Once More Into the Breach

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In 2008, at 93, William Krehm was preparing for “one final march into the breach.” 

Today, at 103, he continues committed to “this one contribution [he] would still like to leave.” He stands, with us, ringing the doorbell of the Supreme Court. 

At this point, it’s up to the rest of us to do all we can to support this incredible historic venture. 

With sincere thanks for the equally historic response of members and other supporters, along the way, COMER must, once again, appeal to everyone who supports this noble struggle, to donate whatever possible to the cost of carrying the case to this crucial, highly expensive level. 

This can be done by cheque, made out to COMER, and designated “Lawsuit,” sent to: COMER, c/o Ann Emmett, 83 Oakwood Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M6H 2V9. 

E-transfer. In response to many requests, COMER is setting up a PayPal donation button. When arrangements have been concluded, information about how to donate electronically, directly to the lawsuit account will be posted on the COMER website.

Calling All Volunteers! 

  1. Work on the new website is progressing exceedingly well. We have an extraordinary team of highly skilled and experienced volunteers guiding its development. At this point, we need volunteers with computer savvy to migrate material to the new site. 

Specific skills to this task would include familiarization with WordPress and Google docs.

We are also seeking creative volunteers who can work with our creative director, and have strong familiarity with the Adobe Suite, particularly After Effects, Premiere, Illustrator and InDesign. 

  1. Experienced web writers. 
  1. We are also calling for volunteers to work on an editorial committee to formulate what should be included on the new site, and how it might best be presented. 

To volunteer for work on the new website please contact us at comerpub@rogers.com.

 If you are interested and able to join the editorial committee please email your willingness to serve to comerpub@rogers.com or phone 416-654-3499.

Toronto Revolutionary, 93, Girds for One More Battle

By Brett Popplewell Staff Reporter Toronto Star, published on May 17, 2008 

He has participated in some of the most important events of the 20th century. Now, at 93, William Krehm is preparing for one final march unto the breach. 

The slender Rosedale resident with deepset eyes who reads three newspapers before lunch is, from the comforts of his study, gathering evidence to challenge the Canadian government over its economic policies in court. 

“I’m challenging the way the government uses the Bank of Canada Act,” says Krehm in a soft, reverent whisper. “That’s what I have left for purpose in my life,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of meanderings in my day, but this is the one contribution that I would still like to leave.” 

Born in Toronto to Russian and Ukrainian parents in 1914, the meanderings of this violinist-turned-revolutionary-cumjournalist- turned-businessman have made him a living relic. 

He delivered hats off Wall Street during the Crash of ’29, sipped coffee with George Orwell on Las Ramblas during the Spanish Civil War and stood guard over Trotsky’s corpse in Mexico. He built homes in Toronto, edited his most recent book on economics a few months ago, and now spends his days practising his violin and readying for one final accomplishment. 

Sporting a wool scarf draped loosely around his neck, Krehm reclines in a chair in the sunlit, marble-floored sitting room of his home and speaks of his life as if he lived atop a feather blown through history. 

A gifted musician, Krehm was sent to Chicago by his parents to study violin during the years of Prohibition, when Al Capone ran that city’s underworld. 

He left Chicago within a year and moved to New York City, where he took a job delivering hats. Shortly after the stock market crash of 1929, 15-year-old Krehm began reading the works of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. He returned home in 1930, studied math at the University of Toronto but dropped out two years later. By 1934, he was a radical and formed the League for Revolutionary Worker’s Party, a group of Trotsky-inspired Marxist youth in Toronto. 

While on a visit to Brussels in fall 1936, the prospect of “seeing revolution in the streets” drew Krehm over the Pyrenees to Barcelona, where like-minded Trostkyites were fighting Stalin-backed republicans and Nazi-backed nationalists. 

He remembers standing atop Mount Tibidabo, watching planes from the German Condor Legion speed overhead on a bombing run, and fondly recalls meeting George Orwell, who was there supporting the Trotskyites. 

“He was very approachable,” Krehm says of his encounters with the famed novelist at a downtown café. “He wasn’t puffed up at all. He was having a hell of a time in Spain.” 

Because of his links to Trotsky, Krehm chose not to join the 1,500 radicalized Canadian volunteers fighting with the International Brigades under the direction of Moscow. 

“They would have slit my throat in no time at all. Trotskyites were sneered at by Stalinists, you see,” he says. 

Barcelona was raided by Stalinists in spring 1937. Krehm and other Trotskyites were rounded up. 

“Anyone with direct links to Trotsky was never seen again,” says Krehm, who counts himself luckier than most of his colleagues (including Orwell who, having been shot through the neck, barely got out of Spain alive). 

Krehm spent several months in a crowded, plywood prison before a hunger strike resulted in his transfer to hospital. 

He recovered and was released, or rather, “stripped of my belongings and dumped into France” by communist forces, now losing their war against the fascists.

In France, Krehm purchased a $60 ticket to Toronto by ship, where he began speaking to local Trotskyites of his experiences in Spain. 

But with Canada emerging from the Great Depression and political support for Trotsky dwindling, Krehm found few willing ears. With $270 in his pocket, he ventured south, to rest in Mexico. 

And in Mexico he stayed, anchored by his political proclivities. Krehm tried to return to Canada to join the fight against fascism in Europe – World War II – but the United States would not permit him to cross its borders. He was stuck. 

As it happens, he was there when his role model had his head run through with an ice pick. Feeling compelled to pay his respects to the man whose writings had influenced him, Krehm stood guard over Trotsky’s body at his funeral. 

Krehm soon landed a job with Time Magazine, covering a series of revolutions that broke out in Latin America during World War II. 

But by 1947, with the Cold War heating up, his revolutionary past came back to haunt him. 

“I ruffled some feathers,” he says, about his dispatches on American involvement in several coups in Latin America. He was fired by Time

Krehm returned to Toronto with wife Gladys Cowan of Port Arthur, Ont., and his young, Peruvian-born son, Adam, and began writing music reviews for local radio and newspapers. 

When that stint ended, Krehm became an entrepreneur, founding a property management company, O’Shanter, now owned and operated by his sons, Adam and Jonathan. 

He retired from O’Shanter in the early 1980s and began writing again, this time on economics. 

As co-founder of the Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform, an economics- oriented publishing house in Toronto, Krehm has written several works arguing against the government practice of combating inflation by increasing interest rates. 

He says this has not only been detrimental to society, it runs counter to the Bank of Canada Act, which has been on the books since 1934. 

His essays on the subject have earned him recognition as an economist and an invitation to Cambridge University, where he spoke on the subject at age 92. 

Rocco Galati, a local attorney who will represent Krehm in the challenge, will only say: “It’s going to be a significant challenge of the way the government has been using the Bank of Canada contrary to its enabling legislation. It will probably end up before the Supreme Court.”

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