Viewing posts tagged winston churchill

Victory of the Icon 4

At the time, the liberals and the left thought of World War II as a battle between civilisation and barbarism, between progress and reaction.  This is still the mainstream view today.  But the leaders of the Allies did not think this way, if they were honest.  For instance...

The Churchill who demanded a no-holds-barred prosecution of the war was the same Churchill who had been present during the butchery at Omdurman, sent troops to shoot down striking miners in 1910 [this is probably not true], ordered the RAF to use poison gas against Kurdish rebels in British-ruled Iraq [this is arguable], and praised Mussolini. He had attacked a Conservative government in the 1930s for granting a minimal amount of local self government to India, and throughout the war he remained adamant that no concessions could be made to anti-colonial movements in Britain’s colonies, although this could have helped the war effort. ‘I have not become the king’s first minister’, he declared, ‘to oversee the dismemberment of the British Empire.’ He told Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta, ‘While there is life in my body, no transfer of British sovereignty will be permitted’.


In the Second World War, many - probably ...

Victory of the Icon 3

I have a massive, endlessly-lengthening list of books, old and new, that I want to get around to reading.  Donny Gluckstein's new book A People's History of the Second World War just went straight in near the top of the list.

Gluckstein's argument seems to be that WWII was actually two wars, fought in parallel.  One was an imperialist squabble between established empires and up-and-coming imperialist nations that were set to clash with them.  Britain, France, Russia and America (which was already a continental empire and was ready to expand globally) found themselves violently competing for hegemony with Germany, Italy and Japan.  Running beneath this conflict there was a people's war against fascism (the form taken by the new empires) underpinned by dreams of freedom and democracy.  The imperialists running the first war knew that had to appeal to the priorities of the people fighting the second war in order to enlist their support, hence the democratic rhetoric.

I mention this here because Gluckstein has done an interview for New Left Project, in which he has some things to say about Winston Churchill, the subject of my irregular 'Victory of the ...

Victory of the Icon 2

Winston Churchill was the British Secretary of State for War in 1920.  As such, he was the British politician most directly and personally responsible for the Black and Tans, the notorious 'special policemen' (paramilitaries really) sent in to help the Royal Irish Constabulary put down the revolt against British rule.  The Irish people had rejected Home Rule in a referendum... only to find that the British were going to try to impose it by force.  This triggered the conflict - a nationalist revolt met by imperial repression - that is known as the 'Anglo-Irish War'.

The Black and Tans went on a rampage of violence, targeting civilians alongside anyone suspected of involvement in the revolt.  Indiscriminate reprisals and revenge killings were the order of the day.  Many whole towns and villages were besieged and sacked, often simply as collective punishment for the killings of RIC officers.  They beat, shot, starved and tortured people.  They tore out people's fingernails in front of their families.  'Murder squads' disguised in civilian clothes roamed the streets.  The Tans sacked Cork and left the city centre in smoking ruins.  The RIC murdered the Mayor in front of his wife and son.

All this horror on ...

How Curses Work

We've all seen him.  He's swarthy, usually (though not always) with a dark beard.  He's often wearing a fez (no, I'm not going to say it) and robes of some kind.

A fanatic.  And friend.


Sometimes, he leaves his home desert and comes to England.  He may be dressed in Western clothes and live in a house with Western furnishings, but he's got a secret room, or a shrine, or a sanctum behind a billowing curtain, in which he keeps his infernal idols amidst clouds of suffocating incense.

He's...

(cue dramatic music)


...the Egyptian Fanatic!

When he comes to England, he becomes the mirror image of the English Explorer Who Has Just Returned from Egypt (henceforth, the Explorer).  This man goes to Egypt for the love of antiquities and discovery, and comes back enchanted and bewitched by the place (by the place, mind, not the people); filling his big, wood-panelled home with Egyptiana.  The question of whether the Explorer has any right to this Egyptiana is raised only by the Egyptian Fanatic in England (henceforth, the Fanatic).

The Fanatic has come to England from his native land in search of something, some inscrutable justice ...

Balanced and Objective

The BBC doing what it does best: "In Iran's iconography of villainy, Britain holds a special place. The UK is seen as the mastermind behind the overthrow of previous Iranian governments. Conservative hardliners believe Britain has in its blood the desire to decide who rules Iran."  Textbook stuff from James Reynolds "BBC Iran correspondent".

Make it all a matter of opinion: "is seen as".  Put it down to someone at the so-called 'extreme': "hardliners".  Pathologise the unacceptable view, make it sound like childish paranoia, sneer at it under your hand: "Iran's iconography of villainy".

Fact is, if people in Iran feel that way about us, they are justified.  The British government, lead by Winston Churchill, were the original movers in the plot to overthrow the democratically elected government of Mossadegh, because he wanted to nationalise the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which funnelled oil profits out of Iran to Britain (in other words, he had the temerity to think that Iranians should benefit from Iranian resources).  Churchill put up the money.  The CIA took over the plot.  They hired mobsters and Nazi collaborators in Iran.  CIA agents started riots.  They started ...

Victory of the Icon

In the course of preparing myself [to play Churchill in a biopic]… I realized afresh that I hate Churchill and all of his kind. I hate them virulently. They have stalked down the corridors of endless power all through history…. What man of sanity would say on hearing of the atrocities committed by the Japanese against British and Anzac prisoners of war, ‘We shall wipe them out, every one of them, men, women, and children. There shall not be a Japanese left on the face of the earth’? Such simple-minded cravings for revenge leave me with a horrified but reluctant awe for such single-minded and merciless ferocity.

- Richard Burton. (He got banned from the BBC for writing that. Which must’ve really burned him as he lounged around in Hollywood with Elisabeth Taylor’s head in his lap.)


In ‘Victory of the Daleks’ by Mark Gatiss, Winston Churchill is depicted as a wiley and cantankerous old fox, as a twinkly-eyed yet determined fighter against the Nazi menace, as a moral force, as an impish and roguish but unequivocally good man. This is very much the mainstream view of Churchill, in both ‘pop culture’ and in much of the trash that ...

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