November 2, 2009
The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg – Pistoleros!: 1: 1:1918 (Paperback)
by Farquhar McHarg (Author), Christie Stuart (Editor), Helios Gomez (Illustrator), Paul Sharkey (Translator)
Pistoleros! Is the story of twentieth century anarchism as witnessed by McHarg, a Glaswegian anarchist sailor who became embroiled in Spanish revolutionary politics at the end of the First World War. Curiously echoing the editor Christie’s (author of ‘Granny Made Me an Anarchist’ and ‘Floodgates of Anarchy’) own life fifty years later, the youthful and naïve McHarg jumps ship in Barcelona and enlists with the CNT (the anarchist national workers union) in their struggle against the bosses proto-fascist murder squads and para-military catholic groups (which provided training for the likes of Franco in murder and suppression techniques).
Pistoleros! is written in the style of a genre thriller with all of the accompanying intrigues; double dealing spy networks, evil foreign agents, love and betrayal all framed within the romantic backdrop of post WW1 Barcelona – and in this way it’s is a gripping read, yet these characters and events are real, the colourful backdrop the grim reality of poverty versus the opulence and wealth of the Barcelona bourgeoisie.
Anarchists are often caricatured as firebrands and disorganised individualists and universally accused of being better at ‘analysing the problem’ rather than providing practical solutions. Pistoleros! shows that the history of Anarchism has been that of pragmatism; Anarchists were always on the frontline of providing real-world solutions through organised labour in effective opposition to the exploitation and corruption of the ruling classes – when the traditional left were constantly mired in internal power politics and global machinations.
August 14, 2008
An article i’ve written for DimSum:
“Chinese Whispers: The True Story Behind Britain’s Hidden Army of Labour”
by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Fig Tree Paperback
Right now as you sit comfortably reading this article an army of invisible workers is toiling day and night to provide you with fresh inexpensive supermarket produce, clean homes, cheap restaurant meals and pirated DVDs, they provide supermarkets with booming profits and contribute billions to the British economy. Though invisible, you know these people; they are the harassed waiters in London’s Chinatown, DVD sellers in supermarket car-parks and the bodies being unloaded from the back of trucks in Dover or washed up on the beaches of Morecambe bay…
This army of workers numbers somewhere between 310,000 and 570,000 people (UK Home Office 2007). They come from all over the world, different races and different languages united only in their poverty, overwork and underpay. These members of the British ‘Sub-Economy’ are not protected by any employment law or support group; they have no access to legal services, education, housing or healthcare and are made ripe for exploitation due to their ‘illegal migrant’ status. The work they perform is refused by established British workers. It’s done in atrocious, hazardous conditions with illegally long hours and rewarded with pitiful wages.
Hsiao-Hung Pai’s Book ‘Chinese Whispers’ examines one sector of this labour army; probably the most vulnerable and most exploited group, the Chinese migrant worker. To get a firsthand account of the plight of these people, Hsia-Hung Pai went undercover posing as a newly arrived migrant shortly after the Morecambe Bay Tragedy in 2004 (elements of the book form the basis of Nick Broomfield’s film ‘Ghosts’); ‘Chinese Whispers’ documents her experiences in the British black economy. Hsiao-hung begins by describing the reality of the effects of globalisation and the boom of the new Chinese economy.
Read the rest of this entry »