An Arsenal Of Democracy

In 1940 US President Franklin D Roosevelt coined the phrase ‘An Arsenal Of Democracy’ as a reaction to the twin threats of Fascism and Communism in a time when large parts of the globe were living under brutal dictatorships. That century had seen the Bolsheviks triumph in Russia, the Nazis in Germany and the Francoists in Spain. Portugal was under authoritarian rule, and France invaded by the Germans lived under the yoke of Hitler’s appalling regime. In Europe, Britain stood alone in what were the darkest days of WW2. It wasn’t until America entered the war that the tide started to turn and with the war eventually won democracy was restored to many of the places that had lived under authoritarian rule. The collapse of the Eastern Bloc, 45 years later, brought freedom to even more countries and some celebrated ‘the end of history’, but they were wrong. In many ways, 1990 could be viewed as a high point.

In 2020 liberals and democrats face new challenges. Places like China, Russia and the Gulf states have never known real freedom. In Roosevelt’s White House, his successor uses nativist rhetoric as he rails against the checks and balances of the constitution behaving like the elected king the founding fathers were so determined to prevent. In many other countries, the authoritarian right is very much on the march. As we look forward here in the UK, the fight must be for more democracy and the enhancement of our hard-won civil liberties. We need to continue the fight for reform of our unfair voting system and argue for an elected second chamber. Direct democracy through citizens assemblies should also be championed as a way of giving people a say on important issues between elections.

Further afield, we must call out human rights abuses wherever they occur and support those fighting for liberty against despotic regimes. The Liberal International has and can continue to play an important role here. A world where everyone is free to express themselves and able to hold their governments to account may seem like a utopian dream, but it is what we as liberals must strive for. That Arsenal of democracy is needed now more than ever.

* David is a member of Horsham and Crawley Liberal Democrats

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5 Comments

  • Barry Lofty 12th Feb '20 - 5:08pm

    David, your article is a timely reminder why the Liberal Democrats will be so important over the coming years particularly on the points you raised. I make no apologies for repeating a line from a recent black comedy novel by Eric Vuillard about the rise of the Nazis in the 1930,s. “Great Catastrophes often creep on us in tiny steps”, that line has stayed with me over the last few months.

  • Barry Lofty 12th Feb '20 - 5:11pm

    Sorry the line should read ” creep up on us”

  • David Warren 12th Feb '20 - 6:03pm

    You are so right Barry.

  • David Warren 16th Feb '20 - 3:11pm

    P.S. It was Roosevelt who quite amptly stated ‘If you want a friend in politics get a dog’

  • Nick Collins 16th Feb '20 - 4:15pm

    @ David Warren. Is that why Johnson has packed his Cabinet with poodles?

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