Tony Benn calls for revolt against coalition budget cuts(18 Posts)
Leftwinger's campaign of 'active resistance' backed by sympathetic MPs, academics, writers and personalities
Veteran leftwinger Tony Benn is calling for "ordinary people" to revolt against government plans for "the most savage spending cuts since the 1930s".
In a campaign backed by sympathetic MPs, academics, writers and public personalities, and launched on guardian.co.uk, the 85-year-old socialist and erstwhile cabinet minister is calling for a "broad movement of active resistance" to the coalition government's budget cuts.
Supported by 73 other campaigners, including Jeremy Corbyn MP, author Iain Banks, comedian Arthur Smith and film director Ken Loach, Benn issues a call to join the fight against the "malicious vandalism" of a "government of millionaires" against the "ordinary people".
The proposed cuts will "wreck the lives of millions by devastating our jobs, pay, pensions, NHS, education, transport, postal and other services", he writes on Comment is Free. Action such as that by trade unions in Greece is now necessary, he says.
"The government claims the cuts are unavoidable because the welfare state has been too generous. This is nonsense. Ordinary people are being forced to pay for the bankers' profligacy," he argues.
"The £11bn welfare cuts, rise in VAT to 20%, and 25% reductions across government departments target the most vulnerable disabled people, single parents, those on housing benefit, black and other ethnic minority communities, students, migrant workers, LGBT people and pensioners.
"Women are expected to bear 75% of the burden. The poorest will be hit six times harder than the richest. Internal Treasury documents estimate 1.3m job losses in public and private sectors.
"We reject this malicious vandalism and resolve to campaign for a radical alternative, with the level of determination shown by trade unionists and social movements in Greece and other European countries.
"An alternative budget would place the banks under democratic control and raise revenue by increasing tax for the rich, plugging tax loopholes, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, abolishing the nuclear 'deterrent' by cancelling the Trident replacement."
The action group proposes a national co-ordinating coalition of resistance to organise meetings and demonstrations.
Benn continues: "This government of millionaires says 'we're all in it together' and 'there is no alternative'. But, for the wealthy, corporation tax is being cut, the bank levy is a pittance, and top salaries and bonuses have already been restored to pre-crash levels."
He said the group was committed to opposing cuts and privatisation and proposals to "solve" the crisis through "racism and other forms of scapegoating". It also intends to liase closely with similiar opposition movements in other countries.
All good stuff - but posted on the Guardian over a year ago (Aug 2010). Unless there is an update I've missed?
Is that the Tony Benn who lives in a multi-million pound house in Holland Park? Why are so many of these spokespeople for the working class so rich and why did so many go to private schools.? Why was the tear-jerking speech at Labour conference made by 16 year old Rory, who had also attended a private school once upon a time?
Is it millionaires and elites who are engaged in Labour's "fulfilling the promise of Britain" for the sake of the working class. I prefer working class John Major, who left school at 16. He was so different to the Labour elite. He was working class.
Sometimes, I wonder if the working people are all being had by this privileged, rich Labour elite.
John Major wasn't as fortunate as socialist Tony Benn's children. Unlike some of them, he didn't go to the "socialist Eton" in Holland Park. He studied for three of his O levels via correspondence course. He was a grafter, he really was one of the people. He was a Tory.
This is an extract from an article about Tony Benn
'That house has made an inadvertant hypocrite of him, and he knows it. It comes with certain privileges, you see. By living there he got to send his children to one of the best state schools in London: Holland Park, known as "the socialist Eton". If I lived in its catchment area, I think I too might consider it my moral duty to use the state system.'
"Is that the Tony Benn who lives in a multi-million pound house in Holland Park?"
Cheap shot - especially as when Sir Anthony Wedgewood Benn he campaigned successfully to renounce his inherited peerage.
But has this group put forward an alternative agenda to the cuts? Without saying what should be done instead, this isn't a practical way forward. And if it's a year old, it is clearly not a viable movement.
I don't think it is a coincidence that so many of Labour's elite come from such privileged backgrounds. I don't think it is a coincidence that 'Red Ed' told the strikers that they were doing the wrong thing.
So, let me get this straight. You can't be a socialist if you come from a privileged background. Therefore, Tony Benn is wrong to call for resistance, and Ed M. is also wrong to oppose strikes because he is middle class too? Sorry?
Claig, I think Zoe Williams has got your number. Try harder, there's life beyond the Daily Heil, y'know:
'You can't be a socialist if you come from a privileged background.'
It almost seems you can't be in the Labour hierarchy if you don't come from a privileged background. Do they practise what they preach? Or as glasnost says, do they work for the corporate system? Are the privately educated, wealthy millionaire socialists with the people or do they tell working people not to strike because that is what the system wants?
Of course, Zoe Williams, has written that article, because she too went to private school.
'So all of us who are too rich to qualify (I know I am! And I went to a private school) are suddenly supposed to back away, embarrassed, from any position that isn't straight possessive individualism.'
Strauss-Kahn, the super wealthy former head of the IMF, is a "socialist". Plus ca change, it's the same the world over.
Many on the left didn't like the Daily Mail's investigative journalism about young Rory, because people might start wondering whether more of their leaders come from privileged backgrounds too.
The media always looks for hypocrisy. It was the same when the Tories used the 'back to basics' campaign, and the press exposed some Tory hypocrites.
Many on the left think that Tory Blair was planted in the Labour party to change its objectives. He too was educated privately at Fettes, the Eton of the North. Are there no working class people who can be trusted with the Labour leadership? Is it only the Tories who can trust the working class e.g. John Major?
Since the founding of the Welfare State, there have been more Conservative Prime Ministers who have attended state schools than Labour ones.
For the Tories, there's Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher and John Major. For Labour, James Callaghan and Harold Wilson.
It noticeable that they all went to grammar schools. That ladder to social mobility has all but vanished.
I don't care where Tony Benn went to school. Thatcher and Major may have benefitted from policies that improved social mobility in their childhood, but they wasted no time hauling up the ladder behind them, did they?
It's hardly Benn's fault if the social divide is now so wide that a huge swathe of the political class is just as far removed from ordinary people as it was before the war. Tony Benn makes a lot of sense, and I would prefer it if he had got his ideas from a lifetime spent working down a coal mine - but isn't it all the more praiseworthy that he is not out to promote the wellbeing of his own class (unlike Cameron, Clegg and co)?
I think we do need an alternative to the Coalition's policies, because they are dangerous and destructive and unfair. And if an 85-year-old still has the vision to at least show us the way, good on him!
Id like a positive action plan.
What can we do to bring it home to the tories that their policies are unacceptable?
Tony Benn was certainly anti-grammar & pro-comprehensive. He was very 'hands on' in the formation of Holland Park Comprehensive School: Offering Latin & Classics for the top sets, presumably so his son, transferred in from Westminster School, didn't lose out due to his dad's politics. The school was understandingly very popular with the middle classes.
After a few years it became clear that the pupils in the lower sets weren't really benefiting from being at the school, so the school moved to mixed ability teaching. And the middle classes drifted away.
The school is often used as an example of why the comprehensive school model doesn't work. Which is ironic, given it's start.
I don't think it's fair to say Thatcher and Major kicked away that ladder as neither played any part in the dismantling of the grammar school system - that took place in the late 60s/early 70s under (old) Labour, and the great proponent of it was Gaitskill's protegee, Tony Crossland.
Medirina - The UK's move to a [broadly] comprehensive school education system was a complicated and murky process. I'm sure I've read that more Grammar schools were closed under Margaret Thatcher, than under any other Secretary for Education.
In the early days comprehensive education had a broad based political appeal. For the middle classes it meant they could send all their dc's to the local 'grammar' school regardless of ability.
Those pushing for it for ideological reasons (Crossland & co) [over] sold it's lower cost per pupil advantages. Almost 'Grammar School for all' at a discount to the tax payer. I'm sure that had some appeal to the Tory party.
I don't think anyone deliberately pulled up a ladder - but social mobility stalled! This is all the more sad, given comprehensive schools were meant to be engines of social mobility.
Ironically, Labour's heavy investment in schools in deprived areas (mainly its academy programme) has improved social mobility - by a small amount. Showing comprehensive education can increase social mobility - if you chuck enough money at it.
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