7 Quotations that Define Aneurin Bevan

Posted by Tom Bailey on 23rd Apr 2019

Aneurin Bevan was the Minister for Health in  Clement Attlee’s post-war government and was responsible for the establishment of the NHS. The son of a coal miner, Bevan consistently defended social justice and the rights of working people. Here are seven quotations that we think define his legacy as a radical politician and a man who should always be remembered!

1. “Illness is neither an indulgence for which people have to pay, nor an offence for which they should be penalised, but a misfortune the cost of which should be shared by the community.”

Today, the NHS is one of the UK’s most prized-possessions. The value, common-sense and necessity of free healthcare has become ingrained in the national psyche, perhaps because very few people remember living without it.

But it hasn’t always been this way: in 1952, the idea of free healthcare was largely viewed as an absurdly idealistic hope. And yet, despite opposition and hostility, Aneurin Bevan fought for what he believed in and proved himself to be more than just a radical, but a visionary. If he hadn’t remained committed to his belief that illness was an undeserved misfortune, society today might be very different indeed.

2. “No society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.

Again, this quotation, in just 20 words, demonstrates the absurdity of paying for healthcare. Why should someone with more money deserve to live longer than someone with less? Why should lack of means have any affect on health and well-being?

When put in these terms, the idea of healthcare in exchange for money seems wholly barbaric, and it’s something the United States must address. Of course, in the 2016 Presidential campaign, the only American candidate addressing it was self-declared Democratic Socialist and radical Bernie Sanders – #FeelTheBern!

3. “It [the NHS] will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.”

Few quotations are more relevant to the current state of UK politics. With continued budget cuts, increased privatisation, and the implementation of unfair contracts, it seems that the Conservative party are determined to dismantle our beloved National Health Service.

As Bevan says, it's up to us, the people of the UK, to have faith and to fight for one of our greatest institutions.

4. “We could manage to survive without money changers and stockbrokers. We should find it harder to do without miners, steel workers and those who cultivate the land.”

The verity of this quotation is almost undeniable when you consider the achievements of both groups. The former, the money changers and stockbrokers, create nothing and change nothing – arguably their work is worthless.

The latter, on the other hand, uphold industry and create those things that we need to survive. Bevan was, without exception, always on the side of the underpaid and the underprivileged.

5. “How can wealth persuade poverty to use its political power to keep wealth in power? Here lies the whole art of Conservative politics in the twentieth century.”

This question is one that perplexed  Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels whilst they were writing their Communist Manifesto, and it is particularly apt following the recent release of the ‘ Panama Papers’. How can the few keep control over the many?

Alas, it seems (for the moment at least) that the Tories have won this battle of persuasion, arguably through deception and manipulation. As Bevan once said, “Lying is a necessary part of a Tory’s political equipment.”

But there is hope, and as British rapper and political commentator Akala says: “If we knew our power, we would understand that we can’t be held down” – all we need is for someone to tackle the hypocrisy of Conservative rhetoric once and for all.

6. “We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over.”

This is possibly one of the most radical quotations! For all those Blairites, Brownites and supporters of New Labour or so-called ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ – this is what Bevan would think of your chances! Perhaps a radical vision is the only way forward; after all, Oscar Wilde once said that “An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.”

7. “No attempt at ethical or social seduction can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.”

This quotation speaks for itself!

Click here to see our Aneurin Bevan tea towel