Saturday, 13 April 2013

Everytime Thatcher's memory is defiled it strikes a blow for the downtrodden

I was just 17 when the Conservatives won the 1979 general election.
Two years later I started work and joined the union.
So for most of Thatcher's reign I was actively opposing her cruel agenda.
She wasn't just another nasty Tory.
Thatcher used all the paramilitary and quasi-legal brutality available to the state to smash opposition.
Trades unionists were beaten and charged by horses. Black and Asian people were dying in custody. Unarmed Irish republicans were shot dead. Democratically elected politicians were banned from the radio and TV.
The 1979 Conservative election campaign was a series of lies.
'Labour isn't working' said the billboards showing queues at dole offices. In the next few years unemploment more than doubled with three million jobless.
No-one will believe this - so here's a linkbut the Tory campaign in 1979 deliberately set out to woo trades unionists by frequently promising "free collective bargaining" in response to a Labour policy of wage restraint.
By 1983 they were introducing draconion laws which made it unlawful for trade unions to give each other any meaningful industrial solidarity, and made organising industrial action a legal minfield of boss-friendly loopholes and delays.
But the most shame-faced lie was to the world's media outside 10, Downing Street, after her election victory.
She quoted St Francis of Assisi including: "Where there is discord, may we bring harmony" and "where there is despair, may we bring hope."
It's clear from the unprecdented celebrations after her death that the harmony was only ever in her head.
And where there used to be jobs-for-life and a narrowing gap between rich and poor she brought the misery of unemployment - deliberately created as a 'necessary evil'. That meant poverty, suicides, crime, drugs, and broken families.
Thatcher was a close personal friend of Pinochet - a brutal Chilean dictator who overthrew a democratically elected socialist government with an armed insurrection.
Unbelieveably she used his regime for her economc model. UK markets, in areas like coal, were opened up to cheap foreign competition; state-owned utilities and other industries like steel, aviation, and car-making were privatised; trade unions were restricted.
My memory is that before Thatcher people looked out for each other. No-one complained about paying tax for health, or education, or the welfare state.
And if you needed solidarity you went to the two groups of workers with the strongest traditions - miners and printers.
Once they had been beaten - by poilce brutality and occupations of mining areas, the jailing of strikers on made-up and trumped-up charges, and the seizing of all the unions' funds - almost everyone else was intimidated into silence.
It had been a close call. The miners managed to stay on strike for more than a year because they had the active support of millions of people.
It seems incredible now to think that theLabour Party encouraged its members to pay a monthly levy for the hardship fund.
Tins were rattled on high streets many miles from coalfields, and childless people added baby food to their weekly shopping so it could be collected and transported to mining communities.
But we lost because at vital moments trade union and Labour leaders failed to offer the maximum support. Instead of mobilising these millions to take solidarity strike action and march on parliament they worried about what the Daily Mail would say.
When mass non-payment of the poll tax was organised Thatcher fell.
That's the lesson of her years - we can only win if we fight as hard as they do.
That's why this last week has been brilliant.
Because Thatcher might have won but she couldn't destroy us.
The strikers, the rioters, the non-payers, and the baby-food buyers are still here - embedded amonst the Daily Telegraph readers and Radio Four listeners.
And this week - with their children and their grandchildren - they have crossed a line into unprecedented territory.
Partying over a death and getting a hate song into the charts are remarkably poigniant symbols of resistence.
The mass media seem to have been taken by completely by suprise and are fanning the flames of revolt with the oxygen of publicity.
Every collective action to defile Thatcher's memory is a beacon of hope to the downttrodden and the dispossessed
Every worker scraping to do enough hours to make a living on the minimum wage has a chance to see what caused their plight.
Who knows why -but while Thatcher lived many people's fighting spirit hibernated.
Now anything seems possible.
Celebrate, educate, organise.