Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Melodrama in The Communist Manifesto (Edit/Rewrite)

After rereading The Communist Manifesto and Melodrama and the Consequences of Capitalism, I can see what I've missed in my last post, and to add/revise it, an important point to make is the relationship between melodrama and capitalism, which was also discussed in The Communist Manifesto.

Melodrama and the Consequences of Capitalism talks about how "any worker caught up in the new machinery of exploitation and profiteering, and who faced the erratic waves of unemployment peculiar to industrial society, would have been sensitive to the harsh underpinnings of capitalist modernity. To a large extent, these were the people for whom sensational melodrama was geared, and for whom it might have resonated as a reflection of a new reality." In a sense, communism, like melodrama, was a reaction to capitalism. Marx holds (in the first chapter) that the bourgeoisie are good because they put an end to feudalism and have helped society move forward immensely, but as society continues to move forward, the new reaction or movement is headed towards communism. Marx (and Engels) was actually from a bourgeois family but were able to evade their origins and identify with the proletariat, so communism, like melodrama, was directed towards the working class or proletariat. Marx says that bourgeois exploits the proletariat through the “constant revolutionizing of production and uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions” just like Melodrama and the Consequences of Capitalism talks about the new machinery exploiting the workers.

The Communist Manifesto doesn't make the bourgeois "villains" really but it is very evident from the very beginning the proletariat and bourgeois are separate parties in a "revolution". He explicitly points out the good deeds that the bourgeois have performed but simply proceeds to say the time period of their existence has come to a swift end and now, "the essential conditions for the existence and for the sway of the bourgeois class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage labor; wage labor rests exclusively on competition between laborers." In my previous post, I used the terms "aristocrat" and "bourgeois" interchangeably because I did not understand the differences in the terms, but now that I do, I realize Marx is not talking about aristocrats, but about the bourgeois. Like in melodrama, the bourgeois are the landlords asking for rent money, throwing proletariats out of their homes, and Marx is writing about a revolution that would provide a solution to such hardships faced by proletariats.

In terms of audience, The Communist Manifesto was written to explain what communism was for anyone who has a misunderstanding of it or interest in it, but it was directed to be beneficial to the proletariats. At the end, it even declares an alliance with the social democrats, supporting other communist revolutions, calling the proletarians to action: “Workers of the world, unite!” This is another area where melodrama and The Communist Manifesto intertwine. Melodrama attracts an audience "comprised mainly of gossipy shopgirls with mouths full of gum, weaselly young men with well watered hair and yellow suspenders embroidered with green shamrocks, and fat immigrants with respiratory problems."

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