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Militant Minority

Militant Minority: British Columbia Workers and the Rise of a New Left, 1948-72
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011)

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Militant Minority tells the compelling story of British Columbia workers who sustained a left tradition during the bleakest days of the Cold War. Through their continuing activism on issues from the politics of timber licenses to global questions of war and peace, these workers bridged the transition from an Old to a New Left.

In the late 1950s, half of B.C.’s workers belonged to unions, but the promise of postwar collective bargaining spawned disillusionment tied to inflation and automation. A new working class that was educated, white collar, and increasingly rebellious shifted the locus of activism from the Communist Party and Co-operative Commonwealth Federation to the newly formed New Democratic Party, which was elected in 1972. Grounded in archival research and oral history, Militant Minority provides a valuable case study of one of the most organized and independent working classes in North America, during a period of ideological tension and unprecedented material advance.

Critical Acclaim

‘A remarkable project … Isitt is not an apologist for the left, for organized labour or anyone else. He tells the story in a matter-of-fact way, free of spin or political message. That neutrality is its strength: It is valuable to all readers, regardless of political points of view, because it provides insight and background into a critical time in our history.’

—Dave Obee, Victoria Times Colonist

Militant Minority uncovers previously untold stories of Canadian social movements and the left after the Second World War, and is significant for a whole slate of reasons. First, Benjamin Isitt examines what made British Columbia’s labour movement so strong compared to others in North America during this period. He also reveals the crucial links between the British Columbian workers’ movement and the province’s left-wing political parties. But most importantly, Isitt convincingly links two surges of radicalism within British Columbia based on its history, politics, and economics. Combined, these strengths make Militant Minority an interesting and very important study.’

—James Naylor, Department of History, Brandon University

Militant Minority offers an engaging, important perspective on the left in British Columbia from 1948 to 1972. Benjamin Isitt effectively draws readers into the politics of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the New Democratic Party, and the Communist Party of Canada, as well as the era’s union, student, and anti-war movements. While Isitt shows empathy towards each group’s historical circumstances and aspirations, he also finds persuasive analytical links between the Old Left of the 1940s and the New Left of the 1960s. Militant Minority will appeal to anyone interested in British Columbian and Canadian left-wing politics.’

—Gordon Hak, Department of History, Vancouver Island University


Access primary documents and oral interviews at Dr. Isitt’s Canadian Social History Archive.


Photo Album from Militant Minority Book Launch
Fredericton, New Brunswick, 31 May 2011


Youtube Video of Militant Minority Presentation
World Peace Forum Teach-In, Vancouver, November 2011


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