Tony Benn on aging towards the left…

Tony Benn

Image from The Guardian

This blog has contained a lot of politics recently- and I almost began this post with an apology. However, I am too angry to apologise really. Whoever said that you should never mix religion and politics was a fool. Followers of Jesus can never absent themselves from politics, but I would argue that our politics inevitably lead us towards the poor, the broken, the sick, the old. It has to be motivated by the motivations of Jesus.

I am seized by a the feeling that we are wasting time. Perhaps this is that point of my own life when the end feels nearer than the beginning, when what we have become seems an urgent issue rather than vague possibilities.

In many ways most of my friends and I started on the left then gradually slid to the right, if only in our passive acquiescence. I hated that in myself, and at least in my thinking, currently I am heading in entirely the opposite direction.

It was such a treat then to read this interview with Tony Benn today, particularly in the wake of yesterdays post about the disengaged politics of Russel Brand. In some senses, Benn’s experience might support Brand’s assertion that democratic politics has failed. Benn became progressively more left wing as he became older, before leaving the House of Commons as he put it “To devote more time to politics.” However, Benn remains a man who believes passionately in the democratic process. Here are a few quotes;

If you look back over history, most progress has come about when popular movements have emerged led by determined men and women. They take tremendous punishment from the establishment, and then if they stick it out they win the argument.”

“How does progress occur? To begin with, if you come up with a radical idea it’s ignored. Then if you go on, you’re told it’s unrealistic. Then if you go on after that, you’re mad. Then if you go on saying it, you’re dangerous. Then there’s a pause and you can’t find anyone at the top who doesn’t claim to have been in favour of it in the first place.” It strikes me that his belief in this process must have sustained him during the long periods in which he was mocked and marginalised.

The financial crash will, he believes, eventually force a change in strategic thinking. “What happened in 2007-8 is now used by the government as an example of the failure of the Labour party. But the changes that were brought about led to a need to think about something more radical, and more radical ideas ā€“ on, for instance, public ownership and education ā€“ would win popular support if they were presented to the public.” Having been deemed mad and then dangerous, Benn reckons the moment when his ideas are claimed by others is coming.

I really hope he lives to see it…

In the meantime, this is an itch I will continue to scratch. Where it will lead me, I do not know, but I have a conviction that politics can also be pilgrimage, even accepting that getting lost along the way from time to time is inevitable.

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