Less than a year after USA air force dropped two atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima colonialist Winston Churchill prefaced a speech at Westminster College, Fulton in Missouri with celebration of USA’s power: “The United States stands at this time at the pinnacle of world power.”
Churchill painted a picture of military power as a burden to the owners of that power and depicted imperialist power as social responsibility.
“With primacy in power is also joined an awe inspiring accountability to the future. If you look around you, you must feel not only the sense of duty done but also you must feel anxiety lest you fall below the level of achievement.”
“Our supreme task and duty is to guard the homes of the common people from the horrors and miseries of another war.”
His deliberate use of pronouns “you” and “our” was purposefully divisive.
He claimed newly-formed United Nations Organisation (UN) had “the prime purpose of preventing war” but, in order to attain the accolade of “a true temple of peace in which the shields of many nations can some day be hung up” the UN “must immediately begin to be equipped with an international armed force.” His concept of international police force, international judiciary and international arbiter of morality embodied in the UN was restricted absolutely by the caveat of UK, USA and their allies being cast as having superior capacity to judge.
Churchill’s political division of the world included who should have the right to knowledge of nuclear bombs. “It would nevertheless be wrong and imprudent to entrust the secret knowledge or experience of the atomic bomb, which the United States, Great Britain, and Canada now share, to the world organisation [UN], while it is still in its infancy.”
With arrogant selective amnesia, or worse, he forgot that tens of thousands of Japanese civilians were burnt to death and many more were dying from radiation-related illnesses because USA obliterated two cities with atomic bombs just seven months earlier: “No one in any country has slept less well in their beds because this knowledge and the method and the raw materials to apply it, are at present largely retained in American hands.”
Bad memory was a frequent apparition in his speech. In an attempt to juxtapose Britain’s humanitarian history against that of nations led by “tyranny” the architect of mass genocide in India said “the liberties enjoyed by individual citizens throughout the British Empire are not valid in a considerable number of countries.” Churchill’s xenophobia, an ever-present aspect of his personality, helped him to imagine the superiority of the “English-speaking world.”
“We must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence. Here is the message of the British and American peoples to mankind.”
Of course, none of the above “freedom and rights” were available to the conquered and invaded who were subjugated by the armed might of the British Empire with Churchill as its leader. His belief in the existence of “strong parent races in Europe” added a second hierarchy of racial superiority.
His focus on the “fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples” continued with a celebration of the “special relationship between the United States and the British Commonwealth.” He had read the runes; he knew the British empire was in sharp decline and the USA was gaining strength, militarily and economically, exponentially.
For Churchill, the “special relationship” was to be a military relationship or, to be more honest, a relationship of the shared goal of enriching the arms industry.
“Fraternal association requires the continuance of the intimate relationship between our military advisers, leading to common study of potential dangers, the similarity of weapons and manuals of instructions, and to the interchange of officers and cadets at technical colleges. It should carry with it the continuance of the present facilities for mutual security by the joint use of all Naval and Air Force bases in the possession of either country all over the world.”
The nonchalant abuse of the world by military power was expressed in a glib comment on acquiring territory. “Already we [UK and USA] use together a large number of islands; more may well be entrusted to our joint care in the near future.” The (former) inhabitants of the Chagos Islands learnt later (in 1967) what “entrusted” meant. Churchill claimed he meant the “high and simple causes that are dear to us [UK and USA] and bode no ill to any.”
The most repeated refrain throughout the speech was the assertion that agreements between nations – UN and “special relationship” – would ensure peace in the world. But, this was infused with a stated necessity for military power. Churchill’s vision of the world needed a latent enemy and his choice was USSR.
“A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory. Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organisation intends to do in the immediate future, or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive and proselytising tendencies.”
“An iron curtain has descended across the Continent [Europe].”
He explained clearly that his objection was to communism.
“An attempt is being made by the Russians in Berlin to build up a quasi-Communist party in their zone of Occupied Germany.”
“The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-eminence and power far beyond their numbers.”
Churchill warned of a threat to peace from the existence of communism. “If now the Soviet Government tries, by separate action, to build up a pro-Communist Germany in their areas, [then it is not a Europe] which contains the essentials of permanent peace.” He envisioned the cold war that lasted into the 1990s. (That phoney war persisted with the dual strategy of UK/USA and later NATO: Economically-inspired objection to communism alongside financial need for an enemy in order to justify military expenditure.)
His vision of the cold war was also its declaration. Whether assisted by USSR or independent of it communism in any country was the biggest threat post-war to USA-led financial dominance over the world’s people. Churchill’s genuflection in Missouri to the deity of American corporatism was a pragmatic decision. He was paying tribute to the Don. He knew, also, that a permanent enemy meant a permanent channel of money from the public into the grasping hands of arms manufacturers and their parasites.
His description of communism was emotional and studiously unintelligent. Fear of its appeal filled his rhetoric. He couldn’t discuss it rationally or informatively because that would encourage inspection of it by the public who might then appreciate what it had to offer. By necessity, he had to dehumanise communism.
“The Communist parties or fifth columns constitute a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilisation.”
“In a great number of countries, far from the Russian frontiers and throughout the world, Communist fifth columns are established and work in complete unity and absolute obedience to the directions they receive from the Communist centre.”
“I have felt bound to portray the shadow which, alike in the west and in the east, falls upon the world.”
After suggesting that he was “convinced that there is nothing they [USSR] admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness” Churchill said the UN should not be “offering temptations to a trial of strength.” He then equated USSR after the second world war with the rise of Hitler in Germany after the first world war.
“Last time I saw it all coming and cried aloud to my own fellow-countrymen and to the world, but no one paid any attention. Up till the year 1933 or even 1935, Germany might have been saved from the awful fate which has overtaken her and we might all have been spared the miseries Hitler let loose upon mankind.”
Churchill’s monstering of communism was set beside his convenient knowledge failures of the British empire’s effects.
He concluded by flattering USA who, according to him, was forced to enter the two world wars of the twentieth century rather than taking part due to awareness of possible empire expansion. “Twice in our own lifetime we have seen the United States, against their wishes and their traditions, against arguments, the force of which it is impossible not to comprehend, drawn by irresistible forces, into these wars in time to secure the victory of the good cause.”
Throughout his speech Churchill displayed his adeptness in persuasive but erroneous reasoning with the intent of justifying the spurious need for huge increase in military spending. He was aware of an enemy of extreme exploitative capitalism and was equally aware of the former’s potential appeal to the public. Thus, it was necessary for him to create an opaque description of that enemy such that the description had no detail and it afixed unnatural attributes to the enemy. He created a bogeyman.
Seventy-five years later the importance of his speech is clear. What he asked for – a cold war – became a reality and a dominant feature of international politics. The “special relationship” – one-sided and dependent – continues despite temporary disagreements between Boris Johnson’s Tories and Joe Biden’s Democrats. Even though USSR disappeared nearly thirty years ago communism remains in a pariah status for most Western European and North American politicians and media.
Was Churchill visionary with astute predictive powers? Or, was he merely an obedient servant of finance power who possessed sufficient eloquence to manipulate opinion toward a desired goal? Both questions can have an affirmative answer; political philosophy can be reactive and proactive simultaneously.
The most interesting aspect of his words is that, except for a few phrases and references, they could be spoken today by any little gofer from a hard-right think-tank, or by a right-wing grifter, or by a conservative politician, or by an editor of a right-wing newspaper. The same need for bogeymen, the same duplicity, the same mendacity and the same wilfully selective memory are present today as they were for Churchill in 1946. The tactics of the enablers and defenders of exploitative capitalism have not changed since then. They cannot change because there is no other formula for success than the propaganda used by him. His speech attained high stature over the three-quarters of a century since he spoke and there is a clear connection to how the capitalist system is marketed today to con the public.
Churchill was a pragmatist and as conservative (small ‘c’) as anyone could be. That is, politically, philosophically and emotionally he was a coward. His words were abdication of power (to American businesses and finance capital) and abdication of reason, honesty and integrity. Churchill was a convenient cog.