Tony Benn ‘Will and Testament’

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The LeFT needs a new beginning, taking the best from the old and building on the new.

“The things that are most popular in British society today are little pockets of socialism, where areas of life have been excluded from the crude operation of market forces and are protected for the benefit of the community.” Tony Benn

tony benn community
Tony Benn

There have been many upheavals in politics over the last decade. Tony Benn had anticipated many things while giving us many warnings. His views on the EU became a reality while his philosophy helped guide many Left-wing leave supporters throughout the years of turmoil resulting from the Brexit debate.

However, the results of the EU referendum left many people thinking parliament was closer to a banana republic than an institution of democracy. The unprecedented attempt to overturn the democratic will of the people not only angered many people but brought to light the real values of some politicians and the fact they were willing to forsake our democratic processes to remain inside a right-wing neoliberal EU.

The result of Brexit also divided people of all political wings.

Both Conservative and Labour have dominated British politics for almost one hundred years, their behaviour has resulted in mistrust and apathy. They no longer command the enthusiasm of voters as they once did.

The Right of the Labour party came out as full-blown centrist, creating a realignment of the Labour movement.

In fact, the terms Right and Left, which still mean so much to politicians, are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the wider public. The twentieth-century arguments between capitalism and socialism mean little to twenty-first-century voters.

There is now a zeitgeist, a grassroots movement looking for representation that can bring about real social change and real social justice.

One that can incorporate the best of the working-class movement but one that can also carry the honesty of intelligent socialism for the 21st century.

That intelligence was portrayed by many stalwarts of the Labour movement but never as well articulated as by those of old school socialism like Nye Bevan and of course Tony Benn.

The beginning of the end.

Transmogrification of the labour party
“If the Labour Party could be bullied or persuaded to denounce its Marxists, the media – having tasted blood – would demand next that it expelled all its Socialist and reunited the remaining Labour Party with the SDP to form a harmless alternative to the Conservatives, which could then be allowed to take office now and then when the Conservatives fell out of favour with the public. Thus British Capitalism, it is argued, will be made safe forever, and socialism would be squeezed of the National agenda. But if such a strategy were to succeed… it would in fact profoundly endanger British society. For it would open up the danger of a swing to the far-right, as we have seen in Europe over the last 50 years.” ― Tony Benn

Both Bevan and Benn anticipated the split and ongoing civil war within the Labour Party. Benn called it when stated:

If the Labour Party could be bullied or persuaded to denounce its Marxist, the media -having tasted Blood- would demand next that it expelled all its Socialist and reunited the remaining Labour Party with the SDP to form a harmless alternative to the Conservatives, which could then be allowed to take office now and then when the Conservatives fell out of favour with the public.

Thus British Capitalism, it is argued, will be made safe forever, and socialism would be squeezed of the National agenda. 

But if such a strategy were to succeed… it would in fact profoundly endanger British society. For it would open up the danger of a swing to the far-right, as we have seen in Europe over the last 50 years.” -Tony Benn

Nye Bevan declared:

“The Right Wing of the Labour Party would rather see it fall into perpetual decline rather than abide by its democratic decisions” -Nye Bevan

In contrast, Tony Blair said he would not want a left-wing Labour party to win a general election.

Blair claims that even if he thought a left-wing programme was the route to victory, he would not adopt one. He goes on to say…

“[Labour] misunderstand the difference between radical leftism, which is often in fact quite reactionary – and radical social democracy, which is all about ensuring that values are put to work in the most effective way,” he said.

“Let me make my position clear: I wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it.”-Tony Blair.

This oil and water, this so-called broadchurch was never designed to win elections, just to keep the Labour movement fighting its constant civil war. A civil war where participants are more interested in bringing each other down than they are the enemy and those that oppress the people.

A new begining.

This constant civil war within the Labour movement is reaching a climax.

I predict a major upheaval within the next 6 months that will see a new LeFT wing socialist coalition forming to not only challenge the Labour Party for the representing of the people but to challenge the Tories for the right to govern the people creating a new chapter in social justice where we make a real difference for the many, not just the few.

It is now that we should all take a very deep breath. We should pause in our none stop political battles. Step back a little, reground ourselves. The last tweelve years in politics have been some of the most traumatic and chaotic in British history.

For those on the Left who feel at a loss or no longer see the forest for the trees, they would do well to watch this film for the next hour.

Tony Benn ‘Will and Testament’

The most dangerous man in Britain

Benn’s life offers an incredible sweep of history: the son of feminist theologian Margaret Wedgwood Benn and former secretary of state for India, Viscount Stansgate (as he briefly was), Benn had already met Gandhi, flown in Africa during the Second World War and worked as a producer for the BBC by the time he renounced his title in 1963.

While others have been softened by office, ministerial posts only served to radicalise Benn, who realised that: “Democracy ought to be the system that changes things to meet the people’s needs. But it has been subtly transformed to change the people to meet the needs of the system.” As he moved further to the left, he became demonised as “the most dangerous man in Britain”.

Speaking to camera, he remains defiant and unrepentant: “Socialism is about trying to construct a society around production for need and not just for profit.”

From the archives, he ridicules the idea that the Soviets want to roll across Europe so that they might one day “deal with Ian Paisley”. He recalls how the IMF bullied Labour into cuts during the 1970s, leaving the party out in the cold just before profits from North Sea oil kicked in – profits that funded crowd-control throughout the benighted decade that followed.

More centrist folks may flinch or sneer, but even they will find cause to revel in the liveliness of Benn’s intellect. A privilege to watch.

For 50 years the EU project was the Tory project.

Dragged into the world of centralism.

The Left-wing vehemently opposed our EEC membership we also opposed EU membership, not only here in the UK but internationally. Left-wing comrades held the same view of the EU throughout Europe. They recognised the EU as a capitalist construct one that would accelerate neoliberalism.

It was this very thing Tony Benn spent much of his life warning people about as with other Left-wing commentators, ironically Jeremy Corbyn a Bennite was also a hardened eurosceptic that appeared to put party unity above his own views only to lose the support from all sides of this one issue.

Benn understood the nature of the EU, his thoughts and feelings on the issue were not those of a little Englander.

Benn, along with socialists and the wider Left-wing movement throughout Europe recognised the EU as the capitalist organisation it is along with socialists throughout Europe they voted against the forming of the neoliberal construct.

The Maastricht Treaty the very treaty that formed the EU was held in France on 20 September 1992. It was approved by only 50.8% of the voters. Opponents included the French Communist Party (PCF) and far-left parties such as the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) or Workers’ Struggle (LO), who opposed what they considered as an advance of neoliberalism

The UK’s departure from the EU has shown the bare face of British politics and for many, that face is positively ugly. If the quality of politicians left us wanting before 2015, then it now leaves us exasperated by the sheer lack of gravitas in the majority that sit in parliament.

The shame of the last 6 years in UK politics is the fact that the Tories were the ones predicted to rip themselves to pieces over the EU. In fact, the Labour Party showed itself to be the party of the centre, not the Left.

The centrists were exposed, no amount of compromising from the Left of the party resulted in any form of unity.

The question is now the establishment have their divid and conquer can the LeFT over come their differences and regroup, reform and start again?

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