A test of social conflict theory : the case of the Winnipeg General Strike

Thumbnail Image
Thomas, Lillian Jean.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The problem to be investigated in this study centres on discovering how urban conflict first emerges as a visible force. Those circumstances which led to the outbreak of open conflict in Winnipeg will be examined to test four competitive social conflict theories. Each theory establishes a series of assumptions about how conflict will emerge. The substantive implicatjons of these assumptions will be compared with the available information on the actual conditions evident at the moment of the emergence of the strike. Through this comparison, this jnvestigation will determjne which theory or theories best describes how the incident of urban confljct actualiy emerged to produce the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. This research has concentrated on urban conflict, rather than rural conflict, because the urban culture more accurately reflects the structural make-up of our society. In Canada, over l6 million people live in cities. That represents 76.1% of the total population of Canada, and this figure is rising by 2.9% per annum. Thus, with an increasing majority of our population residing in urban centres, the problems of urban living and its resultant conflicts, have become an increasingly salient feature of the composition of Canadian society. This investigation will be performed by centering specifically on urban unrest, rather than analyzing turmoi1 at a regiona1 or national level. Canadian history has had few examples of wide-scale conflict. Most forms of insurgence within Canada have been limited to either a single industry or a single city. This may be because Canadian cities are isolated from each other, and extend across the country in a series of pockets located along its southern border. This separation may have made it difficult, in the past, to transport issues to other communities. As telecommunications had greatly improved the linkages between urban centres by l919, this may explain why some sympathy for the Winnipeg General Strike was expressed jn other cities by means of minor sympathy strikes, although there was little long term unified protest outside the city itself. Therefore, limited by Canadian experience, this work will confine itself to the emergence of conflict within an urban centre.