Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1976 Sep 20 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Liberal Federal Council

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Lakeside Hotel, Canberra, Australia
Source: Thatcher Archive: CCOPR 876/76
Editorial comments: Embargoed until 10.0 London time.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 996
Themes: Parliament, Civil liberties, Conservatism, Privatized & state industries, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Labour Party & socialism, Religion & morality, Trade unions

The real difference between the Conservative Party and our socialist political opponents is that we believe that government should act to enlarge the freedom of the individual to live his own life whilst they believe the government should diminish it.

Our way upholds the importance of the individual and makes provision for him to develop his own talent. To us, all individuals are equally important, but all different. It is this difference which gives richness and variety, and strength, to the life of the community.

This philosophy is diametrically opposite to the Socialist approach which insists in putting everyone into efficient units to do whatever the collectivist socialist wisdom considers best. But freedom is individual.

There is no such thing as ‘collective freedom’. Nevertheless a false ‘collective’ mystique has entered the language of Socialism.

Common to all collectivist theories is the presumption that “Social justice” is more equitable than justice to the individual; that the “social wage” is more desirable than the income a man or woman earns, and spends or saves; that “classes” matter more than people; above all, that “collective rights” are more important than the rights of the individual citizen. [end p1]

It is high time we exposed these fallacies. Take the notion of “collective rights” now ingrained into the vocabularly of Socialists.

Of course, by joining together to do things collectively we can and we do acquire greater power. But we do not win greater rights. The Socialist concept that rights belong “collectively” to groups, and not to individuals is extremely dangerous. It implies that some men, those in groups, are entitled to such rights, while others are not. If this sounds rather theoretical let me remind you how it can work out in practice.

The most conspicuous example is the Soviet Union. There, more than anywhere else, the collectivist dogma has—in the name of the “people” —made the State the owner and manager of all the means of production, distribution and exchange.

All rights in Russia are “collective rights” . All justice is “social justice” ; all assets are “public assets” ; even morality is judged by reference to “Socialist ethics” , “State crimes” or “Marxist-Leninist principles” . And the result?

Far from abolishing poverty Socialism has kept the vast majority of the Soviet people miles behind the western world in standards of living and quality of life.

Instead of “superior productivity” , based on workers' control, its State owned industries and collectivised farms are steadily falling further and further behind those of the West.

Indeed, it was reported in March 1975 that 27 per cent of the total value of Soviet farm output comes from private plots that occupy less than 1 per cent of the nation's agricultural lands. At that rate, private plots are roughly forty times as efficient as land worked collectively. [end p2]

Beyond these material comparisons is the spiritual measure of collectivism's failures in Russia. Socialist “Liberation” has meant the extinction of even that modicum of liberty which the Russians were beginning to gain under the Tsars.

Socialist “realism” has meant that neither artists nor writers have been free to express their own ideas. Anything that conflicts with the collectivist mystique is feared, and is accordingly condemned and banned.

Note, too, this further perversity. The “condemning” , and the “banning” are all done in the name of “the people” . Thus, the People's Courts, the Public Prosecutors, the State-controlled industries are presented to us as organs of “collective” democracy.


We have seen that the increasing power of Governments can lead to the extinction of freedom. Can we be certain that our ancient institutions of Parliamentary Democracy and the Rule of Law would prove sufficient to prevent that from happening to us?

Regretfully the answer is No. By themselves, democratic institutions are not enough to preserve democracy.

Parliaments act by majorities, and majorities are not always right. Let me illustrate the point. If two people vote to take everything away from a third, the decision would be by a majority; but it would not be right. This is an extreme example, but there have been cases where majority legislation has been less than fair to some citizens.

Then, can the rule of law stop a parliamentary majority using their majority unjustly? Again the answer is No. The courts would have no alternative but to administer any law that had been passed by Parliament. [end p3]

It follows that freedom cannot be guaranteed by these institutions alone. Ultimately its survival rests on an unwritten moral law, on our belief in certain natural human rights.

They are the rock upon which the institutions of Parliament and the rule of law are built. If the foundations crumble, everything built upon them will perish. It is this underlying moral code which leads ordinary people to judge what is right and just.

But now that so large a proportion of our economy is in the hands of nationalised industries the dismissal of an employee for refusing to join the monopoly union in a monopoly industry can—and sometimes does—mean that a man trained as a train driver, steel worker, or telephone engineer will never again be able to work in his chosen trade.

Is this not a case of the collective right being exercised at the cost of extinguishing personal rights?

A few brave souls have resisted. It is this code which impels Parliament to use its majority as a trust, and pass laws in accordance with our concepts of fairness and justice. It is this code that maintains the rule of law. We are all responsible for upholding these values and standards, not only our national leaders, but citizens as well.

Freedom is our most precious possession. To defend it and maintain it is no passive task, but one that requires continuous vigilance and resolve.

Let it never be said that the dedication of those who love freedom is less than the determination of those who would destroy it.