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Memories of Margaret Thatcher, 1925 2013 Paul Stubbs English version of http://www.banka.

.hr/komentari-i-analize/paul-stubbs-moje-sjecanje-na-margaretthatcher-44358 I was 12 years old when Margaret Thatcher, as Education Minister, cut free school milk for primary school pupils in England. That decision earned her the nick-name 'Maggie Thatcher milk snatcher' and was described by Labour's Education spokesman as "the meanest and most unworthy thing" he had seen in his 20 years in the House of Commons. Looking back, this was one of my formative political experiences, along with the Labour Governments decision in 1974 to sell warships to the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. When Thatcher was elected, surprisingly, as leader of the Conservative party in 1975, there was little to suggest the enormous impact she would have on the political, economic and social life of all of us in the United Kingdom and, indeed, in the wider world. I was a twenty year old student when she became Prime Minister in 1979, experiencing first hand her policies for the next eleven years until she resigned in November 1990 after narrowly failing to gain an outright victory over Michael Heseltine in the first round of the Conservative leadership contest. I stayed in the United Kingdom long enough to see her successor, John Major, win the next election in 1992 before I left the UK for good in May 1993. She had been the dominant political force, therefore, for just about my entire adult life in the UK. Stuart Hall, the most perceptive analyst of the period on the left, who coined the term Thatcherism, argued that the rise of the new right in the UK predated Thatchers election as Prime Minister, with its origins in the mixture of economic liberalism and social conservatism which was a strong cultural critique of both the so-called permissive society of the 1960s and the post-war consensus of a Keynesian welfare state. To Hall, Thatcher was what Hegel termed an historical individual whose life concretises wider forces that are in play. Via the Italian Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci, he began to describe Thatcherism as a hegemonic project, changing profoundly the dominant commonsense in the UK. As Thatcher herself said: Economics are the method; the object is to change the soul. Thatcher became the torch bearer of the new right, influenced by the theories of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, ideas previously espoused only by relatively marginal think-tanks such as the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute, and by fringe political figures such as Enoch Powell and Keith Joseph. Her link to Powell, discredited in the late 1960s as a result of a number of openly racist speeches, is worth exploring in more detail. In a pre-election interview in 1978, she was asked about immigration and replied as follows:
"I am the first to admit it is not easy to get clear figures from the Home Office about immigration, but there was a committee which looked at it and said that if we went on as we are then by the end of the century there would be four million people of the new Commonwealth or Pakistan here. Now, that is an awful lot and I think it means that people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture and, you know, the British character has done so much for democracy, for law and done so much throughout the world that if there is any fear that it might be swamped people are going to react and be rather hostile to those coming in."

The predicting of violence is completely Powellite, although the emphasis not on race but on culture was crucial to what became known as the new racism, here linked to a rather dehistoricised and essentialised account of the British character which, conveniently, erases the very colonialism which, later, resulted in a multi-cultural Britain, from the history books. Crucially, the speech served to bring right wing voters back to the Conservative Party many of whom had been attracted by the openly racist ideology of the extreme right National Front party.

For Hall, Thatcherist politics was a new kind of authoritarian populism, in which a strong appeal to the nation and the people could be combined with the repression of any or all who opposed the will of the people . The practical impact of this was, of course, dramatic and expressed most brutally during the coal miners strike of 1984-1985, after her victory in privatising the steel industry. This was much more than Thatchers revenge for the miners strike which had brought down the Heath Government in 1974. It was as if she had read Marxist texts such as Ernst Mandels Late Capitalism suggesting that the globalisation of financial capitalism meant that the so-called advanced economies would need to curb the power of trades unions to survive. The combination of the insistence on coal mines being economic, the building up of coal deposits so as to avoid painful power cuts, the denial of welfare payments to the dependants of strikers, the exploitation of divisions within the National Union of Mineworkers and, crucially, the use of police violence, often from distant forces because of the perceived danger of local police being loyal to the miners, contributed to Thatchers victory. This victory had a deep impact on the strength of the trades union movement and, indeed, on the nature of Britains industrial heartland and traditional coal mining communities. Just before the strike, Britain had around 130 coal mines employing 140,000 people. Today, there are fewer than 20 mines and 8,000 employees. Her most lasting legacy, perhaps, is the critique of the nanny state and its supposed cradle to the grave coddling of citizens, to be replaced by enterprise culture and personal responsibility. She was able to transform the rather esoteric ideas of monetarist economics into a war on the supposed welfare scrounger, living off benefits and encouraged by the state to lose the work ethic which is such a basis of the British character. Even today, any challenge to this championing of enterprise, responsibility and self-reliance in the name of social investment, social protection, and so on, faces an uphill struggle to gain any credibility as a popular (i.e. non-intellectual) commonsense. At the core of her philosophy, expressed in a little known act where she forced the dropping of the epithet Science from the name of the Social Science Research Council, is her idea, from a 1987 interview, that:
There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation."

The war in 1982 with Argentina over the Falkland/Malvinas islands was important not only in securing Thatchers re-election in 1983 by a landslide but, also, in fashioning a renewed national pride echoing back to the Second World War. Our lads, supported by the yellow press, could do no wrong and, indeed, any criticism of military actions, including the sinking of the Argentinian warship the General Belgrano (Gotcha was the headline of the day in The Sun newspaper), was an act of betrayal.For Thatcher, there could be no questioning of the action; we should, merely, Rejoice. Five years after the Silver Jubilee had been critiqued beautifully by the rise of punk rock, Thatcher secured a much longer lasting sense of national militaristic pride as an antidote to a kind of post-colonial melancholia. On the international stage, I will remember her as an apologist for apartheid, calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist at one time, and for her lifelong support for, and indeed friendship with, the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, visiting him in his house in London in 1999 when he was battling extradition to Spain to face charges of violations of human rights and torture during his 1973-1990 regime. The Thatcher-Reagan axis clearly provided renewed impetus for the spread of globalised neo-liberalism but also, of course, led to a much stronger critique of the communist regimes of

Eastern Europe. Her support for the independence of both Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina when no longer in office was important, at least symbolically, as she joined former Labour leader Michael Foot in calling for stronger action against Serbia, thus breaking a broad consensus that the wars were too complicated to understand or that all sides were equally responsible. The strong reactions following Thatchers death show her as a divisive but extremely important figure, whose thoughts and actions redefined commonsense by taking elements present in a previous conjuncture but marginalised, and reworking them into a unity of nation, people, and power. She was followed, of course, in the UK, by Tony Blairs Third way, a kind of Thatcherism light or Thatcherism with a human face and, now, by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition which, in many ways, is finally truly implementing and institutionalising Thatcherite policies, through its attack on welfare beneficiaries and, ironically, a post-statist conception of the big society in which the welfare state is replaced by public-private partnerships, social enterprises, charity, and, crucially, volunteer efforts. Her profound anti-EU stance has also been adapted and developed, in the current crisis conditions, as a strange mixture of support for the single market, distancing from the Euro to support the UKs financial services industry, strong racist rejection of free movement of people, and a view that the EU is too social in its agenda and spending. Thatcherism contributed to a UK which has high poverty, including endemic child poverty, increased inequality, and less solidarity than was enjoyed in the post-Second World War period which, all too easily, can be regarded as a golden age. I have joked that, whatever else happened during Thatchers period in office, some great songs were produced which will long live in the memory and, perhaps, represent the strongest cultural resistance to her culturalist hegemonic project. None is better than Elvis Costellos 1989 Tramp the Dirt Down (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-BZIWSI5UQ ). In an interview he said I cannot find any words which portray my contempt strongly enough. As an obituary, however, it is second to none, referring to a time when England was the whore of the world and Margaret was her madam and culminating in the lines And when they finally put you in the ground; Ill stand on your grave; And tramp the dirt down.