The narrative that Churchill was a heroic Prime Minister needs to end.
It’s strange the things the UK decides to protest the most loudly against. They protest Trump, but not our right-wing government at home or our own detention centres for migrants and asylum seekers. Every other month there are thousands who march against Brexit but barely any of these protesters have ever marched against the cuts to disability support. This ignorance even permeates into the signs we use. One marcher protesting Trump held a sign reading “Churchill would fight against Trump”. He would not. They would be pals.
The romanticism of Churchill is absolutely disgusting. He was a racist. He held racist attitudes, said racist things and delivered policies that actively oppressed people of colour. He would not fight Trump. There’s a reason why Trump refused to move from Churchill’s armchair.
Churchill went out of his way to suppress democracy across anywhere Britain had a rule, or could claim to try to have some control over. Churchill claimed Gandhi should be trampled on with an elephant for the peaceful resistance he showed. Churchill even said “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion”.
“He would not fight Trump”
In 1937, when the Holocaust was underway, Churchill didn’t seem to care one bit about the legacy of his racist words. That year, 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.”
The rose-tinted view that Churchill stood up to Hitler is nonsense. Yes, he led the war time effort but not because he fundamentally thought Hitler was an evil man. He shared many of the same views about racial hierarchies and eugenics. He fought Hitler because he was the leader of the British Empire. This was not a war waged because of humanitarian concerns but because of fears around political power. There is debate about how much leaders knew about the Holocaust and when they realised there was a genocide taking place against Jewish people, disabled people, queer people, political opposition, Roma communities and other marginalised people. Yet, the evidence existed for years. The press regularly printed racism and xenophobia blaming marginalised people for Germany’s suffering. The British press did the same. The extent of the Holocaust may have been discovered later on, but the world knew that hatred against marginalised people was becoming embedded in not just society but in Governments. Churchill himself was a racist in power and making political decisions based upon those bigoted beliefs.
In 1943, when famine was ravaging Bengal, Churchill refused to send food supplies and claimed that it was the fault of the Bengali people for “breeding like rabbits”. There are claims he even joked about culling the population. Up to three million people are estimated to have died during the famine.
To try to defeat and brutally oppress the Mau Mau from rebelling against British colonial rule, Churchill set up concentration camps in Kenya. These camps were known for their cruel conditions and even electric shocks were used against prisoners, disease due to starvation was rife in the camps and there were public executions. It’s estimated that 15,000 people died specifically within the camps and over 10,000 were murdered outright. This was at a time when the calls of “never again” were still fresh after World War II but that did not stop Churchill. His words never seemed to suggest he ever considered people of colour to have any kind of humanity. Over six million bombs were dropped in Kenyan forests in a year and a half, and in 1955 Churchill authorised the campaign to indefinitely continue.
Churchill would not have fought Trump. It’s an absurd notion, ignoring all historical evidence and fact. In fifty plus years’ time, will people be holding signs saying that Trump would fight the next bigoted leader who comes along? The erasure of racism needs to stop. The glorification of Churchill is nothing more than a tool used by centrists to feel happy at the idea of a British Empire while claiming to be progressive. It was leaders like Churchill who helped pave the way for Trump. It has been refusing to call Churchill’s legacy out that has allowed people to look doe-eyed at fascism. Your bae Churchill was a racist, and so is Trump.
If you enjoyed reading this article, we’d appreciate your support, which you can offer by buying Stand Up a coffee here.