Friday, December 7, 2012 | Philip White
NOVEMBER 30 was Winston Churchill's birthday. 138 years after his birth, historians, politicians and the public are still as fascinated as ever about this most iconic of British Prime Ministers. Of course, as with every major historical figure, the amount of one-sided deconstructionism has increased over the past few years, no more useful to the reader than one-sided hagiography. The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle-a deeply flawed (aren't we all!) larger-than-life figure who botched a lot of decisions-notably his resistance to home rule for India and well-meaning but ill-conceived support of Edward VIII during the 1936 abdication crisis-who got the big things right.
Among the latter was Churchill's foresight over the divisions between the democratic West and the Communist East. Since the inception of Communism and its violent manifestation in the Russian Revolution, Churchill had despised the movement, calling it a "pestilence." Certainly, his monarchial devotion was part of this, but more so, Churchill believed Communism destroyed the very principles of liberty and freedom that he would devote his career to advancing and defending. Certainly, with his love of Empire, there were some inconsistencies in his thinking, but above all, Churchill believed that the individual should be able to make choices and that systemic freedom-of the press, of religion, of the ballot, must be upheld for individuals to enact such choices. That's why he vowed to "strangle Bolshevism in its cradle," though his plan to bolster anti-Communist forces was quickly shot down by Woodrow Wilson and David Lloyd George as another of "Winston's follies."