Winter 1948-49 (Age 74)

Out of Power, But Optimistic

Twenty-five years later saw Churchill as Leader of the Opposition making the same attacks on Socialists, speaking against a bill to nationalize the iron and steel industries: “I say this is not a Bill, it is a plot; not a plan to increase production, but an operation in restraint of trade. It is not a plan to help our patient struggling people, but a burglar’s jemmy to crack the capitalist crib. [Laughter.] The Rt. Hon. Gentleman laughs, but he lives on the exertions of 80 percent of industries still free and all his hopes are founded on their activities. Those free industries constitute practically the whole of our export trade…but still they are carrying the whole burden of our life and represent our only solvent economic earning power.”

While complimenting the Labour Government’s stand against the Soviet Union and its blockade of Berlin, he was critical of its refusal to recognize the new state of Israel, for which he blamed the anti semitism of Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin. “Whether the Rt. Hon. Gentleman likes it or not, and whether we like it or not, the coming into being of a Jewish State in Palestine is an event in world history to be viewed in the perspective, not of a generation or a century, but in the perspective of a thousand, two thousand or even three thousand years….I say that the Conservative Party has done a great task over twenty-five years, with Parliaments which had a Conservative majority, in trying to build a Jewish National Home in Palestine, and now that it has come into being, it is England that refuses to recognize it, and, by our actions, we find ourselves regarded as its most bitter enemies. All this is due, not only to mental inertia or lack of grip on the part of the Ministers concerned, but also, I am afraid, to the very strong and direct streak of bias and prejudice on the part of the Foreign Secretary. I do not feel any great confidence that he has not got a prejudice against the Jews in Palestine.”

In the same address, responding to the criticisms that Palestine could not accommodate the explosive growth of the Arab and Jewish populations‹more than doubling in the previous 25 years‹Churchill conveyed his optimistic vision of people as a resource and an asset rather than a liability: “The idea that only a limited number of people can live in a country is a profound illusion; it all depends on their co-operative and inventive power. There are more people today living twenty storeys above the ground in New York than were living on the ground in New York 100 years ago. There is no limit to the ingenuity of man if it is properly and vigorously applied under conditions of peace and justice.”

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