L’Affaire Norman Revisited

L’Affaire Norman Revisited

Category: Historical Reprints.
Source: Straight Talk! The Official Bulletin Of The Edmund Burke Society.
Editor: Joseph A. Genovese
Associate Editors: F. Paul Fromm, D. Clarke Andrews
Volume I Number 3, December 1968

What is The Edmund Burke Society? The E.B.S. is a conservative organization unaffiliated with any political party. We are dedicated to the principles of individual freedom and responsibility, free enterprise, and firm ACTION against all tyrannies, especially Communism and all its manifestations in Canada and abroad. The E.B.S. is financed mainly through small donations from generous Canadians. Straight Talk! is produced by voluntary labour.

L’Affaire Norman  Revisited

The publication of William A. Rusher’s new book, SPECIAL COUNSEL (Arlington House, New Rochelle, N.Y.), a series of fascinating reflections of the author’s work with the Internal Security Subcommittee of the American Senate (I.S.S.C.), for the years 1956-57, will have special interest for Canadians if only for the two chapters in which he reviews the strange case of E. Herbert Norman, the Japanese-born communist, whose career as a Soviet agent in our Foreign Service came to an abrupt end with his suicide in Cairo in 1957 on the heels of his devastating exposure by the Subcommittee.

Prior to the Subcommittee’s revelations and unknown to the Canadian people, the RCMP had tumbled to Norman’s game as early as 1940, as a result of information from an undercover informant in the Communist fifth column who subsequently became an RCMP agent.  “According to information developed by the Mounties”, Rusher reveals,

“… Norman had probably been a member of the Canadian Communist Party as early as 1935.  In that year he married Laure Irene Clark, and one of the official witnesses had been Charles P. Holmes, a well-identified Canadian Communist … In February 1940, however, an underground source of the RCMP had identified Norman (by now a Canadian Foreign Service officer and about to leave for service in Japan) as a member of the Canadian Communist Party.”

Two years later, in 1942, there was an exchange of civilian prisoners, according to which a Japanese economist of the Communist persuasion, one Shigeto Tsuru, who had been at Harvard, was repatriated to Japan, and Norman was repatriated to Canada.  In the rush to leave, Tsuru left a raft of letters and documents in his apartment.  Norman then approached the FBI, represented himself as acting confidentially for the Canadian Government, and asked for custody of these papers.  He later admitted that he was not acting in any official capacity, but as a matter of personal interest.  He didn’t get the papers, which proved to be documents involving a “study group” in which Tsuru had played a leading role in the thirties.  Among them was a project of Tsuru’s for the “study” of American capitalism from the Communist point of view, as well as a paper by E. Herbert Norman on … AMERICAN IMPERIALISM.

Five years later, in 1947, Norman had been recalled from Tokyo to explain his close friendship with Israel Halperin, who was a member of one of the Russian spy rings uncovered in the previous year (1946) by Igor Gouzenko, the defecting cipher clerk of the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa.  The Third Interim Report of the Taschereau-Kellock Royal Commission revealed that Halperin was known to the Soviet Embassy by the cover name “Bacon”, and that he had “formed part of the group which was to operate under the direction of Captain Gordon Lunan.”  For reasons which seemed more technical than valid, Halperin was acquitted, despite the Royal Commission’s finding that “he violated the Official Secrets Act on more than one occasion.”  Norman seems to have talked himself out of any embarrassment on this occasion and continued to rise in our Foreign Service, largely, says Rusher, because of his “powerful friends”, chief of whom was Lester Pearson, then Secretary of State for External Affairs.

In October, 1950, the RCMP submitted a Memorandum to the Government on Norman’s subversive connections and activities, which was squelched.  “Pearson actually succeeded,” reports Rusher, “in forcing the RCMP to issue a second report in December 1950, modifying and softening its October memorandum; and Norman sailed serenely on.  Of this struggle behind the scenes, of course, the Canadian public was told nothing.”

Then came the famous Wittfogel testimony.  Professor Karl August Wittfogel, a German-born former Communist on the faculty of the University of Washington, and famous authority on Chinese history, was testifying to the Subcommittee on the activities of the infamous Institute on [sic] Pacific Relations and its anti-Chinese and pro-Soviet intrigues prior to World War II.  In the course of his testimony, he described one of those famous “study groups” to which he had belonged when he was at Columbia University in New York in 1933.  One of its members was our boy, Norman, who by 1951 had risen to become Chief of the American and Far Eastern Division of the Secretariat of State for External Affairs, and acting head of our delegation to the United Nations, if you please!

Behind The Liberal Curtain

When the Wittfogel testimony was made public (1951), the Liberals were understandably thunderstruck, for this merely corroborated the substance of the October 1950 Memorandum of the RCMP, which had been suppressed by Pearson.  On this occasion Pearson played it cool:  Norman was not called to account, he was not arrested, he was not discharged.”  Pearson expressed his “complete confidence” in him, a confidence which was not so complete that he did not find it expedient to recall Norman from Turtle Bay, and, after the smoke had cleared a little, pack him off to New Zealand in 1953 as our High Commissioner.  There he pastured until the public had forgotten the affair, and then in 1956 Pearson sent him to Cairo as our Ambassador with concurrent accreditation as Canadian Minister to Lebanon.

The Pearson Cover-Up

On the heels of this, Pearson was to face a further embarrassment.  Shigeto Tsuro (remember him?) the Japanese Communist who had been repatriated to Japan in 1942 (he had played a major part in Communist intrigues in postwar Japan) was now back in America, as a visiting lecturer at Harvard.  The Subcommittee subpoenaed him to get at the bottom of his interesting documents left behind in 1942, about which Tsuru had almost completely forgotten.  They especially wanted to know why Norman should have been so eager to put his hot little hands on them.  “Tsuru testified”, Rusher reports, “that he had met Norman at Harvard, through a mutual friend, in the spring of 1936.  Within a year they were both members of a study group — yet another of those famous study groups! — at Harvard, founded … ‘for the study of American capitalism from the Marxist point of view.”  The Tsuru testimony also revealed that Tsuru had been introduced to, of all people, Israel Halperin, by Norman, “possibly around 1937”.

All of this evidence, of course, meant nothing to the defeatists and conciliationists, who clamoured for the abolition of all Congressional investigations into fifth column Communist activities in North America.  In Canada, according to Rusher, “Lester Pearson’s bland and total rejection of the massive evidence against Norman was quite enough to satisfy even those individuals and newspapers that were preparing to oppose Pearson in the election.  Canada, firmly in the grip of political forces we may call liberal in the broader sense, was virtually unanimous in wanting no so-called ‘McCarthyism’ in its public life.  The information concerning Norman, accumulated by the RCMP in the years preceding 1950 and placed on the public record for the first time by the ISSC on March 14, 1957, was not really evaluated and rejected by Canadian opinion; it was simply ignored, on Pearson’s repeated assurance that it was wholly false.”

Death In Cairo

Then came the news that Norman had committed suicide in Cairo.  The fat was now in the fire.  In the lynch-mob atmosphere which prevailed in the communications media, Rusher and his colleagues awaited the full fury of the co-existential wolf pack.  At this moment, Monsignor Bela Varga, prominent Hungarian anti-Communist and head of the Hungarian-American National Council turned up at Rusher’s office to thunder “like an Old Testament prophet” that “You will be savagely attacked, but you are right, and you must never forget it!”

The attack, of course, was unleashed:  the Subcommittee was widely and thoughtlessly accused of having hounded an “innocent” man to death.  The attacks, of course, ignored the incontrovertible evidence, and seemed founded on nothing more substantial than Pearson’s assurances that the charges were “slanders” and that Norman had been cleared by the Canadian Government’s alleged “exhaustive security check”.  The Subcommittee of course, knew that this was not the case.  “From our vantage point in the Subcommittee,” writes Rusher,

“we knew how empty Pearson’s assurances were.  The truth was that there had been no security check worthy of the name, and that the full force of the case against Norman had never reached unbiased eyes and unfettered tongues until March 14, 1957, when our Subcommittee published the transcript of its first Emmerson Hearing.  Even then, a complacent press had in effect conspired with Pearson to minimize the clear implications of the evidence … It was with an almost hypnotic fascination that we watched our critics inch out onto the limb Pearson had inadvertently provided for them.”


“the cool, moon-faced opportunist who had quarterbacked Herbert Norman through the Canadian Foreign Service, bullied into silence the Canadian security officials who knew the truth concerning him, and all but succeeded in concealing with the world forever the facts about his protege’s long Communist record”

now began to fear that if the anti-American hysteria went too far his “assurances” would evaporate in the heat of the evidence against Norman, and issued “a call to Canadians for forbearance.”  It was to no avail; Pearson had unleashed a storm he was now powerless to abate.  The liberal newspapers continued to scream for the suppression of the Subcommittee.  On Wednesday April 10 (still 1957), President Eisenhower held his regular press conference, and it had been fully expected that he would add his voice to the clamour against the Subcommittee, all of which would accelerate the campaign to abolish all such Congressional investigations.  It didn’t work out that way.  Eisenhower pleaded that the whole affair “be dropped, if possible …”

“What we did not know, writes Rusher,

“and were not to learn until some months later, was the [fact that] Eisenhower also had the benefit of a dispatch radioed from Cairo by American intelligence sources less than 48 hours after Norman’s suicide — in other words, on or before Sunday, April 6.  According to this dispatch, Norman had dined with a friend, a doctor, the night before his death and had told this friend that, as a result of the impact of our hearings on the forthcoming Canadian elections he feared that a Royal Commission would be appointed to investigate the entire matter; that, if called before such a Royal Commission, he would be forced to implicate ‘sixty or seventy’ Canadians and Americans and that, rather than do this, he would kill himself.”

The public, of course, was unaware of all this, just as they remained in ignorance of the published record of Norman’s service as a fifth columnist in the service of Communism.  Here, as more recently, the press has failed in its primary function:  to keep the House informed.

The Crunch

Then, on April 13th, the day Parliament closed up shop to the federal election in June, John Diefenbaker, who had previously tossed his rhetorical bricks at the damn Yankees, in one of those stunningly dramatic moments which studded his career as leader of the Opposition, rose in the House to put a question to Lester Pearson, the Secretary of State for External Affairs:

“Will the Minister say that the allegations before the Subcommittee of the United States Senate on March 12 and 21 specifically were untrue, unjustified and had no basis in fact?”

Pearson’s sweeping denials outside the House were one thing, but however Liberal his ethics, he would not want to be caught lying to Parliament, especially since he had no way of knowing precisely what Diefenbaker was prepared to spring on him. 1  He waffled.  He read a prepared statement (Diefenbaker had filed his question in advance) stating that Norman

“as a university student was known to have associated with Communists or persons thought to have been Communists, and he made no secret of it.  These associations were, of course, known to us.  We examined Mr. Norman’s record on the basis of confidential information.  I examined this information more than once myself.”

No reference was made to the massive evidence revealed by the American hearings.  Diefenbaker, with an instinct for the jugular, pressed his question:  would Pearson state categorically that this evidence was “untrue, unjustified, and had no basis in fact?”  Pearson is reported to have blushed, as the crowded visitors’ Gallery focussed intently upon his fumbling.

“I’ve made my statement”, he replied, “I will stand on that.  I am not going to say at this moment whether any single statement made in a United States Subcommittee is accurate or not.  I have not got the statement before me.”

Diefenbaker hammered back,

“The answer is an equivocal one. He equivocates.  He has the statements released by the Subcommittee in connection with its hearings of March 13 and March 21 … He has come into the House with a prepared statement, but he has not denied those charges.”

the nation went to the polls in the knowledge that Pearson would not reiterate to Parliament his extra-Parliamentary assurances that the evidence against Norman was totally a matter of slander.  On the following Wednesday, April 17th, Pearson tried to salvage something from the debacle, in a telegram to the Montreal GAZETTE in which he pointed out that the Subcommittee has based its findings on the October 1950 Memorandum of the RCMP, re which the Canadian people had known nothing until that moment.  He then went on to point out that the RCMP had modified its view in a second Memorandum (in December 1950), which he quoted to the effect that the first Memorandum was based on “mistaken identity”.  This first Memorandum, let it be remembered, revealed Norman as a member of the Communist Party and covered much of his subversive activity from 1935 on into the 40s.

Pat Walsh

To give him the lie, the famous undercover informant whose intelligence was the basis of the original October Memorandum which Pearson had suppressed, now turned up and publicly vouched for the accuracy of his information.  It was no less a person than Pat Walsh, now research director for the Canadian Intelligence Publications of Flesherton, Ont., which is Target No. 1 of Pearson’s children, the Trudeaucrats.

“I met Norman personally in Toronto in the thirties,”

Walsh revealed, “when I was with the Canadian League Against War and Fascism and he was secretary of the Canadian Friends of the Chinese People, a commie front.  He was introduced to me as ‘Comrade Norman’.  A chap by the name of A. A. McLeod, who later became a Communist member of the Ontario Legislature and editor of the Communist Canadian Tribune told me that he had sponsored Norman as Secretary.”

Walsh’s connection with the CIP publication of embarrassing information re the left-wing activities of another of Mr. Pearson’s famous proteges, Pierre-Elliott Trudeau, may account for the special edge of malice directed against CIP from which other anti-Trudeau “hatemongers” are presumably spared.

Norman left two suicide notes before he died, which were published on April 18th (the day following Pearson’s wire to the Montreal GAZETTE) in the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS.  One was to his wife, in which he said, “I have no more hope of life, no more future.”  The other was to his friend, the Swedish Minister to Egypt, Brynolf Elq, in which he said,

“I cannot bring myself to tell you the true reasons that impel me to commit suicide.”

Hardly what one would expect from a man hounded to death by slanders.  Pearson had received copies of the notes from the Egyptian authorities, and authorized a statement to be released on the next day (April 19th) branding the versions published in New York as “complete fabrications”.  Now the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS texts were probably retranslations from the Arabic translation, and may therefore be somewhat variant in wording from the originals.  In any case, those originals have never, to this day, been published by the Canadian government.

Diefenbaker, of course, won that election, and the whole matter was dropped.  Mr. Norman’s “powerful friends” have never been more powerful than they are today, and we must now pay the price for not having swept them into the dustbin ten years ago.  Such are the consequences of the lotus-eating apathy which has characterized Canadian political life for far too many years.

– 30 –


The exposure of E. Herbert Norman to the RCMP as a Communist by Patrick Walsh was reported on eleven years earlier than the item above by the EBS.  On 19th April 1957, a Washington Post and Times Herald staff reporter, at page A11, gave an account entitled: “Ex-Red Courier Says He Originated Charges Against Norman in 1940“.


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