Scott, John Alexander

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Scott, John Alexander

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  • Scott, Jack

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1910-2000

History

John Alexander Scott (1910-2000) was born on May 12 in Belfast, Ireland. Starting at the age of 14, Scott worked on the docks, then as a delivery boy for a small bakery before immigrating to Canada in May 1927. After landing in Quebec City, Scott worked at various jobs in and around Montreal, including as a farm labourer in the Eastern Townships.

Scott’s interest in political activism began when he participated in a 1929 May Day rally in Montreal. Scott joined the Communist Party within the year and became a Workers Unity League organizer whose territory encompassed the western Ontario centres of Sarnia, London, Brantford, Kitchener, and adjacent towns. He helped to organize the high-profile Ontario Hunger March from Windsor to Toronto in 1934, and also participated in the Ontario segment of the On-to-Ottawa Trek in 1935. In 1936, he helped to organize Sunday evening demonstrations against fascism, war, and unemployment on the boardwalk of the Toronto Beaches. In 1939, he began working in the tobacco fields of Delhi, during which time he organized the workers to strike for higher pay. In 1941, while working in the shipping department, he helped to organize a strike at Campbell’s Soup Company in New Toronto.

After enlisting in 1942, Scott served as a communications operator overseas during World War II, receiving the Croix de Guerre avec Étoile de Bronze from the provisional government of the French Republic and a citation from the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division headquarters. Shortly after returning from the war, he married his first wife, Ann Walters, a Finnish-Canadian woman whom he had known since the 1930s, but they soon separated.

Among other jobs he had following the war, Scott worked for 18 months at Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Limited in Trail, British Columbia, before being dismissed for distributing leaflets critical to the company. While in Trail, Scott was married to Hilda Bernadette Scott. After losing the job at Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company, Scott worked at a dairy until the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers asked him to organize for them. Scott spent two years as union business agent in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories before moving to Vancouver in 1951.

In 1964, Scott was expelled from the Communist Party for speaking in favor of Communist China and for voicing opposition to what he believed to be the party's movement away from revolutionary Marxist-Leninist principles. The same year, he was also expelled from the New Democratic Party. During this time, Scott was instrumental in founding the Canada-China Friendship Association (CCFA) and the Vancouver-based Progressive Workers’ Movement (PWM), which drew strength from a pro-Chinese faction within the Communist Party. Scott also became the chief writer / editor for the political party’s journal, Progressive Worker. Scott visited China four times starting in 1967, at which time he met Mao Zedong. On his second visit in 1974, his wife Hilda suffered a heart attack and died in Beijing.

In the 1970s, Scott was an active member of the Vancouver Study Group (VSG), which eventually became the Red Star Collective (RSC), and wrote on such topics as labour history, Canadian unions, Canadian political economy, and Chinese foreign policy. His books include “Yankee Unions Go Home,” “Sweat and Struggle: Working Class Struggles in Canada,” “Canadian Workers, American Unions,” and “Plunderbund and Proletariat.” After retiring as a maintenance man for the Pender Auditorium, Scott continued to write and to volunteer at the co-op bookstore, Spartacus Books. In 1990, following the publication in 1988 of Jack Scott’s oral history recollections entitled “A Communist Life: Jack Scott and the Canadian Workers Movement, 1927-1985,” four members of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) mentioned in the book submitted a claim of libel against Scott and the Committee on Canadian Labour History. The case was settled in 1995 before being brought to trial. At the time of his death on December 30, 2000, Scott was completing the final chapters of a critique of Vladimir Lenin.

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Mandates/sources of authority

Birnie, A., Cameron, J., Hall, J., Martin, L., & Walker, C. (2001). In memory of Jack Scott. Canadian Dimension, 35(2), 4.

Bramham, D. (2001, January 11). ‘He died at his desk like [Karl] Marx': Ninety-year-old Jack Scott was at his desk finishing the last chapters of a Lenin critique: Final edition. The Vancouver Sun, p. B.7.

Mickleburgh, R. (2001, January 12). 'The most radical man in Canada'. The Globe and Mail, p. R.10.

Palmer, B. (2001). Jack Scott: A revolutionary life (in memoriam). Labour-Le Travail, (48), 23-25.

Scott, J., Palmer, B. D., & Committee on Canadian Labour History. (1988). A communist life: Jack Scott and the Canadian workers movement, 1927-1985. St. John's, Nfld: Committee on Canadian Labour History.

Jack Scott, 1910 to 2000: In memoriam (2000). Vancouver.

(1964, November 14). Canada hears Peking line: Militant new Reds rise from conflict. The Province, p. 5.

(1971, October 20). Scott: the career of a militant unionist. The Varsity, p. 6.

(2010, December 22). The Progressive Workers’ Movement: Encyclopedia of anti-revisionism on-line [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://nextyearcountrynews.blogspot.ca/2010/12/progressive-workers-movement.html

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