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Reformers, Rebels, and Revolutionaries

Reformers, Rebels, and Revolutionaries: The Western Canadian Radical Movement 1899-1919

Copyright Date: 1977
Pages: 228
  • Book Info
    Reformers, Rebels, and Revolutionaries
    Book Description:

    Using previously unexplored sources, McCormack has produced the first comprehensive examination of the early history of the radical movement in western Canada, adding an important dimension to our knowledge and understanding of Canadian labour history.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7914-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-1)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. 2-2)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-17)

    The western Canadian radical movement was a product of the economic ‘Boom’ of the late 1890s – a ‘conjuncture of favourable circumstances’ which resulted in the great economic expansion of western Canada. Capital – American, British, European, and Canadian – poured into the West to create a boom of unprecendented proportions. Before the outbreak of war in 1914, hundreds of thousands of immigrants had settled in the four western provinces. Many took up farms and pushed the prairie agricultural frontier back to its furthest limits. Others joined in the recently increased exploitation of British Columbia's three great staples, fish, minerals,...

  6. 2 The emergence of the socialist movement in British Columbia
    (pp. 18-34)

    Canadian socialism came of age in British Columbia. In the first years of the twentieth century, fledgling socialist organizations emerged across the country, but BC became the dynamic centre of the movement Beginning in the late 1890s, eastern Canadian, British, and American socialists laid the institutional and doctrinal foundations of the provincial movement. Because various influences were at work, ideological disputes, which would later become chronic, broke out between socialists. But these tensions were not yet debilitating; rather they pushed the movement beyond reformism. Because political and social conditions were especially conducive to the growth of socialism in the first...

  7. 3 Militant industrial unionism and the first western rebellion
    (pp. 35-52)

    From the time the labour movement emerged in western Canada, workers there were isolated from the influence of the eastern-dominated Trades and Labor Congress. This condition was only partly a function of distance. Western economic and social realities which presented the labour movement with special and different challenges tended to estrange westerners from easterners. The same circumstances that produced alienation provided a context favourable to the growth of radicalism, which, in turn, caused further alienation. As more and more western labour leaders moved to the left, they perceived themselves as the progressive element in the congress, always restrained and frustrated...

  8. 4 The ascendancy of the Socialist Party of Canada
    (pp. 53-76)

    Between 1904 and 1910 - the period of ascendancy for the Socialist Party of Canada (SPC) - revolutionaries had real vitality and influence in the western Canadian radical movement. The party, the successor to the SPEC, maintained its position in the BC labour movement and forged an important place in provincial politics. Because it had a national vision, the SPC organized significant numbers of workers in Alberta and Winnipeg. Among those who joined the party were many of the European immigrants who were crowding into the West. The socialism which the SPC taught its new members was impossiblism, the BC...

  9. 5 A case study in labourism: Winnipeg 1899–1915
    (pp. 77-97)

    In the years before the general strike, political activism was a significant and persistent dimension of Winnipeg’s labour movement. This radicalism, however, was not the impossiblism of British Columbia. Winnipeg workers were not threatened by incoming waves of Asiatics. Nor were they influenced by a revolutionary power base, the miners, as workers in Vancouver and Victoria were. And geography ensured that western American socialism would not be important in the city. Winnipeg’s dominant radical tendency was the less militant doctrine which was part of the British trade unionists’ cultural baggage labourism. Because it was British in origin, labourism was one...

  10. 6 The Industrial Workers of the World and militant industrial unionism
    (pp. 98-117)

    The development of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in western Canada demonstrated the ease with which men and ideas moved back and forth across the forty-ninth parallel in the years before 1914. The same revolutionary industrial unionism which inspired thousands of wretched unskilled workers in the United States was carried to the western provinces by such Wobbly luminaries as Bill Haywood, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Frank Little, and Joe Hill.¹ But more important propaganda was conducted by faceless Wobblies who agitated while they worked beside hard-rock miners, loggers, construction workers, and harvesters and then tramped to take up the...

  11. 7 Western radicals and the Great War: the first phase
    (pp. 118-136)

    Pacifism and anti-militarism had been an important dimension of the radical movement since its inception. Because these sentiments animated all radicals, the movement was more unified after 1914 than ever before. Socialists and labourites, syndicalists and social democrats joined in a crusade against the war. Their primary object was to encourage working class opposition to Canadian participation in the European conflict. They had some success; indeed, that radicals led the important components of the western labour movement was never more evident. Nonetheless, in August 1914 workers were preoccupied with the serious unemployment which had plagued the region for two years....

  12. 8 Western radicals and the Great War: the second phase
    (pp. 137-164)

    For the western Canadian radical movement, 1918 and the early months of 1919 represented a continuation of the first phase of the war in that the workers’ militancy increased to unprecedented levels. The period was also a separate phase because revolutionaries redirected the militancy. Workers were profoundly disturbed by the continuing deterioration in real wages and by the fear – after November the reality – of unemployment. Workers clung to the conviction that they had sacrificed more and suffered more as a result of the war than any other class in society. The trend of rapidly rising union membership persisted...

  13. 9 Epilogue
    (pp. 165-172)

    Winnipeg was the centre of the industrial crisis which shook the nation in the early summer of 1919. On May 15 the city’s economy was paralyzed by a general strike. United by a common sense of grievance at economic hardship and political repression, some 25,000 men and women struck in sympathy with the embattled workers of the city’s building and metal trades.¹ The basic issue in the general strike was the metal workers’ demand for collective bargaining. Because of their recent experience and because of the revolutionaries’ propaganda, the workers were confident that their massive strength would inevitably defeat the...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 173-210)
  15. Selected bibliography
    (pp. 211-220)
  16. Index
    (pp. 221-228)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 229-229)