Bob Goupillot (RCN) provides this tribute to Tony Benn, who died on 14th March.
At 7.30 this morning I heard that Tony Benn had died. I first heard him speak in Darlington in the late 1970’s. I was in my early twenties. That speech and subsequent ones plus two of his books; Arguments for Socialism and Arguments for Democracy made a large and lasting impact on my political and social beliefs. I had considered myself a socialist ever since I could give my politics a name. I can even remember taking part in some anti-Tory direct action in the street when I was still in short trousers.
Anyway to my young ears Tony Benn offered a coherent vision of a better world, a vehicle to get there (The Labour Party) and a strategy and plan. The strategy was to bring all aspects of society under popular democratic control and uproot the political economy of the ruling class e.g. abolish the House of Lords, nationalise the banks, insurance and pension companies and promote workers control of industry. Very importantly we were to make the Labour Party democratic, transparent and its elected members accountable to and recallable by the membership. I had originally joined the Labour Party when I was 16 but not been active. At 22 I went to study in Northern Ireland and my membership lapsed.
I re-joined around 1982 inspired by Mr Benn and the left wing of the Labour Party in Edinburgh. At this point I was an enthusiastic Bennite. We campaigned locally to wrest Edinburgh council from the Tories and to get Benn elected as Deputy Leader against right winger, Dennis Healey. We nearly did it too, being betrayed by ‘kneel’ Kinnock amongst others. Kinnock went on to describe those 12 Labour Councillors who stuck by their manifesto commitment to produce a needs led budget as,
“Less than the dirt under the fingernails of the body of the Labour movement”.
That’s was 1984 the year the miner’s strike began. That was the most important political year of my life. I was transformed from Bennite to a revolutionary, anarcho-communist, committed to class struggle by any and all means necessary. Later the Poll Tax shaped my views to republican communism. However, the radical red threads that connects me still to the aristocratic Tony is our shared commitment to radical democracy, acting from principle, a warm egalitarian humanism and the living proof that you can become increasingly radical with age.
14th March 2014