It Will Take Some Form of Gestapo

In our age, this foundation of our humanity is under attack by the combined forces of modern science and modern ideology. Churchill saw this with breathtaking clarity as a very young man. He saw it first in warfare, where the power of modern science to destroy as much as to save first became apparent. At the turn of the century he fought in Sudan against the Dervish forces of the Mahdi—the great-grandfather of a current Imam and former prime minister of Sudan, and the founder of what was probably the first Islamic state. Churchill wrote about this in a book called The River War. He despised the enemy and wished their defeat, but at the same time he described the way they were defeated—mowed down with machine guns and artillery from a distance, they themselves having no such weapons—as cruel and unfair. And he lamented that courage in the future will not count for so much on the battlefield—that in the past it was the bravest who tended to win, whereas now it is the ones with the most advanced weapons.

Churchill saw corresponding dangers confronting humanity in peacetime, in the form of socialism. In the same way that men had transformed their ability to kill, they were transforming their ability to impose tyrannical rule. The proof came about for all to see in the two great tyrannies of the twentieth century, Nazism and Soviet communism. Never had anything like them been seen before, and Churchill thought they were the same kind of thing and hated them both. One thing he hated about them was their war on independent thought. Not even family dinners were uncontrolled, because the children were taught by the state to act as witnesses against their parents. Prayers and table talk were dangerous.

Tyranny is not stable, because human nature rejects it. What does it take to make tyranny live? The fifth book of Aristotle’s Politics teaches us that tyrants seek to wear down every excellence in society and to obstruct friendships, especially friendships among the best people, on the principle that if they degrade everyone then people will submit. What is Big Brother’s target in George Orwell’s 1984? Not just people’s property—it is all of the qualities that make up the full or integrated human being. Speaking of the Bolsheviks, Churchill said that they had perfected a kind of government that was not exactly like that of the honey bees, because it could not produce honey; rather it was like the government of white ants. But Churchill also believed that the Bolshevik way of ruling was only an extreme form of something that was growing up in the Western democracies as well.

In 1945, after the war was won, Churchill was the greatest living man—he could have rested on his laurels and been that for the rest of his life. Instead, in the election that year, he declared war on the Labour Party. The leaders of that party had served in the coalition government with him during the Second World War, and some of them were heroes from the First World War. Yet Churchill went against the advice of all his advisors, including his wife, to make the point publicly that the socialists would never realize their ultimate aims without the use of “some form of Gestapo.” They did not intend this, at least the better of them did not, he said; but this is what it would take for their aims to be successful—this is what it would take to produce an equality of outcomes.

L. Arnn

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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