How fitting that the ruthless female champion of rampant capitalism, Margaret Thatcher, died in the opulent confines of an exclusive hotel – where only the bourgeois elite can afford to stay. She has been personally blamed for many things; the poll tax, union-busting, privatisation of public industries and services, de-regulation of banks and finance – just to mention the most obvious ones. However, such vitriolic condemnations, both prior to her demise and now she has finally died, serve to miss the most important function of her adult life. Her real role was to be the figurehead of the class interests of the British section of the US/UK Capitalist elite. They were the power who thrust her forward only later to unceremoniously dump her when she had served her purpose.
The capitalist class forces in the UK needed someone strong enough to front the onslaught against all those who stood in the way of a return to ’free market’ exploitation. Thatcher got on the short-list of candidates for this role not because she was female, but because her backers considered she was ruthless and determined enough to use the full power of the state. Those who stood solidly in the way of ending welfare capitalism in favour of neo-liberal capitalism were the organised workers in white and blue-collar trade unions. Dock workers, Engineers, Print workers and many other organised workers were defeated in struggles to maintain their standards of living. All that before the mine workers in the National Union of Mineworkers were finally defeated using all the powers of the state.
At the time she was Prime Minister, the popular slogans of ‘Maggie, out, out, out’ also tended to miss the point that even with Maggie out, the neo-liberal capitalist policies would continue, and continue they did. The capitalist baton of neo-liberalism was handed over to John Major, who ran with it until Tony Blair was handed it by the same back-stage forces of capitalism, who corrupt all political parties and processes. It is now in the safe hands of the Con/Dem’s. She is rightly celebrated by those who benefited from these neo-liberal policies and who perhaps mourn for a ‘hard’ leader to continue them and rescue capitalism from its self-inflicted crisis. The fact that capitalist production was exported abroad and that financial speculation along with massive arms expenditure replaced it was the policy of a class, not a single politician.
This shop-keepers daughter, who presided over this capitalist onslaught upon the working class and the poor, also presided over the demise of the very petty-bourgeois class she was born into. The de-regulation the neo-liberal capitalists introduced, ensured that big-business could get bigger and squeeze out small businesses everywhere – including the corner grocers so beloved of many of her Conservative supporters. Of course, there will be no mention of this in the eulogies at her funeral. Nor will the fact that during her life neo-liberal policies were initiated which have caused the eventual death of UK engineering, steel, ship-building, mining and the impoverishment of countless industrial towns and villages. But there is much more she achieved.
Her eventual death – as her life – marks the almost total death of this petty, small-minded conservative small-business sector of society from which she emerged. A stroll through any town and city in the UK will present the stroller with endless empty shop fronts and empty small premises. This is also the legacy of Thatcher and post-Thatcher period of neo-liberal capitalism. Her alliance with President Ronald Reagan in the USA was the political face of the US/UK alliance of neo-liberal capitalism, so it is not surprising that the same policies were fronted by Reagan in the USA. There too the baton was handed on to other political puppets, such as Clinton, Bush and now Obama, all of whom have carried it on in the relay race which only the 1% can win. Empty shops, empty houses, empty factories, ruined small businesses and devastated communities are rife there also.
With the influence of the neo-liberal capitalist policies, firmly established in the UK and the USA, it was not long before they were exported elsewhere in the globe. The sovereign debt crises, toxic bank debt, austerity programmes and the collapse of communities, throughout Europe and the rest of the world are clear indications that there were other Thatcher’s and Reagan’s throughout the world willing to front up and initiate the neo-liberal free-market exploitation of human and natural resources. So there is now a world-wide situation of wars, poverty, pollution, ecological devastation and steadily collapsing communities of blue and white-collar workers, unemployed, disabled and poor. Not quite the legacy of Thatcher, but they are clearly a legacy of the policies she sold her humanity for in order to champion their first implementation.
For more detail on the record of Thatcher’s term of office see John Pilger’s recent article at http://johnpilger.com/articles/dance-on-thatcher-s-grave-but-remember-there-has-been-a-coup-in-britain
Roy Ratcliffe (April 2013.)