Churchill wrote to eat. Never rich he supported himself and his family with his books. But man does not live by bread alone. Churchill wrote because words that described actions, words that inspired actions, brave, heroic actions were his lifeblood.
GOING THROUGH HELL
1919 - 1938
It is worth quoting again, this philosophy of Churchill's:
In war: resolution. In defeat: defiance.
Despite his intervention, at the end of World War One, the Cabinet refuses to send food to the Germans. Britain has lost 908,000 dead; 2 million wounded; 191,000 missing, which is to say mutilated beyond recognition. More than lives have been lost. Disillusion and cynicism are rampant. Churchill protests the harsh and punitive provisions of the peace settlement of Versailles, but his advice is rejected.
Churchill has always supported honourable war, and fought for ideals, but he asks, "Why should war be the only purpose capable of uniting us? All for war – nothing is too good for war. Why cannot we have some of it for peace?" He is outraged that Germans having sued for peace are being left to go hungry. He grieves at the atrocities committed by both sides. "Torture and Cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilised scientific Christian States had been able to deny themselves: and these were of doubtful utility," he wrote.
On the election platform, Churchill takes the unpopular stand that the Germans must be clothed, sheltered, and fed. He remains steadfast in trying to put wrong right, as he understands wrong and right.
He prophetically sees that Marxist Communism is wrong before the battlefields of World War I are even cold. Churchill understands that the atrocities and pogroms of the Bolsheviks are the direct consequence of Marxist ideas, and that a government comprised of "cosmopolitan fanatics" will become a tyranny. He is the only member of Britain's Cabinet to call for military intervention to help the Russian White Army defeat the new regime. His colleagues reject the idea, and a hundred million men and women die in the Soviet gulags and famines that are the direct result of placing the state in charge of every aspect of society.
Churchill makes helping the White Armies defeat the Red contingent on land reform, a representative assembly with a democratic franchise, and the suppression of anti-Semitism. The White Armies are unable to promise a democratic government or to win on the battlefield. As soon as it wins at home, the Red Army invades Poland, and is only hurled back from the Vistula by Polish patriots and the timely arrival of a French Army. Otherwise the Soviet Union might have been far larger and far worse for human kind.
Britain's defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I had ended Turkish oppression and control over much of the Mideast, and had given Britain the problem of Palestine. One tries to imagine a more intractable issue or one that more effortlessly generates delusions. Britain was now holding the hot potato that burns every hand that touches it.
Israel and Palestine
Because Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, had promised Jews a "national home" in Palestine, where Jews had lived for 3,000 years, and specified it be done without harming non-Jewish natives, Churchill travelled to the Mideast in 1921. He saw several things.
First, he saw that the land referred to as the mandate of Palestine had about seven hundred and fifty thousand people – 83,000 Palestinian Jews, 71,000 Palestinian Christians, and 589,000 Palestinian Muslims. Second the name 'Palestine' had been borrowed from the Roman Empire, but its boundaries were not the same, and the people who lived there did not consider their land to be an independent state. Third, the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence had promised to form an Arab state in exchange for the Great Arab Revolt during World War One, and the Arab sheiks of the Transjordan had asked Britain to undertake the Transjordan’s administration.
There were two things Churchill did not see. Churchill, who was travelling with Lawrence of Arabia, was advised that Palestinian hostility to Zionism was overrated, despite the fact that few people want another people to move in with them uninvited, and despite the Koran's very negative description of Jews (5,84). Nor did Churchill foresee the number of Jewish people that would arrive. No one at the time could have imagined the floods of refugees that would be created by the World War II Holocaust and by Soviet oppression.
Compounding the problem was the fact that the borders of “Palestine” had been shifting for more than a thousand years. It was hard to get a grip on Palestine. It appeared to include all the land now called Israel; Gaza, which for a long time was controlled by Egypt; and the Transjordan, the land to the east of the Jordan River, which the British believed could be the homeland for an Arab state.
"To the dismay of Zionists, Churchill decided that the whole of Palestine east of the River Jordan should become a second Arab kingdom of Transjordan . . .Under Churchill's settlement, the promise of a Jewish national home was to apply only to Palestine west of the Jordan, and even then it was to be cautiously interpreted. Though Churchill had been personally sympathetic to Zionism ever since his contacts with Manchester Jews in the Edwardian period, he recognized the need to assuage Arab fears of unlimited Jewish immigration" (Oxford DNB).
Churchill is aware that Palestine spells trouble. He found it "unduly stocked with peppery, pugnacious, proud politicians and theologians’", as he put it to Parliament in 1921, and, in a little-noted move, urges that responsibility for it be handed to the United States. This did not occur, not at least as Churchill had envisioned it, but the Transjordan became the Arab nation of Jordan and the land west of Jordan became Israel in 1948. The Arabs attempted to drive all the Jews into the sea.
The result was that almost 400,000 Muslims fled Israel. (According to declassified documents held by the British Government, Ismail Safwat, the Iraqi general who served as commander-in-chief of the Arab Liberation Army noted “with some astonishment that the Jews ‘have so far not attacked a single Arab village unless provoked by it.’”) More than 900,000 Jews were made refugees in Muslim nations. Today three million Palestinians live in Jordan, and one million live in Israel; many others live in despair in UN refugee camps. But all this lay in the future.
Standing up for justice in Parliament
On July 8, 1920, Churchill rises in the House of Commons to prevent an outrageous and shameful act by Parliament. He cannot transform a terrible act of butchery into a victory for the good and the true, but he is determined Brigadier General Reginald Dyer will not be rewarded for infamy.
In India, the Brigadier had issued a humiliating order to the Indians living in Amritsar. When they protested peacefully in a small, enclosed public space, he ordered his machine gunners to fire on them. The Indians were so jammed together the bullets drove through more than one body. The fire followed them wherever they tried to run, and when the gunners were finished almost 400 were dead and more than 1500 were wounded. The general claimed he had been confronted by a revolutionary army. The disgusted British Army retired him. Incredibly Parliament is on the verge of applauding and commending the general, when Churchill rises to speak.
He quietly points out that the general was retired, not dismissed in disgrace. He then observes that the number of people killed is almost identical to the number of MPs listening to him speak. Churchill reminds them that an officer in the general's position has to ask whether the crowd is armed, and about to attack. With his voice growing stronger and more determined, he states that the crowd had not been armed, and had not been attacking. He and many other MPs knew British soldiers who had risked their lives to help the wounded. The general had left the Indians dying. Outraged, Churchill declares that Dyer's actions are criminal and abhorrent. They are intolerable in England and they are intolerable in Amritsar. He concluded, ". . .this is not the British way of doing business." For Churchill the British way of doing things has always meant "close and effectual cooperation with the people." Having heard him, Parliament votes overwhelmingly not to commend the general.
All this time, the companion of Winston's soul and heart has stood by him, caring for him, suffering with him, raising their children. Clementine Churchill is politically astute, calm in a crisis, charming, compassionate, stirred by injustice, and brave. When Winston becomes Colonial Secretary, she urges him to seek justice for the Irish who are fighting for independence from Britain. Unfortunately he does not immediately take her advice.
With the end of World War One, rebellion in Ireland flames up again. Churchill is concerned that two hundred political assassinations have gone untried and unpunished. His wife Clementine urges him to consider the justice of the Irish cause, but Churchill insists on establishing order first. Lacking soldiers, he organises retired soldiers into a police force that becomes infamous as the "Black and Tans". At first Churchill refuses to believe that "gallant officers" could do anything wrong, but six months later he acknowledges his and their failure to restore peace in Ireland. He steers a bill through Parliament that gives Ireland the power to act in all matters except foreign affairs, with control over all but the six counties of Ulster. Ireland's republicans denounce the bill, swear never to accept partition, and elect Eamon de Valera President. Ulster is equally outraged.
Churchill holds intense negotiations, and persuades Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith, who represent the republicans, to agree to a pact establishing the southern counties as the Irish Free State. "I may have signed my death warrant," says the brave Collins. Parliament and the Irish Dail pass the treaty, but de Valera plunges the Free State into civil war. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) burns down homes, blows up bridges, and executes those it considers "traitors", among them, in a murderous ambush, the 30-year-old Michael Collins. However, the Irish Dail adopts the constitution Collins helped to write, and the IRA is outlawed.
Churchill, who knew that he would have to pay a political price, pays it shortly afterwards when he stands three consecutive times for Parliament, and loses every time. Not only Ireland is held against him. The Dardanelles is hurled in his face as hecklers shriek and spit at him. Obliged to undergo an operation, he wryly describes himself as "without an office, without a seat, without a party, and without an appendix."
In 1924, feeling like a rat who has re-ratted, he leaves the Liberals and rejoins the Conservatives. He breathes new life into his political career, becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer, and on the advice of experts and with the support of all three parties returns Britain to the gold standard. The move to gold proves financially disastrous because it makes British exports expensive. He is outraged by the misery and suffering that results, but there is little he can do.
Worse, the owners of the coal mines have mismanaged their industry. Now they demand that workers, who are paid pitifully small wages, live on even less. Labour calls a General Strike. Winston sees it as a threat to the nation, and opposes it fiercely. When the strike ends, he tries to persuade the coal mine owners to respond favourably to some of the workers' needs. They refuse, and again his hands are tied: In order to make provisions for "the exhausted, the weak, the wounded, the veterans, the widows and orphans," he has depleted his budget.
The English language that Churchill adores is rich, but describing Churchill himself places some strains on it. He is a warrior and a writer, a politician and a gardener, heroic, severe, childlike, and tender. A loyal friend, an implacable enemy, and a magnanimous victor he is a bright spirit who struggles with bouts of depression. He is at times witty, charming, confident, appallingly arrogant, exceedingly foolish, and profoundly wise. His great Labour adversary saw the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries in him "and another, curious, layer which may possibly have been the twenty-first."
Churchill has become popular in the House of Commons, but he is so versatile and brilliant, he is considered unsound. Now the economy, affected by the worldwide depression of the 1930s, begins to sink. Hundreds of thousands go on the dole. At the same time Churchill opposes independence for India. The Conservative party loses the next election, and blames Churchill. He enters a political wilderness, which grows more desolate as he warns a people who want to see only good times that they are drifting toward destruction as Germany rearms.
The forces of tyranny are gathering on the continent. Freedom-minded anti-Nazi operatives report the ominous signs to Churchill, who is also receiving inside reports from the British Secret Service. Alone in the wilderness, watching the Nazis rise to power, Churchill warns the House of Commons as early as 1931 that the Nazis pose a real danger, and that Britain is unprepared to meet it. He urges the House of Commons to protect Western civilisation "against the ever advancing sources of authority and despotism," but the House refuses to heed his warnings.
Churchill willingly endures their jeers, while the "peacemakers", who are appeasers, bask in the public adulation. The TIMES OF LONDON and BBC repeatedly condemn Churchill, and applaud the appeasers.
In 1938, the governments of Britain and France deliver Czechoslovakia into the Nazi maw. On the floor of the House of Commons Churchill rises to his feet, and declares:
"Silent, mournful, abandoned, broken, Czechoslovakia recedes into the darkness. We have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been derailed, and these terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies, 'Thou art weighed in the balance, and found wanting'."
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