James Litterick

IntroCanadian politician
Is Politician 
From Canada 
Type Politics 
Birth 15 July 1901 
, Glasgow

James Litterick (born July 15, 1901) was a politician in Manitoba, Canada, and was the first member of the Communist Party of Canada to be elected to that province’s legislature.


Early life

Litterick was born in Glasgow, Scotland. He received an education at Clydebrooke and Glasgow, and became a member of the British Socialist Party at age sixteen (his father was also a lifelong socialist). He was jailed for his role in a rent riot at Clydebank in 1920, and joined the newly formed Communist Party of Great Britain the same year.


Litterick moved to Canada in 1925 and initially worked as a miner in Alberta and British Columbia. In 1926, he became the district secretary of the Communist Party of British Columbia. He moved to Montreal in 1930, and became an organizer for the Workers Unity League, a Communist trade union umbrella designed to build a revolutionary trade union movement in Canada. When Communist Party leader Tim Buck was arrested in 1931, Litterick moved to Toronto to take over some of his responsibilities.

MLA: 1937–40

In 1934, Litterick was selected as Provincial Secretary of the Communist Party of Manitoba. He was elected to the Manitoba legislature in the provincial election of 1936, during a period of increased popularity for the party. His campaign focused on eliminating the province’s 2% wage tax.

He married Molly Bassin in 1936.

Litterick placed second on first-preference votes in the riding of Winnipeg, which elected ten members via preferential balloting. He was declared elected on the second count, after receiving numerous transfer votes from first-place candidate Lewis St. George Stubbs. Litterick regarded himself as an ally of Stubbs, a popular left-wing judge and Independent candidate. Litterick’s primary support base was in Winnipeg’s working-class north end, and he received considerable support from the city’s Jewish community (his wife, Molly, was Jewish).

Litterick was not a major figure in the national Communist Party. He delivered a speech entitled “Whither Manitoba” in 1937, which was subsequently issued as a pamphlet; beyond this, he did not play a significant public role in the party’s national activities.

Because of his loyalty to Moscow, Litterick expressed contradictory views on Canada’s involvement in World War II in late 1939. On September 9, he urged both Premier John Bracken and Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King to give full support to Poland against Nazi Germany’s invasion. After the Soviet Union and Germany signed a non-aggression pact on October 7, Litterick was required to retract this position, and oppose the war as an imperialist venture.

Later life

He was expelled from the Manitoba legislature in 1940, after the Communist Party was declared an illegal organization. He had already gone into hiding, apparently the subject of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police manhunt.

Information about Litterick’s whereabouts after 1940 is limited. He appears in a photograph of Canada’s wartime Communist Party leaders, apparently taken in Montreal in 1942. He surrendered to the RCMP in Toronto in 1942 and was held in the Don Jail. In 1943, it was reported that he was working at a garment factory in Toronto.