Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Evil Dead: An Obituary from Below

I've written a fairly long and 'admiring' obituary of Thatcher for Jacobin:

"Obituaries are typically concerned with the accomplishments and worthwhile qualities of the deceased. Thatcher’s achievements are undeniable. She was a “Modern Prince” of the Right, intervening at a moment of crisis and great danger for the Conservative Party, taking control of the elements in flux and recomposing them. She utterly transformed the state, party politics, and the economy, institutionalizing a form of neoliberal statecraft that is almost unassailable from within.

"To describe Thatcher’s accomplishments in this way, though, is already to hint at the problem with the obituary format. Thatcher’s most important achievements were also what made her so vile, and reprehensible. Her energy, her ruthlessness, and her political guile were harnessed to such bigoted, class-supremacist ends, that it is hard to admire them. Reviewing the wreckage of those years, it is difficult not to be transfixed by horror.

"There is also the danger, in focusing on Thatcher’s qualities and successes, of overstating the role of an individual leader. Thatcher’s efforts depended not just on a wide coalition of popular and business interests, with the petty bourgeoisie and “new middle class” as its lynchpin, but on a series of institutional powers – from the popular press to the International Monetary Fund. Her strengths, as often as not, derived from her opponents’ weaknesses, divisions or downright cravenness.

"Yet, there is no denying Thatcher’s leadership qualities. And this obituary will pay close attention to the factors that made Thatcher the most successful politician in the post-war period — in the spirit of learning from the enemy, the better to defeat them in future."