6 July 2013

Thatcher’s legacy

In an article from Harper’s Magazine I found the following:

“Economics are the method,” Margaret Thatcher told an interviewer in 1981, and “the object is to change the heart and soul.” In some ways, this was the core of Thatcherite governance, the distilled essence of all her Hayek talk and her monetarist schemes for battling inflation. The goals of politicians are ordinarily to win elections, reform this or that, and be done with it — but Thatcher’s aims were always grander. She wanted to reconfigure society altogether, to not only defeat her opponents at the polls but to wreck them for good.

And this was typical of the Eighties. The question of the decade was: What do we do about the left? The British historian Ross McKibbin sketches out Thatcher’s answer in a 2004 essay:

Her fundamental aim was to destroy the Labor Party and “socialism,” not to transform the British economy. If the destruction of socialism also transformed the economy, well and good, but that was for her a second-order achievement. Socialism was to be destroyed by a major restructuring of the electorate: in effect, the destruction of the old industrial working class.

What’s really remarkable about the career of Margaret Thatcher is the degree to which she succeeded in carrying out this contemporary Thermidor. The Iron Lady privatized countless industries, public housing, transit, and even water utilities. She abolished local governments, deregulated banks, instituted a punishingly regressive poll tax, and crushed the power of organized labor.

Of course, there’s a phrase for that: class warfare.

© mathew 2017