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Writings of Aneurin Bevan offer lessons for contemporary politics

27 March 2023

Sunset in Houses Of Parliament - London

The writings of Aneurin Bevan have been overlooked and are as relevant today as ever, a Cardiff University academic argues.

Dr Nye Davies of the Wales Governance Centre has studied the articles of Aneurin Bevan which were written for socialist publication Tribune.Seventy two articles have been included in a new collection, This is my Truth: Aneurin Bevan in Tribune, covering a range of topics and commentary on political events.

This year marks 75 years since the NHS was established, which Bevan was instrumental in driving through.

Dr Davies said: “Bevan lives on in Britain’s collective memory. The NHS is still considered as one of the most important British national institutions, and his name is synonymous with it.

“Bevan is hailed as a great orator. Despite the admiration and respect reserved for Bevan, his legacy has often-times been reduced to snappy quotes and one-liners that can fit onto a tea towel or a Twitter banner. Furthermore, he is a figure championed by opposing characters, which often leads to his words being abused, misused or taken out of context.

“A consideration of Bevan’s Tribune articles is therefore vital in understanding the detail behind his politics and ideas.”

Born in Tredegar in 1897, Bevan left school at the age of thirteen and began working underground at Ty-Trist Colliery. Even as a youngster, Bevan became heavily involved in politics and gained significant popularity within local trade union politics. He was elected as MP for Ebbw Vale in 1929.

In 1937, Bevan’s writing career took off with the establishment of Tribune. The magazine would go on to become an important voice for the left both within the party and throughout Britain. It would also become a crucial outlet for Bevan, who wrote for it until his death in 1960.

After Labour’s triumphant election victory in 1945, Bevan was appointed Minister of Health and Housing, going on to establish the National Health Service, which he is most well-known for today.

Dr Davies added: “Although the NHS is perhaps his greatest legacy, there is much more to Bevan that is often overlooked. Despite his writing being over 80 years old in some cases, domestic debates over the role of parliament, the relationship between representatives and society, the ideology of the Labour Party, and the role of the state in the economy, are still as relevant as ever. Further, many of the international issues Bevan grappled with – power politics, ideological disputes, the build-up of arms, imperialism – are still prevalent in the world today.

“This collection provides an opportunity to re-engage with Bevan’s writings and his political philosophy, allowing us to re-evaluate and perhaps even learn lessons from a figure who had more to say about society and the world than snappy one-liners give him credit for.”

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