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The New Democracy

The New Democracy: Challenging the Social Order in Industrial Ontario, 1914-1925

James Naylor
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 336
  • Book Info
    The New Democracy
    Book Description:

    James Naylor traces the transformation of class relations in the industrial cities of southern Ontario.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8184-2
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    Nineteen nineteen was a pivotal year in working-class history. In Canada, it was the year of the Winnipeg General Strike and the birth of the One Big Union. Everywhere, it seemed, the labour movement was undergoing an astounding transformation. In North America and Europe, general strikes, insurrections, soviets, workers’ councils, industrial unions, and a myriad of socialist parties were emerging out of the ashes of the First World War, often taking inspiration from the Bolsheviks in Russia. Although the extent of this radicalization varied greatly, few would have accused Lloyd George of alarmism in his assessment that the ‘whole existing...


    • 1 Workers, Unions, and War
      (pp. 13-41)

      ‘Mr. Workingman, war has hit men hard and made them think deeply.’² The labour propagandist who wrote in these terms about the First World War had observed workers’ efforts to understand the sources of the terrible conflict and grasp its consequences for their own lives, for their families, workmates, community, and country. There was much to find confusing. Sacrifice, hardship, and service in the name of the high ideals of civilization and democracy for which the Empire claimed to stand became commonplace. Trade unions in Toronto alone saw 3,500 members facing an uncertain fate in the trenches of France by...

    • 2 Beyond Craft Unionism: The Post-war Industrial Challenge
      (pp. 42-72)

      In the spring and summer of 1919, southern Ontario’s workers were finally free to vent their anger on a political and social system that had repeatedly failed to respond to their demands. It was soon apparent that the armistice had brought no solutions to the problems that, three years earlier, had provoked the uprising of Hamilton machinists. In part, it meant that Canada’s rulers were no longer able to attempt to play the trump cards of sacrifice and patriotism to silence workers’ demands for social justice and decent living conditions. Moreover‚ the period of reconstruction‚ which had come to occupy...


    • 3 The Development of a Labourist Consensus
      (pp. 75-100)

      From the Hamilton munitions strike to the near paralysis of industrial Toronto in 1919, the conflicts that rocked southern Ontario were born of frustration and resentment at the fortunes of war: fortunes that fell unevenly upon a class-divided society. Employers’ intransigence in the face of labour’s demands for the eight-hour day and recognition of their unions revealed how little had been won; the Orders in Council demonstrated how much had been lost. Yet, despite devastation in Europe and creeping autocracy at home, this was an era of great promise. Mainstream religious leaders, for instance‚ saw ‘a redemptive war‚¹ which marshalled...

    • 4 The Battle for Democracy
      (pp. 101-128)

      The 1917 federal election was the new Independent Labor Party’s most difficult wartime test. Inexperienced and generally unprepared branches relied on untested speakers and organizers to mount a campaign that, if it fell short of the hopes of some, established the party on the electoral map.² Given the confused political landscape and the tendency for former political alliances to manifest themselves, the ILP had done well to avoid a major crisis. Disruption caused by political differences, including M.M. MacBride’s disregard for the ILP’S prohibition on dealing with other political parties, was successfully evaded. The provincial executive quietly investigated and exonerated...

    • 5 The Woman Democrat
      (pp. 129-156)

      The Ontario provincial election of 1919, which saw the triumph of the farmer and labour parties, was the first in which women could vote. Since labourists viewed the ballot as their primary instrument to defend democracy against partyism and special privilege, the extension of the franchise to women held special promise. Long a demand of labour political activists,² women’s suffrage was celebrated as a first, giant step towards the ‘new democracy.’ Moreover, it promised to draw working-class women into the mainstream of labour electoral activity, since the fate of the Independent Labor Party now rested upon the shoulders of both...


    • 6 Welfare Capitalism and Industrial Democracy
      (pp. 159-188)

      A working-class vision of democracy, articulated in the demands of local labour councils and trades federations and the Independent Labor Party of Ontario did not go unchallenged. A strong and active labour movement threatened to alter permanently social and political relations in Canada and, it appeared in 1919, around the world. The revolutions in Russia and Germany were, of course, far off, although less so to bourgeois Winnipeg whose social distance from the slums of the north end was revealed in its image of a plot by alien revolutionists to overthrow the government during the general strike in that city....

    • 7 In Defence of Capital
      (pp. 189-214)

      For labourists who had long railed against such impediments to democracy as an appointed upper house and patronage-riddled partyism, the federal government’s choice of venue for the National Industrial Conference rang with symbolic justice. For six stormy days in September 1919, Canada’s senators were displaced from the Red Chamber by the direct representatives of organized capitalists and workers. If not for the fact that the conference had only advisory powers, it might have appeared that the parliamentary veneer had fallen; the real political power and opposition of the country had taken their places on opposite sides of the house. The...

    • 8 Labourism Tested
      (pp. 215-244)

      The Ontario election of 1919 was a momentous event in the province’s history as labourism and the agrarian revolt together claimed victory on behalf of the province’s ‘producing classes.’ It was a victory rooted in five years of war and social dislocation, of struggle for democracy and against profiteers. It was a means of declaring that those who toiled on the farms and in the factories and fought in the trenches were willing and prepared to ensure that their needs would not be forgotten in the post-war reconstruction. In the cities, it was also the culmination of a decades-long struggle...

  8. Conclusion: Real Democracy
    (pp. 245-254)

    Through the war and its aftermath Ontario workers had constructed a vision of democracy that was in constant tension with that of their bosses. This vision lacked clarity, perhaps, to the ongoing frustration of socialists who struggled valiantly to bring it into focus. But in the 1919 provincial election, and in the amalgamation movement and incipient industrial unionism, a notion of democracy defined in collective terms was taking shape. It was a democracy that challenged class distinctions in Canadian society. Of necessity, it incorporated notions of economic and social justice absent from what revolutionary socialists readily decried as ‘the sham...

  9. Appendix: Strikes and Lock-outs
    (pp. 255-260)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 261-312)
  11. Note on Sources
    (pp. 313-318)
  12. Index
    (pp. 319-336)