She starved schoolchildren of milk, crushed the trade union movement, initiated massive and disastrous privatisation of national assets, slashed social housing stock, pioneered the dismantling of the post-war welfare state, smashed manufacturing, made Britain dependent on coal imports, tore apart communities and destroyed uncounted lives due to raging unemployment, homelessness, penury and all the ills thereof. It is important that it be remembered that the then-unfamiliar sight of beggars first appeared on Britain’s streets only during Thatcher’s first term in office.
Contrary to the popular mythology of her, “no, no, no”, in fact, she stuck Britain’s jugular into the vast belly of the European Union (largely, a political and economic club of the elite); yet she resisted its progressive social aspects and seemed to fulfil De Gaulle’s prediction of a Britain as side-arm of US power in the heart of Europe. She also resurrected the delusional imperial zombie by invading foreign lands, was named (actually disparagingly, by Gorbachev), the “iron lady” and together with the by then publically dementing ‘House of Un-American Activities’ informer and McCarthyite collaborator, Ronald Reagan, led the ideologically extremist onslaught on public services and deregulation of financial institutions guided by Milton Friedman’s doctrine of unfettered capitalism that has led directly to the current global financial disaster. And, true to form, for decades now, the British media – slavish during her Premiership – overwhelmingly have portrayed her as an emblem and initiator of success and victory.
In 1979, Britain had stable public services, regulated banks, a strong and reliable social safety net which protected the vulnerable and universal free education! And in fact, the economic situation – the story of which consistently has been distorted – was no worse than that of similar countries in Western Europe. Manufacturing industry – including nationalised manufacturing industry – actually was efficient, but it was demonised by the Right-wing (so-called ‘mainstream’ ) media. Today, after 34 years of sustained assault by Thatcher and her neoliberal disciples (Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron), in Britain one out of every five children is hungry and lives below the poverty line, the trade union movement is orphaned due to the loss of many militant working class fighting organisations and is struggling to put up a minimum fight that could force the Tory-Lib-Dem government to cancel the controversial ‘Bedroom Tax’, private multinationals decide what we are going to eat (from medicinised veg to horsemeat), public services are in shambles, liberalisation of the financial system has led to the worst economic crisis in 100 years with no sign of recovery even in the distant future, there are no jobs available and one has no money (it simply doesn’t exist) to finance one’s courses at colleges or universities. No wonder last night in Glasgow, Scotland, massed demonstrators were clinking champagne glasses in the city’s main square to celebrate the death of one of most hated political figures of 20th century Britain.
Unfortunately for them – and for all of us – her zombie continues to rule.
As the turbulence caused by the banking crisis sucks one European state after another in to a financial black hole, we should ask ourselves if the marriage of convenience between regulated capitalism and society has been eclipsed by our fetish for economic anarchy and an unregulated banking system. Is the dream of social and economic emancipation by way of freedom of expression and a market-oriented economic doctrine over? Is Chavez’s 21st century Socialism a return to a society that enjoys a stable public service, regulated banks, a strong and reliable social safety net and universal free education? Or is humanity destined for undergoing destruction administrated by unfettered market economics, only to be interrupted every now and then by a return to protectionism, nationalism and relatively peaceful periods of growth? In any case, Margaret Thatcher’s will be a name, an ‘-ism’, that opposing camps frequently will find themselves referring to for some time to come.Tags: Domestic (UK)
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This post was written by Amjad Ayub Mirza