You've come a long way, comrade.
A stylish new edition of "The Communist Manifesto" aims to make Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels the latest in radical chic.The slender volume is being republished as a glossy, $13 hardcover for release in New York and London on May Day. The fashionable department store Barneys is thinking about it for a window display.
The publisher says the 1848 work speaks to a sense on Wall Street that the party can't go on forever.
"There's a sense of anxiety tied to the millennium. People don't believe things will just carry on, with markets rising forever," says Colin Robinson, head of Verso publishers, which is printing 20,000 copies on the 150th anniversary of the manifesto. "Marx's description of a capitalist system prone to shocks and convulsions captures that mood."
The revolutionary book, now with a rippling red-flag cover, has become fodder for capitalist fantasy:
With a handle attached, the book could make a snazzy accessory to a designer dress, says Simon Doonan, creative director of Barneys on Madison Avenue. One could sashay toward the new millennium, the 19th-century words of Marx and Engels dangling at one's side.
Doonan is toying with the idea of featuring the "Manifesto" - along with red lipsticks - in the window as "conceptual art." His assistants are looking for the right lipstick - preferably with a Russian-sounding name.
With communism gasping around the world, "it's OK to look at the book as camp," he says.
Around Wall Street, the very capital of capitalism, the Borders bookstore at the World Trade Center plans to give the book center display in the front of the store. Barnes & Noble will likewise market the "Manifesto" at its 483 superstores as "a storefront feature."
"Enough time has passed since the fall of the Iron Curtain so Marxism can again be seen as a utopian philosophy," says John Kulka, a Barnes & Noble merchandise manager.
The new edition was designed by two trendy, Soviet-born, New York artists known as Komar and Melamid. With crimson end pages and a ribbon marker of the same color, "it's elegant enough to grace a coffee table," Robinson says.
That's not quite what its authors had in mind.
Written during the Industrial Revolution, the "Manifesto" called the working class to arms against the bourgeoisie.
The "Manifesto" opens with the famous words, "A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of Communism." It predicted that a catastrophic cycle of booms and busts would befall the new free-market system.
"Cool," spokeswoman Terrie Albano says. "It wasn't too long ago when everyone was saying communism was dead. Here it is, resurrected."