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Posts Tagged ‘anti-communism’

“Mountain Prison, known as "Buchenwald” to the Sons of Freedom Sect, is situated five miles northwest of Agassiz, B.C. in the Fraser Valley on a prison reserve of one hundred and fifty-eight acres. The prison itself is situated at the foot of Burnside Mountain overlooking fertile farm land and just north of a section of the Fraser Valley which suffered considerable flood damage in 1948.

Construction of this $300,000 maximum security prison commenced in May 1962 and the prison was in operation by July of the same year. All buildings, and their furnishings are metal on cement slabs. The male and female sections are separated by an eight foot barbed wire fence and the two sections are encircled by an eight-foot mesh fence.

The female section is comprised of a combination washroom and hospital, combination kitchen and mess, and one dormitory; is built to accommodate fifty inmates, and has a population of 13. This section is staffed by 9 matrons and supervised by the male administration.

The male compound consists of four dormitories, combination hospital and washroom, and a combination kitchen and dining area. This section is built to accommodate two hundred inmates, has a population of 86 and a total staff of 22.

All administration buildings, including male and female staff quarters, workshop, two-stall garage, stores, visiting room and officer, are constructed outside the perimeter mesh fence overlooking the prison compound.

Immediately after the prison was opened in July 1962, the staff was confronted with a display of stripping and nude parading followed by a fourteen-day fasting which the rebellious inmates would not even pick up their own bedding. All buildings in both compounds are equipped with old fashioned, pot-bellied, wood-fired stoves. The inmates are expected to cut the wood which is hauled in four foot lengths from the nearby Experimental Farm to be used for heating, cooking, etc. This is resented by the inmates who do not believe they should be doing any work. As a result of their attitude, it has been impossible to introduce a proper inmate training programs and, consequently, the inmates are not provided with newspapers, books, radios, tobacco or sports equipment.

The Freedomites prepare and cook their own meals which consist mainly of vegetables, eggs, cheese, etc., and contain no meat or meat products. The majority of them eat more than is required and consequently are over-weight and flabby. 

They are a communal sect and during visits between the two sections which are limited to one half-hour visit each month, their general topic of conversation pertains to discussions on the welfare of their relations.  These unpredictable people refuse to think as individuals and all requests and demands made upon the administration are made as a group. 

Almost  one  year to the day after Mountain Prison  commenced operations, and after many meetings and a prayer service  by  the  inmates, they requested to see the Superintendent.  The officer in charge  realized the precariousness  of the tense situation and contacted the Superintendent immediately, who returned to the prison from Victoria.  Upon his arrival all  the  inmates gathered around him and their declaration of a ‘fast unto death’ was read by one member. This was received in writing and was later to become  a  legal document.

The subsequent fast which began on July 21, 1963, and lasted one hundred and two days hospitalized ten inmates and resulted in the death of one Freedomite. On the advice of the attending physician, the staff  was forced to feed one hundred inmates for approximately two  and a  half months. Because of the limited staff force and acts of violence by some inmates, it was necessary to call upon  the parent  institution, a medical team, and a number of prevailing
rate employees for assistance.

A crucial time during the fast period came with the arrival of approximately seven hundred trekking Doukhobors from Vancouver  and the  interior of B.C. They arrived in cars, trucks, and  buses,  and set up camp at the east entrance to the prison, less than one-quarter of a mile  from  the prison compound. Visits and corresponding privileges with the inmates are not allowed and the trekkers, therefore, resorted to climbing the nearby mountains from where the shout and signal greetings to the inmates. 

Now with winter approaching, activity in the tent town has been brisk. Approximately one hundred and ninety of their crude shelters are being covered with wooden frames, cardboard  and  plastic,  or any  other material that can be gathered from the countryside and from the nearby garbage dump. They are gathering wood for heating and cooking on the makeshift stoves with pipes from old one-quart fruit  juice and oil cans.

Weekends find the road to Mountain Prison and "tent town" jammed with Canadian  and United States tourists seeking a glimpse of these poor confused renegades who have defied all the laws of our land. 

What happens next to this radical  sect is unknown.  The forthcoming winter, with its rainfall and winds which could reach a velocity of sixty miles an hour will, no doubt, test the will of the trekkers to remain at the gates of Mountain Prison.

One thing appears certain, unfortunately. The leaders of the Sons of  Freedom Doukhobor Sect will continue more vigorously than ever to rule the rest of the sect by terror, threat  and  indoctrination. They will continue to despise man-made laws, destroy property,  and  seek public sympathy. All for a cause which we — or  they themselves — cannot understand.”

– Superintendent Raymond Wilson, Mountain Institution, “Mountain Prison’s Fanatical Sons,” Federal Corrections. Volume 2A – No. 4. September-October-November 1963.

Photograph shows two elders of the Sons of Freedom

‘trekkers’ outside of Mountain Prison, in the Agassiz camp, protesting the death of an inmate on fast. Source is

Doukhobor Genealogy Website. From the private collection of the George Henry (“Timothy”) Eaton family, West Vancouver, British Columbia.

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“Charge of Complicity In Breaking ‘Padlock’,” Ottawa Citizen. July 25, 1938. Page 03.

Two Men Who Tried to Wire Constables Inside Their Own Car Escape But Man Who Helped Them Charged With ‘Complicity After the Fact.’

Canadian Press.
QUEBEC, July 25. – F. X. Lessard, self-styled ‘only living Communist to break open a Duplessis padlock for Communists.’ remained in the cells today while friends considered means of raising bail of $1,200 set Saturday by Judge Hugues Fortier when the 40-yer-old carpenter appeared before him on a charge of ‘willfully breaking a provincial law.’

Behind bars also was Henri Beaulieu, the man police charged with ‘complicity after the fact’ in the escape of two men who tried to imprison guards in their automobile Friday while Lessard entered the home authorities padlocked two days before because of the carpenters alleged Communistic activities.

When police went to the six-room Lessard dwelling last Tuesday to advise the family the flat would be locked up for a year under the special law aimed at halting the spread of Communism, it was the authorities’ third visit to homes occupied by the carpenter. Twice before they had seized literature from Lessard’s dwellings.

Away at work when police told Mrs. Lessard the family would have to evacuate the premises ‘within 24 hours,’ the carpenter again was absent when two detectives arrived the following day to execute the withdrawal order. His blue-eyed, middle aged wife and two children were marched from their home singing the ‘Internationale’ and the ‘Young Guard’ after refusing to remove their furniture. 

Two policemen immediately were detailed to guard the abandoned flat, located in to the top of a tall building below steep St. Sauveur cliff.

Curious lookers-on frequently engaged the two guarding officers in casual conversation and the police saw nothing to arouse their suspicions when two men approached their parked car Friday ostensibly for a chat.

But the officers were startled suddenly to notice their ‘callers’ slyly were binding the car’s doors with strong wire and when the guards attempted to seize the men the pair fled – just as Lessard walked along the sidewalk, pulled open a street door, and ran up three flights of stairs to his former home.

Drawing revolvers, the policemen followed and on reaching the top of the stairs they found the ‘padlocks’ (official seals of Quebec province) had been smashed. Lessard, calmly walking about the kitchen, made no resistance to arrest.

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Crowds rush a police armoured car after news of the attempted assassination of PCI leader Palmiro Togliatti, Genoa, July 14, 1948. Source.

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“Soviet Tombstone Disgrace, Slap In Face, Says Veterans,” Toronto Star. July 14, 1948. Page 03.

Special to The Star
Kitchener, July 14 – Waterloo Mount Hope cemetery’s ‘Soviet’ tombstone brought a volume of protest at a general meeting of the Kitchener-Waterloo branch, Canadian Legion, last night.

One legionnaire termed it ‘a slap in the face to all veterans’ and ‘a disgrace to the Twin Cities.’

Several suggestions from the floor recommended that the tombstone ‘be blown up,’ ‘smashed with a sledgehammer’ or ‘pulled over with a rope.’

The legion decided to contact the Waterloo park board and request the board to keep them informed as to what action they were taking.

Indignation has been aroused in several quarters over the tombstone which flaunts the Russian hammer and sickle emblem. The radical philosophy inscribed on the stone first became generally known some days ago, when it was noticed by a Twin Cities minister.

Chris Schondelmayer, chairman of the cemetery committee of the Waterloo park board, said he intends to bring the matter before the park board commissioners at the next general meeting.

‘A thing like that should not be let stand in a Christian cemetery,’ a legionnaire said.

The hammer and sickle is surmounted by a five-point star set in the middle of the stone. Around the top are inscribed the words ‘Workers of the World Unite.’ The verse reads ‘Mourn not the dead but rather the apathetic throng who see the world’s great anguish and its wrongs, and yet dare not speak.’

The deceased man, Morris Wehansky, on whose tombstone the Russian emblem is inscribed, died several years ago.

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“Mountain Prison Near Agassiz, B.C. –
New Maximum Security, Fireproof Institution
Designed For Freedomite Doukhobor Inmates,” Federal Corrections.  Volume 2 — No. 3. June-July, 1962.

A new prison, especially designed to hold Sons
of Freedom Doukhobors sentenced to penitentiary
terms is now in operation. It is located approximately
five miles north of Agassiz, British Columbia.

Because of the fact that most of the convicted
Freedomites constitute a potential fire hazard, design
and construction of the new maximum security prison
has been made as fireproof as possible. 

Fireproof even to the paint, the new prison —
which has been officially named Mountain Prison —
has highly restrictive security features. 

To virtually eliminate any chance of fire or other
property damage, the dormitory buildings have been
constructed of metal, with concrete floors. Light fixtures
are high in the ceilings and are covered with
wire mesh. Windows are also grilled with heavy wire. 

In the dormitories, beds are double-decker steel
bunks, and stools are also of steel. Mattresses and
bedding are made of flameproof material. And, to
provide additional protection, oversize fire hydrants
are located at strategic points around the prison area
— outside the fences, so that inmates will not be able
to tamper with the water supply in any emergency.

In addition to these special security measures,

the prisoners will be under maximum security control.
As a maximum security establishment, the prison has
towers staffed with armed guards. Inmates will be
allowed only minimum privileges — a half-hour visit
once a month from members of their immediate families,
and permission to write only one letter a month.

Explaining the highly restrictive nature of the
$300,000 Mountain Prison, Allen J. MacLeod, Q.C.,
Federal Commissioner of Penitentiaries, said that it
was due to the nature of the Freedomite acts of
violence. 

“In other institutions, we emphasize a work program
for inmates”, Mr. MacLeod said. “Remembering
past experiences, no such program has been planned
here”. 

He pointed out that inmates who work are granted
such privileges as watching television, listening to
radio. playing carde. writing letters, playing baseball
and other sports. reading, and attending shows. Since
past experience has shown that the Freedomites refuse
to do any work while in prison they will receive only
minimum privileges. 

However. Mr. MacLeod said, if individuals or
the group as a whole ask to be allowed to participate
in a work program. and show a genuine willingness
to co-operate, consideration will be given to individual
transfers to the B.C. Penitentiary, or to establishment
of a work program at Mountain Prison itself.

Mountain Prison is on a 168-acre site, and has
accommodation for 250 men and 150 women, with a
fence separating male and female compounds. In
cases where a husband and wife are both inmates,
they will have their half-hour monthly visit in the
public visiting area. 

The Freedomites will sleep 40 to a dormitory.
They will cut their own firewood for their heating and
cooking needs, and will do their own cooking. They
will also maintain their own living quarters and do
their own laundry.

First inmates of Mountain Prison will be 49 convicted
Freedomites to be transferred from the British
Columbia federal penitentiary at New Westminster.
These will be followed by another 46 to be moved in
from other institutions in the province. 

Mountain Prison comes under the jurisdiction of
Warden T. H. Hall of B.C. Penitentiary. In charge
at the new prison itself will be Superintendent Raymond
A. Wilson. who has been with the Penitentiary
Service for 23 years, mostly in Saskatchewan. Under
him will be a staff of 22 men and 11 women.

Photos are from a latter date, late 1970s to early 80s, but showcase much of the still existing dormitory buildings and fence line – the workshop was a newer addition once the Doukhobors were mostly released by 1965.

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“Rioting Japanese Reds Tee Off On The Yankees,” LIFE. Vol. 32, No. 19. May 12, 1952. 

Photographed for Life by Michael Rougier and Jun Miki

On May Day in Tokyo, Japan’s newly restored sovereignity – formalized on April 28 when the U.S. joined in the ratification of the Japanese peace treaty – was challenged in a bitter, bloody outburst. It was led by Communists and directed against the U.S.

The trouble began in Meiji Park, three miles from the emperor’s palace, after 300,000 people gathered beneath the oaks and willows for a peaceful rally conducted chiefly by Japan’s biggest labor unions. The unions had accepted a united front with the socialists, left-wing groups and others in order to fight the Japanese government’s proposed anti-subversive bill, which they feared would throttle Japanese unions. The Communist party, impotent under the rules of the Occupation, was well represented by both Japanese and some North Koreans. One of the speakers at the rally, U.S. Socialist Norman Thomas (above, right), observed to a reporter, ‘These North Korean flags made this all a little embarrassing.’

His embarrassment, and the crowd’s surprise, increased as wild-eyed young Communists, in a well-planned move, seized the speaker’s stand, drove Thomas and other scheduled speakers off the stage and grabbed control of the rally. Moving from Meiji Park in a snake-dancing parade toward the heart of Tokyo, they whipped up the mob. Then, outside the main gates of Emperor Hirohito’s palace grounds, which are only a stone’s throw from Allied headquarters. 10,000 rioters, their leaders remarkably well trained in classic Red street-fighting tactics, fought outnumbered Tokyo police for 2 ½ hours. Next to the police their favorite targets were passing Americans and U.S. automobiles.

When the fighting was over, the square in front of the palace was strewn with wounded and debris. The government had been presented with a fine excuse to pass its anti-subversive bill and the labor unions, like the rest of the country, had been given a shocking lesson on latent anti-Americanism which was bound to exist after war, defeat and occupation. But next day many Americans in Tokyo were showered with profuse apologies and gifts of flowers from Japanese friends who were appalled lest Americans would think the rioters expressed the majority sentiment of the Japanese people.

Photo captions, page by page, from top left, clockwise:

1) Communist Rioters Hurl An Angular Piece of a Broken Police Barricade At American Army Vehicle, And The Driver Ducks His Head, From Allied Headquarters Roof (Top Left) Americans Watch The Battle

2) Speechless Socialist Norman Thomas was prevented by the Reds from addressing rally. He later called rioting ‘a minor dress rehearsal for revolution.’

3) Sloganeer Reds make their pitch with English-language signs. During the fight they removed signs and used the poles as weapons. Many were students.

4) Festive Beginning of May Day rally in Meiji Park featured dancing girls. Spectators sucked ice cream sticks, munched bean-curd cakes, waved their banners and cheered speakers attacking rearmament and the proposed anti-subversive bill.

5) Reds Swam to platform from ringside seats which they had strategically packed beforehand. They drove off sponsored speakers and called for march on the Imperial Plaze. ‘We can fight the police there,’ shouted one of their leaders.

6) The Battle Is Joined when the Reds arrive in Imperial Plaza from Meiji Park. Against background of U.S. headquarters in Dai Ichi buildding (left, rear), police and rioters clash. A policeman has just hurled back one of the Red’s homemade tear-gas bombs whole others smoke on ground. Rioters, armed with clubs, rocks, bags of offal and bamboo spears cored with metal, have drawn back to regroup for another attack. Reds’ expert maneuvering was directed by booming of drums.

7) Banners Are Waved on platform and Reds yell ‘Banzai!’ in a effort to whip up the throng to fall in line for the march toward the Imperial Palace. But by this time thousands of non-Communists in crowd had begun to drift away.

8) Yelling Students snake-dance along street near the Diet Building after leaving Meiji Park. Moving toward Imperial Plaza, they cursed Americans and screamed, ‘Yankee, go home!’ until their cadenced slogan became hysterical roar.

9) Police Boots trample a fallen Red leader while one officer’s legs clamp his head in a scissor grip. Outnumbered 10,000 to 40 at beginning and stone from behind by Communist infiltrators, the police fought back as savagely as the frenzied rioters, whose leaders screeched ‘Kill the Police! Kill the Police!’

10) Cop’s Club swings down on skull of a rioter who, on hands and knees and with his coat ripped off and his shirt pulled out, cowers under threats of new blows.

11) U.S. Sailor splashes about in center of Imperial Palace most where Reds had hurled him, then stoned him. Friendly Japanese eventually pulled him out.

12) Collapsed Cop is dragged from plaza through a clutter of bamboo poles and placards abandoned by the Reds during a police counterattack. Nails in ends of poles made nasty weapons. More than 1,400 were injured in riots. Cops fired over mob’s heads and only fatality was student hit by ricocheting bullet.

13) Locked in Embrace, wounded Communist couple writhes in gutter, moaning hussterically. ‘Let us die! Let us die!’ But police gave them first aid.

14) Hustled From Fray, battered students, his glasses amazingly still intact, is treated by one of the Reds’ aid teams which helped wounded evade arrest.

15) Americans Autos were overturned by mobs, then set ablaze by rioters skirmishing around Plaza. Scores of other U.S. cars were stoned and smashed.

16) Bloodied Student, the Communist ‘dove of peace’ symbol flapping on his jacket, is given first aid by his friends during a lull in the plaza fighting.

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“Consider the forceful idea of Red scares and the related mechanism of social control that swept nations and communities across the world from the geopolitical power center to the distant peripheries. The idea was adapted to specific local conditions, sometimes becoming more radical and destructive in the process of dissemination and developing into a massive force of anti-Communist state terrorism across regions from the 1950s to the 1980s. If kidnapping individual ideological suspects was a notable form of anti-Communist terror in places such as Chile and Argentina, the so-called collective-responsibility system mentioned earlier, which punished an individual’s thoughts by criminalizing his or her entire web of blood ties, was one of the most notable instruments of societal control in places under anti-Communist military rules, such as Indonesia and South Korea. The penal practices against alleged ideological crimes often had no rule-of-law boundary and distorted the traditional conceptions of social subjectivity and moral liability. The globalization of these pathological formations and their local variations are an important subject matter in the investigation of cold war political culture.”

– Heonik Kwon, The Other Cold War (Columbia UP, 2010), 30 (via your-instructions-from-moscow)

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Quand le Front Populaire est roi – son Oeuvre en Espagne. L’Oeuvre Des Tracts, Montréal. No. 204.

“In the torched ruins of the Christian union, children and youth make the communist salute, the raised fist.”

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“12 Rules for Life is only Peterson’s second book in twenty years. Packaged for people brought up on BuzzFeed listicles, Peterson’s brand of intellectual populism has risen with stunning velocity; and it is boosted, like the political populisms of our time, by predominantly male and frenzied followers, who seem ever-ready to pummel his critics on social media. It is imperative to ask why and how this obscure Canadian academic, who insists that gender and class hierarchies are ordained by nature and validated by science, has suddenly come to be hailed as the West’s most influential public intellectual. For his apotheosis speaks of a crisis that is at least as deep as the one signified by Donald Trump’s unexpected leadership of the free world.

Peterson diagnoses this crisis as a loss of faith in old verities. “In the West,” he writes, “we have been withdrawing from our tradition-, religion- and even nation-centred cultures.” Peterson offers to alleviate the resulting “desperation of meaninglessness,” with a return to “ancient wisdom.” It is possible to avoid “nihilism,” he asserts, and “to find sufficient meaning in individual consciousness and experience” with the help of “the great myths and religious stories of the past.”

Following Carl Jung, Peterson identifies “archetypes” in myths, dreams, and religions, which have apparently defined truths of the human condition since the beginning of time. “Culture,” one of his typical arguments goes, “is symbolically, archetypally, mythically male”—and this is why resistance to male dominance is unnatural. Men represent order, and “Chaos—the unknown—is symbolically associated with the feminine.” In other words, men resisting the perennially fixed archetypes of male and female, and failing to toughen up, are pathetic losers.

Such evidently eternal truths are not on offer anymore at a modern university; Jung’s speculations have been largely discredited. But Peterson, armed with his “maps of meaning” (the title of his previous book), has only contempt for his fellow academics who tend to emphasize the socially constructed and provisional nature of our perceptions. As with Jung, he presents some idiosyncratic quasi-religious opinions as empirical science, frequently appealing to evolutionary psychology to support his ancient wisdom.

Closer examination, however, reveals Peterson’s ageless insights as a typical, if not archetypal, product of our own times: right-wing pieties seductively mythologized for our current lost generations.

Peterson himself credits his intellectual awakening to the Cold War, when he began to ponder deeply such “evils associated with belief” as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, and became a close reader of Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. This is a common intellectual trajectory among Western right-wingers who swear by Solzhenitsyn and tend to imply that belief in egalitarianism leads straight to the guillotine or the Gulag. A recent example is the English polemicist Douglas Murray who deplores the attraction of the young to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and wishes that the idea of equality was “tainted by an ideological ordure equivalent to that heaped on the concept of borders.” Peterson confirms his membership of this far-right sect by never identifying the evils caused by belief in profit, or Mammon: slavery, genocide, and imperialism.

Reactionary white men will surely be thrilled by Peterson’s loathing for “social justice warriors” and his claim that divorce laws should not have been liberalized in the 1960s. Those embattled against political correctness on university campuses will heartily endorse Peterson’s claim that “there are whole disciplines in universities forthrightly hostile towards men.” Islamophobes will take heart from his speculation that “feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance.” Libertarians will cheer Peterson’s glorification of the individual striver, and his stern message to the left-behinds (“Maybe it’s not the world that’s at fault. Maybe it’s you. You’ve failed to make the mark.”). The demagogues of our age don’t read much; but, as they ruthlessly crack down on refugees and immigrants, they can derive much philosophical backup from Peterson’s sub-chapter headings: “Compassion as a vice” and “Toughen up, you weasel.” 

In all respects, Peterson’s ancient wisdom is unmistakably modern. The “tradition” he promotes stretches no further back than the late nineteenth century, when there first emerged a sinister correlation between intellectual exhortations to toughen up and strongmen politics. This was a period during which intellectual quacks flourished by hawking creeds of redemption and purification while political and economic crises deepened and faith in democracy and capitalism faltered. Many artists and thinkers—ranging from the German philosopher Ludwig Klages, member of the hugely influential Munich Cosmic Circle, to the Russian painter Nicholas Roerich and Indian activist Aurobindo Ghosh—assembled Peterson-style collages of part-occultist, part-psychological, and part-biological notions. These neo-romantics were responding, in the same way as Peterson, to an urgent need, springing from a traumatic experience of social and economic modernity, to believe—in whatever reassures and comforts.

This new object of belief tended to be exotically and esoterically pre-modern. The East, and India in particular, turned into a screen on which needy Westerners projected their fantasies; Jung, among many others, went on tediously about the Indian’s timeless—and feminine—self. In 1910, Romain Rolland summed up the widespread mood in which progress under liberal auspices appeared a sham, and many people appeared eager to replace the Enlightenment ideal of individual reason by such transcendental coordinates as “archetypes.” “The gate of dreams had reopened,” Rolland wrote, and “in the train of religion came little puffs of theosophy, mysticism, esoteric faith, occultism to visit the chambers of the Western mind.”

A range of intellectual entrepreneurs, from Theosophists and vendors of Asian spirituality like Vivekananda and D.T. Suzuki to scholars of Asia like Arthur Waley and fascist ideologues like Julius Evola (Steve Bannon’s guru) set up stalls in the new marketplace of ideas. W.B. Yeats, adjusting Indian philosophy to the needs of the Celtic Revival, pontificated on the “Ancient Self”; Jung spun his own variations on this evidently ancestral unconscious. Such conceptually foggy categories as “spirit” and “intuition” acquired broad currency; Peterson’s favorite words, being and chaos, started to appear in capital letters. Peterson’s own lineage among these healers of modern man’s soul can be traced through his repeatedly invoked influences: not only Carl Jung, but also Mircea Eliade, the Romanian scholar of religion, and Joseph Campbell, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College, who, like Peterson, combined a conventional academic career with mass-market musings on heroic individuals.

The “desperation of meaninglessness” widely felt in the late nineteenth century, seemed especially desperate in the years following two world wars and the Holocaust. Jung, Eliade, and Campbell, all credentialed by university education, met a general bewilderment by suggesting the existence of a secret, almost gnostic, knowledge of the world. Claiming to throw light into recessed places in the human unconscious, they acquired immense and fanatically loyal fan clubs. Campbell’s 1988 television interviews with Bill Moyers provoked a particularly extraordinary response. As with Peterson, this popularizer of archaic myths, who believed that “Marxist philosophy had overtaken the university in America,” was remarkably in tune with contemporary prejudices. “Follow your own bliss,” he urged an audience that, during an era of neoconservative upsurge, was ready to be reassured that some profound ancient wisdom lay behind Ayn Rand’s paeans to unfettered individualism. Peterson, however, seems to have modelled his public persona on Jung rather than Campbell. The Swiss sage sported a ring ornamented with the effigy of a snake—the symbol of light in a pre-Christian Gnostic cult. Peterson claims that he has been inducted into “the coastal Pacific Kwakwaka’wakw tribe”; he is clearly proud of the Native American longhouse he has built in his Toronto home.

– 

Pankaj Mishra, “Jordan Peterson & Fascist Mysticism.” NYR Daily, March 19, 2018.

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The Dead-Head Club: “We hate kings and love honest labor!”

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“A journalist for the Evening Independent wrote that [General Amos] Fries was often “accused of being an absolute militarist anxious to develop a military caste in the United States.” But to those who shared his cause, Fries was an excellent figurehead. A family man, a dedicated soldier, and a talented engineer, Fries was the perfect face of a more modern warfare.

Just as some in Europe argued that chemical weapons were a mark of a civilized society, for General Fries war gases were the ultimate American technology. They were a sign of the troops’ perseverance in World War I and an emblem of industrial modernity, showcasing the intersection of science and war. In an Armistice Day radio speech broadcast in 1924, Fries said, “The extent to which chemistry is used can almost be said today to be a barometer of the civilization of a country.” This was posed as a direct intervention to the international proposal for a ban on chemical weapons: Preparations for the Geneva Convention were well under way. If chemical weapons were banned, Fries knew it would likely mean the end of the CWS [Chemical Warfare Service] — and with it his blossoming postwar career.

To save the CWS from extinction, Fries would need his own army — one that would fight with rhetoric and social capital. Over the autumn of 1919, Fries worked to secure a network of publicists, scientists, and politicians to rally for their cause. They strategically began a full-scale multimedia marketing campaign to promote “war gases for peace time use.”

The trade press provided the first and largest forum for the spread of the tear-gas gospel. In the November 6, 1921, issue of Gas Age Record, Theo M. Knappen profiled Fries, the “dynamic chief” of the Chemical Warfare Service. Knappen wrote that Fries had

given much study to the question of the use of gas and smokes in dealing with mobs as well as with savages, and is firmly convinced that as soon as officers of the law and colonial administrators have familiarized themselves with gas as a means of maintaining order and power there will be such a diminution of violent social disorders and savage uprising as to amount to their disappearance.

In the future, Knappen predicted, when breaking up a demonstration, tear gas “will be the easy way and the best way.”

This early promotional writing struck a careful balance between selling pain and promising harmlessness. Its psychological impact set tear gas apart from bullets: It could demoralize and disperse a crowd without live ammunition. Through sensory torture, tear gas could force people to retreat.

These features gave it novelty value in a market where only the billy club and bullets had previously been available. Officers could disperse a crowd with “a minimum amount of undesirable publicity.” Instead of traces of blood and bruises, tear gas evaporates from the scene, its damage so much less pronounced on the surface of the skin or in the lens of the camera.

But the idea of transforming wartime weapons for peacetime use was not without its critics. In a 1922 letter to the New York Times, US Army veteran A. Reid Moir argued that gas was not only inhumane but “hellish.” He wrote, “Is it humane to lie in excruciating pain, with stomach swollen by the expansion of gas, and with lungs eaten by the deadly vapor to cough up one’s life in an agonizing convulsion?”

Fries’s team had carefully constructed comebacks for such objections. Borrowing loosely from medical statistics, Fries and his team constructed a trio of retorts. War gases, they claimed, killed only one-twelfth the amount of fatalities caused by bullets. Second, only half of disability discharges were from gas. Finally, they argued that there was no medical proof of permanent injury from gas exposure and that serious injuries were very rare.

Numbers could be twisted, but veterans’ testimonies stood in their way. Fries and his team claimed these were exaggerated tales, going so far as to publicly declare that “every imposter is beginning to claim gassing as the reason for his wanting War Sick benefits from the government.” This approach provided the groundwork for the decades of legitimizing less lethal weaponry to come.

Never far from Fries’s lenient use of statistics were his rationalizations of colonial myth as fact. Fries’s writing and speeches are littered with references to white supremacy. In his lecture at the General Staff College, Fries told young soldiers, “The same training that makes for advancement in science, and success in manufacture in peace, gives the control of the body that hold the white man to the ring line no matter what its terrors. A great deal of this comes because the white man has had trained out of him nearly all superstition.” It is this training, for Fries, that sets him apart from the “negro” as well as the “Gurkha and the Moroccan.”

While it would be easy to write Fries off as an anti-communist, racist, and military extremist, the potency of his views arose from his intellect as much as his ignorance. After graduating seventh in his class from West Point in 1898, Fries had entered the academy by acing an exam held by Congressman Binger Herman and went on to impress his superiors and inspire his army subordinates.

In the words of his peers, Fries took a situation in which “the entire civilian population,” as well as the army, stood against his pro-gas campaign and ignited in people an “earnest conviction” that these chemicals were the solution to law enforcement and political control in a time of economic depression. Instead of being seen as a form of physiological and psychological torture, tear gas became rhetorically cemented in much of the public imagination as the humanitarian alternative to live ammunition.

Into the next century, tear gas would become the most widely used less lethal technology. It would transform into part of today’s $1,630,000,000 global industry in less-lethal weapons, with rapidly expanding markets in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. But for all that to unfold, Fries and his compatriots would first need to build up a commercial market for tear gas.

Commercializing Tear Gas
Beyond trade publications, radio speeches, and news features, Fries and his network also staged large-scale product demonstrations. On a balmy July day in 1921, Fries’s old friend and colleague Stephen J. De La Noy brought large supplies of tear gas to a field near downtown Philadelphia. Here he enacted the power of war gases in peacetime by inviting members of the city’s police department to experience its effects. Inviting reporters to record the spectacle of 200 policemen faced with tear gas, De La Noy set the stage for an enticing media story.

A reporter from the New York Times described how the gas “thrice sent [the police] into hasty and wet-eyed retreat.” As the demonstration continued, Philadelphia’s police superintendent selected “a battalion of his huskiest men … with instructions to capture six men who were armed with 150 tear gas bombs.” They fared no better than the first bunch, as “three times they charged, but each time were driven back, weeping violently as they came within range of the charged vapor.” Afterwards, police officials told the Times that the demonstration “undoubtedly proved the value of tear gas in police work.” The gas, they concluded, would likely replace “means hitherto used to subdue mobs and criminals.”

This early demonstration spawned a major national and international campaign for the use of tear gases by law enforcement agencies. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s both the CWS and commercial manufacturers peddled their products to police departments, National Guard, prisons, and private security firms.

This marked a turning point in what is today called the “militarization of the police.” “A few police armed with this weapon could disperse a mob easily and destroy the impact of a mass demonstration,” historian Daniel P. Jones argues. “The dramatic increase in the power of police forces in handling mass disturbances certainly meant a loss of power to any group opposing established order.”

Just as demand needed to be secured, so too did supply. To jump-start the commercial market, Fries donated samples from the CWS to friends — many of them former soldiers — who had become entrepreneurial executives in gas munitions companies.

Perhaps the most outspoken of these was Colonel B. C. Goss, who had worked in the chemical warfare division during World War I. A respected chemist and decorated military man, Goss founded the Lake Erie Chemical Company in Cleveland, Ohio. As general manager of one of the largest companies in this new industry, Goss knew profits would follow perception. He wanted to be the single manufacturer supported by the US military, and sought to use his wartime credentials to make this happen. Goss solicited help from his old CWS buddies and learned the art of twisting scientific testing into advertising copy.

On April 15, 1926, Goss wrote to Fries requesting that he contact the Chicago Superintendent of Police, Morgan A. Collins, “calling his attention to the fact that there are many possible new uses and new chemicals which are admirably suited for use by police departments, with which you would like to have them made acquainted, and that you would appreciate it if he could arrange to have me give a brief talk to the National Convention of Police Chiefs at Chicago.” Fries, uncomfortable with this request but committed to Goss, delayed his reply. Busy preparing for a confidential show at Edgewood Arsenal, Fries “hesitated about writing to the Chicago Chief of Police for fear of possible unfavorable reaction.” He thought it better if the superintendent could telephone him, at which point he could then recommend Goss as a keynote speaker, making the matter appear more casual. “You know my great personal interest in what you are doing,” Fries reassured Goss, “As fast as your products are available, send them along to us for test.”

Within a year, the CWS was providing tests of Lake Erie’s commercial products. The company’s new tear-gas weapons were set to undergo scrutiny at Edgewood Arsenal in the winter of 1927. While Goss was soliciting military endorsements, he wanted to make sure the tests were carried out in a way that provided the best possible outcome. This was no ordinary tear gas. “These Shells are intended to be used, namely, for firing directly in the faces of rioters or mobs, at short range by guards,” Goss wrote, checking in with Fries on February 17, 1927, to recommend that testing be done only with the one-inch Very Pistols instead of the ten-gauge. He promised, “These one-inch shells really have a terrific wallop.”

On February 25, the CWS reported the results of Lake Erie’s “Blind-X Shell” tests. In the opinion of the board, this tear gas was of no use in the outdoors, as Goss had noted in his letter. Yet the gas “would seriously injure if fired in the face of a person under twenty feet,” making it useful for “warehouses or other large rooms.” It recommended that “the charge must be received full in the face or on the body to be effective” and that this gas “will be effective against unarmed individuals, but will only stop a determined and armed individual when red point blank.”

While the Lake Erie “Blind-X Shells” tests were just one in long series of munitions tests to take place at the Arsenal, the results speak toward common misperceptions about how tear gas is handled. Today when canisters are shot at people’s heads or into rooms or cars, it is seen as an accident or against-protocol use. However, these tests show that tear gas was in fact intentionally designed to be shot at point-blank range at people’s faces and bodies and was indeed recommended for use inside buildings and for ring at close proximities.

Second, the test results explicitly stated that the product would be effective against “unarmed individuals.” Again, it was not an anomaly or ethical mistake for police to fire upon unarmed protesters at close range in enclosed spaces. This function was embedded in the very design of these tear-gas weapons. Causing injury to unarmed civilians was an intended outcome of manufacturing these tear-gas shells.

Today, companies claim to manufacture safer and safer forms of tear gas and less lethal weapons. But what does it really mean to improve on the safety of a device designed to cause harm? Is it truly an accident when a product developed to shoot people in the face is used to shoot people in the face? If you follow the hyperlinked trails of less-lethal-weapons patents into the past, you will see the mystifying language of safety and protocols erode. Yet the design and purpose of these technologies remains the same.”

– Anna Feiggenbaum, “The Man Behind The Mask.Jacobin, January 5, 2018. 

Extract from Tear Gas. London: Verso, 2017.

Picture is from a Federal Laboratories, Inc. brochure touting the value of the ‘Federal Gas Riot Gun,’ 1932. LAC RG73. 1-8-1. Vol. 1.

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“Sacrifice of Civil Liberties Is Said Endangering Canada,” Montreal Gazette. August 15, 1952. Page 02.

(By Gazette Reporter)

Geneva Park, Lake Couchiching, Ont., August 14 – 

“John Diefenbaker, Profressive Conservative M.P. for Lake Centre, said tonight that if civil liberties are sacrificed in the interests of defence, ‘the danger is that we might lose both.’

Mr. Diefenbaker warned that while Canada does not fit the definition of a garrison state – one in which the political and economic rights ordinarily enjoyed by its citizens are subordinated by its war potential – ‘it is in the twillight’ stage of such a state.

‘Freedom can only be maintained by the practice of its principles, rather than the desertion of its practices,’ he declared.

In an address to the 21st Couchiching Conference, Mr. Diefenbaker renewed his demand that the Federal Government submit a draft bill of rights to the Supreme Court of Canada, and that it ratify the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

Noting a trend towards ‘statism’ he declared that ‘the cabinet could by order-in-council take over every industry in Canada, including the steel industry – something President Truman could not do in the United States.’

He urged that the Supreme Court Act be amended to allow Canadians the right of appeal to that court if any of their fundamental freedoms are violated.

In reply to a question, Mr. Diefenbaker said that if the Communist Party were outlawed in Canada, ‘the hangers-on would be convicted, but the active leaders would go underground.

‘Conspiracy to undermine the state is always punished.  But there is no manner or means whereby ideas can be punished,’ he said.

Eugene Forsey, director of research of the Canadian Congress of Labor, declared that to ‘preserve our freedom, something of Parliament’s ancient powers and ancient splendor should be restored.

‘For the last 25 years, the rights of Parliament have been steadily, cynically and shamelessly invaded,’ he said.

‘When the Government suppressed the McGregor Report, violating the Combines Act and the Bill of rights for 1689, Justice Minister Garson said it didn’t really matter. When the next election came, the people could turn the Government out,’ he said.”

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Herb “Herblock” Block, “You read books, eh?” April 24, 1949. Ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on layered paper. Published in the Washington Post. LC-USZ62-127202

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“For Protective Purposes: Premier Duplessis plans a ‘padlock act’ to curb Communist propaganda. Why stop at Communist propaganda?” Montreal Star, March 11, 1937. Page 10.

Editorial cartoon satirizing and protesting the implementation of the ostensibly anti-Communist Padlock Law in Quebec.

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“Tim Buck Ejected at McGill – Direct Violation Of Law To Allow Red Leader To Propogate Communism in Province of Quebec – Eastern University Allows Fascist Leader to Speak, However. / “Young Canada Must Arise” – Tim Buck’s Forbidden Speech to McGill Students,” The Ubyssey. February 18, 1938. Page 01. Canadian University Press story.

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