The Tory leader, Winston
Churchill, who led Britain to victory
against Hitler, has been
attacked by right-wing, Tory
Minister Alan Clark — for standing
up to Hitler! He should have made a
deal with him, says Clark.
For half a century standing up to
Hitler was seen to be the crowning glory of
Churchill's life. But times change. The
mouldering mass of fabrications and half
-fabrications that make up official history
shifts; current politics reaches back
and begins to rearrange the pile.
Son of the younger son of the Duke
of Marlborough, Churchill followed
his father into the Tory Party, and
then joined the Liberals in time to gain
office in the Reforming Liberal gov-
ernment formed in 1906. He helped
found the early Welfare State and
held office for a decade.
Disgraced for a misjudgment in the
First World War — "the Dardanelles"
— he 'went to join his regiment'
at the front; but he was soon
back in Lloyd George's government.
It was Churchill who sent soldiers
and tanks against the Clydeside workers
massed at St George's Square, in
Glasgow during the great 1919 strike.
His government sent British troops to
help crush the Russian revolution.
When in the early ‘2Os the divided
Liberal Party collapsed, Churchill
rejoined the Tories; and again he was
He was a firebrand editor of the
government newspaper, the British
Gazette, during the 1926 General
Strike, urging get-tough tactics.
But by 1931, when the Tory-controlled
"National Government" was
formed under Labour renegade Ramsey
MacDonald, Churchill had fallen
out with the Tory leadership.
Out of office, he was a right-wing
critic of the government on India and
on other issues.
The leaders of the weakened British
Empire, unready for war and fearful
of it, allowed Hitler to re-arm Ger-
many, and then 'appeased' him as he
annexed Austria and — at first — the
ethnic-German parts of Czechoslovakia.
Churchill became their implacable
critic. A long-time public admirer of
the Italian fascist Mussolini, because he
had "saved Italy from Bolshevism",
Churchill objected not primarily to
Hitler's fascism but to German
imperialism and the threat it posed
to the British Empire.
He joined the government at the
start of the war in 1939. Disaster
came in June 1940 when Hitler
conquered Norway, Denmark
France, Belgium, and Holland,
Churchill became Prime Minister of a
Labour-Tory-Liberal coalition government.
With many unforgiving enemies in the
Tory Party, he owed this elevation to
Labour support. He was 65 years old,
a man of the past with a by now
strikingly archaic, Edwardian, upper-
But this was indeed Churchill's "finest
hour". The romantic old imperialist
with a reputation for "excess" and for
"unreliability" had always marched to
his own drum.. Now, as Britain, isolated
and alone in Europe, faced disaster
and - seemingly certain invasion.
Churchill was again out of step with
much of the establishment. The rational
"realpolitik" thing for the British
ruling class to do in 1940 was to make
the best deal possible with Hitler, save
what could be saved, bow to the reality
of superior, Nazi German power.
At any rate, the professional diplo-
mats and civil servants thought that.
So did powerful sections of the capitalist
class. They said then what Alan
Clark says now, as did Churchill's old
ally, Lloyd George. That is what the
ruling class had done in France.
But Churchill was determinedly
"irrational". He would have none of
it. With a broad base in Parliament he
appealed to the British people's fear
and hatred of the Nazis, offering them
"nothing but blood, sweat and tears",
but promising "we will never surren-
Millions of British workers
knew that a Nazi conquest would
destroy everything they had ever won
or hoped for, and they backed
Churchill. He caught the imagination
of those who saw no option but to
fight Germany, slyly enlisting them in
the cause of his beloved Empire. So he
But as they proved when they voted him
out and put Labour in at the 1945 genereal
election, they backed him forgetting
nothing and forgiving him nothing.
It is impossible — especially for
socialists who detest his politics — not
to admire the indomitable spirit of the
old fellow, wildly "irrational" as he
seemed to the diplomats, prepared to
die in the last ditch, refusing to even
entertain the idea of a deal with
Yet Churchill was not irrational. He
saw further and clearer than the diplo-
mats did. He knew that any "livable"
British deal with Hitler would last
only until Hitler was strong enough to
break it. He knew that Hitler was
overstretching even Germany's
strength. He knew that America —
despite President Roosevelt's "For Peace"
election campaign in 1940 — would be
drawn into the war against Japan and
against Japan's German ally. So he
Soon Hitler invaded Russia,
and got bogged down; American came
into the war. Churchill was vindicated.
In triumph he was just another imperialist
gangster, sitting down with
Roosevelt and Stalin to casually decide
the fate of the millions who lived in
Eastern Europe. Despite the fine,
anti-Nazi ideals he invoked to win
support, Churchill's RAF refused to
stop the transports to the death
camps, like Auschwitz, by bombing
the railway lines leading to them.
At the end of the war the Alan
Clarks of that time, forgetting all they
had said in 1940, canonised Churchill
as the "greatest living Englishman".
But, of course, the Clarks and their
fathers never really believed in the
anti-fascist, democratic ideals and
goals which the mass of the British
people who rallied behind Churchill
believed in and fought for.
Now, from a weak Britain in a half-
united Europe, some of them have a
nagging feeling that history — with
Churchill's connivance — short-
changed them somewhere along the
Like Churchill in 1940, socialists
today seem irrational, "emotional",
hopeless romantics, when, in defiance
of the capitalist reality around us, we
refuse to even consider the possibility
that the working class and working-
class socialism have suffered a knock-
out defeat. We are irrevocably
committed to the cause of working-
class socialism — for life or death,
prepared to rise or fall with it.
We too see further, and we see
things more clearly. At the height of
bourgeois triumphalism three years
ago, when Stalinism tottered, we could
still see that capitalism was rotten to
the core. In the depths of working-
class defeat we keep in mind the great
history of our class. We see the fermenting,
class struggle: we foresee working-class
revival. We prepare for it.
We will buryn Alan Clark and his nasty,