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. Born in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, he was sent to Britain by his parents in 1937. Walter became a British citizen in 1948 and made his home here, joining the Labour Party the same year and remaining an active member till his death.
Deeply critical of Ernest Bevin’s decision to align Britain with the United States, he campaigned for the adoption of a non-aligned foreign policy, and against war and nuclear weapons. He campaigned for party democracy and to increase the voice of party members in policy making, firmly believing that this would add weight to the support for the progressive policies he espoused. One of the organisers of the original Aldermaston march, Walter became – and remained – a stalwart supporter of CND and Labour CND and was Vice President of both organisations and of Stop the War Coalition at the time of his death.
Walter was stood as a parliamentary candidate for Labour in the 1959 general election on a unilateral nuclear disarmament programme and increased the Labour vote in his Croydon constituency. However he’s best known and well remembered today as the elderly gent evicted from the 2005 party conference and detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for heckling then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw over the Iraq War. He won instant approval for saying out loud what everyone else was thinking. 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.
When he arrived in Britain, Walter had already experienced anti-semitism first hand in Hitler’s Germany. Throughout his political career he was an outspoken anti-racist and a supporter of Palestinian rights. It is fitting then that Walter’s last public appearance was
making the opening address to at the No Pasaran: Confronting the Rise of the Far Right conference in London on 2 March. He made the opening address of the day, seizing 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 his eviction from Labour conference, he later remarked to me: ‘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 throughout his life was speaking truth to power for which he will long be remembered.
See the video of Walter’s No Pasaran speech (approx 5 mins) at
Vice Chair, Labour CND