“If we are to be a mass movement with answers to the huge challenges our communities face then we need to arm ourselves up in the battle of ideas.”
By Richard Burgon MP
During my Deputy Leadership campaign, I promised that if I were elected, Labour would launch a Tony Benn School of Political Education.
Since that campaign, many people asked me to continue with the idea of developing the provision of political education – which is too often sadly lacking in our movement.
I believe political education is key. If we are to be a mass movement with answers to the huge challenges our communities face then we need to arm ourselves up in the battle of ideas. So I have taken this idea forward with a new political education pack on Tony Benn and how his ideas offer lessons for the present crises we face.
WHY TONY BENN?
Tony Benn was a political giant and has had a deep and long-lasting impact on the politics of the British Left.
Perhaps more than any other figure in the past 50 years, he has shaped what socialism in Britain is, linking the economic struggles with important social struggles, for example in relation to equal rights, and the need to see socialism as an internationalist movement through his work for peace and justice.
In many ways, Tony Benn is the precursor of what some have called ‘Corbynism’, with his relentless focus on returning wealth and power to ordinary people rather than to the wealthy elites as our current system does.
As well as a wonderful socialist MP and campaigner, Tony Benn was a leading public educator. He wrote extensively on the need for an alternative economic strategy; on arguments for socialism; on peace, justice and equality; the role of social movements and trade unions in building a better world; and why we need a more democratic Labour Party as a step towards a more democratic Britain.
A greater understanding of the key political ideas of Tony Benn will offer activists real insight into the framework of solutions needed to resolve the numerous crises hitting our communities today – from the climate and health catastrophes to stagnating living standards and deep structural inequalities.
The political education pack includes a PowerPoint presentation, additional notes, links to videos and suggested further reading. I hope Labour members, trade unionists and social justice campaigners will use it in local meetings across the country.
WATCH THE WORKSHOP WITH JEREMY CORBYN AND JOHN MCDONNELL
As well as the political education pack, I recently organised a workshop on Tony Benn along with the Arise Festival who do so many great online events.
You can watch the event here including talks with me, Jeremy Corbyn MP, John McDonnell MP, Apsana Begum MP, Rachel Garnham from the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Jess Barnard the Chair of Young Labour and Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition.
We know that most people don’t want a return to how things were done prior to the Covid-19 crisis. This means socialists must offer ideas that address the scale of the present crises.
Tony Benn’s fundamental analysis on our democracy, our economy and our role in the world are as relevant as ever and offer a real basis for practical socialist solutions to the injustices and inequalities we face and in building a society that serves the many not the few.
- Watch the “Tony Benn – Lessons for the Present Crises” discussions in full here.
- Richard Burgon is the MP for Leeds East and the Secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram and twitter.