[Marxism] Seven Oaks reviews Canadian Bolsheviks

Ian Angus ian at socialisthistory.ca
Tue Nov 9 14:18:09 MST 2004

Seven Oaks magazine has granted me permission to distribute the 
following book review, which appears in this week's issue. The magazine 
can be found at www.sevenoaks.com.

The review mentions the Book Launch meeting that will be held in 
VANCOUVER on Wednesday, November 17. Full information about that event, 
and about the TORONTO Book Launch meeting (Thursday November 26) can be 
found at http://www.socialisthistory.ca/Publications/pubs.htm



Seven Oaks, November 9, 2004 

by Dale McCartney 

Canadian Bolsheviks: The Early years of the Communist Party of Canada , 
published 2004 by The Socialist History Project, in association with 
Trafford Publishing. 

The field of popular history abounds with bad books. For every Zinn’s 
People’s History of the United States there are a hundred Pierre Berton 
celebrations of white people on Canada’s frontiers. When it comes to 
Canadian history especially, quality books are few and far between. The 
more narrow the category, the more rare the quality book. For the left 
in Canada , there are only a handful of quality histories widely 
available and written in an engaging style. Thankfully, this month the 
reissue of Canadian Bolsheviks, by Ian Angus, makes the list one title 

Angus’s book was originally published in 1981, and has been out of 
print for several years. This month, however, the book is being 
reissued, making Angus’s path-breaking study widely available once 
again. The book is an exploration of the earliest years of the 
Communist Party of Canada, written for both an academic and a popular 
audience. Angus writes of the party’s roots in the Canadian Socialist 
tradition, and chronicles its formation as well as its first decade. 
Throughout he debunks myths and assesses victories and defeats for the 
party, illuminating a period in the history of the Canadian left that 
has received little treatment. When the book was first published, it 
filled an enormous gap in Canadian historiography, discussing a period 
and a group of people who had received far less attention than their 
place in Canadian history deserved. As Angus is quick to point out, as 
well, the other works on the early party had been written by leaders of 
the party many years after the events. Angus carefully analyzes their 
memories, and finds many of them lacking. Tim Buck, the leader of the 
party throughout the Stalinist period and the primary source (before 
the publication of Canadian Bolsheviks) for its history, comes under 
particularly intense scrutiny. Angus illustrates how carefully 
constructed much of Buck’s history of the period was, and in the 
process demonstrates that his role has been considerably overestimated 
in the period before 1924. 

On Wednesday, November 17, Seven Oaks is co-hosting an evening with 
Angus, launching the new release of the book and discussing the role of 
the Communist Party of Canada in its early years. Angus’s book fits 
well with our broader cultural mission. His approach to history, both 
in his interest in the history of resistance and in his accessible 
style, are traits we here at Seven Oaks hope to emulate in our own 
writing. We feel strongly that works like Canadian Bolsheviks 
contribute to a cultural discussion both within traditional wings of 
the left, as well as outside of those groups, that is absolutely 
necessary in this country. An increasingly corporate media, coupled 
with a school system that largely ignores working class history, means 
that book like Angus’s and a vibrant discussion about them is more 
important today than ever. For that reason, we hope that our readers 
will join us Wednesday night, at the Little Mountain Learning Centre in 
Vancouver (3957 Main Stree, or Main and 24th Avenue) at 7:30pm . The 
event is not only an excellent chance to meet and talk with Angus, as 
well as other leaders in the study of working class history, but it is 
also an opportunity for a community discussion of the issues this 
history raises. We hope to see you there. 

For more information on Canadian Bolsheviks or its author, Ian Angus, 
visit www.socialisthistory.ca

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