Much has been written in praise of Gary Oldman’s brilliant portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour( which btw is not that great a film), for which he won an Oscar for the best actor. The entire film is set in the month of May 1940, i.e. the first month of Churchill’s prime minister ship, and takes the artistic liberty (a much abused term) of adding fictional elements such as Winston Churchill travelling by the underground metro train near the film’s end to gather the public’s general opinion on whether to enter into negotiations with Herr Hitler or to fight on. Or having his personal secretary Elizabeth Layton coming into the ‘war room’ to explain her the precarious situation in Dunkirk. Ridiculous, considering that,
1.) The access to the ‘war room’ cannot be given so easily , least of all to secretarial staff
2.) Layton was his secretary since mid 1941 whereas the film is set in May 1940.
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874 – 1965) is venerated for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War and is considered one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century. In addition to being an orator, he was also a historian, a writer and an artist. He is the only British Prime Minister to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature (in 1953), and was the first person to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States. He’s been voted as the greatest Briton of all time, ahead of Shakespeare, Newton and Darwin.
The film should be acknowledged for not shying away from portraying him as an unpleasant , haughty, decadent man who won’t abandon his luxurious ways of cigar and champagne even in the trying days of war, his views on India are mentioned by Edward in a passing reference, who was really wanted by nobody, but was invited by Edward to be the PM only because he was the only one agreeable by the opposition Labour Party .
Even in those imperial times, Winston Churchill was the extreme at the end of the imperial spectrum. PM Stanley Baldwin was warned against having him in the cabinet for his views. Even his doctor Lord Moran, said of other races: “Winston thinks only of the colour of their skin.”
According to William Manchester, “The Caged Lion”, His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, briefly Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, “actually loathed Winston”, wrote Manchester. His mother, a beautiful American named Jennie Jerome, “devoted most of her time to sexual intrigue, slipping between the sheets with handsome, powerful men in Britain, in the United States, and on the Continent.
Source: The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-1940
The British weren’t too behind the Nazis if we consider what they did in their colonies in Asia and Africa, and as victors in the two world wars, found enough opportunities to do away with the evidences of their genocides and wrongdoings. Everyone remembers the holocaust, but the millions of victims of famines caused due to British policies of using land to grow cash crops instead of foodcrops in two centuries are hardly acknowledged.
Benjamin Disraeli, former British PM, called India “the brightest jewel in the crown,” acknowledging India’s valuable resources that Europe exploited like spices, mineral ores, textiles, the huge pool of cheap labour and the large market for British goods. As its largest colonial territory, India was the most important of all the overseas possessions of the British Empire. Britain held on to India for as long as it could, relinquishing it only when it was thoroughly weakened by the second world war, accelerating its departure post the naval uprising of 1946.
“Power will go into the hands of rascals, rogues, and freebooters. Not a bottle of water or loaf of bread shall escape taxation; only the air will be free and the blood of these hungry millions will be on the head of Attlee.” This Churchill quote is cited so often by various people discussing the evil of corruption in India. But this doesn’t mean Churchill was sympathetic or concerned about India or Indians ( as his views about them can be summed in these two sentences of his:- “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion that breed like rats”, or those about Mohandas Gandhi – “He ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.”),it merely means that he wanted the British empire to continue, for India to be subjugated under the British rule.
Churchill spent nearly two years in India in the 1890s as an army officer around Bangalore, hating both India and Indians immensely, just like he hated the denizens of the other colonies.
After his stint in India, he was involved in the Anglo Boer wars, where he was imprisoned and his escape from there gave him fame nationally at just 24. By virtue of that, he was elected to the parliament and was a cabinet minister at 33. It would take him another thirty odd years to become the Prime minister.
The war certainly took a toll on him, and despite him leading Britain successfully through it, he lost the 1945 election to the Labour Party. He however was reelected in 1951 elections to serve another full term. In his diaries, Sir Francis Alan Brooke, Churchill’s chief of the Imperial General Staff, observed on March 24, 1944, “He seems quite incapable of concentrating for a few minutes on end, and keeps wandering continuously.”
The book reports that “The inner circle noted Churchill’s rapid decline soon after the election. On some days he was nearly his old self, but more often than not he was unable to cope. The private secretary to the queen reported that Churchill often could not follow the trend of a conversation. At one point he even forgot that the electric power industry had been nationalized. He was frequently unable to contain his emotions often irritable and short of temper, at other times breaking into tears or becoming extremely maudlin. He also suffered from delusions of grandiosity, believing that only he could prevent a third world war.”
Churchill was an imperialist and a white supremacist to the core, whose ideas on eugenics and the superior and inferior races were barely different from that of Hitler or Himmler. Superior white man conquering the primitive, dark-skinned natives, and bringing them the benefits of “civilisation” was god’s law for him, which he imbibed in Harrow and then Sandhurst. In 1937, he told the Palestine Royal Commission: “I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.” “Jolly little wars against barbarous peoples” delighted him. In Swat valley, among other areas, he gleefully took part in raids that laid waste to whole valleys, and in Sudan, he bragged about killing three ‘savages’. Just like Nazis gassed mentally impaired German citizens regularly in their quest for the perfect teutonic Aryan race, Churchill’s views on this were similar “I propose that 100,000 degenerate Britons should be forcibly sterilized and others put in labour camps to halt the decline of the British race. The unnatural and increasingly rapid growth of the feeble-minded and insane classes, coupled as it is with steady restriction among all the thrifty, energetic and superior stocks constitutes a national and race danger which is impossible to exaggerate. I feel that the source from which the stream of madness is fed should be cut off and sealed before another year has passed.” The concentration camps were no different, in this case , made for the Boers during the Anglo Boer wars, which according to Churchill, produced ‘minimum suffering’ (28000 deaths). 100000 plus blacks were in the camps as well.
Every imperial atrocity was defended by him,for putting down the ‘savages’ who couldn’t submit to the imperial will. “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes…[It] would spread a lively terror.”How different is this mentality than the Nazi one which used Zyklon B to murder thousands in death camps? And no, uncivilized also meant fellow whites of Ireland as well, on whom he unleashed the Black and Tan thugs as a Colonial Secretary in 1920s.
Churchill was not the only responsible entity for the great Bengal famine of 1943 (which killed 4 million plus Bengalis in little more than a year), but his role of being complicit in this catastrophe is certain, where the root cause was that rice which was either to be planted for next years crop and was for local consumption was routed to the British troops fighting in west Asia and north Africa. A scorched earth policy was adopted by Britain in east of India, to prevent the resources from falling into the hands of the imperial Japanese army. In response to an urgent request by the Secretary of State for India, Leo Amery, and Wavell to release food stocks for India, Churchill responded with a telegram to Wavell asking,” If food is so short, how is Gandhi not dead yet?” His reaction was that it was their own fault for “breeding like rabbits” and that the plague was “merrily” culling the population.
“Skeletal, half-dead people were streaming into the cities and dying on the streets, but Churchill – to the astonishment of his staff – had only jeers for them. This rather undermines the claims that Churchill’s imperialism was motivated only by an altruistic desire to elevate the putatively lower races.”
Barrack Obama, on becoming the US president in 2009 had the Churchill bust on the presidential desk (which his predecessor George HW Bush had left) returned to Britain, because his Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was imprisoned without trial for two years and was tortured on Churchill’s watch for anti empire activities. He was just one of the more than 150000 Kenyans who underwent similar treatment. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mau_Mau_Uprising )
One thing we all know is that Britain made it sure while exiting its colonies to engineer something that will keep them perpetually in the state of disturbance. Churchill made his stellar contribution in this as well , offering the land in the British mandate of Palestine to both Jews and Arabs (in his words barbaric hordes who ate little but camel dung) while harbouring racial hatred for both, Britain later hastily retreating in May 1948 to leave the two fighting among each other. Or his role in drawing the country of Iraq, enclosing three warring people to bleed each other till date.
Of course, holding grudges and being bitter all the time is not the way forward, otherwise as a Hindu, I should be inundated 24/7 in hatred against nearly all Turkics and central Asians, Pathans, Portuguese, British , Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and whoever has wronged my people. But its equally important that in today’s world of information being available at our fingertips, no whitewashing be allowed to be gotten away with, either in the name of entertainment or political correctness.