Uninformed and/or misguided souls in the United States have been posting condolences for Margaret Thatcher via their favorite social media outlets today. After all, she’s the female half of capitalism’s favorite duo, the Super Free Marketeers. Americans have been taught to worship Ronald Reagan and his British counterpart for saving us from the clutches of godless Communism. As she so eloquently (and ignorantly) put it, “the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
The “Iron Lady” has been much more maligned elsewhere in the world, including places where she had a direct and lasting impact on the people. Impromptu celebrations have broken out and many are asking for Ireland to declare April 8th a national holiday in honor of her death. Americans likely won’t hear much of these celebrations, nor the unfavorable comparisons to Hitler from workers who lived through both, and if they do, they may find themselves wondering how everyone can hate freedom so much.
I wanted to take a moment tonight and provide a few of those reasons for anyone who is unaware of the atrocities of Margaret Thatcher. As an added bonus, I’ll demonstrate how little we’ve learned from her actions against the people.
One of Thatcher’s biggest legacies was to kickstart the opposition to workers’ rights. Describing the working class as “an enemy within,” she struck hard and struck often to remove the right to organize and the power to challenge the owner class as a cohesive workforce. When coal workers were threatened with massive layoffs, the miners dropped their tools and walked off the job in solidarity. Thatcher responded by putting union-busters in charge of the coal board, completely ignoring the strikers’ demands, and eventually simply giving the entire coal industry away to private industry. Nearly thirty years later, the economy of the UK still reels from the effects of Thatcher’s attacks.
In short, Thatcher introduced legislation to replace funding for local governments. To that point, the funding was a percentage of the rental value of your property, considered a sound method for determining a valid ratio of contributions from each taxpayer based on their estimated wealth. Under Thatcher’s system, everyone in a community would pay the same exact tax regardless of their wealth or ability to pay. This system was the downfall of Thatcher, causing mass riots throughout the region that ended her political career.
In the last election, the right was not only adamant about broadening the tax base (making the impoverished pay more to alleviate the “burden” on the wealthy), but they outright pushed poll taxes through “Voter ID” laws. Some went as far as openly acknowledging that it was a scam to prevent left-leaning voters from casting a ballot.
Overthrowing Elected Leaders and Supporting Dictators
Not only was Thatcher comfortable with supporting a violent military dictator whose soldiers regularly raped, tortured, and killed citizens (WARNING: Graphic descriptions of violence) in Chile, she considered the dictator a “very dear friend” and regularly met with him while he was hiding from extradition for his crimes against humanity. She stated that Augusto Pinochet “brought democracy to Chile,” despite the fact that he was violently (and undemocratically) replacing a freely elected and popular leader in Socialist Salvador Allende.
In 2013, we’re receiving more information every day about U.S. attempts to destabilize Venezuela and replace the wildly popular and successful PSUV with a puppet dictator more willing to hand over all the country’s natural resources to American corporations.
One could go far deeper into Thatcher’s history of racism (including the UK version of NYC’s popular “stop and frisk”) and her war against the people of Ireland, but you’re probably starting to get the picture. This is not a woman to be celebrated; this is the passing of a tyrant, an oppressor. Thatcher’s legacy will be that of catastrophe, of riots, of increased poverty.
My condolences are to the working people of the UK, to the coal miners, to the republicans of Northern Ireland, that they have to live with the consequences of a world influenced by the ill-conceived policies of Margaret Thatcher. My biggest hope is that we can learn from her mistakes and stop repeating them. That would be a fitting legacy.