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My Vote in History
Come election day every voter plays their part in shaping history.

John Dunlop, 86, was born into a wealthy Edinburgh family. He broke off his accountancy career to fight first Franco’s fascists in Spain and later the Nazis. Once a Communist Party member, Mr Dunlop has since become a committed environmentalist.

Dolores Dilley

Katharine Millar

John Dunlop
John Dunlop joined the Communist Party in 1937 when he was 21

PM Neville Chamberlain
Conservative PM Neville Chamberlain was blamed for appeasement with the fascists

PM Clement Attlee
Labour PM Clement Attlee swept to victory in the first post-war election

John Dunlop
John Dunlop lost faith in the Communist Party after the Hungarian Uprising in 1956

John Dunlop

John Dunlop, Spanish Civil War veteran

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It wasn't until 1936, when I was 21, that I started to take an interest in politics. I'd never had the vote before, so I started wondering who I'd vote for. Nobody in the office had a good word to say for any of the main parties. So who did that leave? As far as I could see, the fascists and the communists.

The fascists were making a big noise down in London. I wrote away and they sent back some scurrilous literature about the Jews which absolutely outraged me. I shoved it in the bin. That left the communists. I lived in a house with three storeys and we had two maids (though we cut back to one servant during the Depression), but I went to the home of one of the boys I played football with and found it was just one room. You had to see the conditions in the slum areas of Edinburgh and Glasgow, where five or six households had one lavatory between them.

A 1936 speech by the British Union of Fascists' leader, Sir Oswald Mosley

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My eyes were further opened to social inequalities when my firm of accountants carried out an audit on a mining company. Miners were about the worst paid and most exploited workers in Scotland. I got to see the wage sheets and the disparity between the workers' pay and the directors' salaries was pointed out to me.

Reading the communist manifesto, I also found the internationalism of communism very attractive. In my Sunday school there had been a picture of Jesus sitting with a black child on his knee, an Indian girl, a Chinese, all the races round about him. I was totally taken by this idea.

I had an internationalist outlook, though I was proud to be a Scot. When I first got to know of the Scottish National Party at 17 or 18, I thought they were nutcases. I wasn't convinced they were the kind of people I wanted to be in charge of us. I can understand why people joined the SNP, considering the way Scotland has been treated by successive governments. But I thought we had the basis for a democratic government here in Britain, where all the English, Welsh and Scots (plus Irish, if they want to be) can be united together.

Fighting against fascism

I joined the Communist Party a few months before I went to Spain in 1937. The war against Franco's fascists was in all the papers, especially the Daily Worker. I went to an Aid Spain meeting addressed by a young man who had been wounded there and had married his nurse. After the meeting I said: 'I'm going to Spain.' I thought it was a wonderful adventure.

The BBC reports on the fall of Malaga to Franco's fascists in 1937

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It wasn't until I got there and things started falling down around me that I got scared. I went to Spain with a friend from the local party, George Murray. Both of us were wounded. In fact, I'm lucky to be alive. When we returned there was a reception for us in Edinburgh. My parents were there and my father said to me: 'John, looking around these are not the kind of people my son should be associating with.' I never forgave him for that. It sickened me.

I was in the Scots Guards in Germany when we had elections at the end of World War II. There was a provision for servicemen to vote, but two or three of us in the battalion didn't get our papers. There was some investigation, but the election went the way I wanted it to go anyway, the Labour Party won. That was when Major Attlee came to power.

There was a strong feeling for Labour in the Army, certainly in the Scots Guards, 2nd Battalion, where I was. The death of fascism was our principle aim in fighting the war and people voted Labour because they were disgusted with the way the Tory Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had made deals with Hitler and Mussolini. We were also hoping there would be a general improvement in the conditions of the working class, the old and the sick.

Neville Chamberlain returning from his 1938 meeting with Hitler in Munich

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I didn't actually vote until 1950, when I voted the way the Communist Party told me to. However, my first disillusionment with the party had come before then.

Losing faith in communism

At an International Brigade meeting in 1948, my comrade, George Murray, had come out with some statement defending the Yugoslavs. We'd had a telegram from the Yugoslav International Brigaders asking us not to pre-judge the split between Tito and Stalin. After George came home, he was called to the Communist Party headquarters and expelled.

In 1956, the Soviet tanks rolled into Hungary. It happened that a former secretary of the Edinburgh Communist Party was there and witnessed the whole thing. He came back and called a meeting where the whole story came out. I left the party immediately. I was bloody well furious! I felt a large part of what I'd been fighting for in my life was disappearing.

Hungary's Radio Rakoczi appeals for Western aid as the Soviet tanks roll in

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I cut myself out of politics after that. I voted the way I felt about the MP standing in a constituency, but in the many elections I have taken part in, I've only voted for two parties - Labour and the Greens.

I started to become interested in the environment and what mankind was doing to it. I approved of the Greens' aims, they had a more or less socialist agenda, though I'm aware the Scottish Green Party does have certain nationalist aspirations.

I was very much against Mrs Thatcher. She was (and is) a horrible woman. Unfortunately, one fellow International Brigader, Sir Alfred Sherman, was very taken in by her and became one of her favourites. I remember him from Spain; he spoke Russian fluently and was used as an interpreter. I'm very disappointed that an International Brigader should become a Thatcher supporter. Closed quote marks

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