Politics and History in Southern Alberta

Oral history is a relatively new research methodology which supports the creation of historical knowledge by incorporating community involvement in the research process. It allows “ordinary” people to narrate their own historical experiences in interviews with historians, and thereby ensures the recording of important stories which might otherwise be ignored. One aspect of local history that oral historical methods are particularly well-suited to uncover, is the history of political left.

The Communist Party of Canada was actually a formidable political force in southern Alberta at one time. The town of Blairmore in the Crowsnest Pass, for instance, elected a Communist town council in the mid-1930s. And while Blairmore was perhaps the most notable example of Communist electoral success in Alberta’s history, the far-left was an established reality in many provincial locales, especially during the interwar period. After the Second World War, however, as the North American political climate became deeply hostile towards any and all forms of anti-capitalist politics, the organized left in Alberta, as elsewhere, was decimated.

Because of the left’s minimal presence in Alberta during the second half of the twentieth century, there has been very little historical research specifically geared towards understanding the attitudes and experiences of the few who were involved in those politics during this time. Accordingly, the Galt Museum has developed a Young Canada Works oral history project this summer in hopes of speaking with people who were active on the left in southern Alberta after the Second World War. The “left” in this case could potentially include communists and socialists, as well as social-democrats, and we would be happy to hear from workers, labour activists, political actors, intellectuals, and otherwise.

Anyone who might like to be interviewed or become a part of this oral history project in any way should contact Mack Penner, Oral History Researcher, by phone at 403-894-7927 or by email at mack.penner@galtmuseum.com.