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One Big Union and Victoria General Strike of 1919

“Searching for Workers’ Solidarity: The One Big Union and Victoria General Strike of 1919.” Labour/Le Travail, 60 (Fall 2007): 11-44. Read Here (1.0 MB PDF)

Choberg Shipyard 1919

On 23 June 1919, five thousand workers affiliated with Victoria’s Metal Trades Council downed tools in sympathy with Winnipeg workers and as a protest against what they called ‘Star Chamber’ methods of repression against the working-class leadership. While much has been written on the Winnipeg General Strike and the 1919 Canadian labour revolt, the Victoria General Strike is revealing as an ambivalent expression of working-class solidarity, an illustration of the unresolved tension between craft and industrial unionism. While much of British Columbia labour had embraced the One Big Union and its socialist leadership by the spring of 1919, Victoria’s organized workers wavered between open sympathy with Winnipeg’s working class and loyalty to local employers and the Canadian state. This awkward tension between sympathy and loyalty provides valuable insight into the development of class consciousness and industrial militancy at the end World War I, breaking new ground in the historiography of Canada’s postwar labour revolt.

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