Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Book Notes: Wentzell on the MacPaps

Edward Cecil-Smith was "an educated, thoughtful, employed, bookish married man who described himself as a pacifist." The son of missionaries in China, he was a Communist party activist in 1930s Toronto and an agit-prop playwright. 

Then, on the basis of some early militia experience, he became the commander of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion and led the Canadian unit into combat as part of the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War 1936-39. 

Not For King or Country:Edward Cecil-Smith, the Communist Party of Canada, and the Spanish Civil War is Tyler Wentzell's biography of Cecil-Smith, newly published by University of Toronto Press.  It's a study of Communist activity in Toronto, followed by a penetrating military history of the Canadians' combat experience in Spain, all held together by the curious figure of Cecil-Smith, who, as Wentzell puts it, was "not a drifter, not unemployed, not unattached, not an adventurer" -- the standard profile (or image) of the typical MacPap.

Since I gave Tyler Wentzell some advice and get a credit (along with many others) in the book, I'll say no more, except that it seems to me a vivid and unfamiliar story.  

Update, March 6:  Wentzell and Patrice Dutil discuss the book on the Champlain Society podcast here.  
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