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Hurrah Revolutionaries

Hurrah Revolutionaries: The Polish Canadian Communist Movement, 1918-1948

Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    Hurrah Revolutionaries
    Book Description:

    Polish Canadians typically identify themselves as stringent anti-Communists, a label solidified by the legacies of the 1980s Solidarity movement, its founder Lech Walęsa, and the widespread anti-Communist riots that helped topple the Communist regime in 1989. Hurrah Revolutionaries challenges this common perception by examining the Polish immigrant community in Canada and the development of radical and traditionally "deviant" ideologies during the interwar period until the end of the Second World War. Patryk Polec unveils a versatile, well-funded, and influential Polish pro-Communist movement with a talented leadership that worked tirelessly to persuade traditionally conservative and religious immigrants to adopt an ideology that was anti-nationalist and atheist. He traces the roots of socialist support in Poland, its transplantation to Canada where the movement enjoyed its greatest support, the challenges the movement faced within an ethnic community influenced by Catholicism, and the complications caused by its links to the Communist International. Polec offers a deeper understanding of the ways in which the Communist Party was able to appeal to certain ethnic groups through cultural outreach as well as its complicated and often counter-productive relationship with the Soviet Union. Grounded in recently declassified Polish consular documents and RCMP surveillance reports, Hurrah Revolutionaries is the first full-length study of Polish Communists in Canada, a group that constituted a substantial portion of the country’s socialist left in the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8207-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A Guide to Pronouncing Polish
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Preface
    (pp. xv-xxii)
  7. Illustrations
    (pp. xxiii-2)
  8. 1 History, Politics, and “Deviant(?)” Polish Canadians
    (pp. 3-16)

    Between the 1920s and the end of World War II, Polish Canadian Communists struck a responsive chord among several thousand Polish immigrants. In fact, the Polish Communists’ central organization, the Polskie Towarzystwo Robotniczo-Farmerskie (ptrf, Polish Workers’ and Farmers’ Association), later the Polskie Towarzystwo Ludowe (ptl, Polish People’s Association), was one of the largest Polish federations in Canada with a membership that was comparable in size to its Polish religious and secular counterparts. The Communist movement became popular not only because of a talented and dedicated core elite, but primarily because of favourable political and economic circumstances, such as the Great...

  9. 2 Gorączka Emigracyjna: Emigration Fever
    (pp. 17-34)

    The history of Polish immigration to Canada until the 1950s falls into three distinct periods. The first includes the relatively small emigration of political refugees who, due to pressures resulting from the Austrian, Prussian, and Russian partition of Poland at the end of the eighteenth century, were forced into exile. The second covers the years from the last decade of the nineteenth century to the outbreak of World War II. This period witnessed a profound influx of Polish immigration to Canada and can be characterized as an economic migration. Strictly speaking, it began during the inauguration of an energetic immigration...

  10. 3 The Law of Attraction: Polish Immigrants on the Move
    (pp. 35-51)

    Polish immigrants to Canada were not homogenous. Various factors and motivations worked in varying degrees for potential emigrants. For the majority, the move was purely economic. The Sarnecki family, who came from Galicia to Alberta in 1897, initially hesitated leaving their familiar village surroundings, but the prospects of gaining vast tracts of cheap farmland won them over.¹ One Polish immigrant recalls “life on 6 morgens of land was difficult and hard, so we decided to search for a piece of bread … and emigrate to Canada.”² Others made the long journey because of their personal ambitions. There were those who...

  11. 4 Getting Organized: Polish Reds, Rebels, and Radicals
    (pp. 52-69)

    Karl Marx had followers among Poles in Canada from the early 1900s onward. Diverse forms of social and labour radicalism found expression in various contending groups united in their desire for a society governed by and for the working masses. Polish socialists, who combined social radicalism with Polish nationalist objectives, coalesced around the Polskie Socjalistyczne Stowarzyszenie im. Stefana Okrzei (Stefan Okrzeja Polish Socialist Society), established in Montreal in 1906. Its members, mostly progressive intellectuals, favoured a secular trend in education and social life. They were radical patriots who combined their objectives with the national struggle for Polish independence. Many of...

  12. 5 Gaude, Mater Polonia: The Battleground
    (pp. 70-90)

    Polonia, in many respects, is an “imagined community” in the sense described by Benedict Anderson.¹ Though Polonia may be imagined, this does not preclude its actual existence. Its community organizations are real and the people that are associated with them hold in their minds a mental image of their affinity to Polonia. Poles residing in Canada and their compatriots in Poland commonly refer to the Polish Canadian diaspora asPolonia Kanadyjska(Canadian Polonia). The termPoloniais derived from the Latin name for Poland, but it is widely used, both in popular and official discourse, to refer to Polish groups...

  13. 6 The Law of Appeal: Joining the Revolutionary Movement
    (pp. 91-107)

    Some historians of Canadian immigration and labour describe Communism as a manifestation of migrants’ desolation, or as a movement of the disenchanted and disenfranchised who felt bypassed by the opportunities to enter mainstream society.¹ Although disillusionment and defeat were decisive factors in turning immigrants toward radicalism, such an explanation alone does not suffice. Many immigrants had the opportunity to associate with the radical movement but consciously chose not to. For all its unsavory connections to atheism and violent revolution, Communism was not simply a negative philosophy opposed to the status quo. It was an alternative to existing arrangements based on...

  14. 7 Treading on Hostile Ground: Promoting Proletarianism, Mutualism, and Internationalism in Canadian and Polish Canadian Society
    (pp. 108-127)

    The Communist Party of Canada (cpc) has often been portrayed as “a franchise-holder of an international radical brand” that was “little more than a passive recipient of Moscow directives.”¹ Ian McKay challenges this assumption, arguing that radical formations in Canada change over time: “They start off by borrowing massively from other countries … Then, after a decade or so … the formation changes. It starts to generate interesting idiosyncrasies that set it apart on the world stage.”² The cpc was certainly riddled with idiosyncrasies that set it apart from other Communist parties. Not only did it have to consider the...

  15. 8 Red Culture
    (pp. 128-147)

    The 1936 annual festival held by the Polish Farmer Temple Association (ptrf) at the Workers’ Benevolent Association farm in East Kildonan, Manitoba, was, according to rcmp agents, “a well-attended affair.”³ A lively atmosphere prevailed during a day of eating, drinking, and music. The program even included stunt flying by two aeroplanes that were chartered for the occasion.⁴ Men sat separately and discussed politics and the deplorable economic situation, especially in the factories where many of them worked. Intermissions between the fun and games were filled with speeches about the class struggle and Soviet Russia’s war on capitalism. The guest of...

  16. 9 The Changing Tide: Polish Communists in the Wake of World War II
    (pp. 148-169)

    As of June 1936, when William Lyon Mackenzie King replaced R.B. Bennett’s discredited government and repealed Section 98 of the Criminal Code, the Communist Party of Canada (cpc) was once again able to operate aboveground.¹ From its restoration until August 1939, the party’s activities met with considerable success – its candidates for public office began to enjoy more support, its influence grew within trade unions, and it experienced a steady increase in membership.² These promising advances came to an abrupt end in late August 1939 with the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. For years, Communists had condemned fascism and clamoured...

  17. 10 The Last Leap of Faith
    (pp. 170-189)

    The end of World War II solidified the Communist takeover of Poland. In July 1945, Ottawa recognized the Soviet-backed Provisional Government of National Unity in Warsaw, which formed the backbone of the Communists’ fresh power. The new authorities in People’s Poland appointed Albert Morski, the chief editor of the Polish Canadian Communist newspaperKronika Tygodniowa(Weekly chronicle), as their representative in Ottawa. Canadian authorities, however, rejected Morski because of his radical political past. After long deliberations, Dr Alfred Fiderkiewicz was appointed the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Canada in 1946.¹

    On the surface, the Polish Communists appeared to have...

  18. Conclusion
    (pp. 190-196)

    Polish Canadian Communist organizations, like so many of their counterparts in Canada and elsewhere, were launched by a small group of alienated but highly dedicated individuals. Feeling at odds and out of place, and no longer attached to a world in which everything seemed to be chaotic, they longed for a doctrine that would explain the paradoxes and social ills around them. By becoming associated with Communism, these individuals exchanged a “normal” life for prosecution, insecurity, and total commitment. By becoming Polish Communists in Canada, they only rebelled against economic and social hardship, but also defied traditional forms of authority...

  19. Appendix
    (pp. 197-208)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 209-266)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 267-288)
  22. Index
    (pp. 289-301)