Margaret Thatcher had become the Prime Minister of Britain at a moment when she set out to restore the acceptable face of capitalism and to slow down the decolonization of Africa. During the period of her leadership she had exhibited such boldness in her strident defense of privatization and denationalization that she took on the intellectual and political forces that supported social democracy. Thatcher was mortal like everyone else and she joined the afterlife on April 8, 2013. When the news was first reported, there were street parties in England. This was a manifestation of the opposition to her policies. Glenda Jackson, the Labour Member of Parliament spoke for many when, in a debate about the legacies of Thatcher in the Parliament, she reminded fellow members that the period of Thatcher was one ‘where greed and selfishness were seen as virtues.’ 
Margaret Thatcher was so strident that there were numerous books written about her from all sides of the political spectrum. She was such a darling of the Conservative forces that the British newspaper ‘The Telegraph’ regaled the ten best books on Thatcher as she was termed the Iron Lady who ushered a new age in Britain. This was not the case for the British workers, especially the African descendants who made their living in the United Kingdom. She was a figure who had reinforced the most banal racism in her effort to bring back the ideas of the basic hierarchy of human beings. It was not by accident that these ideas of racial superiority were supported by the Rupert Murdoch newspaper empire. Rupert Murdoch himself had been reared in a society that had celebrated the genocide of the indigenous peoples of Australia. It was in the era of Thatcherism when an information war by the media houses against working people became interwoven with militarism and psychological warfare. It was not by accident that the Murdoch Empire and its minions were leading cheerleaders for Thatcherism.
REHABILITATING THE IRON LADY
Since her passing, the internet and mainstream media have been awash with articles and information rehabilitating Thatcher, eulogizing her as one of the world’s best leaders and reformist. This seems to be, however, a response to the baring of the true Thatcher image on the international stage since she was unceremoniously removed as leader of the party in 1990. Commenting on this propagandist move, one analyst in the U.K. noted,
‘It might seem an odd time to be trying it on, but a drive to rehabilitate Margaret Thatcher is now in full flow. A couple of years back, true believers (of Thatcher) were beside themselves at the collapse of their heroine's reputation. The Tory London mayor, Boris Johnson, complained that Thatcher's name had become a ‘boo-word’, ‘shorthand for selfishness and me-firstism.’
The Thatcher rehabilitation project stretches from the conservative media and scholarly circle in the UK to the right wing section of American politics as well as Hollywood. Many of the sectors of the British left that had been writing books on Thatcherism in the eighties disappeared after the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Hence, many younger progressives did not know of the debates in ‘Marxism Today’ on the essence of Thatcherism. However, for the African population in Britain and overseas, there was no loss of memory about the role of Thatcher in international politics. The collective memory of Africans was that she had been a strident racist. Yet, Margaret Thatcher has been eulogized by none but Richard Dowden of the Royal African Society, who on the very day the former prime minister passed, claimed that ‘Mrs. Thatcher played a pivotal role in the ending of Apartheid.’
These efforts to rehabilitate her, crowned with the pomp and ritual of a semi state funeral cannot cover up her true legacy. There were enough commentaries to remind the world of her ideas that equated being British with whiteness. No amount of sanitizing her image can delete her view that Nelson Mandela and the African Nationalist Congress were terrorists. Dowden was a journalist in that period and he was writing about her trips to Africa, but Dowden could not bring out the real intent of her journeys to Nigeria.
When the massive rebellions in Britain had shown her that the Africans residing in Britain would resist her policies, she dug deep into the ideas of Enoch Powell and then assaulted the independent working class organizations, especially the Mineworkers Union. The British Left has not yet awoken from her assault on ideas of decent health and housing for all. This assault at home was accompanied by the embrace of the neo-fascist regime of General Pinochet in Chile, the apartheid regime in South Africa and the most conservative factions the United States political class. It was this alliance that rehabilitated the very conservative ideas of Frederick Hayek and Milton Friedman. These ideas have now been given the label of neo-liberalism.
As an unabashed defender of empire, Margaret Thatcher had hoped that her alliance with Ronald Reagan and the neo-conservatives would roll back the struggles for self-determination internationally. The freedom struggles in Africa discredited her allies such as brutal rebel leader Jonas Savimbi of Angola and Mangosuthu Buthelezi of South Africa and today the private military networks of her heirs are being exposed as the wars of imperial domination come to naught. The Thatcher era is dying and the left and progressive forces are learning that they have to be bold and audacious in promoting the alternatives to Thatcherism.
WHAT IS THATCHERISM?
In 1988 Bob Jessop edited a book entitled Thatcherism. This was an attempt to give a coherent view of the stewardship of Margaret Thatcher from the point of view of the progressive academics in Britain. In that collection of essays the authors described Thatcherism as ‘a reasonably coherent and comprehensive concept of control for the restoration of bourgeois rule and bourgeois hegemony in the new circumstances of the 1980s.’ This book detailed what was understood as the characteristics of Thatcherism and the stages of Thatcherism. The book as many others from the then British left examined a wide range of approaches to Thatcherism. ‘These approaches ranged from abstract theoretical accounts to detailed empirical studies, from the grand visions of political parties and their ideological spokesmen to the everyday stories of journalists and the newspeak of the Tory Press, from the hopes and fears of the establishment figures to the considered opinions of ordinary voters and citizens.’ (p. 4) What was remarkable about this left analysis was the minimization of the place of racism within Thatcherism. Around the same period, Stuart Hall had brought together a collection on Thatcherism entitled, ‘The Hard Road to Renewal.’ Hall was closer to the mark in grasping the varying elements of racism, greed and efforts to destroy the left and he labeled Thatcherism as ‘authoritarian populism.’
Thatcherism in this article is defined as an ideation system based on the ethical principles of greed, individualism, racial hierarchies of the narrow minded-insecure intermediate classes in Britain and Europe. Boris Johnson used the correct words to define Thatcherism as selfishness and me-firstism. This is the clarity that took Thatcherism from the academic abstract pedestal into everyday understanding of capitalist greed and exploitation.
After the European Enlightenment when the ideas of private property, domination over nature, patriarchy and the market were given primacy in human interactions, the British aristocracy had succumbed to liberalism as long as there was an acceptance of the ideas of aristocratic privileges and white supremacy. British political thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke made claims about the universal validity of liberalism and it was in the United States where this liberalism was embedded into the Constitution and cemented a society that accepted genocide of the First Nation peoples as progress. John Stuart Mill stood out as a British ‘liberal’ who supported settler colonialism and scholars such as Duncan Bell had written very clearly on how Mill defended colonization throughout his life, regarding ‘it as a solution to the social problem’ in Britain. He increasingly came to argue that its legitimacy resided in the universal benefits—civilization, peace, and prosperity—it generated for humanity.
Mill’s liberalism became popular and was being codified and spread as the basis of human interaction in all parts of the globe. As a small island, the ruling aristocracy in Britain had resisted political independence for the colonists in America even though the colonists had used the ideas of John Locke as the basis for political legitimacy. That aristocracy opposed the ideas of liberty and equality but after the windfall profits of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the massive pillaging of the globe, the British aristocracy supported ideas of ‘equality’ as long as feudal privileges were preserved. It is this alliance which still preserves feudal institutions such as the monarchy and the House of Lords in Britain.
The British middle classes benefited from the surpluses from the slave trade but were placed in a tenuous situation in times of crisis. This middle class did not find common cause with the mass of British working peoples and through speech, dress and social climbing sought to ape the ideas and practices of the ruling aristocracy. John Stuart Mill had reproduced the ideas of the British aristocracy that colonialism insured that the British helped to develop the character of backward peoples. For Mill colonialism helped to shape responsible government and character development’ for the British.
Britain came out of World War II diminished as a world power with the role of sterling replaced by the dollar and the vaunted role of the British military overshadowed by the new imperial hegemons in Washington. It was in this post war context where the ideas of social democracy had been refined in order to provide safety nets for the working poor with guaranteed access to health care, housing and some level of education. This form of social democracy was built on the rights of the working people and entrenched within the principles of the right to a living wage and collective bargaining.
In the immediate years after the war, the British ruling elements were on the defensive and Enoch Powell emerged as a champion of the racists to drive a wedge between black and white workers. At the height of the global anti-capitalist and anti-racist struggles in 1968, Powell made an incendiary speech about ‘rivers of blood’ and that Britain would be overrun by non-whites. Powell represented a branch of the British Conservative Party that was associated with supremacism, chauvinism, militarism and racism.
As Prime Minister, she implemented policies of greed, ruthlessness, military invasions and crude enrichment for a few along with subservience to U.S. imperialism. These are the attributes in politics that is today associated with Thatcherism. On the whole, the British progressive intellectuals capitulated to the ideas of imperialism and racism and this capitulation had a devastating effect on the British academy and on European Politics. It is this capitulation that ensured that Thatcherism continued even within the ranks of the British Labour party and Tony Blair was correctly called a Thatcherite. Thatcherism had reversed the social democratic gains of the British working people in such magnitude that the leaders of the Labour party, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, continued with the policies of deregulation and speculation that concentrated and centralized wealth in the City of London.
When Richard Dowden, Director of the Royal African Society, wrote that Margaret Thatcher had played a pivotal role in the ending of apartheid, he was carrying out an exercise of manipulating the historical record of the role of Thatcher as an opponent of the decolonization process. Dowden had distorted so much of that history that it is worth recalling for some of the younger readers the ways in which the Pan African diplomatic networks outmaneuvered Margaret Thatcher in the struggles for independence in Southern Africa.
When Margaret Thatcher had become the British Prime Minister in May 1979, the war of independence in Rhodesia had reached a critical stage. With the support of Mozambique and other frontline states the freedom fighters of Zimbabwe had placed the Rhodesian armed forces on the defensive. These freedom fighters received diplomatic and political support from the world wide anti-racist movement. Michael Manley of Jamaica, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia provided the diplomatic support for the Zimbabweans within the Commonwealth. Nyerere had convinced President Jimmy Carter of the United States to support the diplomatic efforts to end the war. Thus, when Margaret Thatcher went to her first Commonwealth Conference in Lusaka (August 1-7, 1979), she was confronted with a Commonwealth that supported negotiations to end the rebellion of Ian Smith.
MARGARET THATCHER AND THE INDEPENDENCE OF NAMIBIA
After the independence of Zimbabwe in April 1980, the frontline states turned their attention to the decolonization of Namibia and the ending of apartheid in South Africa. Margaret Thatcher received support for her hard line pro-apartheid ideas at the end of 1980 when Ronald Reagan became President of the United States. There was mutual agreement between Washington, London and Pretoria that there would be no meaningful independence for Namibia, and through the work of Bill Casey of the CIA there was increased support for the anti-communist forces internationally. Margaret Thatcher was designated as the core errand person for this mission of coordinating the ‘freedom fighters for capitalism.’ The documents of the discussion of Alexander Haig who was the first Secretary of State of Reagan has left for the record the hard anti-communist line adopted by the Reagan administration and Thatcher. In her view, she had been tricked by Manley, Nyerere and Kaunda at the Commonwealth Conference in Zambia in 1979 and she along with Haig and Pik Botha (the Foreign Minister) of South Africa had agreed that there would be no ‘red flag over Windhoek.’ By this was meant that the freedom fighters of the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) would never come to power in Namibia because they were communists. Thatcher and the Conservatives supported the famous linkage clause that linked the independence of Namibia to the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. It was during this period that the US and Britain supported the overt support for apartheid under the banner of ‘constructive engagement.’ Under this policy, freedom fighters such as Nelson Mandela were labeled as terrorists and anti-communist hardliners such as Jonas Savimbi and Osama Bin laden were hailed as freedom fighters.
THATCHER RUNNING ERRANDS FOR BILL CASEY AND THE CIA TO NIGERIA
During her period as Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher made two trips to Nigeria. In his article on Thatcher and Africa, Richard Dowden made reference to her trips to Nigeria but the real story of the trips never came out in the article. The political class of Nigeria had been compromised by all forms of financial activities that the CIA was able to pressure this leadership despite the fact that the people of Nigeria had made a firm stance against apartheid. Thatcher had traveled to Nigeria in January 1988 at the height of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale to promote British business and to seek the diplomatic engagement of Nigeria with Jonas Savimbi.
The first aspect of her mission was successful to the point that the compromised military and political leaders deepened their engagement with Thatcherism and sent their children to schools in Britain while maintaining their massive capital flight from Nigeria to Britain. This class also internalized the ideas of the conservatism of Thatcher. On the second aspect of her trips to Nigeria, she was less successful. The Nigerian military, despite their conservatism could not openly support Jonas Savimbi. Though Savimbi made a trip to Nigeria to visit the dictatorship in the nineties, travelling from Cote d’Ivoire, it was after the moment when his intervention in Nigeria could change the course of history in Southern Africa. Murtala Mohamed had in 1975 declared that Africa was the center piece of Nigerian foreign policy and he had defied Henry Kissinger and stood with the freedom fighters in Angola and Southern Africa. In continuation of this Murtala Mohamed legacy, Nigeria, on many occasion challenged the neo-imperial foreign policies of the British, the French and the US across Africa. But Murtala Mohammed’s life was cut short by a coup that has raised questions about military sections and their alliance with Western imperialism. Margaret Thatcher, as the emissary for the neo-conservatives in the USA was sufficiently aware of that section of the Nigerian military and was working hard to win the support of that section of the military for Angola.
MARGRET THATCHER AND THE END OF APARTHEID
When Dowden wrote that Thatcher had played a pivotal role on ending apartheid, he was continuing the tradition of Chester Crocker, distorting the features of the end of apartheid. Crocker had been the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa during the Reagan administration and he worked tirelessly to provide support for the racist regime in Pretoria. After the South Africans were decisively defeated in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1988, Crocker intervened to save the complete collapse of the front of racism and participated in the negotiations about Namibian Independence. Later he wrote a book, ‘High Noon in Southern Africa: Making Peace in a Rough Neighborhood,’ taking credit for the independence of Namibia.
It needs to be stated clearly that the end of apartheid came from four interlocking factors.
1. The massive resistance campaign inside of South Africa mounted by the Mass Democratic Movement (workers, students, committed clergy, cultural workers, etc);
2. The armed struggles carried out by the Liberation Movements (notably the African National Congress and the Pan African Congress);
3. The diplomatic and political work of the Frontline States of Botswana, Angola, Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique and the wider Pan African solidarity;
4. The Global anti-apartheid movement that promoted sanctions and boycott of South African goods.
ANC – ‘A TYPICAL TERRORIST ORGANIZATION’
During the diplomatic struggles over the future of white supremacy in Southern Africa, Margaret Thatcher took a hard line and equated support for freedom fighters with support for communism. It was in this period when Dick Cheney and the neo-conservatives in the USA labeled the ANC a terrorist organization. Thus, when confronted at the Commonwealth Conference in Vancouver in 1987 over the future of the political settlement in South Africa, Thatcher referred to Mandela and the ANC as ‘a typical terrorist organization.’ It was reported then that she and her Conservative allies held that ‘Anyone who thinks that it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cuckooland.’ Thatcher was wrong on this score and the victory of the freedom struggles was crowned by the release of Mandela and the process to put to an end, white minority rule in South Africa.
THATCHER’S SUPPORT FOR MILITARISM AND MILITARISTS
Reference has already been made by many of the fact that Margaret Thatcher embraced General Pinochet of Chile at a moment when he was butchering hundreds of thousands in the name of anti-communism. She had been a cheerleader for the US invasion of Grenada in 1983 and gave cover to the Reagan disinformation about the role of Cubans in Grenada. Thatcher also took a hard line on the decolonization of Ireland and it was during her tenure when there was death by starvation of Sinn Fein MP Bobby Sands and nine other prisoners of the British state in Northern Ireland in 1981. For Thatcher, brute force was the answer to the questions of Ireland.
The embrace of Pinochet was also linked to the militaristic ideas of Thatcher who believed that she could reclaim the greatness of Britain by launching a war against Argentina in the Malvinas. This is the colonial territory in South America that is called the Falklands by the British. The Reagan administration was duplicitous enough to support both the dictatorship in Argentina and Thatcher at the same time. Neo-conservatism, neo-liberalism and anti-communism had deceived the leadership of both the United States and Britain that there was no alternative to capitalism and based on these ideas they embarked on reckless wars that involved supporting the most despicable forces on earth. In Latin America the Reagan administration supported those smuggling cocaine to the United States and under the banner of freedom, the British Conservatives coordinated anti-communism with the Saudis and the conservative sheikhs of the Middle East.
It was during her time as Prime Minister when her son Mark Thatcher expanded his business expertise as an arms salesperson. There are numerous tales of how Mark Thatcher accompanied his mother on state visits and used these occasions to promote the sale of weapons. Margaret Thatcher also used her international influence to set up her son to benefit from what was referred to as ‘the biggest arms deal in British history.’ This arms deal that was championed by the Prime Minister involved huge secret payment from private military company BAE, a company that looked to make £43 billion from the supply of war planes to Saudi Arabia. It was reported by the Independent newspaper of Britain that Mark Thatcher received $12 million from this deal.
The same son promoted the sale of arms from South Africa to Saudi Arabia when the apartheid regime was supposed to be under UN arms embargo. Mark Thatcher was allegedly a middleman in a $300 million arms deal involving apartheid South Africa’s state arms maker Armscor. The Thatchers’ legacy of militarization and destabilization of African societies came to a head in 2004, when Mark helped to plan, finance, and provide materials for the execution of a failed coup attempt against the leader of Equatorial Guinea. It has been reported that the former prime minister had prior knowledge of the planned coup and did approve of it. Thatcher’s mercenary son Mark was convicted in 2005 for his role in the Equatorial Guinea plot, and has since been denied entry into several countries, including Switzerland, Monaco, and the US where his wife and children reside.
MARGARET THATCHER OPPOSED BY AFRICANS AND PROGRESSIVES AND REHABILITATED BY HOLLYWOOD
From the outset of her premiership in Britain, the black community opposed the racism of Thatcher and the Conservative Party. As early 1981, her government pushed through the British Nationality Act that promoted differentiated citizenship in Britain. When stripped of the legalese, this British Nationality Act basically reproduced the hierarchy of humans and races that had become part of the British liberal mantra. But the Black British did not take these changes quietly. Early in 1981 when the racist climate was being fanned, 13 black youth were consumed in a fire at New Cross in London. Black people mobilized at all levels and at a massive demonstration with thousands, marched through the streets of London and sent a signal that they would stand their ground and fight. It was in this same year when there were massive rebellions all over Britain when the Black youth resisted the ‘sus’ laws. In England and Wales, the sus law (from ‘suspected person’) was the informal name for a stop and search law that permitted a police officer to stop, search and potentially arrest people on suspicion of them being in breach of section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824. Hundreds of black youths were being arrested under this law and after the New Cross fire the resistance to Thatcherism resulted in massive rebellions in every major urban center of England. This clear racial profiling by the police led to major rebellions with uprisings in St Pauls, Bristol, in 1980, and in Brixton, London, Toxteth, Liverpool, Handsworth, Birmingham and Chapeltown, Leeds in 1981. These uprisings resulted in the Scarman report that recommended the scrapping of ‘sus.’ These stop and search powers were returned to the British police in 2007 in the era of the Global War on Terror.
REHABILITATION OF MARGARET THATCHER OR THE BURIAL OF NEO-LIBERALISM
Throughout the era of Thatcherism there had been a global divide between those who supported capitalism and those who believed that another world was possible. Hollywood had come to the rescue of Thatcher’s reputation in 2012 with the movie, ‘The Iron Lady.’ In this movie there was a sympathetic portrayal of Margaret Thatcher as a trailblazer for women in politics. The director Phyllida Lloyd admitted that ‘the whole story is told from her (Thatcher’s) point of view.’ This is a movie, in which, according to one analyst, ‘a woman who vehemently rejected feminism is celebrated as a feminist icon, and a politician who waged naked class war is portrayed battling against class prejudice.’  Even Thatcher’s authorized biographer Charles Moore had to admit that the movie ‘The Iron Lady’ is a ‘powerful piece of propaganda for conservatism.’
This attempted rehabilitation of Thatcher has continued with the glowing tributes to her leadership by the mainstream press, especially the Murdoch outlets in Britain and the United States. However, the reality of the crisis of capitalism cannot be hidden from the mass of humanity. Since 2007 the interconnected crises came to the fore and the delicacy of the criminality of the banks in the City of London creates nervousness on the part of capital globally. Scandals such as the Libor rate fixing debacle of 2012 brought out the reality of the nefarious actions of the bankers. Far from making society more prosperous, the policies of Thatcherism have deepened the social and economic crisis in Europe and Britain. The opposition to Thatcherism had been so deep among the British working people that there were street parties when she entered the afterlife. The real challenge was for the intellectuals and those sections of the rising middle class who had internalized the ideas of racism, militarism and chauvinism. Tony Blair epitomized this faction of the British intelligentsia with his fawning support for George Bush and the unwinnable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Lower down, other sections of the British intelligentsia accepted the role of junior partners in humanitarian imperialism. We have shown in this analysis that Thatcherism represented a clear continuity in the jingoism, racism and militarism of the British ‘liberal’ traditions from Locke to John Stuart Mill and Enoch Powell. Many on the Left in Europe oppose the crude opposition to trade union rights and collective bargaining without linking this opposition to collective bargaining to the global attack on the poor internationally.
As Thatcher received her last rites, there is now a new awareness of the massive dislocation engendered by Thatcherism. The opposition to neo-liberalism is growing all over the world as there is a clear awareness that there must be an alternative to capitalism. As the capitalist crisis deepens inside Europe and the rise of racist attacks seek to mobilize the white workers on the basis of white supremacy, the traditions of Brixton and the Black marching through London after the New Cross fire has sent a signal that the Black Working peoples will make an alliance with the progressive white youth in fighting neo-fascism. One of the great challenges is for the revived left to be bold and audacious in promoting new forms of politics and new forms of organization to give meaning to the ideas of peace and social justice for all.
2. Seumas Milne, ‘A Thatcher State Funeral Would be Bound to Lead to Protests,’ The Guardian,4 January 2012. http://m.guardiannews.com/commentisfree/2012/jan/04/margaret-thatcher-state-funeral-protests.