Class Hatred and Bad Memories of Thatcher

The hatred for the late Margaret Thatcher, former British prime minister, among a broad segment of the British public has manifested itself in visible and undeniable ways in the week after her death, but these are not highlighted on American television. The status quo corporate media are afraid of admitting that policy-makers who favor the rich and punish the middle and working classes are deeply hated by the latter. Dead leaders have to be represented on television as being revered by the entirety of the public (an imaginary public for which the corporate anchors can serve as ventriloquists). That many Americans despise Ronald Reagan is likewise an unmentionable on the airwaves.

Demonstrators gathered Saturday at Trafalgar Square to denounce Thatcher’s Neoliberal policies, which enriched the wealthy and harmed the middle classes, holding what they called a “death party.” Middle and working class Britons well remember how they defeated her hated poll tax and hastened her from office.

Then, Britons have been commemorating Thatcher’s death by downloading “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead,” in high volumes, pushing it to the top of the download charts. The British Broadcast Company was put in a difficult position, because it has a show that plays the top downloaded songs, and it didn’t want to be seen as endorsing this use of the tune. The BBC dealt with the problem by only playing an excerpt of the song, which satisfied no one.

British soccer fans for some time have been singing at the matches, “When Maggie Thatcher Dies, we’re going to have a party!” because of what they see as her dishonesty in the Hillsborough affair.

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32 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    Will Hutton provides a very rational epitaph on Mrs Thatcher’s baleful effect on the UK economy.

    link to

    “The empress has no clothes or, at least, not the clothes in which so many want to robe her. Despite all the praise, Mrs Thatcher did not arrest British economic decline, launch an economic transformation or save Britain. She did, it is true, re-establish the British state’s capacity to govern. But then, although she wanted to trigger a second industrial revolution and a surge of new British producers, she used the newly won state authority to worsen the very weaknesses that had plagued us for decades. The national conversation of the last six days has been based on a fraud. If the Thatcher revolution had been so transformatory, our situation today would not be so acute.


    The empress really has no clothes. Wednesday’s funeral is a tribute to the myth and the conservative hegemony she created. If the royal family is concerned, as is reported, that the whole affair will be over the top, they are right. Mrs Thatcher capitalised on a moment of temporary ungovernability that, to her credit, she resolved, then sold her party and country an oversimple and false prospectus. The landslide Mr Blair won in 1997 was to challenge it, but he did not understand at the time, nor understand now, what his mandate meant. The force of events is at last moving us on. But Britain has been weakened, rather than strengthened, by the revolution she wreaked.”

  2. Based on a guess those are Liverpool fans, not just “British” soccer fans. A difference worth knowing. I don’t think you’d get a similar video from a southern team’s fans.

  3. Hi Juan,

    Another thing that has deeply divided public opinion, even amongst the right wing commentariat, is Thatcher’s being afforded a state funeral in all but name next Wednesday, with full military honors, estimated to cost the public purse between 8 & 10 million pounds (the government are refusing to release the full cost till after the funeral). This, in a time of deep austerity here, where hundreds of thousands of households are being adversely affected by very recent (April 1st) changes to the tax and welfare system, is a real sore spot with many.

  4. To claim that “The hatred for the late Margaret Thatcher, former British prime minister, among a broad segment of the British public…,” vastly overstates the case. Demonstrations “celebrating” her death have occurred, and, by the way, they have been reported by the US news media. Participants in these macabre demonstrations, however, hardly represent a “broad segment of the British public.” Don’t forget, it was a “broad segment of the British public” that elected her, and re-elected her, for three terms as Prime Minister. For the most part, those who are so vociferously cheering Thatcher’s death remind me of the old Chinese saying about those who have their “cushy” positions taken away from them as having their “iron rice bowls broken.” Before Thatcher, there were plenty of people in the public sector who thought they had a life-long sinecure guaranteed them. After Thatcher took office, they had their iron rice bowls broken, and they have been resentful ever since.

    Margaret Thatcher’s policies were, by and large, good for Britain. Prior to Thatcher’s election, Britain had descended to the level of a Third World country. It had a GDP lower than Italy’s at the time. Inflation was running at over 20 percent. The bloated public sector (which was most of the economy; a private sector hardly existed!) was feather-bedded with far too many employees who were inefficient, creating a drag on the economy, like barnacles on the hull of a ship. Productivity was low. The British Miners’ Union held Britain in a stranglehold, and the British public was held hostage through Union demands and strikes. As a result, in the mid and late 1970s, Britain for a while went to a three-day work-week, there were power outages and brownouts, erratic heating, and garbage littered the streets. Meanwhile, the leader of the Miners’ Union, Arthur (“Red Arthur”) Scargill would take vacations on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria and visit his friend, Bulgarian Communist leader Todor Zhivkov. (I was living in Sofia, Bulgaria at the time and noted his presence.)

    When Thatcher assumed the position of Prime Minister, she privatized much of the inefficient and unproductive state sector and, as a result, it became more efficient and productive. GDP went up. She reined in the Miners’ Union that had been the source of so many of the problems facing the British, from forcing the three-day work-week to the power outages and lack of heating. Using monetary policy, Thatcher raised interest rates and reined in galloping inflation. And, of course, when Argentina invaded the British territory of the Falkland Islands, she sent the British fleet and forces to repel the invading Argentine forces, defeating them and reclaiming the Falklands. As a result of Thatcher’s policies, Britain became competitive again and assumed its place as a vibrant, respectable, medium-sized political and economic player on the world stage.

      • Others are welcome to their views. I recommend the following sources for your edification, regarding the depths to which Britain had fallen before the election as Prime Minister of Margaret Thatcher.

        “When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies” by Andrew Beckett.

        “Crisis, What Crisis? Britain in the 1970s” by Alwyn W. Turner.

        Margaret Thatcher dealt with a failing Britain, as described in the above-cited works, and got the nation moving again.

    • ‘When Thatcher assumed the position of Prime Minister, she privatized much of the inefficient and unproductive state sector and, as a result, it became more efficient and productive.’

      what…like the trains? and the energy sector? for reals? What we have now closely resembles cartels….

      After industry fell by 24% by 1983 and manufacturing was decimated, the spoils from the north sea oil reserves were used to bank roll welfare for the newly unemployed, topping 3 million. the ‘big bang’ of financial deregulation led to a growth in the economy in the late 80s, which fueled a bubble which then threw Britain back in recession by the early 90s. This legacy and the political power of the city (the financial hub of London, similar to Wall Street) has cast an ugly shadow in lieu of the financial meltdown of 2008. I’m not sure that’s something to be proud of. Yes, she won three elections, which was primarily the result (in the 2nd and 3rd elections) of the Labour party splitting to form the SDP . And her electoral victories each garnered her a decreasing percentage of the vote – less than all preceding post war Tory victories – and getting about only a third of registered voters. Call me cynical, but I also recall the Falkland war as a means to boost dismal poll ratings: it shot up nearly 20% by the end of the conflict. The social housing crisis is another legacy of Thatcherism, as new social housing has never been built to replace those homes that were sold off, resulting in the massive (5 million, give or take) waiting list.

      It’s this type of glossy historical revisionism that is winding people, a lot of people, up. Juan’s statement doesn’t ‘vastly overstate the case’. . . Many, many towns just simply have never recovered from the effects of her policies… and her death is opening some old wounds.

      Not to mention she was pals with Pinochet…and gave her approval to her son’s involvement with the failed coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea… and sided with the apartheid regime in south africa and called Mandela a terrorist. . . and supported the Khmer Rouge… I could go on. The police have just given their ‘approval’ (read: won’t be arrested) for people lining the streets during her casket’s short jaunt, via gun carriage, to turn their backs on her as she passes: a gesture even the tory government can’t ignore.

      • Your comment neither addresses nor refutes anything I wrote regarding Margaret Thatcher’s accomplishments in setting Britain’s course after the debacle of the 1970s, Jackson. You would do well to remember how bad things were when she took power. I know a lot of “iron rice bowls” were broken as a result of her policies, but they deserved to be broken.

        • I just re-read my comment, I think you’ll find it does actually address and refute quite a few things you said…

        • “I just re-read my comment, I think you’ll find it does actually address and refute quite a few things you said…”

          So you are saying that Thatcher’s policies:

          A. Did not result in lower inflation?
          B. Did not result in greater efficiency and productivity?
          C. Did not result in increased GDP?
          D. Did not result in the end of the three-day workweek?
          E. Did not result in paring down the bloated public sector?
          F. Did not result in reining in the Miner’s Union that constantly held the British public hostage to its demands?

          I suggest that you look up the economic statistics for the UK during the late 1970s, and then after Thatcher became PM. I think you will find that you are wrong on all counts and have refuted nothing in my comment above. Furthermore, I suggest, as a good primer, the following works.

          “When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies” by Andrew Beckett.

          “Crisis, What Crisis? Britain in the 1970s” by Alwyn W. Turner.

          I think you will find just how much Thatcher’s policies, in fact, did turn Britain around.

        • She didn’t win a majority of the vote. She took advantage of Britain’s 3-party system to rule with a minority, just like Cameron.

          As for “rice bowl” talk, it sounds a lot like Reagan’s racist myth of the streets being full of welfare queens in Cadillacs. Now they’re in fact full of homeless veterans and the mentally ill. Are the beneficiaries of Thatcherism truly the angels you make them out to be, and the coal miners she ruined truly villains? Seems these angels created a Ponzi scheme of real estate speculation, which ate up much of the real wealth supposedly created by the oil she lucked into. So when things collapsed again in 2008, what was the right-wing solution? Blame the poor again, and sabotage national healthcare to prepare the way for corporate takeover. Just like our GOP, Bill, whom you ostensibly oppose.

      • The Narrative tries to tell us that what the most of us are emoting is “class hatred.” Feels to me more accurately to be “righteous anger,” from this direction. That is, from the standpoint of people who make it possible, by working themselves into early graves and keeping little enough of the wealth they create, for people like Baroness Thatcher and the Bushes and the Kochs and so on to Live Large and play their lives’ incredibly rich music on our and our children’s bones. Note that the mythical “class anger” is supposedly only a unidirectional, irrational, unsupportable, “unfair” entity. On the other hand, one is not supposed to examine or critique the motions and behaviors of the Few, who are the very least are guilty of “class disdain.” Nothing new there — there’s an interesting, simple bipole: “noblesse oblige,” at the one end, and “droits de seigneur” at the other. Which end of that stick do you think you are more likely to be beaten with?

        Interesting, of course, that some of us who sneer at and snigger about “broken rice bowls” appear to carry their own very comfortable ones to the table of the Haves, where they speak so consistently in support of and on the part of their Betters…

        • “Interesting, of course, that some of us who sneer at and snigger about “broken rice bowls””

          As usual, Mr. McPhee, you miss the point. Nothing wrong with “rice bowls” that most people have as a result of their earned efforts. You conveniently omit any mention of my metaphorical “iron rice bowls” that were the result of the bloated public sector, overstaffed with inefficient employees who were secure in their guaranteed life-long sinecures (that is, until Margaret Thatcher became PM).

        • As usual, Bill, your point is drawn from a careful selection of “talking points” and a choice of bits of history, hedged about by an insistence that any discussion must hew to the frame you erect. Formed, of course, by an affection for the point of view of the Few, and mandatory adherence to the “rules” of the Great Game that is one big negative-sum engagement after another. You hint at your CV, but never lay it out — I’m sure you feel you’ve earned YOUR iron rice bowl, but others might differ.

          AS to the “bloated public sector,” have the CEOs of GE or Goldman Sachs or LockheedMartin or Monsanto or BP “earned” rice bowls of the size and oppressive shape that they have people to carry around for them? How about down on K Street? And in the Pentagon? Of course, there are those Welfare Queens and The 47% to get all excited about…

          There’s a happy medium, a meta-stable set of economic elements, and it’s pretty clear that Thatcher and Reagan and others drove, and their successors are driving, the processes into personally beneficial but large-scale UNstable dysequilibrium. Apologize all you want…

    • “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”

      This piece from the Financial Times describes the parlous state of UK Finances and how the Energy Utility is now the posession of the French, and their Chinese investors.

      link to

      It would seem that Mrs Thatcher’s victory over and destruction of the National Union of Mineworkers eventually allowed a foreign monopoly to control a key national utility.

      The US worries about Chinese Hackers getting control of their grid. In UK it is easy. They just buy the thing.

    • You could say all the same things about her dear friend Pinochet saving Chile from Allende. Meaning from the evil poor. Say it, Bill, let’s see what kind of man you are.

      I double dare you to defend the poll tax, an anti-democratic trick right out of our own Jim Crow.

  5. Here in Sweden, there has been lots of reporting on how Thatcher’s death is celebrated. Some point out that Chavez’ death wasn’t. I kind of agree; it seems class hatred mostly goes one way.

    • I assure you, class hatred swings both ways, it just manifests itself differently. You have the death celebrations that are partaken by those of little political voice in the UK who are unhappy with the legacy of Thaterism. But you also have policies enacted by those currently in power (the coalition cabinet in the UK is made up of 23 millionaires out of 29 ministerial posts) that are negatively affecting the poorest in society, another form of class hatred (to rattle off the first statistic that comes to mind, some 200,000 children are now below the poverty line due directly to their policies since 2010, something the government freely admits). I don’t recall the right wing press anywhere lamenting osama bin laden’s death parties as macabre, by the way.

      • I’m sorry I can’t accept those assurances. That a set of policies seems to disadvantage some people according to some statistics doesn’t mean any hatred is involved.

        Socialists’ main focus is on the axis of oppressor vs oppressed, and that make them especially prone to polarize and work up hatred. The millionaires you are talking about likely focus on coercion vs freedom or on the axis of barbarism vs civilisation.

        It is not very constructive to demonize your political opponents in a democratic society. Extremely few are evil enough to deliberately try to make it worse for others. Instead, they are trying to improve what they see as the major problems. (And, of course, they try to get reelected.)

        • “Extremely few are evil enough to deliberately try to make it worse for others. Instead, they are trying to improve what they see as the major problems.”

          That MIGHT be true in Sweden, though it at least appears that there’s a certain problem from the Right, even there. But you must not see much of US politics, or for that matter British or French or Greek or even Israeli politics. In the US, we have a kind of uni-party system which actually has a lot of people in power who pretty much inarguably are trying very hard to make life a lot better for themselves and the small set of wealthy folks they are part of, and doing so by impoverishing and dispossessing most of the rest of us. All while claiming to have only the highest of motives and best of intentions.

        • @JtMcPhee: On the contrary, I have a fairly good grasp of major foreign nations’ politics, as it interests me. You might be right regarding Israel, but that’s not the typical democracy. In the mature Western democracies, though, my statement holds true.

          As a grass root middle-class economic literate guy thinking mainly on the freedom-coercion axis, I know where these policies come from, and I know that my agreement with many of them is motivated not by hatred, nor by the wish to disadvantage any groups, but by what I see as the major problems or obstacles for the progress of all humans.

          From your point of view, handouts to disadvantaged groups (oppressed) are or should be the norm, as those then only “take back” what is rightfully theirs, right? If those handouts are scaled back a little. i.e. if there’s there’s less coercion from my perspective, then that’s an attack on the oppressed, stealing what is rightfully theirs and a hand-out to the rich.

          As many socialists, you are blind to the world-view of others. You assume that everyone thinks on the same oppressor-oppressed axis of conflict as you do, and thus that everyone has to be on one of these sides. However, that is not true. Neither we in the libertarian camp, nor those in the conservative camp, generally have any class hatred. That’s your thing.

        • Jesper, plaudits for a nice libertarian combination of putting words in the other’s mouth and raising up straw men. You completely misrepresent and overpaint my comment. Nice to think about the world in terms of nice libertarian and conservative “axes,” but Rand and Rothbard kind of demonstrably do not lay out any kind of working system — rather one which includes the STRONG people taking what they can take from others. And anyone not clear on what the libertarian Paradise looks like ought to look here, in six interesting parts:

          link to

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        • Jesper, America was founded by rich people who imported slaves for a living, or stole land from Indians for a living. So don’t tell me that people aren’t evil enough to deliberately make life worse for others – we’re living proof that it can be a winning strategy. As for the practical matter of hurting people who can vote, we are in the process of finding ways to take away the vote from blacks yet again, and branding them all as likely criminals who can be gunned down or wrongly convicted whenever a white sheriff or district attorney needs to scare up white votes in an election (bet you don’t have that in Sweden). Hatred is a winning strategy if:

          a. it increases the turnout of your faction more than it does the enemy’s

          b. if you have an end game to disenfranchise the enemy for good, by putting them in prison, or terrorizing them into moving away, in sufficient numbers

          Note that the wealthy class of the South has always supported these actions, all the way to Civil War, just as the rich supported murderous tyrants against democracy in Spain, Chile, etc. How many millions died from Western colonialism backed by business interests?

        • @JTMcPhee: You wave my comment away and then start attacking libertarianism. That’s fine, and off-topic. Again, class hatred is your burden to bear, not mine.

          @Super390: Some people are definitely evil enough to deliberately make life worse for others and I’m not saying that politicians are much better than the common man. BUT, the usual discourse among leftists that their political opponents in modern democracies are out to get them is still mostly wrong.

          These opponents are not motivated by class hatred. They want to increase freedom or preserve civilisation as they see it. Their policies may lead to bad outcomes, they may “disenfranchise” people, but that’s not the goal.

          You may accuse them of some kind of crime of neglect, since they don’t care that much about your oppressor-oppressed axis, or the plight of the “oppressed”. But they still don’t hate you. If you believe they do, you are kind of dehumanising your enemy and you make democracy less viable. It is all built on trust, and both you and society will get farther on trust and cohesion than on hate and despair. And that’s EVEN if you (like me) want a radically different society.

          Also, please note that if you understand your opponents, you can more easily create alliances and form public opinions. For instance, in my country, socialists have allied themselves with conservatives on prostitution, since prostitutes can be seen as oppressed and civilization threatening at the same time. When conservatives and socialists understood each other and started to play on each others’ arenas, my own libertarian camp had no chance.

  6. Tampa Bay Times, April 14, 2013, says “Thatcher acknowledged that it was impossible to balance the government’s books without raising revenues elsewhere–which she did…by boosting taxes on consumption.”

    A consumption tax is a tax on goods and services. The tax base of such a tax is the money spent on consumption. Consumption taxes are usually indirect, such as a sales tax or a value added tax.

    Thatcher’s consumption tax falls mostly on poor and middle class people who pay a larger percentage of their income on food and necessities while wealthy people pay a smaller percentage of their income on food and clothing.

    Yes, Thatcher cut taxes on the wealthy and boosted taxes on the lower classes.

    Thatcher supporters cheer for Maggie, but her policies did not prevent the present economic slump in Great Britain.

    She was an Iron Lady. May she rust in peace.

  7. >The BBC dealt with the problem by only playing an excerpt of the song…..

    That’s simply good news management. Excerpts work. Excerpt of a war, of a massacre of people just like you or me, a speech, of a report, and the follow-on permutations: excerpt of a report on a report, excerpt of an opinion about a report on a report, excerpt by a raving maniac about a report, Fox News Special Report, and so on. It’s not about reporting or getting the story straight and un-bent, it’s about people management.

    Take today’s story about the GCC, not the GOP Gynaecological Control Commission, the other one, where “GCC countries met on Sunday in Saudi Arabia to discuss the risk of radiation spreading over the Gulf if Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant is damaged by another earthquake.” What’s fascinating about this news is that an earthquake threat to a nuke plant (No! not Diablo) was deemed news, but Israel’s thousand or so threats to bomb, attack, lay waste, nuke, or explosively neutralize Iran’s ‘threat to Mid East security’ and generally deliver the world from Iran, albeit under a lingering radiation cloud many times larger than even Fukushima if Israel or its dumb big brother got involved, wasn’t. News.

    “…wasn’t.” Now that’s a pithy excerpt of the last paragraph, entirely true and in context, irrefutable and worthy of ABC or an in-depth report by Thirteen Minutes. Fox would excerptize it as “bomb, Iran, attack, Iran, lay waste, Iran” and be absolutely accurate.

  8. Following the good professor’s example of journalistic rigor, I thought I’d save you all some time and excerpt the top world news of today. Be warned this is a densified news burst from which all young people, and most of the rest, are advised to immediately seek shelter or a channel change if the slightest feelings of inadequacy, discomfort, boredom arise.

    killed concern congress Israel Iran China Putin claimed oil invest victim terror reported fire theft unemployed refugee flood earthquake

    That’s probably enough to think about for a first session. Or you can simply select an article, go to Tools, Options, and Randomize, and get the same effect, but that wouldn’t be an excerpt.

  9. The ding dong excerpt hasn’t been played yet, the official chart is broadcast on Sunday afternoons so it will be played sometime between now and 7pm GMT.

  10. Thatcher is almost as mythical a being as was Princess Diana. Neither of these people were really any kind of higher being and were just people who the media have built up into some kind of saints. I was working in Kensington when Princes Diana died and it was staggering to see thousands and thousands of people bring expensive bunches of flowers to lay on the pavement outside her home. None of these people knew this woman or had ever even seen her in the flesh. It was a kind of frightening hysteria whipped up by the media. Thatcher’s life was much the same and she is really only famous for taking on the unions which prime ministers before her had failed to do. The notion she should have a state funeral is absurd and is once again, driven by the media who are painting her into some kind of superior being, which she isn’t.

  11. That one side can wage class war dispassionately, i.e., without hate, hardly speaks well of them. Such cold, calculated destruction and deceit, rationalized as the pursuit of freedom and the greater good, is sociopathic.
    One didn’t see parties (on the news) celebrating the death of Chavez in large part because his policies improved the lives of far more people than they harmed. That didn’t stop the western media from engaging in their own orgy of rewriting history and his legacy, trying desperately to villianize him during the death watch and after his passing.
    Thatcher’s gender is neither a cause for celebration nor denigration. While I shudder at the thought of her being held up as a role model, I am not comfortable with any non-gender neutral invective hurled her way.
    Hopefully we can all celebrate with a state funeral for T.I.N.A. in the near future.

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