Speech by Tony Benn


Comrades our slogan today is “not in our name” but unfortunately, it is in our name. The bombs that are dropped on Iraqi will be British bombs funded by British taxpayers like ourselves. The depleted Uranium that was used before was paid for by us. All the crimes that have been described today are crimes that will be committed by a government that we have elected and which is accountable to us and the question for us now is what do we do now to stop them doing what they are planning to do now. That is to say, the responsibility belongs to all of us who are here in Trafalgar Square and everyone else in Britain who opposes the war.

Now, Jim Mortimer said quite rightly the trade union movement should take action to bring pressure to bear, I agree with that. Tarqi Ali said that when the bombing begins we should go into the streets and I agree with that but I want to go further than that. When I look back on my life, and I am and old man now. I look back and I think we never did enough to stop the things that were done in our name and we must now see if this war begins that we do more than we did in the past until the people that we elect hear what we say and take notice of what we do. On Armistice Day ever year we stop for two minutes to remember the people who died. I have come with a proposal that when the war begins we stop for one hour every day to prevent the deaths of people who are now alive. We should now seriously think of something I have never suggested in my life before, in this way, that we should have non-violent resistance to the government which is doing these things in our name. Instead of two minutes silence at the end of every year remember the women in Baghdad today who will be widows in two months time, the children who will be orphans, the towns that will be destroyed, the people who will die and resolve now that the moment that bombing begins we go to where we are and we stop for one hour.

Stop the buses. Stop the trains. Stop the [unclear]. It’s all very well going to Downing Street, I’ve spent half my life at Downing Street, in, outside Downing Street. It has to be more than that, its got to be something we take up in every town and village.

I put it to you, go home to day, talk at your school about what you will do in your school when the bombing begins. Raise it in the churches, in the mosques in the synagogues, raise it at your place of work because we could well be headed for a third world war triggered off by stupid men who are now in charge and are governing in our name.

I think we have to take some lessons from some of the greatest leaders in the world, I think of Mahatma Gandhi who was in and out of prison half his life, never did any harm to anybody, but by God he made it clear he would not except British imperialism in India and we should not accept American imperialism in the world in which we live.

That is my proposal I dare say it won’t be widely taken up but everyone who stops for an hour will be asked “why have you stopped” and we can get the debate going. Take the debate out of the television studios and the Mill Bank tower and the House of Commons and bring it back to us because we are responsible for the future of the planet and the future of the human race and comrades we cannot let our children down.

Good luck. Thank you very much indeed.

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