Workers Vanguard, Mid-May 1960
By Ross Dowson
With the death of George Stanton on April 25 the American labor and socialist movement suffered a grievous loss. Affectionately known as Paddy, he was a colorful figure, widely known over the past 35 years on the West Coast and Eastern Canada, and in the previous decade in Chicago and on the US West Coast.
He was a rebel and a fighter—every inch of him. All his time, his great energy, what goods he possessed were always on call, without reservation, at the service of the union and socialist cause. Steeped in the great revolutionary traditions of his class and supremely confident of its future victory, his voice, his manner, everything about him was cut from the one cloth. His dramatic postures, his booming voice, his vivid earthy imagery were a familiar part of union meetings, conferences, political forums, street corner rallies, from coast to coast for almost four decades.
Stanton collapsed and died as he picked up his welding torch on a job at Malton just outside Toronto, in the harness of the class of which he was so proud to be a member.
One of the pioneers of American industrial unionists, as the unions became consolidated he saw many erstwhile associates metamorphize into conservative office holders. But Stanton always stayed with the ranks. He had a healthy contempt for the "pie cards" and the aspirants for seats in the parliamentary "gas house." He was totally unconcerned with the scramble to accumulate the material goods of this world. No ascetic, he indulged himself whenever he was, as he would put it, "steaky." But he traveled light, always with his eye on the future.
Generous to what the average person would consider the extreme, warm and considerate, he had a healthy hatred and intolerance for ignorance and weakness whenever they would show up in the circles that he moved. Stanton knew many defeats, strikes broken, unions collapse, associates weaken, falter and fall in the course of the struggle, splits and schisms, but he never lost the long view.
He became a materialist and a class conscious militant very early. He was launched off in this course, to which he unfalteringly adhered until the end, by a group of German socialist prisoners of World War I which, as a stripling soldier, he had been placed in charge of. Born in Dublin, 1901, of a petit bourgeois family, upon his arrival in America in the early twenties he came into contact with the Wobblies. Stanton absorbed the best that was in the Industrial Workers of the World and the One Big Union movement which inspired a generation of radicals with their revolutionary spirit—and it never left him.
Stanton was at his best, he was in his element when the workers were moving in militant anticapitalist struggle and needed a voice. He was a powerful agitator and popularizer of the socialist program. He was no writer, nor was he a theoretician in the ordinary meaning of the word. But he was a serious student not only fully acquainted with all the major writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, their associates and their opponents, but he grasped the most complex of their ideas. He possessed a great gift and tireless enthusiasm to translate them in terms that the average worker found interesting and could grasp readily.
When the class moved forward Paddy moved forward with it to hold posts of leadership and responsibility. He attended many national CCL-CIO conventions as a rank and file delegate from the various unions of which he was a member. It was at the height of the war, when the Stalinist-influenced delegates were attempting to saddle the CCL convention with a no-strike pledge that Stanton delivered the major opposition address.
At the climax of his speech, he turned to the Stalinist caucus to declare his solidarity with "the greatest strike in history" led by Lenin and Trotsky in the midst of a war which "started the October Revolution of 1917 and which will continue until the last capitalist bond and debenture is shriveled up on the funeral pyre of the last imperialist warlord."
Shortly after transferring from Vancouver Local No. 1 of the Boilermakers Union in 1943, he became president of the Prince Rupert Local No. 4 and president of the Prince Rupert Labor Council. For a period he was chairman of the Educational Committee of the Toronto area council of the United Steelworkers, for whom he wrote a popular history of the Canadian labor movement. In 1950 when the CCL organized the National Federation of Unemployed Workers he was appointed the full-time organizer for the Toronto Labor Council.
Not only did Stanton vigorously strive to give a class understanding to and develop the militancy of his fellow workers but he persistently explained how their struggle was part of a world wide class struggle. A newspaper clipping reporting his decisive re-election as president of the Prince Rupert Boilermakers records a motion that he presented and was passed unanimously, condemning the Churchill government for its counter revolutionary terror against the Greek people.
Very early in the struggle, Stanton identified himself with the revolutionary socialist views of Leon Trotsky. Before Canadian supporters had sufficient resources to publish a paper on their own, he became an enthusiastic promoter of the US weekly The Militant. He took a large bundle which, together with all the books and pamphlets put out by Pioneer Publishers, he vigorously promoted throughout the Vancouver labor and socialist movement.
Not one to stand aside from broad movements of his class, as early as 1934, just one year after it was founded, he joined the BC CCF to fight within it for a revolutionary socialist program.
In 1954, as the right wing of the Ontario CCF decided to finally cut itself off from the socialist past of the movement, they moved in against the left and formally expelled some fifteen. Stanton appeared as their spokesman at the dramatic appeal to the provincial convention.
Two years later the top brass of the Ironworkers Union laid charges against him for, among other things, urging his local and sister locals to protest plans to bring the infamous US Senator McCarthy to Toronto for a public rally. On both occasions Stanton put up a splendid fight in which the accused became the accuser. The union brass did not dare to deprive him of his card but struck at him by depriving him of his voice and vote in the local.
As a union man Stanton knew the power of organization. He was a revolutionary socialist and an internationalist to the core. The great aim, the meaning of his life, was the building of the Canadian party of the world socialist revolution. At the time of his death he was chairman of the Socialist Educational League. His comrades and the thousands who were influenced by his vibrant personality and ideas will sorely miss him in the days ahead.
by (Mrs.) G. M. Langs, White Rock, BC
I have indeed been sorry to read in your mid-April issue of the death of an old comrade, "Paddy" Stanton. The working people of our country have lost a valuable friend. And at a time surely, when we need every enlightened mind that can be mustered. Another old BC comrade said of Paddy last year "Nobody can ever say of him that he betrayed the working class in the smallest degree." Surely a fitting tribute.
by Reg Bullock, Vancouver
A dozen of us, some who knew Paddy in the old days were discussing the loss to the working class occasioned by his death and reminiscent anecdotes were flying. Remember Paddy’s curb newsstand at Georgia and Granville, said one. Then the stories really flew. "Remember how Paddy always had a raft of Trotskyist literature stashed away under the daily papers? He had half the dentists and doctors in the Birks Building buying them because they were fascinated and the other half bought them anyway to avoid remaining the objects of his sardonic tongue."
"Yes," chimed in another (who had felt the lash) "he sure had all the Stalinists pegged. They would slink down the other side of the street to escape his eye. Otherwise, if they were spotted his stentorian Irish baritone would name them and greet them as fronts for ‘counter-revolutionary murderers.’ The guy was really fearless with these denunciations."
"Sure Paddy was a great salesman," someone topped it off. "He had a word for everyone and an ear-compelling descriptive phrase for everything. I remember a couple of us young punks were coming down the street to get our current injection of revolutionary literature—it was the only place we could get it—and we could hear Paddy’s voice a block away as he did a land office business peddling the final edition of the local daily press. That day two inch headlines were describing how a young accountant from Vancouver, working for a Victoria firm, had embezzled a hundred thousand dollars. Paddy’s sales pitch was: "Read all about it. Local boy makes good."’ Such was Paddy—a salesman of the Revolution and a deathless Revolutionist.
By Bill Whitney, Vancouver
Those of us on the Pacific Coast who were associated with Paddy Stanton, whose death you announced this month, would appreciate the opportunity to express our feeling that the cause of Marxism was considerably advanced because of his efforts.
Paddy Stanton, at one period almost alone in this area, carried on the work of Marxism’s preservation so that today another generation inherits it intact, without the painful process of rediscovery.
For several years before the war he operated a newsstand on the corner of Granville and Georgia in Vancouver, under the Birks Clock—famous meeting place of the city. Paddy acted as the central information bureau, literature agent and bookstore for all the socialists of the area. His supply of international papers and pamphlets seemed to be inexhaustable and he must have deprived himself of many of the necessities of life in order to maintain his stock. He had a vast knowledge of international news from the workers movement that could only have been obtained by voluminous correspondence.
In those days when Stalinism and its goon squads were riding high, perverting the truth with apparent great success, beating, slandering, and bedevilling the isolated true heirs of the Bolshevik tradition, Paddy stood up and defied them.
To Paddy Stanton’s comrades and friends in Eastern Canada, allow me, as one who knew him for many years, one who worked, fought and also played with him, to express my condolences for a great loss, and also my confidence that his example will inspire many others in the future.
The following are excerpts from a letter by Colin Cameron in appreciation of George "Paddy" Stanton. At the time of writing, Cameron, who has held leading positions in the BC and national CCF, was the member in the federal house for Nanaimo. While in disagreement with many of Stanton’s views, Cameron addressed this letter to the 1955 Ontario CCF convention in solidarity with Stanton who was the spokesman for a score of revolutionary socialists fighting against their expulsion by the right wing.
… I regard with the very greatest concern the attempts which are made from time to time in different sections of our movement to rid the CCF of those difficult persons who ask awkward questions—those exasperating people who play the role of watchdog and bark at our heels whenever, in their view, we tend to stray too far from the socialist path on which we set our feet twenty-odd years ago.
Of such is Paddy Stanton. I do not for one moment deny that he can be the most exasperating creature. Nor do I deny that he has very little of what most of us would call practical political sense. But that is not the function of the Paddy Stantons of this world. Theirs is the role of goads, spurs, prickly thorns in the flesh of our complacency.
He and his kind juggle with ideas—and that of course is a hanging crime to those who find ideas disturbing and distressing. But this CCF movement will die without ideas....
I have no doubt that there will be among you those who are convinced that Paddy Stanton is a sinister and dangerous character. Of course he is a dangerous character—he is a socialist and he has the unpopular habit of proclaiming his socialist views in season and out of season. Yes indeed, he is dangerous, but only to those who seek to protect the status quo of capitalist society.
I have known Paddy Stanton for many years. I have argued with him, fought with him, worked with him. I know him for an exasperating, infuriating comrade. But I know him also as that none too common phenomenon—the man without an axe to grind—that is except the axe of socialism. I have heard Paddy on the busy streets of Vancouver selling papers with one hand and socialism with the other. I have watched him successfully battling with and outwitting the Communists in the trade union movement, long before many of today’s leaders were even in the trade union movement. And I have seen him do this without abandoning, as so many have abandoned, his socialist conviction or his socialist fervor.
Paddy Stanton is an agitator, a rabble rouser, an embarrassment to all respectable, conventional people. He has a lamentable lack of respect for those in authority. But among the working class there are a great many who are not very respectable, not very conventional, people who regard those in authority, whether in business, in a political party, or a trade union, as objects of the deepest suspicion. And it is the support of just such people that the CCF sorely needs, and nowhere more than in Ontario. For such people Paddy Stanton has a message. It is a socialist message delivered in terms that the man in the factory can understand and appreciate.
Paddy Stanton is that valuable type of worker in the socialist movement who is at one and the same time an intellectual with an abiding interest in abstract ideas and also a down-to-earth, common-as-dirt member of the working class. We need his kind to present to the ordinary worker in language he can understand, those abstract ideas on which any successful program must be based.
So I beg you to consider very carefully before you deprive the CCF of his talents. He will infuriate you, embarrass you, enrage you without end, but he will not betray the fundamental ideas on which the CCF was founded. You need him and his kind—and if you do not know it, that is the frightening measure of your dire need of ideas and those who can voice them.
Copyright South Branch Publishing. All