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Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global [Paperback]

Paul Mason
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Paperback, 5 April 2007 --  
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Live Working or Die Fighting: How The Working Class Went Global Live Working or Die Fighting: How The Working Class Went Global 4.4 out of 5 stars (13)
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Book Description

5 April 2007
A Chinese woman pushes her way to the front of a hiring queue outside a factory in Shenzhen...A Bolivian miner, without light or ventilation, crawls deep inside a deserted mine...A group of Somali cleaners files into an investment bank in London's Canary Wharf...Globalisation has created a whole new working class - and they are reliving stories that were first played out a century ago. In "Live Working or Die Fighting", Paul Mason tells the story of this new working class alongside the epic history of the global labour movement, from its formation in the factories of the 1800s to its near destruction by fascism in the 1930s. Along the way he provides a 'Who Do You Think You Are?' for the anti-globalisation movement, uncovering startling parallels between the issues that confronted the original anti-capitalists and those who have taken to the streets in Seattle, Genoa and beyond. Blending exhilarating historical narrative with reportage from today's front line, he links the lives of 19th-century factory girls with the lives of teenagers in a giant Chinese mobile phone factory; he tells the story of how mass trade unions were born in London's Docklands - and how they're being reinvented by the migrant cleaners in skyscrapers that stand on the very same spot. The stories come to life through the voices of remarkable individuals: child labourers in Dickensian England, visionary women on Parisian barricades, gun-toting railway strikers in America's Wild West, and beer-swilling German metalworkers who tried to stop World War One. It is a story of urban slums, self-help co-operatives, choirs and brass bands, free love and self-education by candlelight. And, as the author shows, in the developing industrial economies of the world it is still with us. "Live Working or Die Fighting" celebrates a common history of defiance, idealism and self-sacrifice, one as alive and active today as it was two hundred years ago. It is a unique and inspirational book.

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker (5 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0436206153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0436206153
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 15.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,113,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"...reveals the profound continuity in the conditions, hopes, and
challenges of the international working class...Micro-historical writing at
its best."
-- Walden Bello, author of Dilemmas of Domination: the Unmaking of the American Empire (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2005; executive director of Focus on the Global South; and recipient of the Right Livelihood Award (a.k.a. the "Alternative Nobel Prize") in 2003

'If you haven't read Mason's book, you know nothing...
breathtaking, fascinating, perceptive... Damn, I wish I'd written this' -- Greg Palast, Author of ARMED MADHOUSE: From Baghdad to New Orleans - Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild

Book Description

An extraordinary history of the working class and its globalisation that takes Victorian factories, trade unions, fascism and today's migrant labourers, among many other subjects, in its epic sweep. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From Peterloo to Michigan 20 July 2008
This book is mostly a history of working-class movements from the early C19th to the start of World War II. It opens with Peterloo, then looks at the loom-workers of Lyon, the Paris Commune, the American Knights of Labour, London dockers, Limoges ceramicists, Argentine conventillos, Wobblies, the pre-1914 German SPD, Shanghai communists, the Jewish Bund in Poland and ends with Turin and Flint car-markers of the 1920s and 1930s. These wide-ranging narratives often use the perspective of an `ordinary' individual caught up in the events to lead into a story of an industrial and social battle. They're gripping and sometimes shocking. The recurring themes interestingly include the conflicts between skilled and unskilled workers, and between workers who wanted merely better working conditions and those who wanted a whole new society. The book describes the development of various forms of resistance (factory occupations, sabotage, sit-down strikes, full-scale insurrections...) and tactics (the Flint auto-workers using half-made cars as barricades); and the varying claims and practices of syndicalists, socialists, communists, anarchists and social democrats. The other consistent factor is the extremely brutal repression by the ruling elites to such resistance - commonly involving use of a nation's troops against its own people and, not uncommonly, mass murder. The `Die Fighting' in the title of the book isn't mere rhetoric.
The author argues that workers firstly tend to `create the new society from within the old' - a pre-welfare-state `union way of life' with services like education and health run by themselves - before confronting corporate power, and predicts a forthcoming global labour movement to match globalised capitalism.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book to get you thinking 8 Aug 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
How can you tell the stories of the struggle of the working class in a manner that seemed relevant today? Only by counterpointing present day reportage of poverty and human rights abuses amongst the underclass of people who support our modern society with the unvarnished tales of the battle for working class justice over the part two centuries. Peterloo, the Silk Workers strike in Lyon, the Paris Commune, pre-war German metalworking socialists, China under Japanese occupation, Brzeziny in Poland - all seem populated by aliens to a modern television viewing wired reader. How could civilised people live cheek by jowl with such human rights abuses and downright inhumanity?

We need to learn the lessons of our history - to stop us compounding them. This book deserves to be on every secondary school history teachers' reading list and in every university library. Only by showing the next generation the relevance of the working class struggle can you enable them to build on lessons learnt to improve the present and future.

Paul Mason's book shows how the trade union movement grew, became global and then imploded as it failed to maintain its social contract with the working class. Today in modern service economies with good enforceable `elf and safety and employment laws trade unions seem an irrelevance. In developing countries the trade unions tend either to be part of corrupt kleptocratic establishments or are supporting shibboleths which exclude the poor and unskilled from the very rights which the original trade union organisers fought for.

Paul tells stories about the past to give us some pointers towards our possible future. As far as this goes this is good. But "Live Working or Die Fighting" is only a starting point.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book to die for 21 July 2007
By redbigbill VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fantastic research and a work of respect and love for the working class by BBC's Newsnight Industrial reporter, Paul Mason. Essential reading for anybody half interested in the struggles of the working class, internationally over the last few centuries, contrasting conditions then and today, makes me think how litle we have progressed in some areas. Mason does not seem to have a particulary sharp political axe to grind but he does point out in many of the industrial battles and struggles described that the workers were often well ahead of the offical trade union leaders and left political parties. The prose is magic, each chapter moves along at a pace, the detail and research is awesome, if you have any interest in the stuggle of working people for a more dignified and more valued life then this book is invaluable, often shocking and often violent, this is a work of real history. Best thing I have read for ages, buy it, you will not regret it. Look forward to more of the same.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply a MUST read 2 Dec 2010
In any circumstances, this would rank as a brilliant contribution to human understanding; in the globalised world of today with the crash of neo-liberal policies and a growing army of unemployed, Mason's book is essential reading. Here is a exciting gallop through often forgotten or hidden working class history: it should be a wake-up call for anybody who still thinks the current system can "turn the corner" and is a clarion call to action for all concerned about a slide into barbarism for most of humanity.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Stunning 16 Jan 2008
A timely reminder for me of the courage of our forebears, whose sacrifice at least means we in the West are not sent out to work 10 hours a day at 7 years old any more! The parallels Paul Mason makes with conditions in today's Capitalist-sponsored slave labour economies are almost haunting - and show just how seriously we should be supporting those in the Developping world who are now fighting for their basic rights in the face of the Neoliberal onslaught.

All in all, a serious topic covered in a writing style which is both gripping and compulsive.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent.Global perspective. A Must Read for any person with an...
This book is long overdue. It reminds us of how very precious democracy is in protecting us all. Not just the poor.
Published 8 months ago by irene melia
5.0 out of 5 stars Recipient well pleased
Not applicable to me as I'm retired. ( No, joking apart ) I bought this for a christmas present for a union man and he throughly enjoyed it.
Published 8 months ago by lady jane
4.0 out of 5 stars Why no discussion of Spanish anarchism?
This is a very good book, reviewing some long lost episodes of working class history, with some interesting attempts to draw parallels with contemporary events within the new,... Read more
Published on 23 Feb 2012 by Dr. E. May
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
So much history here which is so needlessly neglected - real history, the stories of real people, their lives and their struggles for some semblance of fairness. Read more
Published on 14 Jan 2012 by P. Duval
5.0 out of 5 stars Live Working or Die Fighting: How the working Class went Global
I have just finished reading this and I want more! I have learnt so much about the struggle of the exploited workforce in my grandparents' time, that somehow I'd just never really... Read more
Published on 7 Oct 2011 by tessapick
5.0 out of 5 stars it made me spend money
Its such a great book that even though I borrowed this one from the library I just had to buy Meltdown, his other book. Read more
Published on 24 Aug 2011 by stingyjane
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit boring to be honest
Paul's other book about the global financial crisis was excellent, this book however is a bit boring, in that its just so repetitive as it details conflict after conflict around... Read more
Published on 10 April 2011 by S. Moore
1.0 out of 5 stars leftist boilerplate
leftist boilerplate masquerading as insightful analysis.

As dull as the apologetics of any religious sectarian.

Completely devoid of merit. Read more
Published on 4 Sep 2008 by Scrivenerswheel
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