From Pariahs to Patriots: Canadian Communists and
the Second World War
by Chris Frazer
This article was originally
published in the journal Past Imperfect, Volume 5, 1996. It is
copyright, 1996 by Chris Frazer and posted here with his permission.
Chris Frazer joined the Communist Party of
Canada in 1980 and served on the first executive of the Canadian Federation of
Students. In the mid-1980s, Frazer was active in the peace movement and
organizing the unemployed in Alberta. After a stint in journalism,
Frazer lived in Toronto until 1990 where he was leader of the Young
Communist League, and wrote for Rebel Youth magazine.
In 2003 Frazer received his
Ph.D. from Brown University, where he helped organize teaching
assistants into the United Auto Workers (UAW).
He is now an assistant professor of
history at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, NS, where his teaching
and research specializes in Mexico and Cuba. He is the author of Bandit Nation: a History of Outlaws and Cultural Struggle in Mexico,
1810-1920 (University of Nebraska Press, 2006).
Frazer remains active in labour organizing, transgender politics, and
Latin American solidarity.
He is faculty advisor
for X-Pride (LGBTQ students) at StFX and serves on the executive of his
union, the StFX Association of University Teachers.
From Pariahs to Patriots:
Canadian Communists and the Second World War
by Chris Frazer
Official anti-communist policies, adopted by the Mackenzie King
government during the Second World War, were only partially effective.
These policies were implemented by the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted
Police) and the armed forces high command, and included internment,
banning the Communist Party of Canada (CPC), and monitoring communists
in the armed forces. These policies, however, were thwarted by the logic
of the war, as well as by opposition from liberal public opinion and the
Towards the end of the Second
World War, the Mounties were hunting for Bill Walsh, a known communist
serving in the Canadian army. The RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police)
wanted to know if there was any danger of Walsh "leading the Canadian
troops over to join the Russians."
Walsh's trail led an RCMP major to an army battalion engaged in the
assault on Germany's Siegfried Line. Making his way across mud-churned
fields to a cellar headquarters, the Mountie discovered that the
battalion's intelligence officer was none other than private Bill Walsh.
The Mountie promptly consulted with Walsh's commanding officer, but the
CO did not share the RCMP's concerns. According to Walsh, after "the
Mountie left our headquarters our men started firing in the air and he
had to crawl most of the half mile back to the jeep on his belly."
As a civilian, Bill Walsh had
been a member of the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) and an organizer
for the United Auto Workers (UAW) in Windsor, Ontario. Walsh had also
been interned from 1940 to 1942, because of his membership in the CPC.
After his release from internment, Walsh was forbidden to leave Windsor
and was required to report regularly to the RCMP. Yet Walsh joined the
Canadian Army in 1943, and violated the conditions of his release by
travelling to Normandy and neglecting to report to the Mounties from the
front. Apparently, the RCMP wanted to find their man.
Walsh's tale may be
apocryphal, but it illustrates the knot of contradictions in the
relationship between Canadian communists and the Canadian state during
the Second World War. On the basis of its early opposition to the war,
the CPC was banned in 1940. Many of its members were arrested and
After Nazi Germany invaded the USSR in June 1941 , the CPC switched
gears to support the war. The Canadian government eventually allowed
communists to reorganize as the Labor-Progressive Party (LPP). The CPC,
however, remained officially proscribed for the war's duration, but
communist internees were released in 1942.
This reflected an uneasy truce
between Canadian communists and the state after 1941. The LPP urged
total war mobilization and many communists, including former internees
like Bill Walsh, joined the aimed forces.
Anti-communists in the government, however, were deeply suspicious of
the new communist enthusiasm, and they were extremely reluctant to relax
security measures aimed at controlling communist activity. The RCMP and
military officials were especially worried about communist subversion in
the armed forces. They made continued efforts to control the activity of
all known communist enlistees.
The logic of the war, however produced a gap between official
anti-communism and the demands of prosecuting the war, and this curbed
efforts to restrict communist participation in the war effort.
The Defense of Canada Regulations
German armies invaded Poland
on 1 September 1939. Two days later, Britain and France declared war on
Germany. The Canadian government, under Prime Minister William Lyon
Mackenzie King and the Liberal Party, invoked the War Measures Act and
proclaimed the Defense of Canada Regulations (DOCR). A week later, on 10
September, Mackenzie King's government declared war on Germany.
The War Measures Act gave the
Canadian government sweeping authority, and the DOCR expanded that power
further, allowing the exercise of extreme security measures, such as the
waiving of habeas corpus and public trial, internment, bans on political
and religious groups, restrictions on free speech, and the confiscation
The DOCR were intended to
suppress obstacles to mobilizing Canadians in support of the war. They
were applied to individuals and organizations who supported fascist
Germany and Italy, as well as to so-called enemy aliens: citizens and
immigrants of German, Italian, and Japanese descent.
The regulations were also used to suppress those who opposed the war
without actually sympathizing with the enemy, or who might otherwise
subvert the war effort. This included communists and left-wing ethnic
organizations, Technocracy Incorporated, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and
individuals, including union leaders, sailors, and well-known public
figures like the mayor of Montreal, Camillien Houde, who opposed
The DOCR did not appear
overnight. With an eye to the growing threat of war in Europe, a
government committee began drafting the regulations in March 1938, and
submitted a report to King in July 1939.
The committee unanimously recommended adoption of all the DOCR
provisions, except number 21 which allowed for preventive detention and
internment by ministerial order. While some committee members argued
that Regulation 21 was too draconian, other members, such as RCMP
Inspector Charles Rivett-Carnac, saw the measure as essential to
Although Canada was not at war
with the Soviet Union, many government officials regarded the USSR as an
This attitude became especially prominent after August 1939 when Germany
and the USSR signed a non-aggression pact, and after Soviet troops
occupied western Poland on 17 September 1939.
Given the close ties between the CPC and the Soviet Union, it is no
surprise that the RCMP and government officials regarded Canadian
communists as a threat to national security. Yet, as Reg Whitaker
argues, this explanation for suppressing Canadian communists "wears thin
when considered against the reluctance to release [communist internees]"
and legalize the CPC after the USSR became an official ally against
Moreover, well before the Nazi-Soviet pact of August 1939, many
officials defined Canadian communists as an enemy – even the main enemy.
Official anti-communism was
ultimately based on ideological considerations, and the outbreak of the
war created the conditions which allowed the state to lump communists
with pro-fascists as security threats subject to the DOCR.
It is probable that this attitude was nowhere more entrenched than in
the RCMP. Inspector Rivett-Camac, who helped draft the DOCR, certainly
saw communists as the main threat to Canadian security. As chief of the
RCMP's intelligence section, Rivett-Carnac argued in early 1939 that
fascism was a lesser threat than communism since fascism was a "modified
form of capitalism."
corresponded with the anti-communist and anti-labour views of RCMP
Commissioner S.T. Wood, who argued later in 1941 that, "it is not the
Nazi nor the Fascist but the radical who constitutes our most
Although the charges were never substantiated, as early as October 1939
the RCMP Security Bulletin claimed that "there is more reason to
fear ... acts of espionage and sabotage on the part of the Communist
Party than from Nazi or Fascist organizations."
The RCMP asserted that communists were using unions as fronts for
infiltration and sabotage.
By November 1939, the RCMP was urging the government to outlaw the CPC.
There were, however, varying
degrees of anti-communism within government circles. Senior civil
servants like Norman Robertson and Jack Pickersgill argued that the RCMP
over-emphasized the communist threat. In October 1939, Pickersgill
warned Mackenzie King that the RCMP failed to distinguish between
"legitimate social and political criticism and subversive doctrine," as
well as between "facts and hearsay."
Both Pickersgill and Robertson urged the RCMP to focus more attention on
the fascist threat.
On the other hand, key cabinet members (including Ernest Lapointe, Louis
St. Laurent, and C.D. Howe) strongly endorsed the RCMP's attitude.
Prime Minister Mackenzie King
was more equivocal, veering between a tendency towards liberal
moderation and a deep antipathy to communism. King had been appalled by
the Nazi-Soviet pact, and this had deepened his distrust of the USSR,
and of communists in general.
Nor did King have any sympathy for the activities of Canadian
communists. In addition to distrusting the loyalty of the CPC, King
regarded the Party as an obstacle to government efforts to "keep things
on an even keel ... between labour and capital."
Moreover, King repeatedly expressed his concern that the war would
unleash the threat of world-wide socialist revolution.
Mackenzie King was prepared to
countenance repressive actions against the CPC, but he regarded the
measures advocated by Justice Minister Ernest Lapointe and the RCMP as
extreme and reactionary. King approved when communist newspapers were
shut down in mid-November 1939 for publishing anti-war propaganda. He
believed that communists "are our real enemies and we must not allow
subversive activities to gain headway at this time."
King, however, did reject an order-in-council proposed by Lapointe for
suppressing subversive activities. He favoured the principle, but
worried that parliamentary foes like the Co-operative Commonwealth
Federation (CCF) and New Democracy might gain political capital in
opposing such a move. The PM was inclined to be more cautious. He felt
that existing state powers were sufficient, and argued that "the men who
drafted the order had gone much too far. I said frankly I did not trust
the judgement of the Mounted Police on these matters."
King later expressed surprise at how reactionary Lapointe was "prepared
In late November 1939, RCMP
Commissioner Wood also pressed King for expanded powers to fight
communist subversion. Wood warned that the CPC was plotting with the
German government to foment an uprising in Mexico, using recruits
selected from Canadian veterans of the Spanish Civil War.
The PM, however, once again insisted that RCMP powers were already
Indeed, emergency legislation
had given the RCMP an expanded role and new powers. The RCMP
Intelligence Section increased from six to more than 100 officers.
RCMP Commissioner Wood was named Registrar General of Enemy Aliens, and
empowered to intern enemy aliens and subversives.
The RCMP was represented on the Joint Intelligence Committee, along with
the External Affairs Department, the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Finally,
in addition to guarding sensitive industrial sites and armed forces
bases, the RCMP was asked to vet security clearances of armed forces
Banning the Communist Party
The CPC was officially
suppressed in May 1940, when it was declared illegal by an Ottawa judge
at a trial of three communists charged with “printing and distributing
The accused included a Canadian Army Service Force member, a civil
servant, and a newspaper employee, but only one of the defendants was
On 6 June 1940, the King cabinet issued an order-in-council banning the
CPC the Young Communist League (YCL), and thirteen other organizations,
including left-wing ethnic groups.
The RCMP began arresting
suspected communists who were to be held "for the duration" at
internment camps in Kananaskis, Alberta, in Petawawa, Ontario, and at an
unused jail in hull, Quebec. The RCMP cast its net broadly. Its officers
were empowered to act as "justices of the peace for the purpose of
issuing search warrants." They were to arrest any members of the banned
organizations, as well as anyone who "distributed their literature, or
spoke publicly on their behalf."
Furthermore, "anyone 'who advocates or defends the acts, principles or
policies' of these organizations would be presumed guilty 'in the
absence of proof to the contrary."'
Thus the RCMP arrested some prominent CPC members, but it also interned
persons who had little or nothing to do with the communist movement.
All this ultimately led to the internment of 133 persons accused of
being communists, and another 120 short-term detentions.
At the same time, however, the RCMP failed to arrest the top leadership
of the CPC, including its leader, Tim Buck, who had slipped across the
border into the United States.
Although the CPC was banned in
May 1940, repression began in November 1939 when the communist
newspapers The Clarion and Clarté were closed after
abandoning their brief pro-war editorial policies.
When hostilities first broke out in Europe, CPC leaders perceived the
conflict as an extension of their anti-fascist struggles in the 193Os.
In The Clarion, Tim Buck argued that communists should "strive to
combine with the military defeat of Hitler ... the political defeat of
his reactionary friends at home."
Similar positions were taken by the communist parties of France and
The CPC's initial pro-war
line, however, was very short-lived. On 18 September 1939, the
Comintern issued a directive instructing all communist parties to oppose
the war and expose its imperialist character.
This sparked a debate in the CPC leadership, leading to a reversal of
policy in mid-October. The party leadership now concluded that the war
was an imperialist conflict, similar to the First World War. They
doubted that the Allies were sincerely anti-fascist. As Buck now argued,
"the British and French governments are not willing to join in a
life-and-death struggle against Hitler and, therefore, on moral grounds
and by its own logic, we must oppose [the war]."
The CPC began publicizing its new demand that Canada withdraw from the
war in favour of neutrality. At the same time the King government
launched a general suppression of left-wing and radical publications.
Buck admitted afterwards that
the CPC "took positions and repeated arguments ... from the [Comintern],
rather than analyzing them strictly on the basis of Canadian conditions.
We made some mistakes as a result."
Indeed, by endorsing the Comintern's anti-war directive, the CPC invited
disaster. The party's sudden volte-face resulted in an indefensible
policy which isolated communists in the labour movement and in the court
of public opinion. It also played into the hands of anti-communists who
were eager to grasp a chance to crush the communist movement. The CPC
avoided the fate of the communist parties in Britain and France, which
suffered serious splits over the policy reversal. The new line, however,
did provoke a factional struggle in the CPC leadership from 1940 to 1941
over whether an anti-war policy meant revolutionary defeatism or simple
Admittedly, the anti-fascist
credentials of the Mackenzie King government were less than sterling.
Between 1935 and 1939, Canada's foreign policy had been relatively
isolationist, seeking to avoid foreign entanglements. Communists argued
that King's policies had the effect of encouraging the rise of fascism
in Europe: by failing to act against the Italian fascist invasion of
Ethiopia in 1935, by refusing to support the Spanish Republican
government from 1936-39 against General Franco's fascist uprising, and
by supporting the British policy of appeasing Hitler's territorial
ambitions. In fact the communists suspected that Britain and its allies
were striving to turn Hitler's aggression towards the USSR.
With respect to Mackenzie
King, it is more accurate to say that the PM had an extremely myopic
view of the fascist threat up to the moment that the war began. By
October 1939, King regarded Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini as
totalitarian dictators cut from the same cloth.
Previously, King had admired Hitler as a patriot and an anti-communist
counterweight in Europe, and he clung tenaciously to a policy of
appeasement through the summer of 1939.
Indeed, King believed the British were provoking Hitler into an
avoidable conflict by abandoning appeasement. King was deeply distressed
by British and French guarantees to defend Poland.
As late as 21 August 1939, King was convinced that the only hope of
avoiding war "is in Hitler himself, that he really does not want
unnecessarily to destroy human life."
King's myopia began to
evaporate in September 1939, but even then the Canadian government did
not declare war in order to fight fascism. J.L. Granatstein has noted
that "Canada had gone to war in September 1939 because Britain had gone
to war and for 110 other reason. It was not a war for Poland; it was not
a war against anti-Semitism; it was not even a war against Nazism."
Mackenzie King's government did not perceive the war as an anti-fascist
struggle until "the character of the war altered to pose a direct threat
to Britain and [North America]"
In choosing to oppose the war,
however, the CPC closed its eyes to the anti-fascist potential of the
conflict. The Party placed itself in a position where its energies would
inevitably be spent fighting for its existence rather than against the
fascist enemy. After publishing the party's anti-war policy, The Clarion
was closed and its business manager, Douglas Stewart, was arrested on 15
November 1939, for contravening the DOCR. Clarté was also closed.
The communists, however, had anticipated the government move. When its
newspapers were suppressed, communist leaders implemented a plan for
taking their 16,000 members underground.
Well-known party leaders went
into hiding, while new party organizations were set up by members who
were less well-known.
Party branches were re-organized into small cells which were again
subdivided when a maximum of seven members was reached.
Its members provided their homes as meeting places and safe houses for
party leaders. To avoid attracting attention, comrades were given
staggered times to arrive at meetings.
Party materials were published clandestinely, including leaflets and
issues of The Clarion and Clarté.
In January 1940, the CPC
launched an unofficial paper, the Canadian Tribune, which
carefully sought to maintain legal status. In addition to known
communists such as A.A. MacLeod and author Margaret Fairley, the
Canadian Tribune editorial hoard boasted well-known non-communists,
such as R.L. Calder (a lawyer and CCF member) and R.A.C. Ballantyne
(head of the Montreal branch of the Canadian Civil Liberties Union).
The Canadian Tribune was briefly suspended only once, moving the
RCMP to complain in March 1940 that "[there] is little in the average
issue which is definitely anti-British. It is rather in the clever
headlines, the well-edited excerpts from reputable papers, that it
insinuates against our system."
When the internment of
suspected communists began in May 1940, the Political Bureau of the CPC
ordered its top three leaders into exile in the USA. Party leader Tim
Buck, Sam Carr, and Charles Sims headed south. The rest of the Political
Bureau, including Stewart Smith, Leslie Morris, and Stanley Ryerson,
were also in hiding, but they remained in Canada to run the party's
Operating Centre in Montreal.
Although these arrangements kept the party leadership out of RCMP hands,
geographical separation and isolation led to serious policy differences.
In a journal published in New York and distributed clandestinely in
Canada, the exiled party leaders argued against revolutionary defeatism.
Buck and his companions insisted that the CPC continue to advocate
neutrality between the belligerents and advised party members to
concentrate on organizing unions and a wage-hike movement.
Smith and the Operating Centre, however, moved in an extremist
direction. They denounced Canada's "colonial" relationship to Britain,
and suggested that the country was approaching a revolution for
independence and socialism.
From August 1940 to June 1941,
the CPC suffered from acute political split personality as the
leadership factions battled over party policy. The New York centre was
supported by communist union leaders and activists, the Canadian
Tribune, and Dorise Nielsen who was elected to the House of Commons
in March 1940 as a popular front MP from Saskatchewan. It is harder to
gauge the support for the Operating Centre, although their position was
published in occasional issues of The Clarion, as well in
leaflets produced for mass distribution. On the other hand, it is clear
that the Smith faction had little support among party members by March
1941. The Operating Centre toned down its rhetoric and began to call for
the election of an "independent people's government" and an independent
Neither the RCMP nor the
government showed any awareness of the struggle over the party's
anti-war policy. Nor is it likely they would have cared. To Wood,
communists were all the same and he wanted them all interned. In April
1941, Wood complained publicly that, while "the enemy alien is usually
recognizable... your 'Red' has the protection of citizenship" and is
therefore "much more difficult to suppress."
Radical groups had already been banned and more than a hundred
communists had been interned, but Wood felt that repressive measures
were still too lenient. He demanded sterner measures to root out
communists from front organizations like youth councils, civil liberties
groups, and unions.
Wood argued that many of the interned 'trade union leaders were also
Communist leaders who were using their unions to advance their own and
their party's ends by sabotaging industry and transportation."
The King government was being
pressed by the RCMP, the media, and manufacturers, to mount greater
repression against radicals and communists. In part, this stemmed from
the very serious nature of the war in 1941. Since the collapse of France
in June 1940, Britain and the Commonwealth faced the Axis powers alone.
They had suffered severe military reversals, and by the spring of 1941
Britain was enduring the heaviest German air bombardment of the war.
On the home front, the King government faced mounting labour shortages,
and growing union militancy as workers demanded wage hikes and
legislation to enforce compulsory collective bargaining.
At the outset of the war, the
Trades and Labour Congress (TLC) and the Canadian Congress of Labour (CCL),
which included the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) unions,
pledged support for the war effort.
But pledges did not translate into firm no-strike promises. Wartime
inflation from 1939-41 eroded wages, and when combined with labour
shortages, this sparked an upsurge in union organizing and militancy
In line with Mackenzie King's theories on labour relations, the
government pursued a policy of non-binding conciliation, which often as
not resulted in defeats and "paper victories" for the union movement.
Moreover, unions regarded the
DOCR as a weapon that was used by employers and police to undermine
strikes and block efforts to organize unions. In December 1939, Canadian
CIO secretary C.H. Millard
— who was far from being a communist
arrested for telling steelworkers in Timrnins, Ontario, that "[we]
should have democracy here in Canada before we go to Europe to defend
Unions also objected that the DOCR were being used to charge picketing
union members with "loitering" and to detain hundreds of union sailors.
Left-led unions in the TLC and the CCL were the most vocal critics of
the DOCR and the lack of compulsory collective bargaining, but they were
On the other side, big
business pushed its point of view with equal vigour. In May 1941, the
Canadian Manufacturing Association (CMA) met the War Cabinet Committee,
and echoed Wood's call for tougher repression. The CMA claimed that the
CIO was communist-controlled and that it cared "little what damage is
done to Canada's war effort, provided they secure the power they seek."
The manufacturers demanded stringent measures against the CIO and a ban
on strikes and lockouts.
The CMA view was amplified three weeks later when members of the War
Cabinet Committee (J.L. Ralston, Angus Macdonald, C.D. Howe, and others)
pressed for a ban on American CIO representatives, and for repeal of the
Mackenzie King resisted,
although he concurred with the anti-communist sentiments of the CMA and
his cabinet colleagues. King argued that such strict measures, however,
would play into the hands of communists and radicals. He insisted that
it was wiser to rely on voluntary conciliation to resolve labour
disputes. King felt this would strengthen the hand of labour leaders
like Tom Moore of the TLC, who was a Liberal and a friend of the PM.
This, King believed, would counter-balance the hostility of CIO and CCL
unions towards the government.
The King cabinet and the RCMP
believed that communists were the main threat to achieving labour peace.
In the spring and summer of 1941, the RCMP reported that "the CPC is
concentrating its efforts in the Trade Union field," and that the party
is "exerting its efforts to make the industrial population ...
strike-conscious." The RCMP claimed that a handful of "communist
agitators" had organized eight strikes in April, and that these
walk-outs were "precursors of an epidemic." The RCMP believed that the
CIO was the main vehicle of communist "infiltration," although the party
was active in the TLC as well.
Communists were active in the
union movement, but they were more successful in organizing workers on
economic issues than in popularizing the party's anti-war position
(except in Quebec, where communist policy found a limited resonance in
the anti-war and anti-conscription sentiments that existed in that
Communists were not only active rank-and-file union members, but leaders
and organizers of unions like the Canadian Seamens' Union (CSU), the
United Electrical Workers (UEW), the International Woodworkers of
America (IWA), the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, the Steel Workers
Organizing Committee (SWOC), and the UAW.
The RCMP, however, erred in
its conclusions and failed to grasp the fact that the communists made
little headway in shifting the pro-war position of labour.
Whatever the influence and accuracy of RCMP reports, King and his
cabinet decided to continue hunting communists in the unions. Although
communists were a minority in the labour movement, they were strong
enough in strategic wartime industries to cause concern to the
When they were interned in
1940, communists like Bill Walsh and Dick Steele were organizing
automobile and steel workers.
Also in 1940, Pat Sullivan, CSU leader, was interned while in the midst
of contract negotiations.
Charles Murray, leader of the Fishermen and Fish Handlers' Union in Nova
Scotia, was also interned as his union was beginning contract
On 20 June 1941, little more than a month after the CMA meeting with the
War Cabinet Committee, the RCMP picked up UEW president, C.S. Jackson,
on direct orders from the Minister of Labour and the Minister of
Munitions and Supply. At the time, the UEW was in the middle of a strike
at the Toronto General Electric Plant and a union organizing drive at
the Westinghouse facility in Hamilton, Ontario.
Concurrently with the arrests
of communist union leaders, the King cabinet carried out an
investigation of Dorise Nielsen, the sole communist MP until the
election of Fred Rose in 1943. Nielsen was elected in 1940 as a Unity
candidate in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, and her campaign had been
supported by local communists and disaffected members of both the CCF
and Social Credit parties.
In May 1940, King had been charmed by his first meeting with Nielsen,
whom he regarded as "a woman of real ability." Nielsen's radicalism
reminded King of the attitudes he once had "held so strongly" in his
A month later King, however, regarded Nielsen as a threat to the
country's security. In June 1940, Nielsen spoke in Parliament against
the Emergency Powers Bill and the banning of the CPC. Afterwards, King
was shown information "which indicated she is a Communist and her
husband a Communist." As a result, King concluded that Nielsen was a
"dangerous person," and that she had "all the qualities of a very
skilful spy." King promptly ordered the Justice Department to
Nielsen was a thorn in the side of the King government in the House of
Commons, she maintained a steady barrage of opposition to government
measures, including the internment of communists and labour leaders.
Outside Parliament, she joined
with another communist, the Reverend A.E. Smith, to launch a campaign by
the National Council of Democratic Rights (NCDR) against the internment
of anti-fascists. Nielsen's public meetings drew large audiences, and
the RCMP kept a close eye on her activities.
In August 1940, the RCMP seized a pamphlet that Nielsen published to
explain why she opposed the federal budget.
In March 1941, the Canadian Tribune was closed after publishing a
series of anti-internment articles by Nielsen. At about the same time,
the RCMP investigated another Nielsen pamphlet, which re-printed one of
her speeches in Parliament. The Canadian Tribune had also
published this pamphlet, and the RCMP used the occasion to search the
offices of the Canadian Tribune and Eveready Printers, and to
At a meeting on 8 May 1941,
the War Cabinet Committee devoted its time to criticizing Nielsen. RCMP
harassment had failed to deter her, and the cabinet considered other
measures to restrain the recalcitrant MP. True to form, King suggested
that "the best way to destroy [Nielsen's] influence was to get another
woman into Parliament who could answer her." To this end, King tried to
engineer the nomination of a Mrs. Casselman to contest a federal
by-election in Edmonton, Alberta.
Fighting to Get Into the War
The attitude of the CPC to the
war took another sharp turn when Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22
June 1941. The party immediately adopted a pro-war policy. According to
Tim Buck, who secretly returned to Canada in August 1941, the invasion
eliminated the communist fear of a "compromise peace between Hitler and
the Allies." Britain and the Commonwealth were forced into an alliance
with the Soviet Union, and this now made "the extirpation of fascism"
possible. For communists, the "outcome of the war [was] dependant upon
whether socialism was victorious" in the war against Hitler and fascism.
The party opted to mobilize for total war, but it had enormous obstacles
to surmount: it was illegal, its newspapers had been suppressed, some of
its leaders were still in exile or in hiding, and many of its members
were interned. They would have to fight to get into the war.
The government regarded the
new communist policy with disbelief and suspicion. Mackenzie King was
enormously relieved by the Soviet entry into the war. King recognized
that it brought a favourable change in the balance of military forces,
but he also hoped an alliance with the USSR would "lessen communist
activities on this continent."
Yet King was not prepared to legalize the CPC, agreeing with the RCMP
that the new communist attitude was "'too good to be true,' and [that]
it certainly calls for ... evidence of sincerity before it can be
King was prepared to give communists some room for public activity. But
he doggedly resisted demands to revoke the ban on the CPC and release
interned communists, demands which came from communists as well as
unions, civil libertarians, some of the media, the CCF, and from within
government and Liberal Party circles.
The communist internees and
the left-wing NCDR, mounted a persistent and vocal campaign for their
release, seizing every chance to demand their separation from enemy POWS
and Canadian fascist sympathizers, with whom they were interned at
Kananaskis and Petawawa. Communists proved to be nettlesome for the
internment camp authorities. One internee, Ben Swankey, recalled that
the communists at Kananaskis were initially housed with the German POWs,
one communist to eleven Germans in each hut. It was a situation that
gave rise to a great deal of tension. Finally, after failing to convince
the camp commandant to provide them with a hut of their own, the
communists simply seized a newly-built and still-unoccupied hut.
In July 1941, authorities
moved the communist internees from Kananaskis to Petawawa, where
fascists were held along with communists. Petawawa was the scene of a
serious confrontation during the visit by Timothy Eden (brother of the
British Foreign Secretary) in early August 1941. When the internees
assembled for inspection, Joe Wallace, a well-known communist poet,
stepped forward to announce to Eden that anti-fascists were being held
at the camp. Wallace was sent to an isolation hut, and the communists
responded with a demonstration. The commandant summoned nearby army
troops and ordered the protesters to disperse. Then, on 20 August 1941,
the communists were transferred to an empty jail in Hull.
There the communists peppered
the government with letters demanding their release so that they could
help mobilize "for all-out economic and military participation in the
war to defeat Hitler['s] Germany."
In the meantime, support for legalizing the CPC and releasing the
internees gathered steam. Lester Pearson and Norman Robertson felt that
the communists should be fully harnessed to the war effort.
Liberals like A.R.M. Lower were active in moderate civil liberties
associations which distanced themselves from the "far left" but which
Support for the communist campaign also emerged from surprising
quarters. Ontario Liberal Premier Mitchell Hepburn, a bitter
anti-communist and union-basher lobbied King for the communists and even
shared the platform with Tim Buck in October 1942 at a war mobilization
rally at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.
The campaign crossed the US
border in the fall of 1941, when James Carey of the American CIO visited
the Canadian Legation in Washington and protested the internment of
Canadian UEW leader C.S. Jackson. The CIO lobby was followed by a letter
from the US Department of State which "advised" the Canadian government
that Jackson's internment was complicating a struggle in the American
CIO between isolationist unions and those, like the UEW, who supported
Roosevelt's lend-lease policy.
By 1942 the legal status of
the CPC was very much a matter of public debate.
Still banned, the communists reorganized as the "Tim Buck Plebiscite
Committees" to mobilize yes-votes in the 1942 referendum on
conscription. The Tim Buck Committees were then changed into Communist-Labor
Total War Committees which served as a semi-legal resurrection of the
The Communist-Labor committees campaigned for "all-out" industrial
production and no-strike pledges, in return for a quid pro quo from the
government. The communists demanded that the government revise its
labour policies, by enacting legislation on compulsory collective
bargaining and the right to organize unions.
The CPC also urged its members
to join the armed forces in the most public manner possible Bill Stewart
was a YCL member in Montreal, and a machinist at Fairchild Aircraft
prior to joining the army in January 1942. Stewart vividly recalled the
circumstances of his enlistment. The Communist-Labor Total War Committee
organized a mass meeting in Montreal, attended by 2 000 to 3 000 people
Stewart remembered that "thirty nine members of the Communist Party
stood up and announced their intention to join the army and there was a
representative of the armed forces at the meeting who took our
Such public campaigning by the
communists, and the wartime alliance with the USSR, contributed to a
shift in public opinion towards the CPC. Gallup polls in September 1942
showed that public opinion was closely divided over whether to intern
Tim Buck and other leaders of the CPC who emerged from hiding: 44 per
cent favoured internment, 39 per cent opposed internment, and 17 per
cent were undecided. Pro-internment opinion, however, was concentrated
in Quebec, where 80 per cent favoured detention. Anti-internment
sentiment was strongest in Ontario at 62 per cent, while 57 per cent of
all non-Quebeckers felt that the communist leaders should remain free.
On the other hand, 62 per cent of all Canadians, including Quebeckers,
felt that the CPC should not be legalized.
In any event, the government
began releasing party internees quietly in January 1942, "one-by-one,
two or three weeks apart," so that all were freed by the autumn.
In the meantime, under pressure from opposition parties, the government
struck a committee to study the DOCR. The committee recommended lifting
the ban on the CPC. The cabinet, however, rejected the idea. The RCMP
and the Justice Department insisted that the actual communist aim was
"victory for the Soviet Union over democracy," and to "subvert the
Canadian Armed Forces to that end."
Characteristically, King added
pragmatic political concerns to the refusal to legalize the CPC. With an
eye to the Liberal base in Quebec, King intended to placate his Quebec
power brokers who in no uncertain terms opposed legalizing the CPC. In
July 1942, King told his cabinet colleagues that lifting the ban on the
CPC would "give rise to bitter religious strife both in the House and in
the province [Quebec]." King argued that "our Quebec friends have been
through a difficult place. To expect the government to remove a ban on
Communism would be almost too much for them."
The issue did not disappear, however, and in January 1943, King was
compelled to reassure the Roman Catholic Archbishops and Cardinal
Villeneuve of Quebec that his government made a clear distinction
between sympathy for the Russian people during the war, and "the
activities of Canadian Communists." The government, wrote King, would
continue to "deal firmly with all subversive activities tending to
discord and disunity.
At the same time, King needed
to satisfy those vocal critics who continued to criticize the ban on the
By the spring of 1943, the government found a way around its dilemma.
After the Comintern was disbanded in June 1943, the CCF asked Justice
Minister Louis St Laurent whether the ban on the CPC would be lifted.
Responding in the House of Commons, St. Laurent reiterated the
government's refusal. St. Laurent, however, left a door open to the
communists by adding that if "any other party or group should be made up
[of] men who formerly belonged to this organization," the response of
the government "would depend upon the attitude [the communists]
In fact, the communists were already busy organizing themselves into the
LPP, which was founded in August l943.
Communists and the Armed Forces
As noted, the RCMP's wartime
responsibilities included vetting security clearances of armed forces
personnel. The RCMP had opposed lifting the ban on the CPC, fearing that
the communists planned to infiltrate and subvert the Canadian military.
Military officials in all three branches of the armed forces shared the
RCMP’s fears. Although the government reluctantly restored the
communists to partial legality in 1943, the RCMP and the military were
determined to keep communists in the armed forces under surveillance.
This was an enormous job.
There are no firm figures available, but a reasonable guess is that
several hundred communists joined the armed forces in the Second World
Perhaps most of these enlistees were not known to military recruiters or
the RCMP as communists. Even those enlistees who were known communists,
like Bill Walsh, often ended up in places and circumstances beyond the
immediate reach of the Mounties. Although the identification and
surveillance of suspected subversives was intense, resources were
strained by the demands of security screening for a military force that
expanded from less than 10,000 personnel in 1939 to more than one
million by 1945.
As a result security checks and controls could be haphazard and
Throughout the war, the RCMP
and the military high command cooperated closely in the effort to
control and monitor suspected and known communists. The primary vehicle
used for surveillance was a system of mass-fingerprinting, organized
separately by each branch of the armed forces. By the end of the war,
fingerprints had been obtained from nearly all recruits.
Normally, the armed forces sent fingerprint records to the RCMP for
vetting only in cases where enlistees were suspected or known
Actual investigations were conducted within the armed forces, but the
volume could be very heavy. According to Larry Hannant, the army's
Military Intelligence Section 3 (MI3) carried out "500 in-depth field
checks per month" by January 1945.
Where possible, military
recruiters were required to act as gate-keepers, so that possible
subversives were screened before they entered the armed forces. Security
screening at this level was the most haphazard, and the greatest number
of checks were made on personnel who were already enlisted. In the army,
known communists and confirmed subversives were placed on a "Red list"
and the code-word "non-sensitive" was attached to their personnel files.
Among other things, the code indicated that a particular soldier was not
to be promoted or shipped overseas until his case had been thoroughly
In several cases, enlistments were refused and recruits discharged when
MI3 determined that the individuals under investigation were too
effectiveness of security screening in the armed forces should not be
over-estimated. As personnel policies travelled down the chain of
command, those pertaining to "non-sensitive" personnel were often
applied rather unevenly. Some well-known communists were promoted to the
rank of captain or major. Many communists were prevented temporarily
from serving overseas, in a few cases permanently.
On the other hand, a large number of communists fought with distinction,
including Dick Steele, who was killed in the Falaise Gap.
To a certain extent the limits
on security screening can be attributed to the "noise and distortions"
that tend to affect the functioning of any command structure, as well as
to the necessity of allowing commanding officers to apply policy
according to their discretion and within reasonable limits. Control
efforts, however, were also limited by the logic of the war itself. By
the time that communists began joining the armed forces, it was
abundantly clear that Canada was in a war to the finish. The armed
forces needed highly motivated and disciplined soldiers, and regardless
of all else, communists often fit the bill.
Perhaps the most forthright
expression of this logic was the secret recruitment, in 1942, of more
than 60 Canadian communists by the British Special Operations Executive
(SOE) and the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Mainly of Yugoslav,
Hungarian and Bulgarian descent, these communists were parachuted behind
enemy lines into Yugoslavia and the Balkans, with assignments to link up
with resistance forces, gather intelligence, carry out sabotage, and
attack enemy forces.
The precise means of
recruiting Canadian communists for these missions remains obscure. SOE
recruitment in 1942 for the Yugoslav missions appears to have involved
cooperation between the British Security Coordination (BSC), the RCMP,
the departments of National Defense and External Affairs in Canada, and
of course, the illegal CPC. According to Roy MacLaren, the RCMP
contacted the CPC with a request for recruits. Steve Serdar, a
Yugoslav-Canadian who was a party organizer in Val D'Or, Quebec, claimed
that enough communists volunteered to form a brigade. Serdar and fifteen
others were selected in August 1942, and trained in Canada, Palestine,
and Egypt. They were then dropped into Yugoslavia at intervals after the
spring of l943.
SOE recruitment of Canadian
communists of Hungarian and Bulgarian descent followed a similar
pattern, although contact with the CPC was made through the Department
of National Defense. About eight Hungarian-Canadians and an unknown
number of Bulgarian-Canadians were chosen. Some were already in the
armed forces: Steve Markos was with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry,
while Steve Mate was training with the Canadian Armoured Corps School at
Camp Borden. The others were subsequently enlisted and trained.
The OSS apparently adopted an
even more straightforward approach. The OSS worked with Canadian
authorities and the SOE, but it contacted the CPC directly in 1942.
According to Tim Buck, OSS chief Colonel Donovan met with Canadian
Tribune editor A.A. Macleod to request 15 to 20 CPC volunteers willing
to drop behind enemy lines in the Balkans. According to Buck, the party
secured 20 volunteers: twelve Yugoslavs (mainly Croatians), one
Slovenian, one Montenegrin, two Serbians, two Bulgarians, and two
Most communist volunteers,
however, joined the regular services of the armed forces. Yet even in
the regular military, security-control policies were often applied
arbitrarily, rather than systematically, which produced mixed results.
This may best be seen through the experiences of communist enlistees
themselves, in their enlistment, training, promotion, and assignment, as
well as in the nature and extent of their activities as communists
within the armed forces.
First, there were
inconsistencies in processing the enlistment applications of known
communists. In February 1942, the Communist-Labor Total War Committee
sent Ray Stevenson from Kirkland Lake, Ontario, to Val D'Or to replace
Steve Serdar (who had been recruited by the SOE). Not long afterwards
Stevenson joined the army. Although Stevenson was a well-known
communist, his enlistment application at Val D'Or was processed
William Stewart had the same experience.
Likewise, several former-internees signed up with no trouble.
On the other hand, Ben Swankey, who had been interned at Kananaskis,
Petawawa and Hull, tried to enlist in December 1942 at Edmonton, but was
told that his application would have to be cleared by the RCMP. A month
later, in January 1943, Swankey was notified that his application had
been approved, and he was sent to Grande Prairie, Alberta, for basic
Former internee, John McNeil, had worse luck when he applied for the
navy in 1942 in Winnipeg. The navy curtly rejected McNeil as an
Commanding officers were
informed when known communists were placed in their units, but this
knowledge could have differing results. William Stewart ended up in
Britain as a corporal with the Elgin Regiment of the Canadian Armoured
Corps, attached to the First Canadian Army Corps. According to Stewart,
his CO announced that he intended to drive Stewart out of the army.
Stewart retorted that the colonel was not "man enough to do it," and
ended up having to endure one form or another of penalty duty. Later, in
northwest Africa in 1943, Stewart fell into another confrontation, with
the result that he "carried buckets of officer shit across the desert in
120 degree temperatures for a month-and-a-half" until his unit was sent
Ben Swankey and Ray Stevenson
had different experiences. Stevenson was picked out at Camp Borden
during training with the Canadian Armoured Corps, and put on a potential
officer list with several other communists. As Stevenson recalled,
however, "there was a long delay in sending us through [officer
training] while HQ was making up its mind what to do with some of us."
Stevenson became a training officer, and was assigned to design a
curriculum, including a course on the nature of fascism, for soldiers
about to be sent overseas. Although Stevenson's commanding officer
warned him against "selling the Party line," Stevenson had a fairly free
hand, and was allowed to select Sam Walsh, another communist, as an
aide. Eventually Stevenson was promoted to the rank of captain and was,
at one point, invited by General Worthington to lecture the Provost
Corps on industrial relations.
Swankey enlisted with the
Royal Canadian Artillery Corps and when he arrived at Shilo, Manitoba,
he was summoned for an interview with his commanding officer. The CO was
a Ukrainian-Canadian who expressed sympathy for Swankey's experience in
internment. Swankey's superior was required to file weekly reports on
"non-sensitive" personnel with M13. The CO delegated that task to
another communist in the unit and Swankey recalled that, "we used to
draw them up together, so I had some very good reports."
Swankey never saw his
personnel file, but he claimed that it contained a stipulation that he
was not to be promoted. Despite this, Swankey was trained as an
instructor and promoted to the rank of sergeant within three months. He
was then assigned to lecture on topics that included an analysis of the
Italian army. Swankey, however, lost his rank when he was posted
overseas in March 1945, and he arrived in Britain as a private in the
While the army sent Swankey
and Stewart overseas, it would not post Ray Stevenson in a military
theatre of operation, despite his repeated requests. Stevenson claimed
to have learned through "a clandestine source in army intelligence,"
that he "would not be shipped overseas for political reasons."
According to Swankey, commanding officers were "under orders not to
The application of such orders, however, depended on the inclination of
particular officers. William Stewart noted that the army had "an
organized approach to the question of communists," but that
anti-communist attitudes receded after 1942, except among officers who
were "ideologically way to the right" and who insisted on "fighting
According to Swankey, commanding officers often discovered that
communists "were eager, dedicated, and very good soldiers."
It does seem that some
commanding officers appreciated the role that communists could play as
morale boosters. During the Italian campaign, Stewart organized
educational activities in his unit, including discussions about the Red
Army's progress on the eastern front.
In a more concrete estimate of the communist contribution to morale-building the Canadian Armoured Corps conducted a survey to assess Ray
Stevenson's success in preparing soldiers about to proceed on draft
overseas. The survey indicated that, in before-and-after sampling, the
number of soldiers who felt prepared to go overseas rose from 59 per
cent to 75 per cent, while the number who felt it was their duty to go
overseas rose from 83 per cent to 94 percent.
In any event, the communist
role in the armed forces was far from what the RCMP feared. The RCMP
seems to have constantly read the most diabolical intentions into the
most innocuous activity. For example, in February 1943 the RCMP reported
that a committee of trade unionists and soldiers in New Westminster,
British Columbia, was controlled by the CPC as a vehicle to recruit
members and to "render the troops more susceptible to the party
approach." Among other things, this committee planned to organize
"entertainment for the troops" and to demand "free or reduced fares [for
soldiers] while travelling and an upward revision of pay and pensions."
Contrary to RCMP impressions,
from 1942-45 the CPC produced almost no propaganda aimed directly at
armed services personnel. Most of its materials were intended for
broader public consumption and from a communist perspective strove to
improve the war effort. The YCL protested "the over-crowding of Canadian
fliers on overseas transport" and issued a pamphlet entitled,
Everything for the Fighting Front! The YCL also promoted the
less-than-seditious demand that the government "increase army pay and
dependent allowances" and provide returning soldiers with adequate jobs
Clearly, communists hoped that such propaganda efforts would redound to
their benefit by improving their standing in public opinion. These
materials, however, revealed no efforts to inflame revolutionary
More importantly, the CPC, and
its legal successor the LPP, instructed its members in the armed forces
to sever formal ties with the party. Thus, communists in the armed
forces paid no membership dues to it, and their names were removed from
LPP membership lists. Ray Stevenson, William Stewart, and Ben Swankey
insist that no party organization existed in the armed forces, and that
they never received instructions from the party.
Communists in the armed forces did not abandon their political ideas.
Nonetheless, they were careful not to violate the letter of the King's
Rules and Regulations for Canada and the Army Manual of Law.
As Ray Stevenson noted, this protected communists from being "open to a
charge of taking orders from an outside source."
Yet communists in the armed
forces found other ways of staying politically active. Corporal Les
Hunt, one of many communists who disagreed with the Parry's anti-war
stand, joined the army in 1940 and was shipped almost immediately to
England. Just after D-Day in 1944, Hunt ended up in Normandy and served
for eleven months with a Royal Canadian Signal Corps reconnaissance
unit. In 1942, while stationed in England, Hunt helped organize an
international youth conference which convened in November. The
conference demanded the opening of a second front to relieve the
pressure on the Red Army. The conference attracted young Britons and
anti-fascist exiles from Europe. Also attending were some Canadian armed
forces personnel, including Corporal William Stewart and 2 other
communists. Most interesting about the conference, is that the Canadian
military tolerated the participation of their personnel.
While communists in the armed
forces did not form party cells, they did organize as anti-fascists.
Apparently this satisfied most commanding officers. Based on British
Army practise, military regulations allowed for the creation of current
affairs clubs within units. Communists used this as the means to conduct
anti-fascist education among military personnel. Les Hunt was one of the
first to organize such a club. He recalled that his superiors were
initially unsure of "how to cope with communists as loyal patriots." In
October 1941, Hunt was hauled before his CO to explain his conduct. Hunt
successfully defended his legal right to organize a current affairs
club, and he was permitted to continue with anti-fascist educational
work. As other Canadian communists arrived in Britain, Hunt urged them
to organize current affairs clubs in their units. This was the origin of
the education meetings organized in William Stewart's unit in Italy.
Communists in the military,
however, began re-establishing ties with the LPP by the end of the war.
In 1945, the armed forces decided to allow its personnel to run as
candidates in forthcoming Canadian elections. Armed forces candidates
were granted leave and flown to Canada by the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Military personnel were nominated as candidates in the June federal and
Ontario elections by the Liberals, the Conservatives, the CCF, and the
LPP. Ray Stevenson was one of three armed forces personnel running for
the LPP in the Ontario election, and Ben Swankey was one of the LPP's
nine military candidates in the federal election.
The election campaigns, while
moderately encouraging for the LPP, should have put to rest RCMP fears
about the extent of communist influence in the armed forces. Federally,
the LPP collected 110,000, or two per cent of all votes. The LPP,
however, ran close races in some ridings and elected Fred Rose in
Montreal Cartier. (Rose was later deprived of his seat, convicted of
conspiracy under the Official Secrets Act). The LPP received about 5,000
soldiers' votes, or 1.4 per cent of all armed forces ballots. In
Ontario, the party elected two MPPs from Toronto, Joe Salsberg and A.A.
Macleod. The LPP won 71,000 votes (four per cent), and about 4,000
soldiers' votes. Only Salsberg won a plurality of soldiers' votes for
Corporal William Stewart was
serving as a wireless operator in a Sherman Tank with the Ontario
Regiment during the Allied advance on Florence, Italy, in June 1944.
Stewart's tank was hit during a German rearguard action, and he was
badly burned. Evacuated to England and then back to Canada, Stewart
received his military discharge in 1945. The RCMP picked up Stewart's
trail again in May, noting that the veteran had contributed to an LPP
leaflet which urged government measures to provide "rehabilitation and
jobs for returning veterans."
The Second World War was
ending and the Cold War was about to begin. As communist veterans like
Stewart returned to civilian life, they left the purview of military
authorities charged with maintaining internal security in the armed
forces. The activities of civilian communists, however, were to remain
an intense focus of RCMP scrutiny and surveillance. Throughout the
Second World War the RCMP had been the main vehicle, and a primary
exponent, of an entrenched anti-communist government policy. The RCMP
entered the war years armed with expanded powers and responsibility
under the DOCR, which it had helped develop. The RCMP had a prior
disposition to regard communists as a greater threat to internal
security than nazis and fascists, and it urged the government to take
tougher measures against the CPC.
The government was no less
worried about the threat of communist subversion. King, however,
balanced his anti-communism with a more finely-tuned sense of political
opportunism. When a lower court decision made it convenient, King agreed
to ban the CPC. When the communists switched to a pro-war policy, and
public opinion mounted in favour of legalizing the CPC, King manoeuvred
to satisfy liberals as well as die-hard anti-communists. Although the
ban on the CPC remained in force, communists were tolerated but closely
monitored in a no-man's land of quasi-legality.
The communists had been
extremely short-sighted and very ill-advised to adopt an anti-war policy
in 1939. The CPC's decision undermined its own anti-fascist orientation
and encouraged anti-communists in the government to impose repressive
measures against the party. Contrary to the justifications offered by
the RCMP and the government, the decision to suppress the CPC was based
more on ideological motivations than on a demonstrated threat to the
internal security of Canada. The CPC openly expressed pro-Soviet
loyalties, but Canada was never at war with the USSR. Nor should later
events, such as the feeble advocacy of revolutionary defeatism by one
faction in the CPC during 1940-41 or Fred Rose's postwar conviction,
obscure the fact that the CPC publicly pushed a policy of neutrality and
withdrawal from the war.
That the repression of
communists was ideologically motivated is underscored by the fact that
Canada was the only allied partner to impose such a proscription
throughout the war.
Despite the party's convoluted logic and twists in policy during
1939-41, Canadian communists never denied the need for a genuine
anti-fascist war. Nor is there evidence that the CPC supported the
fascist enemy, or organized acts of sabotage. Nevertheless, the Canadian
government, the RCMP, and the military continued to perceive a
subversive threat even when communists embraced the war in 1941.
The RCMP and military
intelligence made determined efforts to weed out or control the
activities of communists who joined the armed forces after 1941. The
logic of the war, however, also produced friction between official anti-communism and the exigencies of prosecuting the war. Despite "Red-lists"
and security checks, communists joined the armed forces and often served
with distinction. Communists in the armed forces cut their official ties
with the party and carefully presented themselves as anti-fascist
patriots. In units where communists served, commanding officers often
concluded that, anti-communist fears aside, it was better to make good
use of communists and worry about politics later.