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George Faulkner, 1873-1970

Workers Vanguard, May 1963

George Faulkner’s Dream:
It’s All Come True in Cuba.

by Ernest Tate

Most of us dream. Some dream for a lifetime without ever seeing their dreams come true. But George Faulkner, who is probably one of Western Canada’s oldest socialists—he joined the Western Federation of Miners in April 1899 and the Socialist Party in 1900—saw his dream come alive.

A homesteader in Northern Alberta, he sold his farm a year ago and has been visiting old comrades all over the country. Recently he decided to visit Cuba and see for himself what is happening there.

"I’ve agitated for the socialist system for over half a century and l went down there and looked at it straight in the face," he told me when I went to visit him on his return. "The trip cost me $500 but it was worth a million."

In his own right he is something of a specialist in farming problems and he paid particular attention to Cuban agriculture, particularly the feeding of cattle that the Cubans are buying in Canada. He had been back two days and was anxiously waiting to get his 89th birthday celebration over so that he could leave for Edmonton to have tests made on samples of quack grass he had brought back with him.

"The Cubans made me welcome," he said, "and provided me with an interpreter. When I told them that I wanted to see their farming, they were only too willing to show me around."

Cattle from Canada were not doing too well, he said. They were getting no production, they were thin and short of meat. Not that they were particularly bad in quality, but it seemed to him that there was something lacking in the diet.

"They were having little success growing clover," he said, "but alfalfa can be cut at least ten times a year." He said the Cubans listened carefully to everything he said.

He had an opportunity to talk to the heads of the agricultural ministry in several provinces. "I was busy—going all the time and talking to everyone. I didn’t go to talk politics ... l went to talk about the agricultural industry. The people must have something to eat and they are short of dairy products. The revolution will only succeed if it feeds the people."

He was of the opinion that there was a wrong emphasis in the buying of cattle and he told them so. He told them that they should concentrate on getting the cattle they had already bought into condition. There had been carelessness in the shipment of herds which had been expensive to them. In one consignment from Ontario, 19 died on the way when a ship hit a storm and 20 aborted their calves. 19 others died after they came off the boat.

"There are lots of cattle in Cuba," he said, "as many as you would see in the Chicago stockyards." He felt that they would be much better off if they concentrated on production instead of pedigree stock. A beautiful Holstein bull from one of Canada’s top herds had been bought at Alliston, Ontario. A prize specimen beautiful condition, a show animal, for which the Cubans paid $38,000. It weighed 3100 lbs. "A lot of bull for a lot of money" he said.

The Cuban economy under the old regime was based on one crop—sugar, and everything else was secondary. Most agricultural products were bought from the United States and the science of stock raising was neglected. As Fidel Castro said, they were exporting hide to buy shoes, and sugar to buy candy. The Cubans, having made their revolution, are still experimenting to find the best cattle suitable for Cuban conditions and to overcome the centuries of neglect.

Everywhere be went he was welcomed.

He said he visited some of the houses of the rich who had fled after the revolution. "Fat bellied parasites," he called them. "The ceilings were high, large rooms, with floors imported from Italy at the cost of millions of dollars—now it’s the property of the workers..."

I asked him about recent reports by a columnist in the local press to the effect that Cuba was bristling with guns and the economy collapsing. He said he had read the reports. "It doesn’t seem to me he was there ... either that, or else there are two Cubas—he visited one and I visited the other. I saw the guns—they’re for protection—they have to do that—the parasites killed a boy just as I arrived. On the day I came to Cuba, four of these hoodlums attacked a family of four, killing two and wounding two others. Last week, fishing boats were fishing outside of Cuba and hoodlums over-ran them and took them to an island. They held the crew on Cayo Elbow, an island just off Cuba, outside of Havana. But the Cubans got them back. The papers in Havana were full of the news. They had pictures of the United States weapons and money."

George Faulkner has the enthusiasm of a man half his age. In his 90th year, he plans to aid the Cuban people in the most material way possible. He has undertaken a commitment on behalf of the Cuban government to buy a flock of sheep in the fall auctions in Alberta. He will get them into condition and then take them to Montreal and from there to Havana. He is intending do stay the remainder of his life in Cuba and give the Revolution the benefit of his life’s experience in farming and attempt to introduce sheep raising on the island.

It will require a lot of experimenting he says, but he thinks it can be done. It won’t fail for lack of effort on George Faulkner’s part. He has been inspired by the youthful enthusiasm of the greatest experiment in this hemisphere.

Labor Challenge, December 21, 1970

Veteran Socialist George Faulkner
Dies in Cuba at 97

by Ross Dowson

Back in 1962—he was then 89 years of age—George Faulkner told a correspondent for the Workers Vanguard, "I’ve agitated for the socialist system here for over half a century and I went down to Cuba and looked it straight in the face. The trip cost me $500 but it was worth a million."

With that trip, after a lifetime as a miner and farmer in the Canadian West, George commenced a new life—in Cuba. Inspired by the revolution he went not to talk socialism, nor to benefit from the achievements of the Cuban people, but to contribute in a very real way—through his knowledge of animal husbandry and grain growing—to Cuba and the cause of the world revolution.

On the 11th day of last month, after a fall in which he broke his hip, he died there at the age of 97.

Between 1961 and 1970 George made several return trips to Canada. These were always interesting experiences for everyone who met him. He became a tireless publicist for the varied achievements of the revolution. Besides serving to renew his acquaintance with his comrades around the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and the League for Socialist Action, these trips also had a more immediate purpose.

In 1963 he returned on behalf of the Cuban government to purchase an experimental flock of sheep which he accompanied right across the country and on board ship to Cuba.

In 1969 he returned to purchase various types of seed to plant on land that the Cuban government had allocated to his use for experimental purposes.

This year’s trip proved too hard on him and after a week in hospital he returned to Cuba with two of his daughters.

George became a socialist early in his youth. He joined the fighting Western Federation of Miners and the Socialist Party of Canada before the turn of the century.

He came in contact with Bolshevism, with the concepts of Lenin and Trotsky, through a close friendship he formed some 50 years ago in the course of a strike at the Marcus coal mines. But later as a farmer in the Edmonton area he became generally removed from the ongoing political struggle.

George found himself, relived his youth, in the rebirth of the world revolution signaled by the Cuban victory. His example will not be forgotten by all those who met him both in Canada and in Cuba.

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