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Archive for the ‘Winnipeg General Strike’ tag

What explains the level of class consciousness that Canada’s working people exhibited in response to industrialization from the 1880s to the 1920s?

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From the 1890s to the 1930s, Canada witnessed the transition from industrialism to the age of industry. In the age of industry, capital and labour relations became strained, as industrial expansion transformed the Canadian workplace. Skilled workers were displaced, new immigrants joined the workforce, and business and government bureaucracies became feminized. At the end of World War I, social tensions between capital and labour reached a tipping point. On May 15, 1919, 30,000 workers in Winnipeg walked off the job – the Winnipeg General Strike had begun.


Historians have recently placed the Winnipeg General Strike within a larger context of labour unrest from 1917 to 1925. As Craig Heron notes, the statistics on strikes and union membership suggest that long-established divisions within the trade union movement were giving way to a “remarkable spirit of working-class unity and class consciousness.”


Why? Because of the stresses of World War I. Serious erosion of real wages after 1917 and the sense that the working-class had been asked to make an unfair contribution to the war effort.

The workers’ revolt was a critique of industrial capitalism in Canada.

Steven Penfold article on class and gender.


The revolt quickly faded when prosperity collapsed in mid-1920.

Economic reasons – labour stronger when economy stronger.

Business countered with labour management, company pension and health plans.

Old divisions within working-class. Skilled workers undermined by mass unionization.

Sources and methods

American leaders of United Mine Workers of America failed to support radical leadership of Cape Breton miners.

Events and incidents

Winnipeg General Strikes

Increase in strikes and union membership


Consciousness of class topped racial, gender factors post World War I. However, make-up of Canadian working-class is class, race, and gender.



Written by mannis2

August 1st, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Industrial Workers of the World

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The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) or Wobblies were a radical union organization. In comparison to trade unions, the Wobblies aimed to organize all workers in an industry, skilled and unskilled, native and immigrant, men and women. Wobbly theorists believed that industrial unions were eventually to give way to one “grand” or “big” union, in order to unite against capital.

Although the economic downturn of 1913-1915 and World War I eroded Wobbly strength, however, their history testifies to the tension created by industrialization in Canada, and to the very different ways that various elements within the working class responded to such tensions. The Wobblies popularized the idea of the “grand industrial union” and the “general strike,” both of which would guide Canadian workers-skilled and unskilled-in their protest against social conditions at the end of World War I.

Written by mannis2

July 30th, 2011 at 9:40 am

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