Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Historical interlude: Remembering Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech

Winston Churchill

In the spring of 1946, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill paid a visit to the United Kingdom’s chief wartime ally, the United States.

Churchill, a Conservative Party stalwart and British traditionalist, had been temporarily driven out of office by the UK’s left-leaning Labour Party. The new Labour PM, Clement Atlee, would initiate the foundations of modern-day Eurosocialism in the UK, including the nationalization of utilities and nationalized health care.

But when Churchill spoke at Westminster College (in the small Missouri town of Fulton) on March 5, he chose to address the cruder, clumsier face of Marxism. These were the early days of the Cold War, when Stalin’s USSR was only beginning to show its true colors in postwar Europe.

The title of Churchill’s speech that day was officially called “The Sinews of Peace”. The official name has been largely forgotten, however; and history recalls this speech as “the Iron Curtain speech.” It was in this speech that the term “iron curtain” was coined as a descriptor for the Soviet Bloc:

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”

Like many of Churchill’s speeches, “The Sinews of Peace” was characterized by language that was simultaneously eloquent and pithy. The notion of the Iron Curtain remained with us throughout the long decades of the Cold War. It was an enduring metaphor for three generations.

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