In lieu of an obituary, here’s a leaflet, which I produced for a miners’ demo in January ’85, in Islington, North London, where Tony Benn was the main speaker (it’s also here in part 2 of “So near – so far”, which is a history of the British miners, and concentrates mainly on the miners strike whose 30th anniversary began this month)
TONY BENN – ANOTHER LEFT-WING CAPITALIST PIG
“It is the Government’s policy to phase out subsidies to the nationalised industries. In line with this the Government hope that the coal industry will be able to operate without the need for assistance, apart from the social grants”
(27/11/75, Hansard, Vol.901, Col.1062) (Tony Benn)
“What is needed is a viable industry to get the coal out of the ground. And to get it out at competitive prices.”
(Colliery Guardian, May 1976) (Tony Benn)
“I am reluctant to engage in the House in discussion of individual pits, for the reason that I have given, namely, that there is a proper procedure and that where necessary, the NUM can come to me and I can raise the matter with the NCB… I have never found the NUM in any way unreasonable where closures are necessary because of exhaustion or because pits are out of line in economic terms.” (Hansard, Vol 959, Col. 1015.) (Tony Benn)
Like most social movements that concretely contest symptoms of the misery of capitalist development the miners’ strike is an amalgamation of contradictory aspirations, a popular front which contains within it both counter-revolutionary and revolutionary perspectives. One of the more evident aspects of this contradiction is the way in which miners, and their supporters, have remained silent about what they know of some of the hypocrisies of the bureaucrats who claim to support them. Under the illusion that they have to present animage of unity in order to win, striking miners have swallowed their pride and allowed 2-faced leaders to speak “on their behalf’ with hardly a hint of opposition. Tony Benn is merely one of the most well-known of these scum whose aim is to get back into positions of power over the backs of the miners.
In 1977, that benignly patronising grey-faced ponce, Tony Benn, as Minister of Energy, collaborated with Joe Gormley, former NUM boss, in manipulating the notoriously divisive bonus scheme for the Notts, South Derbyshire and other areas, a scheme that had been decisively rejected by a majority of the miners in a ballot.
Also in 1977, Benn did his best to crush the unofficial power workers’ strike, which had courageously risked one of the few attacks on the Labour Government’s Social Contract (otherwise known as the Social Con-trick), and which was even organised, by some of the workers at the end of the strike, against the divide and rule tactics of the ‘militant’ shop stewards. Benn had even made contingency plans to call the army in to do the work of the power workers, but he’d found this unnecessary when the so-called ‘militant’ stewards accepted a deal worked out with Benn and the CEGB bosses which created a skill hierarchy (status, ‘responsibility’ and small differentials) as the ‘reward’ for weakened solidarity.
Another one of Benn’s achievements as Energy Minister was the closure of more pits than Thatcher has managed, and all justified with the same monetarist logic that he now denounces the Tories for. Moreover, despite the Left’s attack on the development of nuclear power, the brutality of the cops and the threatened use of the army to put down strikes, when Benn was part of the Cabinet, he armed the Atomic Energy Authority, participated in the government’s brutal use of cops to put down the Notting Hill carnival riots of 1976 and 1977 and never raised a squeak in protest against the use of troops in the firemen’s strike of ’77 – ’78.
Leftists say “Aaaah – but Tony’s criticised a lot of his past …he is capable of change, you know.” Though it might well be that he’s conveniently changed his image now that he’s not part of a government (i.e. not directly helping to organise the commodity economy and the crushing of resistance to it), a minimal (very minimal) basis for accepting a person has changed is that they criticize precise past behaviour and resolve not to put themselves in a position where they could repeat this behaviour (even then, it would be stupid to judge them on their intentions, rather than their concrete acts). But even by these insufficient criteria Benn has not changed: he still aspires to a position of hierarchical power, still seeks the limelight of the TV studios, and hasn’t even criticized any of these precise previous acts. Far from it: in his present criticism of monetarism, he has stated, “The BBC, the police and the army are uneconomic. But we all need these. The same goes for coal.” Who is this “we” that needs the BBC (Bourgeois Brainwashing Creeps) and the rabid guard-dogs of wage slavery and the market economy (the filth and the army)? Certainly not the masses of dispossessed individuals! The “we” he is referring to, of course, are politicians and other organizers of our misery, whether in right-wing or left-wing guises. It’s about time we gave them despair and paranoia! The anti-hierarchical violence of some of the miners, and the rioters of 1981 before them, have shown us the way. Bosses left, right and centre must disappearforever.
P.S. Scargill constantly claims that the agreed ‘Plan for Coal’ makes no mention of closing uneconomic pits. This is bollocks. In fact, in ’74 the NUM and its Labour allies committed themselves to the “inevitable” closure of pits “as their useful economic reserves of coal are depleted”.
Produced by: B.M.Combustion, London WC1N 3XX
Sir Anthony Wedgwood-Benn
For some reason, this leaflet was not particularly liked by Benn’s admirers. I can’t understand why. I was profoundly upset when one nice middle class lady politely handed the leaflet back. Some said it must be a fascist leaflet – the B.M. obviously stood for British Movement (for those who don’t know, it stands for British Monomarks, a company that works like an anonymous post box, receiving mail that you then pick up from them for a small fee). Stalin and his supporters likewise characterised any opposition from the left of Stalinism as “fascist”.
Tony Benn and nuclear power
This, from here, is interesting:
Benn’s parliamentary record as pro-nuclear Minister for Technology in the 1960s is quite interesting;
Considers disposing of nuclear waste at sea;
Radioactive Waste (Disposal at Sea)
HC Deb 09 March 1967 vol 742 c348W
asked the Minister of Technology whether he will make a statement with special reference to public safety and health on the plans of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority to use a south coast port as a disposal centre for European and British atomic waste.
The European Nuclear Energy Agency is studying a possible experimental disposal at sea of certain radio-active waste from several countries; the Atomic Energy Authority is considering how the U.K. contribution might be delivered to the ship. All the necessary precautions will be taken. There are no plans for centralising the disposal of European waste in the U.K.
Plans for extension of UK nuclear power;
http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1967/apr/25/uranium#S5CV0745P0_19670425_CWA_235HANSARD 25 April 1967 → Written Answers (Commons) → TECHNOLOGY
HC Deb 25 April 1967 vol 745 c266W
asked the Minister of Technology what view his Department have formed about supply and price prospects for natural uranium which will be needed to support the increased use of nuclear power in this country; and if he will make a statement.
The Atomic Energy Authority’s forward contracts assure sufficient supplies to meet the basic requirements of the nuclear power programme well into the 1970s. The outlook beyond that seems promising.
Proposes to increase ‘flexibility of labour’, reduce overtime and increase productivity of energy workers;
Atomic Energy Authority (Wage Increases)
HC Deb 05 May 1967 vol 746 c125W
asked the Minister of Technology if the recent wage increase offered by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority to manual workers represents the maximum incomes increase that would be consistent with the criteria for the Government’s prices and incomes policy.
No wage increases as such have been offered by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority to its industrial employees. As part of a proposed productivity agreement, the Authority offered to pay productivity supplements to the employees in return for specified changes in working practices, other measures to improve the flexibility of the labour force and to secure progressive reductions in regular overtime working. I understand that the Authority’s offer is still open. The proposed agreement as a whole accords with the Government’s prices and incomes policy.
Claims that “The disposal of radioactive effluent from fast breeder reactors presents no problems…”;
http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1967/nov/14/fast-breeder-reactors-radioactive#S5CV0754P0_19671114_CWA_40HANSARD 14 November 1967 → Written Answers (Commons) → TECHNOLOGY
Fast Breeder Reactors (Radioactive Effluent)
HC Deb 14 November 1967 vol 754 c63W
asked the Minister of Technology whether, in the light of the difficulties in disposing of the radioactive effluent from fast breeder reactors, he will now reconsider his decision to reduce research expenditure at Culham on fusion reactors.
No. The disposal of radioactive effluent from fast breeder reactors presents no problems of a kind different from those already encountered and solved successfully in the operation of existing power reactors.
Advocates high wages for bosses;
HANSARD 16 April 1969 → Commons Sitting → TECHNOLOGY
Atomic Energy Authority (Chairman’s Salary)
HC Deb 16 April 1969 vol 781 cc1138-9
19. Mr. Lubbock
asked the Minister of Technology what proposals he has to make for adjusting the salary of the Chairman of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, in the light of paragraph 101 of Command Paper No. 3970.
None as yet. But I am in touch with the Chairman about his salary, and I expect to reach a decision shortly.
Does the Minister accept that the arguments advanced by the First Secretary, in relation to the chairmen of the nationalised industries, about the detrimental effect on the quality of management in the long run which could be caused by having salaries at too low a level in these industries, could equally apply to the Atomic Energy Authority? Will he take urgent steps to see that the Chairman’s salary is revised to a more realistic level?
I fully accept what the hon. Gentleman says. The Government and the First Secretary accept that there is a read across from the posts on which the National Board for Prices and Incomes reported and similar posts. The Atomic Energy Authority in the course of the years has spent about £500 million on civil research. A great deal of our future is locked up in its management skill, and this must be properly reflected.
Sir H. Legge-Bourke
When the right hon. Gentleman talks to the Chairman, will he bear in mind, particularly in the light of the Third Report of the Select Committee on the nuclear power programme, and his own thinking on this matter, that it has become abundantly clear that the A.E.A. will have to be far more market-orientated than ever before? Will he bear in mind the need to relate the Chairman’s salary to those paid to people who are conducting complicated and equally sophisticated marketing exercises?
I accept that entirely, and we are very lucky in having in the present Chairman a man who through his work on the fuel side has won the respect of the industry for the way in which he has approached his task. With the centrifuge work and the new organisation that is coming, the point made by the hon. Gentleman has acquired special relevance, and I accept this.
As Minister for Energy Benn in 1976 brought in legislation to arm the Atomic Energy Authority constabulary;
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=1976-02-26a.701.0#g708.1I turn to the method recommended in the Bill. It is proposed that we should arm the Atomic Energy Authority constabulary. It has been a police force since 1955. Since 1971, when British Nuclear Fuels Limited became a separate organisation, the coverage that the Atomic Energy Authority constabulary has provided has extended to BNFL. Indeed, until recently the constabulary was unarmed.
When I say that the AEA constabulary will be put in the same position as the regular police and the Ministry of Defence constabulary, I mean that under the Bill it will have the right to possess firearms without specific authority under the Firearms Act 1968. …
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