The Death of a Socialist Pioneer

Dear Comrades,

On the first Tuesday (23 May, 1911) after arriving in Vancouver from Manchester, England, I joined Local Vancouver No. 1, Socialist Party of Canada, and there met, along with a number of other young enthusiastic socialists, “Jack” MacDonald. We became close associates, an association which lasted throughout his lifetime.

In the Vancouver Local of 1911, a Local of approximately 120 members, there were such stalwarts as E. T. Kingsley, D. G. McKenzie, Jack Harrington, W. W. Lefaux, Jack Burroughs, and many others including the mentor of the Economic Class, G. D. Morgan.

The Local at that time conducted a propaganda meeting each Sunday evening in the Empress Theatre with an audience usually of 2,000, an Economics Class on Sunday, a History Class on Monday, a Business Meeting on Tuesday, a Philosophy Class on Wednesday and a Speakers Class on Thursday with a Social Evening on Saturday, together with nightly soap-box street corner meetings usually carried by H. L. Fitzgerald (an orator if ever there was one) and Chas. Lestor—well-known in his last years to the London members of your party.

MacDonald and I together with other young members came to known as the Young Turks, and through our efforts caused the withdrawal throughout the Province of British Columbia (outside of Vancouver) of certain reformist elements which had appeared in the Party.

It might be of interest to note that the SPC was the result of the merging of the Revolutionary Socialist Party of Canada (located on Vancouver Island) and the B.C. Socialist Party (on the Mainland). The Revolutionary and the B.C. were dropped from each group and the Socialist Party of Canada was thus formed.

This was around 1902 and in 1903 twenty-seven Locals existed in British Columbia alone. In that year, 1903, a Provincial Election took place and 23 candidates were put up. To me, most significant of that time was the “Election Platform”, the most succinct ever offered and a pattern worthy of copy when one today is accosted with extreme wordiness of some of our election manifestos. The Platform was one short sentence: “THE ABOLITION OF THE WAGES SYSTEM AND OPPOSITION TO ALL PALLIATIVES”.

In time, we of the Young Turks found ourselves in the position of having to carry on most of the Propaganda and MacDonald and I, starting from scratch (with a few others) became speakers and writers. An article of some years back in the Western Socialist, “Other Times.” by MacDonald, gives his opinion of those days.

“Mac” quickly developed as a propagandist both with pen and voice. Readers of the Western Socialist must know of his facility as a writer, his subtle humour, his satiric touch, his penetration into the questions of the day, his capacity for socialist analysis. I can testify to his equal powers as a Platform man. And so close did he and I become that invariably Mac would be designated by the Local to be Chairman when I was the speaker and vice-versa.

From Vancouver MacDonald went to the States, made a visit to Australia, and after many vicissitudes and a few menial jobs in and around the Bay Area, he opened a small book-shop in San Francisco, later expanding into a large one and finally into the huge store on Turk. near Market. Mac’s store became famous, not only in the Bay Area, but throughout the world. It was often called “The Cross-Roads of the World” and people from many lands were visitors. During this period he organised the Jack London Mabor College and many pupils went from there with a socialist education.

He debated with Ernest Untermann and according to those present I understand that Mac’s attack was so devastating that Untermann’s sister broke into tears.

From his early Vancouver days to the end Mac was an outstanding exponent of Scientific Socialism.


W. A. (Bill) Pritchard, Los Angeles.

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