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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 Political Life.

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 CIUS Press.

This 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.

— John Boyd

Table of Contents

Part One: Interviews

Chapter 1:
My 38 Years  of Working Full Time in the Communist Movement 1930-1968

  1. 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”

  2. 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

  3. Editor of Young Worker. I formally join the Party. I am sent to Winnipeg. A close call. Back to Toronto.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 breakdown.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. About Kashtan’s 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

Chapter 2:
About Ukraine and Ukrainians

  1. 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 Party pressure.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. The Lobay episode. Conforming to the Party line. Italian Party compared. How control was implemented. “We don’t need a commissar”.

  5. 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 rapidly dwindling.

Part 2: Documents

Chapter 3:
Why I Left the Communist Party (My Letter to the Central Executive Committee)

Chapter 4:
My Reply to the Denunciatory Statement of the AUUC National Executive Committee

Chapter 5:
My Report on the 1968 Events in Czechoslovakia

[ Continued ... ]

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