The above pic is a snap of Tony Benn I got at a Gaza rights demo four years ago. This is how I remember Tony Benn, a politician who was truly a man of the people, never setting himself above other campaigners, just ambling through the crowds at a demo where other politicians would be driving by in a limo.
When I was in the Militant in the ’80s, I met Tony Benn three times, at political meetings. I chatted briefly with him the first time, I was a teenage Marxist, very new to political campaigning and revolutionary politics. The second time we met, months later, he remembered my name *and* he pronounced it correctly, something that impresses me to this day. That’s what Benn was like: a genuinely friendly and interested socialist and you were important to him no matter how young and truly unimportant you were on the political ladder. I also remember he always wore Doc shoes, just one of those random things you recall about people.
With his passing, there is no doubt the international working class has lost one of its greatest allies and resources. He was a lion amongst socialists and a towering giant against the craven, squalid benchmark of capitalist politicians.
Today, the bourgeois media is full of tributes to Benn and justly so. But they all miss the core of the man: his politics. When I saw him speak thirty years or more recently at antiwar demos, it was his political conviction that burned brightly. Against nuclear weapons, against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, for Palestinian rights, for the miners, the print workers, the NHS and the rights of ordinary, working class people everywhere.