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In memoriam: John W. Warnock

He leaves behind an incomparably rich political legacy

Socialism

Jack Warnock at home in Victoria, BC. Photo supplied by William Carroll.

Last month we lost a brilliant activist-scholar. John W. Warnock passed away on May 27, after a long struggle with ALS. I was just arriving for a stay in Tokyo when I received the news, and have been processing it ever since.

Jack was a close friend of mine. I first became aware of his critical scholarship in the 1970s, when I read his first book, Profit Hungry: The food Industry in Canada. His careful analysis of class and corporate power helped inspire my dissertation, later published as Corporate Power and Canadian Capitalism. In 1983, I got to know Jack when we were both active in the Solidarity Coalition, which formed in British Columbia in response to Canada’s first full-blown neoliberal political program—the ‘restraint program’ forwarded by the Social Credit government. We kept in touch through the years, after Jack moved back to Saskatchewan, and were able to see each other more frequently after he came back to Victoria a few years ago, already in compromised health.

Jack’s political and intellectual contributions are enormous. He authored seven important books in critical political economy, on topics ranging from the politics of hunger, through the ‘free trade’ agreements that were pivotal to neoliberalism, to the creation of a failed state via US (and Canadian) imperialism in Afghanistan. He contributed mightily to both of Canada’s key prairie-based left magazines, Briarpatch and Canadian Dimension, and became a blogger late in his life, offering concise and engaging commentary on many topics. He played an important role in the formation of the Waffle—the grouping within the NDP that called for an independent socialist Canada in the late 1960s, and later helped build the green left in Regina.

He remained politically engaged to the end of his 88 years, and lamented that his declining physical capacities prevented him from continuing to contribute to the struggle for a just and ecologically healthy world. His intellectual strength was always impressive, but he also had a fabulous sense of humour, and, unlike most intellectuals, he refused the division of manual and mental labour that is foundational to class society. He was a farmer and a builder—constructing and reconstructing his own residences. He was an eco-socialist in both theory and practice.

I am so grateful to have known Jack Warnock.

An obituary, and many of Jack’s writings, are available at http://johnwwarnock.blogspot.com.

William Carroll is a professor in the sociology department at University of Victoria.

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