New Internationalist

Dancing on Maggie Thatcher’s grave

Alan Hughes will be celebrating the death of Thatcher. Photo: TheArches, reproduced under a CC license.

I’ve just read a highly thought-provoking article by Owen Jones entitled, ‘Not all socialists want to dance on Margaret Thatcher’s grave. I want her to go on and on’.

In it he states, ‘…while Thatcher-hate is understandable, it is futile. Celebrating the prospect of her death has become an admittedly macabre substitute for the failure to defeat Thatcherism. The Iron Lady will die knowing her legacy is stronger than ever. It will only be worth celebrating when Thatcherism is finally purged from this country, and a Britain run in the interests of working people is built. Then we really can rejoice.’

It’s a good point. Are we Thatcher-haters distracted by the thought of celebrating her imminent demise (by all accounts she is seriously ill) and losing sight of the real struggle – the ongoing fight against Thatcher’s heirs, a Tory-led coalition hell bent on destroying the welfare state? Does this stop us from focusing – as Jones puts it – on building an economy that works for working people?

Well, I would argue it’s not an ‘either or’. I plan to celebrate Thatcher’s passing, along with thousands of others who loathe everything she did and everything she stands for. But I also plan to carry on fighting for a fairer, more just society; for a strong, democratic socialist alternative to free market madness.

And to those who argue that it is wrong to take joy from another human being’s death then I say take a long hard look at Thatcher’s legacy. Take a look at the communities she destroyed, the lives broken by her cruel, cynical, despicable policies. I lived through the 1980s. I witnessed the destruction of our industrial base, the millions of jobs that went with it and the tragic consequences. I witnessed the brutal attacks on the miners and their communities.

And, whatever her supporters say, Thatcher left behind a legacy of greed, entrenched inequality and economic failure. The roots of today’s current financial chaos can be traced directly back to October 1986, when the biggest revolution in the financial markets took place. Thatcher saw London being overtaken as the centre of world finance by New York and she decided that its problem was over-regulation. Ultimately this led to the now infamous credit crunch. Weak banking regulations led to the irresponsible lending that triggered what could be described as capitalism’s greatest crisis.

It goes on and on…the war in the Atlantic and the illegal sinking of the Belgrano taking with it the lives of 323 Argentines; the selling off of thousands of council houses and 20 state-controlled companies including British Telecom; the vicious attacks on Trade Union rights; the hated Poll Tax and much more.

Margaret Thatcher will never be forgiven.. She was callously indifferent to the suffering of those she made jobless or snubbed as she set out to destroy entire industries in an appalling act of political and social vandalism. Thatcher’s legacy is the drug abuse and crime in communities deliberately stripped of work and dignity. Greed was her mantra.

Someone once said: ‘Thatcher wasn’t bad for Britain…she was terrible.’

My champagne is on ice, waiting for the big day.

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  1. #1 James Williams 18 Sep 12

    Back in 2012 Thatcher pails into insignificance.

    We have more recently suffered the meddling of Tony Blair and are currently suffering with the trinity of Osborne, Cameron and Clegg destroying parts of our country in order to be able to make their wealthy friends even more wealthy. Moreover, they are perfectly happy for the elite not to pay their fair share in comparison to the rest of us.

    The only 'opposition' entertained by the media have lived the same privileged life styles as Clegg and Cameron.

    What we actually need are people that represent the working people of this country. Those which have had experience of the difficulties we all face on a day to day basis.

    Meanwhile, whilst you are dancing on the Grave of someone who is now insignificant to our current general suffering. The world is still turning.

  2. #2 Ben Langan 18 Sep 12

    Let's also not forget Chile, South Africa, Indonesia and East Timor.

  3. #3 Ji 18 Sep 12

    Whilst I agree Thatcher and her ilk have absolutely debauched, destroyed, maimed and corrupted the UK and the world I think you are playing directly in to the right's/extreme centre's hand. I think you are undermining the values of socialism and in general, the left.

    How can you win peoples' minds, their emancipation, with blatant morbid statements like this? Anyone who is teetering on the edge of questioning this corrupt society may just be put off by statements like this. Unless you are after some sort of vanguardism to purge by coercive means the power from the elites, this statement doesn't justify the means to getting a peaceful, humanistic and benevolent society. Whilst I probably share many of the same aspirations for our society and common values like you, I think it's irresponsible to profess an emotionally contradictory statement in relation to what we want to achieve.

    Just to repeat my main point, yes, it is so fucking good to have rage against these power mad and selfish people, but do you think that we will change mental conceptions for the better by outwardly professing these things? Just think of the numbers of people who wholly lambasted the 'London riot' youth as mongrels and yobs without seeking the deeper social antagonisms. I'm sure that the majority of people did not have an ounce of sympathy for them. That's before we talk of the obfuscating mainstream media that gets involved. It's not that I have forgotten the past's atrocities, it acts as a catalyst for my passion for change, but lumbering everything on Thatcher as if she is the only, the only perpetrator, is imprudent. What about Milton Friedman, Edward Bernays, Reagan, Nigel Lawson, blah, blah, blah. The list goes on doesn't it? What does it help us achieve? Don't we stick it to them when we achieve our goals? Isn't that the greatest spite for those who stamped on us and continue to?

    I believe that only until we can win the minds of the masses can we have the conditions to begin creating this society we want to see. Yes, I will probably die before I see that day, but is it not our responsibility for the next generations not to get too hasty and pre-emptive? Am I imprudent to ask for patience?

    I'd love to hear your response, let me know if I've mis-perceived your article!

  4. #7 Matt in London 19 Sep 12

    I have to agree with Ji and James Williams. I don't think her death would be something to celebrate, although I find it ironic that somebody so selfish and devoid of any compassion is now in need of 24-hour care. If whatever is left of her mental faculties allows, she might even have realised that, in the end, there IS such thing as society!

    Back to the point, let us not fall on the trap that was laid before us: Thatcher and her ilk have been trying to divide the people, as divided people will always blame each other rather than looking at the real causes of their suffering. Wishing her dead is only going to widen the divide. Let's try instead to build bridges, that is the only way I can see to attack her legacy of hatred and egoistical pseudo-fulfillment. NI published recently one of their best issues, the one about co-operation and collaboration. Let us show to Thatcher's ideological descendants what we can do when we co-operate with each other. If we exclude the most ideologically-driven right wingers, most of the people who support this system are driven by fear. Yes, fear, which then leads to hatred, but fear is the root cause of their thinking. Just read the morning papers to see why they are afraid - stories about rape, murder, non-sense, failure, etc. This just builds up into cynicism day after day. Empower people, remove their fear, give them hope, that should be our goal rather than wish for some senile crone's death :)

    (I am French, and in France we had the same problem with Sarkozy - although he didn't manage to wreck the country as badly as Mrs T. did, he created a deep divide between the French people which never was as strong as it is today. Hollande might be a champagne socialist but at least he isn't trying to widen the gap. The French and the British have in common that there is a lot to do to re-connect parts of the population alienated from each other, but let us not loose hope :) We all have the potential to do something good!)

  5. #8 Alan 20 Sep 12

    Thanks all for your comments. I'm aware that the idea of celebrating someone's death is highly contentious and raises many issues - far too many to go into here. And naturally everyone will have their own take on it.
    But can I make a few things clear. I never said I wanted Thatcher dead. She, like all of us, will have her time. And when that time comes (and hopefully I'm still around to see it) I, like many, many others Elvis Costello included will find cause for celebration. People can make of that what they will.
    But most importantly I also said I didn't believe it was an either or. I feel perfectly capable of celebrating Thatcher's passing (and of course Thatcher isn't the only one, the list is endless - and besides I couldn't afford that much time or champagne!) and continue to be part of the struggle for a better world. I know I'm male and we're not too good at multi-tasking but I think I can handle that...

    Tramp The Dirt Down (Elvis Costello)
    I saw a newspaper picture from the political
    A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously
    in pain
    She spills with compassion, as that young child's
    face in her hands she grips
    Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
    coming down on that child's lips
    Well I hope I don't die too soon
    I pray the Lord my soul to save
    Oh I'll be a good boy, I'm trying so hard to behave
    Because there's one thing I know, I'd like to live
    long enough to savour
    That's when they finally put you in the ground
    I'll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down

    When England was the whore of the world
    Margeret [sic] was her madam
    And the future looked as bright and as clear as
    the black tarmacadam
    Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isn't
    haunted by every tiny detail
    'Cos when she held that lovely face in her hands
    all she thought of was betrayal

    And now the cynical ones say that it all ends
    the same in the long run
    Try telling that to the desperate father who just
    squeezed the life from his only son
    And how it's only voices in your head and
    dreams you never dreamt
    Try telling him the subtle difference between
    justice and contempt
    Try telling me she isn't angry with this pitiful
    When they flaunt it in your face as you line up
    for punishment
    And then expect you to say ’Thank you’
    straighten up, look proud and pleased
    Because you've only got the symptoms, you
    haven't got the whole disease
    Just like a schoolboy, whose head's like a tin-can
    filled up with dreams then poured down
    the drain
    Try telling that to the boys on both sides, being
    blown to bits or beaten and maimed
    Who takes all the glory and none of the shame

    Well I hope you live long now, I pray the Lord
    your soul to keep
    I think I'll be going before we fold our arms
    and start to weep
    I never thought for a moment that human life
    could be so cheap
    'Cos when they finally put you in the ground
    They'll stand there laughing and tramp the
    dirt down

  6. #9 class_war_chaz 20 Sep 12

    I suppose we need to distinguish between the death of a person and the death of a symbol. The death of a person is always a bit sad. In this case it is far from tragic -- she'll have lived a reasonable amount of time with a quality of life that hundreds of thousands of working class people won't have a chance of living (thanks in part to the policies she enacted). But on the symbolic level we should definitely roll out the (shoplifted) champagne. Even though Thatcher may simply have been historically inevitable given the collapse in working-class militancy from the sixties and seventies and the increasing de-industrialization of the UK economy and so on.

    Incidentally, there will be a party in Trafalgar Square the Saturday after she dies:

  7. #10 Alan 20 Sep 12

    Many thanks class_war_chaz! Agree with all you say... and thanks for the info re the Trafalgar Square party.

  8. #11 Alan 21 Sep 12

    Let's give the last word to Morrissey!

  9. #12 Dave 25 Sep 12

    I will be dancing on her grave. Whilst working for an end to everything she has erected and those who blindly follow her and those policies.
    I was considering moving to Yorkshire in 2004. I went to a place just outside of Selby to look at a potential home. As we drove around to view the area a piece of graffitti ’Don't invest in Stainforth’ was in huge paint on the side of one house. The area and people looked defeated. This was within a mile of a coal mine. I remember some coal mining friends they were quiet, genuine, tolerant and confident people. Thatcher's legacy for the coal mining community of Stainforth is there in that graffitti and everything in why it was written and why it was felt important to write it ! Whatever we have they will attempt to steal it is up to us to prevent it.

  10. #13 Michael Watts 12 Oct 12

    Aside from the obvious, Thatcher and Nicholas Ridley also broke-up the UK wide Nature Conservency Council on the grounds that it was not accountable at national level, cost too much to operate and opposed the planting of exotic species of tree on the Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland, one of Europe's largest remaining raised peat bogs, which was a designated area for conservation (SSSI), and an area that had never previously supported trees. The removal of stunted and dead trees continues to this day, undertaken by the RSPB. The whole exercise was nothing more than a tax dodge for the wealthy at the expense of a priceless habitat. This was just one example of their opposition to nature conservation in Britain. And if one thinks that the replacement three agencies operate more cost effectively today, one just has to look at their current seperate budgets. Furthermore, with its passage, nature conservation in Britain today is but a pale shadow of its former self. Death can't come fast enough for her!

  11. #16 Steve Northern AND PROUD TO BE 08 Apr 13

    Great news the old cow has croaked..I cannot believe they intend to give her a State funeral?

    The only funeral she deserves is to be thrown unceremoniously down one of the mines she forced closed and then place a Headstone directly above in the design of a fully functioning Public Toilet!

    I bet that would become the countries most visited tourist attraction!

    Maggie..... REST IN PISS!!!

  12. #17 Sue Munroe 08 Apr 13

    Never has a death caused so much happiness! I just wish my dad was still alive to see Thatcher buried deep underground. I think, after someone has put a stake through her heart, she should be placed deep into a mine shaft. I only hope that none of he money I have paid in tax goes on seeing her off. Is there a petition I can sign or a protest I can attend to try to stop my money going on her funeral?? Excuse me if this doesn't read fluently but my family AndI have just drunk two bottles of prosseco to celebrate Thatcher's demise. Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay!

  13. #18 Sue Munroe 09 Apr 13

    Never has a death caused so much happiness! I just wish my dad was still alive to see Thatcher buried deep underground. I think, after someone has put a stake through her heart, she should be placed deep into a mine shaft. I only hope that none of he money I have paid in tax goes on seeing her off. Is there a petition I can sign or a protest I can attend to try to stop my money going on her funeral?? Excuse me if this doesn't read fluently but my family AndI have just drunk two bottles of prosseco to celebrate Thatcher's demise. Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay!

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About the author

Alan Hughes a New Internationalist contributor

Alan Hughes was a graphic artist at New Internationalist. He retired in 2014. He is a life-long socialist and trade unionist and is currently involved in the Keep Our NHS Public Campaign. He is passionate about The Beatles and has supported Aston Villa FC for over 50 years. He lives in Oxford with his daughter.

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