When the State Trembled: How A.J. Andrews and the Citizens' Committee Broke the Winnipeg General Strike

By Reinhold Kramer and Tom Mitchell

© 2010

The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, which involved approximately 30,000 workers, is Canada's best-known strike. When the State Trembled recovers the hitherto untold story of the Citizens' Committee of 1000, formed by Winnipeg's business elite in order to crush the revolt and sustain the status quo.

This account, by the authors of the award-winning Walk Towards the Gallows, reveals that the Citizens drew upon and extended a wide repertoire of anti-labour tactics to undermine working-class unity, battle for the hearts and minds of the middle class, and stigmatize the general strike as a criminal action. Newly discovered correspondence between leading Citizen lawyer A.J. Andrews and Acting Minister of Justice Arthur Meighen illuminates the strategizing and cooperation that took place between the state and the Citizens. While the strike's break was a crushing defeat for the labour movement, the later prosecution of its leaders on charges of sedition reveals abiding fears of radicalism and continuing struggles between capital and labour on the terrain of politics and law.

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Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 464 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.6in x 1.2in x 8.5in
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Quick Overview

When the State Trembled recovers the hitherto untold story of the Citizens' Committee of 1000, formed by Winnipeg's business elite in order to crush the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.

When the State Trembled: How A.J. Andrews and the Citizens' Committee Broke the Winnipeg General Strike

By Reinhold Kramer and Tom Mitchell

© 2010

The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, which involved approximately 30,000 workers, is Canada's best-known strike. When the State Trembled recovers the hitherto untold story of the Citizens' Committee of 1000, formed by Winnipeg's business elite in order to crush the revolt and sustain the status quo.

This account, by the authors of the award-winning Walk Towards the Gallows, reveals that the Citizens drew upon and extended a wide repertoire of anti-labour tactics to undermine working-class unity, battle for the hearts and minds of the middle class, and stigmatize the general strike as a criminal action. Newly discovered correspondence between leading Citizen lawyer A.J. Andrews and Acting Minister of Justice Arthur Meighen illuminates the strategizing and cooperation that took place between the state and the Citizens. While the strike's break was a crushing defeat for the labour movement, the later prosecution of its leaders on charges of sedition reveals abiding fears of radicalism and continuing struggles between capital and labour on the terrain of politics and law.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 464 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.6in x 1.2in x 8.5in
  • Reviews

    ‘Kramer & Mitchell uncovered a mountain of new archival documents that allow them to reconstruct this event in an entirely different way…The authors have given us a rich new narrative and a much more nuanced analysis of class conflict in Canada after World War I.’

    Craig Heron, American Historical Review; vol 116: 05: 2011

    ‘In reading When the State Trembled one can make far better estimate of the advantages and dangers of a general strike. This adds to the value of the book. But above all, it is a well-crafted and reliable history. It deserves a wide readership.’
    William Bruneau: CAUT Bulletin, vol 58 May 2011

    'The labour revolt of 1919 was a moment of legitimate threat to the Canadian ruling class. Thanks to Reinhold Kramer and Tom Mitchell we now have a much richer understanding of that moment, and students of the Canadian left have been given renewed impetus to explore one of the defining moments of Canadian history.'
    Peter Campbell
    Socialist Studies; vol 7:1-2:2011

    ‘This book should be read by all Canadians who seek to understand our country and its evolving relations between state and citizen.’
    Eric Sager
    Journal of Historical Biography vol9: Spring 2011

    ‘By bringing the Citizens' Committee out of the shadows and into the limelight, Kramer and Mitchell reveal a hitherto hidden dimension of the strike... what was unusual about the Citizens' is the extent to which its members assumed the state's powers. What makes Kramer and Mitchell's narrative so compelling is not simply that it is well written, but that it is even-handed. ’
    Judy Fudge; Canadian Labour & Employment Law Journal, vol 16:01:2011

    ‘This detailed narrative illuminates the actions of both the Citizens and the strikers… What emerges is a compelling case study of a local bourgeoisie in a state of crisis, and how it mobilized closely knit associations and an array of ideological and legal tools to respond to a defiant and mobilized working class.’
    Banjamin Isitt
    Labour/La Travail vol 70: 2012

    'When the State Trembled is truly a landmark study in Canadian working-class history, but it is even more than that—it is a deeply revealing analysis of the inner workings of a Canadian social and political order responding to its acute post-1918 crisis. With profound scholarship, broad-ranging theorizing, an unrivalled command of the primary sources, and sharp eyes for the telling detail and the illuminating story, Reinhold Kramer and Tom Mitchell present a completely new interpretation of the Winnipeg General Strike. They show how one brilliant reactionary could call upon long-standing traditions of the "private" and the "public," the "citizen" and the "alien," the "propertied" and the "disordered" to craft a deadly and effective response to Canada's post-1918 democratic revolution. This new interpretation of Winnipeg 1919 will be debated across the country—and the result will be not just a new understanding of the famous Strike but of Canada as a liberal order.'
    Ian McKay, Department of History, Queen's University

    'When the State Trembled is a masterful, riveting, and fresh account of the Winnipeg General Strike that emphasizes the role of Winnipeg's legal and business elite who not only mobilized the state but also assumed its mantle to defeat the strike and punish its leaders. At a time when perceived threats to national security are being used to justify restrictions on our civil liberties, this book could not be timelier.'
    Eric Tucker, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
  • Author Information

    Reinhold Kramer is a professor in the Department of English at Brandon University.



    Tom Mitchell is a university archivist at Brandon University.

  • Table of contents

    Acknowledgements

    Introduction

    1. Permitted by Authority of the Strike Committee 15 - 19 May

    2. Who? Who? Who-oo?

    3. Seven Hundred and Four Years Ago at Runnymede

    4. The Anointing of A.J. Andrews

    5. The Flag-Flapping Stage

    6. To Reach the Leaders in this Revolutionary Movement

    7. Time to Act

    8. Enough Evidence to Convict the Whole Strike Committee

    9. The Road through Bloody Saturday

    10. The Only Way to Deal with Bolshevism

    11. They are all dangerous: Immigration Hearings

    12. They Started the Fire: Preliminary Hearing

    14. Duty to God, Country, and Family: The Russell Trial

    Epilogue: Echo

    Notes
    Index

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