A Future of Toil and Sweat
NO TOTALITARIAN SYSTEM FOR ENGLAND
By WINSTON CHURCHILL, Prime Minister of Great Britain
Delivered before the Annual Conference of the Conservative Party, London, March 15, 1945
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 354-357.
FIRST of all, I have to thank you for all the too kind terms in which you passed a resolution yesterday and I also have to thank the proposer, our chairman, and the seconder, for commending it to your attention. This is the first time since I became leader of the party four and a half years ago that I have had the honor of addressing the delegates of the National Union in full party conference.
That does not mean to say that either you or I have been idle or neglectful of our duties in the interval. We have all worked our hardest in the national cause and we have been too busy for party politics. We have all abstained from doing or saying anything which would be likely to impair the unity of the British people or the smooth working of the coalition government of all parties which delivered us from mortal peril and won for itself a memorable place in our long history. We held in abeyance all party activities and allowed our organizations, both local and national, to be devoted entirely to the prosecution of the war.
In doing this we have endured patiently, almost silently, many provocations from that happily limited class of left-wing politicians to whom party strife is the breath of their nostrils. Many are the insults and slanders which we have allowed to pass—I will not say unnoticed but unanswered—for the sake of concentration on the war effort. Even the almost ceaseless series of attacks which have been made upon us in official Socialist and Liberal newspapers, with their writers, have extorted from us neither protest nor reply.
I am sure I shall carry you all with me in saying that we shall maintain this patriotic restraint as long as the national coalition, in which members from all parties have distinguished themselves, continues to work together in loyal comradeship.
I must also thank the Conservative party for the resolute and undivided support which its representatives gave to the policy of the government in saving the City of Athens from a hideous massacre and in preventing an armed Communist minority from shooting their way into place and power. Among all our problems there have not been any which led to so much misunderstanding and misrepresentation at home and abroad as did this Greek trouble, but the policy of our coalition government was sustained by the whole strength of the Conservative party. They provided five-sixths, or maybe more, of the majorities and surely never has an episode in these violent days been crowned with more signal vindication.
The continuous and ever more rapid progress of the war against Germany and Nazi tyranny leads us all to hope that the giant foe against whom for more than a year we stood alone, unflinchingly undismayed, will be forced into unconditional surrender or beaten to the ground in chaos and ruin. It will always be the glory of our island race that they never swerved from the path of duty—they never lost faith in the meaning of fighting against tyranny to the death.
Thus we held aloft the flaming torch of freedom when all around the night was black as jet. Thus we gained time for the Continental tyrant, for Hitler, that master of wickedness, to make a deadly error. Thus we gained space for the United States to begin marshaling of its great unmeasured forces of power, of science and of valor.
But there is another glory in which we may rejoice: that in those terrible days the whole of our Empire and Commonwealth of Nations, apart from one melancholy exception round the corner, stood together with us of their own free will from the greatest dominion to the smallest colony in spontaneous resolve to die or conquer with us in righteous cause. This astounding union of communities and races spread around the globe sprang not from legal or physical obligations but from mysterious, unfathomable upliftings of the soul of man, and raised our world-wide association to heights never attained nor even dreamt of by an empire
of the past. Certainly with this unparalleled record we have no need to seek the advice of even our most honored Allies as to how we should conduct ourselves with regard to our own affairs. The maximum of Lord Beaconsfield, 'Imperium et Libertas' is still our guide. This truth has already been proved abundantly since those words were spoken. Without freedom there is no foundation for our empire. Without empire there is no safeguard for our freedom.
We mean freedom for all states and nations within the circle of the Crown. By this we also mean freedom for individuals within the broad and ever-advancing conceptions of the British constitution and the British way of life.
"Trust the People"
We have no use here for totalitarian schemes of governments in their various forms. The right of free speech and political opposition have been preserved in hours of national peril to an extent incredible outside the English-speakingworld.
'Trust the people," said Lord Randolph Churchill in the last strong revival of Tory democracy. Has not that trust been well repaid?
It has often been remarked by bewildered foreign observers that every extension of the franchise in Great Britain has left the Conservative party in a stronger position. The reason, or one of the main reasons, which they did not see, for this undoubted fact is the steady and ceaseless improvement in the education of the people. In the conditions of their life and in their growing conscious power to govern their country effectively. Here is the high road along which we march to sure and growing confidence. Here is the course we steer in the full tide of successful experiment.
When I became Prime Minister nearly five years ago, I promised nothing but blood, toil, tears and sweat, and on that I received from the House of Commons a vote of confidence of 397 to naught and from the nation I received such aid and trust as no other politician in our history has ever enjoyed before. The other day, after this long period of terrible events, with all their ups and downs, with their chances and perplexities, the figure of Parliament's confidence rose to 413 to naught.
But this Parliament is nearly ten years old. It has lived almost double its constitutional span and executive government must refresh itself by direct contact with electors.
Should the war in Europe end before the summer ends, or even sooner, as it might well do, we shall have reached a considerable milestone in our journey and war conditions will no longer prevent us, as they have hitherto prevented, from holding a general election—and here I regret to say that public declarations of our Labor and some of our Liberal colleagues and of the party organizations which they represent leave us in no doubt that they feel themselves bound to resume their full liberty of action, thus bringing this famous coalition to an end. We must prepare ourselves for the loss of many loyal and capable fellow workers in the administration and for a full clash of party principles and party interests, inseparable from appeal to the judgment of the people.
It will fall to us, as the largest party in the existing House of Commons, to arrange for a general election which will be conducted with British fair play, and, I trust, with minimum of party or personal rancor and above all withthe least possible injury to the underlying unity of the nation in serving the national cause.
Nevertheless we cannot be blind to the fact that the strength of government which has borne us thus far through the struggle will be seriously weakened. Should we be successful in the election, a very heavy burden will fall upon our shoulders. The gap has to be filled. The job has to be finished and I am here to tell you that we must brace ourselves and summon all our energies in order that if, as I believe, the nation places its faith in us, we shall not be found unequal to the gigantic toils that lie ahead.
For this purpose we must lay aside every impediment; we must cleanse our hearts of all unworthy feelings and seek only the faithful discharge of our responsibilities and the long-term welfare of the state. Should it fall to me, as it may do, to form a government before election, I shall seek aid not only of Conservatives but of men of good will of any party or no party who are willing to serve, thus investing our administration with national character. And if the verdict of the nation should still leave us responsible, that government after election will be further reformed with the sole desire of rallying the strongest available to carry our cause to final victory and peace.
We must not underrate the enormous tasks that will lie before us if our countrymen afford us their confidence. Nor must we fear these tasks or shrink from them or doubt our capacity to surmount all difficulties or make our way through them as we have made our way thus far.
There is one thing we shall certainly not do. We shall not bid for votes or popularity by promising what we cannot perform, nor shall we compete with others in electioneering baits and lures. It would be very easy for us all to promise, or even to give each other, presents, bonuses and gratuities in a most enthusiastic manner but if we woke up in the morning and found that the pound sterling only bought five shillings worth of goods or services, we should have committed a great crime.
We should have committed the crime of cheating, of cheating soldiers and workers in this country of a nest egg, very often amounting to £200 or £300 which millions of people acquired by their faithful discharge of duty and their thrift and self-denial during the war.
Great as are the evils of high taxation in clogging the wheels of enterprise and commerce—that is a fact that must ever be before us—they are not comparable to those which would follow financial collapse and destruction of all standards of value between man and man.
Our Socialist friends have officially committed themselves, much to the disgust of some of their leaders, to a program for nationalizing all means of production, distribution and exchange. These are all matters which the British public can consider at their leisure. They can consider them when times are quiet and when our soldiers are pome again and settled down in civilian life and employment. Then will be the time to go into all these sweeping proposals which imply not only distribution of the life of the whole of our existing system of society and life and labor, but the creation and enforcement of another system or systems borrowed from foreign lands and alien minds. But this is not the time.
Now our tasks are severely and precisely defined . . . we have to finish the war against Japan and play our part, not only as loyal allies of the United States and other nations in that conflict, but also to regain, as we are regaining, territories which the Japanese wrested from us. We have to repay the injuries they inflicted and infernal cruelties they perpetrated upon His Majesty's subjects, British, Australian, Indian, Burmese and Malayan alike.
That will require an intense effort and no mood of war weariness must prevent us from doing our duty to the last inch and to the last minute.
However, the scale of war against Japan is limited not by man power, for that will be readily forthcoming. It is limited by shipping and other means of transportation over vast ocean spaces and through steaming jungles.
Although it will be our ceaseless endeavor to hurl our utmost strength into the Japanese war, although we shall have to provide for the garrisoning of a zone in Germany which has been assigned to us in discussion with our principal allies, nevertheless we should have to provide for the return to this country of very large numbers of our soldiers now serving abroad, many of whom have been separated from their families for years. What are the questions these men are asking now and what are the questions that are being asked by those they love and those who love them in the cottage homes of Britain? Will the warrior return, will the family be reunited, will the shattered houses be restored, will there be a steady job for several years ahead for all those who have served their country on the war front and for those who were, for good reasons, deprived of the privilege and ordered by the state to serve it with equal fidelity in the field and factories at home? These are the questions that arise in every breast.
No New World
How shall we answer them? We have got to answer them in a manner worthy of us and worthy of our vital strength as a race and a state.
You hear all this talk by the stay-at-home left wing intelligentsia that the soldiers will hold us guilty if we do not have a new world already waiting for them when they disembark at Liverpool, on the Clyde, at Southampton or the Tilburg docks.
But that is not what the fighting men are looking forward to. They are not looking forward to a new world constructed behind their backs by politicians who seek their votes. Most of them have lived long enough in uncomfortable proximity to another world to be thinking of that. Their heart's desire is that after duty has been done and the job finished, they should come home. They do not regard themselves as slum-bred serf population chased into battle from a land of misery and want. They love their country and the scenes of their youth and manhood and they have shown themselves ready to die, not only in defense of its material satisfactions but for its honor. They wish to see old England or Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland playing their part in the forefront of all the nation's battles against tyranny.
When they are home, settled down, and our country is again a going concern, paying its way and standing on its own in the post-war world, then will be the time for them to settle what form and shape our society should assume, but our own tasks will be precise, sharply and plainly outlined. Above all they are a practical job. We have to finish the war. We have to bring men home. We have to get our dear country on the move again and into its full swing of natural health and life.
There will be plenty of time for politicians when these grim fundamental tasks have been discharged and when that time comes, we shall not show ourselves incapable of expressing our point of view in these free discussions of our democracy. But there are other tasks which must be added to the stern list. We do not wish to live on charity or generosity of any nation. We have given our all in the common cause and may claim assistance to recover our normal economy from those we have helped to victory, but we must never agree to found our economic life on the indulgence or favor even of the Allies we most dearly cherish.
Blood, sweat, toil and tears—there may be less blood and fewer tears, but mental toil, physical sweat, the conscious united resolve of every man and woman to give all that is in them will be required from us after the last bomb or cannon has ceased to thunder.
Let there be no mistake about it. It is no easy cheapjack Utopia of airy phrases that lies before us. This is no time for windy platitudes. The Conservative party had far better go down telling the truth and acting in accordance with the verities of our position than gain a span of shabbily bought office by easy fickle, froth and chatter.
All my experience of the British people, which is a long one, convinces me that never at any moment more than this have they meant to face realities, and woe betide those pub. lie men who seek to slide into power down the slippery slope of vain and profitable undertakings. This is no time for humbugs and blandishment but for grim and stark facts and figures and action to meet immediate needs.
There is, however, another note which I must strike on the gong. I have in mind the resolutions which you pro-posed at yesterday's sessions. If we are to recover from the measureless exertions of the war it can only be by a large release from the necessary bonds and controls which war conditions have imposed upon us. No restriction upon the well established liberties that is not proved indispensable to the prosecution of the war and the transition from war to peace can be tolerated.
Control for control's sake is senseless. Controls under the pretext of war or its aftermath which are, in fact, designed to favor the accomplishment of totalitarian systems however innocently designed or whatever guise they take, whatever liveries they wear, whatever slogans they mouth, are fraud which should be mercilessly exposed to the British public. At the head of our mainmast we fly the flag of free enterprise. We are determined that native genius and the spirit of adventure and of risk taking, in peace as in war, shall bear our fortunes forward, finding profitable work and trade for our people, and that good, thrifty housekeeping, both national and private, shall sustain our economy.
This does not mean that we are likely to run short of necessary controls. While food is scarce, it must be fairly shared. While thousands of enemy prisoners are in our midst, we must still have identity cards. While extraordinary conditions prevail, special powers, safeguards and regulations will be required. But many of these evils will pass away as we recover our natural life and these years of sombre crisis brighten into daylight again.
Still there are other tasks beyond those I mentioned. Two years ago I declared that we must have a four-year plan for a new Parliament after the war and in spite of our struggles abroad, immense toil and preparation have been given to the design of this plan. We are making steady, immense progress with the program I then outlined. We have passed into law the greatest Education Act ever known in these islands and we are putting that act into operation in a fortnights time. We are now discussing in Parliament the long-cherished family allowances bill. We have shaped and prepared vast schemes of national insurance. We propose to introduce a new plan for altering the basis upon which compensation for industrial injury is at present assessed. We have adopted plans for revolutionizing our health system.
I will not elaborate the list but many of these are but bits of paper, white paper, and still have to be brought into operation. The bulk have yet to be passed into law. The great mass of this immense constructive heave will be the task of the new Parliament.
But there is ever with us the clamant problem of providing sufficient houses after five years of no building being possible by us after five years of destruction by the enemy
I can assure you we are grappling with the housing shortage to the utmost that is possible before the builders, who are also home seekers, return from the Rhine, from the Apennines and from Mandalay. Everything in human power is being and shall be done. Of course, we must first concentrate, as we are doing, all available building and labor on these parts of our cities which suffered the most but we shall not be content, even during the progress of hostilities, merely to repair the devastation in places which the enemy found it most easy to attack.
The same drive and punch, and may I say genius in organization which enabled us to triumph over U-boats, over flying bombs and to land a mighty army on the Continent last June, must and will be applied as we regather strength from war to construction and reconstruction of housing both in towns and in the country.
A four-year plan will require our utmost effort. The government in power will not only have to turn White Papers into acts of Parliament but to make acts of Parliament a living, active, harmonious part of our social system. On all this we must march ahead even while the Japanese war continues and even while the process of bringing back armies and rehabilitating our trade is incomplete. Never was there a time when so much was planned and projected and so much remains to be turned from paper to action.
There is one great change that war has brought into our national life which we must never again cast away. Alone among the great nations of the world, we cannot live without immense importations of foreign food. War taught us that we have long neglected the treasure house of British soil. Twice in a generation we called on the farming community in spite of that neglect to keep the wolf from our doors. They have not failed us.
The record of the agricultural industry in increasing food production and helping to save vital shipping marks a grand attribution to our survival. When we look to the future nothing is more clear than that when the war is over, the world will face an acute shortage of food for several years. We, who even under war-time pressure only grow two-thirds of our necessary food, and that is a marvelous expansion, must feel disquieted at living four years in the midst of a hungry world. It would be madness indeed to cast away the increased food production which has been achieved in war. Indeed, having regard to the many improvements which have been introduced into British agriculture under the scourge of necessity, we have every reason to hope, as we are bound to plan, for a substantial further increase in home food production beyond any we have yet accomplished.
There was another reason for making ourselves more independent in food supply. We have freely sacrificed our foreign investments which brought a large income into this country and helped redress our trade balance. We paid them without a moment's hesitation during the time that we were keeping the flag of freedom flying all alone. After the war the revival and expansion of our export trade will be a prime and indispensable factor in our prosperity. Every ton of food produced here not only helps to fill to some extent the gap caused by the loss of our foreign investments but it sets free more of our export trade to buy, not only food, but those raw materials without which neither trade nor production are possible.
Agriculture, therefore, assumes a place in the forefront of post-war policy. A healthy and well-balanced agriculture is one of the mainsprings of our national life.
I note with interest and sympathy the resolution which this conference carried yesterday on this subject, supporting as the resolution did, a long-term policy which, by means of price stability, would secure an efficient and fair return for his capital and for the worker a standard of living comparable with that in other industries.
A prosperous agriculture brings benefits alike to town and country. It brings health, both physical and moral, to the nation as a whole, and we must cherish it as the first of British industries and nourish all our other industries thereby.
Victory lies before us, certain and perhaps near. But the years of cruel torment and destruction have wasted earth and victory, with all its brilliant trappings, appears to our strained, experienced eyes as deliverance rather than as triumph. Our hearts go out in thankfulness that we have been saved from annihilation and from the enduring ruin of our country. And that after all our long and famous history we shall come through once again with life and honor a convulsion that has ravaged the globe.
We shall best show our gratitude for these mercies by the zeal and faithfulness with which we devote ourselves to our duty and prove ourselves worthy in strength and in spirit of the place we hold in the hearts of men and in the vanguard of the modern world.