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"Back to Thatcherism" or Funeral for a Dream

25-04-2013, 16:47


The body of Patroclus was lying lifeless, but around him the Achaean men and the Trojans continued their vituperative dispute. A week after the magnificent funeral, the debate about Margaret Thatcher’s legacy still has not subsided. The pro-conservative press is putting the former premier on a world-historical pedestal under the slogan "Back to" Thatcherism ". The media which is closer to Labour supporters, claims that Thatcher, whose page in history has turned forever, still was not able to rise above being seen in a purely British context.

With the latter, apparently, it's hard to disagree. Margaret Thatcher was not only a true, but also a devout daughter of her nation. However, the fervor with which she defended the interests of her country, are not only worthy of respect, but are an example to politicians for all times. It is symbolic that her remains will rest next to another great Briton - Winston Churchill.

Of course, the scale of the personality of Sir Winston, who sailed "the British ship" through the fires of the Second World War, is not comparable with Mrs. Thatcher. And yet they are united by one thing - a common desire, feeling and belief in the “greatness of Britain”. Churchill and Margaret Thatcher are two different-sized fragments of the same granite rocks, the name of which was the British Empire. What united them also was the fact that both of these outstanding personalities came to grief, after making tremendous efforts to revive the former glory of the Queen of the Seas.

Churchill was a staunch anti-Communist, but was even willing to conduct separate negotiations with Stalin about the postwar repartition of Europe, trying to secure British interests. However, Roosevelt’s strong stance, and Stalin's evasiveness soon led him to the obvious conclusion that the two new superpowers would take advantage of the fruits of victory in Europe. Britain would have to be content with a special relationship with one of them. The post-war debts and the wounds of war to the British economy proved irreparable. Slowly but steadily she stagnated.

Then along came a leader, whose will power, determination and dedication were able to renew faith in a great future for the British Isles, but who still was not able to change the distribution of the main roles on the world historical stage.

Yes, probably, Churchill's words that "the wars of giants will be replaced by the wars of pygmies," can be applied to the Falklands war. However, the war with Argentina produced a small triumphant happiness, which lit up the eyes of British patriots. And it was thanks to Iron Margaret.

In fact, Thatcher’s "Iron" was manifested much more not overseas but at home. I used to work in London as a radio correspondent during the time of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership and I happened to meet with people, who made very different assessments of her reforms, her ruthless crushing of the largest nationalized industries, and the “Thatcherism” that had already taken shape by this time.

There is no need to repeat what so many have spoken and written in the last few days. I want to focus on just a curious statement in the magazine "The Economist".

Comparing the figures of Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, "The Economist" wrote that Sir Winston, for all his great merits, did not create any "ism." It is characteristic of our time to focus on all things economic and this is so ... ungrateful. However, "The Economist" would not be "The Economist", had it not spoken in such a vein, being a staunch advocate of monetarism. But here, there are at least two things you can count on with certainty for any unfortunate apologetics for "Thatcherism". The first is that, unlike the other "isms", "Thatcherism" was not a universal doctrine or belief like socialism, communism, Buddhism and even Maoism. That it could not be, because it's just a British model embodying the postulates of the Friedman School of Economics. Even if we put together "Thatcherism" with "Reaganomics" the coordinated universal teachings still will not work due to the fact that both of these models are subordinate to the Chicago economic doctrine.

Changes in the economic landscape of Britain and the revival of a sense of national identity are the undoubted merits of Thatcher. However, during the last years of her life she carried the heavy burden that "Thatcherism" and "Reaganomics", with their unquestioning faith in all market regulatory and fiscal levers of economic management, did not work. Moreover, it plunged the world economy into a severe crisis which has still not been overcome to this day, and thanks to globalization, is now of an enormous scale.

Probably the saddest thing is that all of Margaret Thatcher’s titanic efforts of shock therapy to broaden the British economy to a new level of world competitive quality, completely failed. British goods and British exports were not even remotely on a par with the expansion in German exports and those in other developed countries in Europe and Asia. The breakthrough did not happen; the reforms did not bring British production to a new level of competitiveness. The conversion of a tiny part of the country to a World Financial Center was, obviously, following all the same axioms of monetarism, but at the same time one must recognize the failed attempts to revive Britain’s industrial might.

Today, the financial attractiveness of the City seems fairly assured, but the events in Cyprus remind us that great shocks and explosions are often preceded by smaller ones. The current crisis has wiped out many ideas about what is probable and what is improbable in the current economy, especially in finance.

We can say that Thatcher survived "Thatcherism", which was, in reality, a local phenomenon confined within the British Isles. Only thanks to the uniqueness of Thatcher as an individual person, has "Thatcherism" acquired the illusory features of versatility. In this sense, ironically, the "Iron Lady" remains as the character in the Russian film "Lady Macbeth of Mtsenski District.”

Of course, these days a lot has been said about the relationship between Thatcher and Gorbachev, which seems to have been quite special, and I would say, of an unprecedented nature in the Cold War era.

In my time working in the department of broadcasting in the UK, I remember a strictly confidential order not to cover Gorbachev's visit to London on a wide scale, even though back then back he was second in command in the Soviet Union. Someone was being vigilant. For his part, Mr. Bukowsky, an experienced dissident, suggests that Reagan was trying to persuade the British prime minister that Gorbachev was a product of the system, an apparatchik who wanted to modernize Communism and the Soviet Union, to make it more resilient, and no more than that .

Thatcher strongly disagreed with Reagan, and saw in Gorbachev a reformer capable of gradually transforming not only the facade, but the whole core of the Soviet system. Bukowsky was overwhelmingly on the side of Ronald Reagan and repeatedly tried to convince Margaret Thatcher of the error of her sympathies towards Gorbachev. However, history has shown that Thatcher was more far-sighted than Reagan. Gorbachev led the Soviet Union to the edge of the historical abyss. It only needed a bit of effort to push it over, and Boris Yeltsin did that.

Strong characters in history are usually tragic characters. Even in some moments it is impossible to escape the impression of some similarity between the "Iron Lady" and the provincial Mrs. Marple, played brilliantly in the English TV series.

In Margaret Thatcher there was a profound British common sense. She was quite bourgeois in origin, but climbing up the political ladder, she took on the features of a typical high class lady.

Many photos of Thatcher’s visits to Russia convey a genuine interest and desire to understand who are this nation, the Russians. This genuine interest reminds one of Sir Winston Churchill, who, when receiving a guard of honor on the eve of the Yalta Conference, paying close attention, peered into the faces of the soldiers lined up in a row. He also wanted to understand: who are these Russian guys? I do not think Thatcher and Churchill understood Russia, but this interest and genuine desire to understand starkly set them apart from many, many generations of Western politicians. Let us be grateful to them for that.

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