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WATCH: 1982, Tony Benn on the “divisions” in the Labour Party

An interview with Labour party stalwart and “Lefty” Tony Benn,from January 1982. It’s interesting to compare the issues being discussed 36 years ago with those of today. Compare also the tone of the interview and interviewer with the way today’s Labour politicians are handled by the mainstream media.


  1. Makropulos says

    Here’s another Benn hater: Clive James. I remember reading through one of his compilations of TV articles and finding it very amusing. He always had this tone of affectionate mockery – even when talking about Margaret Thatcher. But when he mentioned Benn I felt as if he was throwing acid in my face. He was staggeringly vicious. I must have been 18 when I read this but it was my first lesson on the prejudices of the media. In fact – what galled CJ about Benn was that Tony dared to suggest the media was prejudiced and well versed in manipulation. Naturally CJ tried to turn that round and call Benn a manipulator – as if one lone voice could make a dent in that edifice of self-satisfied gatekeeping.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says

      Clive James is a very nasty hard Right creature, and a fanatic anthropogenic climate destabilisation denialist to boot.

  2. DunGroanin says

    The traducing of a great briton, Michael Foot as some pacifist commie lover is one of the highest crimes of the establishment media that has been instituted on the British public. He was ready to fight the nazis before Churchill! And along with a few like minded people wrote directly to the public about it.

    The fact that we were deprived of his premiership is as great a tragedy as JFK’s murder in the way our world has taken the wrong paths. War is never ending. The rich get richer. The poor get slaughtered. Colonialism and resource theft is unchecked.

    • Borg says

      Denis Healey was elected deputy leader.of the Labour party due to the coruption of a union block vote which was awarded to Benn but miscast for Healey.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says

      The triumph of the Right after the 60s was the final victory of Evil among humanity. The ecological Holocaust or thermo-nuclear war, both prime Rightist projects, will finish the job shortly.

  3. kevin morris says

    Tony Benn- an intellectual and a political heavyweight, sadly missed!

    That said, so was Dennis Healy- the greatest Labour prime minister the Party never had. It is likely that had Healy been leader of the Labour Party in 1983, there would have been no ‘longest suicide note in history’ , no more ‘punk monetarism’,and the history of the past 35 years would probably have been very different,

    • bevin says

      Healey was an extreme right winger, a cold warrior and a zionist.
      As to ‘the longest suicide note in history’ aka a socialist reform programme, it remains alive in the current campaigning of the, re-vitalised, Labour party.
      So of course does the sort of ‘wit’ that inspired the right’s criticism of the manifesto. But only just: those calling Corbyn ‘unelectable’ and socialist policies ‘unsaleable’, remnants of the New Labour project, are fading away.
      Actually Healey was, posthumously, elected Prime Minister in the person of Anthony Blair PC

      • kevin morris says

        Entirely predictable if I may say, but that is the problem with people who put political purity and at all costs before pragmatism. Healy was definitely to the right of Benn but that was not difficult. He also served during the second world war and his experiences made Healy’s form of pragmatism very different from that which distinguished Tony Blair. I note too that whilst Healy spent a quiet retirement, Blair has spent his enriching himself and meddling in a Party that largely feels contempt for him. Healy began his party political career in a Labour Party that had proved its capabilities by running the UK through the war years. Blair took over the Party at a time when Thatcherism was still seen as the answer to the UKs problems even if John Major wasn’t, and he trimmed accordingly.

        I have deep fondness for Tony Benn and mourn his loss, finding myself using his arguments when I justify Brexit. The Labour movement is the lesser because of his passing but his greatest analogue on the political scene of the seventies and eighties was Thatcher. She was a ‘conviction’ politician too and she ushered in a revolution but it was corruption that hung onto her coat tails. I fear that this probably always happens when party members feel obliged to sing from the same hymn sheet whether their party is of the right or of the left. Those are the dangers of political purity.

        The UK was in a terrible economic position in the seventies following our decimalisation, the oil shock and our joining the Common Market. Healy is the only chancellor who managed actually to reduce our iindebtedness, unlike the Tories who have increased our debts and have all but destroyed civil society. I suspect he UK would be a very different and a happier one too had Healy become Party leader, rather than Michael Foot who was a great orator and a man of honour but an ineffective party leader. Despite all the support Thatcher had in 1979, of all Labour’s politicians Dennis Healy commanded popular respect.

        Would he have ushered in the new Jerusalem? -no pun intended- Certainly no, but I tend to believe that the UK would have been a far happier place than it is now had Healy become PM in 1983.Frankly, most people who distrust talk of ‘isms’, would have been settled for that

        • Borg says

          Healey was complicit with the USA. He was invited on very lucrative US speaking tours and was close to people in the US government during the 1960s at the time of the Vietnam war. He supported the US position on Vietnam. The rank and file members of the Labour party were against the Vietnam war. As with Blair and Iraq the PM, Wilson, Defense Minister (1964-1970) Healey and the rest of the cabinet followed the war criminal policy of the US.

          • kevin morris says

            So it is immoral is it to go on ‘lucrative’ lecture tours? Do you equate such behaviour with Blair’s giving public relations advice to dictators for millions of dollars? As for Healy’ being ‘complicit’, it was the United States’ aid then entry into WW2 that probably led to the United Kingdom’s survival. I deplore many of the the things that have followed, but as UK Defence Minister, it was inevitable that he would have close connections with the US. As for the Vietnam War, you ignore the historical fact that tWilson’s Labour governments, in which Healy was often defence minister, never embroiled the UK in that appalling war- unlike the situation withTony Blair who tricked parliament into voting for war in AFghanistan and Iraq on entirely false pretexts.

            • bevin says

              From the beginning Major Healey was an enforcer for the US aligned Labour members who were determined to prevent the end of the war from becoming the “Thaw” millions of Russians longed for. The beginning of a period of peace.
              I recollect that Healey’s first post in the Party was that of international secretary, a strategic position that he used to re-institute the splits in the socialist movement which common service in the Resistance had begun to erode. He was one of those most instrumental in ensuring that the UK became a US satellite and that its foreign policy became that of a stooge.
              No doubt he was extremely well thought of by the capitalist media. He, and his ilk, set the working class back decades to the extent that what Benn is saying in the video shown above is very close to a description of the current political situation.
              ‘The longest suicide note in history’ outlined precisely the political tasks, undischarged under Blair and Kinnock, that Labour is taking up again today.

              • kevin morris says

                ‘Cometh the time, cometh the man’ and I wish Jeremy Corbyn well, having voted and re-voted for his leadership as a Labour Party Member.

                The difference between mow as against the seventies was that the tide is now flowing in the direction of Labour. Back then it didn’t. Healy was a towering figure in the Labour Party of that time and quite rightly so. Nobody’s hands are clean who engage in politics and although I have great hopes for Corbyn I know it is entirely predictable that in forty years’ time, these pages, or in pages very like these, if there is still a modicum of free speech, people will be debating whether Jeremy was a hero or a revisionist.

                AFter all, politics is the art of the possible, and whilst Tony Benn kept his hands clean and maintains his justified position of secular saint of the left, Healy, as Miniister of Defence and Chancellor had to deal with a rather heavier mass of difficulties.

                It is a real shame though that Tony arguably single handedly prevented Healy’s leadership f the party because I suspect the history of the last 35 years would have been very different.

                • Mulga Mumblebrain says

                  Do you really expect that human beings will still be ‘debating’ anything at all, in forty years time?

            • bevin says

              O missed this:
              “it was the United States’ aid then entry into WW2 that probably led to the United Kingdom’s survival.”
              This is regarded as axiomatic and not just among the Gaitskellites. But it is by no means clear that it is true: the US had its own reasons to go to war, not the least of which was that Germany had declared war on it.
              The US and the UK have been tied by common economic interests since the C17th, to the extent that they have always been partners in the maritime empire.
              As to ‘aid’, the UK paid in full for its loans and its lend lease imports.

              • BigB says

                Don’t forget the ethnic cleansing by the Wilson-Healey govt of the Chagos Islands. The cleared islands, especially the largest, Diego Garcia, was then leased to the Imperialist war machine for 50 years (and then another 50). The airbase and black ops site comes in handy for democracy bombing MENA. The Chagossians, their livestock murdered, were dumped in Mauritius as second class citizens. Some of them made it to Sussex (where I coincidentally met a couple of them at school) …despite Robin Cook’s disingenuous promises, they are still waiting to go back.

                • kevin morris says

                  I don’t forget, but I don’t forget many places on this earth where people fall victim to geopolitics. The world would be a beautiful place for many peoples on earth if such factors didn’t come into play, but sadly they do.

                  However, on a point of fact, it was the Wilson Government, not the WIlson- Healy Government, and perhaps thankfully, you and I are spared, thanks to our lowly positions, the invidious choices that all politicians, of whatever shade, sometimes have to make.

              • @bevin.
                One of the main reasons the UK came to an accommodation with the US and why the US was finally willing to “aid” it’s supposed good friend, was the deal by which the US got to put their air, naval and military bases all over the UK in order to better their odds at attacking Russia and accessing the deep water channels and ports and closer to Simferipol which they covet ost dearly. Better still was the North Atlantic Treaty which gave them carte blanche in and across Europe. We opened the door and they swaggered in and wouldn’t leave.

  4. Francis Lee says

    Benn speaks as though the UK was/is a sovereign country responsible for its own policies and general direction. Unfortunately this hasn’t been the case (and it still isn’t) since 1956, the key moment being the Suez crisis and possibly before. Like the rest of Europe – with the possible exception of the Gaullist period in France – Europe is a US occupied zone. Through the instrumentality of NATO the US effectively rules the roost in Europe and this has been cemented by the emergence of the EU, the civilian wing of the NATO alliance. NATO and the EU are in fact complementary; their expansion goes hand in hand in a partnership between the military push and the economic push.

    This is not to say that there aren’t tensions and crises within the NATO-EU bloc. The last major crisis took place in 2003 as a result of Anglo-American plans to invade Iraq. Germany, France and Belgium would frustrate US desires at the North Atlantic Council for initiating supportive operations in Turkey to supplement their plans for the invasion of Iraq. However by 2009 France had reached an accommodation with the US under the leadership of Sarkozy and later Hollande with the pro-American stance more extreme than the British, more catholic than the Pope. The Germans who had also opposed the Iraq war, were also to fall in line with Merkel leading the conversion.l

    The present relationship with the EU and US is also going through a rough patch but given the past form the American dominance will, given the supine nature of the Euro elites, be asserted. It should be understood the the US doesn’t do partnerships, except, that is to say, of the ‘Me Tarzan, You Jane’ variety. I think it legitimate to speak in terms of ‘abusive relationship’ in this context.

    Geopolitical factors structure internal politics. If Europe and the UK is to have any sort of future then they must assert their independence and break from this yankee yoke. Under the present leadership his is not a possibility.

    • Fair dinkum. says

      ‘Tis more of a Corporatocracy than a ‘Yankee yoke’

    • bevin says

      “The present relationship with the EU and US is also going through a rough patch but given the past form the American dominance will, given the supine nature of the Euro elites, be asserted.”
      There is more to this equation than the ingrained submissiveness of European elites. There is the collapse of US hegemonic pretensions and, on the other hand, an inexorably developing crisis within the EU, which is falling apart at the seems.

      ” If Europe and the UK is to have any sort of future then they must assert their independence and break from this yankee yoke. Under the present leadership this is not a possibility.”
      But how long can the present leadership last? There isn’t a major government in Europe that looks as if it could win another election.

    • Chris says

      The people of Britain haven’t had real independence in their sovereign governance since 1066 – its been one oligarchy after another putting the interests of the oligarchy above those of the nation and its people ever since the Norman invasion. How else can one explain the utterly miserable, ‘Dickensian’ state of so many of its people.

  5. You mean him being given the time to actually answer a question without interuption? Ahhh the good old days.

  6. Makropulos says

    Benn was someone everybody in the media firmament had a go at. Even Tommy Steele if I recall correctly.


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