Tony Benn’s Tribute to Fenner Brockway

The death of Fenner Brockway has cut one of the last links connecting the modern Labour Party with its pioneers.

He has been described as a rebel and a dissenter, and so he was, but his real role was as a prophet, forever preaching against the abuse of power, and with a message that was always ahead of its time.

His optimism was boundless and when I last heard him speak he brought a young audience to their feet with his confident forecast of a peaceful world he knew that he would never live to see.

In 40 years of work with Fenner, I, like many others, became his pupil and was immensely enriched by what he did and said and believed in.

Fenner was a lovely person to know, and he combined revolutionary ideas with formidable parliamentary skills, which are not always to be found together in politics.

We must now celebrate his 100th birthday without him, but his spirit will remain to encourage everyone who believes, as he did, in democracy and socialism – at a time when both are under attack from many quarters.

Tony Benn, speaking at Fenner Brockway’s memorial meeting in Westminster Central Hall, 16 June 1988. Originally published in ‘Fenner: His Work Lives On’ published by Liberation.

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