We begin by reiterating a motion passed by the Alberta Federation of Labour convention in January, 1919. The organization representing organized labour in the province proclaimed “full accord and sympathy with the aims and purposes of the Russian and German revolutions.” They were referring to the Communist overthrow of the czarist regime in Russia as well as a short-lived regime of businessmen and landowners that promised vague reforms but squandered any hope of gaining public credibility by keeping Russia in the war after it had been reduced to extreme poverty by its military defeats. The German revolution referred to a workers’ rising in late 1918 and early 1919 to create a workers’ republic. It would soon fall to a military defeat by forces that later emerged as the Nazis in that country.
Why such desire for root-and-branch change in Canada? The war had enriched a small number of capitalists while the families of soldiers and the working class endured inflation that reduced their living standards. The coal miners, who comprised the majority of AFL members, had a long history of revolt against the irresponsibility of their profiteering bosses whose crimes included the deaths of 189 miners in the Hillcrest Mining Disaster of 1914. Though a coroner’s inquest found that the Hillcrest owners violated the safety rules in the provincial Coal Mines Act, no one was prosecuted for the murder for profits of the 189 men.