Rebels, Reds, Radicals: Rethinking Canada?s Left History by Ian McKayRebels, Reds, Radicals: Rethinking Canada?s Left History by Ian McKay

Rebels, Reds, Radicals: Rethinking Canada?s Left History

byIan McKay

Paperback | April 28, 2005

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In this brilliant and thoroughly engaging work Ian McKay sets out to revamp the history of Canadian socialism. Drawing on models of left politics in Marx and Gramsci, he outlines a fresh agenda for exploration of the Canadian left.

In rejecting the usual paths of sectarian or sentimental histories, McKay draws on contemporary cultural theory to argue for an inventive strategy of "reconnaissance." This important, groundbreaking work combines the highest standards of scholarship, and a broad knowledge of current debates in the field. Rebels, Reds, Radicals is the introduction to McKay's definitive multi-volume work on the history of Canadian socialism (volume one, Reasoning Otherwise: Leftists and the People's Enlightenment in Canada, 1890-1920 is now available).

Ian McKay is Professor of History at Queen?s University and the author of the award-winning Reasoning Otherwise: Leftists and the People?s Enlightenment in Canada, 1890?1920.
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Title:Rebels, Reds, Radicals: Rethinking Canada?s Left HistoryFormat:PaperbackDimensions:264 pages, 7.1 × 4.4 × 0.7 inPublished:April 28, 2005Publisher:Between the LinesLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1896357970

ISBN - 13:9781896357973

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From the Author

"The core question is: what made these people tick? Why do they--our left ancestors--so often speak and act in ways that are unexpected to a 21st-century leftist?" Ian McKay in conversation with Jamie Swift, April 2005JAMIE SWIFT: Why did you write this opening survey of the history of socialism in Canada? IAN MCKAY: I've been interested in the Canadian left, as a scholar, for about twelve years. And I've increasingly come to the view that we need to look at the history of the left again, more critically and analytically. If we can be both analytical and sympathetic, we can write a better kind of history than the old style of histories. They tended to combine sentimentality with sectarianism. I'm trying to say something in a new tone of voice, asking new sorts of questions. JS: What sort of questions? IM: The core question is: what made these people tick? Why do they--our left ancestors--so often speak and act in ways that are unexpected to a 21st-century leftist? Take, for example, the case of the early Canadian socialists and Herbert Spencer. Today, you won't find a disciple of Herbert Spencer in a day's walk--the consensus is that he was a racist, sexist reactionary. Back then, everyone, from mild-mannered theological socialists to fire-breathing revolutionaries, was quoting him. I see in that a strong indication that their "language of socialism" was quite a bit different than ours. Or, to take another example, look at the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation--the CCF-ancestor of today's NDP. When you look closely at the CCF and its writings, it really doesn't sound very much like the NDP at all. It sounds like a party that wants to plan Canada from top to bottom-in a comprehensive effort to replace capitalism with a different order of society. JS: Though you have been interested in this project for twelve years, your previous work on folklore and labour history must have informed this. IM: The tie in with what could loosely be called my cultural work would be that I am trying to look at the left as a succession of past frameworks on which people constructed not just their politics but really a lot of their lives. These frameworks told them who they were, what history was, what words to use in particular settings, and so on. I see these past frameworks--five of them in Canadian left history--as much bigger and deeper than ideologies or mere ways of voting. They are more like "dialects" of the language of socialism. JS: Five frameworks? Could you describe them? IM: The first is the evolutionary socialists, the Spencerians who were evolutionary not just in the sense that they were not partisans of violent revolution. (Some of them actually were.) It's more the idea that socialism is the science of social evolution so that everything a socialist does should proceed from a scientific analysis. The second I call the Bolshevik framework. It proceeds from the Russian revolution as an example to emulate and a really quite serious attempt to build a revolutionary politics founded on Leninism. That picks up from about 1917 and goes to about 1937. The third is what I have borrowed from the historian Geoff Eley and is called radical plannism. This revolves around the concept that you can plan just about everything about the economy. In many CCF analyses, the "default position" is that everything should be in the public sector--you have to have special, particular reasons for why an economic or social activity should remain outside it. The more fundamental thing is that everything should be centrally planned. Radical plannism takes us into the sixties and the new left, a new revolutionary politics based on liberation. Liberation of the person. Liberation of nations. Liberation from capitalist alienation. A whole new tone of voice and a new set of categories enter with the self-proclaimed new left. Along with the protests against the war in Vietnam. The final socialist framework I would reference is socialist feminism that in a sense rises out of the new left and asks, "What about women?" Those are the five big formations I see in Canadian left history. JS: Has such an approach been attempted before? IM: Not really. There is a big library of books on the Canadian left, but many of them are really trying to talk you into buying one party platform or one polit

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgements
  • Chapter 1: Realms of Freedom, Realms of Necessity
  • Chapter 2: Redefining the Left
  • Chapter 3: Liberal Order and the Shaping of Resistance
  • Chapter 4: The Strategy of Reconnaissance
  • Chapter 5: Mapping the Canadian Movement
  • Notes
  • Index

Editorial Reviews

"?The strengths of the book are the passion of the author and his ability to move across time with a remarkable range of examples. He is also right in his willingness to open up the debate, and to see that broader social and political movements?for women?s rights and Native rights, for example?should in fact be understood as part of the broad family of change.?"