Winston Churchill by Tariq Ali

Reviewed by Richard Tutin

Tariq Ali does not like Winston Churchill. He dislikes the war-time leader of Great Britain with a passion. Everything Churchill stood for such as his love of the British Empire, desire to defeat the Axis powers during World War II and his aim to remove Adolf Hitler from the Chancellorship of Germany, is regarded with disdain in this book. The language is harsh and confronting. Those who might champion Churchill as a great leader may find Ali’s treatment of him too negative to persevere with.

The late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries were messy and turbulent times. Other biographers have told that Churchill revelled in the intrigues and power struggles of the period. This included involvement in three wars – the Boer War, the First World War and the Second World War where they say that Churchill had his finest hour.

For all that though, Ali is correct in saying that Churchill was disliked by his contemporaries for some of his opinions and ideas. Was he as racist as Ali says? Churchill’s own writings do indicate that he was. Did he crave power? Yes, he did. Was he willing to compromise on issues when important decisions needed to be made? No, he wasn’t unless there was no other alternative and even then, he gave in with bad grace. However, he was not alone among the politicians and leaders of the world at that time is having these traits which we, in this century, find distasteful.

People though have lionised Churchill to such an extent that any negative and brutal traits are either hidden or glossed over. Ali is very keen to remind us that this type of cult like affirmation of Churchill is unhealthy and should be stopped. He would like us to see the flaws of Churchill rather than just the manufactured image that has been promoted over the years.

Ali would like to lay all the ills of the British Empire and the effects it had on world affairs at Churchill’s feet. He forgets that the corruption and destruction of cultures and countries had been occurring long before Churchill came on the scene. While he is correct in saying that Churchill benefitted from it, he can’t isolate him from those who began and perpetuated the situation in the first place. During his periods as Prime Minister, Churchill was influential in decisions such Indian independence and the wholesale destruction of German cities during the Second World War. But he was not alone in holding the ideas he espoused and bringing what ultimately were very destructive decisions into reality.

Though he had his supporters and friends, Churchill had many who disliked his methods and character. Yet they elected him Prime Minister during what has been described as Britain’s darkest hours. He took up the challenge and led the country when the bombing blitzes were at their worst. Even then some of his decisions were often seen as wasteful and unnecessary that increased rather than decreased suffering that people had to endure.

If anyone who stays with this book and reads it to its end will come away with a greater understanding of how Churchill was regarded in his own times. Once the war ended Churchill was discarded but, for better or for worse, his influence lives on. Our challenge is to make sure that the tumultuous times in which he lived can, through a more decent and better treatment of people and the environment, never happen again.

Tariq Ali has written more than two dozen books of world history and politics – the most recent of which are on The Dilemmas of Lenin, The Obama Syndrome, and The Extreme Centre – as well as the novels of his Islam Quintet and scripts for stage and screen.

Winston Churchill His Times, His Crimes

by Tariq Ali



ISBN 978 178873 577 3

$49.99; 432pp

🤞 Want to get the latest book reviews in your inbox?

🤞 Want to get the latest book reviews in your inbox?

Scroll to Top