Germaine Greer on Thatcher
Feminist Germaine Greer tears Margaret Thatcher's legacy to shreds in a great article in the Guardian (UK). I liked this bit in particular.
"A story is often told of how, when she was leader of the opposition, Thatcher turned up at a seminar at the Centre for Policy Studies with a copy of Friedrich Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty, banged it down on the table and declared "This is what we believe". She claimed to have first read Hayek when she was at Oxford, but her version of his arguments is one he might not have recognised. Her commitment to a free market, wealth creation and lower taxation was absolute. She had no time for Hayek's misgivings and probably never knew that he believed that "probably nothing has done so much harm to the liberal cause as the wooden insistence of some liberals on certain rules of thumb, above all of the principle of laissez-faire capitalism". "Wooden insistence" describes Thatcher's style exactly...."
"Success and profit were identical. Her career shows a bland disregard of the principles of honest dealing that ought to underpin the free market in which she had such blind faith. One of the enduring mysteries of the 20th century will be how on earth she got away with it.From her first days in power Thatcher developed and refined ways of circumventing political protocol and procedure, partly because hers was usually a minority opinion."
Greer goes into some detail on Thatcher's dodgy arms dealings, believing it demonstrates "the kind of recklessness and lack of scruple that is now being blamed for the global financial crisis.". Thatcher exported arms to many a nasty dictator, including Saddam Hussein's Iraq (despite a ban officially being in place), Suharto in Indonesia and Pinochet in Chile. It has been suggested Thatcher's own wayward son Mark gained a commission of between 12-20m pounds from a deal involving the Saudi defence minister's son. While Mark Thatcher has denied this, it is not a good look for Maggie.
It would have been useful if Greer had also highlighted the reliance of the UK economy on the defence industry, as this is a useful context for the points she makes. The UK remains the second largest defence supplier in the world, with the defence industry a key source of export dollars. As Thatcher's policies had the effect of narrowing Britain's industrial base, her advocacy on behalf of the defence industry, is not a surprise. Moving Britain closer to a military-industrial complex was one way among many Maggie modelled the UK to be more like America. NewLabour have embraced this element of Thatcherism just like they have embraced the rest, with a Minister of State For Defence recently crowing with pride that the projected UK defence budget is now 10% higher in real terms than it was in 1997.
Given the difficulties now faced by the UK with the global financial crisis it is about time Thatcher's role in in all is revisited, given that she largely began the wholesale liberalisation of the banking and finance sectors. Lax regulation is now widely cited as a key cause of the crisis.
No doubt when Thatcher kicks the bucket the neo-liberal myth making machine will go into overdrive and produce all matter of sick making hagiography. Personally I liked this take on the death of Ronald Reagan...
Rooksmoor, a blogger in the UK also commented on Greer's article.
In 1980 Thatcher's famous catchphrase was "this lady is not for turning". Well to end on a lighter note - I always took this to mean Thatcher was denying that she was a vampire :)