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Long Awaited News: Margaret Thatcher dead at 87

Commentary by B.J. Murphy |
April 8, 2013
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With news of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s death today, the working class of Britain and the world should not mourn. Working people should take solace in the fact that after so many years of attacks on the working class that the British politician who instigated mass privatizations, cutbacks to public services, the student loan system and breaking unions has now passed into history. Margaret Thatcher set an example that Ronald Reagan followed. They both waged wars on much smaller countries and funded and trained death squads to attempt to defeat national liberation movements. Thatcher also set the standard for torture of political prisoners and liberation fighters that the U.S. would follow.

Here in the U.S., the working class continues suffering from right-wing anti-worker policies – cutbacks and privatization of public services and education, giveaways to for-profit health care and insurance corporations, outlawing collective bargaining and unions, curbing voting rights, etc. Few of us among the working class would mourn the death of right-wing figureheads like ex-President George Bush, or Wisconsin Governor Walker, or Florida Governor Rick Scott. Nor should we mourn for Margaret Thatcher after what she did to the working class in Britain.

Under her rule, the coal miners were some of many victims, with Thatcher declaring the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) as “the enemy within.” In 1984, the NUM waged a militant strike for over a year, fighting Thatcher’s privatizations and the closing of coal mines. In Thatcher’s Britain, a militarized police force beat the miners and their supporters off the streets. At least six picketers were killed during the great miners’ strike of 1984-85. Thatcher’s domination of the National Coal Board meant no work agreement, numerous mines closed and more than 20,000 miners losing their jobs. The NUM was gutted.

This should stand as a stark reminder to workers here in the U.S., union and non-union, where we have such a deep-rooted history of militant labor unionism amongst coal miners. The government is in the hands of the wealthy, they will use whatever means necessary to serve the rich.

Thatcher’s policies overseas were even worse. In response to the decline of the British Empire, Thatcher revived a racist and colonial foreign policy. This is the other great tower of her ‘contributions’ to humanity. For example, Prime Minister Thatcher declared the African National Congress a terrorist organization, opposed sanctions on racist apartheid South Africa and, in 1987, Thatcher’s spokesperson said in responding to a reporter that anyone who believed the ANC would ever rule South Africa was “living in cloud-cuckoo land.”

Thatcher was unlikely to win a second term as Prime Minister until she launched a completely unnecessary, but bloody war against Argentina over the tiny Malvinas islands, thousands of miles from Britain and right next to Argentina. Thatcher revived jingoism, the extreme nationalism of British imperialism, and won big in the next elections. In terms of arrogance, she puts the American Republican Party to shame.

So too Thatcher amped up the war on the people in the occupied six counties of Ireland. She unleashed death squads and brought in the shoot to kill policy, but Irish Republicans adapted. It was Thatcher who forced the Irish Hunger Strike, soon broadening sympathy and support for the Irish Republican movement throughout Ireland and the world. Bobby Sands and his comrades are being remembered throughout the world, and especially in Palestine, today.

Due to her anti-worker policies in Britain and her colonial approach to the rest of the world, Maggie Thatcher leaves a legacy of repression, misery and bloodshed. There is no sadness in her death, only the feeling of a burden being lifted and giving new energy to our determination to organize working people and the oppressed to take control of our destiny.

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