Rooted 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
After 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.