Editor of Young Worker
My assignment in Alberta didn't last long; one year to be exact. In the fall of 1934, I was asked to come to Toronto to take over the editorship of the Young Worker. Stanley Ryerson, who had just graduated from the Sorbonne, was editing it for a while, but the Party wanted him for more important work. So they asked me to take over. I had been an editor of a Ukrainian youth magazine in Winnipeg, so I guess they thought I'd be able to do the job. That, of course, started a whole new chapter in my life; from then on I was an editor for most of my time in the Party.
I came to Toronto in September, 1934, and my wife followed a few months later, in the spring of 1935. But 1935 was the year the Seventh Congress of the Communist International had met, as a result of which there were some important shifts in party policies. In attitude towards the CCF, for example. Not basic, really, but for public consumption at least. It was also the year when the Canadian Youth Congress was organized.
One of the things the Party tried to do was to transform the Young Worker from an official organ of the YCL to a broader publication. We tried to get the CCYM (Canadian Commonwealth Youth Movement – the CCF's youth wing) to be involved. Murray Cotterill was their representative.
Q. I understand Cotterill later became a PR and advance man for Charlie Millard. What's your assessment of Cotterill in the period you worked with him? And what indication might there have been of a subsequent shift to the opportunist duties? Was he a careerist? Or what?
Yes, he did come across as an arrogant sort of know-it-all. I suppose there was a careerist in there somewhere. He played along with the idea of getting together with the Communists to put out a left-wing magazine, but that didn't last long. The truth is he didn't trust us and we didn't trust him. It was a somewhat artificial effort to carry through the Comintern's Seventh Congress line of building a united front. But I think it was a tongue-in-cheek exercise for both sides. I only met Cotterill twice while we were planning the magazine we called Advance. We produced only two issues of it and then it fizzled out. It was replaced by New Advance, which was edited by Robert Laxer, and that didn't last long, either. Eventually, another more successful magazine, Challenge, was launched and it made a serious effort to broaden its appeal to young people.
I formally join the Party
In 1935 I formally joined the Communist Party. That was also the year that the Party launched a daily newspaper, the Daily Clarion, with Leslie Morris as editor, and I was asked to join the staff. Which was quite a step up for me. The staff included: Ed Cecil-Smith, who later joined the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion in Spain; William Brown Forbes, who left the Party at the outbreak of the war and became editor of the magazine Editor and Publisher and a highly respected figure among Canadian journalists; Carl Dair, who eventually became Canada's most renowned typographer-designer; Bert Whyte, who was a Party journalist for most of his life, chiefly in Beijing and Moscow; Ted Allan and Sydney Gordon, who later coauthored the book The Scalpel, the Sword; Mike Fenwick, who later left the Party and became an organizer for the Steelworkers' Union; Jack Smaller, who became the owner of a small steel company; Beatrice Ferneyhough; Edna Clark, wife of Jack Clark, one-time editor of The Furrow; and others.
Before long, the Daily Clarion fizzled out and was reduced to a weekly. Whyte and I stayed on the weekly right up until after the war broke out in 1939. We were
the last two editors, and in the final weeks played catand-mouse with the detectives who were coming around with orders to close the paper. Without showing up at the office, we would turn the copy over to the workers at Eveready Printers, who were mostly Party members, and in that way put out a couple of issues before it was eventually banned. This was the time when the infamous Comintern order came, asking the Party to change its attitude to the war.
I am sent to Winnipeg
After the Clarion was closed down, the Party's underground leadership ordered my wife and me to go to Winnipeg, where I was assigned to work for the People's Co-operative. But I didn't know, until we got to Winnipeg, that they wanted us to live in a house in south Winnipeg far from north Winnipeg, which was the Communist enclave — and that the house would be used as one of the headquarters for the Party's underground work and for illegal drop-off addresses. We shared the house with Margaret, former mate of James Litterick, then the Manitoba Party leader, and later Margaret Halina, who was one of the underground captains. This was while I worked at the Co-op. I did some work in the office, but it was really a make-do job. It was, of course, very foolish for me to be working openly in the Co-op and living in a place that was being used for illegal Party work.
I worked at the Co-op in Winnipeg through 1940. Then, in the spring of 1941, the Party leadership decided I should become manager of a creamery the Co-op had just purchased. It was located in the town of Minnedosa, in the heart of a right-wing Tory rural area in western Manitoba. For its first few months the creamery was managed by Emil Miller, a former YCL leader from the late 1920s and early 1930s. Not only was Miller a Communist, but also a German Jew. So when the war broke out it became obvious he had to go into hiding. His wife, Octavia Kraikiwska, a young Ukrainian woman originally from Edmonton, stayed on as manager for a while until they found a replacement. Because we wound up with no place to stay, my wife Gladys went back home to Alberta for a while and I found a cot in the home of Myron Kostyniuk in north Winnipeg for the few days until I would have to go to Minnedosa.
A close call
The official opening of the creamery was scheduled for July 1st, so I left the day before. Well, it so happened that that night the RCMP carried out mass raids throughout Winnipeg and arrested more than a dozen Party leaders and activists, who were subsequently interned. Kostyniuk was one of them. Had I stayed there another night, I too would have been picked up. Instead, I wound up in Minnedosa. My wife joined me soon after and together we managed the creamery for a whole year. It was quite an experience. I learned a lot about the dairy business: testing cream and the mechanics of making butter, dealing with the farmers who were bringing in the cream, and handling the retail end of it.
Because it was a very conservative area, we had to mind our p's and q's. And there were many interesting moments. I joined the local Chamber of Commerce and the Elks Club, of all things. I also learned to play golf and even played a couple of rounds with the local RCMP officer. Meanwhile they were looking for me. But they were looking for a Boychuk. Indeed, I was told later that one of the chaps they interned was an immigrant named Boychuk. When they asked him if he had been an editor of the Young Worker, he didn't know what they were talking about. So they realized they had the wrong man. I learned later that Tom McEwen, who was in the underground leadership of the Party then, was very critical of my being in Minnedosa, saying: "How come Boyd is out there working in a creamery? He should be involved in the class struggle, in the fight against the class enemy." But I also heard that nothing came of it.
Back to Toronto
I spent about a year and half in Minnedosa, until the summer of 1942, when I got orders to come to Toronto to join the staff of the Canadian Tribune as business manager. Ted Herman, who had occupied that position, had joined the army and was sent overseas and I was to take his place. We learned soon after that he was one of the first Canadians killed. Besides being manager I also helped with the editing. A. A. MacLeod was the editor and Harry Fistell his assistant. This was the time when Dorise Neilsen was elected to Parliament on a peace ticket. Soon after, I was replaced as business manager and went to work exclusively on the editorial side. I stayed with the Tribune until after Leslie Morris came out of hiding and took over as editor. That wasthe time when Nathan Cohen joined the editorial staff. He had been with the Glace Bay Gazette in Nova Scotia. Later he became a renowned drama critic for the Toronto Star.
Q. How well regarded was the Tribune, in the wider Canadian journalistic community, as a source for news over the time frame of your association with it?
There were times when it was regarded quite highly. But this was mitigated by the fact that it did carry Soviet directives or what was regarded as Soviet propaganda. I believe it gained more support after the 20th Congress, when it published Khrushchev's historic speech and there was the beginning of a broader approach by the editors. But after 1956 it lost some of that and never reached far beyond the immediate Party supporters.
In 1943, on my 30th birthday, Gladys went into the maternity ward of the old Mount Sinai Hospital, and in the early morning of the following day our daughter, Bonnie Kathleen, was born.
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