News & Events
The Phyllis Clarke Memorial Lecture is held annually to honour the memory of Phyllis Clarke, a member of the Department from 1977 until her death in 1988. The first lectures were held the following year, and have been a regular, and much-anticipated event since that time. From 2009 to 2018, the Phyllis Clarke Memorial Lecture was generously supported by CUPE Local 3904, external link, opens in new window, which represents Contract Lecturers and Graduate Assistants at Ryerson. CUPE Ontario, external link, opens in new window – and the other CUPE Locals on the Ryerson campus (Locals 233 and 1281) – joined Local 3904 in providing annual support for the Lecture for a three-year period from 2009 to 2012.
1924 - 1988
Phyllis Esphere Clarke died on March 21, 1988, having lived a life devoted to socialism, trade unionism, feminism, community activism and teaching.
A longtime member of the Communist Party she ran (unsuccessfully) for elected office on several occasions. While living in Saskatchewan, she ran in the 1953 federal election in Prince Albert, where she lost to John Diefenbaker, who later became Canada’s 13th Prime Minister. In Toronto in 1962, she ran in the federal constituency of Davenport, losing to Walter Gordon who went on to be Minister of Finance and President of the Privy Council in the Liberal government of Lester Pearson. Also in 1962, she ran for a seat on Toronto's Board of Control. Her obituary in The Toronto Star reports that the Toronto media "expressed surprise" that she received 16,555 votes.
Phyllis served on the Toronto Public Library Board from 1977 until 1984, and as its Chair in 1979-1980. She played an important role in making public libraries more committed to Canadian literature and multicultural/lingual literature. The Toronto Reference Library now holds her papers (The Nelson and Phyllis Clarke fonds) in its Baldwin Room.
Phyllis was active in labour struggles from the 1940s onwards. She was a founding member of the Graduate Assistants’ Association (GAA), which became the Canadian Union of Educational Workers (CUEW) in 1980, and then amalgamated with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in 1995. For the CUEW, she undertook one of the first studies in Canada of the unequal place of women faculty members in Canadian universities. An interest in labour matters apparently ran in her family, for her father was J.L. Cohen, whose 1950 obituary in The Globe and Mail described him as a “dynamic, sharp-witted man who rose from humble beginnings to become the most influential labour lawyer in Canada.”
Phyllis was also active in tenant rights issues, and served for many years on the Board of Parkdale Community Legal Services.
In addition to a Ph.D. – earned in 1977 with a dissertation entitled Application of Marxist Thought to Canada – Phyllis also held a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Toronto. She co-edited (with William Beeching) Yours in Struggle: Reminiscences of Tim Buck (1977) and (with Carla Cassidy and Wayne Petrozzi) Authority & Influence: Institutions, Issues and Concepts in Canadian Politics (1986). She also authored “West Toronto Citizens Organize” in Citizen Participation in Library Decision-Making: The Toronto Experience, ed. John Marshall (1984).
Phyllis joined the Department of Politics at Ryerson in 1977, and helped define its commitment to intellectual inquiry and social justice. One colleague wrote shortly after her death, "For as long as I have known her, the work that Phyllis did was inseparable from the obsession with a just order, 'Where the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.'
Another colleague wrote in a memorial tribute in the Socialist Studies Bulletin, that with Phyllis' passing: "Socialism has lost a champion."
Phyllis was predeceased by her husband, Nelson, in 1982. She is survived by her step-daughter Lesley Towers.
(Photos provided by Lesley Towers and used with permission)
The Phyllis Clarke Memorial Lectures
"Four Theses on the Comrade"
|26 January 2017||
"What's the Matter With America?"
Click here to see a podcast of the entire event.
|24 March 2016||
"The Methodology for a New Politics: Changing the 'Operating System' of the Left after the 2015 Greek Experience."
Click here, external link to see a podcast of the entire event.
|26 March 2015||
"Lifting Up Low-Wage Work: Global Perspectives"
Click here to see a podcast of the entire event.
|03 March 2014||
"The Systemic Crisis of Financialization"
SOAS, University of London
|18 Mar 2013||
“Québec and Québec Solidaire: Linking Sovereignty, Equality and anti-Neoliberalism”
|13 Mar 2012||
"Canada: Ideology in the Ascendant"
Click here to see a podcast.
|10 Mar 2011||
"Global Crisis, Fiscal Restraint, and Public-Private Partnerships"
Joint Sponsors: CUPE Locals 223, 1281, 3904;
|10 Mar 2010||
"Operating in the Obama Moment: Challenges for Progressives"
Click here to see a podcast of the event.
|10 Mar 2009||
"Still a Marxist After All: Lessons and Insights for our Time"
Leo V. Panitch*
Introduction by Sam Gindin
Click here for a podcast of the entire event.
*Jacobin published this obituary, external link, opens in new window by Vivek Chibber on 21 December 2020.
|12 Mar 2008||
"Challenging the New Global Constitution"
*Later Canada Research Chair in Public Policy and Globalization at McMaster University.
|15 Mar 2007||
"Rethinking Politics in the Age of Networks"
|27 Mar 2006||
“Waiting for Care: Challenging the Agenda in Health Care Reform”
An article based on the 2006 Phyllis Clarke Memorial Lecture appeared in PDF fileRelay, external link (July/August 2006): 6-9.
|21 Mar 2005||
“Neoliberalism and Resistance: Creating Alternative Economic Realities in Post-Apartheid South Africa”
|10 Mar 2004||
“Against Global Apartheid: The Futility of International Economic Reforms”
|24 Mar 2003||
“Making Politics Matter”
|18 Mar 2002||
“Globalization and Social Justice”
|04 Apr 2000||
|24 Mar 1999||
“Self-Determination for Aboriginal Peoples in Canada”
Beverley Jacobs, LL.B.
|27 Mar 1998||
“The Future of Canada in the Global Economy”
|30 Sep 1996||
“From Apartheid to Democracy: Social Change in South Africa”
Richard Van der Ross
|23 Nov 1994||
“Women, Community and Politics”
|10 Nov 1993||
“Still Waiting for Democracy?: Canada After the Election”
|06 Apr 1993||
“Aboriginal Self-Government: The Way Ahead”
|20 Mar 1992||
“After Communism: What Future for Eastern Europe?”
|29 Nov 1991||
“After the Elections: Toronto in the 1990s”
|14 Nov 1990||
“Canada’s Role in Advancing Democracy”
|06 Apr 1990||
“The Struggle for Social Justice: Canada’s New Reform Movements”
|24 Nov 1989||
Panel Discussion: “Reform and Repression: China After Tiananmen Square”
Hu Shuang Quan
|30 Mar 1989||
“The Internationalization of Japan: Emerging Strains in the Japanese Workplace and Family”
|08 Mar 1989||
“Canada’s Immigration Policy: The Half-Open Door”