James G. Snell is a history professor at the University of Guelph,
author of In the Shadow of the Law: Divorce in Canada, 1900-1939, and
co-author of The Supreme Court of Canada: History of the Institution.
George Melnyk is the founder and president of the NeWest Institute for Western Canadian Studies. The Institute’s publishing arm has now issued a collection of his articles, earlier versions of which are usually already in print. Radical Regionalism contains fifteen such articles, each from four to eight pages in length. In subject matter these articles range over such issues as cultural development, ethnicity and native peoples, socialism, and the political and economic needs of the prairies.
Melnyk argues in favour of what he calls a regional radicalism and hopes that these brief articles will someday “become part of the continuum of Western radicalism” (p. 4). What he means by that is unclear, but he does eventually inform the reader that “any vision which is indigenous is de facto radical. It stands outside the mainstream” (p. 59). The author clearly sees himself fighting for a new kind of regionalism, and this book is part of his call for adherents.
The prairie west, to Melnyk, requires an indigenously created, controlled, and oriented society. This society must be free of the colonial shackles of the east, and to achieve this an indigenous socialism is essential, leading to “a society rooted in the regional reality” (p. 104) — a phrase again whose meaning is unclear. Socialism is necessary, however, because only through such a movement can an independent, indigenous economy be created, no longer controlled by the dependency-seeking regional bourgeoisie.
The articles are brief and the ideas thus presented appear shallow, poorly defined, and weakly developed. But no one can doubt the author’s personal commitment to his chosen cause.