George Lloyd Matthews
Born January 24th 1917, he came from a well to do farming family in Sandy, Bedfordshire. His father, who owned a 500 acre farm and market garden, was a staunch Methodist and Liberal, hence the homage to Lloyd George as a middle name. After public school, he began working on the farm from the age of 14. Matthews went to Reading University in 1937 to study agriculture.
Immersed in student politics, he became Vice President of Reading University Labour Federation and Vice President of the NUS and this contributed to his failing to complete his degree. He joined the Communist Party in 1938 but kept his membership secret for a short while being adopted the following year as prospective candidate for the Labour Party for the Mid-Bedfordshire constituency. However, he very quickly left the Labour Party to enable his CPGB membership to become open. Trying to join up in 1939, he found himself in a rejected for being in the reserved occupation of farmer.
Elected to the CPGB central committee in 1943, he remained on the Party’s leading committees until 1979. Matthews was elected to the largely administrative position of Assistant General Secretary in 1949. Along with Harry Pollitt and Rajani Palme Dutt, he was a CPGB delegate to the seminal 20th congress of the CPSU, at which Khrushchev made revelations about the criminal actions of the leadership of Stalin.
As a talented writer, he was moved to the Daily Worker, as deputy editor in 1956, in the wake of the controversy of the intervention in Hungary, and became its editor in 1959, after J R Campbell’s retirement, until 1974. Many who worked with him considered him a "skilful" editor and he was at the helm when the paper was renamed the Morning Star in April 1966. His time as editor saw a big change in the paper’s style, with more coverage of culture and wider social movements, in particular ending a mainstream sexist slant unacceptable to a more enlightened period increasingly influenced by a feminist critique of such things. However, he left the editorship at a time of controversy over its direction to become head of press and publicity for the Party. From 1979, he was curator of the Party’s archives. (Pictured: One of George Matthews many pamphlets; Food & the Nation came out in 1943)
From hereon, Matthews played a key role in the Euro-Communist dominated Executive Committee assault on the paper’s editorship under Tony Chater, which led to a breach in 1984. As the CPGB neared dissolution, Matthews began to reject the earlier stance he had taken in supporting Party policy on issues such as the initial imperialist character of world war two and the assigning of the problems of socialist democracy to the syndrome of the Stalin personality cult.
He was instrumental in making revelations about the secret Soviet funding of the CPGB from the 1950s and the supposed issuing of orders from the CPSU to the highest Party leadership in Britain. Matthews, along with his long time partner, Betty Matthews, was a leading advocate of the dissolution of the CPGB into the short-lived Democratic Left, if not rejecting his lifetimes’ commitment to progressive values then at least denying the validity of the Communist project that he had been so much a part of. George Matthews died on March 20th 2005, aged 88.
Sources include: Guardian April 8th 2005; Morning Star April 9th 2005
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