Tariq Ali on His Book on the Times and Crimes of Winston Churchill

Here’s a very provocative little video I found on the YouTube channel for left-wing publisher Verso. It’s a 27 minute long talk by 60’s radical Tariq Ali about his book, Winston Churchill, His Times, His Crimes. It’s entitled ‘The Churchill Cult Is Out of Control: Tariq Ali on Winston Churchill’. Ali explains how he was initially reluctant to write about the great war leader, not least because he didn’t want to waste his time reading what Churchill himself wrote, until he was finally persuaded by another historian. He states that the students at Oxford protesting for decolonisation, demanding that Churchill college change its name and who poured paint over his statue were quite right. Churchill, by his own admission, was a racist and White supremacist. He supported Mussolini in Italy and General Franco in Spain. In fact, Franco’s three greatest supporters in Europe were Hitler, Mussolini and Churchill. He talks about Churchill’s imperialist wars around the world against non-Whites, but also his atrocities in Ireland during the Irish revolution when he was Home Secretary. Churchill is also bitterly resented in Wales for sending in the troops during the Tonypandy strike. According to Ali, when there was a collection for him on his death, not one Welsh council contributed. He also states that it is a complete lie that the experience of the Second World War changed him. It didn’t. After the war, in the 1950s, when the Tories were discussing what slogan they should adopt for their election campaign, Churchill responded, unprompted, with ‘Keep Britain White’.

He also hated the Labour movement. He sneered at Clement Attlee for beating him in an election. The only Labour politician he did like was Ernest Bevin, who was a nationalistic, and jingoistic as he was, and anti-Semitic to a certain extent. Churchill was also unpopular in the Conservative party for being very right-wing and changing parties when it suited him. Talking about his crimes, Ali mentions the Bengal Famine but also a very obscure incident that he says is only mentioned in one book. Churchill was behind the British expeditionary force sent in to topple the Bolshevik revolutionaries. But Churchill wanted to go even further and use chemical weapons against Bolshevik villages and territories. There was a mutiny in the force, which resulted in the court martial of a South African officer. Churchill was also proud of the overthrow of the democratic regime of Prime Minister Mossadeq in Iran. He also says that Britain was hampered during the War by the very class-bound nature of the officer corps. He gives the comparison of Rommel, one of the Nazi’s great generals, and quotes one authority who said that if Rommel had been British, he wouldn’t have risen above sergeant. The class-bound nature of the officer corps was recognised by the junior officers.

Churchill was also responsible for the brutal suppression of the Greek resistance movement because it was led by the Communists. One of the tactics of the British forces was to decapitate their enemies, put their heads on poles and carry them around outside prison camps. This was justified with the statement that it was the only thing they would understand.

Ali states that Churchill was not as popular as he is now, when he is the centre of what Ali calls a cult, until the 1980s and the Falklands. He quotes from a 1970s play by a radical British playwright, in which two soldiers carrying his coffin talk about how horrible the great man was. Churchill then bursts out of his coffin waving a union jack and with an unlit cigar, his face a mask. Ali considers that most of South America and the world considered the Falkland Islands to be properly Argentina’s and states that the islands were defended by the alliance between Thatcher and General Pinochet. Churchill’s image was part of the propaganda movement for the war, which the British Labour party under Michael Foot supported.

Ali believes the cult of Churchill has arisen because the British political establishment and ruling class, including Labour, are still fixated on the empire. This has partly been done in order to retain some small independence against the Americans. After the War the European empires fell, or were taken over by the Americans, as in Vietnam. Churchill was saddened, but cheered that they were going to another, White, Christian power. The special relationship was also his creation, because he was half-American. Other countries, such as Scandinavia, have been able to find a role after the War, but Britain is still obsessed with the empire. He states that what emerged after the war was a form of social democratic planning, as well as the NHS and the nationalisation of the mines, which was a particularly sore point. The miners’ leaders wondered why it had been left for so long. This wasn’t particularly socialist, and other countries were doing the same. The ruling class has persisted in Britain because they were able to co-opt Labour and the trade unions. The cult around Winston Churchill is very much an English phenomenon. It doesn’t exist in Wales and hardly exists in Scotland. If Wales leaves, then the Churchill cult will form the heart of an English nationalism. The Churchill myth will continue for some time, but all myths eventually fall, and the British people will eventually turn against this one.


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9 Responses to “Tariq Ali on His Book on the Times and Crimes of Winston Churchill”

  1. Brian Burden Says:

    Plus he burned the portrait by Graham Sutherland which Attlee’s government commissioned to honour him. Two things in his favour: He was probably the only British politician with sufficient bottle, ruthlessness and charisma to lead us to victory in WW2. Second, much as he detested Attlee and Labour, he did not, after regaining power on a gerrymandered vote, use his undeserved victory to undo all that the 1945 government had achieved. For me, Tariq Ali’s greatest achievement was persuading Malcolm X to come to UK to address the Oxford Union, and persuading the Beeb to televise the debate and to take Malcolm to the East Midlands to investigate the racist shit hole that was Smethwick at that time.

  2. Mark Pattie Says:

    I can understand now why Churchill is probably Simon Webb’s favourite deceased politico after Enoch Powell. Re Churchill’s Bell Curve-ish views, I can safely say that our officially-now-Ukip Home Secretary (yes, the odious Neil Hamilton has endorsed her!) has the same views on Indian immigration. Which makes her a massive hypocrite, as she is of Indian descent herself. Although I suspect if Churchill were alive now, he would have been a right-wing Remainer (to form an alliance with Madame Le Pen, the PiS in Poland, Orban, the Swedish Democrats and Signora Meloni probably…!)

    • beastrabban Says:

      I’m not sure if Churchill would be the favourite politician of many of Simon Webb’s commenters, though. An awful lot of them seem to be outright Nazis. One even said that we were on the wrong side during the War!

      • Mark Pattie Says:

        Speaking (I presume) of Hitler, I believe his evil ideologies were influenced by an American fascist who believed that the “Nordic race” was “superior” to the “Mediterranean race”- whatever the sheeting hell that means. As for the Kalergi conspiracy BS, and the stupid idea that the Jews are promoting mass African and Muslim immigration into Western European countries, I presume Slavic peoples (Slovaks, Poles and Lithuanians) would also be involved in that grand garbage-‘spiracy because the Nazis murdered Slavs in similar unthinkable numbers as they did Jews.

      • Mark Pattie Says:

        Anyway, I digress. Returning back to Churchill, he was obviously a rabid racist as well- claiming that the American colonisers did “nothing wrong” to the native American-Indians. Abject nonsense. The White colonisers pretty much exterminated most of them and drove most of the rest onto reservations where they now operate casinos. Surely the BLM crew should really redirect their efforts onto helping Native Americans? However, an ultimate irony is that Churchill helped devise the ECHR- the same ECHR that the “patriots” of Ukip want us to leave!

      • beastrabban Says:

        I think I know the American proto-Fascist you’re talking about. I can’t remember his name, but he wrote ‘The Passing of the Great Race’. As for the nonsense about Nordic superiority over mediterraneans, Victorian anthropology divided Caucasians into Baltics, Nordics, Alpine, Mediterranean and Armenoid types. During the late 19th century following the establishment of the British empire and the new German Reich, there was the view that while the Mediterraneans had been the superior race in the ancient world, they had become decadent, and their place was now taken by the Germanic peoples.

      • beastrabban Says:

        Regarding the extermination of the Native Americans, I found a video the other day of Candace Ownes defending Columbus Day. Her argument was that Columbus was a prisoner of his time, that it was mostly the Spaniards who were responsible for the horrors inflicted on the Amerindians, and that the Native Americans themselves were responsible for mass murder. She quoted something that the Aztecs sacrificed 40,000 people in one day, and that they and other Amerindian peoples going right up into what is now the US slaughtered and ate people. She also went through the sins of other people, who are now highly respected – Gandhi, MLK and W.E. Dubois. All of which, I dare say, is true.

        But the atrocities the Spaniards committed in the New World shocked other Europeans. Reports of their massacres, tortures and rapes circulated among the Protestant nations until it formed the ‘Negra Legenda’, the Black Legend. There’s more than a bit of hypocrisy there, as the countries complaining about their cruelty and maltreatment of the indigenes didn’t hesitate to do the same themselves. Columbus’ voyage was a remarkable achievement that changed the world, but I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to celebrate it.

  3. Mark Pattie Says:

    As for Candice Owens, does she also believe in the Bell Curve BS? Yes, the native Aztecs and Incas performed some fecking horrible crimes (human sacrifice!) but can somebody *please* tell her that the supposedly “civilised” Spanish were just as evil. Also, whilst it’s true that the British Empire ended slavery in 1833, they still used indentured Indian labourers (basically slaves in all but name) in Trinidad and Fiji until about 1900 or 1910. Re the fascist dick’ead I was referring to (Madison Grant was his name) the ultimate irony was that he was as American as they could get. As for his BS pseudo-logic, if the Nordics were superior, why did the Nazis invade Germanic-speaking countries such as Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands by 1940? So much for so-called Germanic “solidarity”, eh!

    • beastrabban Says:

      Yes, and the Nazis tried to treat the Germanic countries better than the other conquered nations because of the supposed racial solidarity and superiority, and were quite upset when those nations didn’t just collaborate with them.

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