Tests of Freedom: Italy 1944, Iran 2009

Tests of Freedom: Italy 1944, Iran 2009

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.

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