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50 Years Ago: Churchill's Birthday

Here, it was obvious, was what they call a great man. Propped-up, glassy eyed, at the window, flapping his hand at the crowd outside. Oozing in his senility, like the old Disraeli with his corsets and lacquered hair. Famous visitors came and went. An enormous cake was carried in, with sacks full of cards and telegrams. The flashlights popped and the television cameras Chirred. Winston Churchill was ninety years old.

Most people were agreed that this was a remarkable achievement. Perhaps it was, in a way. An impressive feature of the many newspaper reminiscences of the old man in his heyday was the amount of hard liquor which he has put down. One article said that when he was Prime Minister, he drank champagne and brandy with every meal and sipped at tumblers of whisky and soda all through the day. A man of lesser constitution would almost certainly have been killed by such a deluge of alcohol.

Churchill's consumption of drink is typical of the gusto with which he has lived his life, and it is this gusto which has been the subject of much recent hypocrisy. First, the business of those ninety years. It is too obvious that to be born into a family like the Churchills gives a person a built in advantage in their prospects of longevity because, everything else being equal they are going to get the best of everything. The best food. A secure and comfortable home. The best education and, if they want it, an interesting job.

It is a different matter for the people who were cheering so enthusiastically outside Churchill's window on his birthday and it is worthwhile to take a look at how they live.  Their lives may be summed up in one word poverty, although it is a different kind from the poverty their parents knew, in the days when Churchill was a young man. They are, first of all, the people who make the wealth of the world.

(from article by Ivan, Socialist Standard, January 1965)