By Kate Thomas
Statues are there for us to be reminded of ‘the great and the good’. Often, and in this case, with dishonesty, avoiding inconvenient truths. It’s what is omitted when the memorial words are carved into the plinth on which the statue stands. So this is in memory of omissions. Winston Churchill held deeply offensive racist views, and often his actions were devastating. Statues for him should be in museums and not on the streets.
People in Bengal have experienced famines over the centuries because the monsoons failed. The famine in 1943 that killed 3 million people was man-made. Reported in the Guardian Churchill’s policies contributed to 1943 Bengal famine – study 29th March 2019:
“This was a unique famine, caused by policy failure instead of any monsoon failure,” said Vimal Mishra, the lead researcher and an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar.
This conclusion was drawn during the studies of famines in Bengal between 1873 and 1943. All previous famines had been linked directly to soil moisture deficit and crop failures
Despite food shortages, the Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen argued in 1981 that there should still have been enough supplies to feed the region, and that the mass deaths came about as a combination of wartime inflation, speculative buying and panic hoarding, which together pushed the price of food out of the reach of poor Bengalis.
Rice stocks continued to leave India even as London was denying urgent requests from India’s viceroy for more than 1m tonnes of emergency wheat supplies in 1942-43. Churchill has been quoted as blaming the famine on the fact Indians were “breeding like rabbits”, and asking how, if the shortages were so bad, Mahatma Gandhi was still alive.
This is now known as the ‘Denial Policy’. See Wikipedia Bengal Famine of 1943.
Amartya Sen puts it well:
“Starvation is the characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat. It is not the characteristic of there being not enough food to eat. While the latter can be a cause of the former, it is but one of many possible causes. Whether and how starvation relates to food supply is a matter for factual investigation.”
The Wire also has a good article, Past Continuous: The Deep Impact of the Bengal Famine on the Indian Psyche.
Winston Churchill wrote in December 1910:
“The unnatural and increasingly rapid growth of the Feeble-Minded and Insane classes, coupled as it is with a steady restriction among all the thrifty, energetic and superior stocks, constitutes a national and race danger which it is impossible to exaggerate.”
“But with the advances in medical science and medical ethics, fewer and fewer categories of “…..persons suffering … from mental disorder” were considered needy of detention. Causes such as food and nutritional deficiency, poverty and deprivation, abuse and neglect, were identified as among the reasons-and early diagnosis, medication, therapy, community care and family support systems as the methods of treatment-of what was considered, at the time of Churchill’s support for eugenics before the First World War, as hereditary “feeble-mindedness” with no cure.
Churchill on Eugenics from the Winston Churchill website
Churchill drafted the Mental Deficiency Act 1913. Only 3 MPs voted against the bill, including Josiah Wedgewood who said,“monstrous violation” [of individual rights] and when arguing in Parliament called it, “legislation for the sake of a scientific creed which in ten years may be discredited.” The ideas around the false science of eugenics were unfortunately belived by many of the the ruling and upper classes in Britain and the America.
“It was a British man, not a German, who first came up with the term eugenics in 1883. Francis Galton was a cousin of Charles Darwin and he became obsessed with Origin of Species, especially its chapter on the breeding of domestic animals. This inspired him to spend much of his life studying the variations in human ability. He wrote: “The question was then forced upon me. Could not the race of men be similarly improved? Could not the undesirables be got rid of and the desirables multiplied?”
New Statesman The eugenics movement Britain wants to forget 9th December 2010
Unless otherwise stated, quotes are taken from The 10 greatest controversies of Winston Churchill’s career BBC 26th January 2015:
In 1937, 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.”
Most students of India’s fight for independence may only be aware of Churchill’s famous 1931 remarks on Gandhi, when he went to meet the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, in his usual dress. Churchill had said: “It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious Middle [Inner] Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace, while he is still organizing and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor.”
From the M. K. Ghandi website Mahatma Gandhi and Winston Churchill
Mesopotamia Conflict 1922
With the use of chemical weapons against Kurds and Afghans, Churchill said:
“I cannot understand this squeamishness about the use of gas,” he wrote in his memo May 12th 1919 during his role as minister for war and air in 1919….I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.”
A supporter of Zionism, Churchill still managed to hold racist views against Jewish people.
In a press release announcing a book by Richard Toye on Churchill and Lloyd George, Cambridge University Press put its main emphasis on the discovery of a previously unknown article written by Winston Churchill in 1937, containing considerable anti-Semitic imagery.
The 1937 article, “How the Jews Can Combat Persecution,” was “unearthed by Dr. Richard Toye, a Cambridge University historian,” according to The Independent. “Written three years before Churchill became Prime Minister, the article has apparently lain unnoticed in the Churchill Archives at Cambridge since the early months of the Second World War.
“Churchill criticised the ‘aloofness’ of Jewish people from wider society and urged them to make the effort to integrate themselves….Churchill says: ‘The central fact which dominates the relations of Jew and non-Jew is that the Jew is “different.” He looks different. He thinks differently. He has a different tradition and background.’ He then criticises Jewish moneylenders: ‘Every Jewish money-lender recalls Shylock and the idea of the Jews as usurers. And you cannot reasonably expect a struggling clerk or shopkeeper, paying 40 or 50 per cent interest on borrowed money to a “Hebrew Bloodsucker,” to reflect that almost every other way of life was closed to the Jewish people.’”
Winston Churchill website Myth and Reality – What Did Churchill Really Think About the Jews?