Winston Churchill was 90 by the mid-sixties, but he was born at the end of the 19 th century, the Victorian Age. Since he played such a prominent role on the world stage his positions on important issues affected decisions made in concert with other world leaders and set the world on pathways that reflected the closely-held positions of these leaders. Many issues trending in today’s conversations were addressed by Churchill and other world political and military figures, especially at the end of two wars that began in Europe and eventually affected nations on every continent. Some of those issues included: what should happen in Europe after two world wars, Churchill on isolationism, a Churchill design for a European union of sorts, what Churchill wished for the relationship between Great Britain and America, Churchill on immigration, and on diversity. I used Andrew Robert’s book Churchill: Walking with Destinyas my source because it is chock full of primary source material. (When Andrew Roberts is speaking you will find double quotes in use; when Churchill is quoted directly, single quotation marks will be found.)
Europe after the World Wars, Isolationism, and the Relationship between the UK and the US
‘It must always be a guiding star of British Statesmanship, not only to federate the Empire, but to draw nearer in bonds of friendship and association to the United States. The road to unity of the English-speaking races is no doubt a long one, and we cannot see the end of it.’
“Churchill’s mind was starting to move along the lines that were to climax with his suggestion of joint Anglo-American citizenship at Harvard in 1943.
‘Twice in my lifetime the long arm of destiny has reached across the oceans and involved the entire life and manhood of the United States in a deadly struggle.’ ‘There is no use in saying we don’t want it, we won’t have it, our forebears left Europe to avoid these quarrels; (America is speaking) “we have founded a new world which has no contact with the old.” There is no use in that. The long arm reaches out remorselessly and everyone’s existence, environment, and outlook undergo a swift and irresistible change.
There is no halting place at this point. We have now reached a stage in the journey where there can be no pause. We must go on. It must be world anarchy or world order.’
“Churchill defined what connected the English-speaking peoples as ‘Law, language, literature – these are considerable factors. Common conceptions of what is right and decent, a marked regard for fair play, especially to the weak and poor, a stern sentiment of impartial justice, and above all the love of personal freedom.’
“To those isolationists who believed the United States should not have gone to war, he said,”
‘The price of greatness is responsibility. If the people of the United States had continued in a mediocre station, struggling with the wilderness, absorbed in their own affairs, and a factor of no consequence in the movement of the world, they might have remained forgotten and undisturbed beyond their protecting oceans: but one cannot rise to be in many ways the leading community in the civilized world without being convulsed by its agonies and inspired by its causes.’
‘The gift of a common tongue is a priceless inheritance and it may well someday become the foundation of a common citizenship. I like to think of British and Americans moving about freely over each other’s wide estates with hardly a sense of being foreigners to one another.’
‘If we are together nothing is impossible. If we are divided all will fail. I therefore preach continually the doctrine of the fraternal association of our two peoples.’
‘Neither the sure prevention of war nor the continuous rise of world organization will be gained without what I have called the fraternal association of English-speaking peoples. This means a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States.’
“He wanted this to go so far as to involve the joint use of all Naval and Air Force bases in the possession of either country all over the world.”
On Socialism – 1959
‘Among our Socialist opponents there is great confusion. Some of them regard private enterprise as a tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Only a handful see it for what it really is – the strong and willing horse that pulls the whole cart along.’
‘I was brought up in my father’s house to believe in democracy. “Trust the people” – that was his message. I used to see him cheered at meetings and in the streets by crowds of working men way back in those aristocratic Victorian day when, as Disraeli said, “The world was for the few, and the very few.”
‘No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time; but there is broad feeling in our country that the people should rule, continuously rule, and that public opinion, expressed by all constitutional means, should shape, guide, and control the actions of ministers who are their servants and not their masters.’
How to Prevent Another War in Europe, ‘the United States of Europe’, Britain and Europe – Churchill and Brexit
Why was Europe such a contentious area? How could we achieve long term peace in Europe and end that awful pattern of conflagration, high dungeon, and woeful destruction? Churchill, like his American counterparts had some ideas about government, how to quell German aggression, how to keep the peace in Europe, and how to stave off dissent in the coming iteration of the United Kingdom. Churchill believed that a united Europe, that worked to lower barriers among European nations would help keep the peace. He did not see this as one government over all of Europe. He saw this as a ‘United States of Europe’ where nations maintained their autonomy. Since he did not see this alliance as either military or economic it is difficult to see what he actually had in mind.
But what Churchill’s position was on whether Britain should be a part of this European alliance is quite telling. Churchill was opposed to a United Kingdom presence in the ‘United States of Europe’. Churchill was flexible and could change somewhat with the times. Would he ever have favored joining the EU? From all he said it seems unlikely. Since he would never have joined I assume he would favor Brexit once the UK made what he considered the mistake of joining in the first place. Interesting anyway to see the roots of the EU in the aftermath of WWII. Churchill did evolve, so he might have changed his mind on this. That we cannot know.
On Allied post-war decisions
‘When the war is won by this nation, as it surely will be, it must be one of our aims to work to establish a state of society where the advantages and privileges which hitherto have been enjoyed only by the few shall be far more widely shared by the many and the youth of the nation as a whole.’
“Once the war had been won, in about twenty months-time, he predicted,” ‘there would once more be those who wished to help Germany on to her feet. Only one thing in history is certain: that mankind is unteachable.’
“After the peace had been won, Churchill believed the world would have a brief ‘opportunity to establish a few basic principles.’ “He thought future international relations could be based on Christian ethics, and the more closely we follow the Sermon on the Mount the more likely we are to succeed in our endeavor.”
On Britain and Europe – (Brexit)
United States of Europe
“A speech on Sept. 19, 1946, picked up on a phrase from a speech of April, 1944 in which he had mentioned a future ‘United States of Europe’.”
“Churchill recognized that the two greatest tragedies of his life time had both stemmed from Franco-German wars, and he pledged a new Franco-German amity that would be the essential first step along the road to European Unity, and which he hoped would be a counterpoise to Soviet Communism.”
“In Europe he said: ‘Let Europe arise!’
“This was his Western Europe counterpart to the Fulton speech, a passionate statement in support of European unity which still reads very well today. In his peroration, he as usual made it perfectly clear – as he always did whenever he spoke in public or private on the subject – that he did not intend Britain to join the United Europe.”
‘In all this urgent work, France and Germany must take the lead together. Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America, and I trust Soviet Russia, for then indeed all would be well, must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live and shine.’
“Churchill made another emotional appeal for a united continent at an important meeting of the United Europe organization at the Albert Hall on 14 May 1947. Germany and France ‘would form a major regional entity in the new post-war world. There is the United States with all its dependencies; there is the Soviet Union; there is the British Empire and Commonwealth; and there is Europe, with which Great Britain is profoundly blended. Here are the four main pillars of the world Temple of Peace.’ “He intended Britain to be , as he put it a friend and sponsor and ‘profoundly blended with a United Europe, though not an integral part of it.’
“Why the European federalists should have apparently thought at one time that he was thinking of British membership of a federal Europe I have never understood. He always made it quite clear that Britain, if he had anything to do with it, would stand aloof.”
10 Dec. 1948 in a foreign policy debate
‘We are not seeking in the European movement…to usurp the functions of government. I have tried to make this plain again and again to the heads of government. We ask for a European assembly without executive power. We hope that sentiment and culture, the forgetting of old feuds, the lowering and melting down of barriers of all kinds between countries, the growing sense of being a good European – we hope that all these will be the final eventual and irresistible solvent of the difficulties which now condemn Europe to misery. The structure of constitutions, the settlement of economic problems, the military aspects, these belong to governments. We do not trespass on their sphere.
Harriman, Acheson, General Walter Bedell Smith, and more on the question of a European Army
“They got nowhere with him over the opposition to fusing the European countries’ armed forces into one outside NATO, which therefore never happened.”
Of course Europe became more unified and less contentious before the advent of the EU probably through a combination of partition, the ‘iron curtain’ that divided Eastern Europe from Western Europe, the numerous American bases in Europe, and the democratic practices that pertained in Western Europe along with economic prosperity.
Churchill on Immigration and Diversity
Churchill’s Victorian roots in British aristocracy show up more when he speaks about diversity. After WWII immigrations to the UK started to bring people to England who did not fit Churchill’s love of uniting English-speaking nations. They came mainly from the West Indies at that time and were often neither white nor English-speaking. Would Churchill have liked the idea of remaining separate from the EU even more if he was still in charge of a nation flooded with 21 st century refugees. Andrew Roberts who wrote the book Churchill: Walking with Destinybelieves that Churchill’s views on race (skin color) were deeply embedded in his aristocratic soul and that they might have proven to be a thing he could not change. Churchill had a paternal interest in the nations that made up the British Empire, nations he saw as undeveloped. He thought it was the responsibility of leading nations to bring order to less developed nations. We understand this kind of arrogance but it is no longer in favor; this sort of noblesse oblige. Even the American leaders Churchill met with during the last years of WWII had little patience with his passions to include the needs of nations in England’s far-flung Empire in their military plans, although at the end of the war we added certain protectorates to our own empire, perhaps because the war in the Pacific tromped all over these island nations.
‘Problems will arise if many coloured people settle here’ “Churchill told the Cabinet on 3 February 1954. ‘Are we to saddle ourselves with colour problems in the United Kingdom? They are attracted by the Welfare State? Public opinion in the United Kingdom won’t tolerate it once it gets beyond certain limits.’
“Although Churchill did not like the implosion of the Empire he had so loved and fought for, and denounced what he called ‘the magpie society’, he did not attempt to impose curbs on immigration, which were not introduced until the early 1960’s. On the issue of West Indian immigration, on another occasion he told the Cabinet that a good slogan was ‘Keep England white,’ indicating that his view on the matter of ethnicity had not materially changed since his adolescence.”
Churchill has been gone from this world for over 50 years now, which is why so many primary sources were available to his biographer, Andrew Roberts. But it was surprising to me to learn how contemporary his thoughts actually were and how once again he seemed to own a certain prescience about the future concerns of the modern world. Nations are grappling with all kinds of ways to form unions that boost their influence and power, in both military and economic spheres. We constantly go to war and obsess about how to stop having wars. We may agree that Churchill’s views were those of a modern white supremacist but we are all learning that living with immigration and mixing people of different nationalities and races in relatively safe nations with healthy economies is creating cultural difficulties for everyone that will require patience and tolerance to resolve. If we can’t cope with living in populations that are more global in scope then a world conflagration more deadly than any ever experienced could result. Churchill made me think about what the world needs to do to avoid WWIII. I am not the only one who wants to avoid that. People work for this outcome every day. Churchill was not a perfect man; but he was a great man. We could use another. (Autocrats need not apply).
Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Katy Jon Went