Jacobin, the American socialist quarterly magazine, published an article in 2018 defending protestors who had previously desecrated a statue of Winston Churchill. In the BLM insurrection of summer 2020, it has once again become fashionable to smear Churchill, the Prime Minister who brought Britain through World War II, with accusations of racism. And so Jacobin has re-upped its hit piece as a way of saying: we’re with the rioters.
The article is called “The Real Winston Churchill,” and it faults the beloved British hero for any number of supposed sins, mostly having to do with racism and imperialism. Churchill was known for his loud mouth, it’s true, and some of his comments can seem off-color in hindsight. But that’s not what Jacobin really wants him taken down for: they’re upset that he relished victory in war.
“Everywhere one looks,” writes the author, Richard Seymour, “one finds Churchill dripping blood from his mouth. He was fanatical about violence.”
One might pause here to note that the violence about which Churchill was fanatical was against Hitler and his allies — i.e., the murderous, authoritarian, anti-Semitic scum of the earth. Jacobin: condemning antifascism to own the British aristocracy. Nice going, chuckleheads. But wait: there’s more!
Near the beginning of the article, the author quotes Richard Burton, an actor who played Churchill in the movie The Gathering Storm (2002). In preparing for the role, Burton became repulsed by Churchill’s entitlement and his vindictive fury against his enemies in war. “What man of sanity,” asked Burton, “would say on hearing of the atrocities committed by the Japanese against British and Anzac prisoners of war, ‘We shall wipe them out, every one of them, men, women, and children. There shall not be a Japanese left on the face of the earth’? Such simple-minded cravings for revenge leave me with a horrified but reluctant awe for such single-minded and merciless ferocity.”
Well, I never! Such simple-minded cravings for revenge! Just let me pour myself another glass of port as I sniff disapprovingly at Churchill’s primitive ferocity from the comfort of my dressing room. Quelle horreur! The man who saved the free world was not pristinely decorous in his sentiments toward a Japanese army that enslaved, starved, and beat its captives half to death! Read Unbroken (2010), the story of an American POW in Japanese captivity, if you want to hear about “merciless ferocity.” Imagine having the absolute gall to claim, from the safety of a Western world made free by none other than Churchill himself, that he should be faulted for having run his mouth.
Seymour’s list of Churchillian sins goes on: he was impressed with Mussolini and did not immediately condemn Italian fascism, for example. The same is true of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, of course, and any number of other elegant Democrat intellectuals who fell all over themselves for il Duce. Not that you’ll read about that in Seymour’s article. “Mussolini has the same opponents as FDR,” said Roosevelt’s pet economist Rexford Tugwell, “but he controls the press, which prevents them from daily spreading their nonsense.” Everyone — leftists especially — was unsure about Mussolini at first, but of course, what’s a little nuance like that got to do with fighting for social justice?
In reality, of course, Winston Churchill did more good before breakfast at the age of 20 than all the BLM thugs, Antifa radicals, and Jacobin editors in the world could hope to do in 20 lifetimes. If you really want to feel unworthy, read Churchill’s 1930 memoir, My Early Life, in which he explains how as a young man he fought courageously in the British army, made a daring escape from enemy captivity, and penned masterful book-length reports on his experiences all the while. “You have not an hour to lose,” writes Churchill to the young men of rising generations. “You must take your places in Life’s fighting line. Twenty to twenty-five! These are the years!” Rarely have I felt more inadequate than when reading those words at the (apparently) ripe old age of 28.
What is actually happening here is that the children of the West, grown fat and happy after long years of prosperity won for them by men like Churchill, have lost all taste for the derring-do that makes such men both toweringly great and yes, a little rough around the edges sometimes.
The name of Churchill will be emblazoned on the hearts of all free and good people long after the miserable scolds at Jacobin are done nitpicking at him and the sniveling little brownshirts of BLM are done tearing down his statues. These moral cowards cannot even begin to measure up to Churchill, and so they hate him — that is all their pitiful sputtering amounts to. They may be having their moment now. But to paraphrase Churchill himself: for as long as we live, we will fight them, and we will never, never, never surrender.
Spencer Klavan is host of the Young Heretics podcast and assistant editor of the Claremont Review of Books and The American Mind. He can be reached on Twitter at @SpencerKlavan.