Tony Benn’s ideas offer real lessons for overcoming the present crises

By Richard Burgon MP

If we are to build a more progressive society then we need to win the battle of ideas. That’s why when I stood for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party one of my pledges was to overhaul political education in the party by creating a Tony Benn School of Political Education.

I still believe we need a revolution in political education in our movement – one that empowers activists to be armed up with the ideas to win people over to socialist alternatives to our broken economic model that is destroying lives, communities and the planet.

Many grassroots activists asked me to continue with the idea of developing political education and so I have been working on a series of socialist political educational initiatives – kicking off with the ideas of Tony Benn. 

Tony Benn was a political giant. As well as a wonderful socialist MP and campaigner, he was a leading public educator.

Perhaps more than any other figure in the past 50 years – through his writing, his speeches and his activism – he has shaped what socialism in Britain is.

Benn linked the economic struggles with important social struggles, for example on equal rights, and the need to see socialism as an internationalist movement through his work for global justice, equality and peace.

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.

Tony Benn’s ideas are more relevant than ever to building a Socialism of the 21st Century capable of tackling the health, environmental, economic and inequality crises we now face, and in building a future that serves the many, not the few.

Just before Christmas I held a discussion forum on the ideas of Tony Benn with Jeremy Corbyn MP, John McDonnell MP, Apsana Begum MP, Jess Barnard, the Chair of Young Labour, Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition and Rachel Garnham from the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy – two movements Benn passionately supported.

You can watch that forum here

This week I will be hosting a special online discussion where I will be presenting a new political education for the first time on the ideas of Tony Benn. This will be on Wednesday 23 February at 7.15pm. 

You can register for the free online event here.

The political education pack looks at Tony Benn’s ideas on an alternative economic strategy; on the role of social movements and trade unions in building a better world; on why our socialism must take us the struggles for peace and global struggle and why we need a more democratic Labour Party as a step towards a more democratic Britain.

The aim is that the education pack will be used by Labour members, trade unionists and social justice campaigners in local meetings across the country.

The pack has been made possible by the generous donations of grassroots Labour members and includes a workshop presentation, speaker notes, videos and suggested further reading.

Tony Benn is just the first of the great figures of our movement that this project will provide political education on.

The next will be Sylvia Pankhurst, a great fighter for women’s rights, socialism, trade unionism and against fascism. You can donate here to support the production of more teaching packs and events.

I look forward to discussing these ideas with Labour Hub readers at the Tony Benn workshop this week and over the coming months at local events across the country.

Richard Burgon MP was Shadow Secretary of State for Justice from 2016 to 2020 and is now Secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs.

Subscribe to the blog for email notifications of new posts