The death of Thatcher – your views

Glenn Greenwald writing in the Guardian earlier this week argued that upon their demise public figures are due a frank, rather than respectful assessment. The ‘death etiquette’ which means we shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, should not apply to public figures he maintains. The demand for ‘respectful silence’ is, he asserts, politically irresponsible.

“Those who admire a public figure are not silent at all.” he notes. “Demanding that no criticisms be voiced to counter that hagiography is to enable false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of bad acts, distortions that become quickly ossified and then endure by virtue of no opposition and the powerful emotions created by death. When a political leader dies, it is irresponsible in the extreme to demand that only praise be permitted but not criticisms.”

During Margaret Thatcher’s time in office the ILP stood against much of what she said and did. ILPers fought hard against policies like the YTS scheme, the cut backs in local government, policies that ensured high and persistent unemployment, and attacks on the health service.

The ILP stood with many others in supporting the miners’ strike in 1984/5. And the ILP led the way in arguing that the left, and particularly the Labour leadership, should lead a broad, inclusive campaign against the Poll Tax.

However, unlike many on the left, we recognised that her politics had considerable support in the country. While, in her early years, some thought she would be defeated quickly and easily, we recognised that developing a successful alternative would be a long, hard process.

In the end, the Tories were replaced in office only by a new Labour leadership that accepted much of what she had done. While Thatcher is gone, Thatcherism, unfortunately, continues to exert a huge influence on British politics.

Now is the time for critical reflection on her politics and her lasting impact on Britain. In a media climate that is already producing the hagiography Greenwald warns about, it is also time for those who opposed her to air our recollections and our emotions.

We invite you here to post in the comments below your thoughts, assessments, memories, humour and links to pieces you think provide the right kind of critical appraisal of Thatcher’s legacy.

5 Comments

  1. Ernie Jacques
    11 April 2013

    Margaret Thatcher was (to my mind) a nasty and divisive former leader of a nasty party. The damage she and the Tories did to millions of working people, to families and to whole communities is shocking in its scale and breath. The British people are now reaping the cost from her de-industrialisation and deregulation legacy, and of her attacks on the trade union movement.

    Let’s not forget also that this is a former prime minister who consistently vilified Nelson Mandela as a terrorist, who was an unrepentant supporter of the Pinochet regime in Chile, and who is on record as having an admiration for political reprobates such as Robert Mugabe and Silvio Berlusconi as well as for thoroughly ghastly and repugnant middle eastern monarchs and dictators. To my mind she has no redeeming features.

    The sycophantic media and the compliant flattery of politicians and celebrities (including senior Labour MPs), while unsurprising, is nevertheless nauseating and repellent in its scale and stomach-turning submissiveness. To add to the insult, my taxes will be contributing to her funeral.

    I and many hundreds of thousands British citizens, if not millions, can have no respect for such a malevolent and ruthless women.

    For me, it is good riddance to a hateful, arrogant, vile and obnoxious woman.

  2. Will
    12 April 2013

    Among the fog of hagiography the following seemed to lighten the mood a bit for me…

    Not always a fan but Ken Loach’s quip was good:
    “Let’s privatize her funeral. Put it out to competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. It’s what she would have wanted.”

    And Steve Bell’s cartoon made me laugh out loud (as only he can):
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cartoon/2013/apr/08/margaret-thatcher-death-steve-bell-cartoon

    Will

  3. Jonathan
    14 April 2013

    A public funeral for such a divisive figure is wrong. She divided the country, and because of her international influence it is not unreasonable to lay the blame for the crash of 2008 and the world’s economic woes at her feet.

  4. Ian
    18 April 2013

    Friends, friends, friends………..she was WRONG. Catastrophically WRONG. It isn’t ALL about money. And greed isn’t good. That IMHO should be our message. We won’t win hearts and minds for a gentle, libertarian, humane, democratic Socialism by being hateful and venomous.

  5. Ernie Jacques
    20 April 2013

    Ian is right when he says we will not win hearts and minds for a gentle, libertarian, humane and democratic socialism by being hateful.

    In my experience, the ILP has all of these desired attributes and more. By and large the ILP it is a compassionate, kind, thoughtful and generous political organisation that tries hard to accept and understand different opinions as a fundamental tenant of its political perspective and its philosophy and modus-operandi.

    That is what attracted me to the ILP in 1974 when I joined the organisation. And while I fully accept that taken out of context, my comment on the death of Margaret Thatcher might seem hard, disrespectful, and heartless and most definitely could have been worded better, the point about my statement is that it is also very important not to allow right-wing politicians, sycophants, apologists and the ruling class to rewrite history.

    Don’t let’s forget that this was a person who came into office as prime minister by quoting St Francis of Assisi, saying: “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.”

    Well, without going over old ground, she behaved and ruled this country in the exact opposite way, as any objective assessment of her stewardship will (I think) testify. She brought about disharmony, untruth and, for millions of working people, no hope and utter despair.

    The only time I witnessed a modicum of humanity from this women was when she left office (she was forced out) in tears.

    It is just a pity she and her supporters could not find it in themselves to shed a few tears for the hundreds of thousands of her people put out of work, or a few tears and sympathy over the many thousands of communities and families whose lives were wrecked by her economic, social and political policies.

    To my mind she was a prime minister, and a human being, whose policies had huge inhumane and cruel consequences that are still being felt more than 30 years after she made her Francis of Assisi statement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *