Lectures 13 and 14
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Lecture 13: Radicalism and Repression
•‘Dangerous Foreigners’ – 1900s-1930s
-minority of immigrant workers in industry, mostly male and single. Became radicals, look up ‘left-wing
activity’. Attracted to socialism/communism
-gained a lot of attention; published newspapers/leaflets; drew attention of business and govt. They tended
to be labeled as ‘Dangerous Foreigners’ (pejorative label, used by critics) – seen as dangerous to capitalist
system, to traditional system of law and order, foreign speaking, outside British tradition (i.e.
-govt and businesses worked hard during this period to repress radicals
-a group dedicated to challenging authority by building a strong left movement; dedicated to helping
workers and ordinary people take charge and own means of production; workers vs. business/govt
•Process of Radicalization
-Immigrant workers did the dangerous jobs; experienced great job insecurity and felt exploited – anger and
the desire to relieve themselves of exploitative situation; felt isolated and cast out of Canadian mainstream.
Fed up with filthy living and working conditions
-Discrimination – Canadians often shunned foreign-speaking immigrants, seen as contaminative and ‘lowest
of the low’ in terms of their status, power, jobs
-Radicalism also encouraged by response they received to political activity: workers organizing strikes
would be threatened with deportation, police would be called – feelings that their needs not being met,
activities not tolerated; continually met by repressive power of the state
-Left activists from Europe (socialists, part of movements, already exposed to radical ideas) took up own
political activities upon arrival in Canada; within a new context; reached out to those they were ethnically
common. They were usually from European cities to lead/educate peasant immigrants to Canada. Believed
that it was important to build international leftist movement (“Workers of the World Unite”)
•Political Backgrounds of European Immigrants
-Ukrainians, Jewish, Finnish immigrants more attuned to leftist politics – a component of each ethnic groups
unusually active. They were bringing radical ideas with them in Europe; spread particularly well within
their own community
-British immigrants also involved, Croatia, Russia, Poland, Hungary, etc.
-Finnish immigrants: majority of immigrants from Finland were from rural areas; during WWI, a socialist
movement became strong in urban areas and when Russian revolution occurred, Russia lost domination of
Finland and FL to take own direction
-Red Fin (leftist) vs. White Fin (conservative, religious) – civil war – white eventually won, and
Red Fins fled
-Fins experienced in socialist activity and taking up laborious jobs
-‘Hall Socialism’: radical activity taking place in ethnic community halls; “Finnish Organization of Canada,
“Labour League” (Jewish) – places of recreational and cultural activity: thrived during this period,
sometimes would be used to educate rural people about leftist ideas
-1911 Socialist Democratic Party of Canada – most active in that decade. Brought together groups attached
to various ethnic halls into one party. Conducted business in many languages (including EN+FR); active in
elections (propagandize and educate public) and sometimes elected people to office
-Community Party of Canada 1921 – inspired by Russian Rev in 1917; considered Bolshevik govt to be
brilliant for toppling czars, building workers’ utopia; wanted to be part of world communist network;
affiliate of ComIntern – bulk of members were ethnic minorities, mainly from the three main groups; with
minorities of Eng/Fr, some in leadership positions. Ran candidates in various elections, very active in trade
labour movements; published newspapers The Worker
•Immigrants: Canadian Unions and the Left
-Trade unions had mixed relationship with radical orgs: most were craft unions (highly skilled workers –
plumbers, carpenters, etc) and recognized that employers needed their skills and that they had a better
chance at getting collective agreement bc they were difficult to be replaced. Must more advantageous
position than unskilled workers. Overwhelmingly EN+FR speaking in Canada. Wanted to be small and
strong; keep out competition. Often very hostile to immigrants (i.e. Anti-Asian movement)
-Eastern European Jews formed unions in major cities (Montreal, Winnipeg, Toronto) in garment industry;
very active in fighting for agreements and improved conditions/wages in that industry.
-Also “Industrial Workers of the World” (IWW) – ‘Wabblies’ – founded in Chicago in 1905, most
membership in United States but significant minority in Western Canada. Stood for one big union,
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considered strength in numbers. Believed in strikes as a way forward; forget elections because most
immigrants can’t even vote. Particularly active in British Columbia (i.e. railway labour). Encouraged
participation by ethnic groups, used various languages. Took interest in least skilled, least status workers
-“Workers Unity League”: established CPC under orders from Moscow. Gave communism a real sense of
purpose; “capitalism is on the fall.” Made some headway and organized significant workers in some
industries, but never a mainstream union. Craft unions continue to dominate throughout the 30s
•Repression during World War I (1914-18) and the Red Scare (1918-20)
-Govt saw this as a threat. Socialism/Communism as dangerous and foreign to Canada (weren’t professing
to believe in law and order, wanted to overthrow system) – common rhetoric. A foreign tactic particularly
attractive to foreigners. Decided that steps should be taken; war on foreign agitators; educators involved to
Canadianize newcomers and plan particularly acute during rise in radicalism (to destroy ethnic culture in
these communities, respect for law and order).
-Ottawa responded with increased police surveillance in ‘10s and ‘20s. Expansion of police surveillance on
radical activity; more sophisticated and more organized. First Dominion police, than RCMP. Hire spies to
report on ethnic leftist meetings or strike organizing. Kept names of suspected leftists, especially
unnaturalized citizens who could be deported.
-Increased sharply in WWI, especially in second half. Radicalism seen as threat to war effort;
strikes would slow down production. Radicals were questioning justice of WWI (why workers vs
workers?) and challenged conscription policies; dangerous ideas when govt very invested in war.
Desire to shut down radicalism increased due to Russian Revolutionary 1917, afraid that workers
would be encouraged to build more powerful radical movement and try to topple govt
-Govt with additional powers in wartime, enable them to move more forcefully against radicals
oWar Measures Act, 1914
-Restricted civil rights of citizens during the war (i.e. arrested w/o charge). Empowered govt to
undergo systematic censorship on media opposed to the war.
oRegistration of enemy aliens
-Able govt to register ‘enemy aliens’ (immigrants from enemy countries) – 80k registered during
-empowered govt to intern those seen as serious threats “The Enemy Within.” Security of Canada
threatened (i.e. those from Germany, Austria-Hungary); immigrants not yet naturalized, fear that
they had some connection to their home country). ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE IRL
-6000 Ukrainians interned, from Austria-Hungary and seen as enemies. Almost entirely
unemployed industry workers. Govt hardly interned those in rural farms; those hanging around in
-1917 Canadian election; large number of ethnic minorities disenfranchised.
-Govt of the day scared that these people would elect those against wartime measures
oCensorship and Banning Organizations
-Aug 1918: 184 publications banned in Canada; most of them foreign-language publications
-Most were imported from the United States.
-Sept 1918: banned all enemy language publications (i.e. German)
-Also banned 14 left wing organizations, declared illegal; ethnic halls shut down and assets seized.
•Red Scare (1918-20)
-“deport foreigners, lock up the troublemakers”
-popular movement underway to send enemy aliens back home; people marched in the streets in favour of
taking rights away; great resentment from veterans returning to Canada – were angry that enemy aliens had
held jobs in Canada during the war, that they were trying to hang onto jobs while veterans were
-Small ethnic businesses attacked
oThe Winnipeg General Strike 1919 – biggest strike in Canadian history up to that point.
Blamed on enemy alien agitators, foreigners, Bolsheviks. Heavy repression took place while strike was
underway. 200 activists arrested, significant numbers of strike leaders deported to Britain/Europe
-Govt introduced fierce amendments to Criminal Code to make it easier for them to arrest immigrants
for sedition and severe penalties for those arrested
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