RCMP: Interrogation of Norman 1952

M — Supt. Geo. B. McClellan
G — Insp. T.M. Guernsey
N — E.H. Norman
Gl — G. de T. Glazebrook

M — Further information has been brought to our attention which quite frankly requires clarification or a solution and I will ask Insp. Guernsey, who is much more closely related to the details than I am to carry on.

G — Mr. Norman, the period I am going to cover is that concerning your days at Cambridge, at which time I recall you said you were to some extent under the influence of John Cornford, who was subsequently killed in the Spanish Civil War. Now I have here, first of all, a number of names before me who were also at Cambridge and I would like you to briefly advise what you know of them. The first one I will ask you about is [named deleted — Lorie Tarshis] who we discussed previously and who was in both Cambridge and Harvard I believe.

N — No he was at Tufts College.

G — He was at Cambridge also?

N — Yes.

G — Did you know him at Cambridge?

N — Yes, I knew him at both Tufts and Cambridge.

G — What did you think of [Tarshis] at that time?

N — Well — he was a very high-strung chap with lots of academic ability and interested in a wide number of things.

G — Would you class him as a Communist?

N — No, I’m sure he wasn’t.

G — Was he to the left or center?

N — In a general way he was, yes.

G — At Cambridge?

N — Yes, in so far as Hitler was concerned, but I don’t recall him as being pro-Soviet, which was in effect somewhat my position in those days. I remember talking to him and he was quite bitter and sarcastic and wanted to know what went on there and so forth. Like numbers of students worried about fascism.


G — But you wouldn’t say [Tarshis] was a Communist?

N — No.

G — Do you know anyone by the name of [name deleted], an Irishman?

N — Yes.

G — What would you say about him?

N — Well I would say he was a very close friend of [name deleted] too and I would say he was in the same class (category). He studied classics and was also at the same college.

G — Would you say he was a Communist?

N — I would say he was not. I would say his position was much the same as [Tarshis].

G — [deleted]

N — I knew him at Toronto. I knew him less well than [name deleted]. He was also an economist as [name deleted] was.

G — Was he at Cambridge also?

N — Yes, for one year while I was there.

G — Do you know his political beliefs as that time?

N — I think he was a Socialist and critical of what was going on in the Soviet Union.

G — He was not a Communist?

N — I would say not.

G — [deleted]

N — That does not ring a bell.

G — I believe he is also a Canadian over at Cambridge.

N — No, I don’t know him.

G — A man by the name of [name deleted].

N — Yes.

G — What time of man would you say he was?

N — He was an economist also, I believe. I would say his character was more unstable than some students seemed to be. He is rather an emotional type of person and I was not a very close friend of his.

G — Would you say he was a Socialist, a Communist, or Right-wing?


N — I believe he was Right-wing. I don’t rightly know, I don’t recall discussing his political opinions although I talked to him. As a matter of fact I came back on the same ship with him from England, but I don’t think politics figured in our conversation.

G — G.C. MacLauren, that’s phonetic. He was killed in the Spanish Civil War about the same time as John Cornford?

N — Oh Yes, I know him but not very well. At the time I knew him he was a member of the Conservative Club at Cambridge and I left Cambridge before he did and I don’t know what happened to him, except that I did hear later that he was later killed in Spain. He may have changed his views. I don’t know.

G — And an Indian by the name of [name deleted].

N — I may have just met him once or twice.

N — Is he an economist?

G — I believe so.

N — I think I met him through [name deleted]. I did not know him well.

G — Was he mixed up in the left-wing movement?

N — Intellectually, interested. He was like some other students, very critical of fascism and attended many political meetings as many students did then.


N — A woman?

G — Yes — a woman from Cambridge.

N — No I don’t.

G — A man by the name of [name deleted].

N — Yes, I think I have met him.

G — He was also at Cambridge. He married [name deleted].

N — I didn’t know him terribly well.

G — Another is [name deleted].

N — Yes he was at the same college as I was — he was a year ahead of me.

G — Did you know him very well?

N — I knew him fairly well the last year because he did some of my history work.

G — Were you ever in communication with him at any time since you returned to Canada?


N — He wrote to me once or twice after I left Cambridge.

G — Do you know a chap by the name of [name deleted]?

N — No.

G — Did you ever hear of the Indian Students’ Secret Communist group at Cambridge?

N — No I never did.

G — Did [name deleted] ever write to you about a Mexican Communist?

N — No.

G — You don’t know [name deleted] political sympathies? Is he a Communist or was he a Communist at that time?

N — I really don’t know. He certainly went to socialist society meetings and he is a very eccentric man. You couldn’t sometimes tell whether he was serious or not; very much of a book worm; some days he would have a very left way, while others, he would be ridiculing Communist writing and so forth. He had rather a whimsical mind. He certainly was, as some of the others were, concerned about fascism.

G — Do you know [name deleted] in Toronto?

N — Yes, I have known him.

G — In what connection?

N — I knew him the year I came back from Cambridge.

G — In what connection?

N — Well, he was connected with the League Against War and Fascism.

G — Were you in that League?

N — Well, I had a slight connection with it for a few weeks.

G — In what regard?

N — I think I made some speeches to the youth group, or something of the sort in Toronto.

G — You knew it was a Communist organization?

N — I knew it then.

G — Did you know that [name deleted] was a Communist?

N — I did not then, I didn’t see him again after.


G — How did you approach that organization?

N — I don’t know exactly, I may have gone to a meeting. I think some one in the University introduced me.

G — And what made you leave it?

N — Well that year, while I was doing some postgraduate work at the University of Toronto and also doing some teaching, and while I was teaching, I was told that I had the reputation of being that and it would not be well to continue that way while I was teaching, so I did not attend the meetings then. In fact, I was too busy to do much of that. Then I won the Rockefeller Foundation contest that spring and I wanted to get on with my studies and not get intertwined, and did not particularly see any point in that particularly.

G — When you took the position at Upper Canada College, I understand that [name deleted] was Principal at that time?

N — Yes he was.

G — I understand he wanted a teacher for Medieval History.

N — It was Classics. I was doing Medieval History in my postgraduate work.

G — Would I be right or wrong in saying that at that time when you went to take up this position, you were warned to keep any Communistic feelings you might have had to yourself, as they were not wanted in the school. [name deleted] said he would then accept you.

N — That is right.

G — Were you at that time Mr. Norman a member of the Communist Party.

N — No.

G — You never have been a member of the Communist Party?

N — No.

G — Were you ever approached or associated with the Communist party or its affiliates?

N — No.

G — What about the League Against War and Fascism?

N — Well, I certainly was interested in Marxism, but I did not engage in what you would say political activities. [Marginal note — evaded question]

G — Would it be right to say that you were in charge of colonial work for the Indian students’ secret Communist group in Great Britain and that you were going


to form the following year, or better, the year before you left Cambridge, and that you got in touch with four students to form a group before you left Cambridge.

N — I had no such intention.

G — Were you ever in touch with anybody in the British Communist Party?

N — Not wittingly, or consciously.

G — And you have never known [name deleted] at all?

N — No.

G — During the period prior to the time that you accepted the position at Upper Canada and the time that you returned from Cambridge, you were not employed too much?

N — That is right.

G — And at the same time you were thinking of marrying your present wife?

N — That is right.

G — Did you ever say to anyone that you were a member of the Communist Party just prior to what brought up the subject of your Communist feelings at Upper Canada?

N — No.

G — Who would you suggest brought that up to [name deleted]?

N — I think [name deleted] might have.

G — And what made him do that?

N — Because he recommended me for the post and said that if I got into trouble for my political thoughts he did not want to be called upon for recommending me.

G — Therefore, he must have known something about the case of your Communist views at that time.

N — While so far as at Cambridge he may have had some ideas — while I was there, yes. I did not hob-nob with him very much. I will say this, I talked quite recklessly in those years and in a way I was very carefree and did not weigh my words.

G — Were you ever a member of the Young Communist League, now known as the National Federation of Labor Youth?

N — No.


G — Did you ever come across [name deleted]?

N — No, but I heard the name the first time this summer regarding his publicity in Washington. I have never met him yet.

G — You think that the reason for you leaving the League Against War and Fascism — that the motivation was more financial than politics?

N — No, I think that the growing up a little and getting more responsible.

G — You think that in three weeks that change took place?

N — No, I don’t think it would be a matter of a few weeks.

G — Well, the time of being in the League was only a few weeks, you said.

N — No, I know I was not very long in the tail end of 1935 and ---and the beginning---well that would be about it. Now I don’t know whether it went into 1936 or not. It certainly was not very long. I did not particularly like haranguing anyway. I dare say I gave a few speeches on foreign affairs but it did not appeal to me much and I wanted to get on with my studies.

G — Do you think you could identify a Communist or a Socialist at that time?

N — By conversation, I think I could.

G — If I said at that time that a number of the people I have mentioned were Communists and are known Communists and were very active at that time in Cambridge, what would you say to that?

N — Well, I couldn’t from my knowledge (?) deny it. I’ve tried to give their characterisation of their political views.

G — What would you say if a high executive of the British Communist Party stated that you, and none other than you, were in charge of colonial work at Cambridge?

N — I don’t know where he got that idea. Someone may have told him I may have been a likely man for that job but I didn’t do such a job. I knew (some of them?) in the Socialist Society of which I was a member.

G — Did you have anything to do with the literature of this Socialist or left-wing group in the Indian group?

N — No, no I didn’t.

G — Did you know anything about it?

N — Well, there was literature sold there in the University through the Socialist Society.


G — I wasn’t thinking so much of that as literature they may have been transmitting to India.

N — No. John Cornford made a couple of hints one time that I should become interested in Asiatics, Indians and so forth, but nothing came of it from my point. I have always liked Asiatics, not as Asiatics, but because I am interested in them, therefore, I used to see some of them there. Some were in the Socialist Society. Not all of them, but I confined my acquaintance to the Socialist Society, and as I did know Cornford quite well he once or twice mentioned — that — some Indians were — that I did not — he never proposed that I should engage in secret work, go to India or get connected with the British Communist Party and I didn’t have any doings with it at all. I was much more curious to meet oriental students to learn their views and a number of things and some of them were rather diffident high strung types that I didn’t care for so much; others were quite serious or brilliant and very interesting to know and I didn’t by any means try to know as many as I could (garbled) but if someone else got the idea, I can’t help that, but I never volunteered to do any such work — I certainly didn’t do it.

G — I may be repeating myself from our previous conversation, but while I think of it — first of all there was in Harvard attending what Tsuru described in his correspondence as study cells — study groups — he had five groups and they had this quarterly entitled “Science & Society”.

N — That’s right.

G — I forget at the moment, but did I ask you if Shigeto Tsuru was a Communist, Socialist, left-wing, right-wing, middle-of-the-road, or otherwise? What would you say he was?

N — Well, I (asked?) him at Harvard if he was a Communist and he got quite angry and said he wasn’t — he said he was a Marxist, and that he was a political exile which was bad because he had been arrested.

G — What is the difference between Marxism and Communism?

N — Well, I took it to mean he wasn’t interested in political activities of any kind and that he didn’t wish to follow the party line.

G — Well that doesn’t reflect all the seized documents we have from him.

N — Well, those activities were unknown to me — well there are three or four — we went over that last time — there were three or four (?) young professors at Harvard that met — and as I say I could recall two or three (pages?) of that but there wasn’t very many of them and there was just papers given amongst this three or four mostly economic and I was the only one who wasn’t an economist as I recall and it only met a few times and was generally


academic. There was no talk about we should write an article for Science and Society — I’m certainly not aware of those things — although — and one or two got quite technical — talking about (Schultmetu’s?) theories, the business cycle and things of that sort, and in fact I wouldn’t say there was any attempt made to reconcile the theories of Marxism. I don’t think it was a sort of a Communist study group in the sense that everything had to be in party lines.

G — Now this definition between a Marxist and a Communist — I don’t know if you are defining it that way or not, but what I am trying to get back at is would you consider any of these people I have mentioned before as Marxists rather than Communists?

N — [name deleted] I think in certain moods would be a Marxist.

G — [deleted]

N — No, I don’t think so — politically I would say — I think, perhaps slightly left and a New Dealer and his great intellectual god was the King.

G — Do you know anything about any parades or about November 11?

N — Yes, I was in one.

G — What parade was that?

N — It was something to do with a memorial or peace. I am afraid it sounds a bit (?) now, but it had a different flavour.

G — Well, it could have been like the League Against War and Fascism.

N — Well, at Cambridge there were four or five societies which took part in this parade — there was the Socialist Society which at that time was merged with the Labor Society, so that included in its ranks were various types of leftists including Stafford Cripps (boys?) which were then known as the Socialist League Youth or something of that sort — there was a Christian society, I don’t know its name, and two or three others and it was quite a large parade — as a matter of fact I walked beside [name deleted].

G — Carrying a banner?

N — No we weren’t carrying any banners, we were about 1 mile down — it was quite a large parade.

Note: A slight portion missed in recording. It continues:

N — ….parade?

G — Of the group that was making up this parade.


N — As I recall it…

G — Was there any league in Cambridge such as the League for Peace and Democracy?

N — No, there wasn’t any such organisation at Cambridge that I knew of — there was certainly the Socialist Society that included the Labor Party branch at Cambridge and there was a (?) organisation and pacifist organisation, which I can’t recall, would it be the Fellowship of Reconciliation, or some such name, I think — and there was a very large turnout actually — and I was walking with [name deleted], and we were told it was going to be a clash and there was an element of undergraduate excitement about he thing — it became quite a stunt and I would say there were several hundreds in it and then there were a few people in it who didn’t like it and attacked it — as I recall [name deleted] was in the forefront of the attack, wading and slugging and the parade told us not to get into a riot as they would be discredited and then the police took a hand and broke it up (to prevent the sides getting mixed up?) if any liked that sort of thing as exciting I didn’t care for it (----?) it was just from one of the colleges down to the cenotaph.

G — When you were in Toronto did you ever distribute leaflets or pamphlets for the League Against War and Fascism?

N — Well, I might have, I don’t recall it.

G — At the Toronto Exhibition?

N — Oh, no, I certainly didn’t, I can’t stand anything like that. When you said that, I don’t know I might have casually passed something to someone, but I didn’t go out on the street.

G — I don’t want you to think, Mr. Norman, that I am making accusations, I am trying to get at the base of things. You are in quite a responsible position and there has been a lot of talk going on in the papers and so on.

N — I understand perfectly.

N — Could I make a statement?

G — Certainly.

N — I have been interested in politics of all kinds, and oriental students and their views and so forth. Kept up my interest in the Far East, but since I got more matured, and particularly since I got in the Government Service, despite that period, I have maintained what I consider a discreet and loyal attitude and I have tried to make use of what knowledge I have gained on oriental things — personal knowledge what you’re reading, for the interest government. If I had remained in academic life as I intended to do as having won the Rockefeller Fellowship naturally I would have gone into


research and write, which I tried to keep up to some extent even after I was in the Government as I had the Department’s permission to write and I (-----?) just as I entered the Department and I have this very strong interest in the Orient and varied political movements and those years before I was in the Government had I known certain Indians, Chinese or anyone you wish to name left-wing, I wouldn’t necessarily have liked him for being left-wing but I wouldn’t have been afraid to know him because he was.

G — When we were speaking of left-wing, shall we not try to define it, not as a political phrase, but as Communism or Labor.

N — Well, the Chinese, I don’t think I knew any of them, were bona fide left-wing because the (united?) and of might have some (gifts?) but those that would be in the States would most likely not be that way anyway but if they were I wouldn’t know it but they might spread the news about one subject that would (------?) coincide with Communists or a left-wing view. For instance, Chinese might harbour, I am not speaking of anyone in particular, because I did not know any Chinese then. They might have been very critical of Japanese policy in China (-----?) and commenting on his government’s policies being effective or not. Well now, the Chinese Communists in about 1935 went on a big campaign to declare war against Japan to try and get a united front with the (Cho mit tung?). Well, I would be very interested to hear what a Chinese had to say — whether it was critical of his government or was for it — it wasn’t up to me to make any decisions about the man.

G — Wouldn’t you make any decisions?

N — I might say he was a wind-bag, or he is fanatical and, therefore, a bore, or that he is very well informed.

G — Wouldn’t this be getting some reflection of the information you were getting from him?

N — Oh, yes, I am assuming if the man had any intelligence and wasn’t — and wasn’t fanaticism which is unpleasant in any shape or form — as I say if he had something interesting to say about (----?) I am interested in that part of the world, but after I came to the Government, I think — I tried to — I felt genuine loyalty to Canada. I was never aware of any temptation to do anything to the contrary to Canadian interests and I would like to say in passing if I may that while I was at the Rockefeller Foundation I had had two letters from [name deleted] one (interrupted for tea)


G — (The first part of the question not recorded, but in effect it concerned whether or not Norman was actually a member of the Communist Party, a Communist, or not.)……Even if you admitted you were a member of the party at one time, or anything else, I am not saying…it will be much better I think to do that in my own opinion.

N — Yes. In my Cambridge time I came close to it and if I had stayed there another year I might have.

G — To go a little further than that and into your Harvard years and during your period with the Institute of Pacific Relations you get men like Wittfogel coming up who was a Communist and made certain charges that you already know of. A lot of people think, whether it is true or not, that there is some truth in those things and we get information from other sources quite independent. As a matter of fact, I think we went into that before when I spoke to you about the N.F.L.Y., that we had a report that you were a member of the N.F.L.Y. in 1939.

N — The N.F.L.Y?

G — The National Federation of Labor Youth, which was previously known as the Young Communist League.

N — 1939, never. No. no. that’s one thing, I wasn’t in Canada [Marginal note — He was — joined XA [External Affairs] July 39]

G — I am not saying that was exactly the year from memory at the present moment, but it was around that same period, perhaps 1940 when you were here for a time.

N — Well, let me tell you about my knowledge of Karl Wittfogel, if I might.

G — Why certainly, I would be glad to hear it.

N — Wittfogel was just a name to me when I was studying in the States, he was known as a German….he is a Communist or had been a Communist, I wasn’t sure which at that time, but because of his political views he had been a prisoner of the Nazis and was released for some reason and got away and got refuge in America. Then I heard of him from various quarters and I was on the last year of my fellowship. I was in New York when I heard from people like Professor Fairburn in Harvard who was a Far Eastern Professor, or I heard his name through various people and a German scholar who had some new ideas on the interpretation of Chinese society. He was certainly known to me as a Communist but whether he was one at that time I do not know. I never said are you a Communist — I didn’t say to him I was a Communist because I wasn’t. Now, in our conversations we met a total of three times — they were most academic and I don’t recall anything that went into some subjects like even modern China, where I could have, I can’t recall that conversation but I may have expressed views relating to the present situation in China as it was then and he may have interpreted them as being of a Communist nature, but I say I don’t even recall having a conversation on contemporary……No, the theory was almost entirely


academic and he in many ways, in a sense, is a pedant and he loves to talk, so that I did very little talking. I treated him with considerable respect because I thought he was a man from a rather grim background and he was known to be a great scholar and he was holding forth at great length. I visited him in his office at Columbia University where he had a teaching position of some kind in research work where he showed me his files, very proudly, and beautifully laid out with the German thoroughness, cross-referenced to Chinese economic history. He challenged me to think of a topic in Chinese economic history to see if he could find something. So I spent a couple of hours with him there that afternoon and I would say that I met him a total of three or four times, always on academic subjects. He may have asked me one or two things about Japan, because he knew that I was specialising in Japanese studies. However, he did not ask people for information — he was giving it.

G — What would be his motive of making such statements and thus perjuring himself?

N — Well now, my position is this, if he thought that my conversation was in the nature of a Communist, which I strongly doubt, he could have gone that far to say that my interest in Chinese history, and so forth, showed some kind of a Communistic slant. I don’t think it would have been a justified remark, but he might have. What he said there was actually wrong, I have never been in Cape Cod at any Communist study group in any Eastern States. Then, I understand, he went on to say that I had attended a Communist study group of a man called Finkelstein, whose name I have never even heard. Now I think he has never — he was a little rattled when he was asked what group he had and fumbled around for some place where he could place me in some framework of reference, where the thing would stick. He must have known of some Cape Cod Communist study group which I personally never heard associated to (………) problem. And then apparently there was the Finkelstein group which again I don’t know what they did except I made it plain when I was in New York this summer. I asked Holland, the Secretary of the I.P.R. about it and he said that the fact that Karl Wittfogel didn’t appeal on his testimony….that he was the chief lecturer at the Finkelstein study group long after he, Wittfogel, ceased to be a Communist. Which is a curious business, I think.

G — I can’t quite reconcile his motivation for….without a…..

N — I am not trying to say he had any menace towards me, but I think there is such a thing as being an obliging witness.

G — Oh yes.


N — I can’t say that I liked his words of praise when he referred to me as a pleasant, talented, young man.

M — Do you remember the question “When you were teaching up in Canada you did say that you had been warned”?

N — That’s right. In this way, not to bring propaganda into the classroom and I was rather shocked to be told that because it was the furthest thing from my mind. To teach young boys Latin and Greek is not very conducive to propaganda. Still I worded it in a very good way as I thought it was in my interests.

M — Who gave you that warning?

N — [name deleted]

M — Did you then deny having putting it in?

N — I don’t know what I said to tell you the truth. I said that I was quite horrified at the idea that I would furnish schoolboys political propaganda. I certainly had no such intentions. He said he was only interested in protecting the school and his position and he didn’t want to have any accusations that anything of that nature was being taught in class and I said it certainly won’t be.

M — The though occurred to me that it was presumptuous that you had protested.

N — Well, I think I was known as a Leftist in Cambridge and I just came back. I didn’t feel anything on my conscience. I didn’t feel as if I did anything wrong. I just realised as the months went on that there was no sense in trying to go on to get an academic career. Not to speak of Communist principles or anything generally — whether or not it was correct to call it….it was not always too obvious.

M — One other question about the League Against War and Fascism. Do you ever remember being at their exhibit at the Toronto Exhibition?

N — No, I am quite sure I wasn’t.

M — There is a suggestion that you….

N — That name does not mean anything to me. Frankly, I would admit it if I was but I don’t even know of it. [Marginal note — see page 4 in which NORMAN introduces this name & admitted his connection.]

M — There is an allegation that you were in their booth distributing literature.

N — I would like to know the date of that.

M — It would roughly be about 1935 at the Toronto Exhibition.

N — Well, I was in those parts. It would have been physically possible, but I am quite sure I didn’t. It may have been blotted out of my memory. I would admit that if I had been there.


M — You were pretty sure of…….from what you tell us. You do admit that you gave several talks.

N — Oh yes, but the reason that I am quite sure I didn’t is that I don’t remember and secondly a thing like that would be so painful to me. I hate anything like — handing out — well I’ve never — well I’ve never done it, standing on street corners handing out pamphlets. That’s something I couldn’t forget. I may forget conversations and casual associations but I doubt whether I could forget that and, if so, it doesn’t stick in my mind at all.

M — (The first part is not discernible, but he ended this question by saying — “your address while you were at Cambridge”.

N — Kimberly Road.

M — Seventeen?

N — That’s right.

M — Then there is no doubt about the address you were talking about at the time. I wanted to be sure of that. Well, I think that Insp. Guernsey made the point….. Now these difficulties and undoubtedly for you is that you know where he is. These accusations have come from a number of different places.

N — Well, that’s natural, I have been to a number of different places.

M — Well, all accusations are along the same lines. I’m just trying to give you our problem.

N — Well, I’m quite frank in admitting my political sympathies in those years.

M — And some of the accusations are of a pretty concrete nature and are from sources which we have no reason to believe are other than reliable. We have this thing at Cambridge Insp. Guernsey spoke to you about. We have these things in the States; we have the question of Toronto and while…….I don’t believe that where there is smoke there is necessarily fire.

M — You have made it flat enough and I put it to you again. You have never been a member of the Communist Party?

N — No, I considered myself very close to it about a year but I didn’t accept any posts or responsibilities. [Marginal note — NB*]

M — And that year would be what year?

N — The last year in Cambridge — the last half of the year in Cambridge to be correct.

M — In 1934?

N — Well, not my first year in Cambridge — the end of my Cambridge career. The spring of 1935.


M — Would it be fair enough then to put yourself in the category of what we call the fellow-traveller?

N — Yes.

M — Well now if at some time you come to the conclusion that this was not for you when would that be?

N — Well, I didn’t have any sudden light on the road like St. Paul, maybe it would have been better if I had. But it was a slow process in which I gained intellect from maturity and I must have figured for myself that that tendency of mine was not motivated by any blind admiration of Russia. Even in my most solemn days such goings on there were very disturbing. The purges were very distasteful, to say the least. This may sound to you like a small point but I found in some of the things that were available in English which were of Russian or Marxist, or so called Marxist origin in the field I was studying in was very unsatisfying… Their demands were, such as I remember reading something about China in some comparison like Bolents (?) Marxist documents — and they had documents related to the situation in China as it was over a period of years. I read these and I found them quite unsatisfactory. When I was in; it was awfully difficult, but I don’t know whether — whether he would claim — or being a Communist. It seems he told the committee at various dates when — I’m not competent to say — what he considered himself then. I would — consider his approach to China economic history unsatisfactory. He kept talking about oriental mode of production as described by Marx. Well, it was just a kind of a slower or upset to me. It didn’t get you any nearer so understanding what made up Chinese society. I was getting increasingly aware of that tendency as I read it that to make a theoretical study of some of the material… I was in touch with, the C.C.F. people in the friendly way and in the States there were other varieties of Marxism which I read and studied such as Trotsky’s study on the Chinese revolution and — Cambridge. I don’t know who I could call in testimony but I got in several arguments with someone like Cornford because I used to bring up Trotsky’s arguments. I would do this just to see what the answer would be but quite often he would get, you know — not quite angry. He would say I was always interested in ideas of that sort, not necessarily Leftist ideas. I tried to keep an open mind on a variety of things and, therefore, I didn’t wish to become fanatically wedded to anyone of these theories. I thought life started getting too complex to just take a theory and superimpose on it and say “now you had it”. It’s a nice lazy way of doing it -. I have many intellectual doubts about things. It would be very hard to say as of this date I would be so critical or hostile to the whole thing I would never read a book. That isn’t the way it happened because I later on may read things to just inform myself of what went on. It was no desire to convince myself or, in fact, now it is my painful duty to read some Communist stuff that comes from China just to see what they are saying. I find it unbelievably crude. Maybe I wouldn’t have thought it was so crude a few years ago. I was continually trying to test my ideas against


reality and so forth and I went through this phase and looking back now, although it’s now giving you considerable trouble, certainly me, I am not aware that I ever violated my duty to my Government, nor have I been engaged in what might be called “conspiratorial activities”, trying to pass secret messages off or anything of that sort.

M — So that you were gradually moving away.

N — Gradually moving away. Yes, I would say I was maturing, partly intellectual maturing, and also from some of the types you meet down in the States — for opportunity. That’s the one person I dislike very much — fanaticist. You meet that type sometimes you know in universities.

M — Did you ever meet [name deleted]?

N — No, I don’t think I did but I know who he is. I am glad I didn’t meet him because he was once in Ottawa during the war years and having……someone casually said, “No thanks”…. I wasn’t worried about anything.

M — He is the complete fanatic. Well now, let me put it to you this way then. There are certain persons who were sufficiently impressed with your views that they did consider you a Communist.

N — I am sure there were some.

M — And people I may say who were themselves Communists or were on the other side of Communism — anti-Communists.

N — Yes.

M — Having done that, let’s say the Communist people had come to that conclusion. Having done that it would seem reasonable that approaches would be made to you to continue your affiliation with the Party if you had any, since you said you had. For instance, when you came back to Canada, if these people who were at Cambridge believed you were a fellow-traveller, it is only reasonable that they would ask their Canadian comrades to come and meet you, or to ask you into the Canadian group. Do you remember being approached in any way like that?

N — There was no such approach. I would say that I made the mistake of making an approach — except that I did to the League of Against War and Fascism. I spent the summer holidays in the country. I came back and visited briefly Hamilton where my wife — I wasn’t married then but her family came to the…….and no one came to me. Either that I knew or didn’t know. I have had no letters from anyone in Cambridge that could be described as such.

M — There is one question I think you did answer that I may have missed the answer to. It was whether you had ever had a query from [name deleted]

N — I had a couple of letters, yes.


M — Regarding Mexican Communists.

N — That I really don’t know. That doesn’t ring any kind of a bell. None whatever.

Gl — It seems to me that this conversation suggests two lines which were close together for a while and then divide. The long line is a scholarly interest in Communism as an existing political philosophy whether it was in between the East or the West. It was that sort of thing that……… The other line is probably confused a bit at one point, and then your own conviction or belief which appeared to run strongly through the Cambridge period. And certainly for a longer period. I think we all understand your interest in Marxism as an idea. I wonder if you could analyse it a little more fully. What started you going at Cambridge. And secondly what was your motive in entering the League when you returned to public. They are two related questions?

N — Well I touched partly on that George by saying, yes for the intellectualist as you can separate to some extent but it is also tied up. I graduated in the year ’33. I think I was on the side of being rather hermetical at university, except that I attended to my studies.

Gl — Well, you had long hair.

N — I don’t think I had long hair but I studied more. I didn’t have any particular interest in politics. There was a leftist group on the campus that I recall hearing of but I didn’t have any interest in them. I was just vaguely aware of them and didn’t have anything to do with them. I was studying hard as I could and then I got a scholarship to Cambridge and also one to Trinity College, Cambridge, a scholarship from Toronto. A historical one which permitted me to make a choice. I chose Cambridge purely on academic grounds as I wanted to study medieval history. I felt that there were names there that I would like to study under. In that year Hitler came to power in Germany, and I remember one time, this may sound very trivial to you, but when one is young he is quite impressionable. I saw the disillusion of burning books in the streets of Berlin. I was rather shaken by this. Most young people are rather optimistic and think that the world is getting a better place all the time. When I got to Cambridge the nearness of the Atlantic ocean seemed to bring me that much closer to this new phenomenon rising in Europe. At Trinity College among my friends in History was John Cornford. He was a bit of a prodigy. I think he graduated from Cambridge when he was 19 or 20 or so. His father was a very distinguished scholar, a college professor, and his mother, I think, was a Pole. It seemed that the more intellectual ones, the more lively ones were leftist. It didn’t appear to me that way suddenly but it did after a while. They were quite young men, bright, they didn’t seem long-haired or gloomy, they seemed to treat life free, easy and gay. I didn’t exclusively associate with them. I had some Canadian friends whom I had known before such as [name deleted]. I studied hard, I wanted to make good marks academically, but chewing the fat at meals and so forth one of the dominant things would always be


what was happening in Germany. People would talk about whether they thought Germany would invade France, whether Hitler would blow up internally, whether there would be a Communist Revolution, etc. The conversation of the students other than the chit-chat about sports and so forth, was very definitely charged with this atmosphere. Although I didn’t go overboard to the extent of leaving my studies or just reading politics, I was definitely influenced by it. And that, George, is the most important impact in that phase of my life was the phenomena of Hitler. And it didn’t make me overwhelmingly non-critically pro-Soviet. Now the thing that did have an effect on was whether there was any country in Europe which was competent enough to cope with this man. Well, Communist propaganda was quite plausible in suggesting that there should be a united front of countries, collective security, and Litvinoff who looks like quite a nice boy these days, was talking collective security against the Germans. And so I was carried off to some extent in all these talks and discussions. If there hadn’t have been such a society there I wouldn’t have been as influenced as I was. It was pretty Marxist but it was no “Party line”. It had labor Party people in it. They often used to have pretty sharp rows on the platform because there would be Party line people talking on one occasion and the others would be genuine English labor Party people. We had quite distinguished speakers of all levels. For instance I heard Cripps speak on a number of occasions, and even met him once. I felt that a brilliant labor Party man could cope with Communist questions. These meetings would draw a lot of students, not necessarily convinced leftists. They were quite lively performances about once a month. I attended other political meetings as well. I attended the Cambridge Union which is a debating society. I was getting interested again in the Far East. I say again because I was brought up there. My original interest in the Far East was from the point of medieval history in which I was specializing. To study feudalism in Asia, to see if you could find the same type of administration, so forth and so on, or to see if it was something unique. So that my intellectual interests were influenced somewhat by political views. I wanted to get the political views of oriental students on that, so naturally politics came into it. The thing I must emphasise is that it was the rise of what looked to be a cultural throw-back and so forth, which generally shook me. This shook me very much and the fact that among the historians who sat in the same small room listening to lecturers in Communism in writing their work was John Cornford. That had an influence on me, there was no question.

Gl — Would you be prepared to say….?

N — I think it was, but it deadened.

Gl — You did find then to some extent the answer in Communism?

N — Well, not so much Communism, I tried to use Marxism as an intellectual X-Ray to see why these things happened. Then after a period of years I matured out of it, but I was interested to know if this was the result of German psychology or what the Marxists would call material forces, or what the hell it was. I was reading other things as


Well. It precipitated me from my medieval studies into this world. It wasn’t the pull of Russian Communism.


Gl — To simplify what we are all trying to establish is not whether you incurred a disease, but what disease you had.

N — Yes, yes.

Gl — Could you define your own disease at that time, because you were a fellow-traveller or were not. Would that be a fair……….?

omit G — If Cornford……Communist or Marxist, or a division between the two……?

N — Definitely. I felt of the various theories proposed, the one I heard from John Cornford seemed to be the most appealing. Certainly at that time the Communist line, but it was as I say much more of an approach from the Fascist side than any pull from the Russian side. I never studied very much about the internal system of Russia although I tried to read “The Web”, and was unable to finish it, and as I matured and was able to test my theories, I found out how it would be to live in a Communist state, I was, frankly, quite appalled. I realised that making all kinds of allowances for the backwardness of Russia in the pre-Revolutionary days that it was still, or even more than ever a tyrannical state. I think my real philosophy is of a liberal nature which I achieved, I hope, in better balance in later years.




Gl — It would have been not unreasonable for a contemporary of yours at Cambridge to have said that you were a Communist?

N — They might have. You see the Socialist Society was very left, and I used to go quite regularly. It was a very large society, I don’t know how many were in it but it was regarded as one of the liveliest societies in providing intellectual pleasures from time to time. I remember now on one occasion when a leading British Communist spoke there and I questioned him and annoyed him very much. I think his name was [name deleted] by asking


him some questions which I had read from Trotsky’s works which I tried on him. There again I think Cornford used to tease me on that. He quite often used to call me a Trotskyite, in a kind of backward way. I really wasn’t a member of the Trotskyite group but I read Trotsky’s works and was quite impressed by them. I used to think it was fun to sometimes throw in this sort of thing.


G — Do you think that you were so close to the Party that people could mistake you for being a member of the Party?

N — Well, at that stage in Cambridge they might have but after I was living in the States I shouldn’t think so.

G — In Canada at any time?

N — Well, after the year ’35 or early 1936 when I moved down to the States I was (interruption)

G — You were pretty close to the Party.

N — Yes, yes.

G — Now, could you have been so close in your own mind for people to say to all intents and purposes that you were a member of the Party.

N — They might, because people make conclusions by one’s conversation.


G — What would you do if we went to war with Russia tomorrow? What would you think?

N — Well, there would be no question where my loyalties lay, they would be entirely with Canada; our side. When you say what would I think, I wouldn’t throw my hat in the air and say this is wonderful because I think the problems of containing Communism could be more effectively accomplished by moans short of war. By the policy which we are trying to carry out with NATO. If it isn’t sufficient to restrain the Russians and they break out, there is nothing else for it but to stand against them and I am certainly going to do my bit in that.






G — At an earlier stage you admit that you were close to the Party and then finally weaved off it by your maturing. Subsequent to that we had references to you in connection with Communists such as [Frank Park]. I think I mentioned before I wasn’t ever quite satisfied with your explanation of [Park] because [Park] has been a rabid Communist for a number of years and is a very dangerous Communist.

N — I can only say what I said before and that is that I met him only very casually two or three times in Ottawa during the war years.

G — We don’t say that we believe in “guilt by association”.

N — I must say that I met him in circumstances that were not sinister, it was at some kind of a large party. In wartime Ottawa you met people in various places and I saw him two or three times, I would say. You speak of him as being quite “pally” with me but that is not my impression of him.

G — I didn’t mean that you were “pally” with him but he knew you by your first name, Herb, and also he had your telephone numbers.

N — Some people……..first names very quickly, I don’t always do that. Aside from any problems involved I would never consider him as even being a close friend of mine, let alone a long acquaintance. There was no conversation between us either private or in a large group to my memory which had any sort of political significance. I certainly didn’t know he was a Communist. He didn’t indicate to me that he was and other than having met him a few times I had no dealings with him that would be of interest to you.




G — What I’m trying to demonstrate is that these facts are on record and show you came to see him.

N — Even if I had known, regardless whether he was a Communist, or near Communist or anything else, that would not be my criterion of my attitude to him, I would be discreet. I have never, to my knowledge, violated my duties in that sense outside of the office, whether it was a very nice respectable person or someone that you might feel is suspicious. The fact that I ran into him two or three times is just bad luck. It doesn’t disturb me at all because I couldn’t have done anything wrong. I didn’t tell him any secrets, I had no talks or anything.

NOTE: There is a suggestion that the meeting will break up at this point. Then Mr. Norman starts talking again.

N — I’ll say one thing more. There are people that you might fell are under suspicion although in those days they didn’t seem to be particularly dangerous. From the time I entered the Government, I’ll put it this way, I was more than normally careful with some that I thought might be Communist or Leftist. I will make that statement. That doesn’t apply to [Park] because I was careful with him, but I wasn’t particularly aroused. [Marginal note — 1st interview NORMAN stated that he could not offer any opinion of [Park’s] political ideology.] On the other hand, I know I didn’t do anything wrong because I didn’t tell him anything so it doesn’t concern me. For instance, some of the I.P.R. people, I knew some of them were Leftist but not near as many of them as this campaign against them indicates. I was very careful when I was in the Government not to gossip about things as I might unconsciously tell something. […]

Source: Library and Archives Canada, Canadian Security Intelligence Service Access to Information Request, File 117-89-109, Supt. Geo. B. McClellan; Insp. T.M. Guernsey; E.H. Norman; G. de T. Glasebrook, RCMP Interrogation of Norman 1952, January 26, 1952, 1-25

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