of being a part of a war in the minds of his readers, a common theme in melodramatic culture. Whether it be exploiting or drowning, the bourgeois are clearly on one side, and the oppressed proletariat have no choice but to eventually break out, a fantastic fight that Engels argues that one has to persist as the victor. Although he admits that all throughout history the oppressed have continued to lose, he is confident that the proletariat now stand a chance to be victorious, finally defeating the evil in a revolutionary way, one of the grandest scale that screams melodramatic propaganda.

The proletariat that Engels mainly writes to are the perfect audience to stomach the melodramatic propaganda that is the Communist Manifesto. For starters, they are the majority.  As he puts it, the proletariat are the cogs that spin the industrialized system that the bourgeois have created. They are the miners, the shoemakers, the working class people. Individually they are not necessary for this machine to keep running, giving this idea that they are insignificant, or rather under-appreciated, of which is the worst kind of oppression. They are also the kind of people to be vulnerable to such language. Being the lower class and not the privileged, chances are the majority have little to no education, and are therefore unaware of the realities of the benefits of capitalism. The only real point Engels makes in his argument is that the bourgeois system has a tendency to fail in cycles, which we know to be economic depressions. However these are natural in theory, and Engels exaggerates greatly the consequences of relying on a system like that for too long. Taking it even further, Engels claims that the proletariat, by these bourgeois crises, will eventually rise to kill the bourgeois, saying that the bourgeois are the makers of their own doom. This too is a very common concept in melodrama, where the villain is defeated by the manifestations of his own pure evil. Ironically, Engels also tries to claim that the very fact that opposition to the party signifies that it is a "spectre," that this opposition somehow gives it strength. In reality, it just means that the true agenda of the party is widely unaccepted. The few that actually do join the party, as even Engels cites, have problems cooperating and often tear their local factions apart from the discourse within each group. Nonetheless, Engels attempts to use the Communist Manifesto to convince the gullible of some unrealistic, black-and-white war in order to induce rebellions, the melodramatic nature of the publication a mere literary device to achieve this goal.

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