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Eight Men Speak

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Eight Men Speak is a Canadian play written in 1933 by a committee of Oscar Ryan, E. Cecil-Smith, Frank Love and Mildred Goldberg. The play made only one performance in its initial run then was suppressed by the Canadian government. Its suppression became a political embarrassment for Prime Minister R. B. Bennett. The publicity helped cause the release of the eight imprisoned Communist Party leaders of the play's title.

The agitprop play tells story of the imprisonment of Tim Buck and seven others Communist Party leaders under Section 98 of the Criminal Code, which made simple association with the Communist Party a crime. The law allowed authorities to claim that any powerful group which potentially opposed them to be labelled as 'subversive' and thus punishable.

The play also dramatized an assassination attempt on Buck while in prison. During a prison riot, shots were fired into Buck's cell despite the fact he was not participating in the riot in any way.

The play is most noted for the reaction of the Toronto authorities following the play's one performance at Toronto's Standard Theatre on December 4, 1933. The police ordered the play closed and threatened to revoke the theatre's licence if the play was performed again.

Communist Winnipeg school board trustee Joe Zuken and others attempted to have the play performed in Winnipeg. But authorities revoked the theatre's licence and stopped the play's performance.

When the Progressive Arts Club had a meeting to protest this censorship, a former Manitoba Labour MLA, A. E. Smith, gave a speech endorsing the play and its presentation of the attempted assassination of the imprisoned Communist leader. Smith was arrested and charged with sedition. The resulting trial allowed Buck to take the stand and relate the events of the incident in open court. Smith was acquitted, and Buck and his comrades were soon released afterward.

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This page was last edited on 31 March 2021, at 20:13
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