“When the State Trembled” by Kramer and Mitchell

Pages: 8
Words: 2243


Kramer and Mitchell are English professors and activist respectively at Brandon University. They are authors of several other articles and have received awards for their eligible work, in their book entitled ‘When the State Trembled’, they argue that the revolution opinion raised due to fear was significant in stopping the Winnipeg strike. The book was published by University of Toronto press with the help of Canadian Federation and Aid to Scholarly Publications Program. They argue that during a crisis, the state delays in taking action whereby another body takes up the situation. They explore the opposition exercised to the strikers mainly by the citizen committee of 1000 led by A. J. Andrew. They give details of the process followed by the committee to ensure that the strike ends.

They relay their aim of writing the book in an excellent way. They have achieved this by giving details and illustrations about the process followed by the committee until the strike action stopped. They provide information about the strike that no other writer has ever produced. The aim is also conveyed well in a simple language which is understandable. The title of the book was derived from the Italian communist phrase Antonio Gramsci.

The Winnipeg general strike

The book was written by Kramer and Mitchell who were also the award winners of the walk towards the gallows. The article by Mitchell and Kramer reflects on the period after the First World War when the living cost had greatly increased. The soldiers had also returned home, and there were no employment opportunities. It specifically talks about the Winnipeg General strike that happened on 15 May 1919 and is recognized as the longest ever in Canada history. It started as a simple action by municipal workers and gradually exaggerated. It was organized by various workers in Winnipeg to protest against the high cost of living. They wanted wage increment and better working conditions in their respective workplaces.

The strike was also aimed to protest against class inequality. They also protested for the industrial union. Workers united and formed unions which met a lot of hindrance from the state. This led to incitement of other unions leading to a general strike by all workers in Winnipeg. The unions formed joined and were applied to protest against poor working conditions and salary. This ensured there was no single union that could have been identified to participate in the strike. This enhanced the safety of the workers relative to their work. Canada feared strike action by its citizen since it was terrified of the Bolshevik revolution, which could have been brought by the immigrant population.

The immigrants were believed to have Bolshevist preferences. The revolution had occurred previously in Russia and had a great effect. The state felt threatened by the strike and appointed a committee to look into the situation. This resulted in the formation of citizen committee of 1000 to counter the strike which had paralyzed businesses in Winnipeg. The committee was led by Andrew, and it was able to bring the strike to a halt as well as ensuring trial and conviction of the strike leaders. The strike remains significant in Canadian history. It was aimed at fighting for the Canadian workers’ rights through union representing the workers. Through the efforts by the citizen committee of 1000 the strike was stopped. This was achieved after the trial and conviction of the strike leaders for sedition.

Book review

The book by Kramer and Mitchell is a fabulous article revealing a part of Canadian social history. It is a relevant article in Canadian history. The authors discuss the process which was followed by the state and the citizens to stop the strike. This explores the methods employed by the committee and the technique used to convict the leaders. The article is easy to understand hence suitable for study even by people who are not interested in history. The citizens were represented by A. J. Andrews while citizen committee represented the state.

The citizen committee together with Andrew was able to convince the government that, the union-owned Winnipeg. Mitchell and Kramer gave significant details in the article to show how the agreement was reached between the parties. They employed a good format and simple language thus, enhancing understanding. They show how letters were exchanged between the respective bodies involved with agreement process. This is fantastic as it gives more accurate information about the strike that other authors could not give. Through the article the authors were also able to point out the causes of the strike and give details on the full process that followed. This is informative especially to generations which only hear about the strike. The book is a collection of vital information which the archives did not have. This makes it better, more relevant and suitable for learners.

In my opinion, the article by Kramer and Mitchell discusses more than the process followed by the citizen committee to stop the strike. It explores the opposition applied by the citizen committee of 1000 which was headed by Andrew to stop the strike. It reveals the power used by the state through the justice minister Arthur Meighen. They give details about the trials and their procedures carried out on the strike leaders. They give evidence of the strike and details of how the process was carried out. This makes the book to have more detailed information about the strike than any other book. This fulfills their objective of writing the book. In addition, they discussed the repercussions of the strike including how the legal system led to organization of the workers with hopes of better salaries and working conditions. Through the article Kramer and Mitchell reveal the advantages and disadvantages of the strike. By discussing the various steps taken by the citizen committee, the authors indicate the various repercussions of the strike. The book also shows revolution in Canadian history.

Effects of the Winnipeg general strike

Kramer and Mitchel described the various short and mid-term effects of the strike. The effects were both negative and positive. The strike as indicated by the authors had many negative effects. Many people were injured during the strike especially on Saturday which Kramer and Mitchel describe as bloody. This was after the citizen committee persuaded the state to bring in police forces that arrested the strike leaders. They included Abraham albert and J. S. Woodsworth. This resulted to a demonstration by all workers. The police responded to the demonstration leading to death of few protesters and many casualties. The federal groups remained in the streets to ensure there was no other demonstration. The leaders of the strike were convicted leading to detainment of the leaders. Other strike leaders were deported.

The book also discusses the trial technique employed by Andrew. Various industries incurred losses as they were not granted permission to work. The employers had to seek permission from the labor cap to operate their businesses. For example, the Winnipeg general hospital was allowed to operate. The distribution of ice by the arctic ice company to the hospital was also granted. However, the ice company distribution process was restricted and the driver was ordered to display permission cards on the vehicles. This had significant effects to the Winnipeg’s businesses. Essential services including firefighting and policing were interfered with depriving the people their rights.

The press people also joined the strike. The freedom of the press was limited and communication became a tough situation. One could not send a telegram to another person limiting communication. This also led to fear among the Winnipeg people. After the strike the state implemented a policy which recognized workers’ rights. The people became organized into different union groups to enhance their ability to demand for their rights.


The book not only discusses how the business and legal Winnipeg elite A. J. Andrew was involved in ensuring the strike was stopped but also reveals a revolution in the Canadian history. At first, the state viewed the strike as a revolution which was influenced by bolshevists in Canada. This led to the formation of a committee to counter the strike. This was the state strategy to avoid any revolution. However, the demonstration by the strikers was not only to protest against good wages and better working conditions but also to condemn class inequality. Andrew together with other committee members was able to persuade the state that the Winnipeg people were equal and came from humble origin.

The formation of union group among the workers was an indicator of equality and great revolution in the industrial sector. The strike was viewed as bolshevism revolution which had earlier occurred in Russia. This threatened the state liberal orders. However, the strike turned out to be a great revolution to the citizens as they were able to acquire their rights and interact freely with others. The development of an organization which represented the workers was a revolution and allowed a better way to protest for their rights. The citizen complaints were met and labor reforms were implemented later by the state.

New narrative

In my opinion, the book is a new narrative in presenting Canadian history. It explores the state powers and mechanism employed by the state to stop the general strike. It is a narrative that gives more relevant and detailed information about the strike. It is original in that, it discusses a very sensitive situation that has ever been tackled by any other writer. The details provided by the authors make it even more original since it has never been revealed before. For example, they described the letters exchanged between the state and the citizen committee of 1000 which were never known.

They also illustrated the citizen committee which was never disclosed to anybody. This gives a better understanding of the historic event. It is well written and discusses various issues at the same time. It exposes how the citizen committee of 1000 brought the strike to an end. It also reveals letters exchanged between the committee and the state in the process of solving the situation. This even makes the book more unique and gives a richer understanding of the historical event. It uses illustrations including that of the citizen committee making the book enjoyable and at the same time providing evidence of the general strike.

Course commentary

The Second World War occurred in 1945 and Canada was not excluded. It met the challenges and effects of the war. The book by Kramer and Mitchell discussing the Winnipeg general strike has aided me to understand Canada history after the war. This is because the strike occurred after the First World War. This resulted into high cost of living and low economic growth. The soldiers also returned to their nation only to find their employment positions replaced by other people who were mainly immigrants. This resulted to high unemployment rate. The citizens came up with a strike action as the only method to express their dissatisfaction with their wages and working conditions. This led to implementation of policies which solved complains of the workers.

The strike action as thought by the state was an influence by the people who were bolshevists. They were mainly immigrants who had settled in Canada after the war. After the Second World War, Canada took various precautions to prevent any occurrence of a strike. This was after analyzing the causes and effects felt due to the strike in Winnipeg. They included implementation of policies which restricted immigration in Canada. It chooses various people from specific places and neglected others.

In 1946, it implemented the immigration act which limited immigrants into the country. This allowed the recruitment of the ideal immigrants who mainly included people form the Dutch. The immigrants were subjected to some orders which involved the immigrants to abandon their culture and practice the English-culture. Other policies were initiated including the Canadian citizenship act. This ensured that the immigrants complied with the immigrant act policies and the population was maintained. After the Second World War, Canada emerged stronger than it was before the First World War. After reading the book by Kramer and Mitchel I understood why Canada took the precautions. The strike at Winnipeg was believed to be an influence from the bolshevists who comprised the largest Canadian population.


The book by Kramer and Mitchell is a fabulous book which explores more of the Canadian history. It is an informative book and provides relevant evidence of the event. This was exclusively achieved by including illustrations in the book. Though the book aims at discussing how the strike action was stopped in Winnipeg it also reveals other details including the strike effects. It approves how the state fails to tackle a crisis only to be solved by other people. The book, however, engages questions in the topics unevenly.

The topics were also not economically distributed leading to repetition of themes. This however does not change the book significance in describing the Canadian history. The objective of the book is also proficient and gives additional information. The book is not only suitable for people interested in Canadian history but also to any other person who enjoys reading historical events. Kramer and Mitchell present the Winnipeg general strike masterfully. They describe the process in a simple manner making the readers to understand it easily. I therefore recommend the book to all people interested in enhancing their knowledge and those carrying research on the Canadian history.