※ Topic of the content: The general election of 1945 [in the United Kingdom]
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"The prolongation of the life of the existing Parliament by another two or three years would be a very serious constitutional lapse. Even now no one under thirty has ever cast a vote at a General election, or even at a by-election, since the registers fell out of action at the beginning of the war. Therefore it seems to me that unless all political parties resolve to maintain the present Coalition until the Japanese are defeated we must look to the termination of the war against Nazism as a pointer which will fix the date of the General Election."Winston Churchill, House of Commons, 31 October, 1944, quoted in CHARLOT, Monica, British Civilians, p. 165
My dear Churchill,
. . It is precisely on the problems of the reconstruction of the economic life of the country that party differences are most acute. What is required is decisive action. This can only be forthcoming from a Government united on principle and policy. A Government so divided that it could take no effective action would be a disaster to the country.My colleagues and I do not believe that it would be possible to lay aside political controversy now that the expectation of an election has engaged the attention of the country.Report of the Labour Party Annual Conference, Blackpool, 1945: 88. Quoted in CHARLOT, 166
My friends, I must tell you that a Socialist policy is abhorrent to the British ideas of freedom. Although it is now put forward in the main by people who have a good grounding in the Liberalism and Radicalism of the early part of this century, there can be no doubt that Socialism is inseparably interwoven with Totalitarianism and the abject worship of the State. It is not alone that property, in all its forms, is struck at, but that liberty, in all its forms, is challenged by the fundamental conceptions of Socialism.
Look how even to-day they hunger for controls of every kind, as if these were delectable foods instead of war-time inflictions and monstrosities. There is to be one State to which all are to be obedient in every act of their lives. This State is to be the arch-employer, the arch-planner, the arch-administrator and ruler, and the archcaucus boss.
How is an ordinary citizen or subject of the King to stand up against this formidable machine, which, once it is in power, will prescribe for every one of them where they are to work; what they are to work at; where they may go and what they may say; what views they are to hold and within what limits they may express them; where their wives are to go to queue-up for the State ration; and what education their children are to receive to mould their views of human liberty and conduct in the future?
A Socialist State once thoroughly completed in all its details and its aspects - and that is what I am speaking of - could not afford to suffer opposition. Here in old England, in Great Britain, of which old England forms no inconspicuous part, in this glorious Island, the cradle and citadel of free democracy throughout the world, we do not like to be regimented and ordered about and have every action of our lives prescribed for us. In fact we punish criminals by sending them to Wormwood Scrubs and Dartmoor, where they get full employment, and whatever board and lodging is appointed by the Home Secretary.
Socialism is, in its essence, an attack not only upon British enterprise, but upon the right of the ordinary man or woman to breathe freely without having a harsh, clumsy, tyrannical hand clapped across their mouths and nostrils. A Free Parliament - look at that - a Free Parliament is odious to the Socialist doctrinaire. Have we not heard Mr. Herbert Morrison descant upon his plans to curtail Parliamentary procedure and pass laws simply by resolutions of broad principle in the House of Commons, afterwards to be left by Parliament to the executive and to the bureaucrats to elaborate and enforce by departmental regulations? As for Sir Stafford Cripps on "Parliament in the Socialist State," I have not time to read you what he said, but perhaps it will meet the public eye during the election campaign.
But I will go farther. I declare to you, from the bottom of my heart, that no Socialist system can be established without a political police. Many of those who are advocating Socialism or voting Socialist to-day will be horrified at this idea. That is because they are short-sighted, that is because they do not see where their theories are leading them.
No Socialist Government conducting the entire life and industry of the country could afford to allow free, sharp, or violently-worded expressions of public discontent. They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed in the first instance. And this would nip opinion in the bud; it would stop criticism as it reared its head, and it would gather all the power to the supreme party and the party leaders, rising like stately pinnacles above their vast bureaucracies of Civil servants, no longer servants and no longer civil. And where would the ordinary simple folk - the common people, as they like to call them in America - where would they be, once this mighty organism had got them in its grip?
I stand for the sovereign freedom of the individual within the laws which freely elected Parliaments have freely passed. I stand for the rights of the ordinary man to say what he thinks of the Government of the day, however powerful, and to turn them out, neck and crop, if he thinks he can better his temper or his home thereby, and if he can persuade enough others to vote with him.
But, you will say, look at what has been done in the war. Have not many of those evils which you have depicted been the constant companions of our daily life? It is quite true that the horrors of war do not end with the fighting-line. They spread far away to the base and the homeland, and everywhere people give up their rights and liberties for the common cause. But this is because the life of their country is in mortal peril, or for the sake of the cause of freedom in some other land. They give them freely as a sacrifice. It is quite true that the conditions of Socialism play a great part in war-time. We all submit to being ordered about to save our country. But when the war is over and the imminent danger to our existence is removed, we cast off these shackles and burdens which we imposed upon ourselves in times of dire and mortal peril, and quit the gloomy caverns of war and march out into the breezy fields, where the sun is shining and where all may walk joyfully in its warm and golden rays.
Winston CHURCHILL, The First Conservative Election Broadcast, 4 June 1945. Quoted in CAPET, CHARLOT & HILL, p. 201-2
Labour in Power