The peccadillos of Winston Churchill

Winston gives his verdict to the concept of a universal health service  free at the point of delivery

Following a few questions and misconceptions on the man himself, I thought I'd reiterate a few of them to balance things out a bit.

The grand old man of Conservative politics, Winston Churchill has been revered for telling Britain to buck up and keep going under the bombing raids of the Luftwaffe. But outside this reasonably useful propaganda work, there's a less widely-known part of dear old Winston's personal history which is often glossed over.

Starting with Churchill's support of the Kurdish gassings. This was a dirty little war in which the British state looking to keep hold of land in what is now Iraq against a substantial and violent campaign for independence, used both gas and bombings against the populace as a sort of test run for its fast-developing weaponry.

Come the hour, come the man. From the Guardian newspaper:

Quote:
Churchill was particularly keen on chemical weapons, suggesting they be used "against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment". He dismissed objections as "unreasonable". "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes... (to) spread a lively terror" In today's terms, "the Arab" needed to be shocked and awed. A good gassing might well do the job.

This, bearing in mind, was said in 1919, shortly after the horrors of the first world war and shortly before the adoption of the Geneva ban on such weapons.

Racial supremacist

By 1937 he had gone on to explain in a little more detail his views on the worth of subject peoples in his submission to the Palestine Commission, arguing:

Quote:
I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.

Drenching the Ruhr

He was back sticking it to foreign civillians again during the second world war, 20 years on from the gas ban's ratification as Britain started to gain the upper hand and send its bombers over German cities, saying:

Quote:
If the bombardment of London became a serious nuisance and great rockets with far-reaching and devastating effect fell on many centres of Government and labour, I should be prepared to do anything that would hit the enemy in a murderous place. I may certainly have to ask you to support me in using poison gas. We could drench the cities of the Ruhr and many other cities in Germany in such a way that most of the population would be requiring constant medical attention. We could stop all work at the flying bomb starting points. I do not see why we should have the disadvantages of being the gentleman while they have all the advantages of being the cad.

Apparently, the Germans weren't the only ones considering the mass gassing of civilians in the 40s. Just as well the Germans weren't a bit faster building their doodlebugs really.

Dresden

What he did go for in the end of course wasn't exactly wonderful. In what is widely (and probably wrongly, given the other activities of the British empire over the years) regarded as one of the most shameful episodes in the UK's history, between 25,000 and 40,000 people died during the firebombing of Dresden. From the Wikipedia entry on Dresden:

Quote:
Winston Churchill pressed the Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair: "I asked [last night] whether Berlin, and no doubt other large cities in east Germany, should not now be considered especially attractive targets. …Pray report to me tomorrow what is going to be done"

This is backed by the Churchill centre here, though they couch it slightly differently it is clear his cigar-stained authority lay at the heart of the action.

Meanwhile, In India

It wasn't just the unfortunates of the Axis that Churchill was happily slaughtering, he presided over some of the nastiest activities the British government has yet managed while waving his V-sign and proclaiming Britain as the beacon for All That Is Good In The World.

Quote:
When in 1942 the popular Quit India Movement threatened to disrupt the war effort, it was brutally put down with public shootings and mass whippings, torturing of protesters and burning of villages, leading even bourgeois observers to make comparisons with 'Nazi dreadfulness'. When in 1943 food shortages began as a direct result of British scorched earth policies, the War Cabinet ignored the problem, refusing to stop ordering Indian food abroad in the interests of the war effort. The resulting man-made famine in Bengal may have accounted for as many as four million deaths.

His charming response when asked about this was to castigate the Indian people for:

Quote:
Breeding like rabbits and being paid a million a day by us for doing nothing by us about the war

(Hat-tip to the ICC and a post by libcom poster cantdocartwheels there).

One war just isn't enough

Of course, his disregard for human life was not confined only to foreigners. It was Churchill, more than any other politician, who pushed for the disastrous campaign in favour of the Whites against the Bolsheviks following the great war. Taking a large British fleet and 1,600 men as Britain struggled to find the money to rebuild, he attempted to restore the Russian aristocracy to power against the wishes of the British population. After spending £100 million in money the state hadn't got, and wasting countless lives, he was only forced to admit defeat following mutinies and widespread demonstrations of discontent at home.

(For the full tale of this military debacle, try Churchill's Crusade, The British Invasion of Russia 1918-1920 by Clifford Kinvig)

Churchill's actions during the general strike:

Quote:
During the General Strike of 1926, Churchill was reported to have suggested that machine guns should be used on the striking miners. Churchill edited the Government's newspaper, the British Gazette*, and during the dispute he argued that "either the country will break the General Strike, or the General Strike will break the country." Furthermore, he was to controversially claim that the Fascism of Benito Mussolini had "rendered a service to the whole world", showing as it had "a way to combat subversive forces" - that is, he considered the regime to be a bulwark against the perceived threat of Communist revolution.

*Using paper confiscated from radical publishers, it was a simple slandering machine against the strikers.

(From this)

Further to his pro-fascist tendencies, a direct quote:

Quote:
If I had been an Italian I am sure I should have been whole-heartedly with you in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism... (Italy) has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison. Hereafter no great nation will be unprovided with an ultimate means of protection against the cancerous growth of Bolshevism.

In his own words, Churchill saw fascism as the ultimate defence against communism. His antipathy to Hitler was not based on great politics or fine motives, but on a rivalry of power. On this point, Churchill also advocated a policy of appeasement to the fascist Franco in Spain (Churchill and Spain The Survival of the Franco Regime, 1940-1945 by Richard Wigg) which directly aided him in consolidating power after his butchery of the Spanish revolutionaries despite international condemnation from around the world.

So, in summary, good line in cigars and sloganeering, yes. Greatest Briton of all time? I fucking hope not...

PS: Ooh, almost forgot, he was against the NHS too. Bit off asking the wealthy to pay for poor people's healthcare you see. Bless him.

Comments

laddiebuck
Sep 9 2008 02:23

It's perhaps worth noting, in fairness, that the quote about the gas referred to non-lethal gasses, in particular tear gas. You can see this by finding the full quote (conveniently, Wikiquote provides it).

It's also worth noting that your political analysis contradicts itself with regard to fascism, for Hitler was an archetype of fascism. Churchill initially supported the fascist movement in Italy, and Hitler's movement, and later rejected both. His behaviour throughout seems most compatible with a view that supports human rights, for he saw communism as infringing human rights, and fascism as a defence against communism. When fascism came to infringe human rights, he rejected it.

Do note that I don't wish to exonerate him. Neither the Empire nor he safeguarded human rights of other peoples, like in India. But even in India it's worth noting that his ostensible motivation throughout for wanting to stay in India was a concern that minorities would become oppressed if India became self-governing. And frankly that has come to pass. Modern India has forgotten social and geographical classes, who are systematically repressed; Pakistan is, as a corrupt and weak dictatorship, even worse. He wrote quite a lot on this topic in the 30s.

I think the most reasonable interpretation that can be put on his actions, if we view them as a whole, was that he was a genuine believer and champion of human rights and dignity, but he pursued his aims ruthlessly and often by infringing those very rights. He also believed strongly that the American and British people had an innate sense of such rights and hence felt far too much moral justification for their actions in contrast with those of other peoples.

And a final word, about racism. It is easy and common to confuse racism with a belief in tendencies of societies. Certainly nobody would argue that Western civilisation had accomplished more than Aztec civilisation before they came into contact, just as Chinese, Persian and Arabic civilisations, in their turn, dominated progress in the world for a space of time. So for instance, Kipling was almost certainly not a racist (any real reading of his works shows his sympathetic and admiring attitude toward various Indian cultures and peoples), but he was certainly a societal supremacist. With Churchill, we have less information and I certainly wouldn't feel qualified to judge.

Obviously, when presenting views which go against the grain of easy criticism, I lay myself open to the same criticism. So I should add in closing that I am very far from Churchill politically, being a social democrat (pretty far left economically, pretty liberal socially), but I do think that many of his ideas were excellent and can be learned from. He was definitely a free thinker, which is, as Orwell pointed out, something equally feared in the common and unthinking majority of politics on the left and right. Greatest Briton? No. Rich fascist? No.

Demogorgon303
Sep 9 2008 07:38

The full quote reads thus:

"I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. We have definitely adopted the position at the Peace Conference of arguing in favour of the retention of gas as a permanent method of warfare. It is sheer affectation to lacerate a man with the poisonous fragment of a bursting shell and to boggle at making his eyes water by means of lachrymatory gas.

I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those affected."

Depending on how you read the passage I've highlighted you can argue that Churchill is actually advocating both tear gas and deadly gasses - but even the most favourable interpretation of the passage shows he doesn't rule out the latter.

As for World War II, Churchill advocated the use of mustard gas against German civillians:

Quote:
Winston Churchill's Secret Poison Gas Memo

[stamp] PRIME MINISTER'S PERSONAL MINUTE

[stamp, pen] Serial No. D. 217/4

[Seal of Prime Minister]

10 Downing Street, Whitehall [gothic script]

GENERAL ISMAY FOR C.O.S. COMMITTEE [underlined]

1. I want you to think very seriously over this question of poison gas. I would not use it unless it could be shown either that (a) it was life or death for us, or (b) that it would shorten the war by a year.

2. It is absurd to consider morality on this topic when everybody used it in the last war without a word of complaint from the moralists or the Church. On the other hand, in the last war bombing of open cities was regarded as forbidden. Now everybody does it as a matter of course. It is simply a question of fashion changing as she does between long and short skirts for women.

3. I want a cold-blooded calculation made as to how it would pay us to use poison gas, by which I mean principally mustard. We will want to gain more ground in Normandy so as not to be cooped up in a small area. We could probably deliver 20 tons to their 1 and for the sake of the 1 they would bring their bomber aircraft into the area against our superiority, thus paying a heavy toll.

4. Why have the Germans not used it? Not certainly out of moral scruples or affection for us. They have not used it because it does not pay them. The greatest temptation ever offered to them was the beaches of Normandy. This they could have drenched with gas greatly to the hindrance of the troops. That they thought about it is certain and that they prepared against our use of gas is also certain. But they only reason they have not used it against us is that they fear the retaliation. What is to their detriment is to our advantage.

5. Although one sees how unpleasant it is to receive poison gas attacks, from which nearly everyone recovers, it is useless to protest that an equal amount of H. E. will not inflict greater casualties and sufferings on troops and civilians. One really must not be bound within silly conventions of the mind whether they be those that ruled in the last war or those in reverse which rule in this.

6. If the bombardment of London became a serious nuisance and great rockets with far-reaching and devastating effect fell on many centres of Government and labour, I should be prepared to do [underline] anything [stop underline] that would hit the enemy in a murderous place. I may certainly have to ask you to support me in using poison gas. We could drench the cities of the Ruhr and many other cities in Germany in such a way that most of the population would be requiring constant medical attention. We could stop all work at the flying bomb starting points. I do not see why we should have the disadvantages of being the gentleman while they have all the advantages of being the cad. There are times when this may be so but not now.

7. I quite agree that it may be several weeks or even months before I shall ask you to drench Germany with poison gas, and if we do it, let us do it one hundred per cent. In the meanwhile, I want the matter studied in cold blood by sensible people and not by that particular set of psalm-singing uniformed defeatists which one runs across now here now there. Pray address yourself to this. It is a big thing and can only be discarded for a big reason. I shall of course have to square Uncle Joe and the President; but you need not bring this into your calculations at the present time. Just try to find out what it is like on its merits.

[signed] Winston Churchill [initials]

6.7.44 [underlined]

Source: photographic copy of original 4 page memo, in Guenther W. Gellermann, "Der Krieg, der nicht stattfand", Bernard & Graefe Verlag, 1986, pp. 249-251

Rob Ray
Sep 9 2008 09:07

Well there’s a few problems with that, not least that “tear gas” (as we know it today) wasn’t brought out until the 1960s. He’s referring to mustard gas – which while not as murderous as lethal weaponry (1% is still pretty high if you’re inflicting it on mass civilian targets), is exactly the same stuff as was banned.

Churchill’s viewpoint on fascism did not change because of humanitarian reasons – he did not at any point advocate the invasion of Franco’s Spain for example, as I point out in the blog, yet we know he was no shrinking violet when it came to advocating military action. What changed was Britain’s position in relation to the Axis powers. It’s very difficult, when you’re hinging your war propaganda on them being the bad guys, to be praising their politics when you’re PM. He may have been shocked by the holocaust later on, but the point being made is that he consistently saw fascism as a useful political ideology and was never too bothered about eradicating it (he swapped intelligence with Franco both during and after WW2, and along with the US saw Spain as a bulwark against Russia). To say he rejected it when it ‘infringed human rights’ is just meaningless nonsense. I also didn’t say he was a fascist, I said that he had pro-fascist tendencies.

He clearly wasn’t a believer in human rights and dignity. He was prepared to let millions starve in India, was quite happy to gas people if he didn’t get his way, and was prepared to gun down strikers if they looked like winning. As much as it might suit the idea of Churchill as a nice guy who made bad decisions, it’s not ‘reasonable’ to say that he believed in human rights when he was prepared to gun down unarmed people were striking over anti-miner policies designed purely to provoke a conflict with the state. He didn’t believe the British had a greater idea of ‘rights’, he believed non-whites simply shouldn’t have any!

As for your attempt to paint him as a non-racist, I actually quote him saying

Quote:
I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place

How is this in the slightest bit confusing? He does not talk about a higher-grade society, he talks about a higher-grade race. It’s not like this was an uncommon viewpoint at the time, particularly on the right.

Frankly I couldn’t care less if you’re left, right or fash. What you’re writing is apologetics. If you like individual ideas he may have had, fair enough, but that doesn’t excuse the man’s exceedingly long rap-sheet. I like some of Bakunin’s ideas, but I also acknowledge the guy was an anti-semite who was rather too fond of mindless violence.

laddiebuck
Sep 12 2008 22:57

Thanks for your clarification of the gas question. I understand it now.

The memo you cite about Germany makes it clear in the very first point how hesitant he would be to use it, by the way. It doesn't seem any harsher, for instance, than the MAD doctrine.

On the question of race, there is an old sense to 'race' that simply means a nation or people. I've used the term by accident in the past to refer to nations. The question is that it's not necessarily a genetic divide but a societal divide. But this is subjective.

Yes, what I wrote is apologetics. To be more accurate, I try to find a common theme in anyone's actions, because I believe that the closest we can get to their thoughts is by reducing the set of their actions to underlying motives. And the common theme I swing to in Churchill is the real question here.

You say the common theme is one of power and oppression (do correct me if you phrase it better). I think the common theme is one of human rights tempered by bad decisions. Neither interpretation changes the facts; neither detracts from any of his positive acts or excuses any his negative acts. But nevertheless it helps us understand the truth, and perhaps reinterpret those acts which don't fit the mould. But because I believe in a different underlying theme than you do, I reinterpret your interpretations, and in this case that happens to be apologetics.

So why do I think this? In India, as I said, his chief fear of home rule was that oppression of minorities would occur. In defence of this view he was prepared to throw thousands in jail or let others starve. He saw communism and workers' movements as threatening the fabric of British government and society (which under the Whig view of politics could never be good), and opposed them.

A product of a violent time and strict age, combined with a very rosy view of British politics and purpose, he made decisions which abused human rights, like the gas question, the Indian question, and the opposition of labour movements and welfare.

It's necessary not only to judge his sincerity but his overall effect. Were human rights in India better immediately before or after 1947? Were the tactics the British employed in WWII justified? Is organised labour a good idea? We can argue about these, but because of what my answers -- briefly: before; yes overall; yes -- are, I think he was overall a furtherer of human rights.

Rob Ray
Sep 13 2008 08:39

It's not in any way similar to MAD, that's an absurd suggestion - one is a retaliatory measure to a nuclear strike, the other is Churchill saying that if Britain started to lose he'd be happy to subject civillians to gassings. Just to illustrate what this actually means:

wrote:
The skin of victims of mustard gas blistered, their eyes became very sore and they began to vomit. Mustard gas caused internal and external bleeding and attacked the bronchial tubes, stripping off the mucous membrane. This was extremely painful and most soldiers had to be strapped to their beds. It usually took a person four or five weeks to die of mustard gas exposure.

One nurse, Vera Brittain, wrote: "I wish those people who talk about going on with this war whatever it costs could see the soldiers suffering from mustard gas poisoning. Great mustard-coloured blisters, blind eyes, all sticky and stuck together, always fighting for breath, with voices a mere whisper, saying that their throats are closing and they know they will choke

I really don't understand why you think this was some sort of reasonable proposition on Churchill's part - this stuff was so nasty that of all the horrible weapons of World War One, it was the only thing that was universally banned.

To reiterate, he did not advocate this in response to gassing, or nukes, but as a response to the possibility of increased levels of bombing from the Germans - ie. levels approaching those already being employed by the RAF (bear in mind here, it was also the RAF, on his orders, who started bombing civvies in the first place, deliberately provoking the Germans to switch over from bombing airbases). When they didn't manage this, he went for firebombing a wooden city instead.

Taking off the rose-tinted specs for a minute, doesn't this seem a bit on the bloodthirsty side, to threaten gas and raze a city when you're already winning (the poison gas memo was written July 6 1944 - after the normandy landings)? And before you start arguing he wanted to end the war quickly, Churchill initially refused to accept surrender from Germany - because he wanted to beat the Russians to Berlin. He was quite happy to spin things out when he fancied it.

The idea of Churchill being driven by a belief in human rights simply doesn't tally with his actions, nor do those of the rest of the British government. The flip-flops of the right only make sense if you look at the bottom line. Britain wasn't interested in war until it became clear that German ambitions extended to creating a rival superpower in the heart of Europe. It had little interest in taking in the Jews (and indeed actively turned refugees away) when the Nazis came to power* but was quite happy to use their plight in post-war propaganda to retrospectively justify its own atrocities.

How do you interpret his comments after millions died that he didn't care because they hadn't contributed to the war effort then? Is he humanely saying 'fuck them, they breed like rabbits'? Your interpretation makes no sense, it's just attempting to put a smiling face on unforgivable actions. Churchill didn't try and break the miners to make life better for the majority, then majority were telling him what they needed and he said he would rather gun them down than listen.

I mean take it out of context for a moment. If you were talking about a man who was prepared to gun down his own people, liberally use poison gas in the middle east, terrorise and starve millions in order to maintain his power base and who consistently argued for a vicious strain of nationalism which promoted war with other cultures to shore up national interests, what would you do with them?

The Iraqi government thought hanging was a good idea.

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*I should say here I'm not accusing Churchill of anti-semitism, indeed he was so much a fan of the jews that he 'gave' them Israel, a decision which anyone with an ounce of sense should have realised would end in horrific bloodshed - but then we know what his views on Palestinians were).

laddiebuck
Sep 13 2008 10:42

There are contradictions in what you say too, not just in what the right does. For instance, it is hard to argue that a mustard gas injury is worse than that inflicted by a machine-gun. Yet gas was banned, machine guns were not. Was this out of any humane consideration? Clearly no. It is just because you can defend against guns, but you can't defend against gas. The same goes for biological weapons today. These technologies are disruptive; they give power to the underdog, so the established powers run up propaganda and get them banned. Some weapons are banned for humane considerations, but gas isn't one of them.

Indeed the whole preceding paragraph is merely a restatement of Churchill's quote above on gas, and the position the British took at the Peace Conference.

You also note that Britain turned away Jewish immigration before the war. Churchill wasn't in power at the time, and indeed ironically he complained about this practice vocally. Churchill, and hell, even Mosley, certainly disagreed with Hitler on the treatment of minorities, however much at one time or another they admired his fascist politics. Again, Britain wasn't interested in war with Germany (although arguably this was simply war-weariness, as they were eager enough for the first war), but Churchill certainly advocated armament and later forceful resistance of Germany, consistently and loudly through the 30s.

The memo you cite is an awkward one to quote as it contradicts itself. The first line states one condition for using gas would be a life-and-death matter. (This is why I pointed to MAD.) But point 6, as you quote, states merely that increased bombing would be a sufficient condition. I agree, that's shameful.

I certainly don't wish to put any positive interpretation about his comment on the Indian dead and them breeding like rabbits. It's of course entirely shameful. It also contradicts what he had said not 10 years earlier during Quit India about protecting the Indian minorities.

As to the miners: what is a majority? The political establishment certainly didn't support the miners as a majority. Yes, I do think that he thought he was acting to protect the continuity of existing institutions. As before, I simply chalk it up to the rosy Whig view of politics.

And if we get down to contexts, if you were talking about a man who warned of a coming danger through political opposition, then took the reins when that danger manifested itself and others could not deal with it, leading his nation to victory*, what would you do with him? I forget the exact ancient parallel, but I believe the Athenians erected a big statue of him. (This is, after all, the conventional view in opposition to which you wrote the article in the first place.) The point is, you cannot condemn Churchill simply and without qualification, just as you cannot praise him simply and without qualification.

I tried to find a common theme to his actions. You've shown me that my original view only holds up if we assume the greatest calluousness and pride in his judgement. This still seems to me the most logical view. In fact, it's even better as a theory than I first thought, because it also explains his well-known, erratic callous insensitivity toward his immediate subordinates, as well as his well-known self-assuredness.

--

* Worth noting that this was more than a propaganda role; he was responsible actively for military and supplies planning.

Rob Ray
Jul 5 2010 13:18

Just a quick link, I've done a belated followup on the Indian aspect for Jim Jay's blog.

Boris Badenov
Jul 5 2010 14:33

Churchill supported Mussolini because he believed in "human rights". Obviously there is nothing wrong with that argument if you actually believe that fascism started out peaceful and nice, unlike the evil bolshevism. FFS.
Actually compared to Mussolini and Hitler, Churchill was the most unapologetically authoritarian; his "fascism" was simply built on good old British imperialist jingoism, and did not need any ideological scapegoats like Jews, reds or whatever. And as his attitude on the general strike also shows, he believed that workers should always do what they are told by their social superiors, a belief that he shared with the anti-"human rights" dictators of Germany, Italy and Russia.
By the way, this is not mentioned in the article, but Churchill was also personally responsible for the murder of two anarchists during the siege of Sidney Street, when he gave the order that the house in which the anarchists were hiding should be set on fire (which it was).

gypsy
Jul 7 2010 08:50
Vlad336 wrote:
By the way, this is not mentioned in the article, but Churchill was also personally responsible for the murder of two anarchists during the siege of Sidney Street, when he gave the order that the house in which the anarchists were hiding should be set on fire (which it was).

Churchill was narrowly missed by a bullet to the head in this episode if my memory serves me right. What a shame it didnt connect.

shug
Jul 7 2010 16:45

Yup. It's curious how Hitler and Stalin's interference in their respective military's operations are rightly seen as disastrous yet Churchill's is downplayed. His moronic insistance on the Gallipoli campaign in WW1 saw him disgraced - only for the British bourgeoisie to turn to him again in WW2. Thanks to his inteference, the British forces suffered the Norway fiasco, Greece, Dieppe, Anzio - indeed the whole Italian campaign (only a fuckwit could believe that a long peninsula with a spine of mountains like Italy was the 'soft underbelly of Europe').

petey
Jul 7 2010 17:56
Quote:
Bernard Porter refers to Carlo D’Este’s account of Churchill’s ‘much self-publicised “great escape” from the Boers in Pretoria’. Since Churchill himself gave at least three different versions of this story, it has long been time for the truth to be revealed. My grandfather was a fellow POW and my father passed his version on to me in a letter many years ago. My grandfather and others had ‘made a plan to escape, and dug a tunnel under the wire. Churchill, regarded as utterly unreliable, was rigidly excluded from the plan, but managed to discover the escape was planned for a certain night. The night before, he managed to get through the tunnel and escape, destroying all chance of escape for the 20 to 30 men who had dug the tunnel, as Churchill’s absence was immediately noted at roll-call in the morning.’ It appears that two others, Haldane and Brockie, claimed that they had been going to go with him but were left in the lurch. ‘It did not enter my head that he would play the low-down game of going without us,’ Haldane said.

you need a log in for the article, but all the letters are free and worth reading
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n16/bernard-porter/mule-races-and-pillow-fights

baboon
Jul 9 2010 12:25

Churchill was no "fuckwit" but one of the most intelligent, murderous and ruthless expressions of the bourgeoisie. To criticise because troops under his ultimate command were wiped out is to miss the point.

I've read somewhere on these boards that Churchill was in favour of the trade unions, his only problem being that "there wasn't enough of them".

Samotnaf
Jul 10 2010 04:41

The following from You make plans - we make history elaborates some of the above

Quote:
One of the best incidents at an RTS event was, famously, the punk makeover of the genocidal Winston Churchill (May 2000), his statue graffitied, which was later made into a great sticker under which was written: "THIS WAS HIS FINEST HOUR". One of his lesser known contributions to being "Britain's greatest Prime Minister" (Ken Livingdeath) was his deliberate mass starvation of the Bengalis during World War II. When Churchill requisitioned the Bengalis boats, essential for the distribution of rice, Earl Mountbatten made arrangements for 10% of the space on his battleships to be put aside for rice distribution. Churchill promptly withdrew 10% of Mountbatten's battleships. 3 million died. "They'll reproduce themselves soon enough", Churchill was meant to have said. With the possibility of 3 billion or more dying in the future apocalypse, today's Malthusians hope the reproduction process will be far slower.

Phoenix note, not in original: When W.C. (who as Home Secretary before World War I had ordered the killing of Tonypandy striking miners) died in 1965, his death was celebrated throughout South Wales.

In fact, though, I think that nobody was killed at Tonypandy (however, the evidence on the internet seems to be contradictory - surprise surprise) , but 2 rioters were shot dead (with Churchill as Home Secretary) at nearby Llanelli after strikers at Llanelli had held up the trains at one of the level crossings in the town (following the killings, the house and business premises of one of the magistrates, who had been present at the reading of the Riot Act that had led to their deaths, was attacked by a large crowd). Also, during The Great Unrest, 1910 - 12, Churchill was behind the order to send gunships up the Mersey. And somebody told me that when there was a major miners' strike during this period, Churchill ordered the Yorkshire pits to be surrounded by machine gun nests. After his electoral defeat in '45, or even before, he became a One Nation Tory, supporting the Welfare State (his grandson, also Winston Churchill, played the sympathy-for-the-miners card in 1992/3, criticising the Major govt's closure plan , so giving far too many miners a feeling that the ruling class were divided about this and that somehow they could look to even right-wing MPs to save the pits... but that's another story) .

shug
Jul 10 2010 09:46
Quote:
To criticise because troops under his ultimate command were wiped out is to miss the point.

. So what point would that be then? I rather took it for granted that on this site posters/readers understand that all bourgeois leaders wiped out their troops. The point being made was that time and again Churchill imposed stupid/reckless decisions on his chiefs of staff. - to the despair of many of them. Try reading Allan Brooke's accounts of his years trying to moderate Churchill's idiocies.

baboon
Jul 10 2010 11:11

Take nothing for granted shug. Every imperialist war involves stupid/reckless decisions and decisions that result in the enormous waste of proletarian life and the lives of the masses. Capitalist war is basically irrational.

Churchill was intelligent because he understood the need for state capitalist measures to confront the working class. He understood the need for counter-revolutionary activity to attack the revolutionary wave and he understood the need to use the most widespread terror in the defence of the interests of British imperialism.

Churchill's Board of Trade (1908-10) incorporated an army of trade union officials and advanced measures to promote social programmes and to spy on the working class in the factories. He was prominent in the Liberal's welfare programmes seeing the need for such buffers to prevent "strife of class against class".

He increased and extended British military activity against Russia after the revolution, supported Mussolini and admired Hitler for his German nationalism.
He was willing to inflict the greatest terror and murder on civilian population, manoeuvred adroitly to defend British foreign policy in and around Europe (the 400-year old policy of the British bourgeoisie) and would defend British imperialism to the last drop of proletarian blood.

shug
Jul 10 2010 11:47
Quote:
Take nothing for granted shug

Thanks for patronising me. The original point I made was that - as well as the other points being made on this thread - Churchill's military involvement was often disastrous, something most WW2 historians agree on. Do try and keep up.

Bozeau
Feb 9 2011 03:03

Rob,

Glad to see you exercising your freedom of speech. I find that a cursory search of the internet shows that tear gas was invented in 1917 and first used on the Germans in WWI. Tear gas isn't a blistering agent. Your comment doesn't cut the mustard here.

Steven.
Feb 9 2011 09:59
Bozeau wrote:
Rob,

Glad to see you exercising your freedom of speech. I find that a cursory search of the internet shows that tear gas was invented in 1917 and first used on the Germans in WWI. Tear gas isn't a blistering agent. Your comment doesn't cut the mustard here.

what has this got to do with anything?

Rob Ray
Feb 9 2011 11:30

He's trying to argue that I'm wrong when I say:

Quote:
“tear gas” (as we know it today) wasn’t brought out until the 1960s. He’s referring to mustard gas – which while not as murderous as lethal weaponry (1% is still pretty high if you’re inflicting it on mass civilian targets), is exactly the same stuff as was banned.

However I did quite clearly put in brackets "as we know it today." He's right that a form of tear gas, White Cross, was deployed during World War One, but it wasn't particularly powerful, hasn't been in use for decades and as Demagorgon points out slightly later on, almost certainly wasn't what Churchill was referring to given his MO.

At worst I guess I could be accused of being misleading - but then again given Bozeau's tactic of picking on a very minor part of a very long post and then throwing in "exercising your freedom of speech" to try and make it sound like the rest of the post is unworthy of more than a patronising one-liner, his pot mouth can piss my black kettle ass.

Mark.
May 7 2011 17:20

Another Churchill quote

"I have always said that if Britain were defeated in a war I hoped we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our rightful position among nations.”

New York Times 7th November 1938

BanjoRed91
Apr 22 2012 21:16

Racist troll alert

Tart
Apr 22 2012 22:07

I was told by a man in a pub (and therefore believe) that Churchill wanted gunships to bombard the Gorbals to force workers to withdraw from the city centre- I know he was Home Secretary (Churchill not the man in the pub) but I think this would be the Scottish secretary's call - does anyone know if there is a grain of truth in the story?

tastybrain
Apr 29 2012 01:15
laddiebuck wrote:
It's perhaps worth noting, in fairness, that the quote about the gas referred to non-lethal gasses, in particular tear gas. You can see this by finding the full quote (conveniently, Wikiquote provides it).

It's also worth noting that your political analysis contradicts itself with regard to fascism, for Hitler was an archetype of fascism. Churchill initially supported the fascist movement in Italy, and Hitler's movement, and later rejected both. His behaviour throughout seems most compatible with a view that supports human rights, for he saw communism as infringing human rights, and fascism as a defence against communism. When fascism came to infringe human rights, he rejected it.

Do note that I don't wish to exonerate him. Neither the Empire nor he safeguarded human rights of other peoples, like in India. But even in India it's worth noting that his ostensible motivation throughout for wanting to stay in India was a concern that minorities would become oppressed if India became self-governing. And frankly that has come to pass. Modern India has forgotten social and geographical classes, who are systematically repressed; Pakistan is, as a corrupt and weak dictatorship, even worse. He wrote quite a lot on this topic in the 30s.

I think the most reasonable interpretation that can be put on his actions, if we view them as a whole, was that he was a genuine believer and champion of human rights and dignity, but he pursued his aims ruthlessly and often by infringing those very rights. He also believed strongly that the American and British people had an innate sense of such rights and hence felt far too much moral justification for their actions in contrast with those of other peoples.

And a final word, about racism. It is easy and common to confuse racism with a belief in tendencies of societies. Certainly nobody would argue that Western civilisation had accomplished more than Aztec civilisation before they came into contact, just as Chinese, Persian and Arabic civilisations, in their turn, dominated progress in the world for a space of time. So for instance, Kipling was almost certainly not a racist (any real reading of his works shows his sympathetic and admiring attitude toward various Indian cultures and peoples), but he was certainly a societal supremacist. With Churchill, we have less information and I certainly wouldn't feel qualified to judge.

Obviously, when presenting views which go against the grain of easy criticism, I lay myself open to the same criticism. So I should add in closing that I am very far from Churchill politically, being a social democrat (pretty far left economically, pretty liberal socially), but I do think that many of his ideas were excellent and can be learned from. He was definitely a free thinker, which is, as Orwell pointed out, something equally feared in the common and unthinking majority of politics on the left and right. Greatest Briton? No. Rich fascist? No.

Pardon me but you are fucking naive.

communal_pie
Apr 29 2012 21:27

I think a summary assessment of 'protecting minorities in india' would be that the British partition of India was an event that caused historic slaughter and unnecessary bloodshed on an unprecedented scale.

Anyone know why? It's pretty obvious, it becomes more obvious when you look at all the other places divided into two, although surely India must rate as one of the worst examples. Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims chopped to bits..whole families.

The protecting minorities nonsense just is an absolute nonsense, Churchill was as dishonest as they come and in fact his words never shook hands with his actions.

communal_pie
Apr 29 2012 21:28

And let me be clear, there have been some politicians who tried their best, thought they were doing the right thing when they hadn't actually managed - This man was not one of them

Steven.
Aug 21 2013 14:48

A new book on Churchill by an academic looks at his speeches. They are frequently remembered as great things which inspired the masses, however his research discovered that this largely was not the case at the time. Although afterwards, many people remembered this being the case, although these were false memories. For example, his most famous "fight them on the beaches" speech, which most people remember, was never actually publicly broadcast until after the war ended!
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2398032/Winston-Churchills-wartime-speeches-did-inspire-thought-drunk-famous-finest-hour-address-claims-academic.html

Steven.
Dec 5 2015 11:29
Auld-bod
Dec 6 2015 08:59

Churchill locks up a dirty little secret.

The Bari Raid 1943
How a devastating air raid on Bari during WW2 led to the deadly release of mustard gas.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p038yqqb#in=collectiontongue02prmgr

Steven.
Dec 6 2015 10:53

Because of smilies you'll need to quote the above post before you can get the proper URL

Auld-bod
Dec 6 2015 10:56

Hi Steven, I couldn't get rid of the smiles, though the link works for me if I click on the 'blue' bit.