2017 PNLHA Conference

Echoes of the 1917 Russian Revolution; Decades of Radicalism and Red Scares in the Labour Movements of the Pacific NorthwestCFP

May 26 – 28, 2017
Labour History Conference
Vancouver, British Columbia

Sponsors: Pacific Northwest Labour History Association & BC Labour Heritage Centre

The Russian Revolution was one of the most significant events of its decade. As described in Oregonian John Reed’s book, there were events leading to and flowing from those “Ten Days That Shook the World” in October 1917.

In Canada and the US, many 20170453269_95b7cbaa22_oworkers saw an opportunity for class war, believing that socialism could overcome capitalism as the dominant political reality. In the Pacific Northwest, new forms of industrial organizing were bolstered by aspirations of a new world order, and the labour movement briefly swelled with enthusiastic members who were eager to be part of the change.

Communists and socialists developed as key leaders in the labour movement, and in organizing the unemployed and disenfranchised. General strikes in Vancouver, Seattle, and Winnipeg, the OBU, On-to-Ottawa Trek, and jobless sit-down strikes, and new unions of woodworkers, miners, shipyard workers, and fishers were all communist and socialist-led.

21835627452_062d9964f9_oBut capitalism held firm and enjoyed the resources and political clout of the wealthy. Activists were tagged as Bolsheviks and foreign-born agitators risked deportation for their activism.

The cold-war politics lasted decades, with “red-led” unions subject to purges and disbandment. Many individuals suffered personal consequences, including losing their livelihood.

This conference will explore the impacts and lasting influences of this history on contemporary labour.

Suggested topics include:
  • Tim Buck’s writings on the impact of the revolution on communism and trade unionism in Canada
  • The McCarthy era, purges and the weakening of radical unionism
  • RCMP and CIA compilations on various unions and their leaders
  • The Mac-Paps and Lincoln Brigades – Journeys to Spain to fight fascism
  • The discourse of Anna Louise Strong and John Reed
  • Cultural expressions through art, music, poetry, and theatre
  • Lesser known issues of race and gender
  • General Strikes in 1919: Seattle and Winnipeg, plus sympathy strikes
  • Contemporary reflections
  • Presentations on topics unrelated to the theme are also encouraged

Note: Interactive presentations are preferred and “reading of papers” is discouraged. This conference hopes to include music, displays, and theatre in addition to presentations based on the theme or other topics of interest.

21659282960_fb76235dcf_oAudience and Presenters: The conference expects to register up to 200 labour activists, historians, students and other academics from British Columbia, Washington and Oregon, and surrounding regions. Presenters are asked to register for the conference but may apply for a waiver of fees, and modest travel subsidies may be considered if funds permit.

For more information, please contact Joey Hartman at pnlha@shaw.ca or by cell phone at 778-870-0703.

DEADLINE: Proposals should be submitted no later than November 15, 2016.