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.
Paul Mason was born in 1960 in Leigh, Greater Manchester. He is BBC Newsnight's business and industry correspondent. He won the 2003 Wincott Award for business journalism and was named Workworld Broadcast Journalist of the year in 2004 . He lives in London.