A Musical Connection
“The proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class” (Marx, pg. 803).
With our current discussion of class struggles, the slavery of the proletariat, and the overthrowing of the bourgeoisies circling through my mind, I’m constantly reminded of the musical, Les Miserables, and the musical dweeb within me yearns to make a connection between Victor Hugo’s original novel, its musical adaptation that’s received renowned accolades, and Marx’s Communist Manifesto. For those of you who tend to roll your eyes when a theater nerd gets more excited than is healthy, bare with me – because that’s exactly what’s about to happen.
For those unfamiliar with the novel or its musical adaptation, the plot is set in revolutionary France in the mid 19th century and follows the lives of a handful of French characters all struggling with different battles relating to the revolution. The entire story of the novel directly parallels Marx’s Communist Manifesto in its wrestling of the Proletariat class in its attempt to overthrow the bourgeoisies. In Chapter 2 of The Communist Manifesto, Marx outlines:
“The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other Proletarian parties: formation of the Proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat” (Marx, pg. 805).
So whether or not we think of the French proletariat class as communists, their struggle to overthrow the bourgeois, a central plot point and ultimate climax of the musical, allows them to perfectly depict what Marx is describing. Enjolras, the character at the center of the class struggle, is seen throughout the play as trying to rally the poor together and convince them of his strive to liberate the poor and reinstate liberty and justice into the corrupted France. In the following clip, “Do You Hear the People Sing?” we’re able to see exactly what Marx is describing outlined in an absolutely gorgeous song that captures the heart and soul of the Proletariat movement.
“Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!”
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