The Old War Horse - Socialism in British Columbia

When Kingsley arrived in Nanaimo, British Columbia, in 1902, at the invitation of the Nanaimo Socialist Club, he found similar conditions to the California he left behind - a Socialist movement bitterly divided. The main divide, which would remain so into the 1920s, was between those who challenged Capitalism through job action and industrial protest (mockingly called "gradualists") and the "impossibilists," who solely argued for the direct political overthrow of Capitalism. It was here that Kingsley emerged as the de-facto intellectual leader of the "impossibilist" faction of Canadian Socialist politics. The party which emerged from this era, The Socialist Party of Canada (SPC), uniformly preached for the necessity of a democratic revolution. It bore the definite influence of Kingsley's politics.Western Clarion. newspaper of the Socialist Party of Canada that Kingsley helped found and served as Editor during its formative years

Back in San Francisco, Kingsley bided time working as a librarian after his expulsion from Socialist Labor Party of America in California. He had run for Congress in 1896 and 1898, but had been ejected from the party during a faction fight in 1900. Kingsley then moved on to Washington State, where he founded the very short-lived Revolutionary League of Seattle in 1901. However, Kingsley's reputation was well known north of the border, and he came to Nanaimo in February of 1902 on invitation for a two-month speaking and educational tour. Kingsley's expertise in the intellectual framework of Socialist thought, honed in San Francisco, made him a valuable asset as an educator, organizer and communicator to the emerging radical socialist movement in British Columbia. This was all the more remarkable as Canadian immigration law at the time largely prohibited immigration of people with disabilities.

Kingsley ran for office five times, including during the 1908 provincial election in British Columbia. Here is depicted here, standing on the left immersed in a Marxist text, suggesting Kingsley relied on the use of prosthetic limbs. Kingsley's politics had hardly changed in the intervening years, and he remained as dedicated as ever to a political solution to the Socialist question. The invitation to Canada came at time when Socialist thinkers of all different factions began to explore the possibilities of becoming a conscious, political force vying for control of the state, rather than focusing more narrowly on the advancement of the living conditions of the working class. Kingsley's arrival also coincided with growing moves toward political unity in British Columbia, as the recent immigrant helped shepherd the re-unificaton in 1903 of the Revolutionary Socialist Party with the Socialist Party of British Columbia from which it had splintered. Working in part with socialist newspaperman Richard P. Pettipiece, Kingsley also took editorial control of the Western Clarion newspaper, turning it into a powerful voice for the advancement of political Socialism.

While Kinglsey controlled the intellectual message of the SPC, the party was led more publicly by popular elected figures such as James H. Hawthornthwaite, and other avowedly Socialist politicians who enjoyed popular support on Vancouver island and deep in the mining communities of the Kootenay mountains in the province's interior. These areas saw Kingsley visiting as an organizer and speechmaker, building support for the SPC's cause.

However, in 1907, conflict soon emerged again between the impossiblist and gradualist camps, when suspended SPC party member Ernie Burns seceded and formed the Social Democratic Party of BC, identifying the dogmatism of Eugene Kingsley as the immediate cause. The old wounds that had been covered over when Kingsley brokered peace between the two camps in 1903 ripped open anew, and the Left in British Columbia became as fractured as before. Socialist Party of Canada members. Kingsley was the leading theoretician in the party during its first decade of operation

Despite the turmoil, Kingsley tirelessly continued to tour into 1908, travelled to Winnipeg, and then on to Toronto, speechmaking, campaigning and organizing. Remembered as "The Old Man" and "The Old War Horse" by legendary BC Socialist Bill Pritchard, Kingsley was a tireless, and experienced campaigner, but one whose rigid inflexibility of ideology could be as much of an asset as it could be a liability.

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