Shakespeare, Thatcher and British Society

Thou know’st ‘tis common - all that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity.“Thou know’st ‘tis common – all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.”

(Hamlet, act 1, sc. 2)

Comment. That Margaret Thatcher would make as much noise with her death as with her life was expected and inevitable –  inevitable as the cycle of life in Queen Gertrude’s words to Hamlet.
Thatcher imposed a new mode of thought on British society and in history books will remain a socially divisive figure.

For the 1%, including the multi-millionaire cabinet members of the British government, she saved Britain from the power of militant trade unionism and created an aspirational society.
For the others, however, she managed to destroy the manufacturing industry, to boost class privileges and to erode the rights of ordinary working people, or perhaps should we say, the rights of the common man.

No one, I think, will deny that she was a brilliant and original speaker – nor that she lacked strong convictions. It could not be otherwise as her convictions fitted perfectly with the plans of the 1% to destroy the concept of society. Concept evolved following two world wars and a devastating depression in-between.

It is easy to forget that the social policies adopted after WWII were implemented when Britain was literally on her knees. Food rationing was only abolished in the 1950s. So much for the currently peddled view that social costs are “unsustainable”.

Her mindset became crystal clear when she defined Nelson Mandela a “terrorist”, when she found in Reagan the mirror of her own policies and when she saw in Augusto Pinochet  a “great friend” and fellow ideological traveler in Chile.

She brought-in Europe’s fiercest anti-trade union legislation, while providing massive subsidies and tax breaks for the private sector and the rich. Under the guise of ‘wealth creation’, key state assets were privatized, and an array of business-friendly statutes and interventions were introduced to help administer her policies.

As Mick McGahey, Vice President of the National Union of Mineworkers said, “We understood the Conservative government’s determination to use the state machine against us. In order to dismember the welfare state, they had to break the trade union movement and they needed to break the miners first.”

It is in the rhetoric script of right wing governments to reduce the size of government, when in fact, the size of government is actually increased by using the machinery of government differently. For example, creating “quangos”, a British term for “quasi non-governmental organizations”, financed by the government (needless to say by the taxpayer) but acting independently.

The system was deployed on behalf of business to ensure the flow of wealth from bottom to top. Economic growth rates were the same as before her tenure – but there was a dramatic concentration of wealth accompanied by deregulation of the financial markets, leading eventually to the current conditions of the banking system.

Thatcher knew how to manipulate the populist sentiment and prejudice, with the help of the right wing media – by now the only media.

“Free” market, anti-big-government and war on idleness, or crime, or drugs are labels easy to accept. A wonderful example of using empty generalizations to peddle a reactionary ideology.

Thatcher’s rhetoric (just as Reagan’s) was centered on ‘freedom’ – freedom of the individual, freedom from the state, freedom of the market, freedom from trade unions and so on. And Thatcherism did of course eventually make the UK citizens totally free – free to be monitored and surveyed by the state like no other country in Western Europe, free to become nothings targeted by the market and free to pay for the failings of financial capital.

Thatcher was an important cog in the wheel of the 1% because of her presentation skills. Politics and politicians in latter-day post-industrial capitalism serve as the PR arm of the military-financial-industrial complex. Thatcher performed her role well.

She presided over the dismantling of much of Britain’s manufacturing industry, the stronghold of the union movement, and used mass unemployment to keep wages low and to weaken union militancy. Her policies destroyed a fifth of Britain’s industrial base in just two years. The service sector, finance and banking were heralded as the new drivers of the economy, while much of Britain’s manufacturing sector was out-sourced to cheap labour economies to maximize profit for the few. Consequently for many working people, the dignity of having a trade has now been replaced by low pay, part-time Macjobs, marginal employment and a life of debt and financial insecurity.

Not only Thatcher’s tenure imposed a mirror-image ideology of the US but made Britain a vassal of the empire.

Thatcher was essentially a mouthpiece for powerful bankers and industrialists who were determined to defeat socialism and who abhorred any restrictions on their activities, such as capital controls.

The USSR dubbed her the ‘iron lady’ which is almost a compliment – the other more familiar ‘Attila the Hen’ better fits the persona, I think.

The corporate media will raise her to the status of political sainthood. Expect statues, just as in the last episode of the British original TV serial  “House of Cards”, when Francis Urquhart (Ian Richardson) is present at the unveiling of Thatcher’s monument.

Her famous quote, “Society does not exist” may perhaps be used as her epitaph.

Tips for Use. Comment on the end of a project or an era or a procedure.

In the play. Hamlet continues to mourn the death of the king his father and the Queen tries to make him see the matter rationally.

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