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Tony Benn, a Chomsky For Social Democrats, Kicks It Off In Dublin.

category dublin | miscellaneous | feature author Tuesday February 06, 2007 22:32author by Pinhead - Gabber Shoplifters FC Report this post to the editors

A Report Of His Recent Address To The Trinity Hist

featured image

An Indymedia contributor stumbles out of their weekend lethargy long enough to dust off a hangover and type up this report on a Tony Benn address entitled "Peace, Faith and Power" delivered over two weeks ago on January 23rd to Trinity's Hist. With the dazzling might of the Internet age at my disposal, contemporaneous reporting has never been so exciting…

First the platitudes, Tony Benn is one of Britain's most graceful statesmen, serving over half a century in the British parliament before famously leaving to “devote more time to politics” and declaring himself "free at last" of the parliamentary shackles delaying real struggle.

While many of his generation of leftist politicians hold no interest in and add even less to today's movements Benn is remarkable in how many cling to him as an icon. He is well received at gatherings such as Glastonbury's Leftfield when voicing the concerns mobilizing those many decades younger than him.

Despite his popularity this Hist meeting took place on the quite with no posters around Trinity and an absolute silence among most left circles. But no surprise there - these sort of college meetings appeal to few outside those directly interested. They are mainly a play pen for society hacks to engage in a gymnastics of the intellect with all the prowess Richie Kavanagh displays musically. After I found my seat, two such sorts next to me lusted for controversy and filled each other in on the upcoming immigration debate featuring Aine Ni Chonail. "Is she a good looking woman?" One said to the other.

Arriving not exactly on time, Benn took to the podium with a clunky old cassette player and an IPod recording this speech as he does all of them. He opened up by loudly declaring that "the Irish cause is burnt into his heart" and how he once put up a plaque to Countess Markivicz as if to ingratiate himself to an audience who overwhelmingly come from a generation politically defined by anything but the North. He hoped the evening was to be a "discussion rather than of an academic character" and so did I, knowing that anything but an audience led discussion would mean Hist morons bravely defending the progress of history against Benn's foolhardy economy wrecking throwback-ism.

For Benn we are a generation with choices of "enormous magnitude" due to the accumulation of destructive technologies. We are also a generation with the capabilities of making such choices, due to the proliferation of information on the Internet. Later in the evening he described how the net enabled a degree of power transference from rulers, citing his knowledge of the American anti-war movement despite a mainstream media blackout here. When Jim Roche of the Irish Anti-war Movement questioned him on the tasks to be undertaken in rebuilding the global anti-war movement, he discouraged pessimism and described it as the biggest movement he has seen in his lifetime, largely again due to the Internet.

He insisted however that what was needed was a movement for the control of resources and that this should always be the aim of the peace movement. Aimlessly surfing details about Benn later left me with a bratish grin after all that "Internet good" lark his own site was down to be "completely redesigned to add new content during 2005."

Benn described how once there was a British empire but that it has now given way to the dominance of the American empire with the vision of Neo-con groups like The Project for a New American Century. In a constant theme he drew a parallel between the militarism of the west and terrorism describing how he was a terrorist in the British Home Guard as a teenager trained to kill. His speech was littered with a schoolboy cheek through out and he joked that "everyone we locked up as a terrorist ended up having tea with the Queen as a leader of Commonwealth countries."

With the theme of the evening being partially religious, he moved towards biblical themes relating how his mother told him the bible was a conflict between Kings and revolutionary prophets and it is this reading he has stuck with. He related an interesting moral poll to the audience that showed most British valued the commandment “treat others as you would like them to treat you” more than any other. Using no notes he constantly flitted between subjects, and expressed exasperation with the Israeli occupation of Palestine because he "didn't know god was an estate agent." In wars based on religion he sees no hope of settlement.

Humour is the source of much of Benn's charisma and he is a genuinely funny guy finding systemic ironies that hint at broader inequalities in the most mundane subjects. Benn can be considered something of a Noam Chomsky to social democrats, a prolific writer his arguments for a socialism coming from within the Labour Party are as pervasive among Labour Youth radicals as Chomksy-lite moments are in the writings of young anarchists. While Chomsky uses a relentless logic and scrutiny of sources to highlight dichotomies of interest, Benn simply pokes fun and relishes how they collapse under the weight of their own ludicrousness. For instance can you imagine if British Muslims were to sing a hymn similar to "Onwards Christian Soldiers?"

His recall of anecdote is essential to this rhetorical force. As a fervent critic of Stalinism he digs into his own experiences in the USSR to describe its tolerance of inequalities, he once asked a former USSR education minister about schools for gifted children under supposed socialism only to be told "but comrade they're really schools for the children of specially gifted adults!" These moments of light relief drawn from his contacts with power, are also sourced in those outside of power such as one woman who wrote to him in the late sixties asking "now that man has reached the moon was there any chance of a better bus service round her way?"

From reading some of his speeches Benn seems fond of drawing comparisons between today's Britain and Britain in the 19th Century, with Tories battling Whigs despite ideological confluence and no one representing the working masses. For Benn change is largely premised on the unions. In the same way that the Tolpoddle Martyrs and the movement that developed around them played a historic role in the struggle for democracy in the UK, movements today need to facilitate people in using the vote as a source of change. The Charterist struggle as Benn sees it was to "transfer power to the ballot, away from the market and the wallet."

However breathtakingly seconds later Benn undermined the force of his own argument for the vote as a fulcrum of change and argued that the UK is now "so utterly dependent" on the US that foreign policy is virtually excluded from being contestable through voting. Then of course as he sees it there is the committee level of the EU and WTO who seek to reduce the market to an "open playing field as if it were a game of cricket" in an effort to move power back from the ballot to the wallet. The "western democracies are all one party states - Cameron might even win the leadership of the Labour Party!"

Rulers need a controlling method and in Benn's analysis the present crop keep us frightened to demobilise us, and simultaneously demoralise us with things like league tables. In his eyes it is the very idea of leadership that needs to be challenged. For Benn the best kind of leadership is that when people say "we did it ourselves" as "all progress comes from the bottom up, from people outside the system." With these closing remarks he encouraged the audience to "do it themselves." To throw themselves into whatever it is that they are committed to, advising the use of his own five point Socratic plan for interrupting power with a set of questions: "What power do you have? Where did you get it? In whose interests do you rule? How accountable are you? How can we get rid of you?"

The first question fielded by Benn was that of socialists working within the Labour Party, he outlined how its never been socialist as a party but has always had socialists active within it. In his view the only option outside of it are the 57 varieties of Leninism. Despite his radicalism, Benn is clearly limited by a lack of vision when it comes to the process of political movements today. The root of this is a relentless belief in the Labour Party as an out growth of the working people historically and one that they must battle to push in a direction to their suiting. Any effort otherwise is simply reinventing the wheel.

A Socialist Workers' Party intervention (in their usual blend of rhetoric connecting weak movements here with mystified ones there) pointed to the development of a new left in South America, Germany and RESPECT in the UK. This contained a valid question of just how much democracy Benn thinks the system can deliver? Again there is little alternative Benn claimed, the arguments that come out of the fringe parties have an influence on the main parties, but that as a movement we should be generating a climate of opinion so strong leaders have no option but to act.

A female lecturer from Trinity asked a question about what academics are to do in the face of neo-liberal restructuring where management are turning universities into institutes of production rather than education? Benn joked again that he feels as if he is "mismanaged from parliament" and put forward his account of the Cuban health system where chair of the management committee is rotated among the various sectors involved the health provision. The issue of a Cuban democratic deficit prompted the question of how socialists should relate to state socialism there? He acknowledged that there is repression there but in a rhetorical flourish pointed to Gitmo as its main source, with Cuba's institutions warped due to economic embargo. "As a system it needs democracy to survive" he said.

Another academic sort asked if Britain is still a democracy due to gerrymandering? Benn quickly advocated proportional representation but was hesitant as to the effects of a list system in uprooting the geographical basis of politics. The questioner reiterated that his question was in relation to the North and Benn exclaimed, "that there is no Irish problem but a British problem in Ireland" and condemned collusion as it had emerged in then fresh reports. Next up was a question on how the opening of the market in China will affect the countries political system? Benn answered describing how there are already strikes occurring and that as in Britain the market will inevitably bring some degree of political freedom.

Throughout the evening Benn called for women to speak in that awkward way activists of an older generation grapple with gender dynamics at a meeting. This being the fifth or sixth time he had issued the call for "any women?" his voice held a glimmer of delight and he went "ah finally!" This joy suddenly dropped away as the female he hoped was standing to speak continued to the door and turned around to guffaws of realization that our young long hair was a rather red faced male student.

The meeting moved through this humorous moment along the theme of actually existing socialism, a questioner wondered had the absence of the USSR as "half completed revolution" and the "missed opportunities" for political revolution there in '56 and '67 set us back over a hundred years in socialist politics? Benn explained how there have only been two attempts at building socialism, firstly through an anti-democratic Stalinism and secondly in a social democracy that ended up advocating capitalism. Despite this bleak assessment, for the first time in Britain the general public are now well to the left of a Labour government". In the same vein when tackling the charge of an anti-Americanism that confuses criticism of state policy with chauvinism he claimed from the latest elections there "Americans are anti-American." Not for the first time Benn blamed a "left pessimism as the enemy of progress."

Somebody from Labour Youth asked how do we fight fascism today? Benn then described how it is something to be fought, as it is "worth fighting." Again he cast his mind back and recalled meeting Mosley as a child, years later he would meet Mosley this time wearing a black shirt and preying on the fears of workers during a depression to provide them with a scapegoat for the systems failings.

Another member of Labour Youth commented on how as Energy Minister Benn stopped the exploitation of North Sea rights being sold and asks what tactics can be used to fight the undemocratic nature of modern TNCs such as in the Rossport struggle? Benn says that these bodies, particularly in the oil industry are now bigger than nation states. He quiped that Churchill was the first to nationalize aspects of the oil industry in Britain and that his speech on this was something he'd relish reading to the Tories. It's important for good leadership on these issues with the capabilities to negotiate solid deals with control. I was surprised Benn didn’t instinctively name check more popular struggles over resources such as the Bolivian Gas Wars, movements involving mobilisation and participation as opposed to good, old solid social democratic leadership.

Much of Benn's analysis rides on using the vote and nation state as a tool for change, and he sees the challenges posed to sovereignty by globalisation as controllable through something along the lines of a European common wealth. When it comes to military intervention on humanitarian grounds, Benn describes the current UN Security Council as a historical accident and says he would support a proper police function in the UN.

The next questioner challenged much of the uncritical support given to Islamic resistance movements; he accused Benn of confusing what is largely a middle class and wealthy movement in his crude reading of terrorism as the "war of the poor against the rich." Benn simply replied that it's an anti-colonial struggle with Palestine at its root and there's no point denying these links.

A similar question arose later in the evening and pointed to failure in the anti-war movement to acknowledge political Islam as a deeply reactionary movement, describing the July bombings as "an attack on Britain from fascists within." Ben responded that he "heard reports of Islamic fascism but am I not in support of progressive imperialism," he saw the only solution as a peace conference to solve all of the Middle East. He then misread the original question to characterize it as similar to a desire to bomb South Africa in aid of the ANC and instead called for support for DIY liberation in Iraq.

Out of nowhere considering the nature of the discussion one of the usual suspects that hangs around these college functions arose and asked Benn what leader he admires the most? The answer is the rather obvious Gandhi first and then Bishop Tutu for the vision behind South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation process. Things were clearly on the wind down now but as Benn prepared to leave he let one more question in from a young man wearing traditional Muslim dress. The question was an attack on Benn for speaking on Islam at various stages of the night when he “knew nothing about it.” Visibly taken aback by this ambush from no-where, Ben denied anyone supreme knowledge and delighted in his ignorance as it rewarded him with life long learning. More retorts were directed at Benn and eventually the Hist bloke in a tin of fruit from previous question stepped forward in that ever so graceful mannered way they do to crowd out the Islamic guy. You can be almost certain he wouldn’t have intervened the way he did had the questioner been white.

As someone coming from a socialist tradition consisting of neither the 57 varieties of Leninism or a failed social democratic project, its no wonder I feel like I really share little in common with Benn. As a speechmaker he is superb and you could easily find yourself falling over in agreement with him. His radicalism is clearly voiced but he constantly by-passes it with his emphasis on opinion making in order to influence leaders through the vote. This illogically jars with most of his critique on the night, making it hard to swallow as a tactic for movements today.

LY Types Focus In
LY Types Focus In

The Audience Claps
The Audience Claps

author by Big Bennpublication date Mon Feb 05, 2007 19:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The only memorable thing about Tony Benn is his vociferous and vicious condemnation of the Poll Tax rioters (along with many other Labour MPs of the time). Lord Anthony Wedgewood Benn is an ineffective dreamer that has played a strong part in sabotaging democracy in the UK. Excellent report of the meeting though, thanks. One question: what do you man about "a tin of fruit" w.r.t. the Hist person? I have no idea what that phrase means.

author by seriouslypublication date Mon Feb 05, 2007 20:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Would it kill the author to write in anything less than Blogger-grade stream of consciousness with endless tangents and terrible structure.

author by Loike, seriously royshpublication date Mon Feb 05, 2007 20:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I had no trouble following the article whatsoever. If you want a report of the Benn meeting written in Irish Times house style, nobody's stopping you from writing it yourself.

author by rianorr - nonepublication date Mon Feb 05, 2007 21:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Benn is undoubtably one of the great public speakers left. His concise verbal critique of capitalism
is difficult to better but like the writer of the above article I agree that it is difficult to square his radical
views with his lifelong membership and allegiance to a social democratic party and ideology that
can only offer increasingly small change to the working classes.

His attempts to democratise the labour party is the early eighties was sabotaged by the bureaucritic
union vote and the grandees were happy to give him the bums rush out the door, yet he still clings to
the mother ship. He reminds me of Micheal D Higgins who when asked by what political gains could justify
his entire political life could not come up with an answer.

Benn would probably answer the post war welfare state, the NHS (which tories(irish and english) are still trying
to destroy). The was the high water mark for social democrats but its limits are finite, think of what could be
achieved with a strategy for real change. Real change cannot come from social democrats because they tie
themselves to the state and more often than not want to administer to the working classes more than they
want to free them. Like other left statist parties their patronising contempt boils just beneath the surface.
For a social democratic movement to deliver on its promises it has to dump the state and trust he people it
supposidly represents, this they are ideologically incapable of doing and the rulers know this, they just wait
the crisis out untill it all ends in demoralisation. This is the bankruptsy that Benn and the rump labour party cannot
escape. At the beginning of a new century his movement is finished and he knows it.

author by ipsiphi humourpublication date Tue Feb 06, 2007 00:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

An example of one of those who get respect not for enduring penury, but one of those who seems to do the camel through the eye of the needle defection. A traitor to the politically soporific and utterly useless lords who wanted common people to vote for him. Common people like you. Sure he wasn't the first rich toff to join Labour. Back when it was still a movement & most of its characters had "accents" . Posh toffs run new labour now and are the only ones who can afford to buy the stationary in the Lords since it got reformed for the meritocracy. But back when hon. Anthony wedgewood Benn was a wee rich toff there was no such thing as a meritocracy. It was all eleven plus exams, on job training, not earning much but being happy in the job & of course never feeling the need to grumble nor forgetting the value of the army national service. I suppose he suffered contempt as a class traitor for a while from those who didn't like his fabian ways & envied his chance to be politically more useful. I reckon that's why he started smoking the pipe and chose to eschew the extravangance of a new duffle coat for years. It was a road to true peer group acceptance, as much a subsumation of the posh toffie Anthony Wedgewood Benn into the dizzy debauchery of startling new ideas and sensations. Not even William Seward Burroughs the second could drop a name as well.
Tony Benn dropped the crockery was a chap to hang out with and doodle peace symbols with, a man at rest with his youth full of the vigour & joy that only a really posh sneer could provide. But it came at a price. By his own rueful admission - by the time James Charles Laker made Test match Cricket history by not being very gentlemanly, from the north, left handed and kicking Ozzy ass with an almost religious zeal 10 wickets in a Test match innings, ten for 53 in the Australians' second innings of the fourth Ashes - Benn was drinking tea like Doherty smokes crack. http://www.ak13.com/print.php?id=101 There were even rumours of a full time live-in sexual partner but through sheer effort in face of incredible odds not to mention the tory ochlarcy Tony saw two things no-one who had dropped from his social class had seen before.

1) Nukes were shite & Bertrand Russel would have made more money in Advertising.
2) the Irish were civilised and capable of self-government.

It is perhaps the legacy of his marginalisation that this rebel wasn't taken seriously and didn't prove to be role model. Not since Orwell's post Etonian "down & out in Paris and London" had the more sensitive subjects of the realm been so scared that the worse might be true. the poor were just like them but given half the chance had better taste. That was long ago when decent people still set their dogs on foreigners and the hot countries hadn't chosen independence. Vicars were married and Thatcher was still a teenager dreaming of meeting a millionaire husband whilst filling quarter ounce paper bags with gobstoppers whilst deftly keeping her finger on the scales the way her dad had taught her. Tony Benn stopped being common finally fatigued by all the hanging out in supermarkets looking for people "like you" left politics and left his seat to his son. For any other man such a life would have seemed gracefully and morally patrician. In fact he would only have been respected more if he had had to look after someone with an awful disease. We always reserve the most respect for people whose long term partner, parent or kid have a horrible disease. Real respect is being fking glad shite happened to someone else & thus the odds on happening to you are better. Tony proved that one really may do whatever one wants & never let people drag you up to their level.

olé. ;-)

author by DSpublication date Tue Feb 06, 2007 12:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

On a point to the author about the title

Chomsky is a card carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America who are affiliated to the 2nd International along with the Labour Party

as you can see fron the link

Related Link: http://reds.linefeed.org/groups.html
author by Darren Cogavin - SP & SY (pc)publication date Tue Feb 06, 2007 21:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Rianorr wrote - "He reminds me of Micheal D Higgins who when asked by what political gains could justify his entire political life could not come up with an answer.....Benn would probably answer the post war welfare state, the NHS (which tories(irish and english) are still trying to destroy)."

One thing that is often overlooked by the left - perhaps deliberately so by the social democrats - is that imperialist repression abroad paid for labour reformism at home.

In 1945 the British Labour Party were elected to government with an overall victory for the first time. Across Europe workers were demanding radical and social change. At the same time, national liberation movements began to spring up in the colonies. Heedful of socialist ideas gaining popular support in post-war Britain, it became clear that Labour PM Clement Attlee introduced the NHS and Social Security as a means of placating an increasingly militant working class whilst alleviating the concerns of a nervy capitalist class.

The working class in the most developed countries have always been the recipients of the crumbs from the table of imperialism. Their relative privilege comes some way to explaining their lack of revolutionary fervour. Under Attlee, these crumbs came from the pillage of colonies in Africa and Southeast Asia.

In Malaya the Labour government ordered the defeat of a burgeoning trade union movement and the crushing of a revolt led by Communist guerrillas. It ably flanked US imperialism in ‘containing communism’ in French Indo-China and the Dutch East Indies, where its troops assisted the colonialists against the growing movement of the oppressed. The Labour Party also sent troops into Korea in support of US foreign policy. They also turned on their former comrades-in-arms in Greece, where Bevan – another hero of the left labourites – supported the execution of 490 resistance fighters that had risen up against a pro-capitalist regime and king imposed on the Greek people.

My interaction with Labour Party members in Dublin is largely confined to their youth. Most of them, like their hero Benn, uphold Attlee’s welfare state as a template for the building of ‘democratic socialism’ in Ireland. In general, many of them are unaware of social democracy’s role internationally in building the welfare state on the super-exploitation of workers and repatriation of super-profits from the colonies. Perhaps this stems from the lack of a culture of education or criticism of the historical role of social democracy in that organisation.

The article above effectively challenges the many contradictions inherent in social democracy, but I think discussion is important too on Labour’s historical “social imperialist” character. After all, Tony Blair stands in the best traditions of “Old” Labour imperialism.

author by Davidpublication date Wed Feb 07, 2007 00:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Very poor article imo. You have gone 1,000 miles out of your way to find every last piece of irony and contradiction you can instead of simply reporting on the talk. Some of it completely irrelevant and downright silly. Leaves a very bad taste. Thanks for taking the trouble to write it but I would seriously consider coming up with a new tone for future reports. The article seems to be about how clever you are rather than the talk. Very poor standard of journalism imo.

author by Pinheadpublication date Wed Feb 07, 2007 02:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I know this is breaching some form of etiquette as the author of a piece is usually meant to take criticism silently. To be honest the only thing leaving a "very bad taste" in anyone's mouth here is the pissing and moaning from Indy's sudden sprouting of journalism critics.

While the article may be long I believe it justified. It is a report of the whole meeting, it was never intended as a quick news piece on how "Tony Benn spoke to a mixed audience in Trinity on Wednesday night." I'm sure some of the Trinity papers published something along those lines if you care to go dig it out.

If the article is guilty of containing "endless tangents and [a] terrible structure," then you can blame Tony Benn. I simply reported in detail on an ad hoc speech he gave. His speech leapt from topic to topic, as he also did in the Q and A.

As others have noted Benn's politics are riddled with contradictions. On the Labour Party he uses similar venom to the rest of the far left, he sees them as indistinct from other sectors of the ruling class. On moment he sees voting as useless, a distraction or as he once put it "little more than a means of securing a periodical change in the management team, which is then allowed to preside over a system that remains in essence intact." The next he is advocating parlimentary politics as the only real vehicle of social change, with the Labour Party fated with a grand destiny - the historical outgrowth of over a century of working class movements in Britain.

Benn is his own best critic and I honestly don't think I had to run too fucking far to drag contradictions out of what he says.

If the article is too long for you, I suggest you stuff it into MS Word's "autosummarize" and play away to your heart's content. Or you could always volunteer your services as a sub-editor to the Indymedia Reporters Group.

author by Not a fanpublication date Wed Feb 07, 2007 09:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I was in London in 2002 and heard Benn a number of times calling for nonviolent direct action should the war on Iraq start. Bring Britain to a grinding halt with occuoations, civil resistance etc etc. He pretty much back down from this position and it was one more rally with a march around the block, eloquent speeches withstanding....when the rubber hit the road and the bombs began to fall.

The two Scottish train drivers who refused to move the munitions went unsupported by their Union and the nonviolent direct actionists were left hung out to dry by Benn, the Labour left and the Trot run Stop the War Coalition.

author by Willpublication date Wed Feb 07, 2007 13:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There is a very good podcast that Tony Benn recently did with the Guardian. The title quote refers to all the ex CP members, like John Reid that are now nauesating Blairites.


I always will hold Tony Benn in high regard. He is a very eloquent speaker and stresses how important it is for the left to be unified.

Also, he is the only person that came across well in an Ali- G interview!

author by Michael Gallagherpublication date Wed Feb 07, 2007 13:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

.....would the saying "Put your money where your mouth is." apply to Benn? If so he can include his pensions etc. Talk is not nitty gritty....he may as well be a poet or songwriter for that matter.....

author by Kozepublication date Wed Feb 07, 2007 13:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"The shift from Stalin to Blair a minor adjustment"

Much the same can be said about Pat Rabbitte, Liz McManus, Eamonn Gilmore et. al

author by Apparat - ISN - PCpublication date Wed Feb 07, 2007 13:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

That was a great report, and a great analysis of Bennism - all mashed together in an immensely readable manner.

I saw Benn give the same speech at Glastonbury some years ago. He pulled a bigger crowd at midday than Pete Doherty did in the same tent the night before. He is a great public speaker. Like Galloway or Sheridan, you mightn't 100% agree with his analysis, but can rarely fault his delivery and ability to rebuff those attacking him from the right.

But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't criticise him from the left. When he says that the present Labour Government is well to the right of the electorate, we have to wonder why he got involved in the 2005 election campaign.

Of course, he is right when he says that historically, the Labour leadership has always been well to the right of the party. The concessions handed down to workers by Atlee were not challenged by the establishment. With the means of production brought into state control during WWII, the politicisation of many troops in Europe, and the gains of the far left during the same period - the British Ruling class were glad to see post war stabilisation in the cold winters of the late 40s. With this, Stafford Cripps was free to enforce rationing (with perverse glee), up taxation, reduce consumption and nationalise industry. Not in an effort to help the Labour worker, but to stabilise the pound and expand the economy.

In his Dairies, Benn never analyses the basis of the welfare state - prefering to look back with a tear in his eye at the benovalence of Atlee and his government. His faith in honest leadership, and dogmatic attitude to other leftists remains. The author of the article does a good job in analysing it.

Like Galloway or Sheridan, when you hear him once, you need not listen again. The arguments made in the Hist are the same as those made at Glastonbury, and his last book (Dare to be a Daniel).

author by YossarianHughespublication date Wed Feb 07, 2007 14:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Your article was excellent. I only happen by this site once in a while, and know very little of Benn, but was entertained enough to read your piece to the end. Consequently, I have an opinion of Benn I can pass off as my own in the pub. So, thank you. And not that I need to tell you, but don't drop the light touch from your writing style to become more "serious" as suggested by the genius above -- being able to write in an entertaining manner on weighty subjects (and give a well-deserved kicking to some young idiots)...well, 'tis a gift.

author by R. Isible - Greedy Consumers Loose Associationpublication date Wed Feb 07, 2007 14:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It seems like there are two potential formats from which to choose: short, bitter, non-informative non-existent non-accounts of Benn's Dublin appearance, or long, verbally witty, actually existing accounts. Hmmm.... which one will I consume?

Today another, potentially even greater disaster is looming as Israel and the United States ostentatiously prepare to bomb Iran on the pretext of preventing "a second holocaust". But this time around there is a curious absence of the public opposition and mass protest demonstrations that preceded the 2003 invasion of Iraq. -- Diane Johnstone in Counterpunch Feb 2007 [1]

I'm not much of a T.Benn fan due to the reasons people have mentioned above, but it has to be admitted that he gets a lot of things right, e.g. he's been warning since 2005 of the US/Israeli attack being prepared on Iran and asking people to do something [2]. Unfortunately that "do something" seems to involve feebly petitioning the government by another mass protest led by the StoptheWarCoalition. That's pretty much the good and the bad of his politics all rolled into one: he recognises the threats but doesn't have a practical response to them and recoils in horror when people actually do something.

1. http://www.counterpunch.org/johnstone02062007.html
2. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArti...d=112
(the credit for this report should really go to Big Issue Scotland)

author by Allyatespublication date Thu Feb 08, 2007 21:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Where has socialism gone?

Just look around you, nurses stikes, garunteed pay increases, excellent working conditions for most people.
Garunteed minimum standards of worker treatment that have millions clamouring to get into the EU for.

Yes its not all perfect, and there is much to fight for such as ensuring rights are enforced for immigrants both permitted and non-permitted kind.
That socialism is not undermined by wannbe oligarchs that put so much dodgy cash into Berties pocket.

Benn is correct about socialism through the ballot and change only through the ballot and the accepting of dissenting opinion are the only way ahead.

People wonder what happened to the left. I say the left has largely won! The right live in a leftist paradise of garunteed housing rights, tax breaks on morgages, and free/cheap health care.

It is the undermining of these and much besides that the sinister agents of the right would attempt to undermine, and the Labour Court, and the courts generally must be ensured against permitting this.

The left's job should now be to cement forever the victories won by so much workers blood so many years ago.
There has not always been victories, and we dont live in a an equal society, but we cannot expect to live in a world where production is not stolen. That process it was assumed could be done through 'revolution' a fast and furious event and all would fall into place. Now we see that our task is to secure our gains and begin the slow process of change, decades from now perhaps workers will earn exactly what they produce, but it wont happen any time soon.

So more and better legal and even constitutional changes must be to goal for the left, to uphold first of all the rights of workers to enforce them, as part of the foundation and first principles of Ireland, and eventually the EU.

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