Sally Kincaid

Striking to Survive

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This is an important and timely book. During the summer over 50 student activists were detained for supporting Shenzhen Jasic workers who had been dismissed for setting up an independent trade union.

Despite the lack of independent trade unions China has more strikes than any other country in the world. Fan Shigang uses oral histories of people involved in a 24 day strike in the Pearl Delta River (PDR) to show the determination of the workers and the tactics the bosses will use to win — from police harassment to mass arrests and hired thugs.

Women and China: what has changed?

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China’s economic success has improved the lives of some workers but also widened the gender and wealth gap. Sally Kincaid looks at what life has been like for women over the past 70 years since the Revolution.

‘No matter how good a woman, she will circle the kitchen stove. No matter how inferior a man, he will travel the world.’ This was a common saying in pre-revolutionary China, as was the answer to someone knocking at the door of a household: “There is no-one home” — there are no men at home.

Roses and Radicals

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For those younger readers who want to know about how women won the vote in the US this book is an ideal introduction.

Just like in the UK, the epic struggle to win the vote for women in the US took decades of protests and struggle. Zimet writes that the story has its origins in London at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention. Twenty four year old Elizabeth Cady Stanton boarded a ship with her new husband to take the 3,000 mile round sea trip to attend. She was a full time abolitionist.

So They call You Pisher!

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Many years ago I read a book edited by Phil Cohen called Children of the Revolution; it was stories of people who had grown up with parents who were members of the Communist Party (CP) in the 1950s. I found it oddly depressing with the notable exception of the interview with Michael Rosen. He was one of the few contributors who had not lost faith in the ability to fight to make the world a better place.

The President's Gardens

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On the third day of Ramadan 2006, nine decapitated heads are delivered in banana boxes to an Iraqi village. One of the heads belongs to Ibrahim, a quiet, gentle, humble soul. The President’s Gardens unravels through a story involving three generations under the backdrop of the invasion of Kuwait, the first Gulf War and the lead up to the US invasion.

The book intertwines the life-long friendship between Ibrahim the Fated, Abdullah Katfa and Tariq the Befuddle known collectively as the sons of the earth crack.

The Liar's Quartet

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Sitting in the shadows of the fairly new Trinity Shopping Centre near the now closed Conservative Club, there is a Red Shed, also known as Wakefield Labour Club.

Having miraculously survived various redevelopments in the city centre the Red Shed celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. The Red Shed is the political origin of comedian Mark Thomas’s activism, so to celebrate its birthday he put on a show and took The Red Shed on tour.

The Liars Quartet collects the scripts of The Red Shed and his previous shows, Cuckooed and Bravo Figaro!

China on Strike

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Anyone who is feeling a little demoralised and frustrated by the lack of strikes in the UK should add this book to their Christmas list, and then make sure they take some time out to read it.

Everyone knows about the booming Chinese economy, and many people know about the horrendous working conditions of those who have migrated from the countryside to the cities. There are two responses to alienating working conditions. One is the individual response which at best is walking out and at worst committing suicide.

China and the 21st Century Crisis

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Last summer I witnessed the symptoms of the slowdown in the Chinese economy: huge building projects in the city of Chongqing with few working on site; the subway system in Lijiang, which also seemed to have been mothballed.

So I jumped at the chance to review this book, even though I expected to have political disagreements with the author because he is a Maoist.

Ghost Cities of China

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I would recommend to anyone who wants a short, accessible read about the effects of Chinese economic development to ask their local library, if there is one left, to order Ghost Cities of China. For anyone who has visited China beyond the usual tourist destinations and wonders why a large railway station has been built in the middle of a desert, or where the roads with no cars go to, or whether anyone will ever live in the multiplying tower blocks, Wade Shepard’s book provides some answers.

Teach-in

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It amazes me that the shadow secretary of state for education can take trips to South East Asia and come back having learnt the wrong lessons. Tristram Hunt visited Singapore recently and returned saying that if teachers were made to swear an oath “about continuing to learn and to pass on the love of learning” then suddenly the status of teachers would improve.

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