Keith Hart on Tue, 13 Mar 2018 12:06:12 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Fwd: 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:

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