Friday, November 22, 2019

Churchill and the Clash of Ideologies

Stalin, Truman, and Churchill before sessions of their meeting in Berlin in July 1945. 
Photograph: Bettmann Archive

World War II was precipitated by economic troubles and the clash of ideologies. Winston Churchill was well aware of the contributing factors and had to make difficult choices. He had been a prisoner in the Boer War, a controversial strategist in World War I, and instrumental in Britain's survival during the World War II. He was not stranger to war and a man of great determination. In 1925, he wrote, "The story of the human race is war."

Churchill's perceptions of Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and even Mahatma Ghandi tell the story of good guys and bad guys. Churchill was the sort who assesses a person's character based on actions, and doesn't change his mind.

He considered Roosevelt a strong leader. After meeting with Roosevelt in Washington in January 1942, Churchill reported to the War Cabinet how "the last thing the President said when he came to see me off was 'To the bitter end, trust me.' We are suffering heavy blows but the United States is setting about the war with great vigour. They have jumped right into it. There is a sense of resolve to fight it on. They have tactical ideas of war, Hitler is the enemy, they will do what can re: Japan, but nothing will get in the way of defeating Hitler."

Many of Churchill's thoughts and actions were recorded by a young secretary to the deputy secretary to the War Cabinet which met in Whitehall between 1939 and 1945. Lawrence Burgis was to have destroyed his notes, but historians are glad that he secretly kept them.

Winston Churchill told the War Cabinet on 10 December 1941 that it faced an entirely new situation due to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. He believed in the possibility of Japanese control of the vast areas between Cape Town in South Africa and Vancouver in Canada.

Burgis recorded Churchill's confrontation with Field Marshal Jan Christian Smuts over his handling of Ghandi, saying, ‘You are responsible for all our troubles in India – you had Gandhi for years and did not do away with him.’ Smuts replied: ‘When I put him in prison – three times – all Gandhi did was to make me a pair of bedroom slippers.’ 

When Ghandi went on hunger strike during the war, Churchill told the Cabinet: "Gandhi should not be released on the account of a mere threat of fasting. We should be rid of a bad man and an enemy of the Empire if he died."

Sir Edward Grigg, the joint parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for War, reported that Gandhi was getting glucose in his orange juice, and another cabinet minister said ‘he had oil rubbed into him which was nutritious." Churchill, who considered Ghandi "a bad man," responded "it is apparently not a fast merely a change of diet."

Presentation of the Sword of Stalingrad on 29 November 1943.

Churchill's initial impression of Joseph Stalin was that he was "jocular" and predisposed to work toward some good, especially in Poland. He welcomed Soviet help in the war against Nazi Germany, but he recognized that the marriage of convenience could not hide the differences between the capitalism and communism.

At the 1943 Tehran conference, Churchill presented Stalin with the ceremonial Sword of Stalingrad, specially forged and inscribed by command of King George VI as a token of homage from the British people to the Soviet defenders of the city during the Battle of Stalingrad.

Churchill summed up the Tehran proceedings in these words: “There I sat with the great Russian bear on one side of me with paws outstretched, and, on the other side, the great American buffalo. Between the two sat the poor little English donkey, who was the only one who knew the right way home.”

Churchill's attitude toward Stalin changed after the Potsdam Summit. He felt that Stalin asked too much.

During his second premiership, Churchill opposed the United States' nuclear approach to the Cold war and said, "I do not believe that the immense problem of reconciling the security of Russia with the freedom and safety of Western Europe is insoluble..." Of the U.S. policy Churchill remarked, "If you go on with this nuclear arms race, all you are going to do is make the rubble bounce."

In Great Britain Churchill became increasingly outspoken in his opposition to socialism. In a speech delivered in Perth, Scotland on 24 May 1948, he said, “Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.” (Europe Unite: Speeches 1947; 1948, London: Cassell, 1950, p.347.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Anarchy and the Elites

“You've got that eternal idiotic idea that if anarchy came it would come from the poor. Why should it? The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn't; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.”― G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

Friday, November 8, 2019

Living in a Post-Human World

The parish church of St Mary Magdalene at Little Whelnetham, Suffolk

R.R. Tarsitano writes, "No institution (Government, Academia, Media, etc.) is coming to save us. In fact, they will use our hope in them against us, gladly taking our time and treasure to sell us back a mess of pottage for our birthright. In a post-human world, men and women are merely objects to be manipulated for maximal pleasure until we all march into the darkness.

Tarsitano is an Anglican priest who directed this article to his fellows Anglicans. In "Outline of an Anglican Parish in the Post-Human West" he says, "As traditional Anglicans, the rest of our lives should be spent opposing these two ways to die by sacrificing ourselves for a Christ centered community."

This article is an "in-house" conversation among Anglicans. However, one need not be Anglican or even religious to apply many of Father Tarsitano's suggestions for loving humanity. These can apply in many contexts.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Darkness of Mao's Revolution

Tia Zhang

The communists took power in China in 1949, ending a prolonged civil war that had left the country weary and ready for change. Many hoped that the Mao's government would improve conditions for the average citizen. Instead, China slipped into a violent revolution that became one of the twentieth-century’s greatest humanitarian disasters.

Mao unleashed his Red Guards, a group of students and children of Party officials who had been brainwashed from childhood to be Mao’s enforcers. They marched in the streets, berating and beating people at will. Executions were common, with the public being forced to watch. Conservative estimates put the death toll of Mao's revolution at 65 million.

The Great Leap Forward was Mao’s attempt to collectivize agriculture, and it resulted in the worst famine in history. It is estimated that 45 million people starved and died during Mao's Great Famine.

The book “Dancing Through the Shadow" details the period through the life experience of a Chinese ballet dancer. The story follows Tia Zhang's life as she navigates motherhood, marriage, and an escape from communist rule. The story's background is the darkness of Mao's totalitarian regime which dictating the terms of Tia's life until she could escape.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

On Trusting the Elites

G. K.Chesterton wrote:
"Only the Christian Church can offer any rational objection to a complete confidence in the rich. For she has maintained from the beginning that the danger was not in man's environment, but in man. Further, she has maintained that if we come to talk of a dangerous environment, the most dangerous environment of all is the commodious environment. I know that the most modern manufacture has been really occupied in trying to produce an abnormally large needle. I know that the most recent biologists have been chiefly anxious to discover a very small camel. But if we diminish the camel to his smallest, or open the eye of the needle to its largest — if, in short, we assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean, His words must at the very least mean this — that rich men are not very likely to be morally trustworthy. Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags." (From here.)

Wisdom resides in a realistic understanding of the potential dangers of great wealth and great poverty. Wisdom also directs us to thoughtfully consider what a just society would look like. Some might advocate redistribution of wealth, but the redistribution always seems to work best for those doing the redistribution, creating a new wealthy elite. The elites, who ever they may be, have the advantage when it comes to "justice."

This is one of the problem with socialism. Another problem is the socialist attack on religion in general and Christianity in particular. Vladimir Lenin stated that in order “to combat the religious fog… we founded our association, the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party, precisely for such a struggle against every religious bamboozling of the workers.” Lenin wanted to halt “the religious humbugging of mankind” and cleanse the political system “of medieval mildew.”

The Reformation attempted to clear the Church of corruption and the Medieval mildew, but the Reformation had little influence on Russians. Corruption in church and government stirred anger against both. Lenin wrote:
"Even the bare mention of a citizen’s religion in official documents should unquestionably be eliminated. No subsidies should be granted to the established church nor state allowances made to ecclesiastical and religious societies. These should become absolutely free associations of like-minded citizens, associations independent of the state. Only the complete fulfillment of these demands can put an end to the shameful and accursed past when the church lived in feudal dependence on the state, and Russian citizens lived in feudal dependence on the established church, when medieval, inquisitorial laws (to this day remaining in our criminal codes and on our statute-books) were in existence and were applied, persecuting men for their belief or disbelief, violating men’s consciences, and linking cozy government jobs and government-derived incomes with the dispensation of this or that dope by the established church. Complete separation of Church and State is what the socialist proletariat demands of the modern state and the modern church."
Under Lenin only atheism received endorsement. Lenin recognized that socialists were, as a rule, atheists. They reject the "old prejudices" and "always preach the scientific world-outlook, and it is essential for us to combat the inconsistency of various “Christians.”

One of Lenin's objectives was the elimination of existing religion, and the prevention of future implanting of religious belief, with the goal of establishing state atheism (gosateizm).“Worshiping any god is ideological necrophilia,” Vladimir Lenin once wrote to Maxim Gorky.

The atheists closed the Russian Orthodox churches and monasteries, and those that were left open were closely monitored and under heavy restrictions. Priests were deprived of the right to vote. This can be expected if Socialism takes root in America. Socialists are not content merely to keep Church and State separate. They must seek to silence the Church.

Politics in the United States today involves an ideological struggle over who will be the new elite. Every American should be aware that greed for power and wealth rule the human heart and indeed "the most dangerous environment of all is the commodious environment" because it breeds complacency.

Related reading: Leszek Kolakowski's Assessment of MarxismV. Lenin on "Socialism and Religion"; Paul Froese, "Forced secularization in Soviet Russia: Why an atheistic monopoly failed." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2004); Smelling Rats: The Story of Katharine Atholl; Living in a Post-Human World; Anarchy and the Elites; Leszek Kolakowsi, "What is Left of Socialism"