New Internationalist

Thatcher is gone but her legacy lives

cuts march
An anti-cuts protest in 1980 nicksarebi, under a CC License

Millions of us have waited for this day. Now Margaret Thatcher has finally gone. Her 11 years in office (1979-1990) left a bitter legacy in Britain. Almost everything that’s wrong in the country today came from her and successive Tory governments.

It’s an exhaustive list:

The calculated closure of mines up and down the country and the subsequent destruction of hundreds of mining communities.

The institutionalized corruption of privatising the nation’s utilities so her cohorts in the City of London could get ever richer.

Engineering the biggest transfer of wealth from the poorest to the richest ever seen in Britain.

The cynical and immoral war-mongering in the Falklands for the sole purpose of conning a politically backward electorate into securing her a further term in office.

The Poll Tax, attacks on trade union rights, riots, poverty, record unemployment, the most draconian and repressive employment legislation anywhere in the developed world, her defence of and friendship with Chilean mass-murdering dictator General Pinochet (she was also a steadfast friend to brutal tyrants such as Saddam Hussein and Indonesian dictator General Suharto who she describes as ‘One of our very best and most valuable friends’), her denouncement of Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress as ‘terrorists’ during the fight against apartheid, and the ruination of the National Health Service.

Britain today is often a paranoid, divided, mean-spirited nation, full of resentment, envy, greed and distrust. Racist, selfish, inhumane – tragically we do not see that we are now nothing but turkeys lining up to continually vote for Christmas.

Thatcher is dead but her terrible legacy lives on.

We have to rebuild the shattered, violent land she has left behind by placing people before profit – by tossing into the dustbin of history all her hate-filled bile. We must re-build communities and defend the National Health Service and the welfare state.

The best way to deal with Thatcher’s legacy is to destroy it.

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  1. #1 Em 08 Apr 13

    Everyone's forgetting the Travellers. Don't forget the Travellers.

  2. #2 Matt in London 08 Apr 13

    The Iron Lady is gone... May she rust in peace!

    More seriously, I agree with you Alan. Time to move on and to deal with her toxic legacy, to work all together to prove that there IS such thing as society! There's much to do but let's not lose hope and keep acting for the sake of each other. I am not British (I am a ’guest’ in here :) ) but I know that you people are particularly resilient, so I am sure this can be done. Today's a day to have hope for the future!

  3. #3 Phil Vanes 09 Apr 13

    A brilliant article that pretty much sums up Margaret Thatchers's legacy.
    Like millions of others, I lived through that period and saw the destruction of what was once a fairly decent land.
    After Thatcher it was all about the individual, and the no such thing as society ethos.
    Which when you you boil it all down, eqates to a me me me and sod the rest mentality that is still with many people to this day.
    The vast majority of ills in this country today can be directly traced back to Margaret Thatcher.
    We have never seen her like before and hopefully we will never see it again.

  4. #4 ciderpunx 09 Apr 13

    The best way to deal with Thatcher’s legacy is to destroy it.

    Amen to that!

    Thanks for reminding us that despite the sycophantic wall-to-wall drivel that the media will deluge us with in the coming weeks Thatcher was and remains hated as a symbol of everything that is worst about our self-serving political masters.

  5. #5 Neil 09 Apr 13

    What a silly piece.
    The mines closed because they were uneconomic - and remain so
    The utilities were bloated and incompetent and if I remember rightly the Government went to considerable lengths to get shares into the hands of the nation's many million 'Sids'
    Her advisers were strongly against the Falklands war as failure seemed almost certain and would have been political suicide. The opportunity for a Khaki election victory must have seemed very remote indeed.
    The employment legislation sorted out the terrible industrial relations (remember Red Robbo and British Leyland?) and remains in place almost unaltered after more than a decade of Labour
    MT did not denounce Mandela as a 'terrorist', she denounced the ANC. Whatever your political alignment it is clear that some of its actions were designed to spread terror.
    Her 'friendship' with dictators might be seen as alliances against what she saw as a far greater threat - Russian communism. This was hardly a benign force in the world.
    And perhaps you had forgotten that the UK had gone bust in 1976 because it was a complete economic basket case
    I do agree that the poll tax was a terrible mistake and she did seem rather detached from reality towards the end but this country now is incalculably better than the 'paranoid, divided, mean-spirited nation, full of resentment, envy, greed and distrust. Racist, selfish, inhumane' that it was in 1979.
    If that fool Brown had not gone on an unimaginable public spending spree that we couldn't ever afford, just when the public finances were finally in shape, we would be far more better off in all senses today.

  6. #7 Rivenrod 09 Apr 13

    Along with millions of honest hard working people the world over I agree with you. As in all things, to begin the process of rebuilding, we must persuade a few amongst us to accept there are problems and where the roots of those problems lie. It's fairly obvious to me.


  7. #8 william duckworth 09 Apr 13

    I find it totally obnoxious that the Tory Grandee s are lauding Thatcher to the skies!.What a great leader she was,,How strongly she stood up for Britain etc. etc. So how come her own party forced her out of office?? None of them not one, with the exception perhaps of Michael Heseltine had the balls to tell her to reign in. I read my paper ( the Daily Mail ) today and was appalled at the fawning and down right arse kissing of our ’Darling Maggie’ Wont be getting that paper again!! Mrs Thatcher was a monster and all our countries modern day ills can be put down to her along with War Criminal Blair,And when Mr Blair is called to judgement ,He and Thatcher can stand alongside the other GREAT leaders ,Hitler,Stalin,Ghengis Khan Alex Ferguson, Tojo etc. etc.

  8. #9 Andrew 09 Apr 13

    Wow, now there is a one-sided article. While I agree that Thatcher was no saint I cannot concur with most of the issues raised in this piece. Do you seriously think that Britain could still run world-class mines? Next you'll be telling us we should build factories to manufacture inexpensive electrical goods, plant fields of corn to supply African countries and skill-up plumbers to compete with the Poles. As for nationalising the railways and other such services - WHAT ARE YOU SMOKING???

    Get a grip on reality! Stop merely ranting the leftist chant and use your intellect, Thatcher achieved some great things but also made a hash of many. She was a strong individual and her character was not exactly to my taste but surely even you can see some positives from her life?

  9. #10 Elizabeth 09 Apr 13

    And it wasn't just traditional industries. I've just read an article about how Margaret Thatcher sold off one of the world's best known research centre in plant sciences,the Plant Breeding Institute (PBI)in Cambridge to Unilever. It was publicly funded, and ’emerging as a global leader in plant molecular biology and genomics’. It's reported that Ralph Riley, a very distinguished plant geneticist, commented that this was where ’plant breeding died’ The institute was bringing in £10 million a year against expenditure of £4 million. He asked ’how can any sane person justify selling-off a profit earning research centre? But then, that was Iron Lady. She earned the title because of her dictatorial role in pushing privatisation.’ ’The first step before you privatise is to cut the life line. In this case, budget cuts and staff reduction programmes were actually aimed at stifling public sector research and thereby justify the need to bring in private funding.’

  10. #11 jane 09 Apr 13

    Might I respectfully suggest that the attitude of 'The best way to deal with Thatcher’s legacy is to destroy it.' is actually a mimic of what the article is claiming that she did to the country. The playground attitude of 'lets beat up the opposition'. I have not noticed destroying actually works anywhere in the world. It merely generates more resentment and then the wish to destroy the destroyer and so spirals onwards. Instead let us look at the detail of why she did what she did, find the reasons and then look at what was done and the results. Move forward to now and see how the results have panned out and what we can do to improve them. Destroy is a power hungry word used by those who do not have confidence and so have to get rid of everything to ensure that they remain in power, just as tyrants round the world have ruled over the millennia and continue to do so. I would have hoped that in Britain we were above such attitudes - although looking at the hash the present and last governments have made of education I am not so sure. To quote a 5 year old, not known for best behaviour in the playground, when the class was reviewing the war in Nepal in 2002, 'Why do they have to fight, why not talk about the problems.'

  11. #12 Frank Forman 09 Apr 13

    I totally agree with all the comments that you have made and just to add her friendship with Ian Smith of former Rhodesia was totally abhorrent

  12. #13 Frank Forman 09 Apr 13

    Not to forget the police state with the SAS stop and search fascist activities set up by her government that we had to live through.

  13. #14 Ben Barka 10 Apr 13

    She called the South African freedom fighters, including Nelson Mandela, terrorists

  14. #15 Eugene Rapi 10 Apr 13

    Sociopaths,or psychopaths in positions of power, abound in this anthropogenetic epoch: Hillary Clinton, Obama, Thatcher,Pinochet,and the like.They do not, however, in any way represent the majority of mankind, as evident in the pages of The Internationalist.

  15. #16 Annette 10 Apr 13

    Cripes what a one sided view! Think New Internationalist should have also printed another opinion. Have to wonder where the UK would be now if these reforms hadn't occurred.

  16. #17 DavidK 10 Apr 13

    > Cripes what a one sided view! Think New Internationalist should have also printed another opinion.

    Are you from the past?

    There are these things called ’blogs’ these days. They are a bit like op-ed pieces used to be.

  17. #18 Dave Harrison 10 Apr 13

    Alan's blog only scratches the surface of the devastation caused by this woman whose name I refuse to type in case it contaminates my computer. Selling off council houses and the utilities, supporting and arming the extremists in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein's dictatorial rule - the list is endless.
    She destroyed everything good that the country had built up over decades but most of all she destroyed the spirits of a whole nation of working people. But it had its pay- back. In robbing whole communities of all hope and aspiration (yes that word the Tories are now using) she sewed the seeds of discontent and social disorder which have erupted since the eighties.
    In going to war with the unions - which had effectively torpedoed previous Tory governments in defence of their own livelihoods - she was not going to take any prisonors. She was quite prepared to wreck the mining, car, steel, railways, docklands and many more industries in pursuit of of her anti-working class ideologies. She did it with a cruel, crushing impact and the damage is still being felt today.
    And who benefitted? The banks, finance houses and speculators which eventually brought the economy to its knees and then came cap in hand to the state to bail theme out of the mire.
    Now is not the time to celebrate. As Alan says, its when the heirs to the woman and their policies are banished for good.

  18. #19 elverik mets 10 Apr 13

    GLad she has gone, but you're right that her legacy lives on through Blair and Cameron.

  19. #20 Alan 10 Apr 13

    I'm sick and tired of listening to people who seem to think Thatcher was in some way a noble, principled person who made Britain great again, etc etc... well, to them I say read this.

    And for all those who believe it is wrong to speak ill of the dead here's what it says at the end of the piece:

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with loathing Margaret Thatcher or any other person with political influence and power based upon perceived bad acts, and that doesn't change simply because they die. If anything, it becomes more compelling to commemorate those bad acts upon death as the only antidote against a society erecting a false and jingoistically self-serving history.

    Or to put it even more simply, in the words, of David Wearing, ’People praising Thatcher's legacy should show some respect for her victims.’ That would be nice, wouldn't it? Let's please show some respect for Margaret Thatcher's victims. Let's respect those who mourn everyday because of her policies, but choose this one day to wipe away the tears. Then let's organize to make sure that the history she authored does not repeat.

  20. #21 Mike Crawshaw 11 Apr 13

    Thatcher's problem was twofold. She couldn't admit to being wrong and didn't care who got hurt in her dogmatic vision of neo-liberalism. She saw the working class and liberal value holders as the enemy. Her epitaph should be taken from her own colleague Chris Patten - 'We were told that British industry would rise like a phoenix from the ashes. Well we've seen the ashes, were's the bloody phoenix?

  21. #22 Lorenzo2012 12 Apr 13

    Thank goodness someone got it right. Did you forget she squandered The North Sea Oil Revenue.

  22. #23 Laura Swash 17 Apr 13

    Refreshing to read is as I remember it, but even then she had her fans. Her legacy of selling off the council house stock lives on in the people who have no one-bedroomed council house to which to move and are now penalised for living in a home that is ’too big’ for them. This has led to a lot of misery for the elderly and disabled people who would like to move and cannot.

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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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