Jul 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 42 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Scrapbook correspondent Richard M. Langworth, the author and longtime president of the Churchill Centre in Washington, D.C., weighs in on the new statue of Gandhi to be erected in London . . .
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Every time you realize how badly the media mangles something you know about, you wonder how well they are interpreting what you don’t know.
The announcement last week that a statue of Gandhi would be placed in Parliament Square near that of Sir Winston Churchill occasioned a farrago of ignorance. Would Churchill wish to share space with his “onetime nemesis”?
The Associated Press misquoted Churchill’s “half-naked fakir” crack, and said he called Gandhi a “middling lawyer.” (The term was “Middle Temple lawyer,” something else entirely.)
The Wall Street Journal worried that Parliament Square also includes a statue of Jan Smuts, “a prime minister of South Africa in the early 20th century who favored segregation” (and, perforce, a friend of Churchill’s).
Smuts was prime minister in 1939-48 and was voted out when he campaigned in favor of relaxing segregation. As a junior minister in 1906 Smuts did oppose equal rights for the Indian minority. But here he disagreed with his longtime friend Winston Churchill, then Under Secretary of State for the Colonies.
Gandhi himself remarked: “I have got a good recollection of Mr. Churchill when he was in the Colonial Office and somehow or other since then I have held the opinion that I can always rely on his sympathy and goodwill.”
Gandhi said that after receiving a report from his chief lieutenant, G. D. Birla, who visited Churchill in 1935 following passage of the India Bill, a step toward independence. Churchill had opposed this bill, and said some pretty rough things. He called Gandhi “a seditious Middle 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 . . . to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor.”
But Churchill was magnanimous—a quality sadly lacking among most modern politicians. “Mr. Gandhi has gone very high in my esteem since he stood up for the Untouchables,” he told Birla. “I do not like the Bill but it is now on the Statute Book. . . . So make it a success.”
Birla asked, “What is your test of success?” Churchill replied: “improvement in the lot of the masses. . . . I do not care whether you are more or less loyal to Great Britain. I do not mind about education, but give the masses more butter. . . . Make every tiller of the soil his own landlord. . . . Provide a good bull for every village. . . . Use the powers that are offered and make the thing a success. I did not meet Mr. Gandhi when he was in England. . . . But I should like to meet him now. I would love to go to India before I die. If I went there I would stay for six months.”
Among other things, such statements suggest a better understanding of contemporary India than Churchill is said to have had by his many critics.
Churchill did have a tic about an Indian independence movement led by the Brahmin class. But before we pigeonhole him as an unrepentant imperialist, let’s consider what he and Gandhi had in common. Both viewed a break-up of the subcontinent with regret and repugnance; both feared religious extremism, Hindu or Muslim; both believed in the peaceful settlement of boundary disputes; both fought tyranny. These precepts, more widely held, would be welcome today. In Parliament Square, Winston Churchill will be fine with Mohandas Gandhi.
Jun 16, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 38 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Scrapbook notes, with sadness, the death last week in London of 91-year-old Mary Soames, the youngest and last surviving child of Sir Winston Churchill. From her time as a very young woman in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (the British equivalent of the WAC), where she assisted her father at his various wartime conferences, through her career as the wife of a prominent politician, mother, biographer, benefactor, and resource for historians, Lady Soames led a long and productive life. And by all accounts, a happy one as well.
May 5, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 32 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
From Brandeis on the Atlantic to Azusa on the Pacific, an iron curtain has descended across academia. Behind that line lie all the classrooms of the ancient schools of America. Wesleyan, Brown, Princeton, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Berkeley, Bowdoin, and Stanford, all these famous colleges and the populations within them lie in what we must call the Liberal sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from the commissars of Liberal Orthodoxy. . . .
Jan 20, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 18 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
These observations of his on the Middle East have easily withstood the test of time:
Sep 23, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 03 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Maybe Barack Obama really is a Marxist. His September 10 speech to the nation on Syria seems to have been inspired by Groucho’s great number in Animal Crackers (1930):
Hello, I must be going
I cannot stay, I came to say I must be going
I’m glad I came, but just the same, I must be going . . . la-la!
A velvet red carpet in the ‘Iron Curtain’ city. May 27, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 35 • By CITA STELZER
You learn a lot about America and its people on a book-signing tour.
Apr 29, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 31 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.
How many times in the last century have these concluding lines of C. P. Cavafy’s famous 1898 poem, “Waiting for the Barbarians,” been quoted? How many modern intellectuals have pondered the subversive implications of that sophisticated question?
Nov 26, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 11 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
The gratitude of every home in our island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
—Winston Churchill, tribute to the Royal Air Force,
House of Commons, August 20, 1940
The time for evasion is over.Jul 26, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 42 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Last month, we published an editorial under the title “A Period of Consequences.” The phrase was taken from a speech in the House of Commons in late 1936 in which Winston Churchill warned: “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”
Our dangerous Iran policy.Jun 21, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 38 • By JAMIE FLY and WILLIAM KRISTOL
The passage last Wednesday of a fourth U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran was the latest act in the tragicomedy that is U.S. policy toward Iran.
Obama's down, but not out.Mar 8, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 24 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
"There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.” Republicans and conservatives have recently had reason to appreciate the truth of Winston Churchill’s statement. President Obama and the Democratic Congress had a real shot at transforming American politics and public policy into European-style social democracy. When Obama spoke to Congress a year ago, on February 24, 2009, it certainly seemed he would have a chance to succeed.
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