The distressing repression following the recent Iranian election reminds us once again of Churchill’s eternal relevance. In the House of Commons on 28 August 1944, he was asked how he would judge whether the new Italian government, about to replace the Fascist dictatorship of Mussolini, was a true democracy. Churchill replied:
The question arises, “What is freedom?” There are one or two quite simple, practical tests by which it can be known in the modern world in peace conditions—namely:
Is there the right to free expression of opinion and of opposition and criticism of the Government of the day?
Have the people the right to turn out a Government of which they disapprove, and are constitutional means provided by which they can make their will apparent?
Are their courts of justice free from violence by the Executive and from threats of mob violence, and free from all association with particular political Parties?
Will these courts administer open and well-established laws which are associated in the human mind with the broad principles of decency and justice?
Will there be fair play for poor as well as for rich, for private persons as well as Government officials?
Will the rights of the individual, subject to his duties to the State, be maintained and asserted and exalted?
Is the ordinary peasant or workman, who is earning a living by daily toil and striving to bring up a family free from the fear that some grim police organization under the control of a single party, like the Gestapo, started by the Nazi and Fascist parties, will tap him on the shoulder and pack him off without fair or open trial to bondage or ill-treatment?
These simple practical tests are some of the title-deeds on which a new Italy could be founded.
Churchill’s Tests of Freedom remain evergreen. Sadly, in the case of Iran in 2009, they answer themselves.