Tony Benn’s letter to Khrushchev, ‘Pravda’, January 1957.   Leave a comment

Tony Benn's letter to Krushchev, 'Pravda', January 1957

In 1956, at the time of the Hungarian Uprising, Tony Benn was about thirty-one, and had only been an MP for about six years. With Eden’s government in power and the Suez Crisis in full flow, little was done to aid Hungary, as Soviet troops swept into Budapest in far greater numbers than they had done at the end of the Second World War just twelve years earlier. The Western powers made ineffective protests at the United Nations, but not even the USA, not involved in Suez, with its Eisenhower ‘doctrine’ of supporting those interested in ‘rolling back’ the frontiers of communism, came to the aid of the ‘freedom-fighters’ they had actively encouraged. In France, where the Communists remained strong, and to some extent in Britain, the Left reacted slowly and weakly, still somewhat starry-eyed about post-Stalinist Russia. Five MPs, including Antony Wedgwood Benn MP, signed this letter to the Editor of Pravda, the Russian Government newspaper, Politely worded as a series of questions, it was published in January 1957, though probably written, translated and sent in November.

We now know, from the US Department of State archives, that the US was indeed promising support before and during what was, however, a largely spontaneous, popular uprising, beginning on 23 October. However, no mention was ever made of arms supplies or military aid, even in ‘unofficial’ documents, as far as we know.

This letter remains one of the few documents concerning the Uprising to have penetrated the wall of diplomatic silence between West and East. Tony Benn’s involvement in it (from the incisive, well-informed and careful style it seems like he may well have penned it himself) bears testimony to the length of his support for the causes of freedom-fighters everywhere.

Posted March 14, 2014 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

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