1. Discuss the ways in which The Communist Manifesto uses literary means for political ends - Essay Example

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It is a concise and clear summary of the main ideas that communists believe in and serves as a basis for learning about that doctrine. It is by no means a dry,…
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1. Discuss the ways in which The Communist Manifesto uses literary means for political ends
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Discuss the ways in which the Communist Manifesto uses literary means for political ends. The Communist Manifesto was written by Karl Marx, with some assistance from Friedrich Engels and published in 1848. It is a concise and clear summary of the main ideas that communists believe in and serves as a basis for learning about that doctrine. It is by no means a dry, theoretical text, however, and it makes use of literary means to ensure that it is attractive to new readers and suitable for use as a tool of persuasion to convert these readers into communists.
An early indication of the work’s reliance on literary means is found in the imagery of the first line: “A spectre is haunting Europe” (p.2). This spectre is revealed to be communism, and it captures the imagination at the very start. The second indication of quite sophisticated literary mechanisms at work is the way that the argument is built around a fundamental conflict. The “holy alliance” between what are described “reactionary powers” and “Communism.” The authors grab the attention of the reader by taking familiar politicians, such as Metternich, and other leading figures such as the Pope and the Tsar, and linking them with obviously evil individuals such as “police spies” in the same sentence (p. 2). This device recasts all these players as harmful opponents, and defines Communism in opposition to these elements as something positive and wholesome, as well as a worthy foe to these forces.
A second literary device that is used repeatedly in the Communist Manifesto is the use of emotive description, often piled up in an exaggerated way, in order to add drama and tension to the political views that are presented. Examples of this are the description of Free Trade as “naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation” (p. 5) and that of the doctrines of German Socialism as “The robe of speculative cobwebs, embroidered with flowers of rhetoric, steeped in the dew of sickly sentiment, this transcendental robe…” (p.26).
These above-mentioned devices make the text more elaborate, but at the same time more engaging for the reader, because they contain quite strong emotional content. The text switches from this elaborate language to a simpler style when key points are made. The authors make complex ideas simpler by using personification : “As the parson has ever gone hand in hand with the landlord so has clerical socialism with feudal socialism” (p. 23). They also split the text into sections with explanatory headings so that the reader does not mistake the key message contained in each section. There are recap phrases such as “Section II has made clear the relations of the Communists to the existing working class parties” (p. 31) which help to structure the argument in an overt way.
The text reaches its climax with another arresting image, this time of workers in chains, which creates sympathy, and then a final exhortation “WORKERS OF ALL COUNTRIES UNITE” (p. 32) which becomes a slogan for action. Everything leads up to this final command, showing how skilfully argumentation moves into a call for action. All of these literary means bring life and passion to the underlying philosophy, making the abstract concepts real and highlighting issues of social justice in an emotive way.
Marx, K. and Engels, F. (1848) The Manifesto of the Communist Party. Translated by Samuel Moore. Available at: Read More
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