"To each according to his need, and from each according to his ability. Why cannot the world see this?" : the politics of William Ivens, 1916-1936

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Butt, Michael William,
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Following capitalism's arrival on the Canadian Prairies, the desire to challenge the existing order grew within a number of sharply divided communities. Immediately following World War I, moderates and radicals alike responded to the grim realities of unemployment, starvation wages, poor working conditions, and unsanitary housing by challenging a contradictory system of social relations in a battle over the meaning of "democracy". It was a golden age of social criticism, as pioneer reformers reached out to the large community audiences. In colleges, in churches, and in a radicalized press, the arrival of reform was heralded as the coming of a new day. Few persons were as outspoken or were able to gain as wide an audience as William Ivens. As a Methodist minister, a Labour Church leader, a working-class intellectual, and eventually as a member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, William Ivens challenged the existing order. He represented a tendency in Western Canadian thought throughout the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s. His Labour Church as a working-class institution helped forge a political space in the community. Ivens offered Manitobans a new social order based not on competition, but rather on co-operation. His tendency was the result of passing various elements of Marxism, and Labour Marxist thought through the lens of a non-conformist Christianity and Methodism. The end result was an ethical socialist social philosophy that effectively addressed the social problems of the period. As a spokes-person and as an agitator for social reform, Ivens' ethical socialist outlook achieved a consensus among radical and moderate labourists. His importance as an activist in the community and the type of reforms that he was advocating, make him an important, interesting and worthwhile study in Western Canadian history.