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Gershman, Joe


GERSHMAN, JOE (1903–1989), Canadian labor organizer, journalist. Born in the Ukraine, Joshua (Joe) Gershman arrived in Canada in 1921. His father had preceded him by eight years and had settled in Winnipeg. There the young Gershman got his first job as a fur dyer. Radicalized some years before by the Russian Revolution of 1917, Gershman joined the nascent Communist Party of Canada in 1923 and began working as a union organizer among the Jewish workers in Winnipeg's garment industry. After several arrests for his trade union activity, Gershman decided to move to Toronto, where he found work as a textile cutter. But factory work was of no interest to him and within a few weeks he quit to become, in his own description, a "professional revolutionary," which is what he would remain for the next 65 years.

As an organizer for Communist-led unions which were in the forefront of the labor struggles of the period, Gershman was involved in dozens of strikes and demonstrations in the garment districts of Toronto and Montreal. Along with fellow Party members such as Joe *Salsberg and Sam Lipschitz he was elected to the executive of the national bureau of Jewish Communists. In 1935, Gershman found his true craft as a journalist. He became the editor of Der Kampf (The Struggle), the militant voice of the Jewish labor movement. He was a gifted writer and a tireless polemicist and for the next 40 years he would publish a series of Communist newspapers – all in Yiddish.

Unlike most other Jewish members who deserted the Party after the sordid revelations of Stalin's antisemitism in the early 1950s, Gershman remained and continued to publish a left-wing Yiddish weekly, the Vochenblatt, until 1977. Only then, embittered and disappointed, did he leave the Communist Party to protest the relentless anti-Jewish policies of the Soviet government.

[Irving Abella (2nd ed.)]

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