Workers' Unity League

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Workers' Unity League (WUL)
Date dissolved1935
Popular front mergerCongress of Industrial Organizations
Head unionJ.B. McLachlan,
Tom McEwen
AffiliationRed International of Labour Unions[1]

The Workers' Unity League (WUL) was established in January 1930 as a militant industrial union labour central closely related to 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 paralleled similar alternative trade union structures elsewhere: the Trade Union Unity League in the US, the National Minority Movement in the UK.

Unlike both the TLC (Trades and Labor Congress of Canada) and the ACCL (All Canadian Congress of Labour), the WUL organized the unemployed as well. Some of the unions affiliated with the WUL include the Mine Workers' Union of Canada, Lumber Workers Industrial Union of Canada and the Relief Camp Workers' Union.

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 Communist International. 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 and its affiliated unions. The various locals joined unions affiliated with TLC or the ACCL. Many of its organizers started organizing with unions affiliated with the 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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