Canadian Socialist League

Last updated

Canadian Socialist League
Founded1898 (1898)
Dissolved1905 (1905)
Succeeded by Socialist Party of Canada
Headquarters Toronto, Ontario, Canada
NewspaperCitizen and Country
Ideology
  • Socialism
  • communism

The Canadian Socialist League (CSL) was the first nationwide socialist organization founded in Canada. It originated in Montreal in 1898, but was strongest in Ontario and British Columbia. The leaders espoused a moderate socialism based on Christian reform principles. Members of the league formed provincial socialist parties. In 1905 these parties merged into the Socialist Party of Canada (SPC).

Contents

Foundation

Advertisement in Citizen and Country (4 May 1900) from a tailor who proclaims his support for Trade Unionism Citzen and Country 4 May 1900 Advertisement.jpg
Advertisement in Citizen and Country (4 May 1900) from a tailor who proclaims his support for Trade Unionism

The Canadian Socialist League (CSL) was formed in Montreal in 1898 by former members of the Socialist Labor Party. [1] The founders rejected the Labor party leadership of Daniel De Leon. [2] Support for the league appeared about the same time in the summer of 1899 in Montreal and Toronto. [3] In Ontario the CSL was organized by George Weston Wrigley and Thomas Phillips Thompson, both former Knights of Labor, in an effort to pull together the reform forces that had become fragmented after the Patrons of Industry were defeated in the 1896 federal election. [4] The CSL had a local in Port Moody, British Columbia, by January 1900, which became the focus of its activities in that province. John M. Cameron, a former member of the Utopian Ruskin colony, was the organizer in British Columbia. [5] A formal organizing convention for the Ontario Socialist League was held in Toronto in November 1901 to provide the base for the national organization. [3]

Wrigley, editor of the CSL's organ Citizen and Country, dominated the league with his Christian socialism. [5] The CSL leader said socialism was applied Christianity and "Christ was the first socialist." [6] The league rejected the ideology of class struggle, and emphasized reform and public ownership. [5] It has been described as a transitional group of Ruskinian romantics and moderate Christian socialists. Although Marxist-oriented socialists made the group more radical, the CSL was still wedded to reformist ideals. [7] The CSL was broad and flexible, open to radicals, labourites, socialists, and women's rights activists. [8] Leadership was mostly male and English-speaking. Women who were active in the organization were typically married and did not work for a living. [9]

Activities

The CSL was primarily concerned with educating the electorate about socialism, and was not a parliamentary party in the modern sense. It held meetings to stir up interest in socialism and to debate subjects such as the relationship between socialism and Christianity. [10] Disputes soon erupted between Protestant ministers and Marxists. [3] The minister Charles Sheldon of Topeka, Kansas, author of the best-selling novel In His Steps , was invited to Toronto to address the league and accepted the position of honorary president of the league's executive. In his writings Sheldon discussed social problems such as unemployment, poverty, racialism, alcohol, corruption and so on, always asking "What would Jesus do?" [11]

Edith Wrigley, wife of the publisher George Wrigley, edited the women's column in the Citizen and Country. [12] She was also active in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). In her short-lived column "The Kingdom of the Home" she discussed issues such as suffrage, charity, prohibition, prostitution and the servant problem. (The so-called "servant problem" was the problem that middle-class families had with cleaning, cooking, and especially entertaining at the level that was socially expected. It was too much work for any one person to do herself, but middle-class families, unlike wealthy families, could not afford to pay the wages necessary to attract and retain skilled household employees. [13] ) Her message was typical of maternal feminism, that love and purity, the values of the home sphere, should also guide politics. [14] Other women activists in the CSL were Emily Stowe and Augusta Stowe-Gullen. [15]

Margaret Haile, CSL candidate for North Toronto, from 1902 campaign material Margaret Haile.JPG
Margaret Haile, CSL candidate for North Toronto, from 1902 campaign material

In 1902 the CSL nominated Margaret Haile as its candidate for North Toronto in the 1902 provincial election. Haile was also active in the WCTU, and took a maternal feminist position. As a woman she was opposed by various factions, and an attempt was made to exclude her from the ballot. The Toiler, the labour paper, would not endorse her. [14] She won only 81 votes in the election, but was hailed by Citizen and Country as the first woman to run in a political election in the British Empire. [14]

Provincial groups

In April 1900 the United Socialist Labor Party (USLP) was formed in British Columbia as a splinter group from the Socialist Labor Party (SLP). The first socialist convention was held in British Columbia in October 1900. [3] The CSL cooperated with the USLP at this meeting, where the red flag flew over the hall during the sessions despite attempts by the police to have it hauled down. A provincial federation within the CSL was agreed but was not in fact established. [16] In 1901 the Socialist Party of British Columbia was formed, allied with the Socialist Party of America. [3] Hermon F. Titus, editor of the Seattle Socialist, helped organize this more radical group. He said that Wrigley "stood for capitalistic thought, for compromise and for pasturage on both sides of the fence." [16]

By January 1902 there were more than sixty CSL branches in Canada, including New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories. The Ontario Socialist League, Socialist Party of Manitoba and Socialist Party of British Columbia had been formed by CSL members. [1] In March 1902 John Cameron organized a CSL local in Winnipeg, recruiting from members of the labour party. In November 1902 the Socialist Party of Manitoba was formed. [17] In 1902 James Hurst Hawthornthwaite, an independent labour candidate who was elected to the British Columbia legislature for the coal-mining constituency of Nanaimo, joined the Revolutionary Socialist Party of Canada. [3] This party had split from the Socialist Party of British Columbia due to ideological differences. [18] The Revolutionary Socialist Party proved short-lived. A series of organizational mergers and splits followed in British Columbia. [3]

In 1902 Richard Parmater Pettipiece bought an interest in Citizen and Country, which he moved to Vancouver. With the help of Wrigley the paper began to appear in July 1902 as the Canadian Socialist. It was renamed to Western Socialist, then was merged with two other newspapers and appeared on 8 May 1903 as the Western Clarion . [1] The Western Clarion had a guaranteed circulation of 6,000 three days a week. Although privately owned the paper expressed the views of the Socialist Party of British Columbia, but gave coverage to controversies among Canadian socialist groups. [19]

Socialist Party of Canada

In May 1903 there were discussions about merging the Socialist Parties of Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia into a national party, but the project was put off due to lack of money. [20] At the end of December 1904 the SPBC held its fourth convention, where delegates were told the locals in Winnipeg, Toronto, and Fredericton, New Brunswick were interested in forming a Socialist Party of Canada (SPC). [21] Wrigley and Thomson helped merge the CSL into the SPC. [4] By 1905 all of the Canadian socialist organizations had come together in the SPC. [2] The party was formed officially on 19 February 1905. [22]

The SPC was the first socialist party in Canada to be a serious force in electoral politics. It was radical, advocated the overthrow of capitalism, and rejected the Second International. [3] When the SPC became dominant, this was a step backward for women, since the men who dominated the SPC refused to support women's causes such as suffrage and fair wages. [8] Ian McKay considers that the blend of ideas from Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer into the radical religious materialism of the Canadian Socialist League can be traced in successor socialist groups in Canada for the next twenty years. [7]

Related Research Articles

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation Former political party in Canada

The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was a social-democratic and democratic socialist political party in Canada. The CCF was founded in 1932 in Calgary, Alberta, by a number of socialist, agrarian, co-operative, and labour groups, and the League for Social Reconstruction. In 1944, the CCF formed the first social-democratic government in North America when it was elected to form the provincial government in Saskatchewan.

Socialist Party of Canada

The first Socialist Party of Canada (SPC) existed from 1904 to 1925 led by E. T. Kingsley. It published the Western Clarion newspaper.

The Social Democratic Party was a social democratic political party in Canada founded in 1911 by members of the right wing of the Socialist Party of Canada, many of whom had left the organisation in May 1907 to form the Social Democratic Party of British Columbia. These members were dissatisfied with what they saw as that party's rigid, doctrinaire approach. As opposed to the Socialist Party of Canada, the SDP allowed minority language groups ample room for self-determination, which led to a perception that the ethnic groups were more dominant than the overarching SDP. When the authorities cracked down on ethnic groups during the 1918 wave of repression, many of these individual ethnic chapters were shut down.

J. S. Woodsworth Canadian social democratic leader

James Shaver Woodsworth was a pre-WWI pioneer of the Social Gospel, Canadian social democratic and Labour movement.He was a long-time leader and publicist in the movement and was an elected politician under the label, serving as MP from 1921 to his death in 1942. He helped found the CCF, a forerunner of today's NDP, in 1932.

The Manitoba Labour Party (MLP) was a reformist, non-Marxist labour party in Manitoba, Canada. It was created in early May 1910 as a successor to the province's second Independent Labour Party (1906–08). Former Member of Parliament Arthur Puttee was a leading MLP organizer. The party fielded one candidate in the 1910 provincial election, and also ran candidates at the municipal level.

The Socialist Party of Manitoba (SPM) was a short-lived social democratic political party launched in 1902 in the Canadian province of Manitoba. The organisation advanced a moderate programme of social reform legislation. In 1904 the SPM became one of the constituent units founding the Socialist Party of Canada, an organisation which continued until 1925.

Andrew Brewin

Francis Andrew Brewin, also known as Andy Brewin, was a lawyer and Canadian politician and Member of Parliament. He was the grandson of Liberal cabinet minister Andrew George Blair. His son John Brewin also served in the House of Commons of Canada.

The Trades and Labor Congress of Canada was a Canada-wide central federation of trade unions from 1886 to 1956. It was founded at the initiative of the Toronto Trades and Labour Council and the Knights of Labor. It was the third attempt at a national labour federation to be formed in Canada: it succeeded the Canadian Labour Union which existed from 1873 to 1877 and the Canadian Labour Congress which held only one conference in 1881.

The Socialist Party of British Columbia (SPBC), later the Socialist Party of Canada , was a provincial political party in British Columbia, Canada, from 1901 to 1905. In 1903, the SPBC won seats in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.

Socialism in Canada

Socialism in Canada has a long history and along with conservatism and liberalism is a political force in Canada.

Eugene Thornton Kingsley was a founder and leader of the Socialist Party of Canada and an editor of the Western Clarion newspaper, one of the most prominent left wing publications in Canada before World War I, in the first decade of the 20th century. He ran for Parliament in the riding of Vancouver City in the 1908 and 1911 federal elections as a candidate of the Socialist Party of Canada and in the 1926 federal election in the riding of Vancouver Centre as a candidate of the British Columbia Independent Labour Party. He also ran for the British Columbia Legislative Assembly in the 1907 and 1909 provincial elections. He served as editor of the Western Clarion from 1903 until 1908 and was later active in the British Columbia Federated Labour Party where he served as a vice-president and eventually the British Columbia Independent Labour Party. In 1919, he edited the weekly paper, Labour Star, which survived for a few months.

The Socialist Party of Canada (SPC) is a socialist political party in Canada, affiliated with the World Socialist Movement.

Impossibilism

Impossibilism is a Marxist theory that stresses the limited value of political, economic, and social reforms under capitalism. As a doctrine, impossibilism views the pursuit of such reforms as counterproductive to the goal of achieving socialism as they stabilize, and therefore strengthen, support for capitalism. Impossibilism holds that reforms to capitalism are irrelevant or outright counter-productive to the goal of achieving socialism and should not be a major focus of socialist politics.

Maternal feminism

Maternal feminism is the belief of many early feminists that women as mothers and caregivers had an important but distinctive role to play in society and in politics. It incorporates reform ideas from social feminism, and combines the concepts of maternalism and feminism. It was a widespread philosophy among well-to-do women in the British Empire, particularly Canada, from the late 19th century until after World War I (1914–18). The concept was attacked by later feminists as accepting the paternalist view of society and providing an excuse for inequality.

Richard Parmater Pettipiece

Richard Parmater (Parm) Pettipiece was a Canadian socialist and publisher. He was one of the founders of Socialist Party of Canada, and one of the leaders of the Canadian socialist movement in British Columbia in the early 20th century. Later he moved into the moderate trade union movement, and for many years was a Vancouver alderman.

George Weston Wrigley (1847–1907) was a Canadian journalist and social reformer. He was a believer in the Social Gospel and was an opponent of industrial capitalism, which he blamed for many social ills. He was the editor of several newspapers that promoted reform in the later part of the 19th century.

<i>Western Clarion</i>

The Western Clarion was a newspaper launched in January 1903 that became the official organ of the Socialist Party of Canada (SPC). At one time it was the leading left-wing newspaper in Canada. It lost influence after 1910–11 when various groups broke away from the SPC. The editors were unsympathetic to women's demands for the vote and the right to work for pay. During World War I (1914–14) the Western Clarion was internationalist and denounced a war in which workers fought while others profited. Following the Russian Revolution it adopted a pro-Bolshevik stance, The paper was banned in 1918, but allowed to resume publication in 1920. Its circulation dwindled as SPC membership dwindled, and the last issue appeared in 1925.

The United Brotherhood of Railway Employees (UBRE) was an industrial labor union established in Canada in 1898, and a separate union established in Oregon in 1901. The two combined in 1902. The union signed up lesser-skilled railway clerks and laborers, but had the ambition of representing all railway workers regardless of trade. The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was determined to break the UBRE and provoked a major strike in Vancouver in 1903. The CPR used strikebreakers, spies and secret police to break the strike. The crafts brotherhoods of engineers, conductors, firemen and brakemen would not support the UBRE. The strike failed, and the UBRE disintegrated over the next year.

Thomas Phillips Thompson

Thomas Phillips Thompson was an English-born journalist and humorist who was active in the early socialist movement in Canada.

References

Footnotes

Bibliography

  • Allen, Richard (2008). The View from Murney Tower: Salem Bland, the Late Victorian Controversies, and the Search for a New Christianity. 1. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. doi:10.3138/9781442689589. ISBN   978-0-8020-9748-4. JSTOR   10.3138/9781442689589.
  • Kealey, Gregory S.; Palmer, Bryan D. (1982). Dreaming of What Might Be: The Knights of Labor in Ontario, 1880–1900 . Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0-521-24430-5 . Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  • Laidler, Harry W. (1998) [1968]. History of Socialism: An Historical Comparative Study of Socialism, Communism, Utopia. Abingdon, England: Routledge. ISBN   978-1-136-23150-6.
  • Levenstein, Harvey (1988). Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet . New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-504365-5 . Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  • McAllister, James A. (1984). Government of Edward Schreyer: Democratic Socialism in Manitoba. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN   978-0-7735-6100-7.
  • McCormack, A. Ross (1977). Reformers, Rebels, and Revolutionaries: The Western Canadian Radical Movement, 1899–1919. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (published 1991). ISBN   978-0-8020-7682-3.
  • McKay, Ian (2005). Rebels, Reds, Radicals: Rethinking Canada's Left History. Toronto: Between the Lines. ISBN   978-1-896357-97-3.
  • Milne, J. M. (1973). "History of the Socialist Party of Canada" (PDF). World Socialist Movement. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
  • Newton, Janice (1995). The Feminist Challenge to the Canadian Left, 1900–1918. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN   978-0-7735-1291-7.