Keith Hart on Tue, 13 Mar 2018 11:56:45 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Shree Paradkar: When will there be a film on Winston Churchill, the barbaric monster with the blood of millions on his hands? (Toronto Star)

I have studied Churchill for a long time, especially his part in British imperialism (Southern African branch) around 1900. Liberal governments at the launch of  the last century, when facing insurgency in India Ireland and South Africa, invented most of techniques of dirty state warfare that made that century the horror story that it was -- concentrations camps, hit squads, disinformation campaigns etc. And Churchill played his part in some of that. When reading a biography of Michael Collins, I came across a letter to Lloyd-George from the South African prime minister, General Smuts advising him on how to deal with the Irish.  A civil servant had scrawled on this, Who does this Smuts think he is? We've been putting down revolutions in India for 50 years. To bracket Churchill with Hitler and Stalin as a mass murderer misrepresents their respective places in national politics. The British Empire was a machine which committed many crimes, especially in Ireland and Scotland before exporting that experience to the rest of the world; but it was not owned by one man ever.

He is best (or worst) remembered in the British labour movement for sending in the army to reinforce the police against Welsh miners at Tonypandy before the war. And he caught most of the flak for the disastrous Gallipoli offensive where many ANZAC soldiers died. Events such as this and his loud attacks on the Tory appeasers in the 1930s made him one of he most detested politicians in Britain.  After "winning" the war, he was voted out of power by a margin of 3 to 1. And historians, not especially Hollywood luvvies, contest his role in Tonypandy and Gallipoli. In the latter case, most blame for the fiasco lay with the generals.

The 1943 Bengal famine has many causes, just as the Irish potato famine did before it, but both were an _expression_ of systematic racism on the part of the occupying British power. It is hysterical to portray Churchill's role in it. Apart from Amartya Sen and Stayajit Ray, the Wikipedia article on its causes alone is huge:

My friend Peter Clarke is a leading historian of British politics who has written two books on Keynes and emphasizes the role of war in 20th century British society. He has published a book, Mr. Churchill's Profession, which was neither mass murderer not war leader, but writer. His writing was prolific at all times in his life. One thing writers don't usually have the time for is to arrange for the murder of 3 mn Russian peasants. Churchill  won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1953 before he published his most famous series of books, History of the English-speaking Peoples. Hitler wrote a book and was a painter ("he could paint a room in one afternoon -- two coats", Mel Brooks).

I was born in 1943 and I have long been unable to  live in Britain because the society sickens me.But films about the society that gave me birth do sometimes choke me up, I admit it -- the King's Speech, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk. At the same time clearly the Tory extremist Brexiteers are feeding off a distorted memory of the war that Churchill led. I have been waiting all my life for the British to week up and realise that their empire is gone and they are just a second rate country. I  love the way India has succeeded to the leadership of world cricket and other residues of the empire. I have retooed as an IBSA man after the association of India, Brazil and South Africa, three countries that I prefer to be in than the UK.

But there are interesting questions about Churchill. He was an A1 bastard, but for two years he helped the Brits to hold out against the Nazis until the Russians and Americans finished Hitler off. I now live in France and, perhaps surprisingly, you see more on Arte about that than you would on the BBC. But maybe, apart from being a boozer (who didn't pay his bills) and the Boris Johnson/Donald Trump of his day, Churchill actually was one of the greatest writers of he 20th century. How many politicians do you know who were successful writers? Most of them just don't have the time. That's where his oratory comes from. At the end of The Darkest Hour, Halifax, who really was a creep, says "He just launched the English language into battle".

And while we are here, how did the French escape scot free from two genocides, Vichy and the Jews and the Algerian war (the Algerians say one million dead, the French 300,000)?


On Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 5:39 AM, Prem Chandavarkar <> wrote:
In a similar vein:

In Winston Churchill, Hollywood Rewards a Mass Murderer
Shashi Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor is author of “Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India.” He chairs the Indian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
“History,” Winston Churchill said, “will be kind to me, for I intend to write it myself.” He needn’t have bothered. He was one of the great mass murderers of the 20th century, yet is the only one, unlike Hitler and Stalin, to have escaped historical odium in the West. He has been crowned with a Nobel Prize (for literature, no less), and now, an actor portraying him (Gary Oldman) has been awarded an Oscar.
As Hollywood confirms, Churchill’s reputation (as what Harold Evans has called “the British Lionheart on the ramparts of civilization”) rests almost entirely on his stirring rhetoric and his talent for a fine phrase during World War II. “We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. … We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets. … We shall never surrender.” (The revisionist British historian John Charmley dismissed this as “sublime nonsense.”)
Words, in the end, are all that Churchill admirers can point to. His actions are another matter altogether.
During World War II, Churchill declared himself in favor of “terror bombing.” He wrote that he wanted “absolutely devastating, exterminating attacks by very heavy bombers.” Horrors such as the firebombing of Dresden were the result.
In the fight for Irish independence, Churchill, in his capacity as secretary of state for war and air, was one of the few British officials in favor of bombing Irish protesters, suggesting in 1920 that airplanes should use “machine-gun fire or bombs” to scatter them.
Dealing with unrest in Mesopotamia in 1921, as secretary of state for the colonies, Churchill acted as a war criminal: “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against the uncivilised tribes; it would spread a lively terror.” He ordered large-scale bombing of Mesopotamia, with an entire village wiped out in 45 minutes.
In Afghanistan, Churchill declared that the Pashtuns “needed to recognise the superiority of [the British] race” and that “all who resist will be killed without quarter.” He wrote: “We proceeded systematically, village by village, and we destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers, cut down the great shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs in punitive devastation. … Every tribesman caught was speared or cut down at once.”
In Kenya, Churchill either directed or was complicit in policies involving the forced relocation of local people from the fertile highlands to make way for white colonial settlers and the forcing of more than 150,000 people into concentration camps. Rape, castration, lit cigarettes on tender spots, and electric shocks were all used by the British authorities to torture Kenyans under Churchill’s rule.
But the principal victims of Winston Churchill were the Indians — “a beastly people with a beastly religion,” as he charmingly called them. He wanted to use chemical weapons in India but was shot down by his cabinet colleagues, whom he criticized for their “squeamishness,” declaring that “the objections of the India Office to the use of gas against natives are unreasonable.”
Churchill’s beatification as an apostle of freedom seems all the more preposterous given his 1941 declaration that the Atlantic Charter’s principles would not apply to India and the colored colonies. He refused to see people of color as entitled to the same rights as himself. “Gandhi-ism and all it stands for,” he declared, “will, sooner or later, have to be grappled with and finally crushed.”
In such matters, Churchill was the most reactionary of Englishmen, with views so extreme they cannot be excused as being reflective of their times. Even his own secretary of state for India, Leopold Amery, confessed that he could see very little difference between Churchill’s attitude and Adolf Hitler’s.
Thanks to Churchill, some 4 million Bengalis starved to death in a 1943 famine. Churchill ordered the diversion of food from starving Indian civilians to well-supplied British soldiers and even to top up European stockpiles in Greece and elsewhere. When reminded of the suffering of his Indian victims, his response was that the famine was their own fault, he said, for “breeding like rabbits.”
Madhusree Mukerjee’s searing account of Churchill’s role in the Bengal famine, “Churchill’s Secret War,” documents that while Indians starved, prices for foodgrains were inflated by British purchases and India’s own surplus grains were exported, while Australian ships laden with wheat were not allowed to unload their cargo at Calcutta (where the bodies of those who had died of starvation littered the streets). Instead, Churchill ordered that grain be shipped to storage depots in the Mediterranean and the Balkans to increase the buffer stocks for a possible future invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia. European warehouses filled up as Bengalis died.
This week’s Oscar rewards yet another hagiography of this odious man. To the Iraqis whom Churchill advocated gassing, the Greek protesters on the streets of Athens who were mowed down on Churchill’s orders in 1944, sundry Pashtuns and Irish, as well as to Indians like myself, it will always be a mystery why a few bombastic speeches have been enough to wash the bloodstains off Churchill’s racist hands.
Many of us will remember Churchill as a war criminal and an enemy of decency and humanity, a blinkered imperialist untroubled by the oppression of non-white peoples. Ultimately, his great failure — his long darkest hour — was his constant effort to deny us freedom.


On 12-Mar-2018, at 10:02 PM, Patrice Riemens <> wrote:

In case you go see, or went, to the film 'Churchill' ...

Original to:

When will there be a film on Winston Churchill, the barbaric monster with the blood of millions on his hands?
By Shree ParadkarRace & Gender Columnist
Toronto Star, Fri., March 9, 2018

Imperialistic pop culture has enshrined Churchill only as a military great, a fun drunk, a loyal monarchist with a penchant for fine speech and a flair for loquacious prose. But the British PM lacerated the world with tragedies, profiting from plunders and mass murders, writes Shree Paradkar.

By the time I came across the ledger at the Bangalore Club with Winston Churchill’s name on it in the late 1990s, British rule in India had been sanitized; airbrushed to present a picture of overall benevolence with a few violent splotches.

The entry in the ledger is dated June 1, 1899 and names one Lt W.L.S. Churchill as one of 17 bill defaulters. He owes the club 13 rupees from a time when a whisky cost less than half a rupee.

Had we then heard that Churchill once described our beloved city as a “third rate watering place … without society or good sport,” we would have probably laughed it off as the irascibility ever only indulged in the great. Jolly good, old chap.

Colonialism of the mind lingers long after the land is free.

And if we had heard that he once said, “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion,” meh. He was dead. We were thriving.

There are flawed heroes. Lincoln, MLK and Gandhi to name a few — men who inflicted injustices on individuals.

Then there are monsters.

Powerful men who lacerate the world with tragedies. Adolf Hitler, certainly, but his nemesis Churchill, too.

It was only in 2014 that I first got a glimpse of genocidal mania in the man so lionized for leading his nation through its finest hour.

It was a piece titled Remembering India’s forgotten holocaust, in Tehelka magazine that detailed the ghastly origins of the Bengal famine of 1943 that killed an estimated 3 million people in one year.

Historians have easily traced it back to Churchill who had diverted the bountiful harvest from Bengal to Britain and other parts of Europe. When the locals began starving, he steadfastly refused to send them food. He said no to rerouting food that was being shipped from Australia to the Middle East via India. No to the 10,000 tons of rice Canada offered to send to India, no to the 100,000 tons of rice America offered. The famine was the Indians’ fault, he told a war-cabinet meeting, “for breeding like rabbits.”

In his Revisionist History podcast, Malcolm Gladwell delves into how the historian Madhusree Mukerjee, author of Churchill’s Secret War, dug into Britain’s shipping archives to uncover evidence that Britain had so much food at the time that the U.S. had become suspicious they were stockpiling it to sell it after the war.

In India, she wrote, “parents dumped their starving children into rivers and wells. Many took their lives by throwing themselves in front of trains.” Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Indian soldiers were fighting alongside the Allied forces.

Yet, what did the actor Gary Oldman who portrayed Churchill in Darkest Hour say last Sunday when he received an Oscar for Best Actor? “I would just like to salute Sir Winston Churchill who has been marvellous company on what can be described as an incredible journey.”

Salute. Sir. Marvellous. Incredible.

Oldman might as well have danced on 3 million dead bodies, many of whose loved ones were too weak to cremate or bury them.

Such tributes for a heinous white supremacist who once declared that “Aryan tribes were bound to triumph.”

Words as hollow as the tunnel-visioned ideals on which people fashion this man, but they can’t stem the drip, drip of blood from his hands.

They can’t hide tens of thousands of Kenyans who were rounded up in concentration camps called “Britain’s Gulags” under his orders, where thousands were tortured and killed for rebelling against British rule.

They can’t hide the bodies of the Greek civilians who were celebrating German withdrawal in 1944, but were killed by the British army because Churchill thought the communist influence on the Nazi resisters — who had allied with Britain — was too strong. And we haven’t even got into his treatment of Iraqis or the wiping out of entire Indigenous populations of Tasmania.

Churchill was not the first Western leader to profit from plunders and mass murders. Remember John A. Macdonald? But imperialistic popular culture continues to enshrine him, despite the Gallipoli disaster, only as a military great, a fun drunk, a loyal monarch with a penchant for fine speech and a flair for loquacious prose.

Churchill tried to manipulate history with the six volumes of his memoirs. Indeed he succeeded so well that even today the Bangalore Club thumps its chest about his membership there. “Many a past great … including Sir Winston Churchill” have been members, says its website.

This compounds the tragedy. Erasing his crimes pronounces his victims worthless, deems their lives undeserving of acknowledgement, and leaves their deaths but a footnote in history.

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Keith Hart
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