Tony Benn, Fabian

Andrew Harrop

Today the Fabian Society mourns the passing of Tony Benn, one of our longest serving members. Tony joined the society in June 1943 and was a member for over 70 years. He was chair in 1964-65 and wrote three Fabian pamphlets, available online at the LSE Fabian Society archive:

In the 1990s we used to sum up the pluralism of the Fabians with a simple phrase: ‘from Tony Blair to Tony Benn’. For the society has always been a home for Labour voices from every wing of the party. Today, in the spirit of Tony Benn, we continue to believe in a politics of passion and principle, but also of dialogue and disagreement.

In the late 1970s and 1980s Tony was a divisive figure within the Fabian Society as he was in the Labour Party. Historians will continue to debate whether the Bennites or the SDP did more to undermine Labour’s challenge to Thatcherism in the 1980s. But Tony was always respected for his sincerity and compassion.

In more recent times he was a less polarising figure, not because of the mellowing effects of old age, but because he became the figurehead for opposition to the Iraq war, which so many people in the Labour movement believed was wrong. In that cause he represented the views of people from every political persuasion and every walk of life.

For 70 years Tony Benn was a true servant of the Labour movement and of the Fabian Society. We will remember him.


  1. Keith Mann

    Tony Benn will be missed by me, not because I agreed with him most of the time, which is not the case – Europe and Nuclear deterrent spring to mind – but because he spoke of radical alternatives which needed to be considered by any person or Party which wanted to substantiate its claim as being socialist. He was right that people and society have to change rather than accepting too easily accommodation of the existing (unfair, unequal barely democratic) status quo.

  2. roy woolmans

    Tony Benn was a real socialist , probably the last one we shall see in the current Labour Party. A Party that pursues the right wing yet runs with them. Socialist MPs now replaced by Academics not representing the working class any more.
    The current leader distancing himself from the trades unions, hoping to make him self more electable. Thus freeing himself to persue the Tory Party, making it more difficult to for electorate to spot the difference, opening up an area for parties like UKIP to move into. UKIP a party showing a contrast from the prevailing management. a false dawn, yet appealing to many.
    The good wine of socialism now so diluted , exposed to the vinegar fly of the corporate world
    Mr. Benn a great speaker, so moving with the truth and such a sense of poetry,that gave hope to the socialist soul.
    We shall miss him .I expect he’s having a chat with Big Bob , looking down on us and thinking, is there hope for them now. ? Two great lights have gone out so close together, we now stumble for light to illuminate our path and give guidance to the low in spirit
    Roy Woolmans

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