A Noble Cause Betrayed ... but Hope Lives On
Pages from a Political Life, by John Boyd
We are very pleased to make available the full
text of A Noble Cause Betrayed … But Hope Lives On: Pages From A
John Boyd played a central role in the Communist
Party of Canada and its associated organizations from 1930 until 1968.
His reminiscences and insights about his experiences will be invaluable
for anyone interested in the history of the Canadian left.
His memoir was originally published as a
Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Research Report (No. 64; ISBN:
1-894301-64-1) in 1999, and it is still available in hard copy from
web edition contains the entire text of the original, but we have made
two changes in the organization of the material:
The interview sections, originally published as two very
long chapters and one short one, have been broken into smaller files, to
ease online reading and downloading.
All of the Interview material has been grouped together,
and the three documents that interrupted the interviews in the original
have been grouped at the end.
The Socialist History Project is very grateful to
John Boyd for providing this material and for giving us permission to
publish it here.
A Noble Cause Betrayed
… But Hope Lives On
Pages From A Political Life
by John Boyd
The following pages are in lieu of a political
autobiography. They are, in fact, an edited and upgraded transcript of a
series of interviews I gave at the end of 1996 as part of a nation-wide
project sponsored by the Cecil-Ross Society. The project consisted of
taped interviews with former members of the Communist Party of Canada
and people who in one way or another were associated with the Party. By
the end of 1998, some 450 such interviews had been recorded.
The Cecil-Ross Society is a group of former
members of the Communist Party, who, after they left the Party in
December 1992, constituted themselves as trustees of the assets that at
one time belonged to the Party.
The interviews were conducted and taped by Rick
Stow, a broadcaster, journalist and labour historian. I have rearranged
some of the questions for better continuity and have added the text of
three relevant documents.
I am grateful to Mr. Stow and the Cecil-Ross
Society for providing me with a copy of the tapes and to my son Zane for
transcribing them, thus enabling me to edit them. I am especially
grateful to my long-time dear friend and colleague, Olga Dzatko, for the
excellent job she did in copy-editing the first edition, which, together
with the correction of several errors of fact, made it possible to
produce this second, revised and much improved, edition.
If time and my health permit, I hope one day to
put together a more extensive version of my memoirs, which would very
likely incorporate much of what is on these pages. Meanwhile, I am
publishing some of my recollections and thoughts contained in this form
— essentially covering the part of my life that was spent in the
Communist movement — for some of my former colleagues and friends and
others who may be interested.
Table of Contents
Part One: Interviews
My 38 Years of Working Full Time in the
Communist Movement 1930-1968
Early life and politics.
my father active in politics. An ardent proselytizer. In Politics from
Childhood. Father jailed and “exiled”. Started school at seven. Elected
branch president at 13. To political school at 17. The Party says “No”
By freight train to
Toronto. National youth secretary. Speaker at May Day demo. Inspired by
Communist idea. Move to “Bolshevization”. A shocking action. Ethnic
groups were Party’s base. In Party’s image. Changed my name in 1933.
Difficult days. I lose my shyness
Editor of Young Worker.
I formally join the Party. I am sent to Winnipeg. A close call. Back to
Elected trustee and join
army. Saved by a case of measles. Editor of army magazine. “He’s a
Communist!” A difficult choice. A learning experience. Secretary of Slav
Committee. Concerts and Folk art.
To Sheffield and Warsaw.
A trip to China. We meet Mao and Chou En-lai. Tour of Soviet artists.
Moscow tried to recruit me. Why I didn’t quit in 1956. A nervous
Editor of Canadian
Tribune. Party leaders disturbed. My trip to Cuba. Fidel and Che on the
podium. Another trip to Moscow. My interview with Khrushchev.
Assignment to Prague.
John Gibbons. Molly Perlman. The Wheelers. Reform movement is born.
Action Program. Learning Czech – fast. Prague Spring. Barriers to
progress. Visits with the Whytes. On a delegation to Romania. A task in
Budapest. A phone call from Kashtan. An ominous comment.
Party leaders divided.
Crucial meeting in Toronto. My offer to Ukrainians turned down. Editor
at Southam. “I saw the fascists!” I formally resign from the Party. More
about the invasion. Opponents of reform silent. My ties with Ukrainians
broken. A denunciatory statement. Editing Our History.
election. Moscow not pleased. Kashtan’s control of finances. Morris was
obvious choice. Buck’s interference. A startling speech. Copying the
Soviet Party. A silly change.
Why the movement
collapsed. Dictatorship by whom? Russians dominated. People had little
say. Great-nation chauvinism. Comintern’s role. More of Soviet
influence. Young Pioneers. Anticipating revolution. What kind of
democracy. On capitalist propaganda. Lack of democracy.
When the decline began.
About Party and prestige. A matter of method. Was collapse inevitable?
Moscow’s hold very powerful. More negative than positive. Start with
where people are. My attitude to the Party today. Lessons for the
future. Marx’s theories still valid.
Early shifts in
allegiance. A one-sided view. Blind acceptance. Both sides used
propaganda. Tragedy of disunity. Attempt to rehabilitate Stalin. A noble
cause betrayed. Party’s first secretary.
About Ukraine and Ukrainians
On Ukraine in 1917.
Right-Left split deepens. Anti-socialist drive. Ukrainians form own
section. Tsarist and Austrian oppression. Socialists form ULFTA. Party
influence increases. The “double burden.” Appeal to the Comintern. More
Fractions take charge.
Wearing three hats. Why Youth Section was opposed. Opposition not
ideological. Why they gave in. John Weir’s role. Soviet repressions not
questioned. Coping with wives. Relationship worsens.
Effect of Party
pressures. About “bourgeois tendencies”. No time for the arts.
Nationalism and chauvinism. Assimilation encouraged. Effectd of
Russification. Comintern intervention. Mechanistic control. Documents
invaluable. Effects of “labeling”. I kept my ties with Ukrainians. About
Lenin School graduates. About Communist arrogance.
The Lobay episode.
Conforming to the Party line. Italian Party compared. How control was
implemented. “We don’t need a commissar”.
Launching a parcel
business. How the Party was helped. No major differences. Frustrations
with Moscow. Why Ukrainians stayed in 1956. How delegation originated.
Delegation had big impact. About apologies. About the Ukrainian
community. Ethnic “ghettos” in cities. Majority don’t belong. Community
Part 2: Documents
Why I Left the Communist Party (My Letter
to the Central Executive Committee)
My Reply to the Denunciatory Statement of
the AUUC National Executive Committee
Report on the 1968 Events in Czechoslovakia
[ Continued ... ]
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