History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1941-1951 - Vol. 4

By Noreen Branson | Go to book overview

20
EVENTS OF 1949 AND THE
1950 ELECTION

Early in 1949 the party suffered a sudden loss when Bill Rust, editor of the Daily Worker, died of a heart attack. He had been the paper’s first editor in 1930 and, after leaving it for other work, had returned to the post in 1939, and again in 1942 when the ban on the paper was lifted. In 1945 he had helped to set up the Peoples Press Printing Society which was to own and publish the paper and which, by 1948, had 30,000 shareholders. They included over 700 trade union and cooperative bodies, despite opposition from the TUC General Council which had ‘advised’ local trades councils not to invest in the PPPS and had tried to persuade national unions not to give it any support.1

In November 1948, the paper had moved to premises in Farringdon Road and had come out in a new form. Three months later, Rust died. He was succeeded as editor by J.R. (’Johnny’) Campbell, who had worked with the paper for many years, while John Gollan became its assistant editor.

For communists, one of the few encouraging events in 1949 was the victory of the Chinese Liberation Army over the Kuomintang forces led by the nationalist Chiang Kai-shek. So came the creation of the People’s Republic of China under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung. Chiang Kai-shek and his army – which had received much support from the Americans – was relegated to Formosa (later known as ‘Taiwan’).

The Chinese victory was preceded by a tragic episode known as the ‘Amethyst affair’. In April 1949, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) had reached the Yangtse river. It was pursuing the Kuomintang forces which were in full retreat. Getting no reply to the announcement that it was about to cross the Yangtse, the PLA started shelling the Kuomintang troops on the opposite bank, whereupon a British warship, the Amethyst, sailed up the river between the two opposing

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