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New Left Review I/46, November-December 1967

Hugh Scanlon

The Role of Militancy

Interview with Hugh Scanlon

President of the Amalgamated Engineering Union

Could you tell us about your political formation and what has made you a militant trade unionist?

I suppose one of the most formative influences on me in my youth was my grandfather, who was a good socialist and an active worker in the Labour Party and Co-op movement. From the beginning I always had his guidance. I was born in Australia in 1913, my parents having emigrated there, but shortly after my birth my father died and my mother came back to live with her parents. My grandfather, who was a semi-skilled worker in a soap works—as was my mother—gave me books to read, especially all of Jack London’s. These made a terrific impression on me. Then, of course, I read Upton Sinclair and other utopian socialist writers like that, as well as semi-fictional books. This was the type of writing that impressed me rather than any high-sounding theoretical study of socialism.

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