Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Margaret Thatcher – A Class Warrior For The Rich
A huge amount is being written in the mainstream media about the former Tory Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who died on Monday morning, most of it sycophantic rubbish, but worse still, there is also a concerted attempt to rewrite history, preferring instead a story which is reminiscent of a Greek myth or Kim Jong-Il’s golfing exploits (seven holes in one out of eighteen, the first time he picked up a golf club).
I do feel that I’m entitled to have my two pence worth on her time in office, as I was seventeen when she was elected as Prime Minister in 1979, and she blighted my life as a young man in the north of England, forcing me to move south in a search for some kind of future. I was young and well enough educated and could afford to up everything and move, which wasn’t the case for everyone, despite Norman Tebbit’s exhortations to the unemployed to do just that. But all the same, I felt compelled to leave my community, just to have a chance of getting a job and making a life for myself.
The story painted in the media of the late 1970’s is of a country ‘on its knees’, in need of a strong leader to make the nation great and proud (again), ‘held ransom’ by over mighty trade union ‘barons’, with runaway inflation, rising unemployment, inefficient state owned industries draining the public purse and consequently high rates of taxation. A deeply divided once great nation crippled by the evil doctrine of socialism.
Instead, we needed a fresh approach, becoming fashionable at the time through figures such Milton Friedman and others at the Chicago Business School, where unions were tamed, public industries and services privatised, income tax cut (mostly for the wealthy), and ‘red tape’ was cut, which in turn would free up entrepreneurs to create wealth which would ‘trickle down’ to the little people in due course.
That was the rhetoric, at least, in practice we had mass unemployment in the industrial heartlands of the north of England, Scotland and Wales with the closure of most of the state owned heavy industries, (this had the added advantage of reducing the membership and the power of the unions), cuts in welfare benefits, a cut in income tax (mostly for the wealthy) but a sharp increase in indirect taxes (hitting the poorest proportionately most), which led to an equally sharp increase in inflation, and a giveaway (mostly to the wealthy) of the public utilities in privatisation and share issues. The financial services sector was deregulated, the so called ‘Big Bang’, leading to many risky and questionable practices being made legal. The employment market was made ‘flexible’.
Perhaps Thatcher’s most cunning idea was the ‘Right to Buy’ policy of encouraging tenants to buy their public housing at up 50% discount, which was extremely popular with a section of these tenants (those in the best houses, in the best areas), and effectively divided the working class between the ‘aspirational’ and the ‘losers’. People with mortgages were also less likely to go on strike too, so, so much the better. Classic divide and rule.
Some areas of the country have still not recovered from Thatcher’s neo liberal policies, which have largely been maintained and taken further, under successive governments, most shamefully, a Labour government included. But from the viewpoint of recent history, we can see that Margaret Thatcher’s legacy is that she sowed the seeds of the present recession, from the housing crisis to the financial crisis, from the large amounts being spent on benefits rather than more productive investment, to the huge increase in wealth inequality. It all started in 1979.
The period from the end of World War 2 to 1979 saw a narrowing of the gap between the rich and the rest (fairly modest, but still), whereas post 1979 this gap has increased hugely, nationally and internationally too. And this is Thatcher’s true place in history, a warrior for the outraged establishment elite. She fought a class war on behalf of a world elite that had seen their wealth decrease in the post war years, to the advantage of the rest of us. Welfare states were demolished and income taxes for the rich reduced in the most audacious thievery from the people imaginable.
Margaret Thatcher was not a national heroine; she was a sort of Robin Hood in reverse. She was a very effective hench-woman for the ruling classes worldwide, so if she is to have some fancy funeral parade, then those whose dirty work she did, should send her off in a privatised cavalcade, rather than add insult to injury for the majority of British people by making us pay for her procession.
The above video/song is Shipbuilding by Robert Wyatt.