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Letters by a modern St. Ferdinand III about cults

Plenty of cults exist - every cult has its 'religious dogma', its idols, its 'prophets', its 'science', its 'proof' and its intolerant liturgy of demands.  Cults everywhere:  Islam, the State, the cult of Gay and Queer, Marxism, Darwin and Evolution, 'Science', Globaloneywarming, Changing Climate, Abortion....a nice variety for the human-hater, amoral, anti-rationalist to choose from.  It is so much fun mocking them isn't it ?

Tempus Fugit Memento Mori - Time Flies Remember Death 

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review; Churchill Defiant: Fighting on 1945-1955, Barbara Leaming

He should simply have retired in 1945.

by StFerdIII

This is a very good book, well-written, witty, sourced, independent and objective. Leaming is a writer who does not make too many personal statements and whose own views rarely show through her words. She tackles the little investigated era of post-war Britain, when Churchill 'fought on' to reclaim his power and status after his colossal 'order of the boot' and lost election in 1945. Leaming presents the decade from the end of the war to save civilisation to Churchill's final acceptance of 'defeat' and his retiring from active political life in 1955, in an accessible, easy and informed manner. She is a delightful author and one does not need to be steeped in Churchilliana to read this account. There are however some issues with the book notwithstanding, namely the lack of putting the second Churchill premiership into a domestic context.

Post-war Britain was a shambles. The treasury was empty. There were no foreign reserves. The balance of payments was decidedly negative and huge debt repayments to the Americans ensured penury. Conditions on the ground varied from bad to worse. Price controls and rationing persisted until the mid 1950s. Housing was in general, deplorable. The effusion of radical socialism permeated all branches of political and social life. Emigration and escape to other lands especially Canada, the US, and the Anzac drained much of the brains and brawn of the old country.

Economic life in post-war Britain was assaulted by unions, nationalization and strikes. Energy supply was intermittent. Shut downs of industry were common. Living standards declined. The economy became rigidified as more bureaucracies and unions scampered and capered across huge tracks of what once had been fully functioning market systems. Price points were distorted or destroyed. The average Briton was worse off in 1950 then in 1913. It was not just the ravages of war which had decimated the once prosperous island, but the erection of massive government and the infirmities of socialism. The 2 World Wars had made one grand impression on the public – their 'betters' were no better, and they demanded a share of the national 'spoils', some guarantees; pensions, health-care; and a certainty of income and life. The cultural mood had irrevocably shifted from Rule-Britannia, to 'where is my cheque'?

When Churchill was booted out in 1945 and socialism voted in, the end of his career seemed certain. It would have been better in many ways if he had simply retired in 1945. He was not a peace-time Prime Minister – a fact that most of the electorate instinctively understood in 1945. This election was simply a polite invitation by the public to the greatest Briton in history, to lay down the burdens of government and retire to a graceful existence of writing books, speech-making and world-wide acclaim and gratitude. But of course that was not for Churchill. In reading Leaming's book, the one main thought that coursed through my febrile mind was 'why the hell won't he simply retire?'. Churchill through strokes [no fewer than 3 in 10 years], ill-health [including memory loss], old-age [he was nearing 80 in 1955], and vituperative political opposition – much of it from his own party and 'friends' – refused to quit. The main theme one takes away from Leaming's account is this: there is a bathos, a sadness, a profoundly unsettling quality to Churchill. He could not retire from power, from being in the 'center of things', nor from the great stage of public life. This is both surreal and sad. It was if Churchill did not know much about life outside of politics, nor of the everyday world, which has much to offer in lieu of political games, Machiavellian strategies, and clever traps. Yes he was clever. But for what end?

In 1952 Churchill and his party were narrowly reappointed and re-elected. The British economy was still a disaster, 7 years on from the end of the great war. Any normal politician would have focused his efforts on reigniting the economy, shutting down the socialist juggernaut, repairing trade and reforming the tax and spend system. Churchill for instance almost did not write his Nobel prize winning books on the Second War, due to a 90% tax which would have been imposed on the proceeds. What was the point of so much labor and pain when the gains were so small and shrunken? But Churchill completely ignored the local conditions. He knew and cared little for the domestic economy. His great object? A 'summit' meeting with the Soviets to discuss world peace.

Churchill did nothing for 4 years except advance this project. Leaming's entire book is mostly filled with Churchill's plans, plots, cajoles, meetings, missives and declarations to both British and American leaders, including President Eisenhower, on the import of meeting face to face with the Soviet leadership and claim the peace. The war-time leader wanted to be the peace-time victor as well. Even to his contemporaries including war time allies such as Eisenhower or Dulles, this obsession was nonconstructive and unnecessary. Britain was no longer Great but small. The world had moved on. Churchill's fanaticism to claim leadership of the 'West' from the Americans strikes the reader as simply stupid. It certainly offended many in his party and across the opposition benches.

If Churchill had really been a national leader he would have delved deep into domestic political and economic reforms. But he didn't care. Britain in 1955 was in as bad a state as it had been in 1950. nothing much including rationing, had improved. But Churchill as Leaming recounts on page after endless page; was preoccupied with games, strategies, plots and counter-plots to both hold on to his power as leader and PM, and to bring the Russians into a Summit, which he could dominate, and through which I assume, he could claim the moral and political leadership of the West.

Leaming does not offer any real commentary on Churchill's obsessive-compulsion with power at the 'summit'. That is a pity. I would like to have read more about the domestic political-economy of the post-war period and during Churchill's second premiership and why he failed so utterly to resolve the many issues assailing Lesser Britain. Surely there were men inside the second Churchill administration who were concerned with the implosion of British finance and economy. So what were they doing and how did they interact with Churchill? This book does not tell us.

Leaming seems to admire Churchill's dogged never-die style of politics. I think the objective reader of this book will reach a different conclusion. There are times in life when you have to use common sense. There are times in life when the circumstances of the world have changed and you must accommodate yourself to those facts. Churchill was entirely incapable of adaptation to anything which did not fit his own objectives. This is a weakness as much as it might be strength during times of trouble. Churchill had no chance of claiming leadership of the West from 1952-55. He had no business proposing the silly idea of a summit with the Russians either before or after Stalin was poisoned by Beria in 1953. The only reason Churchill hung on as an old man to the levers of power was his all-consuming ego, his narcissism, his disregard for reality and his petulant insistence that he was too big to quietly disappear into civilian life.

This is why Leaming's book is a story of bathos. Sometimes champions simply need to go out whilst they are on top. There is little point in fighting on, if you are fighting on to satisfy an oversized ego wedded to adoration and power.  

 


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