I woke up on a Monday morning (8th April) to the announcement on the BBC Website and “Democracy Now!” on KBOO, that Margaret Thatcher had died.
My views on the much-lauded Icon of Conservative bullying by the US and UK plutocrats and Tories, in concert with major press on both sides of the pond (except that in the UK, there is still some semblance of progressive news sources like “The Guardian” and “The Independent”), are well-known by anybody who knows me in the area and many others so I was just going to let it all slide and passively and resignedly weather the blast of congratulatory rhetoric and rose-tinted, fuzzy memorials assaulting my politico-historic outrage-o-meter.
But as it all continued unabated all week and beyond, I decided to say my piece and balance the mass of glorification of a real destructive, retrogressive force in politics with her buddy-in arms Ronald R’, the almost joint terms from which both nations and much of the world are still suffering.
BTW, I was only in the UK for just over two years of her spells in office and saw first hand what really happened to the grassroots. In fact it was her actions and lack of work that decided me to return –very much against my best judgment and wishes- to the US (even under Reagan) as there was still work here
So I’ll just be blunt and succinct in turning over the most egregious statements heard about her on the Monopoly owner-media over here who were of course, thoroughly in her camp of power-capitalism.
There really is NO LEFT here. Best we can hope for is a small semblance of mildly progressive murmurings and the echoes of a few brave and lonely truly progressive voices in the journalistic void, like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, perhaps our own Jeff Merkley, Chris Hedges, Amy Goodman, David Barsamean and the progressive activist guests on their “Alternative” programs and Ralph Nader.
I was working in a fairly large Engineering office in Portland when Thatcher was first elected in 1979. The Vice-President walked over to my drafting station with the chuckling remark –“Hey Scotty, I see you’ve finally got a good, REPUBLICAN prime Minister”! I’ll spare you my curt and expletive-laced response but use yer imaginations.
So here we go; popular misstatement #1;
“Thatcher brought the UK into the 20th century”. Bull-pucky! She drove the country back into a lapse into a Victorian-era domination of the people by the wealthy and titled, bullying labor and unions, especially the miners, caused widespread hunger, poverty, unemployment and dismay, and removed the voice of the people from the halls of power.
“Thatcher stimulated the UK economy and heralded a new age of prosperity.” B-P again. She enriched the already-wealthy by de-regulating capital jugglers and banking houses, making it easier to stash funds off-shore and allowing the rich to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. She destroyed both opportunity and incentive for small-business and working people after a lengthy period of prosperity and employment under Labor. I’d never seen a significant population beggars on the main streets of London and other major (English) cities before her reign of error.
She squandered the profits from a rich era of North Sea oil by the same deregulation of profits and consolidation of funds in the hands of the wealthy, rather than investing it in a community chest of public institutions to assure efficiency and financial stability for maintenance of the national services and safety net for the future, as Norway and some of the Northern Scottish islands like the Shetlands did. Now the UK is importing oil again.
She deregulated and generally sold of to private conglomerates, the national railways, once the pride of the nation and the most efficient in Europe and the world (My uncle Jock and paternal Grandfather were both drivers in the steam era and if they were even two minutes late on a long run, they had to write a lengthy report on exactly why!).
She tried to discredit and privatize the National Health Service (NHS), “Stating in her faux-lofty declamatory style “But I perfeah to have PRIVATE treatment” like everybody could afford the private, hi-fee quacks of Harley Street, patronized by the rich and titled. This meddling with a vital and excellent and beloved UNIVERSAL public health service in place since 1948 and even supported by that old Tory bulldog, Winnie Churchill, was one of the reasons for her eventual unpopularity at the grassroots.
She saved her deeply unpopular government by diving into a war over the Falkland islands with Argentina. 1982, following a period of deep and crippling recession the Falklands war was undoubtedly the saving of her increasingly unpopular policies which impoverished all but the already rich and she used the way of faux-patriotism to the hilt, claw her way back into a vestige of power.
She tried to instigate a 1990 “Community Charge”or “Poll Tax”to her final and complete demise. This was meant to levy a flat-rate per-capita on every adult, regardless of income. It was neutral to the market, since–a crucial difference–market prices are paid voluntarily by the consumer purchasing the good or service, whereas the tax (or “charge”) is levied coercively on each person, even if the value of the “service” of government to that person is far less than the charge, or even negative. A poll tax was a charge levied on a person’s very existence, and the person must often be hunted down at great expense to be forced to pay the tax. Charging a person for their very existence seemed to imply that the government OWNS all of its subjects, body and soul, reversing the very concept of progressive (or income-based) tax to provide a social safety net. This sparked off riots, especially in Scotland and Wales, and encouraged Sir Geoffrey Howe and Michael Heseltine to mount a challenge to her party leadership and P.M. in November of 1990. She resigned “For the good of party unity” but to me, it was a white-knuckled relinquishing of the rod of power, which she wielded for far too long, arrogantly and uncompromisingly. She had in fact ruled her party with such bully-tactics that her latter-day Tory, male dominated cabinet, were known as “wets”. I remember former PM Harold Wilson, in a TV interview describing her as “The best man amongst them”.
She counted as friends such unsavory items of human detritus as Chile’s murderous and dictatorial Fascist, Augusto Pinochet (Couped into power by Henry Kissinger’s CIA –thugs after murdering popularly-elected Socialist president Salvador Allende) General Alexander (“Let them march in the streets as long as they pay their taxes”) Haig and such hubristic monsters.
She also resisted becoming part of the European Union, a popular concept and eventually adopted. She was a nationalist in the worst possible sense; a regressive one.
In an ironic way, she even made the ascension of Tony Blair possible (Labor “lite” or as he preferred to call it “New Labor”) a painfully P.C.-oriented and milquetoast shadow of the true British labor Party –of which I was a member and activist since my teens and of which Neil Kinnock was the last and truly of the people leader and who, in my opinion, would have made an excellent Prime Minister.
Blair, friend of Dimwits Bush and co-war-criminal with the whole cabal of that worst administration in US history, modeled his cabinet and premiership on Bill Clinton’s welfare-scrapping administration. He became a patsy for the US war-party and was an ambitious, greedy and now born-again holy-roller Catholic, who gave not a damn for the voice of the people.
Ergo, both the UK and US were driven so far right by Thatcher and Reagan’s regressive arrogance and vigorous legislation on behalf of the already wealthy, military and polluting industries (the true rulers in their respective times) and heralded in the age of Corporate Monopolist domination of much of the world economies and in the US, the press that disseminates the news in a non-critical way and with increasingly heavy lacing of omnipresent commercialism, reducing TV programming especially to content-free stuffing between commercials, including the news.
Two of ol’ Iron-Corsets most enduring quotes: “There is no such thing as society, only individual men and women” and “There is NO alternative to capitalism”.
The traditional Left still has good reason to hate Thatcher, and perhaps to organize some kind of public party on her state-funded grave.
Her long-awaited death will do the cause of the Left much good. The traditional Left — based as it is on defunct political parties and dysfunctional trade unions, served it’s purpose in their times but the stagnant breath of neoliberal hot air is also clearly moribund and destined for the dustbin of history.
Partly, the ferocity with which Thatcher pursued her state-based class war was responsible for its own demise in a nation that had become mired in one-sided legislation.
In this sense, Thatcher is hated not because she assaulted labor and in a large part destroyed the British welfare state, including transport services— but because she did it with such religious zeal and such extreme determination. She was hated, in other words, not for the policies and ideas she pursued but for the ugly face she put on them, and the extremely obnoxious squeaking upper-class voice with which she barked at her opponents (She reminded me of film-clips I’d seen, Roland Freisler, Hitler’s “Bood Judge” who was notorious for screaming at and humiliating condemned prisoners in front of his dreaded People’s Court). Ultimately, Thatcher was hated because she personified the naked logic of class warfare operating underneath the technocratic surface of her neoliberal project. She was hated because she made “there is no alternative” sound like there really was no alternative; and because her version of class warfare seemed to veer on the same blunt brutality that had marked the profoundly dehumanizing logic of laissez-faire capitalism in the Victorian era.
I just wanted to put the record straight in the face of all the current adulation being showered on a power-drunk regressive faux-icon, creation of the puppet masters in “The City” and it’s US Wall Street equivalent.
For more, check out the comments of the excellent Laura Flanders of Fair’s “Counterspin”. http://www.fair.org/audio/counterspin/CounterSpin041213.mp3.
Truth is not appreciated in the US Owner-media.