Margaret Thatcher died today and the interwebs are full of electropinions about her. Some people even celebrate her death and, in the process, diminish themselves. If we cheer the passing of this old woman, are we any different from those who high-five each other every time an American drone takes out a village in Afghanistan, or every time an Israeli jet bombs an apartment block full of terrorist children? Are we any different from those Islamists who cheer in the streets when some suicide bomber murders the western infidels?
No high-fiving for me. I won’t be celebrating someone’s death but I won’t be celebrating her life either.
I think her ideology was vile. I think she waged war on her own people, creating a legacy of economic destruction that will endure for centuries. I think she dismantled hard-won social cohesion in order to consolidate the position of the wealthy.
Thatcher’s handling of the hunger strikes in the North and the events that led to them was ham-fisted, arrogant and downright ignorant.
She went to war with Argentina for no other reason than to win an election. She sank the Belgrano with the loss of hundreds of lives in order to gain a political advantage. She sent troops to the south Atlantic to die and to be maimed in order to win an election. She befriended the murderous dictator, Pinochet, and made common cause with Ronald Reagan, as his operatives worked to destabilise governments right across the globe.
Margaret Thatcher came closer to establishing a police state than any British prime minister in modern times. Aided and supported by the vilest gutter press in western Europe, she sent legions of armed and mounted gendarmes up north to beat the miners into submission, polarising Britain in a way it has never recovered from.
These days, every time an old warmonger dies you’re expected to have an opinion but I’m struggling to care whether Margaret Thatcher is dead or alive, never mind have a view on it. Perhaps the best thing is to offer this opinion from a year ago, when I cared slightly more — though not much.
When the new pound coin came out, years ago, someone said it should be called a Thatcher, because it was hard, brassy and thought it was a sovereign. That’s probably the best assessment I heard of her, then or now.
Billy Bragg has put it well.
This is not a time for celebration. The death of Margaret Thatcher is nothing more than a salient reminder of how Britain got into the mess that we are in today. Of why ordinary working people are no longer able to earn enough from one job to support a family; of why there is a shortage of decent affordable housing; of why domestic growth is driven by credit, not by real incomes; of why tax-payers are forced to top up wages; of why a spiteful government seeks to penalise the poor for having an extra bedroom; of why Rupert Murdoch became so powerful; of why cynicism and greed became the hallmarks of our society.
Raising a glass to the death of an infirm old lady changes none of this. The only real antidote to cynicism is activism. Don’t celebrate – organise!