4) SALUTE TO THE WINNIPEG GENERAL STRIKE

People's Voice Editorial

 

In the sweeping historical panorama of the working class movement, certain episodes tower above the plains, for all to remember. The Winnipeg General Strike which began 100 years ago this month is undoubtedly the most outstanding example in Canada. As the imperialist slaughter of the First World War ended, there were rumblings that such a struggle might break out in western Canada, where socialist and anarcho-syndicalist sentiments were strongest. The Western Labour Conference in Calgary two months previously, inspired by the Russian Revolution, adopted resolutions which seem astonishingly radical today, and the Canadian capitalist state was deeply fearful of the spread of “Boilshevik” ideas.

 

Those fears were both well-founded and exaggerated. Workers were indeed in a militant mood, ready to push back against the bosses on a huge scale; the six week strike in Winnipeg sparked sympathy actions in many other cities where workers had similar grievances over pay rates, working conditions, and other issues. Unfortunately, general strikes do not automatically overturn the capitalist system. The Winnipeg strike’s valuable lesson was that while the bosses cannot exist without workers, the opposite is not true. Society can function perfectly well without an exploiting class, and the vast majority of working people can administer their own affairs. However, the Winnipeg strike demonstrated another truth:

 

capital will resort to any measure of force and violence to remain in power.

 

The General Strike did not achieve its immediate demands. But the earth-shaking events of 1919 prepared the ground for workers and their allies to build a wider socialist movement, including the Communist Party of Canada, which played a key role in the mass struggles of following decades. As we salute the centenary of this courageous struggle, we also call on the labour movement today to lift up the fight against neoliberalism, austerity and war, in the spirit of 1919.

 

(The above article is from the May 16-31, 2019, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)