Direct action, subsidiarity and the counterhegemonic: three case studies of antipoverty activism in twentieth century Canada




Thompson, David Alexander

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An analysis of three poor people's movements in twentieth century Canada serves to wrest the ideas and activist tradition of Canada's poor people from historical obscurity. Between 1932 and 1935, the Communist-inspired Vancouver unemployed councils engaged in direct actions to challenge Depression-era social policy, capital and the police. The arrival of the modern post-war welfare state did not end poverty; however. Vancouver antipoverty activists were circumscribed by society's relative affluence and organizational and sectarian debates within labour councils and the antipoverty movement. Finally, since 1989 the Toronto-based Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) has extended antipoverty activism to include the issues of immigrants, First Nations, women and children. Drawing on theorist Antonio Gramsci and the socialist-anarchist tradition, this thesis posits that direct action and a subsidiarity relationship between activists and their community are essential to the success and longevity of poor people's movements.



economic assistance, poverty, Canada, 20th century