Walter Wolfgang: Always Speaking Truth to Power
Stop the War Vice President Walter Wolfgang died peacefully in hospital in the early hours of Weds 29 May 2019
Stop the War Vice President Walter Wolfgang died peacefully in hospital in the early hours of Wednesday morning, 29 May 2019, just a few weeks shy of his 96th birthday. A committed socialist who spent a great deal of his life campaigning against war and nuclear weapons, Walter was one of the organisers of the first Aldermaston march and joined Stop the War Steering Committee soon after its formation as the representative of Labour CND.
Though deeply critical of Ernest Bevin’s decision to align Britain with the United States, Walter joined the Labour Party in 1948, and campaigned for the adoption of a non-aligned foreign policy. He is best known today as the elderly gent evicted from the 2005 Labour Party conference and detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for heckling then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw over the Iraq War. Saying out loud what everyone else was thinking won Walter instant approval. His reinstatement to conference the following day was greeted with a standing ovation and led to his election to Labour’s National Executive Committee a year later, where he continued to press the case for an independent and peaceful foreign policy.
Walter came to Britain in 1937, sent by his parents to escape Hitler’s Germany where he had already experienced anti-Semitism first-hand. That in mind it’s fitting that Walter’s last public appearance was making the opening address to the No Pasaran: Confronting the Rise of the Far Right conference in London on 2 March, where he seized the opportunity to fulminate against Trump and urge support for his long-time friend Jeremy Corbyn.
Walter Wolfgang was a modest man and thoughtful man. Recalling the Labour conference episode, he once said: ‘I’m not very important and I’m certainly not a celebrity. ‘But I’ve done a lot of things in my life that are important – considerably more so than getting thrown out of Labour Party conference, which isn’t very important at all.’ What was important to Walter, and remained so to the end, was speaking truth to power for which he will long be remembered.