Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History


Pat Wall (1933-1990)

Pat Wall died on 6 August 1990. He was born into an ordinary Liverpool industrial working class family on 6 May 1933. He entered political activity at the age of just 16, picked up on a canvass by local activist Bill Thompson, early in 1950. Won almost immediately to Marxism and Trotskyism by what was to become known as the Deane-Grant group, he was Garston Constituency Party Secretary within the year, and had entered onto a train of activity that was to last unbroken until his death.

As a dynamic young activist Pat played a significant role in the breaking of the hold of the right wing on the Liverpool Labour Party in the late 1950s in opposition to Gaitskell. He held office, too, as a Liverpool city councillor in the early 1960s. As a public speaker he had what his fellow MP Dave Nellist describes as “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”.

Pat Wall, however, was much more than an effective and authoritative activist. He attached the highest importance to Marxist theory as a guide to understanding and action. He was associated with a series of journals aimed at leading and widening the influence of Trotskyist Marxism, and popularising without compromising or diluting it. Latterly this was manifest in the leading roles he played in establishing and launching the Militant newspaper and before that the Socialist Fight of 1958-63. His role in the production of the Marxist youth journal Rally, organ of the Walton Labour Youth League in the 1950s deserves special mention. This journal, behind which he was one of the leading figures, gained a national and even international circulation despite its humble origins and duplicated production. Terry Harrison, now a leading figure in the Liverpool labour movement, has described how it was Pat and Rally which “invited me to make a real commitment to the ideas of Marxism, and made me realise what this meant” when he joined the LPYS in 1958. In more recent years Pat’s concern for the importance of theoretical understanding informed his interest in this journal of the history of the revolutionary movement, too.

Pat’s job as a mail order company buyer eventually took him away from Liverpool to Market Harborough, and then to Bingley in Bradford. It also took him abroad, and he did not fail to establish political contacts on his foreign travels: in Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, South Korea and even the USA. The strong links he established with the Asian community in his Bradford constituency had led him to promise to speak in Pakistani Kashmir and Lahore on the fiftieth anniversary of Trotsky’s death, had his own health allowed. His assistance to Trotskyists in Sri Lanka in 1979 was still remembered in tributes sent in memoriam.

Selected as Labour candidate for Bradford North in 1983, he faced press vilification for his Marxism, and was even disowned by the then Labour Party leader Michael Foot. By 1987 Pat was facing serious ill-health, but he battled on against the most vicious witch-hunting to retain his candidature and finally to win his seat in parliament. Pat was not one of those to make the Labour Party “a little grey home ... for pinks scared white by the reds”, as early witch-hunt victim Konni Zilliacus once put it. No careerist, Pat donated most of his salary back to the movement he said it was a privilege to represent, taking only the wage of an average skilled worker for himself. He was a fighter, one of the ‘reds’, a true Bolshevik cadre, and even in his last weeks he was to be found writing to support Scargill and Heathfield in their battle against the smears of the capitalist media.

Ian Hunter

Updated by ETOL: 22.7.2003