Monday, 8 April 2013

Thatcher



Supposedly, if you have nothing good to say about someone, you should say nothing.  I have nothing good to say about Margaret Thatcher, but to say nothing would leave the field clear to the right-wing revisionists who are already cramming the airwaves and opinion columns to portray her as a great leader for whom we, as a people, should be eternally grateful.

I believe Margaret Thatcher to have been evil.  She wilfully destroyed the lives of thousands of people in pursuit of an elitist political ideology, where financial profit for the few was all that mattered.  People, communities, whole industries were laid to waste as Thatcherism tore-up the previous political consensus that sought to achieve full employment in Britain.

To Thatcher, unemployment in Scotland, the north of England, Wales and Northern Ireland was a price worth paying for economic prosperity in the south-east of England, particularly in the financial markets of the City of London.  The fact that unemployment threw millions of decent people onto the scrap-heap, in many cases for the rest of their lives, meant nothing to Margaret Thatcher.  Quite simply, she didn’t care.

Scotland never voted for Thatcher, but because our country is part of the British Union we had her, and her policies, imposed on us.  Under Thatcher, virtually every industry that had once employed thousands of men and women was destroyed – the docks, mining, steel-making, manufacturing of all kinds.  British entrepreneurs were lauded as success stories when they closed factories in this country and moved manufacturing to sweat-shop economies in the far-east.  All that mattered was for the rich to get richer.

While the exploitation of workers in developing countries was presented as British industry expanding abroad and ‘good news’ for our economy, the unemployed back home were branded as free-loading wasters.  Thatcher’s government blamed the unemployed for being unemployed, despite the fact they had lost their jobs as a result of her scorched-industry policies.  It was Thatcher who first sought to turn people against those less fortunate than themselves, a strategy still being carried out today by her ideological heirs in the current UK Government.

It was Thatcher, too, who branded decent hard-working men in the mining industry as ‘the enemy within’ when they did nothing more than try to save their jobs.  The Thatcher Government’s all-out assault on British mines and the men who worked them was also the first time in modern history that the police were politicised.  Anyone who witnessed the 1984-85 Miners Strike will never forget mounted police riding into groups of miners and lashing out with extended batons.  Nor will it ever be forgotten how Maggie’s Stormtroopers waved their paypackets at strikers, goading the men with their bulging overtime payments as the families of miners went hungry.

Today, former coalmining communities are like ghost-towns.  Entire areas were left to rot, people’s lives destroyed, while Britain now imports coal from Columbia where child-labour is much more ‘cost-effective’ and small things like health and safety concerns are overlooked.  This was Thatcher’s vision.

Had it not been for Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982, Thatcher would have been thrown out of office after just one term.  As it turned out, though, the Argentines were persuaded to go ahead with an invasion after Britain appeared to be not interested in defending the islands.  The UK’s professional military subsequently re-took the Falklands, against relatively untrained Argentine conscripts, and Thatcher, amid a media blaze of jingoistic patriotism, sailed to electoral victory as a ‘war leader’ prime minister.  Surely even Thatcher would not have been so cynical as to put at risk the lives of our soldiers, sailors and airmen in a war that, ultimately, Britain was always going to win, just to turn around her flagging political fortunes at the time?  You better believe she would!

Then there was the Poll Tax, which Scotland got one year ahead of the rest of the UK.  Thatcher believed it was perfectly fair for ordinary workers to pay the same rate of local government tax as a multi-millionaire.  She saw nothing wrong with her butler having to pay the same tax as her, despite the massive disparity in their respective incomes.

Ultimately, direct action – and riots – by the public forced the Tory Government to back down over the Poll Tax, but Thatcher still believed it was right.  Her total disregard for the negative impact her policies had on ordinary men and women led to her downfall.  She simply did not care.  Fearing for their own political futures, senior Tories ousted her. 

This was a woman who hurt millions.  She did so with policies that moved the burden of taxation from the rich onto the poor; she did so by throwing people on the dole, removing their ability to support their families, removing even their dignity.  She couldn’t have cared less.

The ideology behind today’s attacks on the poor and vulnerable is Thatcherism.  The economic problems caused by profit-driven spivs and speculators in the City of London had at its root the Thatcherite belief that ‘greed is good’ and making ‘loads-a-money’ is all that matters.  Ultimately, Thatcher believed that people did not matter, ordinary men and women were expendable as a super-rich elite amassed ever greater profits.  She even sold-off public assets that belonged to us, sold them at knock-down prices to her friends in the City.

Margaret Thatcher was evil, and that is how history should remember her.

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