Monday, April 1, 2013

Class Conflict and Civil Liberties: The Origins and Activities of the Canadian Labour Defense League, 1925 - 1940

By J. Petryshyn
Labour/Le Travailleur
Autumn 1982

DURING ITS EXISTENCE from 1925 to 1940, the Canadian Labour Defense League (CLDL) was subject to a wide range of interpretation. Some viewed it as a diabolical bolshevik organization designed to create dissension within Canadian society. To others, it was a humanitarian agency which sought to relieve those who had found themselves in intolerable conditions. Led by Albert Edward Smith! a methodist minister turned communist, the CLDL rose in prominence (or notoriety) during the worst years of the depression, promoting communist policies, agitating on behalf of the Communist Party of Canada (CPC), and defending before the courts over 6,000 individuals - communists and non-communists alike - who had run astray of the law because of their militant activities. 

The CLDL was especially effective after the arrest and conviction of Tim Buck and seven other communist leaders in 1931 under the controversial Section 98 of the Criminal Code. Skillfully intertwining communism with the defense of civil liberties in Canada, the CLDL launched a series of protest campaigns which not only brought the organization a substantial following but also had a significant impact on the country's political leaders.

This paper will reconstruct the origins and activities of the CLDL and assess its role in the turbulent and violent interwar years.

Read HERE. (pdf)

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