Friday, 14 March 2014

Written History Is What Is Written

The week has seen the going of two prominent figures of The Left.  One of the present, Bob Crow of the RMT trade union, and one from the past, Tony Benn, a former Minister and member of Labour Cabinets.

Quite how history will see them is for the future.  What paper trail and records Robert Crow will leave are likely to be scattered and may be difficult to find.  His history may well be only that to be found in the media and a few files which may not tell the whole story.

Benn, once a leading figure in the Labour Party kept and collected a major archive.  Also he scribbled frantically in his diary, books, articles in journals and well as conducting extensive correspondence. 

Few platforms of the hard Marxist Left were without a speech from him, often many speeches.  There is also a large film record.  The effort will ensure that written and other histories of the future of the politics of his time will make extensive use of them.

To put it one way, when those in the future attempt to travel to the past, Crow will be just a stop on the line, Benn will be a major travel hub.  The former was limited by his trade and calling, the latter was given all the scope he needed.

Crow was a proud Plebian, Benn was all too Patrician, a Red Prince who was at the beginning of the takeover of the Labour Party by the intellectuals and the disaffected of the upper classes.

What they did have in common was the element of mysticism and devotion to dogma that characterised the strong Marxist part of the Left.  Crow as a youngster was persuaded that the Soviet way was the future, Benn was one of those, claiming to be of a philosophic mind, who persuaded him.

My view of Benn in the past was that he was a "horse and cart" socialist, combining a sentimental view of past work with a pretense that the form could still be kept despite all the new ways that were replacing them.

The paternalism endemic in the intellectual Left has led to so much of the muddle and confusion of the present as well as the unwillingness to accept and tackle what is needed now and in the immediate future.

The hatred of what they saw as capitalism went along with the spending of massive state capital outlays in ways that would never allow earnings on that investment. 

At the end of it where there were revenues you would be lucky to cover them, let alone earn much on revenue costs.  Our rail systems are one of those, heavily subsidised and with little or no respite from the costs.

In 1851, Benn's forebear, John Williams Benn, was in Hyde by Stockport, born just a few months earlier.  His father, listed as a school master would move to the East End of London a little later to do good works in Education.

At the same time in Hammersmith there was a Robert Crow, just one month old, one of a number of Crow families in London.  This one would grow up to be a grocer.  Did our Robert Crow have grocer's in his family like that of Margaret Thatcher?

One of the other quirks of history is that the local public house where Marx first lived in England  and where he discussed his ideas with others was run by a man called George Osborne.

I wonder what Benn in his diaries has made of our present George Osborne?

1 comment:

  1. "Benn was all too Patrician, a Red Prince who was at the beginning of the takeover of the Labour Party by the intellectuals and the disaffected of the upper classes."

    Spot on. I found Benn difficult to dislike, but knew it was worth the effort. The man was a menace.