"Fighting for the Everyday Interests of Winnipeg Workers": Jacob Penner, Martin Forkin and the Communist Party in Winnipeg Politics, 1930-1935

By Epp, Stefan | Manitoba History, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

"Fighting for the Everyday Interests of Winnipeg Workers": Jacob Penner, Martin Forkin and the Communist Party in Winnipeg Politics, 1930-1935


Epp, Stefan, Manitoba History


During the 1930s, Winnipeg municipal political campaigns were about more than streets and sewers. Political parties espousing radically different conceptions of society competed for the votes of Winnipeg residents. This article examines the early years of the aldermanic careers of two Communist Party of Canada (CPC) aldermen in Winnipeg. Jacob Penner and Martin Forkin were elected in the early 1930s and served on Winnipeg's City Council for several decades, leaving a significant political legacy in the city. Their election came at a significant moment for the CPC, a time when economic depression led many Canadians to consider radical political alternatives. Penner and Forkin's first years in office illuminate interesting elements of Manitoban and communist history. In Winnipeg, and particularly the North End, a working-class neighbourhood with a large immigrant population, a significant number of people were drawn to the radical politics of Penner, Forkin, and other communists. Second, Winnipeg, which was also a hotbed of labour politics, proves an intriguing setting to examine conflict and cooperation between different parties on the political left. Finally, the election of Penner and Forkin and the politics they espoused while on City Council is interesting because of what it says about the Communist Party during the Third Period, a controversial era in communist history.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 sparked considerable interest within the Canadian left, although it was not until 1921, when a secret meeting was held in Guelph, Ontario, that the Communist Party of Canada was born. The founding members of the CPC came from a range of traditions and parties including the Socialist Party of Canada (such as Jacob Penner) and the Socialist Labour Party and from radical unions such as the International Workers of the World or the One Big Union. A legal version of the party, the Workers' Party of Canada, was launched a year later and existed until 1924, when the CPC was legalized.

Like communist parties around the world, the CPC belonged to, and took direction from, the Comintern, a body made up of the world's communist parties, but dominated by the Soviet Union. (1) In 1928, the Comintern adopted a new position, known commonly as the Third Period. The CPC followed the policy closely, adopting it officially in 1929. It would last until 1935. This was a time when communists believed that it was necessary to "bolshevize" themselves and prepare for an imminent proletarian revolution. (2) Many Party members who did not accept the new turn, or were supporters of Leon Trotsky, were purged from the CPC. One of the significant results was that, whereas the CPC had once forged alliances with likeminded political parties and labour unions, it was now called to sever ties with non-communists. Often, this resulted in attacks against other parties on the political Left, who were deemed by the communists to be "social fascists" who duped the working class.

Several historians have criticized the Communist party during this period, arguing that it lost its connection to the masses and became bound up with internal disputes. Ian Angus, for example, proposes that the Party's disdain for all possible allies and its "go-it-alone" policy led to massive defeats. He goes on to describe the Party as being "suicidally ultra-leftist" and disconnected from the working class. (3) Bryan Palmer also critiques Third Period communism in Canada, arguing that while there are positives to be found in the communist work among the unemployed, "these were years that set the stage for the acceptance of the irrational, for blind faith in the 'line', however far removed from Canadian reality it might have been." (4) Angus, Palmer, and others have interpreted the Third Period as a time when the Communist Party lost its connection to the Canadian working class.

In his article, "Canadian Communists, Revolutionary Unionism and the 'Third Period': The Workers' Unity League, 1929-1935," John Manley rejects the idea that the Communist Party became isolated from the working class during the Third Period or put dogmatic purity ahead of the needs of Canadian workers. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"Fighting for the Everyday Interests of Winnipeg Workers": Jacob Penner, Martin Forkin and the Communist Party in Winnipeg Politics, 1930-1935
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.