The Winnipeg General Strike

In all of Canadian history, with Labor union mov

WikiLeaks is a website which was founded in 2006 by the Australian Programmer Julian Assange, and its purpose ever since, has been to leak and expose illegal or immoral government actions around the world. WikiLeaks, however, is not a simple hacking group and through careful planning of the release of government documents, it has promoted slander on those who the members of WikiLeaks may not like, therefore unethically promoting a political agenda. However, not everything WikiLeaks has released is of bad taste; some of the documents, in fact, have shown the disgraceful actions which the governments of various countries have committed and tried to hide. This does not excuse the damage to political figures which are named in the released documents. Even though WikiLeaks exposes immoral government actions, this organization must be censored because it unethically promotes slander and harms political figures.

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WikiLeaks has shown that it wants to foist an anti-establishment opinion upon its readers by slandering and promoting slander against the government. The release of the Iraq War Logs in 2010 by WikiLeaks was very quickly “condemned by the United States and United Kingdom who suggested the disclosures put lives at risk.” (Karhula). The documents of the leak showed its readers that the government was hiding something from its people and while they were, it should not have been a serious scandal in war times. It should be known that wars have casualties and the files state that civilians in Afghanistan were killed but WikiLeaks promoted the concept that this was a serious issue which would encourage strong distrust and dislike of the government. The release of every secret document in the War in Afghanistan is not necessarily for the people’s benefit as “it is a mistake to assume that revealing the entirety of what has been secret will liberate us” (Žižek). While knowing how one’s government operates can benefit participation in politics, it is detrimental to the people to know what horrible actions had to be made during a war.

The information released by WikiLeaks is also not extraordinary, but rather confirmation of what many perceive the government as. The scandal around WikiLeaks’ released documents is false because much of the information revealed by WikiLeaks is not extraordinary or revolutionary (Eco 219). Torture and death, ubiquitous in the Iraq War logs and Afghan War Diary, is a subject which many people refuse to discuss even though it is used by the United States in a time of war. While many speak out against torture, it is still used on Americans and by Americans in Foreign countries during a war. The revelations of the WikiLeaks documents are nothing more than a confirmation and detailed explanation of how exactly the United States government and army acts during war. With the lack of truth to the WikiLeaks scandal, the “[distribution] to major newspapers” (Ludlow) makes it even worse as WikiLeaks promoted its philosophy through mainstream media. By doing this, WikiLeaks was essentially forcing anti-establishmentarianism upon its readers, and forcing a reaction from the government. The two possible reactions from the government would be an increase or decrease in security, which would slowdown efficiency or force the government to stop taking risks, both detrimental to the operation of the United States. Through WikiLeaks methods of releasing information and promoting an anti-establishment belief, it encourages that the United States people slander the government’s name, in the hope that the government changes its policies of security.

Even though some of the actions performed by WikiLeaks are unethical and detrimental to society, the ideology of freedom of information, is a reasonable and good-natured one. In March 2007, WikiLeaks released the Guantanamo prison camp standard operating manual for the United States military which revealed that some prisoners were placed outside of Red Cross allowed areas, even though the government denied this previously (Karhula). The release of the Guantanamo manual had beneficial implications as it encouraged a better understanding of war and foreign policy from United States citizens. The lie by the government shown by the Guantanamo manual gave insight into how the United States military operated. The release of the Guantanamo manual showed the United States public that there were lies in the government. Even though the Iraq War Logs and Afghan War Diary promoted unreasonable distrust, they both informed the public of the horror of war.

The philosophy behind WikiLeaks’ releases follows hacktivist culture, which in philosophy, is beneficial as “the political compass of these hacktivist groups has never pointed true right or true left” (Ludlow). WikiLeaks’ promotion of freedom of information is not meant to sway someone one way or another, it is simply meant to inform and make the reader aware of the world and their government. Even though information may change one’s political opinion, WikiLeaks is not trying to force one specific ideology. The leaks are meant to show that the government should not always be trusted, even though they encourage a complete disconnect from, or reconfiguration of the government. It is true that the government should not always be trusted, and the voting public of the United States should understand this.

While WikiLeaks’ execution of releasing information is flawed, the major implication of WikiLeaks is that “no government in the world will be able to maintain areas of secrecy if it continues to entrust its secret communications and its archives to the Internet or other forms of electronic memory” (Eco 219) which may be beneficial. WikiLeaks is something of a warning to the governments of the world, saying that they cannot entrust secret information to the internet anymore. This fear of being hacked which WikiLeaks has instilled in governments should make them more secure and stronger. Who is to say a terrorist organization cannot hack the United States government like WikiLeaks has? While some may consider WikiLeaks a terrorist group, it is simply doing what a potential terrorist could do in the future without action. WikiLeaks’ release of information also encourages people to bring about a “different functioning of power that might reach beyond the limits of representative democracy” (Žižek) which can be beneficial to United States citizens. The representative democracy of the United States is currently limited in its true ability to represent people, somewhat due to the secrets which representatives could hold. The information released by WikiLeaks works to encourage a better society where people know and like their representatives in the government. While it is true that uprooting the current form of democracy is not going to happen any time soon, WikiLeaks is placing in the minds of its readers that the government is flawed and should be improved. This is not what most readers have gained from WikiLeaks, however, and it has not been successful.

Even though WikiLeaks has a generally good philosophy and mission, the execution and results so far have proven to hurt individuals more than help the United States public. This can be seen in the initial reaction to the releasing of 251,000 State Department Cables which may have changed the world (Greenberg 3). Department Cables or telegrams are confidential text messages exchanged between members of foreign embassies and their parent country. The release of the State Department Cables and public reaction made it clear to the Obama administration that people were not in his favor. When Obama said that he would pull troops from Iraq, many believed this to be a reaction to the Iraq War Logs, and while it was good that soldiers would be returning, this may have been against Obama’s free will as president. Because of the extreme backlash from the public on the Iraq war logs, “the Obama administration was quick to distance itself from WikiLeaks” (Thompson-Jones 287). As soon as the leaks came out and showed Obama in a bad light, citizens were fast to change opinions of him and this hurt his ability to function as president. While WikiLeaks did not directly attack Obama, the leaks of the United States government hurt him and caused diplomatic issues.

Another more prominent instance of WikiLeaks harming a political figure is the Hillary Clinton email scandal. In March 2015, 55,000 pages of supposedly delated emails on a personal account were leaked by WikiLeaks (Thompson-Jones 284) While Clinton’s leaked emails were not of illegal nature, they “distracted the public from her presidential campaign” (Thompson-Jones 290) and hurt her image as she was running for president. The leaked emails displayed Clinton’s poor decisions in foreign policy and must have swayed the opinions of some who were going to vote for her. While WikiLeaks may have not had a direct agenda against Clinton, the leak provided people information against her and reason not to vote. The reason WikiLeaks had such an impact with little repercussions is because the it is almost completely anonymous. One of the most dangerous implications of anonymity is that of assassination politics: assassinating a political figure to achieve a political agenda (Greenberg 117). While WikiLeaks does not specifically promote assassination politics, the leaks can be used by anyone how is willing to go to that level. WikiLeaks has not been a direct cause of harm to politicians but it encourages direct harm with the methods it uses to leak information through the press and news stories.

WikiLeaks seems to be a good idea, and on the surface, it is, but the implications and reactions to WikiLeaks are detrimental to the United States society and livelihood of some. Even though WikiLeaks should be censored, it most likely never will be, at least not completely. There are still thousands of hackers and whistle-blowers who will continue WikiLeaks if its founder is imprisoned.

Word Count: 1616

Works Cited

Eco, Umberto. “Thoughts on WikiLeaks.” Inventing the Enemy, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, NY, 2012, pp. 217-222.

Greenberg, Andy. “Prologue.” This Machine Kills Secrets: How WikiLeakers, Cypherpunks and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World’s Information, Dutton, New York, NY, 2012, pp. 1-8.

Karhula, Päivikki. “What Is the Effect of WikiLeaks for Freedom of Information?” FAIFE Spotlight, IFLA, 5 Oct. 2012,

Ludlow, Peter. “WikiLeaks and Hacktivist Culture.” The Nation, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, 29 June 2015,

Thompson-Jones, Mary. “251,287 Leaked Cables.” To The Secretary: Leaked Embassy Cables and America’s Foreign

ements and protests against the employers, the Winnipeg General Strike was one of the most explosive and meaningful of all previously recorded General Strikes throughout history. A strike is defined as a strike by workers in all or most of the industries in a country at the same time. Of which the Winnipeg General Strike managed to kill the city in a few hours where movement was delayed because of the lack of workers. However, including the strike events the before and after effects are what made this General Strike so historically significant.

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The Winnipeg General Strike began shortly after the First World War. Ironically, in the case of the soldiers their purpose of their 4 years of service in the war had the undesired outcome, Robert Walker a western miner stated that they “ought to be able to work a little less and enjoy a little more.” However this was not the case immediately after the war the cost of living continued to rise and the return of the soldiers offered unprecedented numbers of workers returning to the force while at the same time forcing people out of work, creating a serious unemployment problems and a general strike.

In the spring of 1919, a labor argument over union recognition gradually expanded or “snowballed” into a dramatic general strike in multiple stages. First, on May 1st after three months of negotiations with the Winnipeg Builders Exchange, all the unions grouped together with the “Buildings Trade Council” go on strike. Then next, the day after a strike is called by the “Metal Trades Council” of workers, all at the three main locations distributed among the city join in and abandon all work efforts as they join the strike. Then, both the Winnipeg Building Council and Metal Trades Council tell the Winnipeg Trades and Labor Council (TLC) about there employers refusing to bargain with the workers. Thus the TLC comes to a decision about polling all unions on a sympathetic strike; a strike in support of all other workers on strike. The result of this poll on May 13th was 8,667 for and 645 against; from there a general strike committee of 300 people is created. Finally, on May 15 at 11:00 AM, the general strike begins. Within 2 hours, factories, workers, and in the bigger scheme, the city comes to a stop, as workers follow the union members at walking off their jobs; a total of 30,000 union and non union people.

Thus with every action there is an equal or opposite reaction, some people didn’t like the strike as their city was dead and lots of local businesses, shopping centers, some of the police force, no phone operators, non circulated newspapers, no working street cars, undelivered mail, etc just to name a few that were non existent. The effect of this was drastic: retail was crippled, transportation by motorized vehicle was almost non existent and factories were closed, eliminating any progress in manufacturing. Thus, On May 16 a Winnipeg Citizens Committee of 1,000 is announced, its goal is to fight the strike. In an attempt to stop the strike on May 25 Senator Robertson issues an ultimatum to the postal employees giving them 1 day to return to their jobs, on pain of dismissal. Multiple ultimatums were formed for provincial and civic government jobs, as they were owned by the government. Through this battle back and forth, 5,000 strikers refused all ultimatums in the Victoria Park Stand on May 25th. After simple negotiations of words the government had come to realization that this is bigger than they previously thought.

A key event On May 30 was the refusal of the anti-strike pledge by the Winnipeg Police force and the clear understanding of what the terms the strikers wanted, in a more in depth version. It was clear that the strikers were in favour of 3 principles: First they wanted the right of collective bargaining, second a living wage, and third reinstatement of “all” strikers. Basically the Winnipeg Strikers wanted to be noticed that they have the right to form a union Also mentioned by the Strike Council was the list of principles they didn’t want: One was no revolution, two no disorder and three no dictatorship. The result of the refusal of the police anti-strike pledge triggered and 1800 man force called “Specials” they were a group of special workers in charge of taming the strike with the equipment of horses wagon spokes and baseball bats. The angered strikers continued to rally together and when they were refused newspaper support, they were accused of “Bolshevism,” of being “enemy aliens” and of “undermining British values.” As a Bolshevik revolution had just previously occurred in Russia, many of the workers saw this as a successful socialist revolution. From this same idea minister of Justice Arthur Meighen put an accusation on the Winnipeg strike leaders, that they were performing acts of communism and Bolshevism

On May 22, the federal Minister of Labour Senator Gideon Robertson and the federal minister of the interior also an acting minister of Justice, Arthur Meighen refused to meet and negotiate with the Central Strike Committee. Within a week from this inconclusive meeting the municipal workers, federal government employees and provincial government employees were ordered to return to work. However this order was not followed through and the strike was back to where it began, the government was left to dry and had to think of some resolution. Then an amendment or change in the Immigration act and Criminal Code was sent to Canadian Parliament. It stated that the government had approval of deportation of all British Born strike leaders and a new definition; sedition (incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government … added to the Criminal Code.

This brought a dire consequence, one of the major movements within the Winnipeg General Strike. Because of the exploding numbers of strikers, the government employers were lead to believe that this was not just another strike but rather Winnipeg was experiencing a revolution against the remaining authority in the city. This rumor circulated until the attention was increased, the city used all of the force it could get, and troops were rushed in to the site. Before dawn on June 17 agents arrested multiple of the strike leaders and sent them off to jail with refused bail right, this was done during late night raids. These were 10 leaders of the “Central Strike Committee (CSC)” and 2 propagandists of the newly formed groups “One Big Union.” Of the leaders arrested were: J.S Woodswoth, R.E Bray and Abraham Albert Heaps. These arrests sparked anger within the Strike Committee, and thus the final major movement in the Strike began. As the furious strikers gathered in Winnipeg’s Market Square leaders read the Riot Act as they taunted the Royal North West Mounted Police (RNWMP). This lasted minutes until the RNWMP descended upon the strikers beating them with clubs and firing weapons. As a result 2 people were killed; a child and Mike Sokolowski a striker, and 30 plus people were injured. This day of the strike was known as Bloody Saturday because it was the day that involved the most violence. The army was also on the streets, and they patrolled with machine-guns mounted on their vehicles because they feared more violence. On Thursday, June 26 at 11:00 am, exactly 42 days from the beginning of the Winnipeg General Strike it ended. The leaders of the Strike committee feared that the RNWMP would engage in more acts of violence and they voted to finally end the strike.

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The Winnipeg general strike is referred to as Canada’s largest general strike, it is a key event in Canadian history as it lasted 6 weeks and sparked multiple supportive strikes across Canada. Of which were called in Brandon, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Regina, Vancouver, New Westminster, Victoria, and in as many as 20 other towns scattered across Canada. It was important simply because it managed to capture the attention of local and national politicians as well as the general public. The Winnipeg General Strike was a turning point in history as it was and illegal six week stand with a collation of general public workers organized to bargain against the workplace in manners of a strike. Through the traumatic events of the Winnipeg General Strike it is clearly shown the importance of establishing a permanent federal police force. In the city the local police force were dismissed by the higher authorities because they could not be relied upon. If local law enforcement can’t be relied upon it is important to have an alternate force on reserve to maintain the order of the people. Thus the permanent RNWMP (Royal North West Mounted police) or simply the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) was permanently established as of February 1, 1920.

On top of the permanently created RCMP, there were several government related changes in relation to expansion and amendments to several laws. The first major law change was the amendment to the Immigration Act which was sent to Canadian parliament stating that the government had the right to deport all British born leaders/strikers that were involved in the strike that committed sedition; this same law was also added to the Canadian Naturalization Act. The term sedition was also new that was added to the Canadian Criminal Code in this special instance, it means “incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government” ( Not to mention Canada’s improvement upon labor laws and worker rights; which before the Strike were almost non existent.

The introduction of the changes in the Immigration Act disallowed many groupings of no entry into Canada, culturally postponing many groups. Of these groups banned from entry into Winnipeg were the “Stalwart Peasants” of the Sifton era. These were, according to Sifton, people who have aged 10 years on the farm and have many children. Thus the major people briefly not allowed into Winnipeg were the Hutterites, the Mennonites and the Dukoubours, however this later changed. There were also people in the strike specifically J.S Woodsworth that had a hand in developing certain aspects of the Canadian society. For example he led the Church to lay a foundation of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, Canada’s first socialist political party. This same foundation CCF would later be known as the NDP party in which we still associate with today.

In conclusion the strike the Winnipeg General Strike was a stand against the employers and the government in order to agree upon better work conditions, collective bargaining, and an agreement to allow all strikers back to work after their terms have been met. In the case of the Winnipeg General Strike, the word strike was embellished by the federal government as they believed that this strike was a revolt in favor of a revolution. It was very threatening towards the Canadian communities as this strike occurred in the era of multiple revolutions; more specifically acts of communism. The result of the Winnipeg General Strike was generally a very successful protest, as it proved to increase the better working conditions of millions of Canadians in the future. To the government it was a success and they had managed to stop the strikers, unfortunately with force but also managing to create a new form of police service; the RCMP. Towards Canadian identity the Winnipeg General Strike was a key event as it managed to keep the government on “their toes” and prevent acts of injustice, improved millions of working conditions and managed to keep Canada unique in character successfully distancing Canada from acts of Bolshevism and Communism

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