So Thatcher finally died. Who says there’s no good news any more? Her last abode was a suite at the Ritz in London, a nursing home for the incurably rich and snobbish. Old and frail, memory and mind sapped and wandering, rootless and parasitic, she had grown into a grotesque caricature of the capitalism she worked for – the capitalism we in Britain have yet to destroy.
When she was driven from office by popular disdain and the cowardice of her colleagues, all red-eyed in the back of a ministerial car, there were celebrations in workplaces all round the country. It was the best day for off-licences since the World Cup a quarter of a century earlier. That was a great day, but it turned out to be too soon to celebrate.
Margaret who? To many she was just a tale told to children, a monster of myth. No one under 30 today was in secondary school by the time Thatcher was finally thrown out of office, today’s school leavers not even born.
But there is a collective memory, which needs to be acquired by those without direct experience of her rule, and re-remembered by others. “There is no such thing as society,” she said, and made the thought father to the deed. She waged constant war on the working class at home, destroying our coal mines in order to destroy a union. She delighted in war abroad – Iraq, Afghanistan, Ireland, Argentina.
For all her flag-waving, it was she who masterminded the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, which set up the European Union and paved the way for the single currency. It was she who condemned Britain to the European Union’s single market and the removal of border controls. Free movement of goods, capital and labour – the three lynchpins of the EU’s assault on our sovereignty. Her very first act as prime minister was to lift controls on the export of capital. Some patriot!
It was a reactionary offensive that hasn’t stopped. Blair adored her, and her politics. Brown invited her back to Downing Street for tea, her first visit since her expulsion. Cameron and Clegg continue her work. Better for her to have lived and Thatcherism to be dead than the reverse.
As a working class we need to consider not just how we allowed her to come to power and continue in it for those 13 dreadful years, but how even more shamefully we have allowed her politics to thrive for the 21 years since she was cut off from power.
But it is too soon to dance on her grave. Until we have reclaimed our sovereignty, taken back control of our energy supply and water, our post and our rail, our telecommunications and the industries that were our life blood, that would be mere self-indulgence.
Like the undead, her hand still reaches from the grave. Thatcherism needs a stake through the heart. If you want to see the end of it, fight to rebuild Britain. ■