By Greg Clark, October 3, 1925
Their Headquarters Are in a Nice, Busy Toronto Office Right Next to Toronto’s Super-Loyal Albany Club – 4,200 Communists and Every One a Missionary for Revolution
The Communist or Red headquarters of Canada are next door to the Albany Club on King street east, Toronto, just where the shadows of big business fall about four o’clock in the afternoon.
Three stops up on a nice shiny brass elevator, in modern offices, sit the four men who direct what you might call the present destinies of Lenin’s bolshevik world campaign in Canada.
Only a thin wall separates them from the Albany Club, the stronghold of the established order of things.
At noon, before lunch, the Albany Club stands up and sings “God Save the King.” The lusty voices of elderly gentlemen float out of windows and through walls.
It is the customary ceremony in the bolshevik headquarters of Canada for the comrades who happen to be present at this moment all to sit down, except one, who, nearest the window, rises to his feet and emphatically shuts the window.
And on the wall hangs a large bronze medallion, at least a foot across, of the late Comrade Lenin.
Did you imagine, as I did, that Communists had headquarters, if any, down in some dark and moldy cellar?
Did you picture the Communists as underfed, undershaven cartoons of humanity who came out in the dark and emitted half-intelligible sounds from soap boxes to small handfuls of drifters in out-of-the-way corners of the downtown district?
The fact is, the offices of the Communists on King street, not a whole block from King and Yonge, is a busy, up-to-date office, typewriters clicking, girls filing and taking dictation, telephone ringing.
The Communists in these offices have no whiskers. None of the four national leaders has even a mustache.
And in the last street meeting they held, on James street, last Sunday night, between the city hall and Eaton’s, over nine hundred men jammed together in the mysterious gloom of the downtown night to listen to Reds preaching the Red doctrine.
We like to be up-to-date. In view of mysterious going on in England, it seems worthwhile to find out just who, what and where the Communists are in Canada.
Morris Spector is chairman and titular head of the Communist Party of Canada. The Communist party is openly and avowedly allied with the Communists of Russia. Their platform is the platform of Lenin, holus bolus: the dictatorship of the proletariat.
What Four Leaders Say
Jack MacDonald, for long years well-known in Labor circles in Toronto, is secretary of the party. Tim Buck, editor of the party’s propaganda, and William Moriarty are the other two big figures in the national headquarters.
And every one of them has been to Russia.
Moriarty is just home from attending the annual Red congress in Moscow. Tim Buck was there last year. Jack Macdonald and Spector were there the year before.
They are in regular official and unofficial correspondence with Moscow. They report and get reports.
These four men, all well known in Toronto Labor circles, sat down with all frankness to give any information we wanted.
“How many Communists are there in Canada right now?” we asked.
“The Communist party has about 4,200 members, active, paid up,” replied Tim Buck.
“And how many sympathizers has the party in the whole dominion?”
“It would be hard to say. We prefer to deal in realities. We have 4,200 members in good standing. That’s a fact we know. We might have 30,000 sympathizers. There are indications that we have a great many more.”
“At the trades congress of Canada held in London, Ontario, last year, which is the annual official gathering of the delegates of all the labor unions of the dominion, I,” said Tim Buck, “ran for the office of president. I have been a Communist for years. I stood up and made my address to these representatives of Labor as a Red. I received forty-four votes out of two hundred from these accredited delegates of organized labor in Canada.”
“Where is your party’s greatest strength?” we asked.
“Amongst the miners of Nova Scotia and the miners of Alberta.”
“Are the miners Canadians or foreigners?”
“In Nova Scotia they are wholly Canadian born. In Alberta they are very largely foreign born.”
“Where else is your strength?”
“Wherever there is discontent,” replied Jack Macdonald. “In every city we have a few. Amongst the farmers of the west we not only have had members for two or three years, but now we have organized locals of our party. The Communist faith is spreading. But please note that we make no vast claims of membership. It is not easy to be a member of the Communist party of Canada. It is hard unless a man will undertake to work actively for the party we will not accept him. By working for the party we mean he must be a Communist at his work bench, in his shop, in his union, submit to the discipline of the party, act and speak at all times in favor of the communist cause. We have no parlor Reds in our party.”
Strong For Revolution
So there are the facts. A small party, widely scattered, strongest where there is discontent, including miners, farmers and factory workers. They publish a weekly paper, “The Worker,” which has 14,000 circulation. They have members in every union in the Dominion.
“And what is the nationality of the majority of your membership?”
“British, by very large majority,” says Morris Spector, president of the Reds.
In a nut-shell what is the Red program for Canada? They say dictatorship of the proletariat. That phrase has a dull thudding sound. It has no flash of meaning. What it means is the absolute control of industry by the worker in that industry. No more profits, interest, rents. No more investment. Nothing but work, and all rewards in proportion to work.
“How about revolution?” we asked, somewhat derisively, looking at a German poster on the wall, showing the Red worker carrying a red torch and driving fat capitalists before him.
“Revolution, absolutely,” said Tim Buck and Jack Macdonald, with genial smiles.
“You don’t mean to say,” we exclaimed, “that there could be actual revolution in Canada, this country!”
“The Communist Party will never succeed,” they replied simply, “without revolution.”
“It’s unthinkable,” we said.
“Yes, and it is unthinkable that the government of Canada called out its regular forces to squelch the miners in Nova Scotia,” they retorted. “The miners of Nova Scotia said to themselves. ‘Why, it is inconceivable that the government of this country would bring out its army against free citizens of Canada.’ But they did.”
“Yes, but revolution….!”
“The whole present system is based on force. Quite frankly, if the workers of Canada tried to take away the means of production from those who possess them now, they would unquestionably use armed forces to defend their property. Well, wouldn’t that mean revolution, in the simplest, oldest meaning of the term.”
It is rather ghastly to sit talking to four good, plain fellows who sincerely believe in and are devoting their lives to a political theory that has at the end of it – blood.
They have no faith in evolution. They swear the evolution of the last half dozen years in human affairs is only the reflex of direct revolution in Russia.
“What Britain gets, we get in Canada,” says Spector. “If Britain has a revolution, we shall be the first to follow it.”
What would happen in Canada if the Reds won their way with their revolution?
The country would be governed exactly as Russia is governed by soviets. Each industry would be run by committees of its workers. Only workers would be permitted to sit on councils to govern cities, provinces or the dominion as a whole. Parliamentary government would be cast overboard, lock, stock and barrel.
“But would not absolute dictatorship by the workers be as unfair as absolute dictatorship by any other class?” we asked.
“Think it over,” replied Morris Spector.
Not Making Any Bombs
Right now, the Communist party is asserting certain policies with considerable success right in the strongholds of organized labor.
They want the railways all nationalized and merged. They insist that armed forces be not used against unarmed people.
And here is the most spectacular item: the Reds, whose fundamental belief is revolution, are against war. At the Trades Congress held two years ago at Vancouver, the Communists in the ranks of Labor brought forward a resolution that in the event of war being declared the congress would immediately call a general strike in every Industry throughout the dominion.
Canadian organized labor did not adopt this resolution. But they did adopt an amendment:
That in the event of war being declared, a special session of the Canadian Trades and Labor Congress would be called automatically, for the purpose of considering a general strike!
Forty-two hundred avowed Communists, mostly miners in remote sections of Canada, are after all only a trifle in the weight of political power in this country. But they are agitators. To be a member of the party, you have to undertake to be in agitator. Not every Liberal or Conservative is a worker for his party. The 4,200 Communists have to be.
In addition to keeping close personal touch with Russia the Canadian Communists are sending, this winter, Stewart Smith, a young man in his teens who is editor of their Young Communist League propaganda, to Moscow to attend the University there for a year and a half. He will receive an all round education in Communism.
“Do you receive any funds from Russia?”
The red quartet grinned.
“We only wish we did. We hope we do some day. One of the disadvantages of being a worker is that one has little money.”
Dangerous or not, Canada’s Reds are out in the open. Their meetings are street meetings. They apparently have nothing to hide. The Idea that they meet in damp cellars and manufacture bombs while spouting grim and desperate gospels is erroneous. They aren’t making any bombs. They expect to take over the stores of bombs already in existence when their time comes.
A “fascist” movement has begun to develop against them in Toronto. Semi-organized bands of hecklers and disturbers are in evidence at their street meetings. They meet with vigorous opposition from the “right” wing of organized labor, the strongest wing. At the last congress, 1925, Tim Buck again ran for president of the congress and received only 29 votes, against 44 the year before.
A year ago, you had to walk up two flights of rickety stairs to get at the Communists, when they had their quarters on Queen street.
Now you go up in an elevator.
What the significance of this is might be debated.
Editor’s Notes: This article was written during the first “Red Scare” after the Russian Bolshevik Revolution. The expansion of Communist parties across the world saw the Russian Revolution as a sign of things to come in other countries. Organized labour was treated suspiciously. This article also was written a year after the death of Lenin.
The Albany Club still exists. So does the Communist Party of Canada. Maurice Spector, Jack MacDonald, and William Moriarty were all prominent communists of their day. The most famous was Tim Buck, who became leader in 1929 until 1962. He was arrested several times and imprisoned. He was exiled from Canada for supporting the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939, but was allowed to return to Canada after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, after Communists around the world did an about-face and then strongly supported the Allies in World War Two.