Make no mistake: the attacks, both physical and rhetorical, against the memory of Winston Churchill show that the mask of the agitators in the streets and across the social media is slipping.
We have been told for the past few years by Antifa’s cheerleaders (including those in the media) that these brave, mostly young, men and women are just like the American GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy to defeat the Nazis. Fighting fascists yesteryear and fighting fascism today; what’s not to admire? Vandalism during the BLM protests of various war monuments should have given the naive a pause and some inkling that the conventional and self-serving narrative is not quite right. Those of us who understand that the driving ideologies behind Antifa and the woke radicalism are revolutionary socialism, anarchism and various bastard offspring of Marxism, like the critical race theory, have been saying this all along. The assault against Churchill is a clarifying moment: when you attack perhaps the most prominent fighter against fascism in history, Hitler’s consistent arch-nemesis through the twelve years of the Thousand Year Reich, you are revealing yourself to be an intellectual heir to Stalin, the man who invented the “anti-fascist” label and defined fascism as anything to the right of communism (including, incidentally, social democracy or democratic socialism, which Uncle Joe called “social fascism”).
Now, on the streets of Great Britain, Churchill’s statues are being vandalised and defaced, with the pathetic sight of one of the most famous Britons having to be protected inside a big wooden box, while in the cybersphere, Google “unpersons” the Prime Minister by blanking out his image and erasing the years 1940 to 1945 from history – apparently the UK had no Prime Minister during the war.
Why is Churchill “problematic”? Clearly, having been born in the 1870s, he was a man of his times, with certain attitudes towards other races and ethnic groups that would not stand the muster today. He was also a committed colonialist, believing in the positive, civilising influence of the British Empire on its overseas subjects. On a more serious note, he occasionally gets blamed for the Bengal famine in 1943, which cost some 3 million lives; in reality there was simply no transport available in the region to ship the required amounts of food – even if such food available – to prevent widespread starvation in a bad season in the middle of the war being fought by the overstretched British on several fronts.
Churchill, like every other person, had his faults; today he would be unlikely to get elected to anything – then again, today he would also be unlikely to think and write the way he did a century ago. But the attempts to banish him are simply ignorant and obscene. It’s all to easy to imagine history taking a different course without Churchill at the helm; it’s a future dominated by the (real) fascists, of the German variety. Good luck being any sort of a minority under the Nazi regime or a Nazi occupation. And if you think the British colonialism was the worst thing to happen to the non-European world, have a think about Africa under the victorious Germans, animated by the ideology which saw even (white) Slavs as subhuman.
The truth of the matter is that there a virtually no historical figures who can stand to the present day scrutiny for at least some of their views and opinions. This really should be a no-brainer for anyone who knows anything about history. Certain beliefs about races and ethnicities, genders, sexualities and other categories of humanity, which we now consider unacceptable, used to be not just widespread but universal throughout the ages. Our current, tolerant and enlightened views on pretty much everyone and everything are a very recent development, historically speaking. Judging the past by not just the presents but the best of the present is a recipe for “cancelling” our entire history and all the personalities, famous and less famous, that inhabit history books, our streets and public spaces, and our collective imagination.
This, by the way, extends to people and movements that today’s iconoclasts otherwise cherish and commemorate. If you think that Churchill was a racist, you really don’t want to know what people like Marx, Lenin or even Che Guevara thought about “people of colour”, different ethnicities or sexualities. The whole labour movement was built around keeping foreigners down or out lest they undercut the wages of decent white working men. The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, hoped that the availability of family planning and legal abortion would reduce the number of blacks in America. Marie Stopes, Helen Keller, W. E. B. du Bois (yes, him too), Clarence Darrow, George Bernard Shaw, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, H. W. Wells, Bertrand Russell and other icons of progressivism and leftism were all committed to eugenics, the “science” of breeding the “desirable” sections of the population and breeding out the rest.
What we’re seeing now is the escalation of the far left’s war on our society. It goes beyond pointing out its imperfections, which everyone acknowledges exist, to portraying it as structurally and uniformly evil – racist, sexist, oppressive, exploitative – and therefore irredeemable. It’s not about fixing problems, it’s about tearing down and creating another radical utopia in its stead. Barbarians have been inside the walls for a long time now, working hard to speed up the decline and fall. We keep having our wake-up call and we keep ignoring it. Unlike Churchill, surrender is now the default option.