restricted access Hugh Lukin Robinson: 19 June 1916–18 October 2012
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Hugh Lukin Robinson
19 June 1916–18 October 2012

Socialism is, for the time being, in eclipse. But sooner or later, after we have assimilated the achievements, the mistakes, and the shortcomings of the past, it will revive and again inspire millions of people as it did in earlier years. Why? Because it grows organically and inevitably out of the struggle against capitalism. And, given the worldwide capitalist offensive, that struggle itself is as necessary and inevitable as it was when the Mine Mill and Smelter Workers was founded 100 years ago.

Lukin Robinson, 1993

Lukin Robinson was a principled socialist, trade unionist, peace activist, ski jumper, and accomplished squeezebox player, the last achievement known only to a few since he was too shy to perform in public. He earned his economics degree from the University of Geneva in 1939, but this “didn’t help to shed light on the real world,” as he was fond of saying. His sustained study of Marxism did. So too did his involvement in trade union activities, which spanned six decades. Lukin held an executive position in Canada’s earliest public service association in the late 1940s, was the first Canadian Research Director of the Mine Mill and Smelter Workers (mmsw) in the 1950s and 1960s, and worked as a researcher for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (opseu) in the 1990s.

In Lukin’s case, his early activism on behalf of labour’s cause was ignited by the postwar vision of progress through working-class unity and the dauntless pursuit of broader social goals. Despite the many setbacks and defeats that Lukin experienced in his half-century of involvement with the labour movement, he never lost his faith in the socialist ideal. Among his many accomplishments, he might have considered the most notable to be his firing from the United Nations (un) in the early 1950s for organizing activities with its Staff Association. [End Page 11]

Books were Lukin’s cherished companions. His library was massive and eclectic. At the age of 92, he discovered online bookstores and his collection grew exponentially. He authored two books of his own, both on economics. The first, published in 1978 by James Lorimer, was a pocket-sized book: in Rising Prices: Why Inflation Hasn’t Been Licked and Why it May Never Be Lukin explains using simple language the mechanics of inflation under capitalism. “The fact that the [capitalist] system apparently cannot be cured of inflation, nor indeed of unemployment, can be taken as no small criticism of it,” he wrote in the preface. Lukin’s second book, Canada’s Crippled Dollar, took up the more technical subject of international monetary policies and their effects on the Canadian economy. He also published articles in a number of left-wing journals, including Marxist Review, Canadian Forum, Canadian Dimension, Studies in Political Economy, and Monthly Review. When he died suddenly at 96 years of age, still vital and intellectually agile, he left a desk piled high with newspaper articles, neatly clipped for reference to one of several writing projects underway. He also left a large family, who all continue to miss profoundly his generosity, indomitable spirit, and youthful curiosity. Among this extended family are his three children, three stepchildren, and seven grandchildren. Lukin was predeceased by his brothers Christopher and Peter, his sisters Hilary and Wendela, his first wife Ruth, and his second wife Lillian. He is survived by his sister Beverly, his children Michael (Mary Ann), David (Christina, Christopher, Peter), and Elizabeth (Michael, Andrea) and his stepchildren, Peter Rockman (Mary, Michael, Cathy, Jenny), Laurie Rockman (Zach Owen), and Joe Rockman, along with many nieces, nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews.

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Lukin visiting India, 1964

Family life

Lukin was born in the family home in Toronto, and as an infant was afflicted with pyloric stenosis, a condition that obstructs the digestive system and which, [End Page 12] at the time, was considered life-threatening. His attending physician instructed Lukin’s parents to leave the city and forget they ever had the baby. Defying the physician’s prediction of his imminent death, young Lukin commenced...