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Pat Wall - a lifetime fighting for socialism
25 years ago today, Pat Wall - Labour MP and supporter of Militant, forerunner of the Socialist newspaper and Socialist Party - passed away. Below we republish an obituary of this giant of the workers' movement.
Militant, 10 August 1990
With the death of Pat Wall the labour and trade union movement has lost one of the most outstanding standard bearers of the cause of socialism. The news of his death will have brought a profound sense of loss to the countless thousands whose lives he touched an enriched.
In 1964 Pat helped establish Militant. Despite all the pressure and vilification he was to endure, he remained always an unflinching Marxist and a supporter of the ideas of Militant.
Pat could have opted easily for a quiet, comfortable political life. But, whatever the cost personally, throughout his life he remained true to his socialist principles.
At 16 he became the secretary of the Garston constituency Labour Party. In the following 41 years, wherever he lived, Pat played a prominent role within the labour movement. In Liverpool, in the 1950s, as one of the youngest-ever councillors, and as an executive member of the united trade council and Labour Party he helped lead the fight of the left against the established old-guard right wing.
Pat's work as a mail order company buyer often took him abroad. He would use the opportunity to build links with fellow socialists and where possible assist their work.
In Sri Lanka he canvassed for a socialist parliamentary candidate and after he returned from a visit to the USA he championed the cause of a persecuted black youth.
Pat's job took him on to Market Harborough and then to Bingley in Bradford. He became a councillor in Bingley and for years led Bradford's trade union movement as president of the trades council.
Under Pat's leadership the Bradford trades council became renowned for its consistent efforts to combat racism and to unite all workers against their common oppression.
Bakers, miners and thousands of others forced to fight to defend their jobs and conditions owe a debt of gratitude to Pat for tireless work on their behalf.
Pat was special. In the modern Labour Party few have faced the degree of persecution which Pat suffered. But few have enjoyed the admiration and the respect that Pat received from ordinary rank-and-file members of the Labour Party and trade unions.
Pat was a brilliant speaker. He was one of the greatest popularisers of socialist ideas. A buzz of anticipation would fill a room when Pat was about to speak. He had a gift for relating the general ideas of Marxism to the day-to-day experiences of ordinary workers and for bringing out the essential humanity of Marxism.
Pat always understood the central role that young people must play in a healthy, vibrant Labour Party. Many young activists became convinced Marxists on the socialist climbing and walking expeditions which Pat initiated. He had been a national committee member of the Labour League of Youth and remained always a fierce defender of the right for young Labour Party members to operate free from bureaucratic interference.
Pat liked to relax listening to jazz or watching Everton. His warm personality, his friendly disposition and his refusal to descend to personal abuse was acknowledged even by his opponents. This did not however prevent the avalanche of venom and personal attack Pat faced once he was selected to fight as the Labour candidate in the Bradford North constituency.
In the last two elections attacks on Pat were central to national Tory election propaganda. The abuse from the media became so abhorrent at one time that Pat's wife, Pauline, pinned the NUJ code of conduct to their front door.
Above all though, Pat had to contend with the vindictive attacks from the leadership of his own party. He had to be selected twice before being allowed to run in 1983. At the height of the election campaign, in an unprecedented outburst, he was denounced in Bradford's St Georges Hall by the then leader of the Labour Party, Michael Foot.
He faced further inquiry before being allowed to stand in 1987. He won with one of the biggest swings to Labour nationally. Immediately following his election, however, he faced the suspension of Bradford North Labour Party, further national inquiries and the expulsion from the Labour Party of some of his most hardworking supporters.
During much of this time Pat struggled against serious ill health.
Despite the ceaseless attacks from the right, his standing grew even greater amongst the ordinary members of the Labour Party and other working people of Bradford North. In October last year he was reselected as the Labour candidate for Bradford North with a crushing majority over his opponents.
In his election address Pat had written: "To represent the people of Bradford North Is a privilege and not a stepping-stone in personal advancement. I believe MPs should be full-time with no business ties, no directorships, and no retainers from business lobbies. That is why I have given the pledge to accept only the average wage of a skilled worker, plus expenses monitored by the labour movement. Any excess salary will be donated back to help the work of the labour movement."
Pat faithfully honoured this pledge. In his years as an MP he made an outstanding contribution as a campaigning Marxist MP. For all those involved in the struggle for a socialist society, where the talents of mankind will be allowed to develop freely and to the full, Pat's life and his work will live on as an example and an inspiration.
We send our condolences to Pauline, Pat's wife and comrade, and to their children, Simon, David and Kate.
The Militant Editorial Board
Dave Nellist MP issued the following statement on the death of Pat Wall.
It was at party conference that I first listened to Pat Wall, enthralled by his ability as a speaker, particularly able to illustrate theory from the daily lives and struggles of ordinary people.
Pat had that rare gift of being able not to speak at or to an audience but for them, so that he naturally became a tribune, as a councillor, trades council president and latterly as an MP.
We had our annual night of pool at a succession of conferences. When he entered Parliament we had adjoining offices.
Over a period of 40 years within the Labour Party, Paddy Wall became an experienced and influential conference delegate. He moved the successful composite in 1972 that shifted Labour sharply to the left on public ownership and workers' control.
He made memorable speeches on public services, the social contract, defence cuts, pensions and the need for accountability of MPs. He demanded as a rank-and-filer, and lived up to it in Parliament himself, that MPs should take only the average skilled worker's wage.
I'll miss Pat as a friend and a comrade, someone from whom you could learn each and every day. The thousands of people whose eyes have been opened by Pat's work, to the injustices of capitalism and to the need for genuinely democratic socialist change in Britain and elsewhere, will be the living testimony to a life of service to working-class people.
Pat Wall in his own words
"And if we talk about representation of Labour voters, then I will say this.
"In relation to the parliamentary Labour Party, Labour lawyers are well represented in Parliament; Labour lecturers are well represented in Parliament; Labour academics are well represented in Parliament, but Labour lorry drivers ad Labour miners and Labour health workers are very under-represented in the parliamentary Labour Party.
"If we are to build a mass Labour Party then that has got to be a party which allows mass participation and democratic control over its leaders.
"Any Labour MP or representative who represents the interests of working people, who stands at their shoulders and fights for them and who fights to change this society, has absolutely nothing to fear from the constituencies or the ranks of this movement."
Pat Wall speaking in the historic Labour conference debate on reselection of MPs, October 1979.
(Also extract from Maiden speech in Parliament)