Eight Men Speak

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Eight Men Speak is a Canadian play written in 1933 by a committee of Oscar Ryan, E. Cecil-Smith, Frank Love and Mildred Goldberg. Although the play made only one performance in its initial run, the attempts by the authorities to suppress it backfired into a political embarrassment for the Canadian government and Prime Minister R. B. Bennett.

The agit-prop play told the story of Tim Buck and his arrest as a Communist under Section 98 of the Criminal Code that made simple association with an organization advocating violent overthrow of the government a crime. However, such accusations were often made without regard to the organizations' actual intentions, effectively allowing the federal government to claim that any powerful group which potentially opposed them to be labelled as 'subversive'. Furthermore, it details the apparent assassination attempt on Buck during a prison riot when shots were fired into his cell despite the fact he was not participating in the riot in any way.

The play is most noted for the reaction of the local 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. A theatre in Winnipeg had its licence revoked to pre-empt the play being performed there.

When the Progressive Arts Club had a meeting to protest this censorship, a former minister, A. E. Smith, described the play and its allegations of the attempted assassination of the Communist leader. As a result, Smith was indicted for sedition, but 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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