Ron Mallone: Pacifist campaigner who founded the Fellowship Party

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The Independent Online

Ronald (known to his friends as “Ron”) Mallone, who recently died of leukaemia at the age of 92, was a committed and lifelong pacifist, Christian and socialist, who co-founded a political party and repeatedly contested both parliamentary and local elections between 1959 and 1997.

He was born in Lewisham, south London in 1916, the son of an English mother and an Italian immigrant father who became a restaurateur.

Educated at Addey and Stanhope Grammar School, he graduated from Goldsmiths College in 1936 with a teacher’s diploma and a triple First in English, History and French. His family had wanted him to join the civil service, but this was impossible since the rules at the time required that all candidates must have British grandparents. He then embarked on a career as a schoolteacher.

At an early age, however, he combined his work with an active involvement in politics. He became a convert to absolute pacifism at the age of 15 after reading the Sermon on the Mount which, he said, changed the rest of his life. During the 1930s he joined a whole number of anti-war movements, including the League of Nations Union (a forerunner of the United Nations Association), the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship and the movement to demand a peace ballot, in support of which he once joined a march to Lambeth Palace. His pacifism led him at that time to oppose even the building of air raid shelters.

When war came in 1939, Mallone adopted an uncompromising position: he refused to do even non-combatant work, if connected with the war effort. In 1940, he had to appear in front of a Conscientious Objection Tribunal, whose members included a military man, a local MP and a trade unionist.

He presented his own case and created a precedent by being the first absolute pacifist to gain unconditional exemption from war service.

All this, however, carried a price. He lost his job as a teacher at Gosport Boy’s School, with a resulting loss of his pension rights. It became virtually impossible to find another job controlled by a local education authority.

He finished the War teaching privately, at a much reduced salary, working for part of the time at a Quaker school in Saffron Walden in Essex. Later, in the 1950s, he moved to a post as a teacher of English at the Regent Street Polytechnic (now Westminster University).

In June 1955, Mallone became a co-founder of the Fellowship Party, said to be the oldest environmentalist party in Britain. It had been set up by John Loverseed, a Battle of Britain pilot and former MP who had represented the left-wing Common Wealth Party in Parliament during the Second World War.

The Fellowship Party advocates total disarmament and common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Its petition against nuclear weapons tests is said to have contributed to the foundation of CND. Past vice-presidents of the organisation have included Benjamin Britten, the author Vera Brittain and the actress Sybil Thorndike. Over the years, the Fellowship Party has fielded a number of candidates at elections, both parliamentary and local.

Between 1959 and 1997, Mallone himself fought 31 contests – for Parliament, for the local council and for the Inner London Education Authority.

For some 72 years, Mallone was a regular preacher at Methodist and other churches. He preached for the last time a few weeks before his death. Another of his central activities over the past 45 years had been the production of Day by Day, a monthly newsletter containing articles, book and theatre reviews and a digest of reports in the press highlighting the causes he championed. This involved the constant reading and marking of newspapers and also utilised his private library of some 5,000 books. In recent years he was an active organiser of local protest meetings against the Iraq War.

His friends will always remember him as a tireless fighter, not for himself, but for the things he believed in. It is possible that he would have gained a wider following had he been willing to make use of modern technology.

But he never opened a website, had no email address and did not even own a computer. He personally typed his newsletter on an old-fashioned typewriter and then printed it on an old-fashioned Gestetner machine with the help of his wife, Ursula. The newsletter was then sent by Royal Mail to his estimated 80 subscribers – or sometimes distributed by Mallone himself on foot. The last edition of the newsletter was incomplete at the time of his death.

Apart from his campaigning work, Mallone was a keen supporter of Tottenham Hotspur, although his main passion was cricket, which he played until he was 40.

David Wedgwood Benn

Ronald Stephen Mallone, socialist and pacifist campaigner: born Lewisham, south London 2 June 1916; married 1949 June Ellis (marriage dissolved; one son, one daughter), 1966 Ursula Gibson; died London 13 March 2009.