A Very Red Life: The Story of Bill Walsh


300 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 1-894000-05-6
DDC 331.88'1213'092





Reviewed by W.J.C. Cherwinski

W.J.C. Cherwinski is a professor of history and Canadian Studies Program
supervisor at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He is the co-author
of Lectures in Canadian Labour and Working-Class History.


In its continuing efforts to sanctify those men and women who, for
whatever reason, believed that the solution to the world’s problems
lay in actively opposing the existing economic and political power
structures, the Canadian Committee on Labour History presents this
biography of one of Canada’s more influential Communists from the
mid-20th-century period.

The author, Manitoba labour economist Cy Gonick, traces Bill Walsh’s
rather erratic development from his childhood in the Jewish ghetto in
Montreal during the 1910s and 1920s as Moishe Wolofsky. While still a
teen, Wolofsky moved to New York where he studied and worked at a
variety of menial jobs. Then he decided to hitch a ride to Russia where,
by his own reckoning, he spent two of the best years of his life as a
servant of the cause. Wolofsky returned to Canada when the Communist
movement was in full flower and devoted himself completely to organizing
and writing for the Party, but now under the name William Walsh. The
1930s saw him working assiduously in the united front against fascism.
When Germany and Russia became allies, Walsh was interned; when the
alliance foundered, he was released. A brief and unspectacular stint
overseas was followed by a much longer career as an organizer for the
United Electrical Workers Union where he became well-known in labour
circles in Ontario. He spent his last active years as a private-sector
consultant to any labour organization requiring his services.

While Walsh’s career spans the most active period for union and
left-wing political activity in Canada, the question that first comes to
the mind is what did he accomplish with his life’s dedication to a
cause? Organized labour and the interventionist state are now at best
compromised and at worst in full retreat, so the likelihood of other
ideologically motivated individuals successfully carrying Walsh’s
banner is remote. His legacy, therefore, is perhaps little more than the
30-page booklet “The Name of the Game,” which is reprinted at the
back of A Very Red Life.


Gonick, Cy., “A Very Red Life: The Story of Bill Walsh,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 29, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/7122.