The statue that tripped and fell into the Bristol harbour
British Imperialism is every bit a poisonous political ideology as Fascism or Communism
Black Lives Matter’s mission cannot be complete without confronting British Imperialism. This is why, in the United Kingdom, the statue of Edward Colson, a notorious slave-trader, is now at the bottom of the Bristol bay. The celebratory scenes that accompanied this event looked similar to Iraq or Libya after the fall of a dictator.
The city of Bristol had been grappling with the unpopularity of Colson for a while. Powerful old money used its influence through the guise of “philanthropic activity” and patronage networks — Colson’s endowments were built into the infrastructure of the city — to prevent the city council from moving the statue as demanded by anti-slavery activists. Instead, a proposal was being negotiated to place a plaque on the pedestal talking about the horrific deaths, especially of 12,000 children, that Colson caused through trafficking and slavery. However, again, the proposals were watered down, with quibbling over the exact wording between Colson’s defenders and his accusers, and the process was going nowhere.
Apart from the watery grave of Edward Colson’s statue, a nearby one of Winston Churchill was sprayed with graffiti and defaced with a cardboard sign tied to its waist. This caused much anger, as Churchill is considered a war hero in the United Kingdom, the leader who defeated the Germans.
To be honest, I was actually quite fond of Winston Churchill, especially his wit. He wrote with a lot of clarity and prescience on Mohandas K Gandhi, recognising him for the charlatan he was, and his understanding what the Brahmins would do in independent India once they captured power is now absolutely accurate — they did dishonour their political contract and decimate the royals, the Anglo-Indians, the Muslims and lower castes in exactly the manner Churchill predicted.
One after another our friends and the elements on which we ought to rely in India are chilled, baffled and dismissed, and finally even encouraged to band themselves together with those who wish to drive us out of the country. It is a hideous act of self-mutilation, astounding to every nation in the world. The princes, the Europeans, the Moslems, the Depressed classes, the Anglo-Indians — none of them know what to do nor where to turn in the face of their apparent desertion by Great Britain. Can you wonder that they try in desperation to make what terms are possible with the triumphant Brahmin oligarchy?
I am against this surrender to Gandhi. I am against these conversations and agreements between Lord Irwin and Mr. Gandhi. Gandhi stands for the expulsion of Britain from India. Gandhi stands for the permanent exclusion of British trade from India. Gandhi stands for the substitution of Brahmin domination for British rule in India.
I am not sure he personally organised the Bengal famine — the legacy of which is my lived experience of every meal I’ve had with my family — but I have not read on that subject, and frankly, that is not history I really want to dwell on. But I am increasingly wondering if he needs to be classed with Stalin and Hitler because surely British Imperialism was every bit as bad as an ideology as Communism and Fascism — and caused the death and suffering of millions of British people in foreign killing fields? In my home city of Calcutta, the Park Street cemetery is full of the graves of the first generation of British people who came to colonise: many are not even 30. Many are babies. Why would you respect leaders who shove young men and children into early graves?
It is now clear, whatever Churchill’s personality was, he is now the totemic hero of British Imperialists. As Pankaj Mishra wrote in The Malign Incompetence of the British Ruling Class:
Mountbatten was actually less pigheaded than Winston Churchill, whose invocation stiffens the spines of many Brexiteers today. Churchill, a fanatical imperialist, worked harder than any British politician to thwart Indian independence and, as prime minister from 1940 to 1945, did much to compromise it. Seized by a racist fantasy about superior Anglo-Americans, he refused to help Indians cope with famine in 1943 on the grounds that they “breed like rabbits.”
This is bad news for his statues. As a Prime Minister of the British Empire, it was Churchill’s job to be Racist-in-Chief. He did not disappoint.
You have to feel for the Europeans of the 1930s: their political systems represented a choice between Imperialism, Fascism and Communism — each ideology worse than the next.
Churchill it must be made clear won diddly-squat. He didn’t even win the 1945 election after the war. This is generally portrayed as the ingratitude of the British people, but the reality is that the people at the time knew exactly what the score of the fight was. That the United Kingdom didn’t get overrun by the Germans was not a matter of British spirit — it was plain, dumb luck, not to mention the efforts of foreign soldiers, imported in the millions from India, Australia, the Caribbean and Canada. The British escaped by the skin of their teeth but lost their whole Empire in the bargain. The price for the assistance of Indians was independence after the war.
Yet, what is amazing in the revisionary account that goes as popular history, is the complete erasure of the fact that it was Stalinist Russia that fought its way into Berlin and forced Hitler to commit suicide, and ending the war. The real victor of the war — the nation that actually defeated the Nazis — is completely forgotten!
The men who are responsible for re-building the United Kingdom, after the folly of fools like Churchill and Mountbatten, the last of a line of men who imagined they were born to rule the planet, are Clement Attlee, William Beveridge (who crafted the report that identified that rebuilding would involve “five giants on the road of reconstruction”: “Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness”), Nye Bevan, or even the work of John Maynard Keynes, whose economic theories are the only ones that work in big crises. Out of the work of these men, comes the beautiful quietness of English life: drinks with mates in a pub, not dying cold and hungry in a trench; sitting under a tree with your toddler in a park, not with a bayonet slash in your ribs, struggling for breath, and free healthcare and education, not stealing from villagers in Africa.
There is no glory in war or slavery. British Imperialists need to learn their history.