Colonel Cecil Malone MP
Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil J L’Estrange Malone MP was elected for East Leyton in 1918 as a Coalition Liberal candidate. As a Coalition Liberal, he found himself a member of the virulently anti-communist “Reconstruction Society” prior to a visit to Russia in September 1919. Its 1918 pamphlet,`Bolshevist Plot to Seize Power in Britain’, listed Malone as a member of the society’s executive.
In September 1919, Malone visited Russia, where he had talks with leading Bolsheviks and even joined Trotsky in a review of Red Army troops. The experience shifted him radically to the left and he wrote a sympathetic account, `Bolshevism at Work’, joined the British Socialist Party and subsequently, when the BSP fused with others into the Communist Party, became a founding member of the Party – and, hence, its very first MP. He was also a member of the first Central Committee of the Party.
But even before the Communist Party’s foundation, Malone endured the experience of being falsely denounced as a government agent by John Maclean, an outstanding opponent of World War I and supporter of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. His health, however, had deteriorated badly after a period of incarceration and conspiracy theories had started to plague Maclean’s mind. When his marriage broke down in 1919, he even claimed that the government was somehow directly responsible. (Malone ois pictured left on the cover of a BSP published book.)
Despite his past adherence, Maclean began a dispute with the BSP over the Hands off Russia campaign, which between 1919 and 1920 saw major agitation to defend the revolution from outside intervention. Malone’s presence alongside Maclean and George Lansbury on the platform of the November 1919 Hands Off Russia meeting in Glasgow, focused Maclean’s paranoia on the MP and unleashed a sequence of events that led to the split between Maclean and the BSP.
After the rally, Maclean denounced Malone as a government agent, largely basing this on his past. The Reconstrction Society had attacked Maclean in its pamphlet, describing him as ‘a wild-looking schoolmaster’. But there was not a single shred of evidence to prove Maclean’s allegations. The idea that Malone was an active counter-revolutionary, who had been sent into the workers’ movement to destroy it, found no support with either the Communist Party or the Comintern.
This did not deter Maclean from also then denouncing Theodore Rothstein, a prominent figure in the BSP, who was held in the highest esteem by the Bolsheviks and was in receipt of funds from Russia, which helped to launch the Communist Party. Undaunted, Maclean said the money was coming from the British government. Maclean’s relations with other leading figures came under serious strain due to his constant references to "spies" being present at public and private meetings.
When Maclean was billed along with Malone to address a big Hands Off Russia rally at London’s Albert Hall in February 1920, he refused to share a platform with an “agent”. After Rothstein revealed truthfully to Maclean that he was the Bolsheviks’ official representative in Britain, Maclean began to openly tell of how the cunning agent Rothstein had tried to fool him, when he knew full well that he was working for the British government!! The outcome was that Maclean was discretely dropped from speakers’ platforms of the Hands off Russia campaign.
Malone’s personal commitment to the movement during this period seems, in retrospect, entirely genuine. A secret report – only released decades later – to the Cabinet on the November 1919 meeting, where Maclean `found’ his suspicions of Malone, condemned the latter as a man ‘who is apparently so enamoured of Bolshevism that he is not ashamed as an ex-officer and a Member of Parliament to share a platform with a declared revolutionary’.
In November 1920 he received, a six-month sentence after making a speech in which he argued that during a revolution, in order to defend the workers against counter-revolutionary violence by the ruling class, it was legitimate to execute leading members of the bourgeoisie. ‘What, my friends’, he asked his audience, ‘are a few Churchills or a few Curzons on lampposts compared to the massacre of thousands of human beings?’
Given the suddenness of his conversion, though, the depth of Malone’s intellectual understanding of Communism was certainly questionable. James Klugmann, in his history of the Communist Party, states that Malone had joined the party “on an emotional rather than a reasoning basis; he was never a Marxist, and had little or no contact with the working class movement”.
Imprisonment seemingly caused Malone a rethink over involvement in revolutionary politics. After his release he left the Communist Party and joined the ILP, subsequently moved over to the right of the Labour Party and eventually drifted out of the labour movement altogether. Maclean died young and entered labour movement mythology, Malone is almost unheard of!