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Margaret Thatcher and the decline of West

Margaret Thatcher and the decline of West

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (file photo)

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (file photo)
By Dr. Webster G. Tarpley

The austerity policies today ravaging Europe under the auspices of the IMF, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission would be simply unthinkable without the massive wave of economic ignorance and barbarism unleashed by Thatcher.

Her career has unquestionably marked the beginning of a new phase of the decline of the West. Whether Thatcher’s sociopathic handiwork can be rolled back and her damage undone is the question which remains to be answered.”

Margaret Thatcher’s first high-profile political job came in 1970 when she was appointed to serve as education and science minister in the cabinet of the liberal Tory Edward Heath.

She imposed a series of brutal budget cuts, the most infamous of which was the abolition of a program left over from the Great Depression, which guaranteed a daily pint of milk to schoolchildren between the ages of seven and eleven.

This was a program which had done much good in the poorer mining, industrial, and farming towns and villages of Wales, Scotland, and the north of England, where vitamin deficiency diseases like rickets and pellagra had been an immense public health problem.

But for Thatcher, that daily pint of milk was the essence of communism, a violation of the free market. The milk distributions were stopped. Since then, Thatcher has been hated by all Britons of goodwill, and since then her nickname has been “Thatcher milk snatcher.” This is the epitaph which should be inscribed on her tomb.

The Romans had a saying, “De mortuis nihil nisi bonum” – say nothing but good things about the dead. It is good advice, but in the face of certain enormous crimes against humanity, it cannot be honored. Such is the case of Margaret Thatcher.

Thatcher offers one of the most egregious cases in recent history of a sociopath in power. She can be seen as the mother, or at least as the grandmother, of the world economic depression which broke out in 2007-2008. Thatcher was a fanatical apostle of the economic theories of the Austrian school ideologue Friedrich von Hayek and especially of Hayek’s 1944 screed, The Road to Serfdom, a raving attack on the highly successful economic methods of the Franklin D. Roosevelt New Deal in the United States. On at least one occasion, Thatcher is known to have brandished a copy of Hayek’s scribblings as her personal holy book.

Hayek had started after World War I as a hack writer in the pay of rent-gouging Viennese landlords who wanted propaganda articles condemning the evils of rent control. He was considered a very marginal academic, almost a crackpot, until he attracted the attention of economic illiterate David Rockefeller, who hired Hayek to help him in cramming for exams at the London School of Economics.

Hayek, like his co-thinker Ludwig von Mises, was an exponent of the backward and primitive Austrian school of economic theory, which had been concocted by feudal-reactionary quackademics in the Habsburg empire to undercut the prestigious German-American school of dirigism and protectionism exemplified by figures like Friedrich List, one of the main inspirations for the recent economic success of places like Japan, Taiwan, and China.

For the Austrian school, any government intervention in or regulation of economic life is automatically classed as totalitarianism. The Austrian school relies on crude slogans of deregulation, privatization, and the free market. The Austrian school is sometimes called the psychological school, since it rejects as collectivist analyses which tried to grasp the broad objectivity of a national economy. The theoretical vantage point of the Austrian school is always the sociopathic urges and desires of the individual predatory speculator.

Austrianism is therefore much inferior to the deeply flawed neo-Keynesian synthesis, which tends to reproduce the outlook of central bankers. The Austrians are even more inferior in comparison to the American System, which has its central focus in the development of the modern labor force.

Before Thatcher, the strange beliefs of figures like von Mises and von Hayek – such as their demand that government must never lift a finger to prevent or mitigate a devastating economic depression – meant that they were not presentable in polite society. If an economist claimed that a pint of milk for school children was the leading edge of Bolshevism, most people concluded that such an economist needed to be committed to a mental institution. If such an economist insisted on this point, he risked being reminded that Hitler and the Nazis had been long since swept into the garbage can of history.

Margaret Thatcher changed all that. The overall impact of her political career has been a radical degradation of the universe of economic discourse of the Western world in the direction of ideas seen in the 1950s and 60s as hopelessly reactionary, or even psychotic. In this sense, Thatcher can be classed as the unifying symbol of a retrograde cultural paradigm shift, not just in Europe and the United States, but worldwide – especially when the influence of her signature monetarist/neoliberal economics on the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and similar institutions is taken into account.

The austerity policies today ravaging Europe under the auspices of the IMF, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission would be simply unthinkable without the massive wave of economic ignorance and barbarism unleashed by Thatcher.

A Creature of Lord Victor Rothschild

The legend of Thatcher portrays her as a self-made woman, a greengrocer’s daughter from Grantham.

In reality, the emergence of Thatcher was the work of a formidable political syndicate. One of Thatcher’s most important handlers was by any measure Lord Victor Rothschild (1910-1990), the third Baron Rothschild. Lord Vic was nominally a Labour peer in the House of Lords, but much of his influence derived from his work between 1963 and 1970 as worldwide head of “research” – meaning intelligence – for Royal Dutch Shell, the policy flagship of the seven sisters oil cartel. During much of this time, Lord Vic was a key security adviser to Thatcher. For a number of years Lord Vic also ran the Central Policy Review Staff, the de facto think tank of the British government. Lord Vic was also closely associated with Sir Keith Joseph, a Tory government minister and Thatcher’s top political brain truster.

Thatcher was for many years elected to parliament from the safe Conservative seat of Finchley. However, intelligence reports from the 1980s sometimes noted that Thatcher’s hold on this rotten borough or pocket borough had been consolidated with decisive help from Lord Vic.

Thatcher’s Gurus: Sir Alfred Sherman and Sir Keith Joseph

Another key Svengali for Thatcher was Sir Alfred Sherman, who had fought as a communist volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, but had been followed the typical neocon pattern of evolution towards reactionary ideas. Sir Alfred had been a close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Sherman joined with Sir Keith Joseph and Thatcher in 1974 to found the Center for Policy Studies, and soon went on to play a key role in the Conservative Philosophy Group, which elaborated the ideology later known as Thatcherism. This was basically Austrianism with adjustments for the specific conditions of 1970s Britain.

Sir Alfred facilitated Thatcher’s transformation from an obscure backbencher to shadow Prime Minister for the Tories. Thatcher paid tribute to him in 2005, recalling that “We could never have defeated socialism if it hadn’t been for Sir Alfred.” But Sherman sometimes fail to conceal the true brutality of Thatcherism. On one occasion he told a Soviet journalist, “As for the Lumpenproletariat, colored people and the Irish, let’s face it, the only way to hold them in check is to have enough well armed and properly trained police.”

Sir Alfred also helps us to understand the real relation between Thatcher and her handlers. After Thatcher had lost power, he said of her: “Lady Thatcher is great theater as long as someone else is writing her lines; she hasn’t got a clue.” And indeed, much of Thatcher’s political career can be reduced to the obsessive parroting of not more than half a dozen primitive slogans, but with devastating effect.

Sir Keith Joseph, the son of a rich Tory grandee and Lord Mayor of London, had long held that figures like Heath were not nearly reactionary enough. Indeed, Sir Keith and not Thatcher might have become prime minister for the Tories, had it not been for one fateful outburst. Reading a 1974 speech written for him by Sir Alfred Sherman, Joseph added his observation is that, as a result of teen pregnancies among the lower orders of British society, “our human stock is threatened.”

This sounded very much like Nazi eugenics, and essentially disqualified Sir Keith from ever reaching number 10 Downing Street. Instead, both Joseph and Sherman focused their energies on installing Maggie in that post. Later, Joseph would become a point man in efforts to bust the teachers’ union, levy tuition fees for higher education, and radically cut the salaries of teachers and professors. Thus the note of brutal social Darwinism announced by Sir Keith remained throughout as a constant of Thatcher. Sir Keith also pioneered deindustrialization as an active government policy. When some Tories wanted to rebuild and modernize the shipyards on the Mersey River in Liverpool, Sir Keith argued instead for a “managed rundown.” Industrial demontage was another hallmark of Thatcherism.

Another secret of Thatcher’s success was the shameless use of advertising and marketing. Some of this was copied from American methods going back to Richard Nixon, but Thatcher elevated the demagogy of mass manipulation to an entirely new level. In her 1979 and 1983 campaigns, Thatcher relied on the Saatchi and Saatchi PLC advertising agency, which had been founded by two Iraqi Jewish brothers. The Saatchis were responsible for Conservative party advertising which claimed that “Labour isn’t working.” Based on the reputation this firm acquired through a helping Thatcher to her early victories, Saatchi and Saatchi became for a time the largest advertising agency in the world. Maurice Saatchi, now a member of the House of Lords, was made the chairman of the Conservative party.

However, even with this extensive support network, it is not clear that Thatcher ever received the support of a majority of British voters. Her ceiling seems to have been between 40 and 45%, which translated into a majority in the House of Commons only because of the British “first past the post” or winner-take-all system in each election district.

Before they were willing to accept the degradation of Thatcherism, the British people had to be softened up by many years of crisis. No country suffered more from the fake 1973 oil shock than Britain. There was a period of mass strike captivity in which the British labor movement proved it could paralyze the government, but also proved that it was incapable of seizing power and solving the main problems of society. In 1974, electric current and heating were often interrupted, and conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath put the nation on a three-day week. As I wrote about this phase in Surviving the Cataclysm, “the Sick Man of Europe appeared destined to sink beneath the waters of the North Sea, with journalists asking front-page questions like ‘Is Britain Dying?’”

Thatcher Filled the Post-Keynesian Void with Barbarism

It was good luck for Thatcher and her gang that this crisis then had to be administered by the Labour Party government of James Callaghan. The crisis of British society in the middle 1970s had an ideological as well as a practical impact. As I wrote in Surviving the Cataclysm:

“this crisis is associated with the abandonment of Keynesian economics by the British Labour Party, and by extension by the center-left around the world. At the Labour Party conference of September 1976, Callaghan remarked that ‘we used to think that you could just spend your way out of a recession… I tell you, in all candor, that the option no longer exists and that in so far as it ever did exist, it only worked… by injecting bigger doses of inflation into the economy, followed by higher levels of unemployment.’ According to one British commentator, these were the ‘words which effectively buried Keynes.’ The liquidation of Keynes left the field dominated by the primitive Viennese monetarism of von Hayek and the even more primitive monetarism of Milton Friedman and his Chicago School. Callaghan himself would soon be supplanted by Thatcher.”

In this new atmosphere, Thatcher’s governing team was full of monetarists or neoliberal ideologues who could pretend to be professing a new economic theory, rather than simply repackaging a set of cruel and stupid doctrines which had been discredited in the 1930s. This applied to figures like Norman Tebbitt, Nigel Lawson, and Norman Fowler.Keynes had recommended a mild inflation as a cure for depression. Thatcher demanded the opposite: she wanted to bring on a depression in order to cure inflation. Inflation is a complaint of the rich, who feel that the purchasing power of their cash horde is being diminished. Deflationary depression means unemployment, and this is the scourge of people who need to work for a living. Thatcher proceeded to apply the monetarist recipe with a vengeance, following Milton Friedman’s dumbed-down version of Austrianism. Since Friedman had taught that inflation is a purely monetary phenomenon, Thatcher collapsed the British money supply in a massive exercise of deflation. The value of the British pound soared, and anyone who had any debt was.
Dr. Webster Griffin Tarpley was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 1946. A philosopher of history, Tarpley seeks to provide the strategies needed to overcome the current world crisis. He first became widely known for his bookGeorge Bush: The Unauthorized Biography (1992), a masterpiece of research which is still a must read. During 2008, he warned of the dangers of an Obama presidency controlled by Wall Street with Obama: The Postmodern Coup, The Making of a Manchurian Candidate and Barack H. Obama: The Unauthorized Biography. His interest in economics is reflected in Surviving the Cataclysm: Your Guide Through the Worst Financial Crisis in Human History Against Oligarchy. His books have appeared in Japanese, German, Italian, French, and Spanish. Tarpley holds a Ph.D. in early modern history from the Catholic University of America. More articles by Dr. Webster Griffin Tarpley

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