Thatcher’s gone the fight goes on

by Daphne Liddle

THE DEATH of Margaret Thatcher, announced last Monday, has highlighted the deep and growing class division in Britain. The working class has rejoiced while the ruling class and all its toadies have mourned.

Celebrations began immediately in the former mining communities, the former steel towns, in Brixton in south London and in hundreds of other working class communities. Meanwhile the ruling class-owned media have been filled with unending sycophantic drivel and praise for the woman who claimed she wanted to restore “Victorian values” to Britain but instead restored Victorian levels of poverty, greed, hypocrisy, homelessness, hunger and indifference to suffering.

Those of us who are rejoicing are fully aware that although the woman has gone the effects of her government are still with us. The battle against the neo-liberal/monetarist economic policies — the austerity cuts of the current Con-Dem government — goes on.

But the death of Thatcher does raise the morale of those who have been fighting her policies since the 1970s, when she started by taking away free milk for schoolchildren.

Today thousands of children would get real benefit from this small endowment as rising numbers of children are being sent to school hungry because their parents cannot afford to feed them properly.

The faults in wrong policies are shown up more and more as they are taken to their logical end — and the free market- worshipping policies of Thatcher have led us to a state where child poverty is many times what it was in the 1970s, along with homelessness and unemployment.

yawning chasm

The gap between the living standards of the working class and the ruling class has become a yawning chasm — presaging a coming earthquake.

The real value of wages and pensions has fallen dramatically while rents, food and travel costs have soared. Now even people with fulltime jobs cannot expect to be able to support their families on their wages — they need tax-payer top-ups just to reach subsistence level.

The Thatcher government encouraged working class people to buy their own council homes and claimed this would turn the country into a nation of home-owners.

A high proportion of those homes are now owned by private profiteering landlords while the working classes do not stand a hope in hell of ever being able to buy a home and we have a massive housing crisis.

Even those who did buy were mostly forced to sell their homes on as they grew older and the money was needed to pay for care that used to be provided free.

London is now full of luxury apartments that stand empty — owned by foreign millionaires who buy them as an investment and to have an address in London so they can benefit from its tax-haven status.

The celebrations are an opportunity for our generation to tell younger people who have grown up in a country shaped by Thatcher policies that things were not always like this. Once we had proper trade union rights — like most other countries in the world.

Once the welfare state and the NHS were recognised and treasured and funded by Labour and Tory governments.

Once, if you lost your job you could get another within a day. Once there were no police spy cameras on every street corner.

We cannot go back to the 70s, we must go forward to create a society organised by the working class for the working class. But to do this we must challenge the current regime and its anti-working class laws.

The major unions, led by Unite, PCS and Unison, are, after a pause since last autumn, considering a general strike. Unite and Unison have endorsed plans for a 24-hour general strike, involving both the public and private sector. They are reported to be planning to discuss the details at a meeting of the TUC general council later this month.

“It would be a landmark in our movement’s recovery of its morale, strength and capacity to play a leading part in a society crying out for credible and honourable leadership,” said the discussion document.

It also calls for a voluntary levy among the 6.5 million members of TUC-affiliated unions to pay the wages of “selected and identified” groups of striking workers.” We must work to support this call but also to demand and prepare for more sustained industrial action that will have a real impact on the ruling class.

Thatcher is gone; rejoice and then intensify the struggle to rid this country of her legacy.