He always spoke truth to power

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Walter Wolfgang

Shortly before Socialist Review went to press we heard of the death of Walter Wolfgang at the age of 95. He was a socialist, a Labour Party activist and an anti-war campaigner — one of the founding members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

He was perhaps most famous for heckling the then foreign secretary Jack Straw’s speech on Iraq at the Labour Party conference in 2005. We wrote in Socialist Review at the time:

“The defining image of this year’s Labour Party conference was 72 year old Walter Wolfgang being manhandled out of the hall for heckling. That says a lot about both the conference and the popular perception of New Labour. The incident was shocking and demoralising for even the most hardened delegates. That Walter and 600 others in Brighton were detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act has become another mini scandal among Labour members.

“But the point about Walter Wolfgang most of the press missed was that he was speaking for the majority. He was like the little boy who says the emperor has no clothes. Jack Straw and the rest of the cabinet talk nonsense about Iraq. Almost everyone knows this. Almost no one in public life says it.”

Fourteen years on the Labour leadership is very different — Corbyn, McDonnell and Abbott all voted and campaigned against the Iraq War. They stood shoulder to shoulder with Walter Wolfgang.

And yet the Blairites have not moved aside. Alistair Campbell, architect of the “dodgy dossier” that Blair used to justify the war, is currently complaining about being told he has self-expelled from the party after he publicly announced he’d voted for the Liberal Democrats at the European elections.

Walter Wolfgang was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. At a time when the far right is organising in different forms around the globe, let us remember the legacy of that generation who saw what fascism really means and vowed to fight it for the rest of their lives.