Marxism in Literature

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Mary Gallagher Due: January 16, 2013
CLL 156 Mid-Term
Many works of literature and even some films contain themes and evidence which supports Marx’s view of capitalism, as expressed in the Communist Manifesto. The Communist Manifesto includes many concepts relating to the continuous struggles between classes and their inevitable impact on history. The specific classes discussed in the Communist Manifesto are the proletariat and the bourgeois. The bourgeoisie has, throughout history, exploited the proletariat for reasons stemming from profit-motives. The bourgeoisie has contributed to the creation of the wage-laborer, division of labor, and the ever increasing de-skilling of labor. In its quest for more profit, the bourgeoisie brings together workers, uniting them, and therefore creating their own means of destruction. When discussing the definition of what constitutes materialism, a chapter from Maurice Cornforth’s Materialism and the Dialectical Method, titled Materialism and Idealism, states that, “everything which exists comes into being on the basis of material causes, arises and develops in accordance with the laws of motion of matter (25).” In the Communist Manifesto, much of Marx’s theory is materialistic in the sense that it is derived from the fact that everything produced is possible because of material circumstances. The concept of materialism, as Cornforth describes, supports Marxist theory. This chapter discusses how materialists seek reason in the material, economic conditions of social life. As an example, Cornforth writes: If society is divided into rich and poor, it is because the production of the material means of life is so ordered that some have possession of the land and other means of production while the rest have to work for them. However hard they make work and however much they may scrape and save, the non-possessors will remain poor, while the possessors grow rich on the fruits of their labor. (19) Not only does this example support the way a materialist thinks, it also supports the characteristics of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The possessors, or rich, mentioned above could be interpreted as representing the bourgeoisie and the poor, as the proletariat. Much of Marx’s theory reflected in the Communist Manifesto is based on notions of materialism. Whatever fuels capitalism, whether it be money, the abundance of humans to be used, the opportunity to expand globally, or something else, they are all material reasons. Cornforth describes idealism as a “weapon of reaction” which has been used as a way to justify exploitation and deception. This could be said for the bourgeoisie who depend on idealistic purposes to validate their behavior and to offer a powerful reason, although false, as to why the proletariat must continue working. When discussing the bourgeoisie, the Communist Manifesto even states, “veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation (58).” For example, many leaders have used religious motives to defend wars and to instill in the soldier a spiritual drive. The poem, “Questions from a Worker Who Reads,” by Bertolt Brecht, supports the idea of social labor as is in the Communist Manifesto. Social labor is the need for people on all levels to reach production and success. Without these people, nothing would be produced and the bourgeoisie would not profit. This poem calls attention to such workers who are often overlooked. Brecht writes, “Great Rome is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them?” The Communist Manifesto emphasizes how the bourgeoisie has shown what a man’s activity can bring about, and this poem concentrates on such historical events, projects, and other “accomplished wonders” that were made possible by the work of thousands of men for the benefit of a higher class, or as Marx would call it, the bourgeoisie. The Communist Manifesto states...
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