Joseph Baruch Salsberg et la montée du judéo-communisme au Canada

Wikipédia

Joseph Baruch (JB) Salsberg (5 novembre 1902 – 8 février 1998) était un politicien d’Ontario, au Canada. Il a été membre du « Labor Progressive Party » de l’Assemblée législative de l’Ontario de 1943 à 1955 et a représenté la circonscription de St. Andrew, au centre-ville de Toronto. Il était communiste de longue date et activiste dans la communauté juive.

Origine

Salsberg est né en 1902 d’Abraham et Sarah Gitel Salsberg dans la petite ville de Lagow (Lagov, en prononciation yiddish), dans le quartier Opatow de Radom dans ce qui est aujourd’hui la Pologne[1]Ron Csillag, Lives lived: Joseph Baruch Salsberg, Toronto Star, 6 Mars 1998, p. A14. Il a émigré au Canada avec ses parents en 1913 à l’âge de 11 ans, s’installant à Toronto. Son père a travaillé comme colporteur pour subvenir aux besoins de sa femme et de ses sept enfants[2]https://web.archive.org/web/20170324043821/http://ontariojewisharchives.org/Explore/Joseph-B.-Salsberg. Joseph a abandonné l’école publique Landsdowne après deux ans, à l’âge de 13 ans, afin de travailler dans des ateliers clandestins à temps plein pour 3$ par semaine pour aider à subvenir aux besoins de la famille, mais a continué à étudier la nuit pour être rabbin selon la tradition orthodoxe[3]https://web.archive.org/web/20170324043821/http://ontariojewisharchives.org/Explore/Joseph-B.-Salsberg. Son expérience industrielle l’a mené à l’activisme ouvrier, particulièrement dans le syndicat des ouvriers du vêtement où il s’est battu pour l’amélioration des salaires et des conditions. À 16 ans, il informe ses parents traditionalistes qu’il abandonne les études talmudiques au profit d’une philosophie humaniste laïque[4]https://dansmessouvenirs.com/wp-content/uploads/Archive/The-Life-And-Career-Of-Salsberg-Exhibit-Ontario-Jewish-Archive.pdf. Il a rejoint un groupe de travailleurs socialistes-sionistes, le Young Poale Zion, et s’est rapidement élevé à la direction jusqu’à aller à New York pour servir comme secrétaire général du groupe nord-américain de 1922 à 1924[5]https://web.archive.org/web/20110709162317/http://www.habonimdror.org/resources/arise%20and%20build/APPENDIZ.htm, éditant son journal et offrant des tournés de discours à travers le continent. Il est retourné à Toronto et est devenu organisateur pour le Hat, Cap, and Millinery Workers Union of North America et, en 1927, a épousé Dora Wilensky qui est devenue plus tard une travailleuse sociale du Jewish Family and Child Services[6]https://web.archive.org/web/20170324043821/http://ontariojewisharchives.org/Explore/Joseph-B.-Salsberg

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Activité communiste

En 1926, le syndicalisme et le socialisme de Salsberg l’ont amené à devenir un membre actif du Parti Communiste du Canada. Il est devenu bien connu dans la communauté juive, dont beaucoup de membres étaient des travailleurs du quartier spécialisé dans les vêtements qui était concentré autour de l’avenue Spadina. Il est devenu vice-président de l’Union internationale des chapeliers et membre du Comité central du Parti communiste. Il a participé à plusieurs campagnes de syndicalisation à travers le Canada.

En 1932, Salsberg est devenu l’organisateur de district du sud de l’Ontario pour la Workers Unity League un groupe dirigé par des communistes cherchant à remplacer les syndicats de production traditionnels du Canada par des syndicats industriels. Il a atteint une plus grande importance dans ce rôle; L’historien canadien Irving Abella a écrit plus tard que Salsberg était connu comme le « commissaire » du mouvement syndical du Sud de l’Ontario.

Politique

En 1938, il fut élu échevin du conseil municipal de Toronto représentant le quartier 4 (qui comprenait les quartiers de la classe ouvrière en grande partie juifs autour de l’avenue Spadina et du marché Kensington). Il était connu dans toute la ville pour son travail sur les questions sociales. Jugé par des adversaires comme étant une marionnette de Joseph Staline, Salsberg a plaisanté en disant que « Vous avez raison. J’ai reçu un télégramme de Joe Staline ce matin m’ordonnant de demander un parc pour le quartier 4[7]Nicolaas van Rijn, Godfather of Spadina’ Joe Salsberg One-time Communist was compassionate, Toronto Star, 9 Février 1988. »

Aux élections provinciales de 1943, il se présente comme candidat du Labor Progressive Party dans la circonscription de St. Andrew, au centre-ville de Toronto. Il a vaincu le président libéral sortant J.J. Glass par 5150 voix[8]Canadian Press, Ontario Election Results, The Gazette Montreal, 5 Août 1943, p. 12. Le LPP, connu sous le nom de « Communist Party of Ontario », avait été fondé comme le visage juridique du Parti Communiste du Canada qui avait été interdit en 1941. Salsberg a été élu aux côtés de son collègue A.A. MacLeod, qui représentait la circonscription voisine de Bellwoods. Il a été réélu en 1945, 1948 et 1951.

Salsberg était un député populaire à l’intérieur et à l’extérieur de la chambre des députés et était respecté par les membres de tous les partis. Il a joué un rôle déterminant dans l’introduction de la « Racial Discrimination Act » de 1944 qu’il a proposée à la suite d’avis publiés interdisant aux juifs et aux Noirs l’accès à diverses piscines de Toronto et à la suite d’autres cas d’antisémitisme et de racisme dans la province. La loi a été l’un des fondements qui ont mené à l’adoption éventuelle du « Ontario Human Rights Code. »

La plupart de ses discours n’étaient pas idéologiques et il n’a presque jamais fait référence à l’Union soviétique pendant son mandat à l’Assemblée législative. Leslie Frost, le premier ministre progressiste-conservateur de la province de 1949 à 1961, respectait les capacités de Salsberg en tant que parlementaire; il a même été rapporté que Frost était disposé à offrir à Salsberg un poste au sein du cabinet s’il passait au Parti progressiste-conservateur. Frost a nommé le canton de Salsberg près de ce qui est aujourd’hui la Thunder Bay en son honneur[9]Nicolaas van Rijn, Godfather of Spadina’ Joe Salsberg One-time Communist was compassionate, Toronto Star, 9 Février 1988.

Salsberg était le seul communiste à l’Assemblée législative après les élections de 1951 au cours desquelles MacLeod a perdu son siège. Salsberg a fait l’éloge de Staline sur le sol de la maison lorsque le dirigeant soviétique est décédé en 1953 et ce discours a été utilisé contre lui lors de la campagne électorale de 1955 lorsqu’il a été battu par le progressiste-conservateur Allan Grossman, [le deuxième ministre juif canadien du Cabinet en Ontario après David Croll].

Rompre avec le communisme

Salsberg s’intéressait depuis plusieurs années à l’antisémitisme dans l’Union Soviétique et a confronté le chef communiste canadien Tim Buck à ce sujet dès 1939. Il est resté silencieux sur la question pendant plusieurs années (en partie pour maintenir l’unité du parti pendant Seconde Guerre mondiale), mais est devenu de plus en plus troublé par l’antisémitisme durant les années 1950. Il s’est rendu en URSS en 1955 et 1956 et a été témoin de l’ampleur de la campagne antisémite qui avait persécuté les juifs dans ce pays.

Salsberg a tenté de confronter personnellement Nikita Khrouchtchev à ce sujet lors de sa deuxième visite, mais ses préoccupations ont été rejetées. Désillusionné également par l’invasion soviétique de la Hongrie et le discours secret de Khrouchtchev, il démissionna du Parti communiste à son retour au Canada (menant un exode comprenant la moitié de l’exécutif national). Salsberg a rendu compte de ses conclusions au Labor Progressive Party et à une organisation alliée, le « United Jewish Peoples’ Order. » En conséquence, il a été suspendu pendant un certain temps de la direction du LPP et, après un débat interne, a quitté le LPP avec la plupart de ses cadres juifs. L’UJPO a soutenu les conclusions de Salsberg et a rompu ses liens avec le parti. Néanmoins, Salsberg et un certain nombre de ses partisans ont continué de plaider pour que l’UJPO se distancie davantage de l’Union soviétique jusqu’à ce que lui et environ 200 membres de l’UJPO, environ un tiers de l’organisation, démissionnent en 1959 et fondent la New Fraternal Jewish Association en 1960 dans lequel Salsberg fut un membre de direction jusqu’à sa mort.

Fin de vie

La fin des années 1950 a été une période de tragédie pour Salsberg: en plus de perdre sa croyance dans le communisme (et son siège à l’Assemblée législative), son épouse Dora décéda en 1959. Il s’est retiré de l’activité politique pendant un certain temps et vendit des assurances pour subvenir. Selon certaines informations, il aurait finalement pu faire une petite fortune grâce à cette pratique.

Salsberg rejoint plus tard le Congrès juif canadien (qui avait auparavant expulsé ses membres communistes). En 1959, lui et environ un tiers des membres de l’UJPO sont partis, estimant que l’organisation n’était pas assez critique à l’égard de l’Union Soviétique, et ont commencé une nouvelle organisation appelée la « New Fraternal Jewish Association. » La NFJA était composée principalement d’anciens communistes juifs toujours intéressés à promouvoir la justice sociale. Salsberg était également impliqué dans une variété d’activités culturelles, y compris des programmes de langue yiddish.

Salsberg est également retourné au sionisme ouvrier et, dans sa vieillesse, a été chroniqueur de longue date pour le « Canadian Jewish News » jusqu’à peu de temps avant sa mort.


A vanished ideology: Essays on the Jewish communist movement in the English-speaking world in the twentieth century

In August 1941 the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAFC), headed by prominent Soviet Jewish personalities, had been formed in Moscow to seek aid from the Jews in the West; soon its appeals would become a regular feature in the Vochenblat. « The future of the world and of the Jewish people now hung in the balance », editorialized the Vochenblat, and « we must do all we can for victory over bloody Hitlerism. » The Communists quickly went into action. The paper announced that a mass meeting would he held at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto on July 8. Calls were made for Canada to establish diplomatic and trade relations with the USSR. A similar gathering was held in the Montreal Forum on July 22. On September 28, the New York journalist and pro-Soviet activist B. Z. Goldberg addressed a large meeting in Montreal organized by the Quebec Committee for Allied Victory. On November 3, Goldberg spoke in Toronto on behalf of the Toronto Labour League, alongside Sol Shek, secretary of the League (and brother of Abraham). The league, unlike many other CP-led groups, had managed to survive the hiatus of 1939-1941 almost undiminished. Now, as Morris Biderman, a member of the Labour League since 1937 and its president after 1942, would eventually recall in his autobiography, the League « benefited and became acceptable in the community » as « Toronto’s outspoken Jewish pro-Soviet organization. »

In Winnipeg, a meeting was held at the home of Dr. Benjamin Victor on October 24 to plan for ways to help the USSR. When the newly created Winnipeg Council for Allied Victory held its first big meeting on November 9, Victor, as chair ol the event, read out the appeal made by the JAFC for help. Other speakers included lawyer Joe Zuken and Labi Basman, who had become secretary of the Jewish Committee for Medical Aid to the Soviet Union, an affiliate of the Council. Monies collected would be sent to Russia via the Canadian Red Cross. Joe Zuken would be elected a Winnipeg school board trustee for Ward 3, where the overwhelming majority of Winnipeg Jews lived, in late November I941.

By the end of 1941, with the United States in the war as well, mainstream Jewish organizations such as the CJC had joined the pro-Soviet effort, and notables such as Allan and Samuel Bronfman, president of the CJC, were also becoming involved. In Montreal, a mass rally of 12,000 people, organized by the Montreal Committee for Medical Aid to the Soviet Union, gathered in the Forum on December 18. The meeting, which raised $20,000, was addressed by two prominent speakers: Joseph E. Davics, the former U.S. ambassador to the USSR, whose influential book, Mission to Moscow, had recently been published; and Liberal MP Peter Bcrcovitch, the city’s only Jewish member of Parliament. Davics told his audience that « Stalin is a great man… Everything he has done has been the result of his fervent idealism. » At the rally. Allan Bronfman called on Canadian Jews to raise S1 million for Soviet war relief. By year’s end $48,000 hail been raised in Toronto and $10,000 in Winnipeg, where the CJC had joined with the Jewish pro-Soviet groups such as the Jewish Peoples Committee in order to raise money. Such gatherings, with their resolutions calling for solidarity with the USSR and Jewish unity at home, would become commonplace for the duration of the war.

While the ICOR had become dormant with the onset of war, another Yiddish-language CP front, the World Jewish Cultural Union, or Alveltlekher Yidisher Kultur Farband (YKUF), founded in Paris in September 1937, gained strength. ICOR activists, such as Labl Rasman and Dr. Victor in Winnipeg and Herman Abramovitch in Toronto, transferred their political energies into YKUF work. Dr. Victor had become chair of the Winnipeg YKUF and by early 1941 there were three YKUF reading circles in Winni- peg. Much of this pro-Soviet cultural ferment had occurred as a result of the arrival in Winnipeg, in 1940, of Basman, the new principal of the Sholem Aleichem School, formerly the Liberty Temple School. Founded in 1921, the school had become a pro-Soviet institution, separated from the Arbayter Ring, and changed its name, in 1932. Basman had taught at the school for two years after coming to Canada in 1928, and now once again brought « fire and dynamism and energetic liveliness » to the institution, while be « inspired others to work above and beyond their strength. » remarked Boris Noznitsky, the vice-chair of the school committee.

Sholeni Shtern, in 1941, applauded the high literary standards of the YKUF journal « Yidishe Kultur. » With its articles on history and science, « Yidishe Kultur binds us to other countries », wrote Shtern. « It brings to our attention life in the Soviet Union, including the work of its Jewish writers. » In late 1941, the YKUF branches in Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor. Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver were organized into a unified Canadian organization, with a central committee in Toronto, under the direction of Moishe Feldman and Rose Bronstein, who became, respectively, the national chair and national secretary. In January 1942, the YKUF held its first major Canadian conference in Montreal. Nakhman Mayzel, literary critic and editor of Yidishe Kultur, traveled from New York to lecture on the novelists Sholem Asch and David Bergelson. The delegates called upon Canada to do its utmost to help the war effort and sent a resolution to that effect to Prime Minister Mackenzie King.

The honorary president of the YKUF, Khaim Zhitlovsky, was already the grand old man of socialist Yidishkayt; during the war years, he became a Communist icon as well. When Hitler invaded the USSR. Zhitlovsky insisted that for Jews, this war was literally « a matter of life and death: » therefore all Jews, no matter what their political sympathies, must support the Soviets « with all their heart. » Zhitlovsky’s 75th birthday in the autumn of 1941 was celebrated by YKUF branches across the country. His sudden death in Calgary on May 6, 1943. while on a cross-Canada tour, « hit us like a thunderbolt », reported the Vochenblat. Zhidovsky had been an icon of the Yiddishist movement, particularly in western Canada, and be had inspired the rounding of a strong secular Yiddish school system in the country.

As news of the Holocaust began to emerge, many Canadian Jews saw in the Soviets the only chance to save what little was left of European Jewry. As Ben Lappin, then a CJC officer, noted in later years, « the summer of 1943 was no lime to cast aspersions on the Soviet Union. » This widespread conviction provided the Canadian Jewish Communists with an unprecedented, if historically short-lived, series of electoral victories in the closing years of World War II. The stage was set with the visit of two illustrious Soviet Jewish emissaries to the Canadian Jewish community in September of l943. The Vochenblat had already run many stories about the JAFC, in particular ol its leading members, the actor Shloime Mikhoels and the poet Irzik Fefer. When these two Soviet envoys, accompanied by the American Yiddish novelist Sholem Asch, visited Canada as part of a tour that included the Jewish communities of Britain, Mexico, and the United States, they were greeted at mass meetings of 25,000 people in both Montreal and Toronto. Both the Canadian Jewish Congress and B’nai Brith held receptions for them in Montreal. Fefer said that Hitler had begun to realize that Jews were able to give as well as to receive blows. « Hitler was strongly mistaken about Russian Jewry », added Mikhoels. « It never occurred to him that Jews would fight back. » Fefer told a crowd at Maple Leaf Gardens roaring with approval that Stalin himself had seen the two emissaries of and had wished them good luck, while Mikhoels once again « spoke as witness to the Holocaust. »

In the 1940s, some 30 percent of the Communist Pary membership in Toronto was Jewish, according to Sam Lipshitz. In Montreal, related Harry Binder, then a leading Quebec Communist, the figure may have been as high as 70 percent. Communists were becoming ever more accepted in the community; no longer ostracized, but often lionized. Though the Communist Party had been banned in 1940, it reemerged in 1943 as the Labor-Progressive Party (LPP). With the Soviets having turned the tide at Stalingrad, it would ride the pro-Soviet wave to electoral victories in heavily Jewish constituencies. Particularly in Montreal, fears of domestic anti-Semitism meshed with concern over the fate of the Jews of Europe. In December 1942, a well-known Communist, Michael Buhay, was elected to the Montreal city council as one or three councillors from District 5, whose municipal boundaries to a large extent coincided with the federal riding of Carrier, where the majority of Montreal’s Jews lived.

The Communists now set their sights on a bigger prize. The city’s predominantly Jewish neighborhoods, all within the federal riding of Cartier, would go the polls in August 1943 in a by-election made necessary by the death in 1942 of their Liberal MR Peter Bercovitch. The 18,000 Jewish electors in Carrier constituted almost half the total number of voters and had made the riding a Liberal stronghold: both Bercovitch and his predecessor, Sam Jacobs, had been Jewish Liberals. The Communists selected as their candidate in the by-election the long-time Communist leader and pamphleteer Fred Rose. Rose was already well-regarded for his work in exposing fascism in Canada and had written articles and pamphlets on the subject. He had run as a candidate in the Carrier riding in 1935, winning 16 percent of the vote. Rose had been arrested and interned in September 1942, but had been released after signing a memo agreeing to support the war effort.

Michael Buhay, in a profile of the candidate, emphasized that Rose was an energetic advocate for workers and a proud Jew. The Jewish community of Carrier « have duties and obligations to the tortured Jews of Europe », declared Max Bailey, another prominent Montreal Jewish Communist. A Jew should definitely represent the riding, but, he added, in an allusion to the Liberal candidate, Lazarus Phillips, the representative of Montreal’s Jewish establishment, the new MP need not be « a rich Jewish lawyer with connections in the multi-millionaire world. » Rose’s campaign literature described him as « A Friend of the U.S.S.R. » and a supporter of « Soviet-Canadian Unity. » Rose’s platform called for a « quick victory over Hitler. » opposition to anti-Semitism, and « Soviet-Canadian friendship », alongside such standard left-wing domestic items as slum clearance, a minimum wage, and postwar jobs.

On August 9 Rose, with 5,789 votes, narrowly edged out the French Canadian nationalist candidate, Paul Massé, who received, 5,639 votes running for the anti-war Bloc Populaire Canadien. Rose received few French Canadian votes, while Masse got almost no Jewish votes. Phillips came in third, with 4,180 votes. Following his election, Rose played a prominent role in the Jewish Communists’ pro-war efforts. He also continued to battle against right-wing anti-Semites in Quebec. The coming defeat of Hitler by « the glorious Red Army » would be « the funeral march » of those who still hoped that anti-Semitism and fascism might survive in some form in Canada after the war, he told a rally on April 12, 1944. In a speech to the House of Commons on July 4. Rose called for an inquiry into anti-Semitism in Quebec. Thanks to his work as an MP, and the reflected glory of the Red Army’s triumph over Hitler, Rose would retain his seat in the June 11, 1945 federal election, nearly doubling his vote, to beat a Liberal, Samuel Schwisberg, who ran second, and Massé. « Fred Rose knows Cartier. He knows the people and the countries from which they come », stated one of his election pamphlets. « Let us re-elect the courageous fighter, the defender of the Jewish people, as our representative », proclaimed another.

The pro-Soviet sentiment that had swept the Jewish community, casting the USSR in the role of saviour of the Jewish people, had enabled the LPP to mobilize a mass base of support. The Communists had also been able to tap into the insecurity of Montreal Jews, who feared hostility and anti-Semitism on the part of so many French Canadians, ranging from intellectuals to street thugs.

In the August 8, 1944 Quebec provincial election, Michael Bubay of the LPP ran a respectable second to the Liberal candidate, Maurice Hartt, in the largely Jewish St. Louis riding, winning 6,512 votes to Hants 9,439. The Communists called for Jews to vote LPP in order to defeat the « dark dreams » of the Bloc Populaire and of Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis’s Union Nationale. As a municipal councillor Buhay had introduced a resolution in March 1943 calling for the Montreal city council to formally protest Hitler’s genocidal policies towards the Jews of Europe. Buhay’s resolution failed. In contrast, the Toronto City Council passed a similar motion unanimously.

In Ontario, J. B. Salsbcrg had been elected a Toronto alderman tor Ward 4 in 1937 but despite support from the liberal Toronto Star, which approved of his « humanitarianism », he was defeated just a year later. No assimilationist, Salsbcrg emphasized his Jewishness in his political and trade union activities. The Communist Party was, for him, « a vehicle for celebrating secular Judaism and cultural nationalism expressed through the medium of Yiddish. » He regained the seat at the beginning of 1943 and later that year became a member of the provincial parliament, winning the predominantly Jewish constituency of St. Andrew in August 1943; he would be re-elected in June 1945 with a comfortable majority and again in 1948 and 1951. (Bellwoods, a neighboring riding with many Jewish voters, also elected a Communist, A. A. MacLeod.) Aldermen such as Norman Freed, Sam Carr’s uncle, elected to the Toronto city council from Ward 4 in 1944 despite having been interned between 1940 and 1942, also provided the LPP with a visible profile in the Jewish community. In the 1945 federal election, Tim Buck and Sam Can, though losing to Liberals, both received substantial support in Toronto-Trinity and Toronto-Spadina, seats with large Jewish populations, while in Winnipeg Joe Zukcn ran second in Winnipeg North to a candidate of the social democratic CCF. The Communists were certainly making their presence lelt in the Jewish community.

Relations entre l’Église catholique et le CCF en Saskatchewan

Une vague de controverse a tourné autour de nombreux centres au Canada à la suite de cette déclaration publiée le 21 octobre 1943 par l’évêques de l’Église catholique canadienne. Seulement neuf ans plus tôt, Mgr. Gauthier de Montréal avait publié une lettre pastorale dans laquelle il a ouvertement condamné le programme de la Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) « au triple motif qu’il déniait le droit fondamental de l’homme à la propriété privée, incitait à la guerre des classes et était inévitablement matérialiste en philosophie. » Et les catholiques se souvenaient des mots du Pape Pie XI dans son encyclique Quadragesimo Anno de 1931: « Personne ne peut être à la fois un catholique sincère et un vrai socialiste. »

Références   [ + ]

1. Ron Csillag, Lives lived: Joseph Baruch Salsberg, Toronto Star, 6 Mars 1998, p. A14
2, 3, 6. https://web.archive.org/web/20170324043821/http://ontariojewisharchives.org/Explore/Joseph-B.-Salsberg
4. https://dansmessouvenirs.com/wp-content/uploads/Archive/The-Life-And-Career-Of-Salsberg-Exhibit-Ontario-Jewish-Archive.pdf
5. https://web.archive.org/web/20110709162317/http://www.habonimdror.org/resources/arise%20and%20build/APPENDIZ.htm
7. Nicolaas van Rijn, Godfather of Spadina’ Joe Salsberg One-time Communist was compassionate, Toronto Star, 9 Février 1988
8. Canadian Press, Ontario Election Results, The Gazette Montreal, 5 Août 1943, p. 12
9. Nicolaas van Rijn, Godfather of Spadina’ Joe Salsberg One-time Communist was compassionate, Toronto Star, 9 Février 1988

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