Workers' Unity League

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Workers' Unity League (WUL)
Founded 1929
Date dissolved 1935
Popular front merger Congress of Industrial Organizations
Members 40,000
Head union J.B. McLachlan,
Tom McEwen
Affiliation Red International of Labour Unions[1]
Country Canada

The Workers' Unity League (WUL) was created in 1929 as a labour central operated by the Communist Party of Canada on the instructions of the Communist International.

This was reflective of the shift in Communist theory during the Communist International's "Third Period". Rather than "boring from within"—the policy of the "Second Period" that encouraged Communists to join mainstream labour unions and progressive organizations in order to move them to the revolutionary left—this new philosophy emphasized creating Communist groups to popularly defend the Soviet way.

The WUL was a radical umbrella group, consisting of industrial unions in the mining, clothing, lumber and textile industries of Canada. Unlike both the TLC (Trades and Labour Congress of Canada) and the ACCL (All Canadian Congress of Labour), the WUL was an aggressive, militant organization bent not only on organizing unorganized workers, but the unemployed as well. The WUL paralleled similar alternative trade union structures elsewhere: the Trade Union Unity League in the US, the National Minority Movement in the UK.

It provided the leadership for the most important labour struggles of the early 1930s. This includes the bloody walkout by Estevan, Saskatchewan miners in which the police killed three strikers, and the strike of furniture workers and chicken pluckers in Stratford, Ontario which was put down by calling in the Canadian army.

By 1935, the WUL had a membership of over 40,000 members, the vast majority of whom were not communists. They were charting a distinct path towards industrial unionism - a path avoided by the more conservative TLC, and American Federation of Labor.

Yet in 1935, international developments changed the strategy of the Communists. The rise of fascism in Europe, urged Stalin to call for a Popular Front of Communists and non-Communists against the extreme right wing. New orders from Moscow led to disbanding the WUL. Many of its members joined the broader Congress of Industrial Organizations.

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  1. ^ Endicott, Stephen Lyon. Bienfait: The Saskatchewan Miners' Struggle of '31. Toronto [u.a.]: Univ. of Toronto Press, 2002. p. 44

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