Winston Churchill: His Times, His Crimes – Tariq Ali
Winston Churchill: His Times, His Crimes – Tariq Ali

Winston Churchill: His Times, His Crimes – Tariq Ali

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A coruscating portrait of Britain’s greatest imperialist

The modern Churchill cult is out of control, closing down debate and encouraging support for twenty-first-century wars. The wartime leader has become a household god for many, preserving an antiquated vision of Britain still shared by all three parties. Yet, was he anything more than a plump carp happy to swim in the foulest of ponds to defend the Empire?

Churchill himself never bothered to conceal his passionate defence of the British Empire or its attendant racism. On a more personal level, his complacent self-belief influenced his every step and frequently tripped him up. As the head of the British Navy during the First World War, he was responsible for a series of calamitous errors that cost thousands of lives. His attempt to crush the Irish nationalists left wounds that have yet to heal. His attacks on striking workers in Glasgow and Tonypandy, his posturing when calling in the army to burn two anarchists in London’s East End, his vicious propaganda during the General Strike were not forgotten or forgiven.

Even during the war against Germany, the most revered period of his career, Churchill’s crimes abroad continued, including the brutal assault on the Greek Resistance, the Bengal Famine that cost over 3 million Indian lives, the all-out assault on civilians in Dresden and Hamburg, and the insistence on the use of nuclear weapons in Japan. Postwar, he continued to cause harm in Iran and Kenya. His is a terrible record, amply documented in Tariq Ali’s indictment.

In this video Tariq Ali looks at the development of the Churchill cult: where it came from, why his legacy is being used in this way, and how long it might last.


“In Ali's telling, which draws on more honest existing historical scholarship than most popular biographies of Churchill, the two-times prime minister emerges not so much as deeply racist - some of his contemporaries remarked on it in shock - as profoundly authoritarian, with a soft spot for fascist strongmen, and a hostility to working-class assertion.” – Priyamvada Gopal, Prospect

“Ali portrays Churchill as cruel, incompetent and blinded by prejudice” – Spectator

“A powerful corrective...shining a light on the nasty parts of the Churchill story that his supporters conveniently ignore. This book is an unreserved polemic against the man usually celebrated for standing up to Hitler” – Martin Chilton, Independent

“For Tariq Ali, Churchill debunking, like Churchill worship, is a political act.” – David Aaronovitch, Times

“A Marxist insult to history.” – Simon Heffer, The Telegraph

“Included in the Independent’s Books of the month.” – Independent

Paperback/Hardback: 448 pages
Published: Verso, May 2022
ISBN: 9781788735773