THE IRON LADY - A NAME RESULTING
FROM HER BRITAIN AWAKE SPEECH
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Margaret Thatcher's Britain Awake
It follows the full text transcript of
Margaret Thatcher's Britain Awake speech, delivered at
Kensington Town Hall, Chelsea, London, UK - January 19, 1976.
The first duty of
any Government is to safeguard its people
against external aggression. To guarantee the
survival of our way of life.
The question we
must now ask ourselves is whether the present
Government is fulfilling that duty. It is
dismantling our defenses at a moment when the
strategic threat to Britain and her allies from
an expansionist power is graver than at any
moment since the end of the last war.
Military men are always warning us that the
strategic balance is tilting against NATO and
But the Socialists never listen. They don't seem
to realize that the submarines and missiles that
the Russians are building could be destined to
be used against us. Perhaps some people in the
Labour Party think we are on the same side as
But just let's look at what the Russians are
She's ruled by a dictatorship of patient,
far-sighted determined men who are rapidly
making their country the foremost naval and
military power in the world. They are not doing
this solely for the sake of self-defense. A
huge, largely land-locked country like Russia
does not need to build the most powerful navy in
the world just to guard its own frontiers.
No, the Russians are bent on world dominance,
and they are rapidly acquiring the means to
become the most powerful imperial nation the
world has seen.
The men in the Soviet politburo don't have to
worry about the ebb and flow of public opinion.
They put guns before butter, while we put just
about everything before guns.
They know that they are a super power in only
one sense—the military sense. They are a failure
in human and economic terms.
But let us make no mistake. The Russians
calculate that their military strength will more
than make up for their economic and social
weakness. They are determined to use it in order
to get what they want from us.
Last year on the eve of the Helsinki Conference,
I warned that the Soviet Union is spending 20
per cent more each year than the United States
on military research and development; 25 per
cent more on weapons and equipment; 60 per cent
more on strategic nuclear forces.
In the past ten years, Russia has spent 50 per
cent more than the United States on naval
shipbuilding. Some military experts believe that
Russia has already achieved strategic
superiority over America.
But it is the balance of conventional forces
which poses the most immediate dangers for NATO.
I am going to visit our troops in Germany on
Thursday. I am going at a moment when the Warsaw
Pact forces, that is the forces of Russia and
her allies, in Central Europe outnumber NATOs by
150,000 men nearly 10,000 tanks and 2,600
aircraft. We cannot afford to let that gap get
Still more serious gaps have opened up
elsewhere, especially in the troubled area of
Southern Europe and the Mediterranean.
The rise of Russia as a world-wide naval power,
threatens our oil rigs and our traditional
life-lines, the sea routes. Over the past ten
years, the Russians have quadrupled their force
of nuclear submarines. They are now building one
nuclear submarine a month. They are searching
for new naval base facilities all over the
world, while we are giving up our few remaining
bases. They have moved into the Indian Ocean.
They pose a rising threat to our northern waters
and, farther east to Japan's vital sea routes.
The Soviet navy is not designed for
self-defense. We do not have to imagine an
all-out nuclear war or even a conventional war
in order to see how it could be used for
I would be the first to welcome any evidence
that the Russians are ready to enter into a
genuine detente. But I am afraid that the
evidence points the other way.
I warned before Helsinki of the dangers of
falling for an illusory detente. Some people
were skeptical at the time, but we now see that
my warning was fully justified.
Has detente induced the Russians to cut back on
their defense program? Has it dissuaded them
from brazen intervention in Angola? Has it led
to any improvement in the conditions of Soviet
citizens, or the subject populations of Eastern
We know the answers.
At Helsinki we endorsed the status quo in
Eastern Europe. In return we had hoped for the
freer movement of people and ideas across the
Iron Curtain. So far we have got nothing of
We are devoted, as we always have been, to the
maintenance of peace. We will welcome any
initiative from the Soviet Union that would
contribute to that goal. But we must also heed
the warnings of those, like Alexander
Solzhenitsyn , who remind us that we have been
fighting a kind of Third World War over the
entire period since 1945, and that we have been
steadily losing ground.
As we look back
over the battles of the past year, over the list
of countries that have been lost to freedom or
are imperiled by Soviet expansion can we deny
that Solzhenitsyn is right?
We have seen Vietnam and all of Indochina
swallowed up by Communist aggression. We have
seen the Communists make an open grab for power
in Portugal, our oldest ally, a sign that many
of the battles in the Third World War are being
fought inside Western countries. And now the
Soviet Union and its satellites are pouring
money, arms and front-line troops into Angola in
the hope of dragging it into the Communist bloc.
We must remember that there are no Queensbury
rules in the contest that is now going on. And
the Russians are playing to win. They have one
great advantage over us: The battles are being
fought on our territory, not theirs.
Within a week of the Helsinki conference, Mr.
Zarodov, a leading Soviet ideologue, was writing
in Pravda about the need for the Communist
Parties of Western Europe to forget about
tactical compromises with Social Democrats, and
take the offensive in order to bring about
proletarian revolution. Later Mr. Brezhnev made
a statement in which he gave this article his
If this is the line that the Soviet leadership
adopts at its Party Congress next month, then we
must heed their warning. It undoubtedly applies
to us too.
We in Britain cannot opt out of the world. If we
cannot understand why the Russians are rapidly
becoming the greatest naval and military power
the world has ever seen if we cannot draw the
lesson of what they tried to do in Portugal and
are now trying to do in Angola then we are
destined, in their words, to end up on "the
scrap heap of history."
We look to our alliance with American and NATO
as the main guarantee of our own security and,
in the world beyond Europe, the United States is
still the prime champion of freedom.
But we are all aware of how the bitter
experience of Vietnam has changed the public
mood in America. We are also aware of the
circumstances that inhibit action by an American
president in an election year.
So it is more vital then ever that each and
every one of us within NATO should contribute
his proper share to the defense of freedom.
Britain, with her world-wide experience of
diplomacy and defense, has a special role to
play. We in the Conservative Party are
determined that Britain should fulfill that
role. We're not harking back to some nostalgic
illusion about Britain's role in the past. We're
saying Britain has a part to play now, a part to
play for the future.
The advance of Communist power threatens our
whole way of life. That advance is not
irreversible, providing that we take the
necessary measures now. But the longer that we
go on running down our means of survival, the
harder it will be to catch up.
In other words,
the longer Labour remains in Government, the
more vulnerable this country will be. What has
this Government been doing with our defenses?
Under the last defense review, the Government
said it would cut defense spending by £4,700
million over the next nine years. Then they said
they would cut a further £110 million. It now
seems that we will see further cuts.
If there are further cuts, perhaps the Defence
Secretary should change his title, for the sake
of accuracy, to the Secretary for Insecurity.
On defense, we are now spending less per head of
the population than any of our major allies.
Britain spends only £90 per head on defense.
West Germany spends £130, France spends £115.
The United States spends £215. Even neutral
Sweden spends £60 more per head than we do.
Of course, we are poorer than most of our NATO
allies. This is part of the disastrous economic
legacy of Socialism. But let us be clear about
one thing. This is not a moment when anyone with
the interests of this country at heart should be
talking about cutting our defenses.
It is a time when we urgently need to strengthen
our defenses. Of course this places a burden on
us. But it is one that we must be willing to
bear if we want our freedom to survive.
Throughout our history, we have carried the
torch for freedom. Now, as I travel the world, I
find people asking again and again, "What has
happened to Britain?" They want to know why we
are hiding our heads in the sand, why with all
our experience, we are not giving a lead.
Many people may not be aware, even now, of the
full extent of the threat. We expect our
governments to take a more far-sighted view. To
give them their due, the Government spelled out
the extent of the peril in their Defence White
Paper last year. But, having done so, they drew
the absurd conclusion that our defense efforts
should be reduced.
The Socialists, in fact, seem to regard defense
as almost infinitely cuttable. They are much
more cautious when it comes to cutting other
types of public expenditure. They seem to think
that we can afford to go deeper into debt so
that the Government can prop up a loss-making
company. And waste our money on the profligate
extension of nationalization and measures such
as the Community Land Act.
Apparently, we can even afford to lend money to
the Russians, at a lower rate of interest that
we have to pay on our own borrowings.
But we cannot afford, in Labour's view, to
maintain our defenses at the necessary level,
not even at a time when on top of our NATO
commitments, we are fighting a major internal
war against terrorism in Northern Ireland, and
need more troops in order to win it.
There are crises farther from home that could
affect us deeply. Angola is the most immediate.
In Angola, the Soviet-backed guerrilla movement,
the MPLA, is making rapid headway in its current
offensive, despite the fact that it controls
only a third of the population, and is supported
by even less. The MPLA is gaining ground because
the Soviet Union and its satellites are pouring
money, guns and front-line troops into the
battle. Six thousand Cuban regular soldiers are
still there. But it is obvious that an
acceptable solution for Angola is only possible
if all outside powers withdraw their military
You might well ask: Why on earth should we think
twice about what is happening in a far-away
place like Angola? There are four important
The first is that Angola occupies a vital
strategic position. If the pro-Soviet faction
wins, one of the immediate consequences will
almost certainly be the setting up of Soviet air
and naval bases on the South Atlantic.
The second reason is that the presence of
Communist forces in this area will make it much
more difficult to settle the Rhodesian problem
and achieve an understanding between South
Africa and black Africa.
The third reason is even more far-reaching. If
the Russians have their way in Angola, they may
well conclude that they can repeat the
performance elsewhere. Similarly, uncommitted
nations would be left to conclude that NATO is a
spent force and that their best policy is to
pursue an accommodation with Russia.
Fourthly, what the Russians are doing in Angola
is against detente. They seem to believe that
their intervention is consistent with detente.
Indeed, Izvestiya recently argued that Soviet
support for the Communist MPLA is "an investment
in detente," which gives us a good idea of what
they really mean by the word. We should make it
plain to the Russians that we do not believe
that what they are doing in Angola is consistent
It is usually said
that NATO policy ends in North Africa at the
Tropic of Cancer. But the situation in Angola
brings home the fact that NATOs supply lines
need to be protected much further south. In the
Conservative Party we believe that our foreign
policy should continue to be based on a close
understanding with our traditional ally,
This is part of our Anglo-Saxon tradition as
well as part of our NATO commitment, and it adds
to our contribution to the European Community.
Our Anglo-Saxon heritage embraces the countries
of the Old Commonwealth that have too often been
neglected by politicians in this country, but
are always close to the hearts of British
We believe that we should build on our
traditional bonds with Australia, New Zealand
and Canada, as well as on our new ties with
Europe. I am delighted to see that the
Australians and the New Zealanders have
concluded, as I believe that most people in this
country are coming to conclude, that Socialism
In their two electoral avalanches at the end of
last year, they brought back Governments
committed to freedom of choice, governments that
will roll back the frontiers of state
intervention in the economy and will restore
incentives for people to work and save.
Our congratulations go to Mr. Fraser and Mr.
Muldoon. I know that our countries will be able
to learn from each other. What has happened in
Australasia is part of a wider reawakening to
the need to provide a more positive defense of
the values and traditions on which Western
civilization, and prosperity, are based.
We stand with that select body of nations that
believe in democracy and social and economic
freedom. Part of Britain's world role should be
to provide, through its spokesmen, a reasoned
and vigorous defense of the Western concept of
rights and liberties: The kind that America's
Ambassador to the UN, Mr. Moynihan, has recently
provided in his powerfully argued speeches.
But our role reaches beyond this. We have
abundant experience and expertise in this
country in the art of diplomacy in its broadest
sense. It should be used, within Europe, in the
efforts to achieve effective foreign policy
Within the EEC, the interests of individual
nations are not identical and our separate
identities must be seen as a strength rather
than a weakness. Any steps towards closer
European union must be carefully considered.
We are committed to direct elections within the
Community, but the timing needs to be carefully
But new problems
are looming up. Among them is the possibility
that the Communists will come to power through a
coalition in Italy. This is a good reason why we
should aim for closer links between those
political groups in the European Parliament that
We have a difficult year ahead in 1976. I hope
it will not result in a further decline of
Western power and influence of the kind that we
saw in 1975.
It is clear that internal violence, and above
all political terrorism, will continue to pose a
major challenge to all Western societies, and
that it may be exploited as an instrument by the
Communists. We should seek close co-ordination
between the police and security services of the
Community, and of NATO, in the battle against
terrorism. The way that our own police have
coped with recent terrorist incidents provides a
splendid model for other forces. The message of
the Conservative Party is that Britain has an
important role to play on the world stage. It is
based on the remarkable qualities of the British
people. Labour has neglected that role.
Our capacity to
play a constructive role in world affairs is of
course related to our economic and military
strength. Socialism has weakened us on both
counts. This puts at risk not just our chance to
play a useful role in the councils of the world,
but the Survival of our way of life.
Caught up in the problems and hardships that
Socialism has brought to Britain, we are
sometimes in danger of failing to see the vast
transformations taking place in the world that
dwarf our own problems, great though they are.
But we have to wake up to those developments,
and find the political will to respond to them.
Soviet military power will not disappear just
because we refuse to look at it. And we must
assume that it is there to be used, as threat or
as force, unless we maintain the necessary
We are under no illusions about the limits of
British influence. We are often told how this
country that once ruled a quarter of the world
is today just a group of offshore islands. Well,
we in the Conservative Party believe that
Britain is still great. The decline of our
relative power in the world was partly
inevitable, with the rise of the super powers
with their vast reserves of manpower and
resources. But it was partly avoidable too, the
result of our economic decline accelerated by
Socialism. We must reverse that decline when we
are returned to Government.
In the meantime, the Conservative Party has the
vital task of shaking the British public out of
a long sleep. Sedatives have been prescribed by
people, in and out of Government, telling us
that there is no external threat to Britain,
that all is sweetness and light in Moscow, and
that a squadron of fighter planes or a company
of marine commandos is less important than some
The Conservative Party must now sound the
warning. There are moments in our history when
we have to make a fundamental choice. This is
one such moment, a moment when our choice will
determine the life or death of our kind of
society, and the future of our children.
Let's ensure that our children will have cause
to rejoice that we did not forsake their