Tony Benn 1925-2014

THE NEW WORKER is saddened by the death of Tony Benn, a political giant of the Labour Left who worked tirelessly for many decades for the causes of the working class, peace and internationalism.

He was born in 1925 into a political family; his father William Wedgewood Benn was a Liberal MP who crossed the floor to become a Labour MP in 1928 and became Secretary of State for India. In 1941 William Wedgewood Been was given a peerage by the war Coalition government.

Two years later in July 1943 the young Tony Wedgewood Benn joined the RAF first as an aircraftman and was then given an emergency commission and became a pilot.

After the war he entered politics, becoming an MP in 1950 and then having to fight to reject inheriting his father’s peerage because he wanted to stay in the House of Commons. In the end he won a change in the law, the Peerage Act of 1963, which enabled him to remain an MP.

Tony Benn served as Post Master General in Harold Wilson’s government from 1964 to 1970 where he oversaw the opening of the Post Office Tower, and later as Minister of Technology during Wilson’s “White heat of technology” period.

As Benn aged he became more and more left wing — just the opposite of most Labour MPs who all too easily take the opportunist path to career advancement at the expense of their principles. During that time he reversed his attitude to nuclear power and was always the first to admit when he had got something wrong

He was a man of immense integrity, which won his great respect and a great campaigner on dozens of vital working class issues. He has helped to keep the ideas of social justice alive in an era when these things are derided by the media and culture of the ruling class and been an inspiration to young people.

His death, like that of Bob Crow last week, is a serious loss to the working class in Britain and internationally. We call on comrades, and especially younger comrades, to redouble efforts to fill the gaps and take the movement forward. The strength of our class is in its numbers but that strength can only be exerted through collective organisation. So we must organise, organise, organise!