Disclaimer: This blog post is essentially an extension of my essay (haha).
Some nights I just can’t help looking up at the moon, admiring it and all its beauty, and thinking to myself, “what in the world was Galileo thinking as he looked into the exact same moon in front of me.” I believe that Galileo’s greatest asset was not his intelligence, but his courage and audacity. It was through his courage did he dare to question centuries of teachings and knowledge. He firmly believed that through enough evidence and reason he will be able to shift people’s beliefs of the universe. Unfortunately, failure spares not even the greatest of men.
Brecht once said, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it” (Seminar). In his play Life of Galileo, Brecht uses Galileo’s life to paint an image of a society plagued by political and ideological contest. Moreover, it is arguable that Brecht uses his play to express his perception of Marxism’s stance during a political and economical tense era. During Brecht’s time, Marxism has gained a good amount of followers, but at the same time many grew to resent their ideology.
Changing people’s beliefs is truly a difficult task, but it is one that history proves possible. Two main aspects are involved in the shift of a society’s political stance: persuasiveness and circumstance. This is most evident in revolutions that have proved successful over time. A couple examples to name a few include the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia, the Nazi’s success in Germany, and the victory of Mao Ze Dong and the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) in China.
Although the history of these three events is too broad to be able to discuss in one blog post, it is quite interesting to know where persuasiveness and circumstances come into play in their respective contexts. The Bolshevik were only a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) who had the Red Army in their disposal. In this party included, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, the two men that spearheaded the formation of a one-party socialist state within the Soviet Union. The ideals of these men were revolutionary; their political theories enticed the people of the Soviet Union, persuading them into believing in a society fueled by ideology. However, the Bolsheviks would never have gained their popularity without the undeniable failure of Tsarist regime. The ineffective rule of the Tsar led to revolutions and uprisings, one of which included the Bolsheviks. Once the ruling government failed to prove efficient, people became desperate and needy, searching for ideologies that gave them hope, and in 1917 hope came in the form of socialism.
In the case of Nazi Germany, during 1929 two circumstances gave Adolf Hitler the perfect opportunity to boost his popularity. First was the economic depression of 1929, causing stock markets all over the world to crash, and causing hyperinflation in Germany. Second was a post-world-war Germany, plagued with enormous amounts of debts and was constantly maltreated by their neighbors, most notably France. The German people despised the way they were treated, and their living condition simply fueled their desperation and anger towards their neighbors. However, their misery was not only caused by external factors, the ruling Weimar Republic during this era also proved hopeless in improving their situation.And in 1929, beneath all the pain and suffering the society was enduring, Adolf Hitler emerges as their knight in shining armor, bringing irresistible hopes for a greater Germany.
Lastly, in 1921 Mao Zedong began his lengthy crusade in uniting China under a communist rule. Despite his many struggles, his undying effort in persuading the masses into believing his communist ideologies payed off in the decades that followed. For decades, China has been maltreated by Western countries, taking as much as they could for the benefit of their self-interest. In addition to this, China had no single authority as warlordism was evident throughout the country. However, before the CCP came the Kuomintang (KMT) lead by General Chiang Kai Shek, unfortunately the KMT’s greatest failure was attending to the needs of the Chinese people. Their rule in China seemed to be manipulated by the Americans, which the people absolutely condemned, ultimately leading to their fall.
So where does Galileo and Brecht come into this? Although Galileo lived in a very distant time from these wars, Brecht uses the same concept of how society shifts its beliefs. Galileo’s failure in persuading people into believing in his studies is rooted from the lack of circumstance during his era. Although he and his findings were given much attention, people lacked the reason to change a belief that has been taught for centuries. In comparison, Galileo’s failure may have even been caused by his arrogance, lacing the charisma and poise people like Lenin, Hitler, and Mao had, which greatly contributed in their victories.
Although Brecht pokes at Galileo’s failure in changing people’s beliefs, it is possible that Brecht himself suffered the same failure. In his efforts in spreading Marxism to the world, it is possible that his failure has also rooted from the lack of circumstance. Although he had evidence (just as Galileo did) that Maxism and socialism is successful through the prime example of the Soviet Union, much of the world found no reason to shift their beliefs into something extraordinarily different. In addition, several external factors also contributed to the hinderance of the further spreading of Marxism, as the world’s superpowers such as the US and Great Britain, placed much effort in preventing it. They sent monetary aid to countries such as Greece, Italy, and even Germany after the war to ensure that they will recover from their losses, removing the desperate circumstances that may lead them into communism.