Was Winston Churchill a supporter or an opponent of Fascism?

Was Winston Churchill a supporter or an opponent of Fascism?

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To many people this might appear to be a daft question. They will all remember that Winston Churchill, as prime minister, led the fight against those well known fascists, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler during the Second World War. Most people will be aware of his attacks on Neville Chamberlain and his policy of appeasement that is reflected in his wise words: "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile - hoping it will eat him last.” However, he did not actually say that. What he said was "Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last." The date of the quotation is also important, it was made during the war on 20th January, 1940. (1)

The truth is that for most of the 1930s Churchill was an advocate of appeasement. As late as July, 1938, he was involved in his own negotiations with representatives of Hitler's government in Nazi Germany. During a meeting with Albert Forster, the Nazi Gauleiter of Danzig, he asked Churchill whether German discriminatory legislation against the Jews would prevent an understanding with Britain. Churchill replied that he thought "it was a hindrance and an irritation, but probably not a complete obstacle to a working agreement." (2)

The historical record shows that Churchill was a great admirer of fascism. This information can not only be found in private letters and diary entries, but in his speeches and articles he produced in the 1920s and 1930s. Most of his biographers, except Boris Johnson, in his terrible book, The Churchill Factor (2014), have accepted this embarrassing fact, but they have tended to underplay its importance. But as the author of the highly sympathetic biography, Churchill: A Study in Greatness (2001) has pointed out, Churchill was "not an anti-Fascist until very late in the day". (3)

On the outbreak of the First World War the leadership of Italian Socialist Party opposed Italian involvement in the conflict. Benito Mussolini, one of its members, who disagreed with this strategy, left the party and formed the Fasci Rivoluzionari d'Azione Internazionalista. Members of the organization called themselves Fascisti (Fascists). The movement was very small and and angry socialists made it difficult for them to hold public meetings. These early hostilities between the Fascists and socialists shaped Mussolini's ideas of the nature of Fascism in its support of political violence. (4)

In 1917, Sir Samuel Hoare, the Conservative Party MP for Chelsea, and a member of the right-wing Anti-Socialist Union, was also MI5's man in Rome. He arranged for Mussolini to be paid £100 week to help ensure Italy continued to fight alongside the allies in the war by publishing propaganda in his newspaper. He was also willing to send in his men, to "persuade'' peace protesters to stay at home. According to the historian, Peter Martland, who discovered details of the deal struck with the future dictator, said: "Britain's least reliable ally in the war at the time was Italy after revolutionary Russia's pullout from the conflict. Mussolini was paid £100 a week from the autumn of 1917 for at least a year to keep up the pro-war campaigning - equivalent to about £6,000 a week today... The last thing Britain wanted were pro-peace strikes bringing the factories in Milan to a halt. It was a lot of money to pay a man who was a journalist at the time, but compared to the £4m Britain was spending on the war every day, it was petty cash." (5)

During this period Mussolini developed his theory of fascism and the corporate state. Mussolini wrote that fascism is the opposite of Marxism, which explains history simply as the conflict of interests. The Fascist denies the economic conception of history and the idea of class war. Mussolini argued for the Corporate State where the ruling party acts as a mediator between the workers, capitalists and other prominent state interests by institutionally incorporating them into the ruling mechanism. (6)

In May 1921 General Election the Italian Socialist Party won 24.7 per cent of the vote. The liberal, left of centre, Italian People's Party was second with 20.4 per cent and a right-wing nationalist coalition was third with 19.1 per cent. The Communist Party on Italy won over 4.6 per cent. Luigi Facta, of the IPP became the prime minister. Mussolini now attempted to unite right-wing forces by establishing the National Fascist Party in November, 1921. This was instrumental in directing and popularizing support for Mussolini's ideology. One of Mussolini's close confidants, Dino Grandi, formed armed squads of war veterans called blackshirts with the goal of restoring order to the streets of Italy. This resulted in armed clashes with communists, socialists, and anarchists at parades and demonstrations. (7)

On 28th October 1922, about 30,000 Fascist blackshirts, led by Benito Mussolini, gathered in Rome to demand the resignation of Luigi Facta and the appointment of a new Fascist government. King Victor Emmanuel III refused the government request to declare martial law, which led to Facta's resignation. The King then handed over power to Mussolini who enjoyed wide support in the military and among the industrial and agrarian elites, while the King and the conservative establishment were afraid of a possible communist revolution. (8)

Giacomo Matteotti, the leader of the Unitary Socialist Party, was murdered by fascists on 10th June 1924. The death of Matteotti sparked widespread criticism of Fascism. However, Mussolini defended the violence used against socialists and communists. He claimed that Fascism was the "superb passion of the best youth of Italy" and that "all the violence" was his responsibility, because he had created the climate of violence. He admitted that the murderers were Fascists of "high station" and "I assume, I alone, the political, moral, historical responsibility for everything that has happened." (9)

A law passed on 24th December 1925, transformed Mussolini's government into a legal dictatorship. In the same year, an electoral law abolished parliamentary elections. The Italian Socialist Party and the Italian Communist Party were banned and on 8th November, 1926, Mussolini drew up a list of politicians to be arrested. This included Antonio Gramsci, who was accused of provoking class hatred and civil war. Gramsci was found guilty and he was later to die in prison. (10)

Winston Churchill was a great admirer of Benito Mussolini and welcomed both his anti-socialism and his authoritarian way of organising and disciplining the Italians. He visited the country in January 1927 and wrote to his wife, Clementine Churchill, about his first impressions of Mussolini's Italy: "This country gives the impression of discipline, order, goodwill, smiling faces. A happy strict school... The Fascists have been saluting in their impressive manner all over the place." (11)

Churchill met Mussolini and gave a very positive account of him at a press conference held in Rome. Churchill claimed he had been "charmed" by his "gentle and simple bearing" and praised the way "he thought of nothing but the lasting good... of the Italian people." He added that it was "quite absurd to suggest that the Italian Government does not stand upon a popular basis or that it is not upheld by the active and practical assent of the great masses." Finally, he addressed the suppression of left-wing political parties: "If I had been an Italian, I am sure that I should have been whole-heartedly with you from the start to the finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism." (12)

Churchill had been a long time opponent of democracy. At Harrow School he studied the arguments against democracy put forward by Plato and Aristotle. As Aristotle pointed out: "When quarrels and complaints arise, it is when people who are equal have not got equal shares." One solution to this is to introduce democracy but Aristotle warned about the dangers of this system: "Democracy is when the indigent (poor), and not the men of property, are the rulers." This of course is unpopular with the ruling class. Aristotle believed the best system is when you have magnanimous rulers. "The magnanimous man, since he deserves most, must be good, in the highest degree; for the better man always deserves more, and the best man most. Therefore the truly magnanimous man must be good. And greatness in every virtue would seem to be characteristic of the magnanimous man." Aristotle then goes on to suggest that monarchy is the best form of government, and aristocracy the next best. Monarchs and aristocrats can be "magnanimous", but ordinary citizens cannot. (13)

Of course, by the time Churchill became involved in politics, Britain had accepted a limited democracy with most men having the vote. In the first volume of his autobiography, Churchill wrote: "All experience goes to show that once the vote has been given to everyone and what is called full democracy has been achieved, the whole political system is very speedily broken up and swept away." (14) Churchill told his son that democracy might destroy past achievements and that future historians would probably record "that within a generation of the poor silly people all getting the votes they clamoured for they squandered the treasure which five centuries of wisdom and victory had amassed." (15)

Winston Churchill disagreed with women having the vote. As a young man he argued: "I shall unswervingly oppose this ridiculous movement (to give women the vote)... Once you give votes to the vast numbers of women who form the majority of the community, all power passes to their hands." His wife, Clementine Churchill, was a supporter of votes for women and after marriage he did become more sympathetic but was not convinced that it should happen. When a reference was made at a dinner party to the action of certain suffragettes in chaining themselves to railings and swearing to stay there until they got the vote, Churchill's reply was: "I might as well chain myself to St Thomas's Hospital and say I would not move till I have had a baby." However, at the time he was member of the Liberal Party government that had promised women the vote and could not express these opinions in public. (16)

Churchill, as Home Secretary played a leading role in preventing women achieving the vote. Under pressure from the Women's Social and Political Union in 1911, the Liberal government introduced the Conciliation Bill that was designed to conciliate the suffragist movement by giving a limited number of women the vote, according to their property holdings and marital status. However, Churchill argued in the House of Commons against the measure on the grounds that it discriminated against working-class women: "The more I study the Bill the more astonished I am that such a large number of respected Members of Parliament should have found it possible to put their names to it. And, most of all, I was astonished that Liberal and Labour Members should have associated themselves with it. It is not merely an undemocratic Bill; it is worse. It is an anti-democratic Bill. It gives an entirely unfair representation to property, as against persons.... Of the 18,000 women voters it is calculated that 90,000 are working women, earning their living. What about the other half? The basic principle of the Bill is to deny votes to those who are upon the whole the best of their sex. We are asked by the Bill to defend the proposition that a spinster of means living in the interest of man-made capital is to have a vote, and the working man's wife is to be denied a vote even if she is a wage-earner and a wife." (17)

After leaving the Liberal Party in 1924 Churchill became Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Conservative Party government. Stanley Baldwin, the prime minister, wanted the party to develop a more liberal image and in March 1927 he suggested the enfranchisement of nearly five million women between the ages of twenty-one and thirty. This measure meant that women would constitute almost 53% of the British electorate. The Daily Mail complained that these impressionable young females would be easily manipulated by the Labour Party. (18)

Churchill was totally opposed to the move and argued that the affairs of the country ought not be put into the hands of a female majority. In order to avoid giving the vote to all adults he proposed that the vote be taken away from all men between twenty-one and thirty. Churchill lost the argument and in Cabinet and asked for a formal note of dissent to be entered in the minutes. There was little opposition in Parliament to the bill and it became law on 2nd July 1928. As a result, all women over the age of 21 could now vote in elections. (19)

Churchill's handling of the economy was blamed for the Conservative government's defeat in the 1929 General Election. Churchill's opposition to the party's policy on India also upset Stanley Baldwin, who was attempting to make the Conservatives a centre party. In 1931 when Baldwin, joined the National Government, he refused to allow Churchill to join the team because his views were considered to be too extreme. This included his idea that "democracy is totally unsuited to India" because they were "humble primitives". When the Viceroy of India, Edward Wood, told him that his opinions were out of date and that he ought to meet some Indians in order to understand their views, he rejected the suggestion: "I am quite satisfied with my views of India. I don't want them disturbed by any bloody Indian." (20)

In an article published in the Evening Standard in January, 1934, he declared that with the advent of universal suffrage the political and social class to which he belonged was losing its control over affairs and "a universal suffrage electorate with a majority of women voters" would be unable to preserve the British form of government. His solution was to go back to the nineteenth-century system of plural voting - those he deemed suitable would be given extra votes in order to outweigh the influence of women and the working class and produce the answer he wanted at General Elections. (21)

Churchill gave support to Benito Mussolini in his foreign adventures. On 3rd October 1935, Mussolini sent 400,000 soldiers to invade Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Haile Selassie, the ruler of appealed to the League of Nations for help, delivering an address that made him a worldwide figure. As might have been expected, given his views of black people, Churchill had little sympathy for one of the two last surviving independent African countries. He told the House of Commons: "No one can keep up the pretence that Abyssinia is a fit, worthy and equal member of a league of civilised nations." (22)

As the majority of the Ethiopian population lived in rural towns, Italy faced continued resistance. Haile Selassie fled into exile and went to live in England. Mussolini was able to proclaim the Empire of Ethiopia and the assumption of the imperial title by the Italian king Victor Emmanuel III. The League of Nations condemned Italy's aggression and imposed economic sanctions in November 1935, but the sanctions were largely ineffective since they did not ban the sale of oil or close the Suez Canal, that was under the control of the British. Despite the illegal methods employed by Mussolini, Churchill remained a loyal supporter. He told the Anti-Socialist Union that Mussolini was "the greatest lawgiver among living men". (23) He also wrote in The Sunday Chronicle that Mussolini was "a really great man". (24)

Sir Samuel Hoare, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, joined with Pierre Laval, the prime minister of France, in an effort to resolve the crisis created by the Italian invasion of Abyssinia. The secret agreement, known as the Hoare-Laval Pact, proposed that Italy would receive two-thirds of the territory it conquered as well as permission to enlarge existing colonies in East Africa. In return, Abyssinia, was to receive a narrow strip of territory and access to the sea. This was "the policy that Churchill had favoured all along". (25)

Details of the Hoare-Laval plan was leaked to the press on 10th December, 1935. Clement Attlee, the leader of the Labour Party, moved a vote of censure. He accused Stanley Baldwin of winning the 1935 General Election on one policy and pursuing another. "There is the question of the honour of this country, and there is the honour of the Prime Minister... If you turn and run away from the aggressor, you kill the League, and you do worse than that... you kill all faith in the word of honour of this country." (26)

Sir Austen Chamberlain, the Conservative MP, condemned the Pact and said: "Gentlemen do not behave in such a way". The Conservative Chief Whip told Baldwin: "Our men won't stand for it". The Government withdrew the plan, and Hoare was forced to resign. Churchill decided to keep out of the debate in case it put him in a bad light. Attlee wrote to his brother: "I fear that we are in for a bad time. The Government has no policy and no convictions. I have never seen a collection of ministers more hopeless after so short a time since an election." (27)

Adolf Hitler knew that both France and Britain were militarily stronger than Germany. However, their failure to take action against Italy, convinced him that they were unwilling to go to war. He therefore decided to break another aspect of the Treaty of Versailles by sending German troops into the Rhineland. The German generals were very much against the plan, claiming that the French Army would win a victory in the military conflict that was bound to follow this action. Hitler ignored their advice and on 1st March, 1936, three German battalions marched into the Rhineland. Hitler later admitted: "The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even a moderate resistance." (28)

The British government accepted Hitler's Rhineland coup. Sir Anthony Eden, the new foreign secretary, informed the French that the British government was not prepared to support military action. The chiefs of staff felt Britain was in no position to go to war with Germany over the issue. The Rhineland invasion was not seen by the British government as an act of unprovoked aggression but as the righting of an injustice left behind by the Treaty of Versailles. Eden apparently said that "Hitler was only going into his own back garden." (29)

Winston Churchill agreed with the government position. In an article in the Evening Standard he praised the French for their restraint: "instead of retaliating with arms, as the previous generation would have, France has taken the correct course by appealing to the League of Nations". (30) In a speech in the House of Commons he supported the government's policy on appeasement and called on the League of Nations to invite Germany to state her grievances and her legitimate aspirations" so that under the League's auspices "justice may be done and peace preserved". (31)

Clement Attlee attacked Churchill, Baldwin and Eden and the Conservative government for the acceptance that Hitler was allowed to march into the Rhineland without any measures taken against Germany. He spoke of the dangers of accepting Hitler's actions as merely righting one of the punitive wrongs of Versailles. "In the last five years we have had quite enough of dodging difficulties, of using forms of words to avoid facing up to realities... I am afraid that you may get a patched-up peace and then another crisis next year." (32)

Winston Churchill also supported General Francisco Franco and his Fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War. He described the democratically elected Republican government as "a poverty stricken and backward proletariat demanding the overthrow of Church, State and property and the inauguration of a Communist regime." Against them stood the "patriotic, religious and bourgeois forces, under the leadership of the army, and sustained by the countryside in many provinces... marching to re-establish order by setting up a military dictatorship." (33)

Clement Attlee took a very different view of the conflict. He condemned Baldwin's policy towards Franco and described the war as "a fight for the soul of Europe" and claiming that non-intervention had become "a farce". For the first time he stated that the government was guilty of incremental steps of appeasement. If Britain had stood firm over Abyssinia there would not have been this trouble in Spain. There has been no policy in foreign affairs except the policy of giving way. The result of that is a world in anarchy." The government's policy, he maintained "is disastrous for world peace and... the government has not brought us nearer peace but has brought us closer and closer to the danger of war." (34)

As Geoffrey Best, the author of Churchill: A Study in Greatness (2001) has pointed out: "He (Churchill) was relatively unconcerned about what else went on in Europe. Eschewing the liberal-cum-socialist practice of bracketing together the two fascist dictators, he clung for long to a hope that Mussolini (whose regime in any case he correctly assessed as much less unpleasant than Hitler's) could be kept friendly or neutral in the forthcoming conflict. He was an anti-Nazi, not an anti-Fascist until very late in the day. He failed to give serious thought to the issues at stake in the Spanish Civil War and he did his own anti-Hitler campaign no good by appearing at that time to be pro-Franco." (35)

During this period Churchill was a supporter of the government's appeasement policy. In April 1936 he called on the League of Nations to invite Germany "to state her grievances and her legitimate aspirations" so that "justice may be done and peace preserved". (36) Churchill believed that the right strategy was to try and encourage Adolf Hitler to order the invasion of the Soviet Union. He wrote to Violet Bonham-Carter suggesting an alliance of Britain, France, Belgium and Holland to deter Germany from attacking in the west. He expected that Hitler would turn eastwards and attack the Soviet Union, and he proposed that Britain should stand aside while his old enemy Bolshevism was destroyed: "We should have to expect that the Germans would soon begin a war of conquest east and south and that at the same time Japan would attack Russia in the Far East. But Britain and France would maintain a heavily-armed neutrality." (37)

As late as September, 1937, Churchill was praising Hitler's domestic achievements. In an article published in The Evening Standard after praising Germany's achievements in the First World War he wrote: "One may dislike Hitler’s system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations. I have on more than one occasion made my appeal in public that the Führer of Germany should now become the Hitler of peace." (38)

Churchill went further the following month. "The story of that struggle (Hitler's rise to power), cannot be read without admiration for the courage, the perseverance, and the vital force which enabled him to challenge, defy, conciliate or overcome, all the authority or resistances which barred his path.". He then considered the way Hitler had suppressed the opposition and set up concentration camps: "Although no subsequent political action can condone wrong deeds, history is replete with examples of men who have risen to power by employing stern, grim and even frightful methods, but who nevertheless, when their life is revealed as a whole, have been regarded as great figures whose lives have enriched the story of mankind. So may it be with Hitler." (39)

In a speech at the Conservative Party conference on 7th October, 1937, he made it clear that he opposed the government's policy on India but supported its appeasement policy: "I used to come here year after year when we had some differences between ourselves about rearmament and also about a place called India. So I thought it would only be right that I should come here when we are all agreed... let us indeed support the foreign policy of our Government, which commands the trust, comprehension, and the comradeship of peace-loving and law-respecting nations in all parts of the world." (40)

On 12th March, 1938, the German Army invaded Austria. Churchill, like the Government and most of his fellow politicians, found it difficult to decide how to react to what seemed to be a highly popular peaceful union of the two countries. During the debate in the House of Commons, Churchill did not advocate the use of force to remove German forces from Austria. Instead he called for was discussion between diplomats at Geneva and still continued to support the government's appeasement policy. (41)

In September 1938, Neville Chamberlain met Adolf Hitler at his home in Berchtesgaden. Hitler threatened to invade Czechoslovakia unless Britain supported Germany's plans to takeover the Sudetenland. After discussing the issue with the Edouard Daladier (France) and Eduard Benes (Czechoslovakia), Chamberlain informed Hitler that his proposals were unacceptable. Neville Henderson, the British ambassador in Germany, pleaded with Chamberlain to go on negotiating with Hitler. He believed, like Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, that the German claim to the Sudetenland in 1938 was a moral one, and he always reverted in his dispatches to his conviction that the Treaty of Versailles had been unfair to Germany. "At the same time, he was unsympathetic to feelers from the German opposition to Hitler seeking to enlist British support. Henderson thought, not unreasonably, that it was not the job of the British government to subvert the German government, and this view was shared by Chamberlain and Halifax". (42)

Benito Mussolini suggested to Hitler that one way of solving this issue was to hold a four-power conference of Germany, Britain, France and Italy. This would exclude both Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, and therefore increasing the possibility of reaching an agreement and undermine the solidarity that was developing against Germany. The meeting took place in Munich on 29th September, 1938. Desperate to avoid war, and anxious to avoid an alliance with Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union, Chamberlain and Daladier agreed that Germany could have the Sudetenland. In return, Hitler promised not to make any further territorial demands in Europe. (43)

The meeting ended with Hitler, Chamberlain, Daladier and Mussolini signing the Munich Agreement which transferred the Sudetenland to Germany. "We, the German Führer and Chancellor and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for the two countries and for Europe. We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as Symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again. We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries." (44)

Neville Henderson defended the agreement: "Germany thus incorporated the Sudeten lands in the Reich without bloodshed and without firing a shot. But she had not got all that Hitler wanted and which she would have got if the arbitrament had been left to war... The humiliation of the Czechs was a tragedy, but it was solely thanks to Mr. Chamberlain's courage and pertinacity that a futile and senseless war was averted." (45)

On 3rd October, 1938, Clement Attlee, the leader of the Labour Party, attacked the Munich Agreement in a speech in the House of Commons. "We have felt that we are in the midst of a tragedy. We have felt humiliation. This has not been a victory for reason and humanity. It has been a victory for brute force. At every stage of the proceedings there have been time limits laid down by the owner and ruler of armed force. The terms have not been terms negotiated; they have been terms laid down as ultimata. We have seen today a gallant, civilised and democratic people betrayed and handed over to a ruthless despotism. We have seen something more. We have seen the cause of democracy, which is, in our view, the cause of civilisation and humanity, receive a terrible defeat.... The events of these last few days constitute one of the greatest diplomatic defeats that this country and France have ever sustained. There can be no doubt that it is a tremendous victory for Herr Hitler. Without firing a shot, by the mere display of military force, he has achieved a dominating position in Europe which Germany failed to win after four years of war. He has overturned the balance of power in Europe. He has destroyed the last fortress of democracy in Eastern Europe which stood in the way of his ambition. He has opened his way to the food, the oil and the resources which he requires in order to consolidate his military power, and he has successfully defeated and reduced to impotence the forces that might have stood against the rule of violence." (46)

Winston Churchill now decided to break with the government over its appeasement policy and two days after Attlee's speech made his move. Churchill praised Chamberlain for his efforts: "If I do not begin this afternoon by paying the usual, and indeed almost invariable, tributes to the Prime Minister for his handling of this crisis, it is certainly not from any lack of personal regard. We have always, over a great many years, had very pleasant relations, and I have deeply understood from personal experiences of my own in a similar crisis the stress and strain he has had to bear; but I am sure it is much better to say exactly what we think about public affairs, and this is certainly not the time when it is worth anyone’s while to court political popularity."

Churchill went on to say the negotiations had been a failure: "No one has been a more resolute and uncompromising struggler for peace than the Prime Minister. Everyone knows that. Never has there been such instance and undaunted determination to maintain and secure peace. That is quite true. Nevertheless, I am not quite clear why there was so much danger of Great Britain or France being involved in a war with Germany at this juncture if, in fact, they were ready all along to sacrifice Czechoslovakia. The terms which the Prime Minister brought back with him could easily have been agreed, I believe, through the ordinary diplomatic channels at any time during the summer. And I will say this, that I believe the Czechs, left to themselves and told they were going to get no help from the Western Powers, would have been able to make better terms than they have got after all this tremendous perturbation; they could hardly have had worse."

It was now time to change course and form an alliance with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany. "After the seizure of Austria in March we faced this problem in our debates. I ventured to appeal to the Government to go a little further than the Prime Minister went, and to give a pledge that in conjunction with France and other Powers they would guarantee the security of Czechoslovakia while the Sudeten-Deutsch question was being examined either by a League of Nations Commission or some other impartial body, and I still believe that if that course had been followed events would not have fallen into this disastrous state. France and Great Britain together, especially if they had maintained a close contact with Russia, which certainly was not done, would have been able in those days in the summer, when they had the prestige, to influence many of the smaller states of Europe; and I believe they could have determined the attitude of Poland. Such a combination, prepared at a time when the German dictator was not deeply and irrevocably committed to his new adventure, would, I believe, have given strength to all those forces in Germany which resisted this departure, this new design." (47)

Churchill's late conversion to anti-fascism is one of the reasons why he suffered such a heavy defeat in the 1945 General Election. The British people had the opportunity to show their gratitude for his role in winning the war, but they remembered his pro-fascism before October 1938. He suffered a humiliating defeat and Clement Attlee became the new prime minister. It was a high turnout with 72.8% of the electorate voting. With almost 12 million votes, Labour had 47.8% of the vote to 39.8% for the Conservatives. Labour made 179 gains from the Tories, winning 393 seats to 213. The 12.0% national swing from the Conservatives to Labour, remains the largest ever achieved in a British general election. (48)

(1) The New York Times (21st January, 1940)

(2) Clive Ponting, Winston Churchill (1994) page 394

(3) Geoffrey Best, Churchill: A Study in Greatness (2001) page 155

(4) Anthony James Gregor, Young Mussolini and the Intellectual Origins of Fascism (1979) page 196

(5) Tom Kington, The Guardian (13th October, 2009)

(6) Anthony Grayling, Ideas that Matter (2009) page 207

(7) Denis Mack Smith, Mussolini: A Biography (1982) page 50

(8) Adrian Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy 1919-1929 (2009) pages 75-77

(9) Benito Mussolini, speech (3rd January 1925)

(10) Steven Jones, Antonio Gramsci (2006) page 24

(11) Winston Churchill, letter to Clementine Churchill (6th January, 1927)

(12) Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life (1991) page 480

(13) Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (c. 340 BC)

(14) Winston Churchill, My Early Life (1930) page 373

(15) Winston Churchill, letter to Randolph Churchill (8th January, 1931)

(16) Robert Lloyd George, David and Winston: How a Friendship Changed History (2006) pages 70-71

(17) Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (12th July, 1910)

(18) The Daily Mail (28th April, 1928)

(19) Clive Ponting, Winston Churchill (1994) page 314

(20) Clive Ponting, Winston Churchill (1994) page 338

(21) Winston Churchill, The Evening Standard (24th January, 1934)

(22) Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (24th October 1935)

(23) Winston Churchill, speech (17th February, 1933)

(24) Winston Churchill, The Sunday Chronicle (26th May, 1935)

(25) Clive Ponting, Winston Churchill (1994) page 376

(26) Clement Attlee, speech in the House of Commons (19th December, 1935)

(27) Francis Beckett, Clem Attlee (2000) page 131

(28) Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962) page 345

(29) Frank McDonough, Neville Chamberlain, Appeasement and the British Road to War (1998) page 27

(30) Winston Churchill, The Evening Standard (13th March, 1936)

(31) Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (6th April, 1936)

(32) Clement Attlee, speech in the House of Commons (26th March, 1936)

(33) Winston Churchill, The Evening Standard (10th August, 1936)

(34) Clement Attlee, speech in the House of Commons (29th October, 1936)

(35) Geoffrey Best, Churchill: A Study in Greatness (2001) page 155

(36) Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (6th April, 1936)

(37) Winston Churchill, letter to Violet Bonham-Carter (25th May 1936)

(38) Winston Churchill, The Evening Standard (17th September 1937)

(39) Winston Churchill, The Evening Standard (14th October, 1937)

(40) Winston Churchill, speech at the Conservative Party conference at Scarborough (14th October, 1937)

(41) Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (12th March, 1938)

(42) Peter Neville, Nevile Henderson : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(43) Graham Darby, Hitler, Appeasement and the Road to War (1999) page 56

(44) Statement issued by Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler after the signing of the Munich Agreement (30th September, 1938)

(45) Neville Henderson, Failure of a Mission (1940) page 167

(46) Clement Attlee, speech in the House of Commons (3rd October, 1938)

(47) Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (5th October, 1938)

(48) Martin Pugh, Speak for Britain: A New History of the Labour Party (2010) pages 284-285

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Churchill was a genocidal maniac. He is fawned over in Britain and held up as a hero of the nation. He was voted ‘Greatest Briton’ of all time. Below is the real history of Churchill, the history of a white supremacist whose hatred for Indians led to four million starving to death, the man who loathed Irish people so much he conceived different ways to terrorise them, the racist thug who waged war on black people across Africa and in Britain. This is the trial of Winston Churchill, the enemy of all humanity.

9 Quotes From Winston Churchill That Are Totally Fake

I’ve been getting a lot of tweets and emails from neo-Nazis and neo-fascists lately. To be fair, I said that Nazis and fascists were bad, so I was kind of asking for it. But the thing that I’ve found most interesting amongst the mountains of hate are all the fake quotes that racists send me, purportedly by famous historical figures. Especially Winston Churchill.

Fake quotes were around long before the invention of the internet, obviously. But the web has allowed for quicker and easier dissemination of bullshit that fits with our particular worldview. In the case of Nazis and fascists, it’s a worldview that includes Winston Churchill as a lover of Nazis.

Gandhi never said , “an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.” The chairman of IBM never said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,” back in 1943 . And Walt Disney never said , “If you can dream it, you can do it.” But they all make us feel good and smart in one way or another.

And when it comes to fake Churchill quotes, it makes the neo-Nazis and the neo-fascists feel like they’ve got an unlikely ally in the guy who helped defeat their wretched forbearers.

9 Albert Einstein Quotes That Are Totally Fake

As Albert Einstein once said, "Don't believe every quote you read on the internet, because I…

I’ve collected nine fake quotes that some people have attributed to Winston Churchill. Not all of them involve Nazis, and Churchill certainly said some deplorable and racist things in his lifetime (like, “I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes.”), but he never said any of these.

1. We butchered the wrong pig

According to numerous neo-Nazi websites, Winston Churchill later regretted his role in taking down the Nazis. The real enemy? The Soviet Union.

This quote was sent to me recently :

Germany’s unforgivable crime before the second world war was her attempt to extricate her economic power from the world’s trading system and to create her own exchange mechanism which would deny world finance its opportunity to profit. We butchered the wrong pig.

The claim made here by neo-Nazis is that Churchill didn’t want to go to war with Germany and was forced to do so by shadowy financial figures (read: Jews). With “butchered the wrong pig” we’re meant to assume that Churchill would’ve preferred fighting the Soviets. But the quote is completely fake.

This quote appears to have been invented in 2001 and inserted into the foreword to a new edition of a book first written in 1938, Propaganda in the Next War . Since the book is out of copyright and the original author is dead, the new foreword could’ve been written by any lunatic with an account on a self-publishing site.

All we know for sure is that the quote doesn’t appear anywhere before 2001.

2. The Fascists of the future will be the anti-fascists

Did Winston Churchill really say that “The Fascists of the future will be the anti-fascists”? Definitely not.

A similar quote is attributed to Huey Long, a populist Senator from Louisiana, in books and magazines of the 1930s , and 40s: “When fascism comes to America it will be called anti-fascism.” Long was assassinated in 1935 and it’s unclear if he said this, or if it was invented after his assassination. But Churchill never said it.

3. If you’re going through hell, keep going.

This quote often appears online as something that Churchill allegedly said about tough times. But he never said it. In fact, the first time it was attributed to Churchill was 1995 .

So we can’t blame the internet for inventing this one. But we can certainly blame the internet for helping spread it around here in the 21st century.

4. If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.

This quote has been butchered repeatedly over the decades. And has about as many purported authors as variations. But one thing we know for sure is that Churchill never said it.

As British historian Paul Addison from Edinburgh University pointed out to the Saturday Evening Post , “He’d been a Conservative at 15 and a Liberal at 35.” So if Churchill ever said anything close to this he had a rather dim view of himself.

So where does this quote originate? The website Quote Investigator traces it back to a French book from 1875 by Jules Claretie. The rough translation? “He who is not a républicain at twenty compels one to doubt the generosity of his heart but he who, after thirty, persists, compels one to doubt the soundness of his mind.”

5. A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

This is perhaps one of the more popular quotes attributed to Churchill in recent years. But even if he said it, and I’ve found no reliable evidence that he did, many other people said versions of it before him.

Before the turn of the 21st century, the quote was more often attributed to Mark Twain. For some reason, sometime in the late 1990s and early 2000s there’s a shift and many quote books start attributing the saying to Churchill.

The Mark Twain version of the quote often uses “boots” instead of “pants,” but either way, Twain was far from the first to express this sentiment, if he did at all. The most common date ascribed to Twain using this quote is 1919. Twain died in 1910.

There are dozens of instances of this quote popping up in the 19th century, as Quote Investigator helpfully lays out. And the sources are all different, as you can see.

In 1840, one publication attributed it to Thomas Jefferson: “falsehood will travel over the country, while truth is pulling on its boots.” While a magazine from 1846 called it a Chinese Proverb: “Error will travel over half the globe, while truth is pulling on her boots.”

But the oldest version might come from as early as 1787 in a collection of sermons written by the British clergyman Thomas Francklin : “Falsehood will fly, as it were, on the wings of the wind, and carry its tales to every corner of the earth whilst truth lags behind her steps, though sure, are slow and solemn. ”

Whoever said it first, it wasn’t Churchill.

6. A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

This quote might sound good, but if you’ve ever read Churchill, it definitely doesn’t sound like him. And there’s a good reason for that. He never said it.

The book Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations cites this one in the section of false attributions. It might look good on a Napoleon Hill coffee mug or something, but it’s not from Churchill.

7. There is no such thing as a good tax.

Despite being a popular meme on Facebook, there’s no evidence that Churchill ever said this. Much like so many Gandhi quotes, it appears that people just like putting Churchill’s photo next to this particular phrase in order to give it some kind of authority.

What did Churchill actually say about taxes? “Taxes are an evil—a necessary evil, but still an evil, and the fewer we have of them the better,” Churchill reportedly said in the House of Commons on February 12, 1906 .

So Churchill may not have been a fan of taxes. But saying they’re a necessary evil is definitely different from saying that there’s “no such thing as a good tax.”

8. You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.

While this quote certainly looks good on your Facebook wall, there’s no evidence that Churchill ever said this about having enemies. A version of this quote originated with Victor Hugo in his 1845 essay, Villemain.

You have enemies? Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea. It is the cloud which thunders around everything that shines. Fame must have enemies, as light must have gnats. Do not bother yourself about it disdain. Keep your mind serene as you keep your life clear.

It’s a powerful idea. But Churchill never uttered it.

9. The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

This quote appearing to show Churchill’s disdain for democracy is a favorite on political subreddits. But you’d be hard pressed to find a source for this that predates the year 2000. And according to the International Churchill Society , he never said it.

Matt Novak is a senior writer at Gizmodo and founder of He's writing a book about the movies U.S. presidents watched at the White House, Camp David, and on Air Force One.

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If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

I think you hit the nail right on the head. For the pro-imperialist “left,” ie, those who Richard Seymour rightly accused of liberally defending murder in his book, WWII provides a fig leaf to defend every other act of imperialist aggression by the system that they have now come to identify with. Since most of them now have it pretty damn good as opposed to the rest of us, that shouldn’t be too surprising. Only most of that crowd were once gung-ho sixties “radicals” who became demoralized during Reagan’s reign and made their peace with the system just as the burned “New York Intellectual” Shactmanites did after WWII when middle class Jews were finally allowed to become white in the eyes of America’s ruling class. In the case of many of the sixties burn-outs, they went from (what they themselves would now call) “knee-jerk” anti-imperialism to what I would call jerk-off pro-imperialism.

Also, let’s not forget that the Pop Front Stalinist tradition still looks at WWII as being a “progressive” war, whether its “Win With Winnie” in the UK or “Get Behind the President” (FDR) in the US. After all, that period represented the height of their influence in the US, from the CIO to Hollywood. Their opposition to Truman and the anti-Soviet Cold War was based on a desire to return to the good old days of the US-USSR WWII alliance, not on class struggle anti-imperialism. And the famine in India was only the tip of the iceberg of “democratic” imperialist atrocities…all of which were endorsed by reformist Stalinism at the time. Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki certainly come to mind, along with the daily dirty doings of lynch law Jim Crow segregation that went on throughout the US at the time.

As for Churchill, let’s not forget his role in invading Russia during the civil war, along with his butchering of the Irish, Indians and Arabs, when they rose up against the British empire. Indeed, his role in WWII was based on the same premises, ie, defense of British capitalism even if it meant allying with the hated USSR abroad and the Labor Party at home when he saw that his former friend Adolf was, what the Maoists used to say in the sixties, the “main enemy.” In other words, he was a better defender of the interests of British imperialism than Neville Chamberlain just as FDR was a better defender of American imperialism than Herbert Hoover was and just as Obama can now perform that role better than Bush or McCain.

Comment by MN Roy — September 10, 2009 @ 7:54 pm

Louis, how would you go about defeating Hitler?

Comment by Jenny — September 10, 2009 @ 10:09 pm

Louis, how would you go about defeating Hitler?
You mean he’s still alive?

Comment by Dante616 — September 10, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

Nice post by the way, Mr Proyect.

Comment by Dante616 — September 10, 2009 @ 10:17 pm

Part of the problem with the “People’s War Against Fascism” line is that it’s essentially ahistorical. The supporters of that line want to take a snap-shot of history in the following way: “It’s 1940 and Hitler is about to invade Britain: what do you do? Think fast!” Then anyone who refuses to jump on the Churchill/FDR/national defense bandwagon is condemned as a hopeless dreamer, crypto-fascist, etc.

Of course, the war against fascism didn’t begin in 1939. It actually began in 1917, with the struggle against Kornilov’s attempted coup in Russia, accelerated in Italy in the early 1920s, and so on. If we start back there, and ask how fascism might have been defeated, we get a very different answer. It doesn’t include a lash-up with Sir Winston.

Anyway, thanks for quoting me in your article! Interestingly enough, several commenters followed up by saying they WOULD buy a shirt celebrating the Enola Gay. Just goes to show…

Comment by James — September 10, 2009 @ 10:49 pm

No, FDR wasn’t perfect by any means, but I still think Word War II was necessary in the end. Unless you’re going the Pat Buchanhan route saying that it would’ve been best if Hitler was left to conquer Poland. Besides, even if Stalin’s army did do the heavy lifting, they were wiped out by the Germans quickly too.

Comment by Jenny — September 10, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

Jenny, the real issue is not whether WWII was “necessary”. It is whether it was “progressive” in the sense that WWI was not, which I think everybody can agree on. My argument is that wars between capitalist nations are *never* progressive. The only wars I support are those of national liberation and those of a postcapitalist society against a capitalist invader. WWII is confusing because it has both progressive and reactionary aspects. The problem with the CP line is that it does not see this contradictory aspect.

Comment by louisproyect — September 10, 2009 @ 11:10 pm

I enjoy the wide scope of Louis Proyect’s blog. His article brought new material to my attention.

Twenty years ago, the Spartacists’ Prometheus Research Library published a paperback volume about Trotsky’s “Proletarian Military Policy” of the WWII era, nominally adopted by Trotskyist orgs in the UK and US. (IIRC the Sparts themselves later backed off, at least a little, from some of their retrospective criticisms of the PMP). Like all Prometheus Research publications, it’s a valuable source for serious students of history (and the role of history in shaping Trot arcana).

Prometheus Research No. #2: Documents on the “Proletarian Military Policy”
Includes materials from the Trotskyist movement in the U.S. and Europe during World War II. (February 1989)
102 pages ISBN 0-9633828-4-5, US$9.00

Comment by David Stevens — September 11, 2009 @ 12:00 am

Ernest Mandel has written an excellent book on WWII (published in 1986 by Verso) in which he talks about the contradictory aspects of the war, combining both reactionary inter-imperialist rivalries with progressive national liberation struggles and the defense of the post capitalist USSR. Churchill (and FDR as well) certainly embodied the reactionary side of that contradiction, even within the framework of “beating Hitler.” They put off launching the “Second Front” In order to retake the British and French colonial empires in Africa, which also ensured that the bulk of the Axis forces were engaged in bleeding the Soviets on the Eastern Front. Up until the moment he realized that if he didn’t join Churchill in backing DeGaulle, the Communist-led resistance would be calling the shots in France, FDR was looking to cut a deal with the remnants of the Vichy regime there. In fact, the Ruskies bore the brunt of the fighting throughout the war, the decisive turning points were at Stalingrad and Kursk, and D-Day only came about when the Allied imperialists realized that if they didn’t invade Nazi-occupied Europe, the Soviet Army backed up by the CP-led partisan movements would probably sweep away Hitler and European capitalism with him before they could do anything to prevent it. Of course, if the Stalinists and the Social Democrats hadn’t helped scuttle revolutionary struggles in Europe after WWI and in the 1930s, there might not have even been any war to begin with and certainly no Hitler to start it.

Comment by MN Roy — September 11, 2009 @ 1:04 am

Louis, I saw your commments on the Socialist Unity website, which is advertising WWII t-shirts, and the reactions to it.

You’ve focussed on a rather ugly side of the white Brit leftism – it’s inherent racism. Andy’s comments chastising you for mentioning murder of 6-8 million Indians during WWII (and causing death of many more since 1757 as a direct result of their deliberate destruction of Indian economic system and subsequent partition) are mere reflections from a room full of dark shadows besides it’s not fashionable in the genteel left circles to talk about these issues where the non-white working class is always being reminded to get rid of their cultural baggage and become part of the ‘main-stream’.

That a left blog/forum can enterntain idea of defending Churchill, a bourgeois racist scum who after meeting with Nehru remarked that he had no idea that Indians could be so pleasant and civilized and was of view that Indians are “the beastliest people in the world next to the Germans” is an alarming symptom of deep infestation of eurocentrism in the white left.

Comment by Anarcho-Polpotist — September 11, 2009 @ 3:21 am

This destroys the myth of Churchill.

Comment by Renegade Eye — September 11, 2009 @ 5:34 am

Consider Churchill’s role in subduing Iraq.

Comment by purple — September 11, 2009 @ 5:51 am

[…] Over the recent week or so there has been a very interesting debate on this web-site about the nature of the second world war that has by and large been informative and relatively good humoured. However, the American Trotskyite Louis Proyect has now used this exchange as the basis of a highly ill-advised and personal attack on me. […]

I am sorry but I am a litte confused. Are you saying Britain etc should not have fought WWII? Were we meant to just sit their and watch? Now Churchill was evil bugger a fair bit but to suggest we should not have entered the war is to be frank a little confusing.

Comment by ben — September 11, 2009 @ 8:22 am

#7 Should Britain have fought Germany? Yes or no?

Comment by Jonny Mac — September 11, 2009 @ 9:49 am

I think Andy has basically re-aligned himself with a Marxism Today-ish kind of politics, and with it, we get a return to a rather unalloyed popular frontism. I think his politics are genuinely held and not simply a reaction to the SWP. I can recall in arguments I had with him on-line long before the Respect split, that his politics were evolving along these lines.

For what its worth this seems to me the best (and funniest) response to his piece on Churchill from the British left:

Comment by johng — September 11, 2009 @ 11:19 am

I am asked if Britain should have fought Germany. Emphatically not. No capitalist power should ever fight another capitalist power since it will be the working class that is victimized. Here is how James P. Cannon answered the question in a 1941 trial when FDR conspired with Teamsters Union bureaucrats to silence the antiwar opposition in the USA:

Comment by louisproyect — September 11, 2009 @ 2:51 pm

Andy Newman’s position is not “Eurocentric”. It derives from his support for the wartime People’s Front. This policy had repercussions well beyond Europe.
In fact, the original M.N. Roy supported the Western Allies against the Nazis, using the argument that their victory over fascism would lead to more favourable conditions for Indian Independence.
Newman’s views on this question are not dissimilar to George Galloway’s, or to many CP-B fellow travellers. In June 1941, after the German attack on the Soviet Union, the CP’s Political Bureau immediately declared support for the war against Nazi Germany. But it continued to demand the replacement of the Churchill government by a ‘People’s Government’.
This line was only changed, following pressure from the Comintern, to a call for unity around the Churchill government.

Comment by prianikoff — September 11, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

I totally agree Louis. I don’t know anything about Andy Newman either – except the drivel he churns out on his site. For some reason he objects when people think that loving up Churchill and Stalin is weird for a socialist.
And as for his defence of the Bengal famine, what will it be next? Damn Irish always complaining about a lack of food?

Comment by bill j — September 11, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

“In fact, the original M.N. Roy supported the Western Allies against the Nazis, using the argument that their victory over fascism would lead to more favourable conditions for Indian Independence.”

Well he was right. Full Independence in 1947.

Comment by andy newman — September 11, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

“I am asked if Britain should have fought Germany. Emphatically not.”

Idiot idiot idiot idiot idiot.

Comment by Jonny Mac — September 11, 2009 @ 4:07 pm

Andy Newman’s slander post on ‘his’ socialist unity(joke)blog is very far fetched and a childish response, can’t see it myself. I’m very pleased to have come across your excellent blog will put a link on my blog.

Warm Comradely Regards From a Socialist in Canning Town, East London, England

Comment by Jim Lawrie — September 11, 2009 @ 6:53 pm

Didn’t the British workers show their gratitude to Churchill for “winning WWII” by voting the Tories out of office as soon as elections were held?

As for the “full independence” of India, I believe that the Labor government that granted it had to be forced by the struggles of the Indian masses (i.e. the navy mutiny) to do so, as well as by the reality that as much they wanted to stay in control, the Brits simply couldn’t afford it. Just like in Greece, where they had to turn over control of the counter-revolution to Uncle Sam, or in Palestine, where they dropped the ball in the UN’s lap.

As to why any self-styled “socialist” should be praising Churchill, FDR…or Obama, for that matter, maybe it’s because they’re just NOT socialists and the sooner we realize it the better.

Comment by MN Roy — September 11, 2009 @ 7:27 pm

One other thing worth pointing out. Andy trashes Nicholson Baker’s “Human Smoke”, a book he has obviously never read and urges his readers to check the supposedly devastating review at Doesn’t Andy know that Anne Applebaum is a notorious warhawk and cold warrior? In fact, he must have discovered the link to her review from a Harry’s Place denizen who posted it in reply to my citation of Baker’s book. As I mentioned in my post, the affinity between Harry’s Place and Andy Newman on this all-important question of imperialist war is most regrettable.

Comment by louisproyect — September 11, 2009 @ 8:28 pm

Hey Louis
When Andy says, “I was an active member of the SWP from 1978 to 1981 and from 1986 to 2004”, what he means is that he had dropped out of the party by about 1996, but then came back of sorts when he saw a factional row brewing in – and about – the Socialist Alliance.

His site has had a whole poisonous dose of SWP-phobia (and it does often feel like that’s his political compass) although in fairness to Andy it’s been better in the past 6 months…

Comment by Harrods — September 11, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

Louis wrote: “I am asked if Britain should have fought Germany. Emphatically not. No capitalist power should ever fight another capitalist power since it will be the working class that is victimized.”

Indeed. British workers would have been no worse off under a Vichy-type government. And the Soviets should really have gone it alone against the Nazi’s – and the whole fucking imperialist camp if necessary – so as not to spoil the purity of their cause. And remember how the colonies attained independence after France was taken over by the Nazis? And how about the fact that all the popular anti-fascist struggles led to not to soviet power, but to the restoration of the parliamentary-imperialist system – does this not unmask their ultimately social-fascist nature?

How could anyone in their right mind disagree with this sober Bolshevik-Leninist analysis?

Until the self-described “revolutionary left” stop seeing every historical event as a rerun of WWI and October, it’ll remain a collection of sects on the margins of politics. If it became more”Marxist Today-ish” that would be a big improvement IMHO.

Comment by Max — September 11, 2009 @ 9:48 pm

But what about when Germany bombed Britain? How should they have responded?

Comment by Jenny — September 11, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

When I first became a Left in Britain, nearly 30 years ago, there were three distinct categories – the Labour Left (now extinct), the Trot Left (both in and out of the Labour Party – e.g. the SWP and Militant – and which still includes me) and the ‘Official Communists’ (I think the term ‘Stalinist’ not the best here) in the CPGB and around Marxism Today.

Then, of the three, you would have thought the latter would have died first. They were generally a lot older, the Labour Party was clearly a better place for many of their cadre – Left TU bureaucrats and the like – to be in and the ‘socialist’ countries (and the CPGB daily paper, the ‘Morning Star’) were hardly an inspiration to anyone.

But reading Socialist Unity today, the spirit of Marxism Today, and Eurocommunism lives on – uncritical support for the Cuban regime and people like Chavez, castigation of ‘ultra-Leftists’ (sic) (and the use of that language, e.g. ‘Trotskyites’) and always seeing a hope in progressive member of the ruling class, clergy, even the armed forces – then it was trendy Church of England vicars, now it is Respect with its embrace of the different demands of the Islamic bourgeoisie.

But I can’t think of anyone – even the most right wing types from the Eurocommunists who joined the prominent right split from Labour in the early 80s, the SDP – who would have given a moment of praise to strike-breaker, executioner and all round imperialist thug, Churchill.

Newman is really on a journey from the socialism of the SWP to who knows where. I read today some stuff from Frank Furedi, whose 80s/90s party in Britain, the RCP, was the epitome of ultraleftism (‘the unions are dead’) but who then correctly supported the Irish national liberation struggle, Today he was claiming that an over observance of a health and safety culture was hampering the British war effort in Afghanistan. That’s quite a trek but I think Newman can make it too.

Churchill is really a forgotten figure, even amongst the British right (Bush II had his bust in his office no British Tory PM ever has done such). But then, as Newman recently spent time attacking complaints about the looming deportation of British hacker of US military files, Gary McKinnon (whilst making some good points about his clever PR and the anti-American basis of some of it), Newman is prone to seeing just how far right he can go – his support for the deportation puts him a minority of about one in the British Left.

And on Indian Independence, one of the most fervent opponents of Indian independence was – Winston Churchill.

That event didn’t first come dispensed by the Queen’s cousin, Lord Mountbatten in 1947. It had happened momentarily before a few times, such as a few years before, during WW2, in a small area, by the force of the Indian National Army under Bose who liberated a small part of India but who were then pushed back.

Now this was an army under Japanese support, but who knows what could have been the possibilities of Indians, throughout the sub-continent taking liberation and then dealing with their anyone who wanted to occupy their country rather than being heft in two by the departing imperialists.

Newman, like the CPI, supported the Allied war effort. I don’t see much difference between life under a possible Japanese yoke and the existing reality of death and deprivation under the British, such as in their Bengal famine that killed millions. Lefts don’t. Rights do.

Comment by Southpawpunch — September 11, 2009 @ 10:01 pm

Jenny: But what about when Germany bombed Britain? How should they have responded?

This is a question that falls into the category of shutting the barn door after the horse has fled. By 1940, it was impossible to prevent war. One of the ridiculous aspects to all this crypto-Stalinist bashing of the Trotskyists is how besides the point it is, as if 200 or so people in Britain could have persuaded the working class to not fight against Hitler. The die was cast years earlier with the betrayal of the Spanish Republic, the suicidal policies followed by Stalin in the aftermath of the non-aggression pact with Hitler, the failure of the French Popular Front, and the general fecklessness of Communist Parties throughout Europe. Once all the genuine obstacles to war had been removed (ie., working class revolt), the path was clear for a blood-letting that would make WWI look like a picnic by comparison.

Comment by louisproyect — September 11, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

Re: No. 26, “If (the left) became more ”Marxist Today-ish” that would be a big improvement.” In the US it already has become more “Marxist Today-ish,” partially due to the legacy of Stalinist Pop-Front politics like “lesser-evilism.” The result is that there are no large-scale, or any size scale, for that matter, mobilizations against Obama’s wars, his bailing out the banks or even in favor of genuine national health care. The advocates of such “realistic” politics, like the CPUSA and its even more reformist clone, the COC, are just as much a “collection of sects on the margins of politics” as the straw men of the “ultraleft” that this Stalinist apologist tilts at.

As for “ultraleft,” how much more ultraleft can you get than the Stalinist stupidity of the “Third Period,” when Uncle Joe’s use of “social-fascism” provided an excuse to avoid a united front with the SPD against the Nazis, ensuring that Hitler came to power in the first place. And let’s not forget how that brilliant statesman Stalin refused to listen to endless warnings from Soviet intelligence agents (and defecting German soldiers) about the impending Nazi invasion in 1941.

Comment by MN Roy — September 11, 2009 @ 10:50 pm

I should point out that Newman was gung-ho for Obama in February:

That’s the first time I had any inkling the guy was some kind of reformist.

Comment by louisproyect — September 11, 2009 @ 11:10 pm

Louis, you were the one who said that the British shouldn’t have gone after Germany, hence my question of what you think the ideal method was.

Comment by Jenny — September 11, 2009 @ 11:29 pm

And I am a “Stalinist” because …? And what does my point about WW2 and the fetishization of the history surrounding 1917 have to do with supporting obama or the CPUSA? This is why so many on the active left cannot rationally discuss specifics, and instead end up hurling rehearsed invective and phraseology at each other.

As for Marxism Today, though it ended badly, it did at least engage in Lenin’s “concrete analysis of the concrete situation”, which can’t be said for some of comments of WW2 here.

Comment by Max — September 12, 2009 @ 12:10 am

Louis, you were the one who said that the British shouldn’t have gone after Germany, hence my question of what you think the ideal method was.

Let me try to make this as clear as possible. Given the insignificant size of Marxism in 1940, any opposition to WWII had to be propagandistic in nature. The Militant newspaper wrote articles opposing the war but was incapable of mobilizing mass actions against a war. The only group on the left capable of such a thing was the CP but it was totally for a war. Even though the Marxist critique of the war was hardly likely to have an effect on its outcome, the ruling class and the CP was determined to put a gag on the mouth of the Marxist opposition. Along with the SWP, there were small bands of pacifists and anarchists who opposed WWII and went to prison for their efforts. I consider these people the true heirs of Eugene V. Debs, not the disgusting social patriots of the CPUSA who backed putting Japanese-Americans in concentration camps. One of these pacifists was Dave Dellinger who went on to become a prominent antiwar leader in the 60s. For my money, the leftists who opposed WWII should be commemorated today, not the blood-soaked imperialist Churchill.

Comment by louisproyect — September 12, 2009 @ 12:32 am

Okay,but Stalin and the allies(except for America and okay, fine, Churchill) were in favor of fighting Hitler because he intended(and did) to invade their countries. I’m sorry, but while Churchill was a hypocritical bastard, they didn’t have any other options. And you still didn’t answer my question on how you think Europe should’ve dealth with the holocaust and Hitler.

Comment by Jenny — September 12, 2009 @ 1:48 am

“…how you think Europe should’ve dealt with the holocaust and Hitler”

There is no singular entity called “Europe” who’s actions can be debated over. For a marxist, the workers of “Europe” should have risen and overthrown the bosses of “Europe” thus preventing WW2 and the holocaust. Historical events and the issue of options etc have to be examined through the prism of class unless you want to enter the mindfield of “our bosses/ruling class are nicer than yours so we support them against yours, hope you don’t hold it against us… “etc. ad nauseam

I know this is being expressed crudely but I hope you see the drift and understand why your question as framed can’t be answered to your satisfaction in your terms by marxists.

Comment by belgish — September 12, 2009 @ 2:04 am

Thank you Belgish. In retrospect, I personally don’t think the ideal situation would be entirely possible, but thanks for explaining it in a non condescending manner.

Comment by Jenny — September 12, 2009 @ 4:02 am

Now that I think of it, there were Jewish people and Germans who resisted the nazis too such as the Jewish partisans and German resitance (White Rose,etc). I’m not sure how far reaching they could go however.

Comment by Jenny — September 12, 2009 @ 4:08 am

Jenny I can also heartily recommend, as mentioned, above Ernest Mandel’s book “The Meaning of the Second World War”. His credentials to discuss the manyfold nature of the war and what the marxist response should be to the different wars going on, are particularly impressive to me: trotskyist, jew and partisan who fought against the nazi occupiers of Belgium and was captured by them and placed in a prison camp. He was able to escape his first capture by treating his guards as workers first and eliciting sympathy and comradeship from them to an extent ie. he thought and acted in class terms.

Comment by belgish — September 12, 2009 @ 5:09 am

“He was able to escape his first capture by treating his guards as workers first and eliciting sympathy and comradeship from them to an extent ie. he thought and acted in class terms”.No as Jam Willem Stutje’s recent biography shows, his family bribed some of the guards to let him escape during a transportation. During the occupation by the Nazis it was wrong to treat the German soldiers as workers who will unite with the local working class in a joint struggle against the bosses. Some trotskyites had that line here in Greece and the the resistance to be totally controlled by the stalinists.

Comment by Jim — September 12, 2009 @ 8:14 am

To go back to the original post … Louis, your speculation on Andy N’s motives in relation to SWP, British chauvinism, etc, is quite unnecessary. The class-collaborationist celebration of Britain’s “finest hour” etc is a standard part of “official communist” politics in Britain (Morning Star/ CPB). Andy has been moving in the direction of “official communism” and the Morning Star for some years now and it is apparent in many posts on the SU blog . A relatively early one is this 2007 piece of nostalgia for Stalinism:

Comment by Mike Macnair — September 12, 2009 @ 10:45 am

Jim is correct, I had mixed up Mandel’s experience from his second captivity. Here’s what he says about that from the biography cited (pg.40):

“But through political behaviour… I could immediately establish good relations with some of the guards. I did not behave like most … prisoners who were very anti-German. I deliberately looked for politically sympathetic warders. That was the intelligent thing to do even from the point of view of self-preservation.”

Comment by belgish — September 12, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

But I have a feeling that Jim was trying to say that Mandel was a liar. In fact, he was captured twice. The first time he was ransomed, the second time he relied on the assistance of jailers who were open to a class appeal. Those are the facts.

Comment by louisproyect — September 12, 2009 @ 1:14 pm

“But I have a feeling that Jim was trying to say that Mandel was a liar”. No nothing like this, I have a lot of respect for the man. I was just pointing out that you could not treat German soldiers as fellow workers whom you could win to a common anticapitalist struggle instead of engaging in an armed resistance. Some trotskyites made that mistake in Greece during the occupation but the international disagreed with them and Mandel of course.

Comment by Jim — September 12, 2009 @ 3:24 pm

Whatever. Just as long as we understand that the second incident did rely on assistance from class-conscious enemy soldiers.

Comment by louisproyect — September 12, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

Louis’ comment number 29 was completely right.

I also applaud his mention of the Bengali famine.

Comment by Bhaskar — September 13, 2009 @ 3:27 am

The first “revisionist” literature on the US role in WWII in the popular culture was actually Joseph Heller’s novel “Catch 22.”

Heller, who like Zinn was also a WWII bomber pilot, was essentially the character Yossarian in the book and movie.

When people wonder why it’s so hard to achieve unity on the left one of the the answers is because it’s impossible for the left to be truly progressive if it’s full of people who imagine that WWII was a “good war.”

It’s hard to imagine that Hitchen’s actually came from the only organized socialist movement that correctly opposed WWII?

Jenny in particular should appreciate what great lengths and patience Louis has excersized in explaining why WWII was NOT a good war and was not to be supported by progressives under any circumstance, either here or in Britain. It’s a pretty simple concept really. When the exploiters of workers fight a war how can it ever be in the interests of workers to fight for their exploiters? (One could say the same thing about a socialist voting for Obama but that’s another topic.)

If not Mandel or Cannon then you really should try reading some of what Trotksy actually wrote about WWII. About how he predicted it about approximately when it would start about the terrible new weaponry & bloodletting it would unleash, and about how, short of revolution, the only outcome would be, and I paraphrase here, “the total domination of the World by Uncle Sam.” These predictions, written around 1937, are stunning from a sociological standpoint, particularly since the hallmark of science is predictive success. That way maybe some of your posts won’t sound like somebody who got their entire political education from Time magazine — which tends brings out the condescention of some repliers.

Written a couple years before capitalist restoration in the USSR, in his 1989 book “Perestroika: A Marxist Crtique” Sam Marcy put not only WWII & Churchill’s perfidous role in it into proper perspective but also, in the same context, penetrated the class character of the USSR, an important subject which also hopelessly divides the left to this day and thus is worth revisiting:

“The Gorbachev reforms rely so much on capitalist market mechanisms to stimulate the economy of the USSR that all this has inevitably raised once again the question of how to understand the social character of the Soviet Union. This is a subject that has preoccupied both friend and foe of the Russian Revolution, and has provoked commentary from the pedantic to the inane both inside and outside the USSR.”

“There have been at least three schools of thought on this question. Take, for instance, one of the earliest stalwarts, Winston Churchill, the illustrious prime minister of the British empire. No ivory-tower think-tank analyst was he. Churchill’s claim to fame as a political analyst rested mainly on his career as a cunning practitioner of the art of imperialist diplomacy. His analyses are given far more weight in bourgeois circles than those of any professor precisely because he seemed to combine both theory and practice. During the Second World War in particular, every word he uttered in public seemed to the bourgeoisie like so many pearls of wisdom. Even before the war, when some imperialists looked askance at his advocacy of “collective security” among the great powers, that is, an anti-fascist coalition against Germany and Italy that included the Soviet Union, his views were generally considered profound.”

“Bearing all this in mind, what are we to make of Churchill’s October 1939 speech in which he described the Soviet Union as ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’? What was he trying to say about the USSR, and what was there in the given historical context that infused it with supreme importance?”

“An enigma, a riddle, a mystery. Roget’s Thesaurus tells us that these three terms are used fairly synonymously. Any one would well serve the purpose. What was Churchill trying to do by putting all three together without further explanation? Were this said by anybody else, it would have been regarded as tautological rubbish, lacking any glimmer of a sociological appraisal of the USSR. Indeed, what we have here is a bourgeois statesman squirming and attempting to exude profundity, but offering no clue as to the social character of the USSR.”

“At the time of his speech, Churchill had accumulated nearly 40 years of experience in imperialist diplomacy, 20 of them in venomous struggle against the Soviet Union. As British secretary of state for war and air (1919-1921), he had organized a coalition of 14 capitalist countries to invade the Soviet Union and try to overthrow the Bolshevik government.”

“To understand Churchill’s statement, one has to remember its historical context. For several years Britain, France and the United States had promoted the concept of collective security with the USSR against the Axis powers. Indeed, the Soviet Union was the leading and original proponent of this strategy. It had so vigorously promoted the concept of collective security against fascism that it would seem the policy was carved in granite. It was beginning to be regarded as a permanent feature of Soviet diplomacy.”

“Thus, when the Conservative Prime Minister of Britain, Neville Chamberlain, and Prime Minister Edouard Daladier, a bourgeois Radical Socialist representing France, decided to make a pact with Hitler and Mussolini in Munich in late September 1938, it seemed that the USSR had no choice but to accept it. By this diplomatic maneuver, Chamberlain and Daladier hoped to direct the aggressive thrust of Nazi Germany to the East, that is, into an attack on the Soviet Union, thus gaining breathing time for themselves. But the Soviet Union needed the breathing space for itself, and was less solicitous of its erstwhile democratic allies than had been expected. And so on August 22, 1939, the Soviet Union turned around and itself signed a non-aggression pact with Germany in order to gain time–essentially what the imperialist allies had wanted themselves. Ten days later World War II began. All of this is vitally important in understanding Churchill’s tautological nonsense in the face of an enormous international development.”

“But while Churchill’s analysis was faulty at best, his class attitude, his class loyalty, and that of all the imperialist politicians was unambiguous. It was mortal hatred of the Soviet Union and all the revolutionary movements, as well as of the working class at home and the hundreds of millions of oppressed who suffered the yoke of colonialism. He and his class unfailingly knew which side they were on. He showed it very clearly when as chancellor of the exchequer (1924-1929) he lowered the workers’ standard of living, and then, when the trade unions responded with the first and only great general strike in Britain in 1926, his rabid editorials in the British Gazette led the government assault that broke the strike.”

“While it might have been difficult for Churchill to arrive at a sociological appraisal, that never prevented him from taking a class position on the Soviet Union, on the British general strike, and above all on British colonialism. The bourgeoisie always know where they stand when it comes to the practical, day-to-day struggle. Their class bias in relationship to the socialist countries is merely an extension in foreign affairs of their position in the domain of domestic politics.”

“In the U.S., this can be seen without fail whenever there is a strike. There hasn’t been one instance where the capitalist class, as represented by its press, has ever taken the side of the workers against the bosses, or urged the bosses to agree to the demands of the workers. Literally not one. Occasionally they profess a treacherous neutrality, urging moderation on both sides, or they will criticize a particular company at a particular time, but never do they cross class lines, never do they go to the extent of actually supporting the workers against the bosses. The only strikes they have ever supported have been in Poland, and then they did it to weaken socialist construction, not to help the workers.”

“There is a second school of thought on the character of the Soviet state that goes by various names, but is best known as “bureaucratic collectivism,” a term that originated among some adherents to the broad leftist opposition to Stalin, notably Bruno Rizzi and Ciliga, and was eventually taken up in the U.S. by Max Shachtman. According to this view, the political power of the government, Party and managerial bureaucracy completely pervaded all avenues of Soviet society, allowing no movement in the direction of socialist democracy. The bureaucracy as they saw it had become a new ruling class in relation to the means of production. The followers of this view saw in the victories of the Chinese Revolution and others that followed merely confirmation of the tendency for bureaucratic collectivism to ultimately cover the face of the globe.”

“This political tendency began to disintegrate when the imperialist Allies adopted a posture of goodwill toward the USSR during World War II. However, once the Cold War began it was revived in the works of the Yugoslav ex-communist, Milovan Djilas, who wrote The New Class.”

“The recent trends in the direction of democratization in the USSR, even though limited as yet and without the independent participation of the working class in the political struggle, certainly invalidate the bureaucratic collectivist view. The prospect for proceeding to genuine proletarian democracy seems far more probable than any backsliding toward what the proponents of bureaucratic collectivism envisioned.”

“Bureaucratic collectivism saw as fundamental to the Soviet system those elements that in fact are part of the superstructure. Superstructural elements may in a given situation bolster or hamper the structure, as the case may be, but they are strictly derivative in character. Sometimes they serve as palliatives for reviving a decomposing social structure. At other times, they may be encrustations which paralyze a live and growing structure. In a broad and general way, history indicates that ultimately every new social structure which arises out of the needs of development of the productive forces will in time bring into correspondence its superstructure, or, failing that, will overthrow it.”

“Finally there is the Orwellian school, which contemplated a future in which humanity would be swallowed up by a totalitarian machine from which there can be no exit. George Orwell’s first satirical novel on this subject, Animal Farm, was written in 1946, the year of Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech and the beginning of the Cold War. His gloomy outlook projecting a universal totalitarian regime was taken further in 1984, written in 1948. It was taken up as the portrait of the future by writers, politicians and bourgeois publicists of all sorts, as well as economists and sociologists. Now, 40 years later, when all the capitalist media have been full of the Reagan-Gorbachev summit meetings, followed by the Bush-Gorbachev meetings, and have been showering applause on the new hero of peaceful coexistence, one can clearly see that the Orwellian view was a product of the Cold War and had little to do with the evolution of the USSR or an appraisal of its internal dynamics.”

“Today these views have generally been replaced by a new bourgeois theory that the USSR will inevitably yield to capitalist restoration. This outlook is a product of the present historical conjuncture just as much as the Orwellian view was a product of the Cold War period. Neither is an independent, dispassionate conclusion based upon a study of the internal dynamics of the Soviet Union as a new historical social formation. The current view of the USSR is being pushed by bourgeois economists and sociologists with a vigor and enthusiasm comparable to the critical acclaim accorded the Orwellian view during the period of the Cold War.”

“By now there have been scores of bourgeois studies of the Soviet reforms. Some give them high praise. Some may profess to show their shortcomings, but all, without exception, start with the built-in bias that a centralized, planned economy is invalid, economically inefficient and unworkable. Therefore, a return to the capitalist market is not only desirable but inevitable. Without this sacred predisposition, no analysis of the Soviet reforms is acceptable to the capitalist class. There are no studies whatsoever from the bourgeois side to show that a planned socialist economy is ever possible or desirable. Such a viewpoint must first be excluded before beginning any kind of analysis. This is true for all the “Sovietologists”–the Gerry Houghs, the Marshall Goldmans, the Ed Hewetts and other analysts of their ilk in capitalist academia.”

“The way the capitalist class explains the Gorbachev reforms, they are all but carved in stone. It would seem there’s no road open except to move further and faster until the full restoration of capitalism. This we believe to be wholly unfounded, both on the basis of historical evidence as well as on the inherent possibilities for a socialist regeneration which flow from the class structure of the Soviet Union.”

“The problem with so many bourgeois analysts of the Soviet Union is their utter inability to really and truly come to grips with the social character of the USSR as a brand-new, dynamic social system. Invariably they view it mechanically, often statically, but not dialectically. Lenin explained “the essence of dialectics” as “the splitting of a single whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts.” What the bourgeois analysts fail to see in the USSR is precisely this contradiction, between the revolutionary social structure of the USSR and its superstructure, which is all too frequently at variance with its class basis. There is a continuing struggle between structure and superstructure, now open, now hidden, often violent….”

“The Soviet Union is a contradictory social phenomenon. An attempt to unravel it would show that this phenomenon has a revolutionary class structure, in that it overthrew the landlords, bankers and industrialists, but has had a superstructure, for most of the time the USSR has existed, which is relatively at variance with its class structure. The still fragile class structure is vulnerable in the face of the global capitalist economy.”

“In bourgeois society, the governing groups can change many times, from monarchists to fascists, from democrats to military dictators, but because the capitalist system is based upon the automatic forces of the capitalist market and private property, the system continues with its superprofits and with its poverty. The fact that one clique of administrators is ousted and another takes its place may somewhat retard capitalist development at one time or accelerate it at another, but the system continues under the domination of the same ruling class. For instance, when Donald Regan, a multi-millionaire from Wall Street, was forced to resign his post as Ronald Reagan’s White House chief of staff, he did not thereby cease to be a capitalist and owner of millions of dollars in cash, stocks and bonds. He did not lose his membership in the capitalist class, he merely lost his office in the governing group. Needless to say, the same was true of Nelson Rockefeller after his tenure as vice president.”

“It is otherwise with the Soviet government. From the point of view of administration, the Soviet state is in the hands of a vast bureaucracy. But the ownership of the means of production, meaning the bulk of the wealth of the country including its natural resources, is legally and unambiguously in the hands of the people–the working class, who make up the overwhelming majority of the population. Those in the governing group are merely the administrators of the state and state property. If Politburo members Gorbachev, Ligachev or Yakovlev were to lose their posts, they would not take with them the departments or ministries they headed. They have pensions due and even may have accumulated personal funds, but they do not own a part of the state as such. The ownership of the means of production in the hands of the working class is truly the most significant sociological factor in the appraisal of the USSR as a workers’ state, or socialist state as it is called in deference to the aspirations of the people.”

Comment by Karl Friedrich — September 13, 2009 @ 6:18 am

Karl, what’s your point with Sam Marcy’s incredibly long quote.I looked into the Stalin/Hitler relationship more and turns out they shared more than the non-agression pact, they both supported the invasion of Poland. He doesn’t seem to touch on that as Louis does.

“The Creeds of the Devil”: Churchill between the Two Totalitarianisms, 1917-1945 (2 of 3)

MacDonald, the Leader, declared in connection with Churchill’s anti-Bolshevik campaigns ‘If the Labour Party can’t fight this, it can fight nothing’. [1] Technically, however, he was still a Liberal. He only crossed the Floor of the House again in 1924, standing as an Independent Anti-Socialist candidate at a by-election in March, in which he was narrowly defeated by the official Conservative candidate, and as a Constitutionalist candidate at the October General Election, with official Conservative backing. He won the seat of Epping, which he kept until 1964. In November 1924, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Conservative Government led by Baldwin.

In May 1926 he was at the forefront of the Government’s efforts to defeat the General Strike, notably editing the British Gazette, the official Government newspaper in the absence of the usual commercial newspapers. Churchill emerged from the episode with a reinforced reputation as the enemy of the working man, the more so as he initially opposed the distribution of welfare payments to the coalminers who continued with the strike until the autumn. He was presented as the extremist of the General Strike, not without justification. [2]

His image as a man of the authoritarian Right was made even worse by his disastrous public pronouncements following his trip to Rome in January 1927, when he met the Pope and Mussolini. In fact he had already expressed his admiration for Mussolini in January 1926, in a speech before Treasury officials :

Italy is a country which is prepared to face the realities of post-war reconstruction. It possesses a Government under the commanding leadership of Signor Mussolini which does not shrink from the logical consequences of economic facts and which has the courage to impose the financial remedies required to secure and to stabilise the national recovery. [3]

This is what we could call the ‘classic’ defence of Fascism – its economic efficiency at a time when the democracies were at a loss to find a coherent economic policy. Mosley was to put it more concisely later when he repeated that the British Fascists wanted to turn Parliament ‘from a talk-shop to a work-shop’. When Churchill praised Mussolini’s Italy for its economic realism, it was of course the British Chancellor of the Exchequer envying the Fascist dictator for the room for manoeuvre which the absence of an effective opposition gave him.

The offensive declarations of January 1927 were of a different nature, in that they clearly justified the introduction of Fascism as a bulwark against Bolshevism :

If I had been an Italian, I am sure I should have been whole-heartedly with you from the start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism. [4]

This argument was to be repeated ten years later, at the time of the Spanish Civil War, in a slightly different form – though the old assimilation with animals was not taken up this time:

I will not pretend that, if I had to choose between Communism and Nazi-ism, I would choose Communism. [5]

But then one must introduce a capital factor into the equation. In all these cases, Churchill was talking from the point of view of the Italians, the Spanish, the Germans. Thanks to their superior institutions and traditions, summed up by the well-known popular phrase, ‘it could not happen here’, the British were fortunately protected from these impossible choices.

In his approval of the Italian Fascists’ action in January 1927, Churchill was careful to distance himself from any advocacy of replication in Britain, immediately adding :

But in Great Britain we have not yet had to face this danger in the same form. We have our own particular method of doing things. [6]Ten years later, in ‘The Ebbing Tide of Socialism’, published in July 1937, Churchill continued to argue that Britain was above these Continental errors:

So also have been reduced to impotence and ridicule the Nazi conceptions of Sir Oswald Mosley. [7] He had built his hopes upon the Socialist or Communist menace, and in all probability he would have risen in opposition to it. But at the present time it does not exist. The failure of the red-hot men of the Left has involved a simultaneous failure of the white-hot men of the Right. [8]

This is of course an extremely interesting argument coming from a man of the Right as he then undoubtedly was. If we follow Churchill, it is precisely because ‘the Socialist or Communist menace’ was warded off in Britain that Fascism was unable to take root in the country. Closely following French affairs as he always did, he perfectly knew of the cries from the Fascist or crypto-Fascist ligues heard all over France at the time: ‘Plutôt Hitler que Blum’ or the ‘clever’ rhyming phrase (in French) ‘Plutôt Hitler que le Front populaire’.

The easy point which he would then have been able to make was that it was thanks to men of the ‘moderate’ Right like him that the ‘menace’ had not materialised into anything serious. But Churchill being Churchill, he chose instead to attribute the merit to the democratic maturity of the British people:

The massive common sense of the only long-trained democracy – apart from the United States – has established a spacious and predominant middle zone within which the class adjustments of the nation can be fought out, and from which the extremists at both ends are excluded. [9]

More than that, in his Commons speech of 14 April 1937 he suggested that a self-respecting Briton would face death rather than accept ‘to choose between Communism and Nazism’ :

I hope not to be called upon to survive in a world under a government of either of these dispensations.

A third reason may perhaps be adduced for Churchill’s praise of Mussolini in the 1920s: it appeared that at a time when the affairs of Continental Europe continued to preoccupy Churchill, he was reassured that Britain could count on Italy as a reliable partner under his rule, contrary to what he had initially feared. ‘What a swine this Mussolini is’ he wrote to his wife on 5 September 1923 after Mussolini decided to occupy Fiume. [10]

Thus three elements were clear in Churchill’s attitude to the Fascists and Communists – the two faces of the same coin in his eyes – around 1931-1932. He feared the Bolshevik threat far more than the Fascist threat. Founding his reasoning on Churchill’s speeches in Parliament, Quinault argues that ‘As late as 1931, Churchill still considered Soviet Russia the main threat to peace in Europe and the principal obstacle to disarmament’.[11]

If Fascism did not encroach upon British interests there was no reason in his eyes not to praise its perceived economic efficiency. Fascism was very well for the Continentals, with their shaky and often recent adoption of democratic institutions, but Britain did not need it to ward off the Communist danger. Although there is evidence that the early British Fascists, Rotha Lintorn-Orman’s British Fascisti (founded in 1923) and the splinter-group created in 1924, the National Fascisti (later the British National Fascisti), had occasionally given a hand in breaking the General Strike, for instance in Liverpool, it was obvious that the strike would have failed even without their intervention. [12]

In the 1930s, there was a complex evolution of Churchill’s attitude on the first two points, even though he never varied in his absolute disdain for the home-made version of Fascism. This did not mean that he did not share the Fascists’ extreme views on the intellectual Left. As Paul Addison puts it, ‘in the early 1930s Churchill sounded reactionary about England’, [13] and he quotes from a speech delivered on 24 April 1933 before the staunchly patriotic Royal Society of St. George. A more extensive excerpt makes the point even clearer:

The worst difficulties from which we suffer do not come from without. They come from within. They do not come from the cottages of the wage-earners. They come from a peculiar type of brainy people always found in our country, who, if they add something to its culture, take much from its strength.

Our difficulties come from the mood of unwarrantable self-abasement into which we have been cast by a powerful section of our own intellectuals. They come from the acceptance of defeatist doctrines by a large proportion of our politicians. But what have they to offer but a vague internationalism, a squalid materialism, and the promise of impossible Utopias? [14]

What made him change his approach – pace Carlton – was clearly the emergence of the radical National-Socialist movement in Germany. [15] Even before he acceeded to the Chancellorship of Germany on 30 January 1933, Churchill ‘viewed the rise of Hitler with disquiet’, as Wrigley mildly puts it. [16]

In January 1927, in Rome, Churchill had met Mussolini twice, in informal or semi-formal circumstances, at a ball and after a dinner at the British Embassy. The same scenario of informality almost repeated itself for the only occasion which he ever had of meeting Hitler, in September 1932. Churchill had been travelling to Germany, notably to Blenheim [17] where his famous ancestor the Duke of Marlborough had defeated the French-led coalition in 1704. He was staying in Munich before going back to England, in a hotel which Hitler also frequently patronised and he was approached by a very cheerful Herr Hanfstaengl who befriended him, saying that he could easily arrange a meeting with Hitler, whom he knew well and who he felt sure would be very glad to see him. We know this because Churchill recounted the episode in the first volume of his War Memoirs, The Gathering Storm. Writing immediately after the Second World War, this is how Churchill describes his state of mind in the late summer of 1932 :

I had no national prejudices against Hitler at this time. I knew little of his doctrine or record and nothing of his character. I admire men who stand up for their country in defeat, even though I am on the other side. He had a perfect right to be a patriotic German if he chose. I always wanted England, Germany and France to be friends. [18]

This is all the more plausible as Churchill had not lost his crusading spirit against Bolshevism. In November 1931, when the sixth and final volume of his narrative of the First World War, The World Crisis, was published, he dedicated it to ‘Our Faithful Allies and Comrades in the Russian Imperial Armies’ because it dealt with The Eastern Front. [19] We can agree in retrospect with John Young’s opinion:

Where the USSR was concerned Churchill’s realism led him to accept, by the 1930s, that it would exist for some time and was an essential component in any anti-German balance of power.[20]

But the real question is when exactly ‘by the 1930s’ Churchill came to realise that – to invert Carlton’s phrase – the Bolshevik peril was now of ‘second order’ compared with the Nazi menace. There is probably no answer, if only because there was a long period of uncertainty over the real extent of Hitler’s capacity for starting another war. Churchill never doubted Hitler’s evil nature, just as he never doubted Stalin’s – but it took some time before it became certain that the Nazi danger was the worse.

In a speech before the House of Commons on 11 July 1932, Churchill had described Hitler as ‘the moving impulse behind the German Government’. He ‘may be more than that very soon’, [21] he percipiently added – it must be remembered that Hitler’s party, the NSDAP, received just over 37% of the popular vote in the Reichstag elections of 31 July 1932. So a meeting would have made sense.

But then Churchill mentioned Hitler’s attitude to the Jews to Hanfstaengl – it is not clear whether this was a deliberate provocation or an incidental remark in their conversations. According to Hanfstaengl, who also wrote his memoirs, [22] Churchill’s exact words were ‘Tell your boss from me that anti-Semitism may be a good starter, but it is a bad sticker’. [23]

The result was immediate: the proposed meeting was called off. ‘Thus Hitler lost his only chance of meeting me’, Churchill concludes in his memoirs. ‘Later on, when he was all-powerful, I was to receive several invitations from him. But by that time a lot had happened, and I excused myself’. [24]

Hanfstaengl makes it clear that there was in fact mutual suspicion, a distrust on both sides which gradually turned into absolute hatred and it is impossible to know whether Hitler was later shown the secret memorandum which one of the Counsellors at the German Embassy in London had sent to his Foreign Ministry, reporting a conversation with Churchill on 18 October 1930, over a year therefore before Hitler became Chancellor:

Hitler had admittedly declared that he had no intention of waging a war of aggression he, Churchill, however, was convinced that Hitler or his followers would seize the first available opportunity to resort to armed force. [25]

This secret memorandum also contains evidence that Churchill had had at least passages from Mein Kampf, published in Germany in 1925-1926, privately translated for his own edification, because in the conversation he alluded to a cynical remark by Hitler, ‘the great masses of the people … will more easily fall victims to a great lie than to a small one’ which did not even figure in the official English translation published in 1933. [26]

The private Foreign Office translation [27] of the expurgated passage, later forwarded to Churchill, read: ‘if one tells big lies, people will always believe a part’ and ‘something always remains of the most impudent lies’. [28]

There is also indirect evidence that Churchill immediately understood the significance of Hitler’s incitements to racial and national hatred in the explosive context of 1924 Germany. In an article entitled ‘Shall we All commit Suicide?’ published in September 1924 in Pall Mall Magazine and reprinted in Thoughts and Adventures in 1932, Churchill assumed the role of the prophet of doom which was to gradually estrange him from his fellow-citizens, who did not want to hear his apocalyptic predictions. It was not a welcome warning when he said ‘Let it not be thought for a moment that the danger of another explosion in Europe is passed’. There were two reasons for that. Russia bemoaned the loss of ‘her Baltic Provinces’. But there was worse :

From one end of Germany to the other an intense hatred of France unites the whole population. The enormous contingents of German youth growing to military manhood year by year are inspired by the fiercest sentiments, and the soul of Germany smoulders with dreams of a War of Liberation or Revenge. These ideas are restrained at the present moment only by physical impotence.

Now, even though Hitler as such is not named as such, it is permissible to see him as the archetype of aggressive man in the most blood-curdling passage in the article – and if the readers of Pall Mall magazine did not all perceive the allusion in 1924, it is most likely that those of 1932 in Thoughts and Adventures did so:

Death stands at attention, obedient, expectant, ready to serve, ready to shear away the peoples en masse ready, if called on, to pulverise, without hope of repair, what is left of civilisation. He awaits only the word of command, He awaits it from a frail, bewildered being, long his victim, now – for one occasion only – his Master. [29]

Considering all this, why Churchill wrote a long portrait of Hitler, ‘The Truth about Hitler’, published in November 1935 in The Strand Magazine, and reprinted in 1937 in Great Contemporaries as ‘Hitler and his Choice’, remains one of the more puzzling aspects of this complex relationship by proxy. In any case it is a typical exercise in damning with faint praise. The German Foreign Ministry lodged an official complaint, and the magazine was prohibited in Germany. [30]

The gist of the article is that the ‘corporal’, the ‘former Austrian house-painter’, the ‘Austrian-born corporal’, ‘Corporal Hitler’, had by 1935 ‘succeeded in restoring Germany to the most powerful position in Europe’. ‘When Hitler began, Germany lay prostrate at the feet of the Allies’, he argued. ‘He may yet see the day when what is left of Europe will be prostrate at the feet of Germany’.

The great question was whether what Churchill called ‘the mellowing influences of success’ would eventually make Hitler ‘a gentler figure in a happier age’. The article was not well balanced, because Churchill obviously devoted far more space to the discussion of the negative and pessimistic arguments, notably the idea that if past behaviour was anything to go by, there was serious cause for worry. Churchill insisted on the relentless persecution of the German Jews, ‘a community numbered by hundred of thousands’ and on the arrest of all opponents, including ‘Trade Unionists and the liberal intelligentsia’, with ‘an attack upon the historical basis of Christianity’. In a forceful image, he linked this repression to the military effort: ‘Side by side with the training grounds of the new armies and the great aerodromes, the concentration camps pock-mark the German soil’.

One remarkable aspect of his argument is that he indicts Hitler for proscribing ‘socialists and communists of every hue’. [31] Carlton curiously glosses over the imbalance and interprets the language of the text as showing a partiality towards Hitler which Churchill had never shown towards the Bolsheviks.[32] But overall Churchill’s article makes it clear that by 1935 his visceral anti-Communism was relegated to the background in the face of the mounting danger coming from Nazi Germany. Given the choice between Godless Communism and Godless Nazi-ism, [33] he now found the latter the most obnoxious.

This does not mean that he now rejected Fascism, however. On the contrary, by a curious twist in the reasoning, largely founded on considerations of British defence priorities, Churchill courted Mussolini more assiduously than ever after Hitler’s accession to the Chancellorship.

One of the most important sources for our subject is the impassioned speech which he delivered on the occasion of the 25 th anniversary meeting of the Anti-Socialist and Anti-Communist Union, on 17 February 1933, less than three weeks after Hitler came to power – the context is obviously of capital importance. There is of course a great deal of irony in Churchill adressing this organisation, because it had been founded as the Anti-Socialist Union in 1908 precisely to fight the welfare measures which Lloyd George was drafting with the help of Churchill, then at the height of his anti-Conservative ‘progressive’ phase. [34] Though adopting a militant Anti-Communist position, as the post-war addition to its name indicated, it clearly distanced itself from British Fascist groups – indeed these Fascist groups were now much more attractive for people with far-right inclinations – but it is a measure of Churchill’s evolution that he was now its guest speaker.

The speech contains the first public allusions to another perceived menace, that of the militarist Japanese Government. Context is again all-important: Japan attacked Manchuria on 18 September 1931 and proclaimed the ‘independence’ of the puppet state of Manchukuo on 15 September 1932. When the League of Nations expressed a protest, Japan withdrew from it immediately, on 24 February 1933. Also, only a week before Churchill’s speech, the Oxford Union had passed the extraordinary resolution that ‘This House refuses in any circumstances to fight for King and Country’, on 9 February.

Starting with a denunciation of the ‘abject, squalid, shameless avowal’ of the Oxford students, Churchill offered a bleak panorama of the world situation, which dictated British rearmament, not pacifism. The first passage of that vast survey must have displeased his audience, since many members probably shared the common belief among the Right that Nazi Germany was the best bulwark against Soviet contagion. When thinking of the Oxford Union resolution, he argued,

I think of Germany, with its splendid clear-eyed youth marching forward on all the roads of the Reich singing their ancient songs, demanding to be conscripted into the army eagerly seeking the most terrible weapons of war burning to suffer and die for their fatherland.

It was obvious here that Churchill did not primarily have the Soviet Union in mind as the potential target of Germany’s ‘splendid clear-eyed youth’. This is what made him differ so sharply with the Appeasers and the activists of the British Right and extreme Right: he never believed that the supporters of German Nazism could be the objective allies of British Conservatives against Bolshevism. This is all the more remarkable as he shared their belief – at least in 1933, at the time of his speech – in the Far East:

I must say something to you which is very unfashionable. I am going to say one word of sympathy for Japan… I hope we should try in England to understand a little the position of Japan, an ancient state with the highest sense of national honour, and patriotism and with a teeming population and a remarkable energy. On the one side they see the dark menace of Soviet Russia. On the other the chaos of China, four or five provinces of which are actually now being tortured under Communist rule.

As if this did not make it sufficiently evident that he judged the militarist and Fascist Right on the merits of the case, he had most surprising words of praise to pour on Italy ‘with her ardent Fascisti, her renowned Chief, and stern sense of national duty’, and even more so on Mussolini, whom he saw as ‘the Roman genius’, ‘the greatest lawgiver among living men’. [35]

In his biography of Churchill, Roy Jenkins calls it ‘an altogether unfortunate speech’ [36] : admittedly, with the benefit of hindsight, knowing that Japan was to associate with Germany in the Anti-Comintern Pact three years later, with Italy soon joining them – eventually forming the so-called ‘Axis’ – Churchill’s partiality towards Japan and Italy now seems little founded, and it cannot be explained by his desire to please his audience since he knew that he was probably affronting most of them with his uncompromising rejection of Nazism, and that did not stop him.

So we have to go back again to psychological explanations founded on the complexity of Churchill’s personality. No doubt he was a man of principle – but like all virtuous men, only up to a point. He was an opportunist in the sense that he always chose what was the lesser of two evils in his eyes. Here his guiding principle seems to have been the preservation of civilisation – no less. For him, this meant first and foremost the liberal values of Western culture – as most cherished in England. ‘Liberal’ in the economic sense – he wrote in a letter sent shortly before he became Chancellor of the Exchequer that ‘the existing capitalist system is the foundation of civilisation’ [37] , but perhaps even more so in the democratic sense. This is where the lesser of the two evils comes in.

When he said in a speech to the Commons on 7 February 1934 :

We…are left exposed to a mortal thrust, and are deprived of that old sense of security and independence upon which the civilization [38] of our island has been built [39]

it was clear to him that with Hitler now the unchallenged Leader of Germany, the foundations of British and Western civilisation – and therefore of all civilisation in his eyes, as he was to say four years later in so many words [40] – were mortally threatened.

The lesser evil was therefore to accept to have some truck with those whom he then perceived as the lesser Fascists and Militarists – the Italians and Japanese – the better to ward off the only truly dangerous menace, that coming from a Nazified Germany intent on enslaving the ‘rotten plutocracies’. There was nothing new in this priority – as early as February 1919, Churchill had expressed before the Cabinet his fear of ‘a great combination from Yokohama to Cologne in hostility to France, Britain and America’. [41] He had expressed this fear with special reference to the possible spreading of Bolshevism, but he was prepared to reactivate it in the 1930s with the spectre of a Nazified Europe in mind.

It is not easy to determine when he lost his illusions about continued Japanese goodwill or at least neutrality. In a speech to the House of Commons on 31 May 1935, he laconically alluded to the potential danger of a rapprochement between Germany and Japan :

[1] Pelling, Winston Churchill (1999): 257.

[2] Addison. Churchill on the Home Front, 1900-1955: 264.

[3] ‘Italian Debt Settlement (Signing)’. A speech at the Treasury, London, on 27 January 1926. Reprinted in Winston S. Churchill : His Complete Speeches, 1897-1963. Vol.IV: 1922-1928: 3824.

[4] Gilbert. Winston S. Churchill. V: Prophet of Truth, 1922-1939: 226.

[5] Speech in the House of Commons, 14 April 1937. Reprinted in Arms and the Covenant: 409.

[6] ‘Anglo-Italian Relations’. A press statement in Rome on 20 January 1927. Reprinted in Winston S. Churchill : His Complete Speeches, 1897-1963. Vol.IV: 1922-1928: 4126.

[7] In Langworth’s substantial volume of Churchill quotations, Churchill by Himself, Mosley is not even mentioned. The Index jumps from ‘Moslems and Hindus’ to ‘mosquito eradication’. This would tend to suggest that Churchill saw Mosley as a negligible opponent, not worth attacking in his speeches and writings.

[8] Churchill and the British authorities were no longer sure of the lasting character of that failure in the panic atmosphere of May-June 1940, when Mosley was seen as a high security risk.

Churchill of course never believed in the principle ‘no freedom for the enemies of freedom’, adopted by the Bolsheviks among others. The memo which he sent to the Home Secretary on 22 December 1940 over Mosley’s internment shows his embarrassment at having had to follow that policy: ‘Naturally I feel distressed at having to be responsible for action so utterly at variance with all the fundamental principles of British liberty, habeas corpus, and the like. The public danger justifies the action taken, but that danger is now receding’. Mosley was interned under Regulation 18B from 23 May 1940 until November 1943 – by then the danger of German invasion had become nil.

In the light of the Guantanamo controversy, Churchill’s preoccupation in the same memo over Mosley’s conditions of detention makes fascinating reading – and reflects on his innate sense of what concurs to the dignity of man (e.g. ‘Does a bath every week mean a hot bath, and would it be very wrong to allow a bath every day?’). See Their Finest Hour: Appendix A, p. 703.

Sir Oswald Mosley makes no mention of Churchill’s personal role in detaining or releasing him in his memoirs (My Life. London: Nelson, 1968). He only quotes the passage in the memo where Churchill says ‘In the case of Mosley and his wife there is much pressure from the Left, in the case of Pandit Nehru from the Right’.

[9] ‘The Ebbing Tide of Socialism’. Evening Standard (9 July 1937). Reprinted in Step by Step (1947 ed.: 135).

[10] Soames. Speaking for Themselves: 275.

[11] Quinault. ‘Churchill and Russia’: 106.

[12] Mowat. Britain Between the Wars 1918-1940. (1968): 294.

[13] Addison. Churchill on the Home Front: 315

[14] Winston S. Churchill : His Complete Speeches, 1897-1963. Vol.V: 1928-1935: 5268.

[15] In common with most of his contemporaries, Churchill variously said and wrote Nazism or Nazi-ism when using the abbreviation. The spelling found in the sources and records will be kept here.

[16] Wrigley. Winston Churchill: A Biographical Companion: 218.

[17] Blindheim in German, in Bavaria.

[18] Churchill. The Gathering Storm: 83.

[19] Churchill. The World Crisis – The Eastern Front: Dedication.

[20] Young. ‘Churchill and the East-West détente’: 374.

[21] Speech in the House of Commons, 11 July 1932. Reprinted in Arms and the Covenant: 29.

[22] Hanfstaengl, Ernst. Hitler: The Missing Years. In collaboration with Brian Connell. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1957.

[23] Gilbert. Winston S. Churchill. Vol. V: Prophet of Truth, 1922-1939: 448.

[24] Churchill. The Gathering Storm: 84.

[25] Gilbert. Winston S. Churchill. Vol. V: Prophet of Truth, 1922-1939: 407.

[26] Manchester. Visions of Glory: 874-875.

[27] For a full discussion of the National Government members’ supposed reluctance to see the publication of a full and faithful version of Hitler’s book, see Stone, Dan. ‘ “The Mein Kampf Ramp”: Emily Overend Lorimer and Hitler Translations in Britain’. German History 26:4 (2008): 504-519.

[28] Gilbert. Winston S. Churchill. Vol. V: Prophet of Truth, 1922-1939: 738.

[29] Churchill. ‘Shall we All commit Suicide?’ Thoughts and Adventures (1947 ed.): 187, 188.

[30] Gilbert. Winston S. Churchill. Vol. V: Prophet of Truth, 1922-1939: 680.

[31] Churchill. ‘Hitler and his Choice’. Reprinted in Great Contemporaries (1937): 261-269 passim. (Odhams, 1947: 203-210 passim). Whatever conclusions may be drawn from this, the photograph of Hitler is curiously different in the two editions. In 1937 he is smiling.

[32] Carlton. ‘Churchill and the two “Evil Empires” ’: 336

[33] See his very seductive comparison between the two in ‘The Creeds of the Devil’ (The Sunday Chronicle, 27 June, 1937), notably: ‘There are two strange facts about these non-God religions. The first is their extraordinary resemblance to one another. Nazism and Communism imagine themselves as exact opposites. They are at each other’s throats wherever they exist all over the world. They actually breed each other for the reaction against Communism is Nazism, and beneath Nazism or Fascism Communism stirs convulsively. Yet they are similar in all essentials. First of all, their simplicity is remarkable. You leave out God and put in the Devil you leave out love and put in hate and everything thereafter works quite straightforwardly and logically. They are, in fact, as alike as two peas. Tweedledum and Tweedledee are two quite distinctive personalities compared to these two rival religions’.

[34] Cf. The People’s Rights. By the Right Hon. W.S. Churchill, President of the Board of Trade. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1909.

[35] Gilbert. Winston S. Churchill. Vol. V: Prophet of Truth, 1922-1939: 456-457.

[36] Jenkins. Churchill (2002): 469.

[37] Gilbert. Winston S. Churchill. Vol V: Prophet of Truth, 1922-1939: 73.

[38] The sources sometimes have ‘civilisation’, sometimes ‘civilization’. The original spelling is kept here in the quotations.

[39] Reprinted in Arms and the Covenant: 112

[40] ‘We should lay aside every hindrance and endeavour by uniting the whole force and spirit of our people to raise again a great British nation standing up before all the world for such a nation, rising in its ancient vigour, can even at this hour save civilization’. Speech in the House of Commons, 24 March 1938. Reprinted in Arms and the Covenant: 466.

[41] Cabinet Papers. 13 February 1919. In Pelling. Winston Churchill (1999): 258.

Churchill’s Prophetic Warning: ‘An Iron Curtain Has Descended’

Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin in Yalta, February 1945 (National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons)

N o speech from a foreign visitor ever created a greater uproar than that delivered by Winston Churchill at an obscure Midwestern college just months after the end of the Second World War. As it turned out, no speech proved more prophetic about the deadliest assault on human freedom in the history of world civilization.

Many expected Churchill’s talk at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., on March 5, 1946 — modestly titled “The Sinews of Peace” — to reflect on the defeat of fascism by the three great wartime allies, the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. Instead, it was a message of foreboding. A new crisis moment for Europe, and for the world, had arrived: a struggle between communism and the democratic West. “A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory,” Churchill warned. “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”

Left-leaning historians blame Churchill’s address as the catalyst for the Cold War. Eleanor Roosevelt, carrying on the political legacy of her dead husband, was aghast, fearing that Churchill’s message would compromise the peacekeeping mission of the newly created United Nations. The liberal press denounced the talk as “poisonous” and Churchill as a “warmonger.”

A truly noxious speech, however, had been delivered by Joseph Stalin just a few weeks earlier to Communist Party apparatchiks in Moscow. Largely forgotten today, it did about as much to expose the unbridgeable divide between East and West as Churchill’s peroration.

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Until Next Time, Sir Winston

Destiny in Retrospect

“It would be wrong to think that the Second World War broke out accidentally,” Stalin began. “As a matter of fact, the war broke out as the inevitable result of the development of world economic and political forces on the basis of present-day monopolistic capitalism.” Thus, Stalin repeated Marx’s assault on capitalism for distributing resources unequally. He parroted Lenin’s claim that greedy capitalist states inevitably went to war with one another. Peace was possible, he suggested, but only after communism had triumphed around the globe. The message was clear: The historic contest between socialism and democratic capitalism was at a high-water mark.

Stalin’s address was a tissue of lies and omissions. He portrayed the Soviet Union as the fierce opponent of fascist rule in Europe. In fact, Stalin made a secret pact with Hitler’s Germany to divide up the continent among themselves. The agreement allowed the Soviet Union to invade and occupy eastern Poland in 1939 as Hitler invaded from the west, triggering the Second World War. For 22 months, in fact, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were allies Germany sold weapons to the USSR and the USSR sold grain and oil to Germany.

Stalin also assured his audience that the policy of collectivized agriculture was “an exceedingly progressive method” to modernize the Soviet economy. In reality, the forced collectivization of private farms, begun in 1928, created a human catastrophe. Many peasants fought to hold onto their plots of land: five million were deported and never heard from again. The government seized their grain, and the result was a man-made famine. By 1934, upwards of 13 million Soviet citizens died unnatural deaths — from mass murder and starvation — because of Stalin’s communist vision.

Ironically, Stalin spoke the truth when he boasted that “no skeptic now dares to express doubt concerning the viability of the Soviet social system.” At least 700,000 “skeptics” — anyone even mildly critical of Marshal Stalin — were murdered during the “Great Purge” of 1936–38. The secret police, show trials, assassinations, torture, prison camps, ethnic cleansing: Virtually no tool of terror was left untried to silence dissent.

All these facts informed Churchill’s assessment of the Soviet Union. But the most alarming truth about Stalin’s Russia was its forcible absorption of Eastern Europe into the communist fold. For months, Churchill had watched with growing apprehension as Stalin violated the agreements he made with the Allies at their 1945 Yalta Conference, promising free and democratic elections in Eastern Europe. Communist fifth columns were now at work, wholly obedient to Moscow.

“The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to preeminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control,” Churchill said. “Whatever conclusion may be drawn from these facts — and facts they are — this is certainly not the Liberated Europe we fought to build up.”

Every description Churchill offered of Soviet designs over Europe proved entirely accurate. His judgment of communism as “a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilization” was being validated in every state that fell under its malign influence.

Indeed, America’s most important diplomat in Moscow had reached the same conclusions at almost precisely the same moment. George F. Kennan’s “Long Telegram,” arguing for a policy of “firm containment” against the Soviet Union, arrived at the State Department just days before Churchill arrived in Fulton. “It is clear that the United States cannot expect in the foreseeable future to enjoy political intimacy with the Soviet regime,” Kennan wrote. “It must continue to expect that Soviet policies will reflect no abstract love of peace and stability, no real faith in the possibility of a permanent happy coexistence of the Socialist and capitalist worlds, but rather a cautious, persistent pressure toward the disruption and weakening of all rival influence and rival power.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s delusional portrait of Stalin as “Uncle Joe,” a cheerful partner in building a global democratic community, was dead in the water. Nevertheless, it is difficult, from our historical distance, to grasp the feeling of dread that Churchill’s words must have caused in a war-weary population. He clearly sensed the enormous task he was asking his American audience to embrace: to engage its economic, military, and moral resources to check Soviet ambitions in Europe and beyond. “I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war,” he said. “What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines.”

The United States, he suggested, must not make the mistake it made after the First World War, when it abandoned the League of Nations and left Europe to its fate. It must help ensure that the United Nations will become an effective force for peace and security, “and not merely a cockpit in a Tower of Babel.” Most importantly, though, Churchill called for a “special relationship” between America and Great Britain: the sharing of military intelligence, mutual-defense agreements, and strategic cooperation to support and promote democracy.

Their common democratic ideals, he explained, were the basis for a unique partnership to thwart the despotic aims of Soviet communism:

We must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence. . . . Here is the message of the British and American peoples to mankind.

Critics denounced this language as rank chauvinism and cultural imperialism. Legendary columnist Walter Lippmann called the speech an “almost catastrophic blunder.” In an interview with Pravda, dutifully transcribed in the New York Times, Stalin compared Churchill to Hitler: “Mr. Churchill, too, has begun the task of unleashing war with a racial theory, stating that only nations that speak the English language are . . . called upon to rule the destinies of the whole world.”

Any frank assessment of how the Cold War ended, however, would admit the decisive role played by the United States and the United Kingdom, over the course of four decades, in resisting Soviet aggression. The Berlin airlift, the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the defense of Western Europe, the support for the democratic revolutions in Eastern Europe that brought down the Soviet empire — in each case the “special relationship” between America and Great Britain tipped the scales toward freedom.

In a remarkable moment of candor, Mikhail Gorbachev, who presided over the dissolution of the Soviet Union, endorsed the central message of Churchill’s speech in his farewell address on Christmas Day, 1991. The Cold War, “the totalitarian system,” “the mad militarization” that “crippled our economy, public attitudes and morals” — it all had come to an end, and there was no turning back. “I consider it vitally important to preserve the democratic achievements which have been attained in the last few years,” he said. “We have paid with all our history and tragic experience for these democratic achievements, and they are not to be abandoned, whatever the circumstances, and whatever the pretexts.”

Seventy-five years ago, Churchill dared to imagine such an outcome. But it depended upon these two great democratic allies, Great Britain and the United States, sharing a “faith in each other’s purpose, hope in each other’s future, and charity towards each other’s shortcomings.” And, with history as a guide, such an outcome would not arrive without a supreme effort of national will. “If all British moral and material forces and convictions are joined with your own in fraternal association,” he said, “the highroads of the future will be clear, not only for us but for all, not only for our time, but for a century to come.”

Joseph Loconte is the director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at the Heritage Foundation and is working on a book about Winston Churchill at the 1945 Yalta Conference. Nile Gardiner is the director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation.

How Churchill was Close to Fascism

The problem in our uncertain world of the Twenty-Hundreds is not so much that Bush compares himself to Churchill, but that anyone should wish to compare themselves to Churchill.

True, Churchill did have a sense of grandeur in a way that today’s leaders do not. Slightly staged and theatrical, yet the last echo of the substantial British gentry of the 18 th century. These characters had been in full decline all through the 19 th century, the era which rather too many people take to be Britain’s true age of greatness.

After Churchill, the grandeur departed, though the forms remained. One is reminded of the Chinese phrase about an ape dressed up in the robes of a philosopher-king. None of them can match the dignity of a man who grew up as a member of the British elite in an era when Britain was the world’s only true Superpower.

Churchill was the last gasp of a British world order that had outlived its original energies and purpose. The British Empire had hung on to an early 19 th century vision of industry and trade, a rich middle class living off impoverished workers and hoping to rise into aristocratic circles. This world vision was under threat from both Germany and the USA, which had developed industries that were as good or better than anything that Britain had.

The first half of the twentieth century saw extremes of warfare that could have been avoided if the British ruling class had accepted back in 1900 or 1910 that it should no longer try to rule the world. Most Britons outside of the ruling class were not hugely bothered, but found themselves flung headlong into terrible wars that the ruling class created by its power politics (and which were even worse for the non-British world).

It is conventional now to speak of Britain facing a ‘Nazi threat’ in the 1930s. But the British government and a majority of voters saw Nazism as both a threat and an opportunity. The economic model that came to be called Keynesian was then associated in Britain with politicians who were close to Fascism or sympathetic with fascism. Notably Sir Oswald Mosley, who’d begun as a Tory, switched to Labour and then founded a ‘New Party’ before switching again to Fascism.

Mosley, Lloyd George and Churchill briefly considered forming a kind of ‘National Opposition’ when Ramsey Macdonald and Baldwin formed the National Government. It was part of the general fluidity, after the system of the 1910s had discredited itself with the 1914-18 war and the unjust and unworkable peace they made at Versailles.

If upholders of ‘Capitalist Democracy’ in the 1930s had been as hostile to Fascism as they were to Communism, Hitler would have been stopped much sooner and much more cheaply. As it was, there was an attempt to fit him in as a right-wing ally, as Mussolini had been and as General Franco and other right-wing dictators were accommodated during the Cold War era. The Left protested, Centrists sighed and the Right got on with business as usual.

The dismantling of democracy in Germany did not change Tory attitudes. Comprehensive discrimination against Jews did not change Tory attitudes. A crack-down on Germany’s relatively tolerant attitudes to sex was quite attractive to many Tories, as was a clear assertion of male superiority and female subordination.

Germany choosing to re-arm and overturn of the Versailles limits was alarming but acceptable, for as long as it was thought that Hitler was just restoring Germany as a nation. It was also hoped that he would join with other right-wing nations in the conquest of the Soviet Union, Churchill’s failed project of 1920-21.

Churchill himself was opposed to the scheme—opposed in the sense that he did not want Hitler getting the glory and the benefit for doing a job he saw as necessary—but he was fairly isolated at the time. I’ll show later that it was the annexation of the Czech territories that caused a sudden reversal, in a way that seems baffling today. The point I want to make now is that Nazi Germany was the biggest ‘blowback’ so far in world history, with the West building up Hitler as a fighter against Communism and ending up having to ally with Stalin to stop Hitler and Germany from dominating all Europe.

An important stage in the rise of Fascism was Spain, where Britain and France decided to stand neutral when General Franco led a military rebellion against democracy. A moderately progressive government was denied military aid and found no help except from the Soviet Union—those who nowadays say it’s incomprehensible that people would work with Stalin are pig-ignorant about the actually existing alternatives. The Tory Party and the ‘National Government’ stood neutral while Fascism was spread at the expense of existing multi-party parliamentary systems.

After 1945, with Britain’s ‘Imperial War Machine’ much weakened, it was convenient to pretend that Britain was helpless in the face of the Fascist beast. Regarding Spain, the excuse is Communist role on the Republican side, but that is another case of confusing cause and effect. The Communist role grew because only the Soviet Union would help the democratically elected government against a military revolt that began with large numbers of Moroccan troops from Spain’s residual empire. And yet Franco and his mixed bag of Fascists and right-wing Nationalists still needed massive German and Italian intervention to succeed against the popular radicalism of the Republic.

Britain and France could have supported the Republican side, kept it non-Communist and ensured its victory. It would have needed no commitment of troops and would have carried very little risk of war, and the actual Second World War would almost certainly have been avoided. But in the 1930s, the ruling classes in Britain still had a very different notion of the world and did not like radical republicanism of the Spanish sort. They sympathised with Franco’s coup, much as the USA since 1945 has backed right-wing military coups against democratic left-wing governments, most notably the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile on September 11 th 1973.

The most distinctive thing about 1930s Fascism is that they did things in the home territories that all European empires had applied overseas for centuries. This trend may have begun in the USA, with the American Civil War being won by Union generals like Grant and Sherman applying to the South the same methods that had been developed to clear away Native Americans from lands where the White Race wanted to settle.

Sherman and Grant broke the Confederacy by large-scale destructiveness, after conventional methods of warfare between armies had failed. The Federal side got their main aim: the USA was confirmed as a federal nation rather than an association of sovereign states. Also the embarrassment of slavery was removed: it might have lasted much longer had the South not seceded.

Racial equality was not what the Federal forces had been after Abraham Lincoln was a racist whose opposition to slavery was based on a desire to limit the spread of black people, ideally to remove them from the USA entirely. If he hadn’t been assassinated, he might have gone on to establish formal segregation, which in fact just happened piecemeal.

In the USA, the South was broken, but afterwards politics got back to an aggressive populism that made actual fascism unnecessary. Besides, in those days the USA had no real Empire, just territories that it owned despite the wishes of inconvenient local inhabitants.

Things were rather different among the European Empires. The 20 th century war-machines stopped recognising existing distinctions between privileged and subordinate groups, when the privileged got in their way. All of the European powers had caused the deaths of millions of their colonial subjects, but that was only ‘natives’. Jews were always classed as part of the ‘White Race’, classified as a low or middling or high element within the White Race depending on where you were, but quite high up in the racial hierarchy that was seen as normal up until 1945.

The mass extermination of a million or more gypsies by the Nazis receives vastly less attention than the killing of Jews by the same extermination-machine. Likewise Japanese torture, massacre and rape of other Asians was mostly overlooked whereas crimes against Europeans received the proper punishment.

The only authentic and serious case of lethal scientific experiments on prisoners was Japanese, but the subjects were merely Chinese and Russians and so the US authorities let them off in return for the data. Japanese war-crimes were systematic, whereas the stuff done by some Nazi doctors in the Concentration Camps was cruel and demented without ever being very scientific.

Gestapo methods were standard police methods of the time, except that the customary distinction between the working class, middle class and ruling class was no longer observed. Once repression was democratised, there was suddenly much more enthusiasm for entrenched global rights. There had always been some idealists, but now they were joined by many who would have always supposed that they themselves were ‘off limits’. But that was much later, after Britain’s two anti-German wars had ruined the European empires and forced changes that would have seemed impossibly radical in 1914.

But surely Winston Churchill was the shining exception to the weakness and collaboration of the 1930s? Like hell he was! Churchill’s objection to Hitler and the Nazis was that they were making Germany too powerful. Nothing else bothered him much and he regularly spoke of it as an anti-German war rather than ‘anti-Nazi’—a view that is once again being pushed now that West Germans have ceased to be key allies in the Cold War.

Up until he became Prime Minister in 1940, Churchill’s biggest contribution to world history had been to turn Lloyd George into a partner in the anti-German war. And this was a war that part of the British ruling class had been planning for years. It would have happened regardless of how Germany had handled the particular crisis over the Serbian claim to Bosnia. And while solid evidence is lacking, it is interesting to speculate whether Churchill had played a larger role in the pre-planning for war than the standard histories suggest.

Lloyd George had opposed the Boer War, which the young Winston Churchill had enthusiastically supported. The people planning Britain’s war with Germany must have known he’d be a major obstacle—or else a great asset if he could be won over. And ex-soldier Churchill was famous after his ‘miraculously lucky’ escape from a South African prisoner-of-war camp—did he have more help than was ever admitted? In any case, he then entered politics as a Tory, and appeared first as a rather overmatched orator opposing Lloyd George.

Churchill as a Tory MP was a maverick, much as his father Randolph Churchill had been. In 1904, he was part of a small defection of Free-Trade Tories to the Liberals, and therefore benefited from their dramatic and unexpected victory in 1906. And as a Liberal, he became almost a disciple to Lloyd George, very surprising in view of Churchill’s general attitudes, his aristocratic connections and Lloyd George’s mundanely middle-class roots. Together they oppose the plans for naval expansion, with an unexpected lack of success, as Roy Jenkins notes:

“Churchill and, to a lesser extent, Lloyd George had allowed themselves to be isolated… The two ‘economists’, as they were known in those days… had fought a remarkably ineffective battle. Their opponents had asked for six ships [dreadnoughts]. The ‘economists’ tried to hold out for four. And the result of the ‘compromise’ was eight.” (Churchill, by Roy Jenkins. pages 156-7 of the Pan Books paperback.)

From his background and general viewpoint, Churchill should have been enthusiastically for such policies from the beginning. That he was an opponent and then an unexpectedly ineffective opponent is suspicious.

Nothing can be proven, of course, and perhaps an odd series of changes of view reflect no more than an energetic and ambitious personality. Conspiracy theorists claim to know inner secrets that have otherwise remained secret, and also hatch melodramatic plots without regard for human motivation. Yet real establishment plots exist, are mostly quiet and clever, though not always successful and not always hidden from history. A well-ordered conspiracy among the nation’s elite is unlikely to be found out. But Churchill was later welcomed as First Lord of the Admiralty, and several times in his later career he was saved from near-ruin, which was either very lucky or due to accumulated credits with the ruling elite.

That much is speculation: the hard facts are that in 1911, after a dangerous confrontation between France and Germany over Morocco, Churchill went back to being what one would have expected from his background, an enthusiast for war and navel power.

“This conversion in 1911, however, produced no immediate break with Lloyd George. Instead Churchill contributed to getting the Chancellor to insert in his annual Mansion House speech… robust warning to Germany which was as surprising from Lloyd George at the time as it was a remarkable foretaste of his dogged militarism of five years later.” (Ibid, p 202)

“The shift of [Churchill’s] interests therefore preceded his change of posts… The main object of the shake-up was to create a War Staff at the Admiralty, such as had already been imposed on the War Office.” (Ibid, 205).

As Home Secretary, Churchill had shown no scruples about being ready to use the army in mainland Britain. By 1911, strikes were less of an issue, but there were doubts about whether the navy was organisationally ready. So Churchill moved from the Home Office to be First Lord of the Admiralty, preparing for the expected war.

In 1914, Lloyd George joined the warmongers reluctantly, but turned out to understand modern warfare rather better than Churchill, Asquith or Kitchener. The 1914-18 war did immense damage to ruling class prestige, not just because it seemed pointless when people looked back with cooled passions, but also because many of the working-class and middle-class participants found that they understood fighting and strategy much better than the governing class that had been bred for such things.

Churchill’s own reputation suffered from the failed landings at Gallipoli in 1915, which was perhaps unfair. In 1914-18, there was an odd sense in which the slaughter on the Western Front was treated as ‘off balance sheet’—to call it an error was to admit that Capitalist Democracy of the early 20th century vintage was not just imperfect but criminally foolish. Gallipoli was distinct and could be condemned as a diversion from the ‘necessary’ sacrifice on the Western Front.

People mostly overlook what would have happened had Gallipoli succeeded. With more support from the West and with the key goal of a Russian-controlled Constantinople now achievable, the prestige of Tsarism would have been restored, the failure of 1905 wiped out. That is just one of many alternative histories that might have occurred.

In 1916, Britain might have agreed that the Great War had ended in a stalemate. This would have been fine if the intention was just to uphold civilised standards, and not to ruin Germany before Germany displaced Britain as the world’s strongest nation. But the ruin of Germany was the key war aim and was not abandoned in 1916, nor 1917 either.

The first Russian Revolution overthrew Tsarism and introduced a pro-Western government that is normally described as ‘moderate’. But carrying on with a ruinous war did not seem very moderate to the soldiers who were fighting it, which is why the Bolsheviks triumphed. People lost faith in the old order, because the old order had insisted on fighting a war that made no real sense.

Lloyd George led Britain to an expensive victory and an unworkable peace. In the process he destroyed the Liberal party and himself fell from power in 1922. Churchill fell with him, but bounced back in 1924 as a ‘Constitutionalist’, soon redefined as Tory. Baldwin as Tory leader unexpectedly made him Chancellor of the Exchequer, a higher post than he had ever held before. Lloyd George, by contrast, remained in the political wilderness, leader of one section of a diminished Liberal Party. He also expressed an enthusiasm for Hitler in the mid-1930s, though like many others he came back into line when the ruling class decided Hitler must be fought.

Churchill remained Chancellor until 1929, when Labour under the leadership of Ramsay Macdonald defeated the Tories. When Ramsay Macdonald split Labour and formed the ‘National Government’ with the Tories and the Liberal remnants, Churchill was one of several prominent Tories who were left out.

Recently the term ‘National Government’ with its semi-fascist overtones has been vanishing from the reference works. At the time it was used with pride, and Roy Jenkins is presumably old and distinguished enough to use it without regard for modern sensibilities. But in the Encyclopaedia Britannica 2002, it has become just a ‘coalition’, as if it were nothing new in peacetime politics.

In the 1930s, the bulk of the nation liked the National Government and gave it large majorities in elections where all adults living in Britain had the vote. Churchill was seen as a man whose time had past, someone who’d learned nothing and forgotten nothing since the 1910s, a man who had not adjusted to Britain’s loss of superpower status. It was only the rise of Nazism that brought him back.

There were several differing agendas among those Britons who permitted the rise of Nazism. There was naive pacifism, people who failed to realise the social order they were living in was not a natural phenomenon. There were a small number of right-wing eccentrics who approved of Nazi ideology as such. But the politically dominant force was those who thought that Hitler could be used and controlled as an anti-Communist champion. German rearmament would be fine if the new weapons were to be used just for the conquest of the Soviet Union.

Churchill and Chamberlain were following rival strategies, both of which failed. Churchill’s stand was based on the false belief that it was possible both to fight Hitler and to preserve the British Empire. Chamberlain understood rather more of how the world had changed since 1914, so he wanted to give up part of Britain’s power and position, so as to save the rest.

Winston Churchill was many things — but 'racist' was not one of them

It is a sign of these times that a statue to the man who made it possible for people around the world to protest police brutality and racism has been boarded up to protect it from these very same protesters.

Anticipating further demonstrations, authorities in London have put a barrier around the statue to Winston Churchill in Parliament Square. Why? Because, as protesters spray-painted on the statue last week, Churchill “was a racist.”

This accusation crossed the Atlantic when Aliyah Hasinah of Black Lives Matter U.K. was a guest on National Public Radio’s “1A” program. According to Hasinah, every statue to Britain’s wartime leader should be torn down because Churchill “gave Hitler his ideas” and therefore had “ideologically started” World War II.

Hasinah’s complaint centered on Churchill’s brief support of eugenics, the idea that undesirable traits could be “bred out” of the human race. Eugenics, and the racial undertones that accompanied it, sprang from Social Darwinism. Its adherents included the novelist H.G. Wells, the economist John Maynard Keynes and, on this side of the Atlantic, Theodore Roosevelt and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

They weren’t alone. NAACP founder W.E.B. DuBois was a eugenicist. So were two of the world’s foremost campaigners for women’s reproductive rights: Marie Stopes in Britain and Margaret Sanger in the United States.

Would anyone seriously claim that Keynes or DuBois or Sanger were “ideologically” responsible for Nazism and the horrors of World War II?

Charges of racism against Churchill go beyond his brief affiliation with the eugenics movement. To quell an Arab uprising in newly acquired lands after World War I, but without the troops to do the job, Churchill — then Britain’s secretary for war and for air power — suggested that the Royal Air Force drop gas bombs on rebel towns. To this day, it is unclear how far Churchill was willing to take what he called this “experimental work.” In his own words, his aim was to use gas bombs that “would cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those afflicted.”

There is no way to justify this policy. But Churchill’s willingness to use poison gas hardly can be called “racist” when it is remembered that, as prime minister, he was fully prepared to unleash his country’s most lethal chemical weapons against the Germans, had they invaded Britain in 1940. The fact that the Nazi assault came to nothing doesn’t detract from this point.

On the other side of the ledger, when British soldiers massacred nearly 400 people during a protest at Amritsar in India in 1919, Churchill, as war secretary, sacked the commanding officer, Reginald Dyer, and, in the House of Commons, condemned the use of military force against peaceful demonstrators for what it was and still is: “terrorism.”

India also is the place where Churchill’s critics accuse him not only of racism but of genocide. In 1943-44 a terrible famine hit the state of Bengal. Official estimates put the death toll at 1.5 million men, women and children unofficial estimates put the figure at least twice as high.

What these critics conveniently forget when attacking the British response to this catastrophe is that a world war was taking place.

The Bengal famine resulted from a combination of poor harvests in India made worse by a major cyclone the year before. Previous food shortages had been alleviated by importing rice from Burma — a recourse made impossible because the entire region was occupied by the Japanese army, which still aimed to conquer India.

Should more have been done to aid the Bengalis? Certainly. Could more have been done? That question isn’t so easily answered. Throughout World War II, the Allies were confronted with a global shortage of shipping. Nowhere was this more acute than on the Southeast Asian battlefront, a theater of war that was as overlooked then as it is forgotten now. Hunger and starvation were twin features of this conflict in far too many places. To accuse Churchill of using this disaster to commit mass murder is a grotesque distortion of history.

It is easy to cherry-pick Churchill’s words to paint him in the worst possible light. His views often were controversial — and they were public. Over the course of a very active life, he wrote 37 books, a record, according to one recent biographer, that surpasses the works of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens — combined. Separately, his speeches fill another eight volumes. Add to that more than 700 magazine and newspaper articles.

But the fact remains that when the world was confronted with fascism, the most deadly incarnation of racism ever known, he stood against it. While he was not alone, even his political opponents recognized that he was the indispensable man. During the Munich Crisis, one Labour parliamentarian told him: “You, or God, will have to help if this country is to be saved.”

Britain and, eventually the world, was saved.

Leaders of the current protests around the world are reminding everyone that we need to remember the past as it really was. True enough. But they also ought to follow their own advice.

Kevin Matthews is a professor of modern European history at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. He is the author of “Fatal Influence: The Impact of Ireland on British Politics, 1920-1925.” He is writing a book about Winston Churchill and Ireland.

5. Attitudes towards Jews

In 2012 there were objections to a proposed Churchill Centre in Jerusalem on the basis that he was "no stranger to the latent anti-Semitism of his generation and class".

Sir Martin Gilbert, Churchill's official biographer, countered that "he was familiar with the Zionist ideal and supported the idea of a Jewish state".

But being anti-Semitic and a Zionist are not incompatible, says Charmley.

"Churchill with no doubt at all was a fervent Zionist," he says, "a fervent believer in the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own and that state should be in what we then called Palestine."

But he also "shared the low-level casual anti-Semitism of his class and kind", he says. If we judged everyone of that era by the standards of 21st Century political correctness, theyɽ all be guilty, he notes. "It shouldn't blind us to the bigger picture."

A 1937 unpublished article - supposedly by Churchill - entitled "How the Jews Can Combat Persecution" was discovered in 2007. "It may be that, unwittingly, they are inviting persecution - that they have been partly responsible for the antagonism from which they suffer," it said. "There is the feeling that the Jew is an incorrigible alien, that his first loyalty will always be towards his own race."

But there was immediately a row over the article, with Churchill historians pointing out it was written by journalist Adam Marshall Diston and that it might not have represented Churchill's views at all accurately.

"Casual anti-Semitism was rampant," agrees Dockter, "[but] it's inconceivable to pitch him as anti-Semitic."

In a 1920 article, he wrote: "Some people like Jews and some do not but no thoughtful man can doubt the fact that they are beyond all question the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world."

Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, 1874-1965

  • Born 30 November 1874 at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. Attended Harrow and Sandhurst before embarking on army career, seeing action in India, and Sudan
  • Became Conservative MP in 1900, but in 1904 joined the Liberal Party. Cabinet member from 1908, he was First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911 until the disastrous Dardanelles expedition in early part of WW1. Served on Western Front for a time, before rejoining government from 1917-1929
  • Opposition to Indian self-rule, warnings about the rise of the Nazis and support for Edward VIII left Churchill politically isolated during 1930s. After WW2 broke out, he replaced Neville Chamberlain as prime minister, where his reputation as inspirational wartime leader was cemented
  • Lost power in 1945 election but was returned to power in 1951, and continued as prime minister until 1955. Died 24 January 1965 and was given a state funeral

Winston Churchill's “Crazy Broadcast”: Party, Nation, and the 1945 Gestapo Speech

1 Broadcast of 4 June 1945. Unless otherwise stated, all of Churchill's broadcasts and speeches referred to here can be found in James , Robert Rhodes , ed., Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897–1963 , 8 vols. ( New York , 1974 )Google Scholar .

2 Charles Eade, diary entry, 31 August 1945, Charles Eade Papers, Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge (CAC). There was a slightly different emphasis in his remarks to the editor of The Times at around the same time: “He offered no explanation [for his defeat] himself except to say ironically that it might have been different ‘If I had done my broadcasts differently and if we had had a little more of your support.’” McLachlan , Donald , In the Chair: Barrington-Ward of The Times, 1927–1948 ( London , 1971 ), 209 .Google Scholar

3 Barnes , John and Nicholson , David , eds., The Empire at Bay: The Leo Amery Diaries, 1929–1945 ( London , 1988 ), 1046 Google Scholar (entries for 4 and 5 June 1945). The text, in fact, gives “rodomontage,” a clear error.

4 Gilbert , Martin , Never Despair: Winston S. Churchill, 1945–1965 , vol. 8 of Winston S. Churchill ( London , 1988 ), 32 .Google Scholar

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64 Harriet Jones has noted the apparent tensions in the Conservative election message, suggesting that the manifesto had a “basic lack of consistency represented in the simultaneous advocacy of social reform and financial orthodoxy” (Harriet Jones, “The Conservative Party and the Welfare State, 1942–1955” [PhD thesis, University of London, 1992], 108–9, quoted in Kandiah, “Conservative Party,” 33).

65 New Horizon, April 1945, quoted in Dutton , David , Liberals in Schism: A History of the National Liberal Party ( London , 2008 ), 142 .Google Scholar Similar arguments, directed at Labour's nationalization plans, were made by some grassroots Conservatives. See Thorpe, Parties at War, 176.

66 Colville , John , The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries, 1939–1955 ( London , 1985 ), 606 .Google Scholar Colville told Lascelles that “the only share the Beaver had had in it was the deletion of a tribute to Ernie Bevin,” the trade unionist and former minister of labour. Nevertheless, the speech did make a mildly positive reference to Bevin's demobilization scheme. See Hart-Davis, King's Counsellor, 331.

67 Soames , Mary , Clementine Churchill ( Harmondsworth , 1981 ), 545 .Google Scholar

68 Cockett, Thinking the Unthinkable, 94. However, Churchill was not completely consistent in his defense of the speech. When at last introduced to Hayek after the war, Churchill told him that his arguments in The Road to Serfdom were right but that “it would never happen in England,” which of course contradicted his own argument in 1945. Hayek to Addison, 13 April 1980, quoted in Addison, Churchill on the Home Front, 383.

69 Churchill to Harry S. Truman, 12 May 1945, in U.S. Department of State , Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers The Conference of Berlin (The Potsdam Conference), 1945 , 2 vols. ( Washington, DC , 1960 ), 1: 8 – 9 .Google Scholar

70 Overy, Morbid Age, chap. 7, 265–313 Deighton , Ann , The Impossible Peace: Britain, the Division of Germany and the Origins of the Cold War ( Oxford , 1993 ), 221 .CrossRefGoogle Scholar

71 Briggs , Asa , The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom , vol. 4, Sound and Vision ( Oxford , 1979 ), 627 n. 4.Google Scholar

72 Colville, Fringes of Power, 606.

73 In fact, Churchill did not oppose the nationalization of the bank when the new government legislated for this in 1946. Dalton , Hugh , High Tide and After: Memoirs, 1945–1960 ( London , 1962 ), 45 .Google Scholar

74 Greenwood, Speech to the House of Commons, 16 February 1943, Parliamentary Debates, Commons, 5th ser., vol. 386 (1942–43), col. 1624.

75 See Williamson, Stanley Baldwin.

76 McKibbin , Ross , Classes and Cultures: England, 1918–1951 ( Oxford , 1998 ), 96 .CrossRefGoogle Scholar

77 Lawrence , Jon , Speaking for the People: Party, Language and Popular Politics in England, 1867–1914 ( Cambridge , 1998 ), esp. 106 –7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

78 “Was Worth 50 Seats to Labour,” Daily Herald, 6 June 1945.

79 James , Robert Rhodes , ed., “Chips”: The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon (1967 repr., London , 1993 ), 408 (entry for 5 June 1945).Google Scholar

80 Ball , Stuart , ed., Parliament and Politics in the Age of Churchill and Attlee: The Headlam Diaries, 1935–1951 ( Cambridge , 1999 ), 462 .Google Scholar

81 “Tory Doubts on Premier's Broadcast,” Manchester Guardian, 6 June 1945.

82 “Churchill's Crazy Broadcast,” Daily Herald, 5 June 1945.

83 “Churchill Claims He Is Leading National Govt.,” Daily Mirror, 5 June 1945.

84 “Labour Case for Socialism,” The Times, 6 June 1945.

85 Published on 31 July 1945 in the Evening Standard, the cartoon was called “The Two Churchills.” It showed one Churchill, “the leader of humanity,” sitting on a pedestal, commiserating with the other one, “the party leader,” down below. “Cheer up!” the former tells the latter. “They will forget you but they will remember me always.”

86 Soames, Clementine Churchill, 545.

87 Daily Herald, 6 June 1945.

88 This theme was taken up in the Labour-supporting press. See, e.g., Maurice Kitching, “New Zealand Is Insulted,” Reynolds News, 10 June 1945 and F. A. Cooper, “Where Labour Has Ruled for 27 Years and They’ve Never Seen a Gestapo Man,” Reynolds News, 24 June 1945. Cooper was writing about Queensland, of which he was premier.

89 “Labour Case for Socialism,” The Times, 6 June 1945.

90 For Morrison, see “The Road to Serfdom,” Daily Express, 6 June 1945 for the broader Labour reaction to the book, see Toye , Richard , The Labour Party and the Planned Economy, 1931–1951 ( London , 2003 ), 136 –38.Google Scholar

91 Cockett, Thinking The Unthinkable, 5.

93 Cockett suggests that “the press descended” on Hayek and that he gained “star-status” in the campaign along with Harold Laski (Thinking the Unthinkable, 96). Yet only one paper provided any in-depth coverage of Hayek's ideas (Frederick Cook, “This Is the Road to Serfdom,” Evening Standard, 6 June 1945) otherwise, there were only a few snippets.

94 “Prof. Von Hayek,” Daily Telegraph and Morning Post, 6 June 1945.

95 “The Road to Serfdom,” Daily Express, 6 June 1945.

96 “Labour Case for Socialism,” The Times, 6 June 1945.

97 See Ward , Paul , “ Preparing for the People's War: The Left and Patriotism in the 1930s ,” Labour History Review 67 , no. 2 (August 2002 ): 171 –85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

98 “The National Socialists,” Daily Express, 6 June 1945.

99 Pottle , Mark , ed., Champion Redoubtable: The Diaries and Letters of Violet Bonham Carter, 1914–1945 ( London , 1998 ), 350 –51.Google Scholar

100 Barnes and Nicholson, Empire at Bay, 1046.

101 Thatcher , Margaret , The Path to Power ( London , 1995 ), 45 .Google Scholar

102 George Bernard Shaw, “Churchill's Fiasco,” Forward, 16 June 1945.

103 See Morrison's comments in “Churchill's Crazy Broadcast,” Daily Herald, 5 June 1945.

104 Briggs, History of Broadcasting, 627.

105 There is need for considerable caution when using MO material the selection of the comments may have been influenced by the political persuasions of the observers, who tended to be on the Left.

106 Moran , Joe , “ Mass-Observation, Market Research, and the Birth of the Focus Group, 1937–1997 ,” Journal of British Studies 47 , no. 4 (October 2008 ): 827 –51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

107 “Report on the General Election, June–July 1945,” File Report 2270A, October 1945, Mass-Observation archive, University of Sussex.

108 Addison , Paul , The Road to 1945 ( London , 1975 ), 266 Google Scholar Fielding , Steven , “ What Did ‘The People’ Want? The Meaning of the 1945 General Election ,” Historical Journal 35 , no. 3 (September 1992 ): 623 –39, at 632.Google Scholar

109 McCallum , R. B. and Readman , Alison , The British General Election of 1945 ( London , 1947 ), 144 .Google Scholar

110 “He's the Silliest Candidate of the Election,” Daily Mirror, 28 June 1945.

111 McCallum and Readman, British General Election, 148.

112 Hurd , Douglas , Memoirs ( London , 2004 ), 48 .Google Scholar

113 Quoted in Mitchell , Austin , Election ’45: Reflections on the Revolution in Britain ( London , 1995 ), 69 .Google Scholar

114 Fielding, “What Did ‘The People’ Want?” 631.

115 Jon Evans, “Churchill—Enemy of the Workers!” New Leader, 16 June 1945. On Churchill's record as home secretary in relation to the Gestapo speech, see also the comparatively mild but nonetheless critical remarks of J. Chuter Ede, MP, quoted in “Election Letters,” Daily Herald, 6 June 1945.

116 Hughes, “‘Gestapo Will Get You.’”

117 Emrys Hughes, “Fuhrer Churchill!” Forward, 30 June 1945.

118 Michael Foot, “Why This ‘National’ Label Is a Shameful Fraud,” Daily Herald, 19 June 1945.

119 See “Rejoinders to Premier's Broadcast,” Manchester Guardian, 6 June 1945 and “‘Tory Gestapo Put Gag on Leading Scientists,’” Reynolds News, 17 June 1945. For examples relating to Tory MPs’ alleged fascist sympathies, see Kelly, “‘Ghost of Neville Chamberlain,’” 21.

120 “Cripps Answers Churchill,” Forward, 16 June 1945.

121 “Tories and Mr. Churchill,” Manchester Guardian, 12 June 1945.

122 “Axis Aid by Tories,” Sunday Pictorial, 17 June 1945.

123 “Liberals Are Rallying in the West,” News Chronicle, 9 June 1945. For Morrison's comments, see “Churchill's Crazy Broadcast,” Daily Herald, 5 June 1945.

124 Draft of broadcast of 13 June 1945, Churchill Papers, CHAR 9/208B, fol. 106.

125 Broadcast of 13 June 1945.

126 “Crowds Cheer and Jeer,” Manchester Guardian, 5 July 1945.

127 Harrod , R .F. , The Prof: A Personal Memoir of Lord Cherwell ( London , 1959 ), 255 .Google Scholar

128 The Nuffield survey did concede that “the opposition papers had almost a monopoly of abuse,” but the target of this remark was the press, not politicians. McCallum and Readman, British General Election, 190.

129 “You Are Warned,” Evening Standard, 5 June 1945.

130 Brogan , Colm , Our New Masters ( London , 1947 ), 5 Google Scholar Thatcher, Path to Power, 51–52.

131 Lawrence, Electing Our Masters, 210.

132 The leaflet, along with a copy of Callaghan's remark in Hansard (9 November 1976) can be found in the Thatcher Papers, THCR 2/7/1/37, CAC.

133 However, Morrison did suggest that Churchill's comments came ill from one holding “the high office of Prime Minister.” “Churchill's Crazy Broadcast,” Daily Herald, 5 June 1945.

134 “Opening Salvo,” News Chronicle, 5 June 1945.

135 The Liberals put up only 306 candidates (there were 640 constituencies). A Gallup poll conducted after the campaign closed found that “about 23 per cent. of the total electorate would have voted for the Liberal Party, given the opportunity” (“58 Per Cent. Opposed Election,” News Chronicle, 26 July 1945). It remains unclear whether the Liberal involvement in the election damaged Labour or the Tories most. See Gilbert , Bentley B. , “ Third Parties and Voters’ Decisions: The Liberals and the General Election of 1945 ,” Journal of British Studies 11 , no. 2 (May 1972 ): 131 –41Google Scholar Arnstein , Walter L. , “ ‘The Liberals and the General Election of 1945’: A Skeptical Note ,” Journal of British Studies 14 , no. 2 (May 1975 ): 120 –26.Google Scholar

136 Moran, Winston Churchill, 254.

137 Vita Sackville-West to Harold Nicolson, 22 June 1945, in Harold Nicolson: Diaries and Letters, 1939–1945 , ed. Nicolson , Nigel ( London , 1967 ), 472 .Google Scholar

138 A point made effectively in “The Unfinished Task,” Spectator, 8 June 1945.

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