Marx brings new meaning to radical chic

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The Independent Online
FORGET the executions, the brutal suppression, the interminable queues at half-empty shops, forget the Gulags. Marx, it seems, is the next big thing; we are entering an era of Communist chic.

In a flurry of rather self-conscious marketing babble, the Communist Manifesto is being re-released as a fashion accessory. To mark the 150th anniversary of its first publication in English, radical publisher Verso is to present the work as a "must-have for the sybaritic classes".

This version of what was one of the most influential and least-read documents of all times will be "sumptuous and fetishised", according to Verso's Emilia La Fuente Sanchez.

"The book will be finely crafted and of exceptional beauty - bound in high-quality cloth, with coloured page-ends, a ribbon page-marker and a stunning jacket illustration by Komar and Melamid," he said. The latter are apparently post-modern artist-pranksters who got the hell out of the Soviet Union in 1978.

It is said that the new version of the oeuvre will sit comfortably on a Ligne Roset coffee table or "fit snugly" into a Prada purse .

Unable to resist the main chance, Terrie Albano, spokesperson for the Communist Party USA - presumably he is one of those members of the party who does not report to the CIA - described the idea as "cool".

Ex-pipe-fitter Roy Jones, of Colwyn Bay, one of the longest serving Communists in Britain, prefers the word "shite" to describe the fripperies surrounding the new publication - but adds that he's all for it, if it brings the revolution a tad nearer.

Revelling in his new-found chic, Rob Griffiths, general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, said, "Abolishing bourgeois property and overthrowing the existing order could seriously disrupt coffee mornings and dinner parties. At least a new edition of the Communist Manifesto will help the uncool understand why it has to happen."

For those coffee-table communists who actually open Marx's work, they will find some good bits and some other bits which didn't quite come off.

The Marx analysis of capitalism, that a small number of people enrich themselves at the expense of others - will ring a few bells. But the prophecy that the hated system was in imminent danger of collapse - well, it still hasn't quite happened.

Eric Hobsbawm, the respected historian who has written a foreword to the manifesto, argues that the creation of a revolutionary proletariat which would overthrow capitalism represented a "hope" read into his analysis, not a conclusion necessarily imposed by that analysis. Professor Hobsbawm points out that the manifesto is a work of literature containing passages of "dark laconic eloquence", such as workers having "nothing to lose but your chains".

Another much quoted Marxist phrase is the "cash nexus" between capitalist and the working-class. In the case of Verso's new version of the manifesto, the cash nexus comes to pounds 8, which the company says it will use to produce more radical literature.

One can only wonder what comrade Blair and his New Labour friends will make of it all.