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When the State Trembled

How A.J. Andrews and the Citizens' Committee Broke the Winnipeg General Strike

by Reinhold Kramer & Tom Mitchell

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also available: Hardcover Paperback
category: History
published: 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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Editorial Reviews

‘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.’

— Labour/La Travail vol 70: 2012

‘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.’

— Journal of Historical Biography vol9: Spring 2011

‘This book should be read by all Canadians who seek to understand our country and its evolving relations between state and citizen.’

— Journal of Historical Biography vol9: Spring 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.'

— Socialist Studies; vol 7:1-2:2011

‘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: <em>CAUT Bulletin, vol 58 May 2011</em>

‘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. ’

— Socialist Studies; vol 7:1-2:2011
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About the Authors

Reinhold Kramer

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

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Tom Mitchell

Tom Mitchell is a university archivist at Brandon University.

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