Anthony Neil Wedgewood Benn – 3 April 1925 – 14 March 2014. The former 2nd Viscount Stansgate died today at his own home surrounded by his family. He was a complex character who spoke clearly and directly about politics and people. He was a great man who “made enemies and kept them.”
Tony Benn died and with him the heart of the left in the United Kingdom. That was the old Left, embedded in the trade union movement and social justice, Clause IV British socialism rather than the current soft Left that seeks power for power.
To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service. Clause IV.
I’m not going to write a history of Benn – his religious beliefs, his campaigning for peace and for rights of all kinds, the fact that he continued to speak at events such as the Durham Miners Gala rights up he could speak no more. I’m going to show you this interview between Benn and Ali-G…
That’s Benn remaining true to his beliefs in the face of the kind of criticism of the welfare state made daily by the tabloid media in this country (and brilliantly satirised by Sacha Baron Cohen here). Benn also reacts strongly to the kind of ignorance that calls women ‘Bitches’ and understands voting as a chore that doesn’t require completion.
Benn was relevant despite the New Labour fears and smears. He was wrong about getting out of the EU but he would have argued that position not from a point of Real-Politik or “Means to Ends’.
I would highly recommend getting audio versions of his diaries. I know reading them is fine but hearing him speaking is a truly wonderful insight into politics, mistakes, frustrations, and most of all principles and a love of his fellow human beings.