"The Evil Empire," President Reagan's Speech to the House of Commons, June 8, 1982.


We're approaching the end of a bloody century plagued by a terrible political invention
-- totalitarianism. Optimism comes less easily today, not because democracy is less
vigorous, but because democracy's enemies have refined their instruments of
repression. Yet optimism is in order because day by day democracy is proving itself to
be a not at all fragile flower. From Stettin on the Baltic to Varna on the Black Sea, the
regimes planted by totalitarianism have had more than thirty years to establish their
legitimacy. But none -- not one regime -- has yet been able to risk free elections.
Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root.

The strength of the Solidarity movement in Poland demonstrates the truth told in an
underground joke in the Soviet Union. It is that the Soviet Union would remain a
one-party nation even if an opposition party were permitted because everyone would
join the opposition party....

Historians looking back at our time will note the consistent restraint and peaceful
intentions of the West. They will note that it was the democracies who refused to use
the threat of their nuclear monopoly in the forties and early fifties for territorial or
imperial gain. Had that nuclear monopoly been in the hands of the Communist world,
the map of Europe--indeed, the world--would look very different today. And certainly
they will note it was not the democracies that invaded Afghanistan or suppressed Polish
Solidarity or used chemical and toxin warfare in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia.

If history teaches anything, it teaches self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is
folly. We see around us today the marks of our terrible dilemma--predictions of
doomsday, antinuclear demonstrations, an arms race in which the West must, for its
own protection, be an unwilling participant. At the same time we see totalitarian forces
in the world who seek subversion and conflict around the globe to further their
barbarous assault on the human spirit. What, then, is our course? Must civilization
perish in a hail of fiery atoms? Must freedom wither in a quiet, deadening
accommodation with totalitarian evil?

Sir Winston Churchill refused to accept the inevitability of war or even that it was
imminent. He said, "I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is
the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines. But what we
have to consider here today while time remains is the permanent prevention of war and
the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all
countries."

Well, this is precisely our mission today: to preserve freedom as well as peace. It may
not be easy to see; but I believe we live now at a turning point.

In an ironic sense Karl Marx was right. We are witnessing today a great revolutionary
crisis, a crisis where the demands of the economic order are conflicting directly with
those of the political order. But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist
West but in the home of Marxism- Leninism, the Soviet Union. It is the Soviet Union
that runs against the tide of history by denying human freedom and human dignity to its
citizens. It also is in deep economic difficulty. The rate of growth in the national product
has been steadily declining since the fifties and is less than half of what it was then.

The dimensions of this failure are astounding: a country which employs one-fifth of its
population in agriculture is unable to feed its own people. Were it not for the private
sector, the tiny private sector tolerated in Soviet agriculture, the country might be on
the brink of famine. These private plots occupy a bare 3 percent of the arable land but
account for nearly one-quarter of Soviet farm output and nearly one-third of meat
products and vegetables. Overcentralized, with little or no incentives, year after year
the Soviet system pours its best resources into the making of instruments of destruction.
The constant shrinkage of economic growth combined with the growth of military
production is putting a heavy strain on the Soviet people. What we see here is a
political structure that no longer corresponds to its economic base, a society where
productive forced are hampered by political ones.

The decay of the Soviet experiment should come as no surprise to us. Wherever the
comparisons have been made between free and closed societies -- West Germany and
East Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, Malaysia and Vietnam -- it is the
democratic countries that are prosperous and responsive to the needs of their people.
And one of the simple but overwhelming facts of our time is this: of all the millions of
refugees we've seen in the modern world, their flight is always away from, not toward
the Communist world. Today on the NATO line, our military forces face east to
prevent a possible invasion. On the other side of the line, the Soviet forces also face
east to prevent their people from leaving.

The hard evidence of totalitarian rule has caused in mankind an uprising of the intellect
and will. Whether it is the growth of the new schools of economics in America or
England or the appearance of the so-called new philosophers in France, there is one
unifying thread running through the intellectual work of these groups -- rejection of the
arbitrary power of the state, the refusal to subordinate the rights of the individual to the
superstate, the realization that collectivism stifles all the best human impulses....

Chairman Brezhnev repeatedly has stressed that the competition of ideas and systems
must continue and that this is entirely consistent with relaxation of tensions and peace.

Well, we ask only that these systems begin by living up to their own constitutions,
abiding by their own laws, and complying with the international obligations they have
undertaken. We ask only for a process, a direction, a basic code of decency, not for
an instant transformation.

We cannot ignore the fact that even without our encouragement there has been and will
continue to be repeated explosion against repression and dictatorships. The Soviet
Union itself is not immune to this reality. Any system is inherently unstable that has no
peaceful means to legitimize its leaders. In such cases, the very repressiveness of the
state ultimately drives people to resist it, if necessary, by force.

While we must be cautious about forcing the pace of change, we must not hesitate to
declare our ultimate objectives and to take concrete actions to move toward them. We
must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky
few but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings. So states the United
Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, among other things, guarantees
free elections.

The objective I propose is quite simple to state: to foster the infrastructure of
democracy, the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities, which
allows a people to choose their own way to develop their own culture, to reconcile
their own differences through peaceful means.

This is not cultural imperialism; it is providing the means for genuine self-determination
and protection for diversity. Democracy already flourishes in countries with very
different cultures and historical experiences. It would be cultural condescension, or
worse, to say that any people prefer dictatorship to democracy. Who would voluntarily
choose not to have the right to vote, decide to purchase government propaganda
handouts instead of independent newspapers, prefer government to worker-controlled
unions, opt for land to be owned by the state instead of those who till it, want
government repression of religious liberty, a single political party instead of a free
choice, a rigid cultural orthodoxy instead of democratic tolerance and diversity.

Since 1917 the Soviet Union has given covert political training and assistance to
Marxist-Leninists in many countries. Of course, it also has promoted the use of
violence and subversion by these same forces. Over the past several decades, West
European and other social democrats, Christian democrats, and leaders have offered
open assistance to fraternal, political, and social institutions to bring about peaceful and
democratic progress. Appropriately, for a vigorous new democracy, the Federal
Republic of Germany's political foundations have become a major force in this effort.

We in America now intend to take additional steps, as many of our allies have already
done, toward realizing this same goal. The chairmen and other leaders of the national
Republican and Democratic party organizations are initiating a study with the bipartisan
American Political Foundation to determine how the United States can best contribute
as a nation to the global campaign for democracy now gathering force. They will have
the cooperation of congressional leaders of both parties, along with representatives of
business, labor, and other major institutions in our society. I look forward to receiving
their recommendations and to working with these institutions and the Congress in the
common task of strengthening democracy throughout the world.

It is time that we committed ourselves as a nation -- in both the public and private
sectors -- to assisting democratic development....

What I am describing now is a plan and a hope for the long term -- the march of
freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history
as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of
the people. And that's why we must continue our efforts to strengthen NATO even as
we move forward with our zero-option initiative in the negotiations on
intermediate-range forces and our proposal for a one-third reduction in strategic
ballistic missile warheads.

Our military strength is a prerequisite to peace, but let it be clear we maintain this
strength in the hope it will never be used, for the ultimate determinant in the struggle
that's now going on in the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and
ideas, a trial of spiritual resolve, the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish, the ideals to
which we are dedicated.

The British people know that, given strong leadership, time, and a little bit of hope, the
forces of good ultimately rally and triumph over evil. Here among you is the cradle of
self-government, the Mother of Parliaments. Here is the enduring greatness of the
British contribution to mankind, the great civilized ideas: individual liberty,
representative government, and the rule of law under God.

I've often wondered about the shyness of some of us in the West about standing for
these ideals that have done so much to ease the plight of man and the hardships of our
imperfect world. This reluctance to use those vast resources at our command reminds
me of the elderly lady whose home was bombed in the blitz. As the rescuers moved
about, they found a bottle of brandy she'd stored behind the staircase, which was all
that was left standing. And since she was barely conscious, one of the workers pulled
the cork to give her a taste of it. She came around immediately and said, "Here now --
there now, put it back. That's for emergencies."

Well, the emergency is upon us. Let us be shy no longer. Let us go to our strength. Let
us offer hope. Let us tell the world that a new age is not only possible but probable.

During the dark days of the Second World War, when this island was incandescent
with courage, Winston Churchill exclaimed about Britain's adversaries, "What kind of
people do they think we are?" Well, Britain's adversaries found out what extraordinary
people the British are. But all the democracies paid a terrible price for allowing the
dictators to underestimate us. We dare not make that mistake again. So, let us ask
ourselves, "What kind of people do we think we are?" And let us answer, "Free
people, worthy of freedom and determined not only to remain so but to help others
gain their freedom as well."

Sir Winston led his people to great victory in war and then lost an election just as the
fruits of victory were about to be enjoyed. But he left office honorably and, as it turned
out, temporarily, knowing that the liberty of his people was more important than the
fate of any single leader. History recalls his greatness in ways no dictator will ever
know. And he left us a message of hope for the future, as timely now as when he first
uttered it, as opposition leader in the Commons nearly twenty-seven years ago, when
he said, "When we look back on all the perils through which we have passed and at the
mighty foes that we have laid low and all the dark and deadly designs that we have
frustrated, why should we fear for our future? We have," he said, "come safely through
the worst."

Well, the task I've set forth will long outlive our own generation. But together, we too
have come through the worst. Let us now begin a major effort to secure the best -- a
crusade for freedom that will engage the faith and fortitude of the next generation. For
the sake of peace and justice, let us move toward a world in which all people are at
last free to determine their own destiny.


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