Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/506/3303

From The Socialist newspaper, 17 October 2007

Workers' party debate

Tony Benn evades the issue

TONY BENN can still draw a crowd. Over 200 students packed into a recent Stop the War Society meeting at University College London to hear him speak.

Paula Mitchell

The meeting aimed to mobilise students to attend the 8 October anti-war demonstration and it certainly assisted that. But Benn's strategy for the way forward was disappointing.

Benn said that ours is the first generation that has at its fingertips, through the development of technology, the means to solve the world's problems. But the problem, he explained, is one of control. And that is why it is important to vote if everybody voted we would have the most radical government ever.

He is right, of course, that while the means to solve all the world's problems exist, the vast majority of us do not control those means. Most of the world's wealth and resources are in the hands of a tiny minority.

And he is right in implying that masses of ordinary people are to the left of the government. But it is wrong to conclude that if we all voted in the next election we would have a radical government. All the main parties are much the same, and as long as they are the only candidates, we will not get a radical government.

At that time it looked like a general election was on the cards. Tony Benn told the meeting he was considering standing again as a Labour candidate (for Kensington, where he lives).

From the floor, I challenged him on this. All the main parties are parties of cuts, privatisation and war; they all support a system where the wealth is sucked up to the tops of society.

Under Gordon Brown, the Labour party's already almost non-existent democracy has been virtually eradicated. If Tony Benn is to stand for parliament again, wouldn't it be better if he stood as an independent, anti-war, anti-cuts candidate, using the election to help rally all those opposed to war, cuts and privatisation, as a step towards forming a new party that would stand in the interests of ordinary working people?

Serious discussion

BENN COULD have allowed genuine discussion by putting forward his case for socialists staying in the Labour Party to try to reclaim it. He opted instead for ridicule, deliberately misrepresenting what had been put to him by listing all the left groups he could think of and trying to raise a laugh from his student audience.

I interjected to say he could play a part in drawing together different forces, not just political groups, but striking postal workers, other trade unionists, community campaigners etc. But Benn dismissed this by saying that you cannot build a party around an individual.

Of course checks and controls on any leaders or public figures by a genuinely democratic party are essential. But prominent individuals can be important in promoting and inspiring new developments. Benn only needs to look to Oskar Lafontaine who is spearheading Germany's new Left Party or to Keir Hardie in forming the early Labour Party in Britain.

Bob Crow, leader of the RMT railworkers' union, has rightly declared that the Labour Party is finished as a workers' party and that there needs to be a new party. The RMT is considering standing a list of candidates in next May's Greater London Assembly elections.

The Campaign for a New Workers Party, with the Socialist Party playing a leading role, advocates a broad anti-cuts, anti-privatisation list, with the RMT at its head, but drawing in other trade unionists, campaigners and socialists. The RMT's London regional council has now supported just such a proposal, put forward by a Socialist Party member.

A serious debate is taking place about the need for a new party in meetings, workplaces, pubs and at breakfast tables countrywide. The process towards one will not be straightforward but genuine dialogue is needed. Unfortunately, by choosing to ridicule rather than discuss, Tony Benn is throwing away the potential role he could play.

For more information on the Campaign for a New Workers' Party go to www.cnwp.org.uk


"The cheers could have been twice as loud"

AT THE recent national postal workers' rally, Tony Benn was cheered when he said he had written to his local Labour Party asking to be their candidate in the election.

This was not a case of workers having illusions in the Labour Party but rather that postal workers are desperate for their voice to be heard in parliament, particularly as Benn's speech had spelled out that New Labour's drive for privatisation lies behind the attacks on postal workers.

Tony Benn, after all, used to be leader of the left in the Labour Party. Influenced by the strength of the trade union and shop stewards movement in the UCS shipyard workers' struggle in 1971, he became the most articulate spokesperson for a 'left reformist' position.

He supported industrial struggles and measures of nationalisation and even stood as Labour party deputy leader in 1981 when he came within 1% of beating Denis Healey. His support for trade union and anti-war issues has kept his popularity high, though like many Labour lefts, the 'Blairisation' of the Labour Party left him disorientated.

At last week's rally, if the speakers had come out clearly for a new mass workers' party and said that Benn was willing to be an election candidate for that party, or even that he was standing as an independent, the cheers could have been twice as loud.

Bill Mullins

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 17 October 2007:

National Health Service Cutbacks and privatisation kill

National NHS demo

The vultures are circling ever closer

10,000 march in Sussex

Swansea fights the cuts

Rally for Socialism


Postal dispute

Exposing Royal Mail's lies

Postal workers waiting to assess Royal Mail deal

Fighting Royal Mail management's attacks

Solid unofficial action in East London

National Shop Stewards' Network meetings

Daylight robbery in Scotland!

Save Bolsover Post Offices


Socialist Party Marxist analysis

Brown's blues


International Appeal

Students on trumped-up charges


Socialist Students

Scrap fees for all students


National Shop Stewards Network

Young workers and students need to get involved

"You've got to stick together"

Stop the placement rip-off now!


Campaign for a New Workers Party

Tony Benn evades the issue


Trade Union Freedom Bill

Trade Union Freedom Bill: Banishing Thatcher's anti-union legacy?

Working longer hours for less pay


Socialist Party women

ITV2 - making a good deal out of women's bodies


International socialist news and analysis

Workers' struggle and political instability sends Polish government into meltdown

Australia: Liberals v Labour - no choice for working people in election


Socialist Party news and analysis

Children's homes at risk of buy-outs


 

Home   |   The Socialist 17 October 2007   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Tony Benn:

triangleMay 1649 - the Last Stand of the Levellers

triangle'Lucas Plan' film tells story of workers who set out alternative to job losses

triangle1000 issues of the Socialist: A vital weapon standing in proud traditions

triangleLambeth Socialist Party open meeting

triangleThe Labour Party, Militant and 'infiltration'

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

2/12/20

Retail

Arcadia and Debenhams closures: Nationalise to save jobs and pensions

2/12/20

Wales

Wales TUSC plans to mount an electoral challenge

2/12/20

Manchester

Rent strikers' victory in student halls

2/12/20

Austerity

Unions must resist return to austerity

2/12/20

Covid

Better for billionaires. Worse for workers

2/12/20

Carbon

'Building back greener' - yet more Tory greenwash

2/12/20

Poverty

Scotland: Campaign wins end to period poverty

2/12/20

NHS

NHS: Underfunded, understaffed, underpaid

2/12/20

Engels

Review: Friedrich Engels - Condition of the working class in England

2/12/20

Ethiopia

Conflict in Ethiopia: ethnic-linguistic divisions are the historical product of capitalist inequality

2/12/20

Low pay

Fast fashion, big profits, low pay

2/12/20

TV

TV: The Social Dilemma

2/12/20

Football

Diego Maradona - Working-class rebel, football genius

2/12/20

Socialist

Socialist Inbox

2/12/20

Labour

Labour meeting lets MP get away with 'Spycops' abstention

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


December 2020

November 2020

October 2020

September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999