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From ignoring the boss and skiving off work; to protest tattoos and spilled oil; and the strength of an internationally feared union, the books in this reading list explore the acts of dissent and resistance that battle against the status quo and make the global capitalist system precarious.

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Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW

Edited by Peter Cole, David Struthers and Kenyon Zimmer

The Industrial Workers of the World is a union unlike any other. By using powerful organising methods including direct-action and direct-democracy, it put power in the hands of workers. This philosophy is labeled as ‘revolutionary industrial unionism’ and the members called, affectionately, ‘Wobblies’.

Wobblies of the World is the first book to look at the history of the IWW from an international perspective. Recounting these diverse histories, fights against racial prejudice in British Columbia, solidarity lines between soldiers in the Spanish Civil War and Maritime workers, and the rise of Anarchism in Mexican ports, the way that the IWW and its ideals travelled around the world is brought to life.

Working the Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centres 

By Jamie Woodcock

Call centres epitomise the neoliberal workplace; synonymous with low-paid and high stress work, dictatorial supervisors and an enforced dearth of union organisation. For six months Jamie Woodcock worked undercover in a call centre, his findings reveal the isolation and alienation, loss of agency and, ominously, the proliferation of surveillance and control which affects mental and physical well being of the workers.

Applying a Marxist methodology, Woodcock shows that within the 21st century workplace methods of resistance are proliferating and whilst the call centre might not be the site of revolution, it could pose a stimulus for organising and fighting for improved working conditions.

Just Work? Migrant Workers’ Struggles Today

Edited by Aziz Choudry and Mondli Hlatshwayo

From workers’ organisations in South Africa to migrant worker resistance in the Gulf, from forest workers in the Czech Republic to domestic workers’ structures in Hong Kong, Just Work? brings together a wealth of lived experiences and hidden struggles for the first time.

Struggles occurring in temping agencies and by workers on zero hours contracts reveals the changing nature of work, as  they are forced to fight against the precarious nature of jobs from both within and outside of traditional forms of labour organisations. Ways of resisting neoliberal immigration measures is revealed by workers in South Africa, Nigeria and the Gulf Arab States. With contributions from scholars and activists from around the world, this collection is truly based on grassroots experiences.

Artwash: Big Oil and the Arts

By Mel Evans

Art’s reputation as idealistic and utopian must be interrogated, Mel Evans argues in Artwash. It is precisely this reputation that obscures and enables problematic sponsorships and sugarcoat the companies involved, including Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, who are responsible for mass environmental destruction.

Based on the high profile campaign ‘Liberate Tate’, which involved undercover research, grassroots investigation and activism as well as performance and cultural interventions, Evans draws together the story of the campaign and its journey. The conclusion sounds a note of hope: major institutions (such as the Southbank Centre) have already agreed to cut sponsorship, and tribunals are happening which are taking these relationships to task. Artists and employees are developing new methods of work which publicly confront the oil companies. Like the anti-tobacco campaign before it, this will be an important cultural and political turn for years to come.

Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class 

By Immanuel Ness

Across the Global South, peasant communities are forced off the land to live and work in harsh and impoverished conditions. Inevitably, new methods of combating the spread of industrial capitalism are evolving in ambitious, militant and creative ways. Immanuel Ness looks at three key countries: China, India and South Africa. In each case he considers the broader historical forces at play – the effects of imperialism, the decline of the trade union movement, the class struggle and the effects of the growing reserve army of labour. Narrowing his focus, he reveals the specifics of each grassroots insurgency: export promotion and the rise of worker insurgency in China, the new labour organisations in India, and the militancy of the miners in South Africa.

This is a study about the nature of the new industrial worker in the Global South; about people living a terrifying, precarious existence – but also one of experimentation, solidarity and struggle.

Delirium and Resistance: Activist Art and the Crisis of Capitalism

By Gregory Sholette

Examining over thirty years of critical debates and artistic practices, Gregory Sholette historicizes and advocates for an art activist tradition.

Following the aftermath of the 2016 US elections, Brexit, and a global upsurge of nationalist populism, it is evident that the delirium and the crisis of neoliberal capitalism is now the delirium and crisis of liberal democracy and its culture. Engaging in critical dialogue with artists’ collectives, counter-institutions, and activist groups, he offers a firsthand account of the relationship between politics and art in neoliberal society, which leads him to champion an art/activism that radically—and, at times, deliriously—entangles the visual arts with political struggles.

Includes a preface by noted author Lucy R. Lippard and an introduction by theorist Kim Charnley.

Captive Revolution: Palestinian Women’s Anti-Colonial Struggle within the Israeli Prison System

By Nahla Abdo

Che Guevara, Mahatma Gandhi, Vladimir Lenin, in the struggles against colonialism, imperialism and other forms of oppression, women have often been out of sight. However, women throughout the world have always played their part in struggles, Nahla Abdo’s Captive Revolution breaks the silence on women political figures, chronicling the history of Palestinian political detainees she provides a vital contribution to research on women, revolutions, national liberation and anti-colonial resistance.

Drawing on a wealth of oral histories to analyse their anti-colonial struggle, making crucial comparisons with the experiences of female political detainees in other conflicts, and emphasising the vital role Palestinian political culture and memorialisation of the ‘Nakba’ have had on their resilience and resistance, Captive Revolution is a rich and revealing addition to our knowledge of this little-studied resistance struggles.

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All books are available from Pluto Press.