Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Ghost of Thatcher Past?

In a campaign season when Newt Gingrich experienced at least a brief resurgence by claiming that he is "unconventional," in the mode of Thatcher or Reagan, the type of analysis offered below, from Germaine Greer, is especially urgent. I was especially struck by Rupert Murdoch's integral role in the rise of Thatcher (a prehistory rarely told in the US) and by her explanation of the downfall of trade unions in Britain. Might some of the same be said of failings of unions in the US that predisposed sectors of the public to believe conservative rhetoric aimed at obliterating them?

The alliance between the Maggie machine and the Murdoch media made possible the ultimate defeat of the print unions and the modernisation of the newspaper industry. And another brick was added to the rising edifice of Thatcherism.

Thatcher's strength derived directly from her limitations. If she had been better read, if she had been afflicted with imagination, if she had had a sense of humour, if she had had anywhere near as much insight into the lives of ordinary people as she claimed to have, she would have been unable to pursue her headlong career, riding roughshod over the consensus towards the property-owning debtor economy in which we now struggle. If socialism had been in better shape, she would not have been able to turn it into a dirty word or confuse it with totalitarianism and state monopoly capitalism. If the trade unions had not betrayed their own class, if they had understood the importance of organising all workers, including women, including those in the service sector, if they had not institutionalised inequality, the people might have defended the cause of labour. 

Thatcher thought that she and Reagan overthrew the Soviet Union, but the fact is that, like old Labour, it simply fell apart. The Thatcher phenomenon was only made possible by the weakness and indecisiveness of the opposition. It is justice of the most poetic kind that Thatcher's is now the evil empire and Thatcherism a dirty word.

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