Monday, September 8, 2014

Melodrama in the Communist Manifesto - Revised

In the history of politics, melodrama have been used as a tool in many different documents.
This essay aims to compare the Communist Manifesto with melodrama to see its melodramatic components. In order to comment on the melodramatic elements of the Communist Manifesto, we need to reintroduce the reoccurring characteristics of melodrama according to Singer’s writing. In the first sentence of chapter 5, Singer introduced melodrama as “a production of modernity” and a reaction to capitalism. As capitalism arises, people around 1800s, especially those emerged as the “working class”, felt lots of “anxieties of a society experiencing unprecedented moral cultural, and socioeconomic disarray.” Therefore, the working class “tries to rise up” and seeks a psychological relief to blame the society for the struggles. Thus, melodrama is also emotional in a "dramatic" way. People release their psychological pressure and use exaggeration. In addition, good vs. evil” is a huge theme of melodrama, while the good being the helpless hero. Among these, melodrama also often has a sense of playfulness and sarcasm.

With these being said, the Communist Manifesto is melodramatic in three main ways, but differ from melodrama in some ways too. 

First of all, communism greatly concerns about class conflicts and class issues, and it is also a reaction of capitalism like the melodrama. At the very beginning, it says, “…with the development of industry, the proletariat not only increases in number, it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows and it feels that strength more.” In the Communist Manifesto, there is a strong sense of resentment from the working class (proletariats) towards the wealthy (bourgeoisie). It comments, “The bourgeoisie itself, therefore, supplies the proletariat with its own elements of political and general education, in other words, it furnishes the proletariat with weapons for fighting the bourgeoisie.” This is one of the biggest melodramatic perspectives of the Communist Manifesto. The purpose of communism, as we can infer from the Communist Manifesto, is not necessarily to dictator a country and control the whole resource, but to promote a more equal and happy society. In addition, they actually want "freedom".  However, the way that many later communism followers executes this idea is by simple manipulation of resources or "happiness." Its main focus have been on the elimination of classes and that is a big melodramatic concentration. 

Secondly, some part of the Communist Manifesto, especially the Preface, is really motivating. It is really interesting to see so many different versions of Prefaces to this book. Not only did Engels create an individualized preface for each country, but also he utilized many words in exaggeration. For example, in the Italian version, the last paragraph states, “Today, as in 1300, a new historical era is approaching, will Italy give us the new Dante, who will mark the now of birth of this new, proletarian era.” In the Polish edition it again states, "It can be gained only by the young Polish proletariat, and in its hands it is secure."  Through the Preface, the Communist Manifesto tries to connect the audience to be sympathetic with those who are under power. This emotional component is definitely melodramatic, and it is a smart strategy employed by Marx and Engels. 

Lastly, since the communism was typically viewed as “the proletariat dictatorship”, there is a good vs. evil theme in the Communist Manifesto. The bourgeoisie was the general evil while the proletariat represents the good. Although helpless initially, the good here has a responsibility to save the unequal society by changing the external environment to be more fair and just for everybody. In this sense, it seems the general public—most likely to be the poor and the working class—are the helpless hero who are under the control of the powerful bourgeoisie. 

Both melodrama and communism became fairly popular after it was created. However, there is also a big difference between melodrama and communism. Many times melodrama took a sarcastic and clownish approach to express political opinions. However, the spread of communism have been a more formal way to confront capitalism. Because the Communist Manifesto has this idealistic and serious purpose of organizing into a new political structure, it does not really resemble melodrama in this way. In comparison, melodrama is more like a way of expression, and there is no set of values of goals need to be necessarily accomplished.

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