10 Old Positions/New Directions Strategies for Rebuilding Canadian Working-Class History
Sean Carleton and Julia Smith
Leon Trotsky, one of Bryan D. Palmer’s clearest influences, once proclaimed: “Those who cannot defend old positions will never conquer new ones.”1 This is a quote—an idea, a rallying cry—that Palmer returns to regularly in his work to defend a range of political and intellectual positions, as displayed and surveyed in this volume. In his contribution to Ellen Meiksins Wood and John Bellamy Foster’s In Defense of History: Marxism and the Postmodern Agenda, Palmer reminds us that “all that is old is not always without value.”2 Though Palmer’s specific target in that piece was postmodernism as he sought to defend “old fashioned” historical materialism from attack in the 1990s, his larger argument is one worth highlighting: that activists and academics can learn much from history, and that revisiting and defending past positions can be useful to those in the present struggling to build a better future.
This chapter concludes Dissenting Traditions by reflecting on the future of Canadian working-class history, a field of study Palmer played a pivotal role in developing and defending. We understand “old” and “new” as being dialectically linked to argue that new directions in the field will emerge, in part, by returning to and defending some of its old positions, focusing in particular on ideas and projects put forward and supported by Palmer in varying ways. Our own position—and our vision for the future—does not posit some nostalgic return to “the good ol’ days” of a field in formation, nor do we suggest a replication of past work in an “everything old is new again” spirit. Instead, we contend that new directions in the field, broadly understood, can be created or “conquered,” to keep with Trotsky’s maxim, out of a defence of and critical engagement with some of its old positions and priorities. In this chapter, we will focus on four strategies for rebuilding Canadian working-class history: returning to class analysis, building institutions, teaching labour history, and engaging the public.
First and foremost, we believe that working-class history must continue to focus on working people as a class defined in the Marxist sense. By this we mean class as a historical relationship, a shared lived experience shaped by specific relations of production. As Marx put it in “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” “In so far as millions of families live under economic conditions of existence that separate their mode of life, their interest, and their culture from those of the other classes, and put them in hostile opposition to the latter, they form a class.”3 While scholars have since expanded on Marx’s definition, a Marxist understanding continues to focus on class as a historically specific relationship between classes and among members of a particular class. This understanding has been central to the field of Canadian working-class history as it has developed since the 1970s and has contributed greatly to its theoretical dynamism and expansion beyond a narrow focus on unions and industrial relations. As the chapters in this volume demonstrate, defining and defending the Marxist understanding of class as central to historical analysis and social transformation has been a major focus of Palmer’s work, and we can learn much from revisiting this concept and his engagement with it.
Until the 1970s, analyses of industrial relations and institutional histories of trade unions dominated Canadian labour historiography.4 Although these early publications provided important information about labour activity in Canada, given their focus on unions and the fact that most workers were not unionized, these studies did not examine the experiences of the majority of the working class. Moreover, as historian Mark Leier explains, the narrow analytical framework employed in these studies viewed “class consciousness and class conflict . . . as problems to be solved rather than as areas to be understood.”5 In the 1960s and 1970s, however, developments in international historiography and theories of class—particularly studies of working-class formation, culture, and control—led to a shift in the trajectory of labour historiography in Canada and elsewhere.6 A new generation of scholars turned their attention to class relations, politics, and culture, calling for an examination of the “totality of working-class experience.”7
Palmer was at the forefront of this shift. Many of his early publications examined the ways in which the development of capitalism in Canada radically transformed class relations and how working people’s experiences of dispossession and labour exploitation shaped their lives at work, at home, and in the political realm. In his first monograph, A Culture in Conflict: Skilled Workers and Industrial Capitalism in Hamilton, Ontario, 1860–1914, which looks at class formation in an industrializing city, Palmer shows how workers adapted to the changing nature of capitalist class relations, consistently struggling to maintain control over their working conditions in the face of increasing employer and state efforts to limit this control. His work demonstrates how “working-class culture sustains a persistent protest against industrial-capitalist disciplines and development, enriching the process of class conflict, bringing workers and employers into battle with one another, despite the apparent inevitability of working-class defeat.”8 Similarly, in Dreaming of What Might Be: The Knights of Labor in Ontario, 1880–1900, co-authored with Gregory S. Kealey, the authors’ attention to class conflict and working-class cultures leads them to re-examine one of Canada’s first labour organizations: the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor.9 Countering assessments that viewed the Knights as a failure, Kealey and Palmer instead argue that the Order is an important example of a radical organization that offered workers an alternative way of organizing and structuring society. Since then, Palmer has continued to emphasize and defend the historical importance of class conflict and struggle in Canada and elsewhere, providing valuable insight on actors, events, and relationships that previous generations of historians have omitted or overlooked and recasting others in a new light.
Of course, class relations must also be seen as intersecting with other relationships and identities, something that labour historians, like Palmer, have consistently pointed out. One of Palmer’s major contributions to Marxist class analysis is his insistence that class formation is inexorably linked to colonial dispossession and capitalist development in North America. Recent work in the field of Indigenous Studies engages with historical materialism to stress the connections between dispossession and accumulation, but Palmer has consistently grappled with Marxist writings on so-called primitive accumulation to make this point throughout his career.10 As Alvin Finkel argues in an earlier chapter, Palmer’s engagement with Marxist theory has set him apart, for better or worse, from much of the field, but it has also allowed his work to be ahead of the curve on issues like the connections between colonialism and capitalism that Marxists had been debating for over a century before Palmer put pen to paper. In this way, Palmer was defending old positions to establish new ones.
Palmer’s attentiveness to issues of colonialism is evident in much of his work, from his earliest publications in the late 1970s to works released in the 2000s. In A Culture in Conflict, Palmer uses Marx’s writings in Capital and the Grundrisse to root capitalist development in the ruthless process of so-called primitive accumulation, which had the result of “establishing a propertyless labouring class, consolidating merchant capital, and concentrating land in the hands of a few leading families.”11 Palmer expands on these ideas in his collaborations with Kealey on the Knights of Labor, insisting that Canada’s “capitalist transformation” be understood from a Marxist perspective attentive to dispossession and the process of proletarianization.12 Perhaps Palmer’s most detailed early accounting of so-called primitive accumulation appears in an almost eighty-page chapter published in 1984 in the edited collection Proletarianization and Family History.13 Here Palmer uses Marxist theory, especially part 8 of Marx’s Capital, to touch down on the brutalities of colonialism and capitalist development for Indigenous populations. While other labour historians have talked about Indigenous experiences of work for wages, there have been limited efforts to make clear the connections between colonialism and capitalism as Palmer did and as many scholars are calling for in the current conjuncture.14 Returning to and critically analyzing Palmer’s work in this regard will allow new generations to build on and expand a Marxist analysis of class as a relationship deeply enmeshed in and profoundly shaped by the processes of settler colonialism and capitalist development.
Unfortunately, as Palmer and other scholars have pointed out, over the past three decades the majority of historians have moved away from Marxism and the idea of class as a relationship.15 Instead, many people now view class, if they account for it at all, as an identity, often linked solely to income. At the same time, despite the increased attention paid to precarity and work in recent years, the term “working class” has more or less disappeared from the political and cultural lexicon in Canada.16 We need only look to the political realm for examples of the misunderstanding and misuse of class. In the 2015 federal election, all three major political parties campaigned on the promise that they would support “middle-class families—and those fighting to get into the middle class.”17 In 2019, the ruling Liberal Party released a budget that focused on “investing in the middle class” and touted its supposed success in “strengthening and growing the middle class, and offering real help to people working hard to join it.”18 This tendency to erase working people as a class is not limited to politicians. Historians have also contributed to this erasure, conflating changes in consumer and voting behaviour and the decline of manufacturing jobs as well as a particular type of white, heterosexual, blue-collar masculinity with the disappearance of working-class culture and political agency.19 As Palmer pointed out in Descent into Discourse, “When specific people earn more than others, vote for parties that do not appeal to a sharply demarcated class constituency, and dispose of their wages in ways that result in different patterns of consumption, all of this is seen as repudiation of class.”20
As defenders of materialist analysis such as Palmer and Ellen Meiksins Wood have argued, the “retreat from class” that has occurred since the 1980s is extremely problematic for historical scholarship and left politics.21 It not only erases the lives, struggles, and contributions of working people but also obfuscates a central dynamic of historical change. In contrast, a Marxist definition of class as a historical relationship helps us understand that class consciousness and class struggle will take different forms based on historically specific material circumstances. As Wood explains, “Class formations and the discovery of class consciousness grow out of the process of class struggle, as people ‘experience’ and ‘handle’ their class situations.”22 The field of working-class history must continue to focus on documenting and analyzing how historically specific class relations intersect with other factors to shape peoples’ lives, opportunities, and responses to their circumstances. A Marxist understanding of class is key to this project.
A second strategy for rebuilding Canadian working-class history is maintaining and expanding institutions that support the field. Here again, much can be learned from looking to the past and the work of labour historians, such as Palmer, to establish and build the scholarly association and journal that have been central to the study of working-class history in Canada: the Canadian Committee on Labour History and Labour/Le Travail. Since their founding in the 1970s, the committee and the journal have played a crucial role in the development and proliferation of working-class history, and their continued growth and development can help the field thrive in the years to come.
As the field of labour and working-class history was developing in the 1970s and 1980s, historians created a number of institutions to support their work and build a scholarly community. The Canadian Committee on Labour History was one of the first. Founded by historians Irving Abella and David Miller, it is a subcommittee of the Canadian Historical Association/Société historique du Canada (CHA). Though membership primarily consists of academics, membership is open to anyone with an interest in labour and working-class history. In addition to holding an annual meeting, each year the Canadian Committee on Labour History hosts a labour history workshop that brings academics and activists together to discuss labour issues, past and present. The committee also awards several prizes, including the Canadian Committee on Labour History Best Article Prize and the Eugene A. Forsey Prize in Canadian Labour and Working-Class History for graduate and undergraduate work. And, perhaps most significantly, the Canadian Committee on Labour History publishes Canada’s foremost labour studies journal, Labour/Le Travail.
Labour/Le Travail grew out of conversations at the 1973 CHA meeting about how to share labour history research. An informal newsletter edited by Abella and Miller soon became the Bulletin of the Committee on Canadian Labour History and eventually, with seed funding from the federal Department of Labour, a journal. The first issue of Labour/Le Travail (originally named Labour/Le Travailleur) was published in 1976 and contained articles by several scholars who would go on to play a central role in the field and the journal, including Palmer. Since then, the journal has published more than eighty issues containing articles, debates, review essays, and poetry that examine the depth and diversity of the working-class experience in Canada and other countries around the world.23
In the more than forty years since their founding, the Canadian Committee on Labour History and Labour/Le Travail have provided spaces for the development of community and the dissemination of scholarship. They have also raised the profile of working-class history within the broader field of Canadian history, and they have encouraged and celebrated the work of new generations of scholars. As Kirk Niergarth demonstrates in his chapter, the importance of Labour/Le Travail to the growth and development of working-class history in Canada, and the valuable contributions Palmer in particular has made to the committee and the journal, cannot be overstated.
In recent years, however, the number of people identifying as labour and working-class historians has declined. As other contributors to this volume point out, although scholars continue to study working people and labour issues, this research is instead often categorized as gender history, immigration history, or history of education or medicine. In the program for the 2019 CHA annual meeting, “labour” appeared in the title of just three papers; only two sessions explicitly referenced “work,” one of which focused on how to prepare students for the job market.24 In turn, there are fewer historians participating in and supporting institutions like the Canadian Committee on Labour History and Labour/Le Travail. As such, the responsibility of maintaining committees, journals, and prizes, and of carving out new spaces to support the study of working-class history falls to a handful of people. The situation as it currently stands is unsustainable, and with fewer and fewer tenure-track jobs being created in history departments, the dearth of labour and working-class historians is likely to worsen in the coming years.
Nevertheless, if working-class history is to continue to exist as a field it is crucial that institutions like Labour/Le Travail and the Canadian Committee on Labour History as well as other labour history organizations, like the Labor and Working-Class History Association and the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association, not only survive but thrive. Scholars can help this work along in a number of ways, including by attending annual meetings and agreeing to serve on editorial boards and award committees. At the same time, scholars of working-class history need to replenish their ranks, by fostering the development of future generations of scholars and by building new relationships with colleagues working in other disciplines. The Canadian Committee on Labour History and Labour/Le Travail have always embraced interdisciplinarity, and the recent partnership between the Canadian Committee on Labour History and the Canadian Association for Work and Labour Studies builds on this tradition and will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the field. Meanwhile, recent events focused on Canadian working-class history show how new generations of historians are carrying on the traditions of their predecessors. In 2018, the Canadian Committee on Labour History held a successful conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan that featured the work of many junior scholars. The following year, graduate students at Simon Fraser University put on a well-attended Canadian Committee on Labour History workshop in Vancouver, British Columbia. In 2020, a group of junior and established scholars organized a large conference on labour and the Canadian carceral state in St. Catharines, Ontario (though unfortunately it was cancelled at the last minute due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Like the first working-class history institutions established in the 1970s, these types of events provide valuable opportunities for scholars to build community, exchange research, debate ideas, and demonstrate the value and importance of working-class history.
Creating and maintaining institutions to support the scholarly study of working-class history is significant, but we also need to fight for space within the university to teach about work and labour. In the 1970s and 1980s, working-class history was an exciting and growing field. Drawing on published work in journals like Labour/Le Travail and the support of groups like the Canadian Committee on Labour History, Palmer, along with other emerging scholars, developed and delivered an array of new history courses that centred the cultures and experiences of working people. Building on the popularity of social history and “history from below,” these courses introduced new generations to the lessons of labour’s past and inspired many students to go on to graduate school and, in turn, contribute to the field themselves. One obvious product from this period was Palmer’s production, informed by the work of many students in his seminars on working-class history, of what remains the most comprehensive survey in the field: Working-Class Experience: The Rise and Reconstitution of Canadian Labour, 1800–1980, revised and republished in 1992 with a new subtitle: Rethinking the History of Canadian Labour, 1800–1991.25 This creative and cyclical process was central to the establishment of the new field. New students went on to publish research in Labour/Le Travail, they contributed to the work of the Canadian Committee on Labour History, and they taught their own labour history classes. Teaching working-class history served the dual role of consciousness-raising and creating pathways for students to contribute to the field.
Forty years later, however, the field of Canadian working-class history, like the labour movement generally, is in decline. There are many reasons for this, and Palmer has outlined them in detail at different times.26 In short, by the late 1990s and early 2000s, and partly because of the retreat from class and the proliferation of postmodernism, new generations of scholars were less interested in Marxism, socialism, and working-class history. The field’s founders continued to build, with some new recruits here and there, but soon there were fewer new hands to join the project and help the work along. A stasis in the teaching of labour history eventually gave way to decline as this process continued over time. As labour historians retire from their posts, and without a surge of new scholars to take their place, fewer students are being exposed to working-class history at the undergraduate level, and they are understandably pursuing work and service in other fields. The field’s atrophy, then, is not so much due to intellectual antagonism or hostility per se—though this is still a factor—as it is the result of a scarcity of scholars to rebuild the field by teaching labour history.
But if working-class history is to have a future, it must be taught in the classroom. The authors of this chapter were both introduced to Canadian working-class history during undergraduate training at Simon Fraser University, where people such as Mark Leier and Allen Seager taught undergraduate and graduate courses on the history of work and labour. We can attest to the transformational effects of learning about labour’s past in such classes. These scholars supported our studies and encouraged us to continue them by working with other labour historians, including Palmer and Joan Sangster. Intellectual networks—sustained by teaching—are essential to bringing new scholars into the field. Fewer people teaching labour history means fewer opportunities for students to learn about the subject. This is unfortunate because issues of work, class, and capitalism are increasingly of interest to new generations. Many students juggle multiple part-time jobs to cover the rising costs of their post-secondary education, and they have limited prospects for secure, well-paying employment after they graduate—not to mention the skyrocketing levels of student debt. Giving students the tools to analyze class inequality and class struggle historically can help them make sense of their lives and foster their interest in working-class history and activism.
In the age of the corporate university, where “butts in seats” is a crucial component in scheduling course offerings, it is important that those who can teach working-class history do, and that they fight for such courses to exist.27 The place of working-class history in the university must be defended or it will be lost to shiny new programs promising working-class students a future as business “disrupters,” “innovators,” and entrepreneurs. We must privilege class struggle to articulate alternatives that put people before profits. And where labour history courses do not yet exist, they should be developed and delivered regularly. These courses can synthesize the developments of the field for students and offer a broad understanding of the “working class” that emphasizes the intersections of race, gender, and class—which will allow an increasingly diverse student population to see themselves as historical agents. Conveniently, in 2008, Palmer and Sangster produced a reader, Labouring Canada: Class, Gender, and Race in Canadian Working-Class History, that can help instructors develop and deliver such courses.28 It is important to organize and push from within the university, as Palmer and others did in previous years, to hire people to research and teach working-class history, and for those new hires to offer courses to attract students to the field.
Though university enrolment is increasing—and thus more students can learn about working-class history in the classroom if such courses are offered—we must resist the temptation to put the fate of the field solely in the hands of academia. There are few universities hiring labour historians, especially in the Canadian context, and the path from interested undergraduate student to tenured professor can be a difficult one. Therefore, we must also look beyond post-secondary institutions. While working-class history seems to be a specialization on the ropes, encouraging signs and intriguing possibilities for collaboration exist outside of the university. This must not be viewed as capitulation. Many builders of the field, including Palmer, came to working-class history through activism and engagement with the labour movement. In the area of public history, there are a number of interesting groups that are doing exciting work with working-class history that deserve our support as well as our time and energy to help develop new initiatives in more critical ways. Academic historians must continue, as those who started the field did, to build relationships with those doing public labour history.
One such venue is popular writing and journalism. Canadian labour historians have often pursued opportunities to distill the lessons of labour history in popular formats. Palmer in particular has written popular books, such as Solidarity: The Rise and Fall of an Opposition in British Columbia, as well as affidavits to defend a range of political activists, including anti-globalization organizer Jaggi Singh and Indigenous land defender Shawn Brant.29 He has also written numerous op-eds and articles for publications like the Toronto Star and Jacobin.30 As well, Palmer has been a frequent contributor to Canada’s longest serving socialist publication, Canadian Dimension, writing numerous articles and commentaries on a range of topics, including many on issues of work and labour. This kind of popular writing is essential to helping activists learn lessons from the past so they can incorporate them into their struggles today. Scholars interested in labour and working-class history can build on this kind of engagement by contributing to print and online publications, such as Canadian Dimension, Our Times, Briarpatch, ActiveHistory.ca, and RankandFile.ca. There are also international online projects such as WorkingClassHistory.com, which publishes articles and produces podcasts on global working-class history. Nevertheless, still greater emphasis can be placed on the usefulness of deep historical contextualization of current events, making clear the connections to previous struggles, especially in Canada. Activists need a longer view of the history of the workers’ movement, and academic engagement with magazines and sites such as these can provide some of that necessary context. Seeking out opportunities to talk about issues of work and labour in ways connected to history can help, as Palmer has shown, guide public debate as well as the tactics and strategies of struggle.
There are also a number of institutions and initiatives dedicated to raising public awareness about working-class history that deserve our support and critical engagement. These include the Alberta Labour History Institute in Edmonton, the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre in Hamilton, the Workers’ History Museum in Ottawa, and the BC Labour Heritage Centre in Vancouver. These groups offer a number of great services and educational programs on labour and working-class history in Canada, including curriculum guides for high school teachers, children’s events, and walking tours, as well as labour history plaques, statues, and public commemorations. The BC Labour Heritage Centre even created a series of short films, Working People: A History of Labour in British Columbia, to popularize labour history. These films aired on the Knowledge Network and have been uploaded online so as to be easily shared on social media, where many people now get their news and information, and they make for easy inclusion in teaching at all levels.31
Public labour history initiatives need our support but also our expertise to ensure critical research continues to shape popular perceptions of working-class history. Again, Palmer has been a vocal proponent that public labour history must not simply devolve into uncritical celebration, back-patting, or navel-gazing.32 Critical analyses of past tactics—and the organizers and labour leaders who advocated for them—are essential for evaluating previous victories and failures and thinking about how to organize today. We can learn from the lessons of the past only if we openly and honestly evaluate and analyze it. In this way, public labour history initiatives can serve as a resource that can inspire not just students, but also working people en masse to bring forward the lessons of labour history.
New mediums that combine academic and public labour history also deserve consideration. The authors of this chapter are members of the Graphic History Collective, which, in owing its creation in part to labour historians involved in the Canadian Committee on Labour History, including Palmer, Sangster, and Leier, combines the insights of labour and working-class history with the medium of comics to make the lessons of labour more accessible to wider audiences.33 The Graphic History Collective embodies the four strategies that we have outlined in this chapter. In terms of conquering old positions, much of our work returns to the studies of working-class history produced in the 1970s and 1980s. The comics we create focus on class formation and class conflict, and they seek to highlight inspirational stories of working-class struggle that do not shy away from critical analysis in order to develop new tactics and strategies for struggle today. For example, the Graphic History Collective created a comic book based on Palmer and Kealey’s work on the Knights of Labor in Canada (see figure 10).34
Building on Palmer and Kealey’s work and synthesizing new work in the field, the comic book shows how, in the process of constructing Canada as a capitalist settler society, the state dispossessed Indigenous peoples from their lands and pushed many people into cities to find work in factories.35 Working conditions in cities such as Toronto and Hamilton were often poor, and by the mid-century, workers had started to organize to fight back. By the 1880s, the Knights of Labor—founded in Philadelphia in 1869—had come to Canada. We place emphasis on how the Knights of Labor appealed to workers because it asked them—regardless of skill, sex, or race—to “dream of what might be” rather than accept the poor conditions that were said to be unchangeable at the time. Our aim was to show how the Knights created a “culture” that offered people hope and mobilized workers to fight for social change. Palmer and Kealey supported the work and wrote the introduction to the comic book, arguing that new mediums, such as comics, can help connect new generations to the important lessons of labour’s past. It is the authors’ hope that new work in public labour history will continue to build on the foundations of the field laid in part by scholars such as Palmer.
Overall, we think that the future of Canadian working-class history lies in scholars and activists working together to develop new ways to support the study of labour and working-class history broadly—both academically and publicly. This does not require a reinventing of the wheel, but rather a returning to old positions in order to conquer new ones. And this is an important task, with a sense of urgency. At a time when we are told that there are no alternatives to capitalism and when the left, in Canada and elsewhere, has grown stagnant and seems confused as to what its role in social struggle should be, a hope for a better world, which runs throughout so much of working-class history, is perhaps more important now than ever. Revitalizing working-class history intellectually, institutionally, pedagogically, and publicly can help ensure that the field continues to be a resource for new struggles for social change in the present and in the future.
In the words of the scholar whose research and intellectual contributions are the focus of this collection, “All of this may seem utterly utopian. But it has never been more necessary.” Palmer wrote these words in the final sentences of Working-Class Experience in reference to his analysis of how workers can “build a new and a better Canada through new and better class-based organizations and politics, through a class-struggle leadership and a program that rests on the collectivist class foundations of two centuries of experience.”36 His comments hold true for working-class history as well. We can build a new and better field through new and better organizations and politics, ones that build on the foundations of Marxist analysis, scholarly institutions, pedagogical practice, and public engagement that lie at the heart of the field established and developed by previous generations of scholars. Or, as Palmer, like Trotsky, might say, rebuilding Canadian working-class history requires us to revisit and defend old positions to chart new directions for the future.
- 1. Leon Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1973), 178.
- 2. Bryan D. Palmer, “Old Positions/New Necessities: History, Class, and Marxist Metanarrative,” in In Defense of History: Marxism and the Postmodern Agenda, ed. Ellen Meiksins Wood and John Bellamy Foster (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1997), 72.
- 3. Karl Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” in Karl Marx: Selected Writings, ed. David McLellan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 347.
- 4. See, for example, Harold A. Logan, Trade Unions in Canada: Their Development and Functioning (Toronto: Macmillan, 1948); Stuart Marshall Jamieson, Industrial Relations in Canada (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1957).
- 5. Mark Leier, “W[h]ither Labour History: Regionalism, Class, and the Writing of BC History,” BC Studies 111 (Autumn 1996): 63.
- 6. E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Vintage Books, 1966); Herbert G. Gutman, Work, Culture, and Society in Industrializing America: Essays in American Working-Class and Social History (New York: Knopf, 1976); David Montgomery, Workers’ Control in America: Studies in the History of Work, Technology, and Labor Struggles (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).
- 7. Bryan D. Palmer, Working-Class Experience: The Rise and Reconstitution of Canadian Labour, 1800–1980, 1st ed. (Toronto: Butterworth, 1983), 3.
- 8. Bryan D. Palmer, A Culture in Conflict: Skilled Workers and Industrial Capitalism in Hamilton, Ontario, 1860–1914 (Montréal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1979), xi.
- 9. Gregory S. Kealey and Bryan D. Palmer, Dreaming of What Might Be: The Knights of Labor in Ontario, 1880–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).
- 10. See, for example, Glen Sean Coulthard, Red Skins, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014).
- 11. Palmer, A Culture in Conflict, 9.
- 12. Kealey and Palmer, Dreaming of What Might Be, 27–56; Gregory S. Kealey and Bryan D. Palmer, “The Bonds of Unity: The Knights of Labor in Ontario, 1880–1900,” Histoire sociale/Social History 14, no. 28 (November 1981): 369–411.
- 13. Bryan D. Palmer, “Social Formation and Class Formation in Nineteenth-Century North America,” in Proletarianization and Family History, ed. David Levine (New York: Academic Press, 1984), 229–308.
- 14. See, for example, Fred Burrill, “The Settler Order Framework: Rethinking Canadian Working-Class History,” Labour/Le Travail 83 (Spring 2019), 173–97; David Camfield, “Settler Colonialism and Labour Studies in Canada: A Preliminary Exploration,” Labour/Le Travail 83 (Spring 2019): 147–72.
- 15. Bryan D. Palmer, Descent into Discourse: The Reification of Language and the Writing of Social History (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990).
- 16. For Palmer’s take on the long history of precarity, see Bryan D. Palmer, “Reconsiderations of Class: Precariousness as Proletarianization,” Socialist Register 2014: Registering Class 50 (2014): 40–62.
- 17. New Democratic Party, flyer, 2015. See also NDP, “Make the Economy Work for the Middle Class,” 5 February 2015, https://www.ndp.ca/news/make-economy-work-middle-class.
- 18. Government of Canada, “Introduction,” Budget 2019, last modified March 19, 2019, https://www.budget.gc.ca/2019/docs/plan/intro-en.html.
- 19. Patrick Joyce, ed., Class (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995); Jefferson Cowie, Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class (New York: The New Press, 2010).
- 20. Palmer, Descent into Discourse, 120.
- 21. Ellen Meiksins Wood, The Retreat from Class: A New “True” Socialism (London: Verso, 1986).
- 22. Ellen Meiksins Wood, Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing Historical Materialism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 80; emphasis original.
- 23. Joan Sangster, “Creating a Forum for Working-Class Histories: Labour/Le Travail,” Scholarly and Research Communication 9, no. 1 (2018): 1–10.
- 24. Canadian Historical Association, “Program,” CHA – 98th Annual Meeting, Vancouver 2019, https://cha-shc.ca/_uploads/5ccc3848caa56.pdf.
- 25. Palmer, Working-Class Experience (1983); Bryan D. Palmer, Working-Class Experience: Rethinking the History of Canadian Labour, 1800–1991, 2nd ed. (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1992).
- 26. Most recently, see Bryan D. Palmer, “Canada,” in Histories of Labour: National and International Perspectives, ed. Joan Allen, Alan Campbell, and John McIlroy (Pontypool: Merlin Press, 2010), 196–230.
- 27. See, for example, Jamie Brownlee, Academia Inc.: How Corporatization is Transforming Canadian Universities (Halifax and Winnipeg: Fernwood, 2015).
- 28. Bryan D. Palmer and Joan Sangster, eds., Labouring Canada: Class, Gender, and Race in Canadian Working-Class History (Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2008).
- 29. Bryan D. Palmer, Solidarity: The Rise and Fall of an Opposition in British Columbia (Vancouver: New Star Books, 1987). Palmer submitted an expert witness statement for Jaggi Singh in 2010 and gave an expert witness statement in support of Shawn Brant in 2008. In the late 1990s, Palmer wrote legal briefs in support of several unions, including the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, and the Canadian Auto Workers.
- 30. See, for example, Bryan D. Palmer and Gaétan Héroux, “Housing the Poor During the Great Depression,” Sunday Star (Toronto), 30 July 2017; and Bryan D. Palmer, “Teamsters and Cops,” Jacobin, 15 July 2016, https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/07/police-brutality-philando-castile-unions-teamsters-labor.
- 31. See BC Labour Heritage Centre, Working People: A History of Labour in British Columbia, Working People Film Series, Knowledge Network and BC Labour Heritage Centre, accessed 4 June 2019, http://www.labourheritagecentre.ca/working-people/.
- 32. See, for example, Bryan D. Palmer, “The Ghost of Jack Munro,” Review of On the Line: A History of the British Columbia Labour Movement, by Rod Mickleburgh, The Ormsby Review 348, 22 August 2018, https://bcbooklook.com/2018/08/22/bc-labour-movement-history/.
- 33. For more on the origins of the Graphic History Collective and the work of the Canadian Committee on Labour History, see Joan Sangster, “Work and Society in Historical Perspective: Creating a New Labor-History Research Network,” Labor: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas 3, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 41–47.
- 34. See, for example, Kealey and Palmer, Dreaming of What Might Be; and Kealey and Palmer, “The Bonds of Unity.”
- 35. Graphic History Collective, “Dreaming of What Might Be: The Knights of Labor in Canada 1880–1900,” in Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle, ed. Graphic History Collective, with Paul Buhle (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2016), 15–25.
- 36. Palmer, Working-Class Experience (1992), 414–16.