Home > General Politics, Labour Party News, Marxism, Socialism, Trade Unions > Tony Benn endorses Ed Miliband

Tony Benn endorses Ed Miliband

Having sat in meetings with Tony Benn and John McDonnell, and listened to Tony extol John’s virtues, it’s something of a blow that the old boy has come out to support Ed Miliband. The New Statesman piece on the subject hasn’t really gone into anything of substance but I suspect it’ll boil down to wanting the “Left of the possible”.

Out of Burnham, the Brothers Miliband, Balls, Abbott and McDonnell, the two brothers Miliband seem the most likely to duke it out. Ed is positioning himself on the Left: criticism of the Iraq War, support for the living wage etc. He’s been the front man for the Labour’s green strategies and has been a strong supporter of measures like windfall taxes.

Burnham, despite having more endorsements from the PLP than Diane Abbott or John McDonnell put together, is still a chancer and Balls is reviled by large sections even of the ‘loyalist’ membership for his performance at the Department of Curtains and Soft Furnishings (re-re-branded the Department of Education under the Tories).

Even if McDonnell got on the nomination, despite the passion which he and his team possess, the institutional support of the Milibands would be hard to overcome. Labour’s parliamentarism lends itself to an emphasis on who might be a ‘credible’ leader, and despite the crushing 2010 defeat, it still hasn’t undone the ‘left wot lost it’ mentality post-’83.

Meanwhile, Labour members will largely go with what they know (not to unfairly denigrate the political sophistication of the average Labour member, but that means it’ll be the people who’ve been on TV for the last few years). Even the vibrancy of various union Lefts that would vote for McDonnell would be stymied by a wall of opposition simply because McDonnell is left-wing and represents a threat to the cushy positions in which most union leaderships find themselves.

Presumably this is what has brought out Tony Benn to support Ed Miliband, because it’s the furthest Left option that Labour is likely to get. For an old warhorse like Benn, whose family are steeped in Labour Party history, the idea of leaving Labour is anathema, so it makes sense to simply hope for the most Left of whatever feasible choices are there.

This misses the point that not everyone’s family is steeped in Labour Party history and for those families who are to be thrust into dole queues, to wave goodbye to higher education and hello to fewer helping hands with the kids, the Left of the possible is not awe-inspiring stuff. At least until we’ve had another eighteen years of Tory misrule.

Despite the argument that the Labour-working class link is solid, with the 2010 election cited as evidence, this was a regroupment around an institution unwilling to accept the hopes thrust upon it by many of those who voted. It is not a pre-cognitive political force, it is a temporary, self-interested gesture by many who fear the Tories. Labour will always benefit with such a vote – but reliance upon it allows the Tories to set the pace.

Ed Miliband won’t seize the initiative because he can’t. He doesn’t know how to. The straight-jacket of parliamentarism will cause Labour to return time and again to the narratives of ‘Southern Comfort’ or the ‘pre-1997 grand coalition’, as though these were somehow positive political forces instead of an anti-Tory reaction and the result of a prolonged courtship of the commentariat and their various think-tank and pressure group hangers-on.

Constrained here, talk will ensure about electability, rather than about organising supporters into a combative group that can a) stop the Tories and b) push its own socialist agenda. Labour leaders don’t understand point b). They like elections in which followers are expected to sit around and be talked at – they don’t like supporters getting organised and demanding immediate concessions because suddenly the CBI and the press get anti-Labour in a hurry.

So while the ‘real’ Left – that is the small group inside and outside Labour who were the ones actually organising all the mass campaigns against Thatcher and co last time – fight the old fight (and on less propitious terms nationally, it seems), Labour will continue to avoid or condemn these battles as it has with regard Unite’s fight against BA. Labour leaders will try their best not to lead at all, preferring opinion polling to light their way.

This is why support for John McDonnell is so vital – he is the only one with a clear idea of how to smash up the cycle and re-organise the Labour Party so that it becomes the party ready and willing to seize the initiative, to propose bold socialist programmes and to force them through – through internationalism, through workers’ democracy and, if necessary, through legislation. This is why Tony Benn is wrong.

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  1. John
    June 3, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Don’t forget, Tony Benn’s known Ed Miliband since he was one of the youngters who worked in his office. I’m not suggesting for a moment that Tony Benn would back him simply because of that, but he’s known him on a much more personal level, and from a much younger age, than he has done any other candidate, or indeed perhaps any past leader since Kinnock.

  2. Rupert Read
    June 3, 2010 at 8:32 am

    Broadly agreed, Dave. Ed Miliband is a Brownite – they might almost just as well have just kept Brown! He will not in any meaningful way position Labour where it needs to be – on the left/green side of politics.
    Your choice of words: ‘He’s been the front man for the Labour’s green strategies’ – is apposite. See my piece here: http://liberalconspiracy.org/author/rupertr/ . Ed cannot be trusted any more than David to be green.
    For all these reasons, it feels a grand time to be a Green, with Caroline Lucas newly in Parliament…

  3. June 3, 2010 at 9:23 am

    I know it’s supposed to be heresy on the left to lay into Tony Benn, but frankly he’s got a cheek when it’s his vanity leadership bid that made it so difficult for John McDonnell to get on the ballot in the first place.

  4. June 3, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I think this has been spun out of context. When push comes to shove, I will probably be forced to “back Ed Miliband” in the sense I will not waste my vote – and he’s going to be the least worst option of a very unprepossessing bunch.
    But that does not mean I’m not supporting the policies John McDonnell stands for – nor that I think we should not carry on fighting to get him on the ballot .
    TB was a signatory to the recent letter to the Guardian calling for John to be nominated. From the Fabians to the FBU,. we’re raised the profile of the left and almost everyone ( apart from the supine PLP ) is backing our call for a proper leadership debate with all six on the ballot.
    Whather we get one remains to be seen but one thing is clear – the left cannot and will not be ignored as it has been in the Blair/Brown years.
    So no I don’t think Tony Benn has suddenly become a fan of New Labour. But yes, as someone said, he’s known Ed Miliband since he was a teenager……. and he is a bit of an old softie

    • June 3, 2010 at 10:43 am

      “in the sense I will not waste my vote”

      Lessons are being learned. This of course does not mean that you can’t work to get McDonnell nominated.

  5. June 3, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Don’t really see how it has been spun out of context Susan. I’ve said fairly clearly that I imagine Benn’s comments are a result of exactly the sentiment you suggest: best of the worst.

    The maths means we’re not going to get all six people on the ballot, I think. There’s not enough remaining PLP votes to get 33 for Burnham, Abbott and McDonnell when some of those remaining will break for the top three – Balls and the Milibands.

    As for the rest, that “the Left cannot and will not be ignored as it has in the Blair/Brown years” surely remains to be seen? This will seem very hollow hyperbole if Labour is left without one left-wing candidate on the ballot for the leadership. The only thing that is clear is that the Labour Left seem to have an unlimited willingness to trumpet whatever scraps they get thrown by a leadership that, by now not only has them outmanoeuvred but outnumbered.

    • June 3, 2010 at 10:49 am

      This is a fair point. I feel a general lack of internal organisation, which I think is heavily linked to the lack of enthusiasm for the Labour Party itself. As well as successive bad calls from both hard and soft lefts.

      For me personally, my enthusiasm about the LPs potential and the need to change it is enough of a motivating factor… but I appreciate that I am part of a minority.

    • Duncan
      June 3, 2010 at 4:38 pm

      Well it HAS been spun out of context. Tony Benn was asked on Radio 5 who he backed for the Labour leadership and his answer was John McDonnell. The fact that he then went on to say that he wasn’t sure John would get the nominations (which is not an unreasonable caveat – I’m not sure he will either, though I haven’t lost hope yet) and that out of the front-runners he’d back Ed Miliband seems perfectly reasonable. If we end up with the Milibands and Balls (with or without Burnham) I shall probably give Miliband (E) my vote. If we get John or Diane, I’ll give the younger Miliband my second preference. If we get both John and Diane then John gets first, Diane second.

      These are, surely, reasonable positions.

      I don’t think that an Ed Miliband leadership would spell anything like a proper break from New Labour. We need to get John on the ballot paper so we can have the proper debate this summer. If he isn’t, we need to engage – not withdraw. All the John4Leader people need to go to as many hustings as possible and make those arguments that John would have made had he been there (if it comes to this).

      That has to be Plan B.

    • June 3, 2010 at 4:48 pm

      I’m surprised at the equanimity with which you seem to regard another Blairite / crypto-Blairite becoming Labour leader, Duncan, without so much as a left challenge making it on the ballot paper (as yet – and I haven’t given up hope yet either, though I reckon it would require a titanic shift at this point).

      I don’t think it’s a reasonable position to simply say that Ed Miliband will get every leftie’s second preference vote bearing in mind that – as you recognise, he is no break. If Ed Miliband gets elected, it’s a disaster for the Left, which has no remaining reason to cling on to Labour once the possibilities of J4L have vanished.

      One can hang on and hope that the younger Miliband will bother with some democratic reforms, that organisation of the membership, fed and strengthened by an influx of people who are reaching a certain level of understanding through practical battles, becomes a tenable project. Right now, it’s not a tenable project – and I can’t see it being such while Labour alienates its own (former / natural) supporters by continued pursuit of a New Labourish agenda.

      • Duncan
        June 3, 2010 at 5:08 pm

        It isn’t with equanimity Dave. I am trying bloody hard to get John on the ballot paper. It was never certain that John would stand and, on deciding to stand, he made it clear from the outset that it was going to be hard to get nominated. As such, it can’t be the only game in town.

        After all, even if we get him on, the PLP dominate the electoral college to such an extent that victory can’t be only game either. It is only sensible to have a plan B. For me, for all the reasons we’ve talked about before, is within Labour. As such, we’ve got to make sure Labour has the right debate this summer. The best way is with John on the ballot paper

  6. June 3, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Very insightful post Dave. As you would expect, my main criterion for a leader would be the ability to bridge parliamentarism and the sort of stuff you’re more exclusively interested in. Personally I’m most interested in the concept of at least partially reconciling the two.

    No candidate represents my own views now, and it is likely that post-nominations, only candidates to the right of me will be left.

    That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t support the leftmost, but from the point of view of the whole Labour left, it is very important to get one of the left candidates on the ballot if even just to widen the public debate, and the public perception of Labour as a party.

    I doubt that this will happen. It was clear last time that the rules need to change. That remains equally clear now.

    At the end of the day, they cut off Labour’s ability to change in response to changes on the ground.

    That’s before we even start with the justice of enfranchising parliamentarians so strongly over local activists and trade unions.

    With regard to the leadership, I think the key thing organisations on the Labour left should now be doing is working out how to get candidates to publicly pull towards their policies and beliefs in return for votes. The real struggle however is an organisational one, and has little to do with the immediate imminent leadership, save for the fact that we obviously need someone who will adopt greater pluralism and inclusiveness towards the party’s various philosophical strands.

    As such, democratic and cultural reform is the real issue for the left within Labour, and effective local organisation the key issue outside it.

  7. June 3, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Just an update to say UNITE this morning passed an emergency resolution calling for all six to be on the ballot. This followed a fringe meting last night addressed by John McDonnell.
    I think that news is, to be frank, of rather more import than what Tony Benn has said – or not.Two years ago the bureaucracy of UNITE moved to smash a resolution from my CLP which would have lowered the threshold to 8 per cent . This time, the bureaucracy have been told in no uncertain terms what their members think.
    The maths may not add up. But the mood is there in a way it was not three years ago when Brown was crowned. These are not scraps – they are important indicators that the mood within and without the Party has changed and people think the left does have a voice which must be taken seriously. And even the “best of the worst” would signal a break with Blairism – there is everything to play for still. And people also recognise these ridiculous rules must be changed……or cast aside

  8. June 3, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Susan, you are living in fantasy land if you think the election of Ed Miliband as leader signals a break with Blairism.

    Whatever you think the mood, there is qualitative difference between UNITE voting for the inclusion of all six people on the ballot without any concrete proposal as to how this be achieved, and UNITE voting for a reduction in the threshold, a very concrete proposal. The bureaucracy are no doubt relieved that they didn’t have to demand a reduction in the threshold.

    Finally, maths beats mood. Unless you think the NEC is likely to take an unprecedented step and simply co-opt all candidates to the leadership ballot – which is a possibility, I admit, but an extremely unlikely one – then all you’ve come up with is hot air. And that’s essentially table scraps.

  9. June 3, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Tony should be quoted from the R5 interview. Helpfully someone has posted at: http://thevaleman.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/tony-benn-on-radio-five-live-interview-book-letters-to-my-grandchildren/

    Nolan: Election is on for the Labour leadership, new leader could take the party in a very different direction. Who will you be backing?

    Tony Benn: I have always supported John McDonnell but I don’t know if he has enough nominations, it’s important that people should vote for those whose general approach they support . The broader the range of the discussion, the healthier the party will be. Have a lot of respect for John McDonnell, he set up the Labour representation committee to see that trade unions are represented in parliament. It was this committee a hundred years ago which led to the setting up of the Labour party”

  10. June 3, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    I notice the bit where Benn endorsed Ed Miliband isn’t included as direct speech though, Andrew. I also note that Benn goes on to say that ‘by the end’ he thought Brown was a good Prime Minister. Food for thought, hmm?

  11. June 3, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Dave, the whole New Statesman story is complete fabrication. Tony actually endorses John McDonnell, although he is later led into making some comments on the Milibands in which he says very little. Listen for yourself at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00slqt9/Victoria_Derby… . The relevant section starts at 0:13:20.

    As it happens, I think all of us need to be giving our transfer preference to Ed Milliband after John McDonnell & Diane Abbott have been eliminated assuming one or both of them get onto the ballot paper, and our first preference if they don’t. I don’t think we have to have any great hopes for him to do that, merely to recognise that it’s important to stop his brother winning, and he’s better than Ed Balls. Whoever is the Leader, it’s the power to influence them that matters. That’s why the top priority for the Left should be to re-democractise the Labour Party. If CLPs and trade unions choose to take back their power, they can do so.

    • Duncan
      June 4, 2010 at 9:59 am

      Disappointed with Michael’s contribution to this, Jon. Second preferences to the younger Miliband are, I agree, logical (if there is one left-wing candidate on the ballot paper) – but nominating him when he’s already on the ballot paper and, by doing so, making it less likely for either John McDonnell or Diane Abbott to be nominated is just profoundly disappointing.

    • June 4, 2010 at 10:02 am

      Don’t know about you Duncan but I’ve never expected anything else from Michael; even his rhetoric has softened over the years, if ever it was as strident as it should have been. And after the vanity exercise of a leadership run, having been invisible to the Left of the party for quite some time…well.

  12. June 3, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Like others have said, Tony hasn’t actually endorsed Ed Miliband; he said he supported John McDonnell. The only thing he said in that interview about Ed Miliband was the he ‘knew him better’ than David Miliband.

  13. June 3, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    There is no power to influence whoever wins. In theory, Labour members could – whether through the National Policy Forum or the constituencies lobbying their own and nearby MPs – have got John on the ballot last time. They could, in concert with union activists, have curtailed the reforms which Brown tried to impose upon Conference. What I don’t see is anyone asking why they have not done this.

    It’s not simply a case of convincing Labour Party members with the strength of our arguments; the political level of the Labour Party is matched to the level of its practice – and both are very basic. You can try and raise this, by straightforward argument, but don’t forget the leadership and bureaucracy also work their magic.

    Thirty years of making this argument has not made a dent, and the Left in Labour seems to be in a weaker position that at any time during those years. Why is now different? The only hope for Labour is electing John McDonnell Labour; electing Ed Miliband perpetuates the cycle which has condemned the Left for thirty years – however ‘relatively’ better he is than his brother or Ed Balls.

  14. June 3, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Susan Press is absolutely correct, this is being spun out of control. George Eaton has got this wrong, I heard the Benn piece on the radio, and he did not ‘endorse’ Ed Miliband. He was specifically asked which of the two Milibands he would support if they were the only two in the contest, and he reluctantly said Ed. But then he added that the whole thing should be about the policies, not about which personality was more attractive than any other.

  15. Ian
    June 3, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    Bob you are right.
    Furthermore as a left we have to have a position if John doesnt get on the paper.
    I agree that Ed Miliband would represent the best of a bad job.
    The question is what are we going to do if John doesnt get elected?
    Give up completely?
    I welcome Susans coments.

  16. tory boys never grow up
    June 4, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    You may wish to pooh pooh the ideas of Southern Comfort or 1997 style coalitions – but I’m afraid the reality, especially now the LibDems have rebranded themselves as New Tories, is that Labour has to establish a wider coalition than it currently has, if it is to be of any use whatsover. Yes the Milibands and co may have little in terms of analysis as to why the last coalition fell apart – but they do realise it is necessary to put it back together. On the other hand I see little if anything in what McDonnell says that tries to widen Labour’s support beyond its traditional core – and quite frankly unless he can at least present somthing cogent in this regard to the extent of convincing an eighth of our MPs that his views are worth listening too further, I can see little reason why he should be on the ballot. The last thing we need is a leadership contest where we waste our time discussing ideological nirvannas that are not even aimed at convincing a sufficient proportion of the elctorate to have a chance of implementation.

    I have read the LRC’s economic proposals – and if put as a package to the electorate, I would be amazed if Labour would get more than a 20% share of the national vote. Yes some individual policies may be popular – but just look at the whole package.

  17. June 4, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    @#23 – Oh where to begin? Probably with the most obviously ludicrous idea that the MPs of the Parliamentary Labour Party should function as the guardians of public morals, w.r.t. the Labour Party membership. McDonnell should be on the ballot because he wants to run for leader, and members – not merely the PLP – should have the right to decide whether he speaks for them. Same for Abbott, Burnham et al.

    As regards a Labour Left-inspired run for government during some future general election, two points present themselves. First, politically conscious people don’t hold views because those views are popular, they hold them because they believe them to be right. Adopting a point of view because it’s popular or shying away from one because it is unpopular makes no sense, but it’s this sort of opportunistic nonsense you seem to be advocating.

    Second, no one is discussing an ideological nirvanna. The LRC and it’s LEAP adjunct discuss immediate problems of political economy, the key one being how to oppose the assault on what remains of the responsibilities the state exercises with regard to the working class and unemployed. It doesn’t get much more immediate and less utopian than that. If we’re to oppose these things, we do need a broad and deep movement by which to do it – but saying this is not to have anything in common with the pre-1997 idyll that Cruddas, Ed Miliband and others harken back to.

    Therein lies the problem with their lack of critique of the collapse of that coalition – that they don’t understand this difference between what’s needed to swing the tide towards deep and long-lasting social change, and what’s needed to win one election or several, whilst maintaining an unrepresentative clique at the top of the Labour movement, to the point where members just give up in their thousands.

    When people are organised, motivated and confident that what they say and do can make a difference, a whole new political culture will open up before us and we’ll not have to bother about this meaningless (and undialectical) distinction between power and principles, that Blair and his caste wrough in iron on top of the ruins of what was once – and need be again – a powerful labour movement.

  18. Barney Stannard
    June 4, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    With respect Dave I’m not sure you answered the underlying thrust of tory boy’s comment. The point surely was that:

    i) McDonnell’s policies are unelectable – the vast majority of people do not agree with them. Electing him as leader would render the Labour Party unelectable thus allowing the Tories free reign for the foreseeable.

    In response to your allegations of opportunism one could respond that whilst that is a vice the corresponding virtue is not to stick to ideological positions that have no hope of being realised. There is presumably a virtuous middle way where one adopts policies that bring about ends closest to those which one believes in whilst still remaining politically practicable.

  19. June 4, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    With equal respect, Barney, I did answer that point – that the point is not simply to observe that the views are not popular and surrender them, it is to make them popular. If I can extend my remarks, I would say that ‘free reign’ for the Tories doesn’t result from a Parliamentary majority, it results from being able to outmanoeuvre the Labour movement in the field, and that is a field that is always up for contest.

    As regards any allegations I made, I’m sure one could respond in the manner you suggest – but there is a complex link between political practice and theory. If you adopt a democratic approach to create a political movement, something even the ‘soft’ Left pay lipservice to, and base yourself upon the labour movement, then inherent to this practice are various political policies, which are demanded by the movement – the sort of traditional demands which the LRC/LEAP throw up. A leadership which opposes these, and yet continues to wish to base itself on the Labour movement creates a contradiction between practice and theory. The result must either be the sweeping away of that leadership or the corruption of democratic practice and the inscription into the movement of a bureaucracy, which in turn creates a harmful pressure on the movement – towards depoliticization for example.

    Either of these last two are the manifestations of your virtuous middle way, but are to me, politically, unsatisfying and dangerous as well as being inherently unstable.

  20. Barney Stannard
    June 5, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Persausion -precisely. But that rests on whether or not you think you can make them popular (a) in five years, (b) in the long run (whatever that means). If not then are you still happy to stick to those principles and not adapt to the least worst?

    If you think you can then the question is obviously: why?

  21. June 5, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Wasn’t persuasion what I said last time? I’m sorry, that “persuasion – precisely” escapes me.

    Yes it rests on whether I can make my ideas popular, but I’m fairly confident about that. Certain views and practices are intrinsic to the labour movement, post new unionism, and resisting the opposition only requires a much more limited degree of popularity. Even if, after five years, my views haven’t ‘won out’, I don’t consider the solution being surrendering those ideas.

    As for adopting the ‘least worst’ idea, I’ve already explained why that doesn’t work, as regards socialist politics.

  22. Barney Stannard
    June 5, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    Re persuasion, I was simply agreeing that it is the plausible answer to the question.

    As for your confidence, I suppose no one knows the future. It will be most interesting to see what happens. Who knows, maybe the body politic will swing back left.

    Out of curiosity, after how many years of the electorate staying right and not returning to those ‘intrinsic’ principles would you come to the conclusion that your analysis of those principles was wrong. I would well accept there have not been enough yet but how many would be enough? (I’m not asking for a specific figure but how you would go about assessing it.)

  23. June 5, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    The ‘electorate’ doesn’t maintain the intrinsic principles I outline – here I would invoke various Marxist critiques of formal democracy. The labour movement alone carries these intrinsic principles, as a virtue of their objective class interest. If you were to ask me for evidence of this, I would turn to history.

    Whether or not you can accept that, to answer your question, I would draw the line and say ‘enough is enough’ when I stop seeing a correlation between where I believe my methodology (historical materialism) places us objectively in terms of intensity of struggle, degree of class consciousness and organisation, and the progress I see in terms of the ‘persuasion’ exercise.

    So, for example, if I see a period which I believe should see an ‘upswing’ in the capacity of the Left to organise and fight worldwide, and don’t see such an upswing, and can’t credibly explain this in terms of tactics not taken / methodological inconsistencies in the actual groups on the ground – not out of the question because everyone inherits the organisations and tactics of the past – then it’ll be time for a wider reconsideration.

  24. Barney Stannard
    June 6, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    That’s fair enough.

    Just to unpack a bit further, what do you make of the current situation? What are your expectations for the coming years as the cuts start to bite? Also, how do you see the core principles and practices?

    To make an argument: for myself I find it hard to see that any group has specific policies inherent in it. Specific goals yes, but the link between the end and the means is contingent. Thus for example I see “free markets” (to speak very generally) and privitised industry to be better at maximising wealth for all people over the medium to long run. I therefore see it as generally in the interest of working class people to support these policies, though I am happy to admit that there are often times for tempering them when circumstances demand.

    I know you disagree with me and I don’t wish to debate who is wrong or right on that matter. My point is that my position *may* be true and that therefore there is no reason why working class people shouldn’t adopt it. The evidence may well lead them to that conclusion.

  25. June 6, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Well of course you are right – your p.o.v. may be the correct one, and working class people may be won over to it. There’s no disputing that – I simply dispute that it has ever happened. You may say I fly in the face of evidence to the contrary – e.g. the dominance of free market parties across the political spectrum across the West – but I have my own theories and the best way to test all theories is practice.

    W.r.t. the current situation, my expectations for the coming years are modest. I await further economic developments, to better my understanding of just how deep go the contradictions of our global politico-economic system. Whatever the case, I don’t think that labour and socialist movements have learned the lesson of globalisation – that to be taken seriously, one must act on a global level.

    Even on a local (but still transnational) level, co-operation between unions across Europe is a rare thing when it comes to solidarity actions short of striking (which are, broadly speaking, legal). The existing socialist groups are exceptionally weak and cannot immediately cover the distance between where they are and where they need to be to exert the sort of control / persuasive power necessary to engender actions like I describe.

    Local battles in areas of high union density, or high poverty, or areas with a tradition of populist (i.e. non-union) action may therefore be won in the short term – like the Lindsey oil refinery strikes and the broader power plant strikes etc that this inspired. Medium-term, however, I still see the Left losing its battle for the ‘meaning’ of the current global troubles. What I believe this will amount to is a deepening of free market reforms in areas currently on the periphery of the capitalist market, the further retreat of social welfare and things like this which are more generally decried by the Left.

    If there is any silver lining to the cloud, I hope that struggles in regions like the southern Mediterranean will force local labour and socialist organisations to look outside their national borders, and that this lesson will be learned for northern Europe – Britain/France/Germany – as well. It is my hope that even if movements such as the General Strikes of Greece are defeated, that the people who have been pushed to struggle will not retreat into indifference and despair but will go back to the daily grind of political work with new ideas, that come the next time – and there’s always a next time – European workers will have learned at least some new tricks.

    I’m always open to surprises, however, from people who take their own initiative, outside of the existing political groups but within the broader working class and show a good way forward.

    (All that’s very sweeping, but I figured that this was what you were asking for – apologies if I’ve missed out).

  26. Michael
    June 20, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Tony Benn and other left wingers have been awfully quiet since Labour moved to the right from 1997.

    This country is now finished, no matter what party is running it.

  27. June 20, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Jesus Christ on a pogo stick, who are you? George Osbourne MKII? He was just on the news this morning talking about a “road to ruin” – it’s borderline retarded to say stuff like this, not least because having five hundred years and then some behind us as a stable nation, we’re not going anywhere soon.

    And, Michael, Tony Benn and other left-wingers have not been awfully quiet. Maybe you didn’t notice two million people protesting in the centre of London in 2003, or the other demonstrations since then? Or the number of strikes – from Firemen to civil servants – that lefties and Tony Benn have gone out to support. Or any of the other things we’ve said and done. Your deafness isn’t our fault.

  28. June 21, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Since this thread has been resurrected, thought I’d say I saw Tony Benn speak a week ago and he was asked about the Labour leadership – he was very clear that he wanted John McDonnell to win but as he wasn’t on the ballot he’d like Ed Miliband to win. He didn’t say anything about Diane Abbott.

  29. sohogirl1977@yahoo.co.uk
    November 3, 2010 at 8:16 am

    I’m pretty sure Tony Benn bounced baby Ed on his knee!

    They say Ed has “a lot more of his father in him than he lets on” I hope they are correct!

  1. September 29, 2010 at 1:31 am

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