The author: Karl Marx, with a little help from Friedrich Engels: a nomadic 34-year-old philosopher-journalist exiled in Brussels, and the Manchester rag-trade executive who who bankrolled his cash-strapped chum.

The book: The Communist Manifesto, dashed off at the behest of a tiny talking-shop of expat German artisans in Paris. Now, 150 years on, two English versions mark the anniversary. Consumers can choose (not an idea that many of Karl's fans ever grasped) between Verso's designer icon introduced by Eric Hobsbawm (pounds 8) or the Socialist Register 1998 (Merlin Press, pounds 12.95), which prints the text with a dozen new essays on its relevance.

The deal: A decade after the eastern bloc imploded, trend-spotting US organs such as Wired have fingered Marx as the Next Big Think. The cappuccino- swilling "microserfs" of Seattle or Soho are feeling fed up with the boss, and the Cold War bogeymen won't alarm them any more. But the older Marx of Capital makes your brain hurt (or work). So why not give a quick spin to this cool dude who blended a topsy-turvy take on Hegel's metaphysics with a brilliant line in satire?

The goods: For Hobsbawm and the Socialist Register crew, one chief feature of the 1990s redeems this relic of the 1840s: globalisation. They claim that Marx's vision of hi-tech business homogenising the planet has only really come about within the past 20 years. So, ironically, the champions of Mystic Marx imply that he foretold a world that arrived after the whole Bolshevik balloon had burst.

The verdict: As a scorching polemic graced with odd snatches of poetry, the Manifesto endures as an early-Victorian classic (though Engels's Condition of the Working Class in England remains by far the meatier read). As for the apologists: well, the Asian panic has steamed them up a treat. Will turbulence in South Korea vindicate their boy? Perhaps they ought to look again at North Korea.

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