Tony Benn – Letters to my grandchildren
by Ian Short
I recently found the book Letters to my grandchildren, by Tony Benn, in my local library. It consists of a series of short letters written by Tony Benn to his grandchildren, on different political themes. I like Benn and I like the book. Here are four small parts.
On power and control
Letter 4 is about mechanisms by which leaders control their people. Benn mentions (but does not endorse) the quote ‘democracy inevitably leads to Marxism’ from Mein Kamp. The idea behind this quote is that, in a democracy, the wealthy are a minority, and so everyone else would do well to vote for an even distribution of wealth.
Benn reports that he has told students at ceremonies: ‘When you leave this university you will know far less that there is to be known than when you arrived.’ Benn wasn’t referring to the effects of alcohol; he meant that we cannot keep up with the growth of human knowledge.
On New Labour
Of course there is loads on the Labour Party and New Labour. Benn reports that Margaret Thatcher claimed New Labour was her greatest achievement. (In the sense that, with New Labour, traditional Labour Party values were replaced with Conservative policies.)
On nuclear weapons
Benn is against developing Trident. He describes how our nuclear weapons are dependent on the USA (because we use their technology). So we don’t have an independent nuclear deterrent. He questions whether nuclear weapons work as a deterrent for war anyway, and cites the Falklands war and various other wars. He also mentions money spent on Trident, and the disaster of a nuclear war, as you’d expect. He says that a person with good sense would not sanction the use of nuclear weapons, and he refers to some wartime officer or other to back him up. In response to this, a prime minister who supports nuclear weapons would have to reassure everyone that he or she would be prepared to use nuclear weapons. That is, the prime minister would be reassuring us that he or she is prepared to approve the killing of millions of people.