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  • Propaganda & Persuasion: The Cold War and The Canadian-Soviet Friendship Society by Jennifer Anderson
  • Ryan M. Touhey
Jennifer Anderson. Propaganda & Persuasion: The Cold War and The Canadian-Soviet Friendship Society. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2017. 260 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $27.95 sc.

Propaganda & Persuasion is a welcome addition to the fields of Canadian Cold War history and Canadian international relations. Jennifer Anderson's study is the first to examine the Canadian-Soviet Friendship Society (CSFS), an unusual group founded in 1949 by Dyson Carter and former parliamentarian Dorise Nielsen to promote affinity for the Soviet Union as well as the "truth" about that country (77). Through public talks, sympathetic publications, the promotion of tours to the Soviet Union, and the dissemination of Soviet propaganda, the CSFS deployed cultural soft power to propagate an image to Canadians of the Soviet Union as "the epitome of an enlightened and egalitarian state" (9). Aspiring to achieve that goal, the CSFS "used propaganda and persuasion in Cold War Canada" in the hopes of positioning the Soviet Union as a successful alternative to western society (9). Organized thematically, seven chapters explore the key players involved in the CSFS, the history of bilateral Soviet friendship from 1917-1949, the dissemination of CSFS literature and media, progressive ethnic groups and the CSFS, women and the CSFS, and finally Soviet public diplomacy overtures in Canada.

Anderson's book begins prior to the founding of the CSFS, revealing that groups labelling themselves as friends of the Soviet Union appeared in Canada soon after the Russian Revolution. The heyday for Canada-Soviet amity occurred during the Second World War with both nations allied against Nazi Germany. Anderson observes that during the war, the National Council for Canadian-Soviet Friendship enjoyed "widespread support" and prominent individuals, such as Prime Minister Mackenzie King, attended functions emphasizing bilateral friendship between Canadians and the peoples of the Soviet Union (5). Igor Gouzenko's defection from the Soviet embassy in Ottawa to the West in 1945 and his revelations that the Soviets spied on Canada during the war created widespread antipathy for Moscow, and communism in general. As the Cold War became entrenched in 1946, open support or sympathy for Moscow evaporated. Progressives were demoralized with Gouzenko's evidence; others were wary of becoming entangled with Canada's security apparatus. [End Page 167] Still, as Anderson demonstrates, Soviet sympathizers continued to believe that the USSR remained a model for Canada and the newly constituted CSFS set out to prove that to Canadians.

Were members of the CSFS also members of the Canadian Communist Party (CCP)? Not all, according to Anderson, but the CSFS was associated with the CCP (9). Certainly the RCMP considered the CSFS "as a communist front organization" supported by the CCP, and Anderson is sympathetic as to why the RCMP monitored the society (11, 171). To be active in the CSFS required both dedication to the Soviet cause and some mental gymnastics. A case in point was Dyson Carter, author of the biography, Stalin's Life: At Last the True Story, published in 1943. Moscow endorsed Dyson's leadership, considering him a skilful propagandist. Dyson served as president of the CSFS from 1949 to 1960 (when it rebranded as the Canada-USSR Association), edited the CSFS newsletter from 1950 to 1956, and published the pro-Soviet magazine Northern Neighbours from 1956 to 1989. He also claimed to invest in Bay Street Stocks and purchased real estate (79). Whenever a new ideological line emanated from Moscow—be it the denunciation of Stalin after previous sycophantic portrayals of the dictator in his writings, adopting a sympathetic viewpoint of the Soviet mauling of the Hungarian revolution, downplaying the events at Chernobyl or embracing Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of Glasnost—Dyson's writings embraced the shift from Moscow without question (90). Still, Carter's media talents and drive, along with support from the CPC and the Soviet All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (VOKS) "made the...CSFS a much more pernicious group in the eyes of the RCMP" than any of its predecessors (52). Publications also commonly depicted Soviet society as egalitarian in terms of gender and race in...


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pp. 167-169
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