Let Us Rise!: A History of the Manitoba Labour Movement


150 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-919573-28-2






Reviewed by Hugh Tuck

Hugh Tuck was Associate Professor of History at the Memorial University of Newfoundland.


This book was commissioned by the Manitoba Labour Education Centre and the Manitoba Federation of Labour. The author is a journalist working for CBC Radio in Winnipeg. According to the publisher, this is the first book-length history of the Manitoba labour movement.

The author begins with the craft unions of the 1880s and concludes with the challenges to labour of the past 25 years. Quite properly, a whole chapter is devoted to the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, and another to the Great Depression of the thirties. As the title suggests, the principal emphasis of the book is upon trade unionism, with discussions of several major strikes that are not covered in any other readily available source. There is some analysis of working conditions and labour politics.

The numerous black-and-white photographs are well chosen and well reproduced on good paper, but the text is not of comparable quality. It is reasonably comprehensive and tolerably well written, but there are too many errors of fact and interpretation. A few examples must suffice. The first attempt to form a national labour congress was not the 1883 Toronto convention, but the 1873 Canadian Labour Union (p.30). There were four unions in the railway running trades in the 1880s, not three; the brakemen have been inexplicably omitted (p. 18). The Knights of Labor were expelled from the Trades and Labor Congress in 1902 for dual unionism, not industrial unionism, a crucial distinction (p.30). The reference to the Canadian Northern railway in 1892 should read Northern Pacific (p. 19); the Canadian Northern had not yet come into existence in 1892! The analysis of the Winnipeg General Strike does not give sufficient weight to either the role of the federal government or the strike’s national significance. Other examples might be cited.

This book, then, is a disappointment. A fully satisfactory popular history of Manitoba labour has yet to be written.



Smith, Doug, “Let Us Rise!: A History of the Manitoba Labour Movement,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 10, 2023, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/36277.