Bienfait: The Saskatchewan Miners' Struggle of '31

Article excerpt

Stephen Endicott, Bienfait: The Saskatchewan Miners' Struggle of '31 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), xi + 180pp. Cloth. £40. ISBN 0-8020- 3593-0.

On Tuesday 29 September 1931, some 500 striking Bienfait Saskatchewan miners, carrying red hammer-and-sickle flags and an assortment of firearms, paraded into the small town of Estevan to show unity and solidarity for their threeweek- old strike. Things quickly turned ugly as the miners began destroying property, looting stores and firing on police. In a panic, the rcmp officers returned fire. When it was over three miners - Peter Markunas, Nick Nargan and Julian Gryshko - were dead and many were wounded. In the months following 'Black Tuesday', as the tragedy was later called, the rcmp increased its efforts to round up and root out the communist menace in Bienfait. This included several court trials against union and strike organisers to stamp out their unionising of miners in Saskatchewan. Several participants were charged, some were deported, and at least one female organiser - Annie Buller - served prison time. In the eyes of many, the police action had been regrettable but necessary.

But this is only one version of what happened during the 1931 Bienfait miners' strike. Historian Stephen Endicott tells another, more compelling and more complex story. …