Fonds RBSC-ARC-1484 - Jack Scott fonds

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Jack Scott fonds

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1.8 m of textual records
117 photographs : b&w and col.

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Biographical 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.

Custodial history

The fonds is comprised of three different accessions.
The first accession is believed to have been acquired by Rare Books and Special Collections directly from the creator in the 1990s. This accession includes three boxes of papers that became part of the Jack Scott fonds, and books and pamphlets that were catalogued as part of the Jack Scott Collection.
The second accession was donated to Rare Books and Special Collection in November 2012 by Janet Hall, a friend of Jack Scott’s. The material was collected from Scott’s apartment shortly after his death by Hall and three other acquaintances. The material was then organized topically by Scott’s acquaintances at a later date.
The third accession was donated to Rare Books and Special Collections in February 2019 by Juliana de Souzen, whose partner was a family friend of Scott and who received textual records and photographs upon Scott's death.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records related to Jack Scott’s activities as a political activist and author, as well as material related to his personal life, from the 1930s through his death in 2000. Records relating to Scott’s political activities include material generated or used by groups with which Scott was involved, such as the Progressive Workers’ Movement (PWM), the Vancouver Study Group (VSG), the Red Star Collective (RSC), and the Chinese-Canadian Friendship Association (CCFA). These records include meeting minutes and summaries; committee lists, agendas, reports, policies, constitutions, financial statements, and other internal documents; position, discussion, and opinion papers and critiques; conference, seminar, and workshop materials; correspondence; materials by or about other communist, socialist, or leftist organizations; papers, articles, speeches, critiques, letters, and reports on related topics; ephemera and publications, such as newsletters and journals; clippings and photographs; and other materials. Records relating to Scott’s writings and publications on socialist and labour movements and other topics include drafts of published and unpublished pieces, research notes, comments and corrections, proofs, and supporting documents, such as correspondence, clippings and photocopies, ephemera, and other materials. The fonds also consists of material related to a libel claim made against Scott and the Committee on Canadian Labour History. These records include copies of court documents, correspondence, Scott’s writings and research on the plaintiffs, ephemera related to the plaintiffs, and other materials. The fonds also consists of material collected by Jack Scott relating primarily to other communist, socialist, leftist, or social justice organizations and arranged by subject either by Jack Scott or by his acquaintances following his death. This material includes photocopies and originals of letters, writings, and other documents; statements, commentaries, bulletins, and other literature; ephemera, such as posters, newspaper clippings, flyers, newsletters, and pamphlets; and speech texts. The fonds also consists of personal papers and documents, including miscellaneous incoming correspondence, oral history interview transcripts and related documents, and correspondence and documents related to Scott’s 1964 expulsion from the Communist Party.

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Physical condition

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Materials from the first accrual appear to have been minimally arranged and described, though some file titles and notes may have been added by an archivist. Between the time of the acquisition and August 2013, when the original accession was more thoroughly arranged and described, the Jack Scott fonds appears to have been accessed by researchers at RBSC. The materials may have been inadvertently rearranged by researchers during that time.

No order was apparent in the majority of the materials received by RBSC as part of the first accession. This is particularly true of the records related to the Vancouver Study Group, the Red Star Collective, and the Chinese-Canadian Friendship Association. Where no any discernible order was present, the archivist imposed an order to better represent the functions of the organization and to increase the ease of use by researchers. However, material related to the Progressive Workers’ Movement, Scott’s writings and publications, and material collected from other communist, socialist, or leftist organizations may have been arranged by an archivist or other party before or after the initial accession.

Material from the second accession, which had been arranged topically by Scott’s acquaintances before transfer to RBSC, was integrated, where possible, with series established during the arrangement of the first accession. During the arrangement of the second accession by Scott’s acquaintances, post-it notes with the titles of thematic categories and explanatory details were applied to material. The archivist removed post-it notes with thematic category titles, but retained the notes with explanatory details. In addition, the archivist weeded some material from the second accession, such as duplicate documents, newspaper clippings, and photocopies of published works not bearing any annotations by Scott.

In 2019, the third accrual was processed, along with a small box of formerly unprocessed materials from c. 2005. These materials did not have any discernible original order and were filed at the end of the fonds and integrated into existing series as appropriate. Folders 7-25 through 8-04 belonged to the 2019 accrual and folders 8-05 through 8-14 were formerly unprocessed materials. Notes have been made at the series level to indicate which series these materials have been integrated into.

Language of material

  • Chinese
  • English
  • French

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Restrictions on access

Research access to the Committee on Canadian Labour History libel suit series is restricted until 100 years from the creation of the records.

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Generated finding aid

Associated materials

UBC Library holds the Jack Scott Collection, which contains pamphlets and ephemera collected by Scott on subjects such as labour and politics. RBSC’s Homer Stevens fonds contains correspondence to and from Jack Scott. Letters written by Henry Norman Bethune that were collected by Jack Scott have been removed from the Jack Scott fonds and catalogued as a separate vertical file.

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No further accruals are expected.

General note

Includes the following photographs: RBSC-ARC-1484-PH-01 to 113.

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Finding aid updated by Ashlynn Prasad in September 2019.

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