Love, Hate, and Fear in Canada's Cold War
Richard Cavell, ed.
Toronto: University of Toronto Press
Reviewed by Christopher Dummitt
Published on H-Canada
Just exactly who was Canada's "enemy" during the Cold War? Was it the Soviets? Communists more generally? Or was the category much more elusive, and broader? The consensus amongst Canadian social historians, as well as sociologists, and film and literary critics who work on this period, is increasingly forming around the latter answer. Although traditionally understood as a conflict between rival political ideologies and states, in actual practice the Cold War was as often as not a battle within western society itself.
The conflict pitted politicians, bureaucrats, judges, and police against gays, lesbians, immigrants, and left-leaning individuals and groups. The concern in high politics over communist subversion and fifth columnists spread outwards, meaning that sexual, gender, and racial differences could themselves be construed as signs of subversion. You did not need to be a communist to be considered a Cold War enemy; you could equally be a woman who wanted to work outside the home, a man who liked to visit gay bars in Ottawa, or just someone who thought that nuclear weapons were a bad idea.
While these papers are important reading, the book as a whole is less than it might have been. The papers contain conflicting information, not just of interpretation but also of fact. For example, in his introduction Cavell notes that homosexuals were purged from the federal civil service through use of the RCMP-funded "fruit machine," yet elsewhere in the collection, Gary Kinsman argues that the "fruit machine" was unreliable and therefore abandoned. Instead, purges more regularly depended on old-fashioned spying. Similarly, Reg Whitaker argues that the 1952 changes to Canada's Immigration Act that added homosexuality to the list of prohibited categories were largely imposed because of pressure by the Americans and were not used. Franca Iacovetta mentions the immigration restrictions as a sign of the moral panic around homosexuality that engulfed postwar Canada, yet does not mention these qualifying notes. Who are we to believe? Was the "fruit machine" effective or not? Is it important--or true--that the immigration restrictions were not used? These are all potentially explainable irregularities, but a thorough editing could have helped to iron out the differences. Further editing would also have helped us to make sense of Franca Iacovetta's article on eastern European immigrants and their portrayal in Canadian media and social service reports. The article is enlightening about the different ways in which Canadians saw these immigrants, and even partially about the experiences of the immigrants themselves. However, it ends abruptly without a conclusion, leaving the reader waiting for some final comments that would tie it all together.
The issue becomes clearer when we realize that none of the words in the title--love, hate and fear--are seriously analysed within the book's covers. There is a lurking rationality behind all actions here, as if Cold War claims to be afraid of the "other"--whether political, sexual, or moral--were all just a smokescreen for more rational purposes. There is an eagerness here to look underneath, above and just about anywhere else except directly at emotion. This is surprising not only because of the book's title, but also because of the period's particular fascination with the role of impulse and emotion in social life. This was the period in which Freud and the notion of the unconscious entered public speech--the time when Canadians learned what it was to make a "Freudian slip." It was exactly this sense that people could be controlled by something other than reason that so frightened and, at the same time, attracted contemporaries. Hollywood films took up these themes. Perhaps the most famous example is The Manchurian Candidate in which a brainwashed Korean war veteran returns to the United States and is eventually ordered to kill a presidential candidate. The whole affair is given an Oedipal tinge by the fact that the person giving the communist orders in America is the veteran's mother (and much sexual tension ensues). What makes this film so riveting, and what made it so frightening to those in the early 1960s, was the possibility that individuals could be made to do terrible things by stronger forces, whether communist brainwashers or the unconscious itself.
. See, for example, Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War (New York: Basic Books, 1988); and Alan Nadel, Containment Culture: American Narratives, Postmodernism and the Atomic Age (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995).
. Valerie Korinek, Roughing it in the Suburbs: Reading Chatelaine Magazine in the Fifties and Sixties (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000).
. Mary Louise Adams, The Trouble With Normal: Postwar Youth and the Making of Heterosexuality (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997).
. For a thoughtful discussion of what he calls "the allure of accident," see Jackson Lears, Something For Nothing: Luck in America (New York: Viking, 2003).
. See Tom Vanderbilt's review of Greil Marcus, The Manchurian Candidate in The London Review of Books 125, no. 16 (August 21, 2003).