Propaganda and Persuasion
The Cold War and the Canadian-Soviet Friendship Society
During the early Cold War, thousands of Canadians attended events organized by the Canadian-Soviet Friendship Society (CSFS) and subscribed to its publications. The CSFS aimed its message at progressive Canadians, hoping to convince them that the USSR was an egalitarian and enlightened state. Attempting to soften, define and redirect the antagonistic narratives of the day, the CSFS story is one of propaganda and persuasion in Cold War Canada.
The CSFS was linked to other groups on the Canadian political left and was consistently led by Canadian communists. For many years, its leader and best-known member was the enigmatic Dyson Carter. Raised in a religious family and educated as a scientist, Carter was a prolific author of both popular scientific and pro-Soviet books, and for many years was the editor of the CSFS’s magazine, Northern Neighbours, subtitled “Canada’s Authoritative Independent Magazine Reporting on the USSR.” The magazine featured glossy photo spreads of life in the Soviet Union and upbeat articles on science, medicine, cultural life, and visits to the USSR by Canadians. At the height of the Cold War, Carter claimed the magazine reached 10,000 subscribers across Canada.
Using previously unavailable archival sources and oral histories, Propaganda and Persuasion looks at the CSFS as a blend of social and political activism, where gender, class, and ethnicity, linked communities and ideology had significance.
“The Canadian-Soviet Friendship Society and its forebears were busy in Canada from the 1920s to the late 1980s, with most Canadians knowing very little about them. Jennifer Anderson has woven together a fascinating story of persistent Soviet propaganda activity in Canada and of Canadian fellow travellers who were sincere in their belief that the USSR provided the best answers to the world’s ills. Peace movements, ethnic societies, women’s organizations, and individuals are drawn into the narrative in fascinating detail.”
– J.L. Black, Distinguished Research Professor, Department of History, Carleton University
“A product of considerable and thoughtful research into an understudied subject. Among its other contributions, the book helps us to perceive how foreign policy may be exercised at the grassroots level, even if sponsored and influenced by state actors.”
– Andrew Burtch, Canadian War Museum, Canadian Journal of History
“Anderson’s extraordinary primary research offers a wealth of evidence on the range and degree to which the idea of the Soviet Union influenced Canadian progressives in the early years of the Cold War.”
– Kirk Niergarth, Mount Royal University, Labour/Le Travail
“Propaganda and Persuasion is an impressive work of seminal scholarship and unreservedly recommended.”
– Midwest Book Review
About the Author
Jennifer Anderson is an archivist and historian living in Ottawa-Gatineau.