When Red meets Green: perceptions of environmental change in the B.C. Communist Left, 1937-1978




Martin, Eryk

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From the 1940s to the 1970s the communist left in British Columbia used debates and perceptions of environmental change as a means to engage in a critique of capitalist society. In engaging in these debates, communists articulated a Marxist understanding of the connections between capitalism and environmental change. However, these articulations were heavily connected to broader occurrences that situated the communist left alongside a diverse group of social actors. Beginning in the 1940s the communist left situated their critique of provincial forest policy into a wider social debate over the management of forest resources. During the 1950s and 1960s, concerns over environmental change were transformed into debates over the effects of nuclear weapons and industrial pollution. From the late 1960s through to late 1970s elements of the communist left once again engaged with the environmental changes taking place in the forest sector, as renewed concerns developed over the status of the forest economy and the preservation of wilderness areas. To investigate the communist left’s perceptions and politicization of these issues this thesis focuses on the activities of communist controlled unions such as the International Woodworkers of America as well as the B.C. section of the Communist Party of Canada/Labour Progressive Party. In addition to these organizations, this thesis also follows the experiences of Erni Knott. As a woodworker, a founding member of the IWA, a member of the Communist Party, and an active environmentalist, Knott’s experiences highlight the complex way in which communist politics merged and conflicted with perceptions of environmental change.



Communism, Socialism, Workers, Labour Unions, Environmentalism, Conservation, Forestry, International Woodworkers of America