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A Response to the Great Depression

by Pat Schulz


Pat Schulz: Revolutionary Socialist

by Ian Angus

The original edition of The East York Workers Association, published in 1975, included this short paragraph about the author.

Patricia Schulz joined the East York CCF in 1952, where she met some of the original members of the East York Workers' Association. Now a graduate student at York University, she participated in writing Women at Work and is also the author of the daycare article in the 1976 Women's Almanac, published by Women's Press.

That account of Pat Schulz’s life is accurate — and thoroughly misleading. For some reason, the publisher chose to leave out two decades of Pat Schulz’s life, the decades in which she was a key leader of the revolutionary socialist movement in Canada.

Pat, who was 18 years old when she joined the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in 1952, was attracted to the left-wing of the party. Not long after joining, a CCF member tried to warn her against collaborating with a certain party member because that person was a member of the Revolutionary Workers Party. As she told me when I met her in the 1960s, the warning didn’t have the intended effect  — "I thought, ‘Wow! Not just a workers party, but a revolutionary workers party.’ I had to meet those people."

The Revolutionary Workers Party, founded in 1946, was the Canadian section of the Fourth International, the worldwide Trotskyist movement. In 1951, its members had voted to dissolve the party and join the CCF, where they would operate as an organized tendency to win CCF members to Marxism. Pat Schulz was one of a small number of young CCF members who joined the Trotskyist movement during that "entry" period.

In 1954 the Ontario CCF expelled all of the Trotskyists it could identify — including Pat Schulz. The expelled, together with some Trotskyists who had never been accepted into the CCF and handful of revolutionaries who were still in the party, launched an organization, the Socialist Educational League, and a newspaper, Workers Vanguard. In 1960 the SEL and the Vancouver-based Socialist Information Center combined to form the League for Socialist Action.

Pat Schulz’s role as a builder and leader of the SEL and LSA is described in a tribute by Monica Jones, available on this website.

In the late 1960s, Pat Schulz — who was a powerful advocate of women’s liberation long before that term was invented — played a major role in helping younger women in the LSA and the Young Socialists understand and participate in the new wave of feminism. It was in no small part due to her influence that women from the LSA and YS emerged as leaders in the fight for women’s rights, while most of the Marxist left abstained from or even opposed the new movement.

In 1971, the League for Socialist Action decided to make the fight to repeal Canada’s anti-abortion laws the primary focus of its work in the women’s movement. Pat Schulz supported the fight for abortion rights, but disagreed with what she saw as an inappropriately narrow approach. In the 1973 pre-Convention discussion she argued for de-emphasizing the abortion campaign, and for a strategy that would stress job-related issues and the fight for child care.

In 1973, the LSA/LSO was wracked by a harsh three-way faction fight, leading eventually to a bitter three-way split. The intense debate on a large number of issues overshadowed Pat’s contribution on women's liberation, which might in other circumstances have been part of a valuable and educational discussion. Disappointed with the direction the LSA was taking, she left the LSA in February 1974.

Pat was then living in Toronto’s Moss Park Housing Project with her daughter Katheryne, born in 1968. She and other single parent mothers organized to take over the local school — Duke of York — so that it would meet their needs. They helped found and run a hot breakfast and lunch program, and a child care centre for children from infant to school age.

She moved to Bain Apartments Coop in 1976 and continued as a prominent activist in and spokesperson for the Co-op and the child care movement until her death in 1983.

After her death, the National Film Board released a documentary film, Worth Every Minute, about Pat. The Pat Schulz Child Care Centre remains to this day at the corner of Broadview and Danforth, in East York.

Pat received an MA in Canadian History in 1975. Her thesis, The East York Worker's Association, was published by New Hogtown Press the same year.

Pat's daughter Kathy recently finished her MA thesis — Born To Fight: Low Income Women Organizing in Ontario. She is very thankful for her mother's legacy of self-respect, collective organizing and working-class pride.

The Socialist History Project extends its deepest thanks to Katheryne Schulz for granting us  permission to republish this important study.

April 2007

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