March 20, 2015

Unwilling to “accept any reproach…from any Conservative”

Churchill was in New York on 25 March 1949 where he spoke at a dinner given by Time publisher Henry Luce on the requirements for European freedom and why the Soviet Union had erected the Iron Curtain of which he had warned three years earlier in his Fulton, Missouri address:

“Gentlemen, some time ago, you may possibly remember, I made a speech in Missouri at Fulton‹I got into great trouble for that. But now not so much. Now it is thought better of….But what has brought this great change from the time when I was so scolded three years ago for what I said at Fulton?….No one could possibly have done it but Mr. Stalin. He is the one….And that brings me to a question which we must ask ourselves. What is the explanation of the Soviet policy? Why have they deliberately united the free world against them. I will hazard the answer….It is, I am sure, because they feared the friendship of the West more than they do its hostility. They can’t afford to allow free and friendly intercourse between their country and those they control, and the rest of the world. They daren’t see it develop‹the coming and going and all the easements and tolerances which come from the agreeable contacts of nations and of individuals. They can’t afford it.”

Upon his return to England, Churchill found himself under attack within the Conservative Party for accepting the Labour Government’s position that India could remain in the Commonwealth as an independent republic. Churchill, whose wilderness years out of power in the 1930s were attributable in part to his unwillingness to accept the Conservatives’ compromise over India, was unsympathetic. As he wrote to Lord Salisbury on 7 May 1949:

“I consider that the fatal step towards India was taken when Baldwin supported the Ramsay MacDonald plan in 1930 and enforced it upon the Conservative Party in 1931. I and seventy Conservatives and your Father resisted this for four long years, and were systematically voted down by the Baldwin-Ramsay MacDonald combination, supported for this purpose, I need hardly say, by the Socialist Party in opposition. Once the Conservative Party cast aside its duty to resist the weakening of the Imperial strength, the gap could not be filled, and from this point we slid and slithered to the position we have reached today. I could not therefore accept any reproach for the present situation from any Conservative who supported the Baldwin and Chamberlain policies.”

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Later in May, Churchill previewed the film “Crusade in Europe” at Chartwell. As one guest recorded: “It was the custom at Chartwell to invite everyone who lived or worked on the estate to view the movies. Among the group of twenty or thirty was an ex-German prisoner-of-war named Walter, who did odd jobs like wood-cutting and lawn-moving….The March of Time film was not under way more than a few minutes before it was clear that it would not evoke happy memories for a former member of the Reichswehr. Churchill rose from his seat at once, tapped Walter on the shoulder, and motioned him to leave the theater with him. Later we learned that Churchill’s object in going out was to suggest to Walter that perhaps he would prefer not to see the film that evening. Walter, however, returned to the theater with Churchill and remained till the end.”

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