The eulogies for public figures who served the right interests are always bloated and collective amnesia keeps their victims and wrongs out of sight and mind.  On the day Margaret Thatcher died, Barack Obama, as expected, gushed that the “The world has lost one of its true champions of freedom and liberty…”

It gets worse.  Pope Francis, hailed Baroness Thatcher for her "promotion of freedom”.  Neither man bothered to explain what they meant by freedom or whose freedom Thatcher had actually fought for.  Grandiose tributes like these – as well as being a slap in the face for British working class people who saw their lives blighted in the 1980s and beyond — are politically motivated and intended to hide uncomfortable contradictions.

Like all modern politicians, Thatcher had a vision of freedom but it was narrow and placed a price on everything.  Human values were denigrated and freedom was reduced to shabby, private consumption.  Thatcher sought to create a nation of atomized individuals and families, whose social position and rights were to be determined by wealth. 

Those without financial or social capital should be allowed to disappear. The state was no longer to be a neutral arbitrator between labour and capital but to ensure private business interests were protected and to let the “enemies within” know who the masters were.

To these ends, Thatcher, far from being a feminist trail-blazer, was chosen by a coterie of right-wing economists and businessmen in the mid-1970s, who saw her as a fellow ideologue willing to start unraveling the post-war consensus.  The method was to be monetarism, a radical capitalist program never fully tested before (except in Augusto Pinochet’s Chile). 

Public assets were sold off to private investors, social spending slashed, banks deregulated and full employment as a goal was abandoned.  The rich were to be motivated by making them wealthier through tax cuts and the poor were to be disciplined by threats of poverty and unemployment.    Before yet another world leader eulogizes Margaret Thatcher as that tough iron lady, they should ask tough with whom? 

Thatcherism was raw state power levied against the least powerful and most vulnerable — the old, the young, the unemployed and poor.  Thatcher was made of anything but iron when her political soul-mate, Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada in 1983 to crush its socialist movement. 

Grenada was a former British possession but Reagan did not even bother informing Thatcher’s government prior to invading. Before world leaders declare Thatcher to have been a principled, champion of freedom, they will need to explain her support for fascist thugs like Pinochet and the South African apartheid regime.

The hundreds of dead sailors on the Belgrano, sunk on Thatcher’s orders to make war inevitable with Argentina, attest to the real Thatcher.  The cynically manipulated Falkland’s war showed that, although having infamously claimed there was no such thing as society, Thatcher was willing to whip this non-existent society into a nationalistic frenzy over the need for war to protect kith and kin. Nor should the world forget the hypocrisy of Thatcher’s support for the Polish trade union, Solidarity, while at home she was busy criminalizing British trade unions. 

Mining communities will never forget the military-style violence the police used to break the 1984-5 Miner’s Strike. Margaret Thatcher died as she lived — an unrepentant friend of financial wealth and corporate power.  If there is one thing Thatcher should be lauded for, it is her genuine anxiety over the loss of British sovereignty to the European Union.  The men who engineered her removal in 1990 had no such qualms. 

More disturbing is that amongst today’s petulant Tory leadership, Thatcher would probably pass for a moderate.  For those rejoicing at her death, remember you have far more dangerous enemies in the current Tory-Liberal junta. In a final, very ironic, v-sign gesture, Thatcher’s funeral will be an unjustified, expensive affair funded by the state.  In keeping with her principles, her estate should pay the cost.

April 9, 2013