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Edgar Argent Ross (1904–2001)

by Stephen Holt and Edgar Ross

This article was published:

Edgar Argent Ross (1904-2001) journalist, trade union official and socialist author

Birth: 20 November 1904 at Brisbane, Queensland, son of native-born parents Robert Samuel (Bob) Ross (1873-1964), socialist journalist and union organiser, and Ethel, née Slaughter (1876-1963). Marriage: 1929 at Broken Hill, New South Wales, to Patricia Josephine McLauchlan. They had one son and one daughter. Death: 16 November 2001. 

  • Educated at Fairfield primary school and University High School, Melbourne (1918-22).
  • In 1922 became cadet journalist at Melbourne Argus, where he joined Australian Journalists' Association (honorary life member 1966).
  • After writing for Stead's Review he became labour movement journalist, writing books and reviews for Socialist (Melbourne) and serving as sporting editor for Industrial Advocate (Geelong), both edited by his father.
  • 1924 worked for Webb's Reporter (labour weekly, Footscray) and briefly on staff of (Bill) Smith, Victorian secretary of the Australian Railways Union. 1925 sub-editor Barrier Daily Truth, joining Broken Hill Branch of Miners' Federation (paper's proprietor) in 1929 (which also carried with it Australian Labor Party membership). 1929, president Broken Hill Branch of Militant Minority Movement.
  • 1933 joined Communist Party of Australia  (CPA) and Movement Against War and Fascism. In November 1935 became editor of Common Cause upon its revival by Miners' Federation as an independent weekly paper (retaining position until his retirement in 1966). Supported leadership of W. Orr and C. Nelson, including successful campaign for 40- hour week.
  • Mining group representative on the Labor Council of NSW and executive member from 1936 to 1966.
  • Leader writer for Labor Daily/Daily News in 1939-1940, following removal of control from J. T. Lang's faction.
  • Member of the executive of the breakaway State Labor Party (SLP) in 1940-1944. Conducted radio session 'The Voice of Progress' on station 2UE and wrote editorials for SLP newspaper Progress.
  • Following amalgamation with CPA (1944) confirmed as member of CPA Central Committee (first elected 1939). After 1941 gave editorial support to increased coal production for war effort. 1947 appointed co-ordinator of campaign for improved pit and town amenities. September 1948 public debate on communism with Dr. P. J. Ryan (Catholic Social Services) attracted an audience of 30,000 to Sydney Stadium (highest attendance since Burns-Johnson fight).
  • During 1949 coal strike publicised miners' case and wrote pamphlet The Coal Front. Summoned, with L. Sharkey, to answer questions concerning CPA support for miners. In 1951 Federal election was leader of the CPA Senate ticket.
  • 1954 presided at foundation meeting of Sydney Realist Writers' Group. 1955 visited USSR and China (refused passport to visit China previous year). Returned to USSR in 1961 in CPA delegation to 22nd Congress of CPSU. Led CPA delegation to USSR 1966, also fraternal delegate to Congress of Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.
  • 1970 rejected draft CPA programme as 'a hotch-potch of reformism, anarcho-syndicalism, Trotskyism and liberalism', formulating an alternative programme. After expulsion joined Socialist Party of Australia (SPA), becoming Moscow correspondent for SPA newspaper Socialist (1974).
  • In retirement, became a noted labour historian and published biography of S. Ross. Author of The Russian Revolution — Its Impact on Australia (1967 in USSR; Australian edn. 1972); A History of the Miners' Federation of Australia (1970); Of Storm and Struggle (1982); These Things Shall Be! Bob Ross. Socialist Pioneer — His Life and Times (1988).
  • Brother of Lloyd Robert Maxwell Ross (1901-1987).

John Playford, Doctrinal and strategic problems of the Communist Party of Australia, 1945-1962, PhD thesis, ANU, 1962, p 430; Edgar Ross, A history of the Miners' Federation of Australia ([Sydney], 19700; information supplied by E. Ross, 1990; Progress, 2 August 1942, p 1; Tribune (Sydney), 23 December 1943, p 4, 5 April 1966, p 5.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Stephen Holt and Edgar Ross, 'Ross, Edgar Argent (1904–2001)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 April 2024.

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