Cecil L'Estrange Malone

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The British Socialist Party published the paperback edition of Malone's experiences in Soviet Russia early in 1920.

Cecil John L'Estrange Malone (7 September 1890 — 8 June 1965) was Britain's first communist member of the House of Commons.


Early years[edit]

Born in Dalton Holme, Yorkshire, on 7 September 1890, a rector's son, he was educated at Cordwalles School[1] and joined the Royal Navy in 1905, attending the Royal Naval College at Devonport. In 1912, he learned to fly and gained his Royal Aero Club certificate (No. 195) on 12 March.[2] He played a pioneering role in naval aviation and rose to become a Commander, and later a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army. He saw action in the First World War, commanding HMS Ben-my-Chree, for which he was awarded the Order of the Nile.

Political career[edit]

In the 1918 general election, Malone joined the anti-communist Reconstruction Society and was elected as the Coalition Liberal MP for Leyton East, although he later claimed never to have actually joined the Liberal Party. He was also awarded the Order of the British Empire. By August 1919 he was advertising Pelman "memory" courses throughout the national press.

On 13 September 1919, with a passport endorsed by the British Foreign Office in hand, Cecil Malone embarked on the S.S. Arcturus for Helsingfors. There Malone, who intended to visit Soviet Russia despite the blockade of the country, unexpectedly met up with another individual planning on crossing over to Petrograd.[3] After travelling by sea and land to the border, the pair managed to cross the frontier through deserted forests and marshland by foot, arriving at the Soviet border on Sunday, 28 September.[4] The two arrived in Petrograd by train at 6 pm the following day.

Malone met and spoke with key leaders of the trade union movement in Petrograd before proceeding by train to Moscow.[5] In Moscow, Malone met with Maxim Litvinov, then a top official in the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, with whom he had a long discussion.[6] He later met for an hour with foreign minister Georgii Chicherin.[7]

Malone's new friends arranged for him to accompany Red Army leader Leon Trotsky on an inspection of troops at Tula aboard Trotsky's special train.[8] Accompanying Malone on the trip were the head of the Supreme Council of National Economy (VSNKh), Alexei Rykov; chief of food supply for the Russian Republic, Alexander Tsiurupa; and People's Commissar of Education Anatoly Lunacharsky.[9]

During his visit, detailed in his memoir, Malone toured factories and theatres, power stations and government offices. He found the mission of the Bolshevik government in attempting economic reconstruction to be compelling and emerged from his trip a committed communist. "The history of Allied negotiations and transactions with Russia appears to have been a chain of catastrophes and mistakes" he wrote:

"...[I]t seems there was a culpable lack of foresight in visualizing the forces behind the Revolution. Every effort was made by Lenin and Trotsky to bring about peace with the Allies. They were prepared to refuse to sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany, and instead to continue the fight on the side of the Allies, but the Allies refused to recognize them... Various interventional operations, mostly carried out on the plea of protecting Russia against the invasion from Germany, were inaugurated, but really, as we now see, they were carried out in the interests of the capitalist class in Russia. It seems incredible that such slender excuses for intervention should have been allowed to hold good for so long.... [N]ow we find ourselves supporting partisan leaders in Russia by the supply of arms and munitions at the expense of the British taxpayer, and in addition we find our Government carrying on an inhuman and illegal blockade against the Russian people, the result of which during the coming winter months will indeed be terrible."[10]

Upon his return to England, Malone became active in the Hands Off Russia campaign, and in November 1919 he officially joined the proto-Communist British Socialist Party (BSP). Malone was soon being elected to the party's leadership through the patronage of Theodore Rothstein. In the summer of 1920, the BSP became the main constituent of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), and as a result, Malone became the first CPGB MP. He attended the London Communist Unity Convention held 31 July and 1 August 1921, at which he was elected to the new party's governing Central Committee.[11]

Malone's sudden conversion to revolutionary politics was not universally believed. John Maclean claimed that Malone was a counter-revolutionary sent to disrupt the workers' movement, and he refused to speak alongside Malone.[12]

Official CPGB historian James Klugmann saw Malone as one of the leading figures in the party's first year of existence:

"In the first months of the Party's existence Col. Malone was very active not only in Parliament, but addressing mass meetings and rallies all over the country. Whatever his theoretical weaknesses, he was a man of passion, moved by the revolutionary tremors that were shaking the world, full of wrath and indignation against the powers that be, and after a fiery speech in the Albert Hall on November 7, 1920, he was charged with sedition under Regulation 42 of the Defense of the Realm Act... After a courageous self-defense he was sentenced to six months in the Second Division."[13]

The line which landed Malone in jail related to his argument that during a revolutionary crisis, excesses might occur resulting in the killing of some prominent members of the bourgeoisie. "What are a few Churchills or a few Curzons on lampposts compared to the massacre of thousands of human beings?", Malone asked his audience. Despite Malone's prosecution, the Communist Party did not disavow Malone's rhetorical flourish, going so far as to publish an official party pamphlet entitled What are a Few Churchils? in January 1921.[14] Malone was stripped of his OBE.[15]

Malone married in 1921 and worked to promote the affiliation of the CPGB to the Labour Party, which was under consideration as a tactical matter, urged by Lenin. Malone was particularly keen, and stated "There are still a few differences between the Communist Party and the Labour Party. I am glad to realise, however, that this will soon be settled by affiliation".[16]

Malone soon left the CPGB and joined the Independent Labour Party, which was affiliated to the Labour Party. He unsuccessfully stood as the Labour candidate for Ashton-under-Lyne at the 1924 general election, but was elected in the Northampton by-election, 1928 and held the seat until the 1931 general election.

Later life[edit]

After the death of his first wife, Malone remarried in 1956. He died on 8 June 1965, aged 74.


  1. ^ "MALONE, Lt-Col Cecil L'Estrange". Who Was Who. A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press. December 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2012.  (subscription required)
  2. ^ Flight 16 March 1912
  3. ^ Colonel Malone, The Russian Republic. London: British Socialist Party, 1920. Page 17.
  4. ^ Malone, The Russian Republic, p. 18.
  5. ^ Malone, The Russian Republic, pp. 29, 32
  6. ^ Malone, The Russian Republic, p. 34.
  7. ^ Malone, The Russian Republic, p. 46.
  8. ^ Malone, The Russian Republic, pp.47-48.
  9. ^ Malone, The Russian Republic, p. 49.
  10. ^ Malone, The Russian Republic, pp. 108-109
  11. ^ Klugmann, History of the Communist Party of Great Britain. In Two Volumes. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1968; vol. 1, p. 180
  12. ^ Brian John Ripley and J. McHugh, John Maclean, p. 127
  13. ^ Klugmann, History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, vol. 1, p. 182
  14. ^ Klugmann, History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, vol. 1, p. 182, fn. 2
  15. ^ Malone political biography, including the stripping of his OBE
  16. ^ Raymond Challinor, The Origins of British Bolshevism

External links[edit]

Military offices
New title
Ship chartered by the Royal Navy
Officer Commanding HMS Ben My Chree
1915 - 1916
Succeeded by
Charles Rumney Samson
Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Leyton East
Succeeded by
Ernest Edward Alexander
Preceded by
Arthur Holland
Member of Parliament for Northampton
Succeeded by
Sir Mervyn Edward Manningham-Buller