Dr. Bryan Palmer
When most Canadians think about our country’s history, one of the last words that comes to mind is “radical.” Yet Canada’s history contains a radical aspect that was virtually unknown until thirty years ago. Currently, Dr. Brian Palmer is researching this different side of Canada. Some of his findings are highlighted in his recent book, entitled Canada’s 1960s: The Ironies of Identity in a Rebellious Era.
Dr. Brian Palmer holds a Canada Research Chair in Canadian Studies, and teaches at Trent University in Ontario. Palmer recently spoke with Mark Reid, editor-in-chief of Canada’s History magazine, about his research into the radical side of Canada.
“A common-place set of assumptions about Canada is that we’re not really in the forefront of any radical developments,” Palmer explained. “But the whole history of Canada has been punctuated with articulations of radical possibility.”
“My own interest is in bringing those to the floor to, in some senses, deflate some of that conventional wisdom by showing that there always were alternatives, different perspectives, and that that the Canadian contribution to a much broader radical history is something that actually is there, and often needs to be excavated.”
One example of Canada’s radical past is an article Palmer wrote about Maurice Spector (1898-1968), Chairman of the Communist Party of Canada in the 1920s. He was a Ukrainian-Jewish student at the University of Toronto who embraced Trotskyism. Spector was also one of the first to break free from the conservatism of the Communist Internationals.
“He played an important role in developments in the late twenties and thirties in presenting an international alternative to increasing Stalinization of the Communist International,” Palmer explained of Spector. “So there are - within the Canadian experience – a whole range of radical possibilities.”
Even though there are countless interesting stories like Spector’s, most Canadians haven’t heard about them. Palmer explained that the research simply has not been conducted, and there is so much more to uncover about Canada’s radical past.
To hear the full interview between Dr. Palmer and Mark Reid click . To learn more about Canada Research Chairs, visit www.chairs-chaires.gc.ca.
By Amanda Hope