Leo Panitch on Tony Benn and Labour’s “Third Way” Neoliberalism

Tony Benn, a legendary British Member of Parliament who served for 47 years from 1950 to 2001, and a committed socialist who constantly tried to keep a rightward-drifting Labour Party in check, died on 14 March.

Benn left a remarkable legacy behind him, one that still resonates throughout a Europe stricken by austerity. With his trademark pipe-in-mouth and quips-on-tongue (such as, perhaps most famously, “If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people”), Benn censured a mainstream “Left” that had abandoned democratic socialism long ago and, in its place, eagerly adopted neoliberalism.

The Real News analyzed this legacy with Leo Panitch, Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science at York University and editor of the Socialist Register, an independent leftist journal.

Not only does Panitch speak to the legacy of Benn, he succinctly articulates why and how capitalism subverts democracy, and how Tony Benn’s attempts to democratize the Labour Party were met with steadfast opposition from neoliberals posturing as leftists.

The following are important highlights from the segment—all from Leo Panitch, followed by the time in the video in which he said them, for reference.

  • (8:53)
    There is a “deeply undemocratic strain that is part of not only political life in Britain but political life in every capitalist liberal democracy.”
  • (11:21)
    Tony Blair “brought Labour back to government by channeling Thatcherism, by channeling neoliberalism. And he picked that up from Clinton, explicitly, in what was called the ‘Third Way.’ It was no third way at all. It was social democracy’s embrace, through the emulation of the American Democratic Party, of neoliberalism.”
  • (12:49)
    There will be an “inevitable emergence, in this century, of alternatives [to capitalism]. They will happen; there’s no question they will happen, given the inequalities and class oppressions in our societies.”