Tariq Ali writes a shocking account of Britain’s national hero
By adding the word “His Crimes” to the title of Sir Winston Churchill’s most recent biography, Tariq Ali, a British left-wing thinker of Pakistani descent, promises the reader a “narrative at odds with that of school history books and the British popular press” that the British prime minister during the World War The second as the best British leader ever, and crowned him as a national hero. In fact, this was a difficult task that Ali assumed, not because of the lack of materials or the absence of documents. These, in the particular Churchillian case, are abundantly available, and there is a huge archive on the role of man, his professional life and his contributions kept by the British state in various forms, as are the documents of many societies from India to Egypt to Kenya dealt with it within the framework of the successive political missions that he assumed within the structure of the British system.
But the difficulty stems from two things, the first of which is the deepening of Churchill’s narrative as a national hero in the British popular imagination, the adoption of it by the institution, and the identification of many British politicians with it – especially in the ruling Conservative Party and historically Churchill’s party – including the current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who wrote a glorified book About him, and he is considered his inspiration and elder Sheikh. In English, Ali says, more than 1,600 books written in different stages and from different points of view about Churchill are available to the public to choose from, but hardly any of them deviate from the outlines of the official narrative, oh God, perhaps in technical details that do not spoil the prevailing image.
As for the other source of difficulty, undoubtedly, is the temporal distance, as the future prime minister left our world decades ago, and the stage of the Second World War, which culminated in a large star in it, passed from the living memory of those who lived that stage to the purely cold space of history after he passed away. Most of them are alive or almost, and the newer generations generally seem to have lost interest in them, with a recent poll saying that one in five British teenagers firmly believes Winston Churchill is a fictional character from the space of literary novels or comics.
In “Winston Churchill…His Times and Crimes”, according to Ali, you will not find the usual eulogies of the “statesman”, or the exaggerations of the quality of “the best Briton in history”, nor the allegations of “leadership genius in the famous discourse on beach fighting.” , not even a reference to that “the stubborn leader who saved Britain and the world from Nazism and fascism.” Instead, you find the story of a right-wing racist politician, extremist in anti-colonialism to the point of committing war crimes, eager to wage wars and send soldiers to their deaths against the advice of all His men, and an ancient model in the practice of political repression locally as in the empire’s colonies, on which the sun never sets – a sun of oppression, not of light.
And if the matter of history is easy in terms of taking either of these two completely contradictory images, the question that undoubtedly arises in the mind of the average reader, starting from the expression “his crimes” in the title of the book to its conclusion is “Where is the truth then?”, one leaves 1,600 books of praise From a man to one book of (political) satire, especially if we know that this alternative biographer belongs to an intellectual current that necessarily contradicts the orientations of the right – and consequently his blessed heroes? Perhaps it is important here to rely on the overall framework of the events that formed the main features of Churchill, and then seek patiently to establish the features of the biography of the man by drawing his documented positions in the midst of these events as if they were reference points on a blank sheet of paper, for the reader to decide for himself, with the progress of the text and the multiplicity of points Pinned, a picture of Churchill that began to form in front of him.
Churchill was inevitably, by birth and upbringing, and without his choice, a natural son of the British Empire with its excessive elitism, systemic racism, and its daring to wage wars on weaker nations. He was born in a Manif Palace, descended from an aristocratic family – the cousin of the well-known British politician, the Duke of Marlborough – and therefore the formation of his political consciousness was governed by the right-wing tendencies and longings of his class, and his poor academic record at Harrow School was not an obstacle to the development of his career as a journalist and later as a politician and statesman. Always with strife and war and the aura of glory of Great Britain. When he reached adulthood, Britain was at the height of the imperialist struggle in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and those like him had no shortage of opportunities, so he got involved in the Sudan War (1898) and the Boer War in South Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century. At the time of the First World War (1914), he was one of the most powerful politicians in the Cabinet, responsible for the largest navy in the world.
Records from that period show a key role for him in pushing towards war, whether in discussions within the government, or unilateral measures he took to put the British Navy on alert a week before the invasion of Belgium, and then declaring war on Germany, which cost his country and the world millions of lives. However, Churchill’s rush to aggression and warlike conflicts was not the product of military genius in any way, as his foolish decision to attempt to seize the Black Sea, despite all the advice of the army leaders to the contrary, cannot be ignored, a battle that went down in history as one of the most important defeats that the British nation suffered and claimed the lives of without It profited 45,000 soldiers, including Australians, New Zealanders and Indians, and was forced to leave his post in the Admiralty.
Churchill’s record that Ali cites is not limited to that humiliating defeat on the Dardanelles, but extends in a shameful context through his role as Minister of War during the suppression of the Irish War of Independence and the continuing division of Ireland until now, as well as the decision to use chemical weapons against the Iraqi Kurds after World War I, and fueling The civil war in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the war against the Greek Communists in 1945, the coup against the Mosaddegh government in Iran in 1953, the atrocities of persecution of Kenyans during the War of Independence there in the 1950s, not to mention his direct responsibility for the actions that led to the Bengal famine in which he spent several Millions of people are starving unnecessarily.
Even with regard to his role as a hero of World War II, Ali cites facts indicating that the Conservatives and the British right in general were inclined to avoid war, not serious about preparing for it, and prepared in one way or another to accept a balance with a rising Germany, and that Churchill, who had taken over as prime minister after Chamberlain He was behind the involvement of Britain in the war, and to the astonishment of observers at the time with the support of the opposition Labor Party seats, and therefore he ruled in coalition with them, and sent millions of Britons to be killed and be killed, and thus contributed to the destruction of Europe, and the decline of his country’s standing in favor of the rise of the American and Soviet poles.
According to Ali always, Churchill’s domestic history was no better than his bloody record internationally. He ordered the shooting of striking workers at Tonibandi (1910) and suppressed the largest labor strike in British history (1926) by sheer force, and was personally behind the Sydney Street Incident that led to the burning to death of two Jewish anarchists. He narrates all this biography along with his depiction of the class and racial prejudices of Churchill, including his deep hatred for workers and his open racism against the colonial peoples, and against the Jews as well.
The importance of Ali’s book in deconstructing Churchill’s biography is not primarily related to the history of the events that the man was a part of despite the remarkable effort in recording some of their stations, but rather in revealing the danger that an advanced society such as Britain – whose country is one of the richest in the world and the most culturally influential – deafens its ears about The facts about one of its most important politicians in history, and around him he builds a wall of illusion as high as 1,600 books he is addicted to, waiting for the son of a Pakistani immigrant to write his opposite tale.
* Tariq Ali, «Winston Churchill: His Times, His Crimes”, Verso, 2022