Welcome to RonVerzuh.ca

Writer & Historian

Contact me at ron@ronverzuh.ca

Member Login
Lost your password?

Reds Under Beds – A Spy Story

August 1, 2018

And They were Still Looking for Communists in 1983

RCMP secret agents were still looking for Reds under every bed during British Columbia’s 1983 “Solidarity Coalition” protests against the austerity budget of the right-wing Social Credit government of Bill Bennett.

Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked that taxpayers’ money could once again be spent wastefully searching for a miniscule group of people who might or might not have been members of the Communist Party of Canada (CPC).

But they’ve been doing it since the CPC was founded in 1921 and real shocker is that Canada’s Security Service, rechristened Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), would still be under orders to harass Communists at that late date.

In an earlier age when the CPC was considered a threat to national security – a false one in my view – some political leaders might have been a justifiable public expense. National politicians believed that Communists were actually Soviet spies and authorized millions of dollars to be spent closely monitoring the movements of every known Canadian Communist.

In 1945, after Igor Gouzenko, the Soviet cypher clerk, named people he said were Communist spies, the government arrested Montreal MP Fred Rose and a Doukhobor woman named Emma Voykin. They were jailed and the witch hunt began in earnest.

The search for Communists in Canada has kept police families fed for decades. But to read that they were still lurking about in 1983, hoping to discover Communists plotting the downfall of the Bennett government? Ludicrous. And yet, as The Tyee news site reports, they were doing exactly that.

I’ve researched the role of Communists in the labour movement and concluded that they were a best an irritant to other labour leaders. That they posed the remotest real threat to our security is impossible to prove. But the search for proof has proven a colossal waste of resources. Surely the huge expense of looking for Reds under every bed could have been used to fight real criminals.

University of Victoria historian Reg Whitaker summed it up nicely: “That’s classic security service Cold War boilerplate on the revolutionary nature of the CP. The curious thing is that they never did find a smoking gun: not a shred of evidence of actual revolutionary activity. CPers who did enter trade unions never had the opportunity to turn revolutionary rhetoric into practice: they were too busy just being good unionists securing better wages for their members. Even a few unions that ended up being run by CP officials were not really distinguishable from those closer to the CCF/NDP.”

What a waste of time, money and effort.

The article by Stanley Tromp appeared in The Tyee on July 6, 2018.


Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *