Not for King or Country: Edward Cecil-Smith, the Communist Party of Canada, and the Spanish Civil War
Published: January 2020© 2020
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 368 Pages
Dimensions: 6.00 x 9.00
368 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.00 in
Not for King or Country tells the story of Edward Cecil-Smith, a dynamic propagandist for the Communist Party of Canada during the Great Depression. Born to missionary parents in China in 1903, Cecil-Smith came to Toronto in 1919 where he joined the Canadian militia and lived a happy life ensconced in the Protestant missionary community of Toronto. He became increasingly interested in radical politics during the 1920s, eventually joining the Communist Party in 1931. Worried by the growing strength of fascism around the world, particularly in China, Germany, Italy, and Spain during the summer of 1936, Cecil-Smith quietly departed Canada and became among the first volunteers to fight for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War. Cecil-Smith was motivated to fight not out of any sense of traditional patriotism (“for king or country”) but out of a sense that the onward march of fascism had to be stopped, and Spain was where the line had to be drawn.
Not for King or Country is the first biography of a Canadian commander in the Spanish Civil War, and is also the first book to critically analyse the major battles in which the Canadian and American volunteers fought. Drawing upon declassified RCMP files, records held in the Russian Archives in Moscow, audio recordings of the volunteers, a detailed survey of maps, and battle records, as well as the Communist Party press, Not for King or Country breaks down the battles and the Party's activities in a way that will be accessible to interested readers and scholars alike.
3. Joining the Party
4. Theatre: Our Weapon
5. Art, Propaganda and the Popular Front
6. Defend the Soviet Union!
7. No Pasaran!
8. The George Washington Battalion
9. The Fighting Canucks
10. The Defense of Teruel
11. The Retreats
12. Crossing the Ebro
13. Coming Home
14. A Second Anti-Fascist War
"Not for King or Country is a welcome addition to the scholarship on both the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion and the Communist Party of Canada. Today’s generation of anti-fascists would do well to read it."
Scott Costen, Redaction Politics
"Tyler Wentzell has mined a wide variety of rich material for this intriguing biography. Edward Cecil-Smith’s life spanned the globe, from prerevolutionary China to Toronto in the Great Depression to the battlefields of the Spanish Civil War, where he was the highest-ranking Canadian volunteer. Wentzell respects his subject’s passion for justice, is fully candid about his faults, and draws an unexpected and fascinating picture of his years-long struggle to reconcile Communism and Christianity."Adam Hochschild, author of Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939 and King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa
"Tyler Wentzell is a soldier-historian, and this volume shows his training. Through extraordinary research into hitherto unused sources, he details the life of Cecil-Smith and sets him firmly in the context of Canadian Communism and the party’s cultural, propaganda, and labour organizing in the 1930s and 1940s. But the heart of the book is Cecil-Smith’s role as the commander of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion in the chaos and internecine feuding of the Spanish Civil War. This is a soldier’s fine account of a doomed but gallant enterprise, the best telling of this tale we have."J.L. Granatstein, author of Canada’s Army: Waging War and Keeping the Peace
"From strife-torn China to Depression-era Canada to revolutionary Spain, Edward Cecil-Smith lived an outsized life as a communist debater, playwright, and soldier. Tyler Wentzell presents us with a vivid and well-researched account of one remarkable, contradictory, and fascinating man’s life on the left and opens up new vistas for our understanding of Canada’s radical 1930s."Ian McKay, L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University and author of Reasoning Otherwise: Leftists and the People’s Enlightenment in Canada, 1890–1920