Collection consists of recordings made by Ruth Ann Borchiver in which she interviewed former members of the Canadian Communist movement, living in Toronto, for her doctoral thesis in applied psychology at the University of Toronto. The first interviews were conducted in 1984 and 1985 and the second interviews were mostly conducted in 1986 and 1987.
Borchiver asked participants about the events that led to their adoption of Communism; their reaction to perceived inconsistencies in Communist politics; their response to Khrushchev’s 1956 “Secret Speech” and other revelations about Stalinist rule; and their responses to significant events in Soviet history, including the Moscow trials of the 1930s, the Soviet non-aggression pact with Germany (commonly known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact), and Soviet interference in Yugoslavia.
Borchiver’s analysis centred on three themes: the conditions which led to the participants’ “conversion” to Communism, the conditions which led to the disconfirmation of their beliefs, and the conditions of proselytizing behaviour following their disconfirmation. The result is a description of ideological change from a millenarian outlook for achieving change through revolution to a tempered belief in incremental social change. Her methodology is socio-historical biography, using semi-structured interviews.
The first interview questions followed, but were not limited to, the following topics: early experiences of socialist ideation, feelings of achievement in the movement, reactions to revelations of the mid-1950s including Nikita Khrushchev’s Secret Speech (1956), and their current beliefs regarding socialist ideas. The second interview focused on the following topics: Trotskyism, the Moscow Trials, Social Democracy, the German-Soviet Pact, and Soviet interference in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.
The study was conducted on twelve people who were active in the Canadian communist movement prior to 1960, commonly referred to as the “Old Left.” Respondents included three women and nine men, who ranged in age from 65 to 83 years old and joined the Communist Party of Canada between 1923 and 1935. One participant was expelled from the Party in 1949, nine defected in 1957, and two left in 1960. Six participants were in the full-time employ of the Party for most of their careers, and six were leading Party activists. Six were European immigrants and six were born in Canada of immigrant parents. The thirteenth interviewee, who is not included in the final dissertation, was interviewed in hospital but not recorded.