"If you don't keep up the pressure for democratic control, you lose it. It's 'use it or lose it.' And that is something that people find hard to understand - there is never a final victory for democracy; it's always a struggle in every generation, and you have to take up the cause time and time and time again"
This quick movie demonstrates why Tony Benn, former Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister, is one of the leading minds today on democracy.
"What democracy did, even in a very elementary form, was to transfer power from the marketplace to the polling station; from the wallet to the ballot. People who didn't have the money were able to vote for candidates who would provide collectively what they couldn't afford personally."
"But, of course, getting the vote only provides a route to political power, it does not provide control of economic power. And as we look at the world today with the economy in the hands of rich and powerful people, you realize that there's a great deal more to be done."
"The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the European Commission - none of these are elected, and yet they have growing power now to dictate to the governments that are elected. And for them, privatization and profit are the main objectives, regardless of the social costs... So it's true to say that power is moving back from the polling station to the marketplace, from the ballot to the wallet."
"If we allow business interests on an international scale to dominate, we shall find we've surrendered all the rights to those with money, which would be a throwback to the dark ages. And now, increasingly, people are being managed and not represented. And somehow that is an issue that has to be tackled; because if we don't provide a democratic opportunity, one of three things will happen:
Either people will become cynical - and cynicism destroys politics and opens the way to dictatorship
Or they will just abstain, which will destroy the legitimacy of elected governments
Or they'll turn to violence, because the history of the world has been a history of violence.
And sometimes, indeed many times - it's been discovered - the only way to resolve that, is to provide democratic rights."
Ask your political/social/economic leaders these 5 questions:
- What power have you got?
- Where did you get it from?
- In whose interest do you exercise it?
- To whom are you accountable?
- How can we get rid of you?
That is why no one with power likes democracy
And that is why every generation must struggle to win it and keep it
INCLUDING YOU AND ME, HERE AND NOW
Are you a Bennite?
"I think democracy is a very, very radical idea. It's not accepted by communists, Stalin didn't accept it; I don't think capitalists like it because it takes power from them and gives it to people who haven't got money. And that is a very dangerous idea, indeed."
You may remember Minister Benn from Michael Moore's Sicko,
"The most powerful religion, as you know, is not Christianity, Judaism, or Islam...it's the people who worship money."