Malcolm Pitt, who was president of the Kent Area NUM in the 1970s and 1980s, has died peacefully at home in Broadstairs after a short illness at the age of 66.
Malcolm wrote the story of the part played by the Kent Miners in the 1972 miners’ strike in The World On Our Backs – a book which was widely read by Kent miners and remains today a work of quality on the miner’s life and struggles.
Malcolm was a working-class intellectual who throughout his life adhered to socialist and communist principles which were in later years supplemented by his commitment to the teachings of St Francis. His whole life was dedicated to the liberation of the working class from the oppression of capitalism.
After schooling in Thanet he took a BA in history at Selwyn College, Oxford, and later did a further year at Ruskin. After university he taught for seven years in a Catholic secondary school having by then become a Catholic, and was at the time an active member of the Labour Party who led the formation of local branches of the Labour League of Youth and Militant.
In 1972 he chose to become a miner and worked on the coalface at Tilmanstone, one of the four East Kent pits, where he soon became active in the union in which he would become president of the Kent area NUM.
In the NUM he worked alongside Jack Dunn, the Kent secretary and a lifelong communist whom Malcolm called his mentor and comrade.
Malcolm helped to revitalise the Thanet Trades Union Council which under left leadership played an active part in the local community establishing a working-class voice in all affairs and organising annual May Day marches. Besides acting as secretary of Thanet Trades Council he also served on the South Eastern regional council of the TUC (Sertuc).
His role and participation in the 1972 miners’ strike, with the Kent miners organising power station pickets, brought him into active class struggle alongside many communists and it was one of these, George Wake, a power station fitter, who recruited him to the Communist Party where he stayed for over a decade serving on the Kent District committee and the national executive committee.
Malcolm was a strong, stocky man who was proficient in karate and made a formidable opponent both intellectually and physically. On one memorable occasion at a picket of a National Front meeting in Ramsgate a large police inspector without warning came behind Malcolm and arm-locked him round his throat. Malcolm instinctively and with considerable skill threw his assailant over his shoulder only then to be charged with assault by the police.
At the subsequent Ramsgate magistrate’s court hearing he was defended by the outstanding communist solicitor Jack Gaster and the inspector was floored for a second time, this time metaphorically – Jack’s understanding of the finer points of the law succeeded in getting Malcolm acquitted.
During the 1984 miners’ strike Malcolm led the Kent NUM from the front. He was arrested for attempting to stop a delivery of oil, and imprisoned for a spell in Canterbury.
After the strike and the closure of Tilmanstone pit in 1986 Malcolm spent a year studying the life of St Francis. He then worked for the Catholic bishops’ conference of England and Wales as the secretary of the world of work committee and the committee for public life. He was appointed to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and met Pope John Paul II several times.
In October 1997 he helped organise a very successful meeting in Broadstairs Town Hall with Jack Dunn and George Galloway in honour of Che Guevara. This meeting launched the East Kent branch of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and Malcolm served as its chairman.
He gained a doctorate in 2000 with his investigation into the extent that Marx’s materialist conception of history is comparable with the principles of Catholic social teaching. He believed Franciscan thought and spirituality was particularly relevant to today’s world – linking religious faith and philosophy with science, ecology, social justice and peace issues.
Malcolm’s wide and varied interests continued into his retirement. As well as becoming a good painter, he practised yoga and tai chi, gained his black belt in karate and rejoined the Labour Party.
Always a passionate socialist, his tireless quest for justice leaves a legacy appreciated by many. He was greatly loved and respected as a man of great intelligence and learning. He had time for everyone – workmates, comrades and friends alike.
He leaves a widow – Elizabeth – three daughters and five grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic church, Broadstairs at 10am Friday, Friday September 24.