The eighth convention of the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) was held in Toronto from 8-12 October 1937 and during one of its sessions the ‘approximately 5,000 communists and sympathizers including 450 accredited delegates from all provinces of Canada’ attending the meeting learned that a new ethnic periodical published under the aegis of the party had recently started its activities.
Il Lavoratore embraced the line of the Popular Front and called for the unity of all shades of antifascism; it supported the struggle for new and extended social benefits and called on all Italian workers in Canada to unite.
Il Lavoratore aimed to unite industrial and agricultural workers with small entrepreneurs (shop keepers, professionals, and small businesses) regardless of their political affiliation, ethnic origin or religious faith. The Communist party thought that the ideological and political mobilization of these social pockets had the power to stop the spread of fascism that had thus far gained thousands of followers in Canada and had grown consistently aggressive at the turn of the Thirties. The birth of the new ethnic paper was greeted with suspicion by the authorities as the subversive nature of Communism had been long regarded as much more dangerous than the various forms of fascism for the survival of democracy in the country.
In December 1935, a prototype issue of Il Lavoratore was distributed in Toronto and copies were mailed out to contacts across Canada. It was intended to be a weekly periodical, but when it began its regular publication in March 1936, Il Lavoratore was and would remain, against the promoters’ intentions and desire, a bi-weekly until its demise in September 1938.
The CPC had started planning for Il Lavoratore back in May 1935, possibly during the intense months of the Italo-Ethiopian crisis. When the paper began its regular publication, almost a year later, fascist Italy was about to complete its ‘civilizing’ mission in the Horn of Africa, while the Spanish Civil War was only four months away. And although Il Lavoratore was mostly intent on covering fascist activities within the community and its associations, such as the successful campaign to shut down the fascist school in Windsor (ON) and hinder the activities of the local Blue Shirts founded and run by right-extremist Luigi Meconi, the explosive European political situation, the Italian attack on the Horn of Africa and the Spanish Civil war became the paper’s leit motifs and the rallying banners against domestic and international fascism.
Ennio (Enio) Gnudi
The implementation of Il Lavoratore’s agenda required the expertise and political acumen of someone of exceptional stature. The CPC thus targeted an Italian political exile who the party’s hierarchies saw as the ideal deus ex-machina for the successful enactment of its plan. Ennio Gnudi (San Giorgio di Piana, Bologna, 1893 – Rome, 1949), was a member of the Central Committee of the Partito Comunista d’Italia (Italian Communist Party) in exile; a railway worker, he had been in Russia, South America, and the United States before settling in Canada in 1936, where he remained until he was able to return to Italy in the fall of 1943. During his time in Canada, he was the mastermind behind all the Italian communist activities, before eventually returning to Italy where he regained his post as General Secretary of the railroad workers’ union and became once again mayor of Bologna.
Gnudi had joined the Italian Socialist Party in 1916 and left it in 1921 for the newly founded Communist Party of Italy. He was the Mayor of Bologna during the Strage di Palazzo d’Accursio (1920). During his long stay in Canada, Gnudi went under two alias names: first Remo Sandrini and then O. Verdi. In 1942, Gnudi was in Canada where he participated in the formation of the Alleanza Garibaldi and, on the 17th of August of the same year, he ‘presided in Toronto over an assembly of the movement of the free Italians in support of the Allies’.
Brera, Matteo. 2021. Il Lavoratore: Mediatizing Workers’ Rights, Social Politics and Anti-Fascist Propaganda in Inter-War Canada (1936-1937), in Eisenbichler, Konrad, Pasquale Sabbatino (eds.), A Garland of Gifts: Studies in Honour of Olga Zorzi Pugliese. Welland: Soleil.
Sircana, Giuseppe. 2002. ‘Gnudi, Ennio.’ Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Volume 57 http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/ennio-gnudi_(Dizionario-Biografico)/