Culture Blog

Tony Benn

posted by the hanging out team - Sunday, March 16, 2014

“The strength of feeling by young people against injustice and war is as strong today with new forms of communication as it was in the 1960's and 70's”  
Tony Benn

Tony Benn with Lorna Holder and Kurt Barling

The Hanging Out Project is saddened to here about the passing of Ex-Labour MP Tony Benn. We are honoured to have worked with him at our Anti-War Discussion Forum held at the Imperial War Museums. You can see a selection of the dialogue below taken from the Hanging Out book written by Lorna Holder.

On Sunday 15th May 2011 around 150 people of different ages, races and backgrounds came together at the Imperial War Museums in South London to discuss protests in terms of anti-war protests, and the more recent protests against government proposed cuts. The event opened with a shortened version of the documentary “March to Aldermaston” (1958) followed by a panel discussion, and questions from the audience. 

Kurt Barling:
"Tony, maybe I can bring you in here, because you've been on many organised protests, organised marches and back in the early 60’s you were involved with the anti-apartheid movement and stood on many a platform, dealing with racism and injustice.  When you personally saw those alternative ways of protesting, i.e. whether it be in Notting Hill in the late 50's or in the 60's again, or Brixton or Broadwater Farm, or Bradford more recently, how do you view those particular forms of protest?  Do you think that actually there have been too many different ways of presenting your message if the political process isn’t working for you?"

Tony Benn:
"I don’t like the word protest, because protest implies that you’re saying, I’ve lost the battle and I don’t like it, which is what you’d expect if you lost the battle.   I think we should formulate our policy in terms of making demands. If you make demands you make them everywhere and you make them in a way that relates to the needs of the people you are talking to and you listen carefully to them because popular experience is enormously important and you go on demanding it until you win. 
Now exactly why the Suffragettes won, I wouldn’t want to enter in to an argument about that, but I think that it was a majority opinion expressing itself against a minority power structure, just as ‘The Levellers’ [political movement during the English Civil Wars] won the right for men to vote or the ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’ who won the right for people to support trade unions. I think history is made of what people demand, and how they go about it, and if you go on making demands, I think you’re likely to win.   
The purpose of campaigns is to persuade people and if you’re so assertive to frighten people, it may be counter-productive. I think CND won respect because year after year we went on arguing the same case."

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