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Marxism, Socialism, and Communism

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The Winnipeg General Strike

Legacy of the Strike


Communist party handbillRooted in the mid-19th century and based on The Communist Manifesto—a radical treatise published in 1848—Marxism is one of the ideologies that came to the forefront in Canada following the First World War.

In The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels outlined what they believed to be the key to history: the rise and fall of successive classes as they struggled to retain or conquer control of the all-important productive forces of society. By the late 19th century, Marxism was widespread throughout the European trade union movement, and by 1889, socialist parties had been founded in numerous European nations.

Welcoming Tim BuckAfter the victory of communism in the Russian Revolution in 1917, a Communist International was created which, under the leadership of Lenin, hoped to foster world revolution. Thus, after the First World War, with the return of soldiers, massive unemployment, high inflation, poor working conditions, and the rise of revolutionary industrial unionism—which aimed to destroy the capitalist system—communism began to be seen as a growing threat.

In Canada, fears of communism came to a head with the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. Lasting from May 15 to June 25, it was the largest strike of a series in Canada, and pitted the largely middle-class Anglo-Saxon management against the largely Eastern European working-class (which, ironically, was lead by many Anglo-Saxon trade and union representatives). Nor was it necessarily a Communist movement, possibly having closer ties to the British tradition of trade unionism and political radicalism. Nevertheless, it played on public fears of communism, and management blamed the workers' strike on Bolsheviks.

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