Socialism is the philosophy of failure

28 May 1948, Scottish Unionist Conference, Perth, Scotland 1

We are oppressed by a deadly fallacy. Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy. Unless we free our country while time remains from the perverse doctrines of Socialism, there can be no hope for recovery. This island cannot maintain its population as a great power. The most energetic and the nimblest will emigrate, and we shall be left here with a board of state officials brooding over a vast mass of worried, hungry and broken human beings. Our place in the world will be lost forever, and not only our individual self-respect but our national independence will be gone. These hard-won privileges have been dear to us in the past. But all this structure of obstinacy and unwisdom erected for Party and not national aims must be viewed in the light of the supreme and dominating fact of our present position. The Socialist Government in London has become dependent upon the generosity of the capitalist system of the United States. We are not earning our own living or paying our way, nor do the Government hold out any prospect of our doing so in the immediate future. It is this terrible fact which glares upon us all. . . .

When I was here two years ago I got from the Scottish Unionist Association a pregnant phrase which struck me deeply: ‘a property-owning democracy.’ That is a broad and helpful theme for us to pursue. Owning one’s own house is not a crime. Saving up to secure and maintain independence is a virtue. Why should we not make it clear that not only houses built by private enterprise – when that is again allowed – may be purchased and obtained by instalments by their tenants who will become the owners of the freehold, but that also there should be a right to purchase council houses by instalments. Here is a positive step which should be taken. It will be most bitterly opposed by the Socialist Party who want everyone to be the tenants of the State.

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  1. Churchill here repeats the phrase ‘property-owning democracy’ – later to become a key tenet of Conservative Party philosophy – and follows this up by advocating the sale of council houses to their tenants. This ‘Right to Buy’ became a reality under Margaret Thatcher but, even in the twenty-first century, there are many in the ranks of the Labour Party who wish to deny it.