Walter Wolfgang’s appearance on the Today programme this morning [listen again here] was a prescient reminder of the Labour Party that once was.
Walter Wolfgang’s political past was nicely chronicled by Oliver Kamm, at the time of his tourettic outburst at last years Labour Party conference. Readers will remember that Wolfgang was an activist with a pro-Stalinist organisation called, misleadingly, “Labour Action for Peace”. He was also a leading light in Labour CND, and an ally of the International Marxist Group which took over that organisation. He used his position in Labour CND discreditably: to resist attempts to oust the entryists, and to attack the party leader, Neil Kinnock.
Some of those who were active in the fringes of Left politics in the 1980s have undergone an impressive ideological development: I count them among my political heroes. Others, like Wolfgang, remain in a kind of philosophical second infancy.
The constancy of Walter Wolfgang’s unreformed and foolish political views were nicely evidenced by his present support of John McDonnell and Michael Meacher as candidates for the Labour Party leadership. John McDonnell, you’ll remember, is the MP who in 2003 said:
“It’s about time we started honouring those people involved in the [IRA’s] armed struggle. It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA”
Michael Meacher, once a member of the shadow cabinet, is an even more tragic figure, reduced to peddling wild-eyed conspiracy theories about 9/11, of the “could US air security operations have been deliberately stood down on September 11? If so, why, and on whose authority?” variety.
There is a miasma of lunacy in which the Wolfgangs of the Left thrive, and it is nicely illustrated by the catalogue of this month’s meetings on the Socialist Worker website. You’ll be sad to hear that you missed the opportunity to see Walter Wolfgang share a platform in Lambeth with John “Lenin Beard” Rees and Yvonne “Deranged Nutter” Ridley. Or you could have seen him address meeting in Walworth, along with Andrew “Defend North Korea” Murray. And yesterday, you missed a bumper crop of foolishness: a gala event which included not only Wolfgang, but also Kate “Nukes for Iran” Hudson of CND, Germain “By Any Means they Find Necessary” Lindsay, Craig “Uzbek Bride” Murray, Tinfoil Meacher and – of course – good ol’ Tony Benn.
Make no mistake. The Labour Party has not wholly lost the capacity to attract those who, politically speaking, are the equivalents of the the Tories’ “Monday Club“. Mainstream parties can dismantle these sorts of fringe organisations and expel individuals: as Labour did with Labour CND in 1984, and the Tories did with the Monday Club in 2001. However, nutters – being driven types – have a nasty habit of creeping back in. The Monday Club is trying to re-establish itself in the Tories, but failing. Wolfgang, by contrast, managed to get himself elected to the NEC.
In a small way, Walter Wolfgang does us a service. He reminds us where the boundaries of sensible politics lie.