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Paul Mason, 'Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global'

Harvill Secker, 2007; ISBN 0 4362 0615 3; 320pp; £12.99

Award-winning BBC business correspondent Paul Mason has set out on an important task in this, his first book: to keep alive the epic and inspirational stories of workers' struggles of days gone by and pass them on to the growing ranks of exploited working classes being created by the current expansion of global capitalism. Mason picks an international selection of key historical moments from the era of the first Industrial Revolution, and pairs them with examples of present day struggles in which the global workforce are facing problems of a profoundly similar nature.

The accounts are vivid and humane, and successfully bring to life the characters of the brave women and men, past and present, who risk all to secure their rights. Refreshingly, Mason avoids advocating specific political ideologies, but instead focuses firmly on the potential of all people to overcome their circumstances through solidarity, organisation and commitment. In fact, the lessons from history that Mason presents often show that it is internal ideological differences that have brought down otherwise successful workers movements.

The achievements of past struggles resound today, however at the time many victories were shortlived, and tragically numerous acts of resistance ended in violence. How can bloodshed be avoided in the future? What tactics should activists adopt today? There are no easy answers offered here - it is left very much for the reader to make what they will of what has gone before and contemplate how best to face the problems of the present. These histories not only provide clear examples of what can be expected but are essential in feeding our determination to continue to struggle for justice.

Topics: Labour movement