April 9th was National Winston Churchill Day, an annual celebration of the life and legacy of Britain’s wartime prime minister. But lately, rather than celebrating Churchill, it has become more fashionable to denigrate him.
In 2018, Blighty UK, a WWII-themed café in London where customers could drink tea beneath model Spitfires, had a mural of Sir Winston defaced with ‘IMPERIALIST SCUM’. A petition was started by leftist locals to get the café closed, as it “insensitively evoke[d] memory of the [British] Empire,” a subject which “has little to do with cafés.” As the bemused owner of the eatery observed, however, “If you can’t celebrate… Churchill, who can you celebrate? Everyone has flaws.”
Yet to some, flaws are all Sir Winston had. His statues are now regularly vandalized, most famously during Black Lives Matter London protests in 2020, when his effigy in Westminster had its name-plaque spray-painted to read ‘CHURCHILL was a racist’. As Churchill biographer Andrew Roberts memorably commented in response, “If these people think Churchill was a racist, just wait until they hear about the guy he was fighting!”
Not Their Finest Hour
Ironically, Britain’s leading center of Churchill-bashing today is Churchill College, Cambridge, an institution established in his honor in 1960, which today attracts student mobs of eco-activists and BLM allies who repeatedly deface his bust and signage to draw attention to the way Sir Winston was also somehow apparently responsible for climate-change.
In February 2021 Churchill College hosted a symposium titled ‘The Racial Consequences of Mr Churchill,’ aimed at “giving voice to Black and ethnic minority scholars” to spout nonsense unchallenged. As the College explained: “Sir Winston is often presented as the embodiment of WWII and the UK’s identity, and so … to critically reassess Churchill is to critically reassess a nation’s identity,” namely by making it out as being worse than Nazi Germany.
Feast or Famine?
Misrepresentation of the Bengal Famine is key to the anti-Churchill case promulgated by the activist scholars who gathered at the college which bears their enemy’s name. Contemporary quotes from a stressed Churchill to the effect that the Indians were a “beastly people” who “breed like rabbits” are abused to imply that (as his equally short-tempered political colleague Leo Amery put it in 1944) there was “not much difference between his outlook and Hitler’s” when it came to the allegedly disposable lives of non-whites. But this is simply not true.
The famine was caused by a cyclone ruining Bengali rice-crops, exacerbated by Japan’s invasion of British Burma, formerly a leading exporter of rice regionally. The rest of India should have been able to make up the shortfall, but government had been devolved from London to natives in India’s various regions, many of whom, being of different religions and castes, acted with insufficient urgency and concern to save Bengali lives, or actively hoarded rice to drive up prices and profits – so prejudice was indeed a factor in the famine, but prejudice from other Indians, not white Mr Churchill.
When Churchill discovered the scale of the crisis, he lobbied Australia to send food-ships – despite the regional presence of Japanese submarines. Churchill did decline to transfer food direct from Britain to India, but only because the Royal Navy was needed back home to facilitate the D-Day landings. Churchill ultimately prioritized saving Europe over Bengal, but not because he hated Bengalis. His harsh words to Leo Amery were just a reflection of his anger at having to make such an impossible choice. In peacetime, he repeatedly praised rabbit-like population-increase in India as a key benefit of “the beneficence and wisdom” of British rule – prior to WWII, the Raj did indeed massively reduce age-old rates of local famine.
Black Marx Against His Name
Predictably, as shown in a report co-authored by Andrew Roberts, the Cambridge symposium featured a litany of other equally spurious claims, including that cowardly Churchill didn’t immediately grab a machine-gun and fight in WWII personally, despite being 64 years old when hostilities began.
But much worse than Churchill’s alleged cowardice was the accusation of one of the alleged scholars involved, Kehinde Andrews, that “The British Empire was far worse than the Nazis. It lasted far longer; it killed far many more people” and actually Hitler was just “copying” it. The Nazi Holocaust of the Jews was no exceptional event, he continued, just “the complete logic of the West,” and “kind of the foundation of what the West is,” particularly Britain’s Evil Empire.
When the Allies won, “All we really did was we shifted from an old [Nazi] version of white supremacy to a new [Anglo-American] version of white supremacy.” After all, it was explained, Churchill was a eugenicist, just like Hitler – except, as it was disingenuously not explained, Churchill’s eugenics were limited to a brief spell when he thought the mentally disabled should be sterilized, a view he soon recanted, as opposed to Hitler’s rather more extreme belief that everyone non-Aryan should be enslaved or gassed. Following widespread criticism, the symposium was disbanded in June 2021.
Sir Winston Churchill should not be above criticism – but it should be honest criticism. By dishonestly transforming Britain’s greatest war-hero into a genocidal far-right murderer, his detractors seek to transform Britain’s self-image of itself along similar lines, thus helping facilitate their creeping ideological conquest of its institutions, even up to and including Churchill College, Cambridge.
Where is a politician Churchillian enough today to actually try and stop them?