democracynow.org – Tony Benn, the former British Cabinet minister, longtime Parliament member and antiwar activist, has died at the age of 88. He was the longest-serving member of Parliament in the history of Britain’s Labour Party, serving more than half a century. He left Parliament in 2001, saying he planned to “spend more time on politics.” In 2009 he appeared on Democracy Now! to talk about the war in Afghanistan and Britain’s fight for a nationalized healthcare system.
“You’ve got to judge a country by whether its needs are met and not just by whether some people make a profit,” Benn said. “I’ve never met Mr. Dow Jones, and I’m sure he works very, very hard with his averages. We get them every hour. But I don’t think the happiness of a nation is decided by the share values in Wall Street.”
Tony Benn was known as an eloquent and inspirational speaker. Here are ten of his most memorable quotes, as picked by Guardian readers
1) “If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people.”
Tony Benn was interviewed in Sicko, Michael Moore’s documentary film about the health industry in the US. Explaining the post-war creation of the welfare state, he said the popular mood of the 1945 election was: “If you can have full employment by killing Germans, why can’t we have full employment by building hospitals, building schools?”
The first time I met Tony Benn was years ago at the WBAI Pacifica radio station in New York. We were both being simultaneously interviewed about the events of the day. He was delighted to be able to speak his mind and share his progressive views with mine on the radio. “There’s much more freedom of speech in the U.S. than in the U.K.,” he remarked to me. “Not that much more,” I said. That was the closest we came to a disagreement.
Later that evening, before a large symposium audience, we both spoke (along with one or two other guests) about “Fascism, Past and Present.” I also remember that sometime along the way he expressed his doubts to me about Tony Blair who was taking the Labor Party ever rightward under a banner called “New Labor,” away from socialism and ever closer toward the moneyed oligarchs. Blair and his coterie were being endorsed and funded by Rupert Murdock, the reactionary media tycoon. Murdock understood that there was no reason to own just one political party when you could own both. Blair was for sale. Benn was not.