Brock Labour Studies professor Larry Savage has recently written a political biography on the life and career of former NDP and Welland MPP Peter Kormos.
Socialist Cowboy: The Politics of Peter Kormos, starts in 1968 in which the readers learn about Kormos as Student Council President at Eastdale Secondary School. Thoroughly covering all his many adventures, from Kormos’ early years as a student to his rise in the political world, his impressive accomplishments in provincial politics and his 23-year run as a member of the Ontario legislature, the book ends with Kormos’ death in 2012.
“Kormos was one of the most colourful political personalities in the history of Ontario politics. He had a profile that was the envy of most cabinet ministers and he was highly quotable. But even before he entered politics, he was a pretty fascinating guy,” said Professor Savage on his inspiration behind writing Socialist Cowboy.
Savage mentions the title of the book and it’s unique way of capturing the political paradox that was Peter Kormos. “Cowboy imagery certainly had implications for Kormos’ political persona. In one sense, he was viewed a trigger-happy political loner who impulsively shot from the hip, but Kormos himself effectively used cowboy imagery to present himself as a, sort of, imposing, never-back-down, champion of blue-collar common sense. Of course, Kormos’ cowboy persona was injected with a healthy dose of socialist politics. Hence the title, Socialist Cowboy.”
Savage first met Kormos while still in high school. Savage had the opportunity to work on Kormos’ 1996 Ontario NDP leadership campaign. Additionally, Savage interned in Kormos’ office as a Brock University Political Science undergrad and later ended up working for Kormos part-time. Savage mentioned that his personal relationship with Kormos has affected the views he has expressed in Socialist Cowboy. “I think my quasi-insider status provides for a richer description of events and a more complex treatment of the subject. Ultimately, it is up to the reader to decide whether or not the analysis presented in the book stands up to the historical record.”
In addition to his upcoming public readings of the book and its release, Savage has been continuing with other projects: “I’m currently working on a book that is exploring the labour movement’s strategic use of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Socialist Cowboy will be published by Rosewood/Fernwood and will be available in all local bookstores, including the campus store at Brock. Author royalties for the book will go towards the first ever Peter Kormos Memorial Bursary, created to support students with financial need in the Labour Studies program at Brock who have committed their time to social justice activism. The first bursary will be awarded in the fall and annually after that within the Labour Studies department.
On what his readers will take away from his book, Savage said, “My hope is that in reading this book, those who shared Kormos’ commitment to social justice and economic equality will find some inspiration to continue fighting for a better world.”
Savage will be promoting Socialist Cowboy through two public readings on Sept. 11 at 7:00 p.m. at the Welland Public Library and on Sept. 19 at 7:00 p.m. at the Niagara Artists Centre in St. Catharines.
For more information, visit the publisher’s website at fernwoodpublishing.ca/book/socialist-cowboy.