Monday, March 23, 2009

Das Kapital: The Musical

The financial crisis has triggered a rejuvenated interest in the father of communism: Karl Marx.

From AFP:

SHANGHAI (AFP) — High-kicking Chinese Marxists are set to bring communism's most famous tract to life -- as a musical.

An all-singing, all-dancing stage version of Das Kapital is being produced in Shanghai to show how the thinking of Karl Marx is as relevant in today's economic crisis as when his book was first published in 1867, producers said Monday.

"The entertainment and theatrical elements will help ordinary people better understand why the financial crisis is happening," said Zhang Jun, a Fudan University economics professor, who is an advisor on the production.

He said his role is to ensure Marx's ideas are accurately represented in the stage spectacular.

"I've given an introductory briefing to the crew. They are still working on the script," Zhang added.

"The director, He Nian, will incorporate modern elements in the show to make it easily connect to people's lives and feelings."

The musical will revolve around a group of office workers who discover their boss is exploiting them and each responds differently, the China Daily newspaper reported.

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China's relationship with Karl Marx, and all of the other figures in international and Chinese communism, is a fascinating one. While China is still technically a communist country, its (previously) booming economy and rising is directly related to its open markets and commitment to capitalist ideas.

That's not to say that Chinese people have forgotten their communist past though.

Nearly every Chinese public school I've ever been to has pictures of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Mao on the wall. Here is a picture I took of one while going on a trip to a school in Shaanxi's countryside with Xi'an's Library Project:

Lenin, Sun Yat-sen, and Mao look over Chinese students as they learn

Although there is definitely some indoctrination of communist theory into China's youth, it is very rare to hear a young person say anything about Marx or communism. It's just not something that is relevant to their lives or holds their attention.

Jackie has explained the phenomenon to me like this: Older people, who see Mao as having defeated the Japanese, still hold reverence for Mao and, possibly, communist China. Younger people though are really not so interested in that kind of stuff. If the younger people have any interest in politics or political leaders, they tend to like Deng Xiao Ping and his "to get rich is glorious" ideas.

That is quite a contrast. Walking down a street in China, you may cross paths with an old-timer smoking a pipe in his Mao coat while one second later bumping into a young business owner on a cell phone with thousands upon thousands of RMB in his pocket.

Such is the fascinating experience of living in China.

I'm a bit surprised that a Marxist musical is coming out now. It makes sense that the financial crisis could trigger such emotions in people who've been exposed to his ideas though.

I feel comfortable in making the following predication: No matter how bad the financial crisis gets, Marxism and communist ideology is not going to sweep over the youth of China and their unbelievably materialistic wants and dreams.


Anonymous said...

Well, it will be tough to beat
"Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden "!

Anonymous said...

"...see Mao as having defeated the Japanese..."

Mark said...

You know... according to the official story.

Taylor O said...

decian? That Producer's joke was totally Taylor O's; I need to not be logged in to public computers.