Friday, 12 April 2013

Staying The Course: The Legacy Of Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher's Legacy: Margaret Thatcher tested the British Left - and found it wanting. The most pernicious of all her legacies is the damage she inflicted upon the ideological integrity of the British Labour Party. Rather than repudiate Thatcherism, Tony Blair's "New" Labour Party accepted it as an irreversible historical reality.

DE MORTUIS nil nisi bonum – of the dead speak only good – is a compassionate maxim. I’m not sure Margaret Thatcher would have followed it, but in writing about the late British Prime Minister, I will do my best.
 
Perhaps the kindest (and certainly the truest) observation I can offer about Baroness Thatcher is that she tested the British Left and found it wanting.
 
So absolute has “Thatcherism’s” ideological triumph been that few now remember how little prospect of success the British Conservative Party’s new leader was granted – even by her colleagues.
 
The 1970s represented the high-water mark of the Left’s success in the English-speaking world. Even as late as 1979 – the year in which Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first female prime-minister – the ideology we know today as neoliberalism was dismissed as extremist folly by practically all “serious” public intellectuals (including a number on the Right). If the Keynesian economic policies that had underpinned thirty years of post-war prosperity no longer seemed to be working, the cure was generally supposed to lie in a shift to the Left – not in a lurch rightwards to the laissez-faire precepts of the Victorian era.
 
In this context, the election of the Margaret Thatcher-led Conservative Government was interpreted not as some sort of ideological sea-change, but as the British working-class’s angry response to the multiple economic and political failures of Jim Callaghan’s Labour government.
 
Under the UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system, the Conservatives had (as always) benefited from the large number of votes cast for the Liberal Party. But the size of the Conservatives’ majority in the House of Commons by no means reflected the party’s share of the popular vote. With 13.6 million votes (43.9 percent) the Conservatives enjoyed a clear plurality, but the party’s tally was still well below that of the 15.8 million votes cast for their opponents – Labour and the Liberals.
 
Baroness Thatcher’s admirers may be loathe to admit it, but at no time in her eleven year reign did the Conservative Party’s neoliberal programme ever attract more than the 43.9 percent it received in 1979.
 
What she was able to do, however, was unite the Right's plurality and bind it ever-more-tightly to the Conservative Party’s radical economic and social programme. The middle-class voters who, under the hapless Ted Heath, had all but given up hope that the “lower orders” would ever be put back in their proper place, were both inspired and invigorated by the Tories’ “Iron Lady”.
 
This unity on the Right was not, however, answered by unity on the Left. The right of the Labour Party simply wasn’t willing to follow Tony Benn into the radical territory dictated by the party’s socialist ideology. Egged on by the right-wing British media (which needed no assistance in recognising an opportunity to divide and conquer when it saw one) the 15-17 million British voters who opposed Thatcherism fruitlessly divvied up their support between Labour, the Liberal Party and the Labour Right’s breakaway Social Democratic Party.
 
In sociological terms this splitting of the Left reflected the professional middle-classes’ political refusal to surrender either their status (or their taxes!) to working-class people. When the chips were down (and Thatcherism made damn sure the chips were always down) even these ostensibly “conscience-driven” members of the British bourgeoisie refused to recognise working-class Britons as their social and intellectual equals.
 
As Margaret Thatcher set about defeating the organised working-class in the mines and factories, their middle-class "comrades" were waging a parallel campaign of class warfare inside the Labour Party.
 
Thatcherism’s ultimate triumph, therefore, is not represented in Britain’s pulverised trade unions and privatised industries (unions can be rebuilt, industries can be renationalised) but in the person of Tony Blair and his ideologically de-fanged “New” Labour Party.
 
“You turn if you want to.” Margaret Thatcher famously told the 1980 Conservative Party Conference. “The Lady’s not for turning!”
 
If only the British Left had been equally determined to stay the course.
 
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News. The Dominion Post, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 12 April 2013.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't see any reason not to speak ill of a woman who was a friend of torturers like Pinochet. She and her Tory contemporaries were vermin.

Anonymous said...

http://www.historytoday.com/blog/2013/04/margaret-thatchers-career-perspective

cheesefunnel said...

"The 1970s represented the high-water mark of the Left’s success in the English-speaking world."

To hold this point of view in a non-humorous manner it would seem something stronger than rose colored spectacles would be required, a welding helmet perhaps? The way the left ignore the parlous state of the UK in the 70s in their Thatcher assessments is fascinating (or willfully ignorant). I've yet to hear what the proposed alternative was or is (more of the same perhaps?)

Congratulations, at least, on not stooping down to the level of personal vitriol, a position which it seems is defining the left's reaction to this event. Like any political figure, she was a product of her time, to cast her simply as a villain or saint, misrepresents a complex situation.

Chris Trotter said...

Just take a look at the primary sources, Cheesefunnel. The newspaper articles and editorials; the news and current affairs programmes; the novels, films and television shows.

The common lament from the Right was of the power and influence of the Left - particularly of the trade unions.

Look at the literature pouring out of the social sciences and history departments of the universities throughout the 1970s.

Look at films like "Billy Jack", "Oh Lucky Man", "Zabriskie Point", "Soldier Blue" - even "All the President's Men". The anti-establishment, proto-revolutionary mood is unmistakeable.

Hence the concerted push-back from the Right, which, far better than the Left, understood exactly how precarious capitalism's position was in the 1970s.

Don't forget that when Ted Heath, in the General Election of 1973, more-or-less demanded to know "Who governs Britain?" Britain more-or-less answered - "The Unions!"

Few observers in 1979 seriously believed that Maggie would fare any better.

She proved them wrong.

Anonymous said...

"Like any political figure, she was a product of her time, to cast her simply as a villain or saint, misrepresents a complex situation."

Nonsense. She threw her lot in with a torturer. Nothing complex about that. Anyone who says different is a moral cretin.

Dean Parker said...

I went along to a Thatcher party on Tues night at Unite. It did seem a bit desperate to be celebrating the death of an 87-year-old, but I'm a long-serving member of the A.E.F.A.P. (Marxist-Leninist) -- the left-opportunist any-excuse-for-a-party crowd. Some years ago, representing AEFAP (M-L) I went along to another gathering, out at Mangere, where I was told there'd be red wine and boiled ham. This was a memorial to former Labour PM David Lange. The tone was of course reverential. But I remember being a delegate at the Auckland Trades Council in 1987 and a wharfies' delegate standing and saying to the Council's parliamentary guest, Labour MP Richard Northey, "Richard, I'd like to congratulate you and your government for achieving in three years what it's taken Thatcher seven."

chris said...

Chris, you need to add that the left turned from a politics of class and economics to one of identity.

You can change your income. In the UK, there has always been a class system but people can rise -- Maggie is an example of a lower middle class woman who rose to the top, and before her there were working class men who had been ministers of the crown.

But the new left instead set up a politics of identity. You cannot change your skin colour, or who your parents are. This exploitation of oppression allowed for the development of a minority coalition (which requires a lot of double talk: saying one thing to the rainbow coalition and another thing in Samoan churches). But it does not allow for a transformation of society for the common good.

The left have found themselves, willingly or unwillingly, acting as if they are feudal rulers of minority groups. This, long term, is a futile position: because if the majority goes fascist (as Winston would take them) the minorities will be facing dawn raids (if they are lucky, historically they will be facing living in a ghetto. Behind barbed wire).

I keep on thinking that there is something in the old -- and I mean victorian -- working class virtues that would be worthwhile promoting. The ideas of solidarity and self education and self governence. Of communuality -- the idea of the guild where the means of work and the regulation of work is controlled by the workers -- and as we move to a post industrial age where the capital costs to start production are going down we do not need as much capital to start things -- and of communual support of the injured and the widows.

The left has to find an analysis that works when factories are no longer industrial cathedrals but fungable commodities. Thatcher and the right know this.

The left need some new ideas. What worked in the 1930s will not work now.

Anonymous said...

Some comments:

1. I'm actually not sure the Liberals prior to the 1980s split the anti-Tory vote: go back to say 1950-51, and it's clear that they're taking votes from the Tories. In the 1960s-70s they're simply the 'none of the above' party, with social liberalism and pro-Europeanism (the latter putting them closer to the Tories than Labour, which at the time was the more Eurosceptic of the two big parties). It was only after the SDP arrived on the scene that you come across the modern phenomenon of the Left being split.

2. The Callaghan government was far from perfect, of course, but notably lacking from your analysis is that 1979 was very much turkeys voting for Christmas. The unions deliberately blew up the economy, thinking they could deal with Thatcher the way they dealt with Heath. And the Scottish Nationalists voted to bring down the Labour Government because of the devolution debacle, thereby bringing to power a woman who shat on Scotland. A bit less stupidity all round, and Thatcher would have never come to power.

3. Labour deciding that it lost the 1979 election because it wasn't left-wing enough was a tragic strategic mistake. Had Healey won the leadership in 1980 and the SDP accordingly never split, Thatcher's re-election in 1983 would've been much narrower. She'd still have won because of the Falklands, but with a smaller majority, she might have been a good deal more careful in her second term, which means less brutality being directed against the unions. As it was, however much you sugar-coat it, Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament was a vote loser in the context of 1980s Britain. When the perfect becomes the enemy of the good, you end up with the bad.

Anonymous said...

"influence of the Left - particularly of the trade unions."


Unions are the same as everyone else. They get enough power and they'll abuse it.

Tim said...

" .... the minorities will be facing dawn raids (if they are lucky, historically they will be facing living in a ghetto. Behind barbed wire)"
They're ALREADY facing dawn raids (though not necessarily held at dawn). See the comments on Mike Treen's post http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/04/05/migrant-workers-used-and-abused/
once proudly depicted in certain reality TV programming (the title of which eludes me).
According to Wonder Boy, we might very well be deluged by 'illegals and queue jumpers' .

Jigsaw said...

Of course Labour put up some stiff opposition to Margaret Thatcher....like Michael Foot....yeh right!

Anonymous said...

DE MORTUIS nil nisi bonum – of the dead speak only good – is a compassionate maxim.

And Bette Davis, commenting on the death of her screen rival Joan Crawford, was reported to have said “You should never say bad things about the dead, only good…Joan Crawford is dead..Good.”

BrightSpark said...

Thatcher won by playing a brutal game with energy, and the politics of energy.

She had the miners loving her to begin with, as they worked double and triple shifts making a giant stockpile of coal.

And then she baited them into a strike, and had the giant pile of coal (along with thrashing the nuclear stations, leaving a dangerous waste legacy today) to see out the strike.

Nasty, brutual, but effective, if you are that way inclined.

Victor said...

Chris

I find your description of the ills of Thatcherism criticisable only for its moderation.

But I quarrel with your view that the UK Left was betrayed in the 1980s by soggy, snobby centrists rather than by its own extremism, self-obsession and rancorous feuding.

And I also quarrel with your assessment that Labour’s narrow victory in the February 1974 election meant the miners ran the country.

True, Heath had tried to frame the election in these terms. But, once the campaign got going, other issues took over, including perennials such as the export gap, inflation, Europe and Northern Ireland.

The resilience of Labour’s vote in the West Midlands owed much to Enoch Powell telling his loyal fans to vote against the Ultra-Europhile Heath, whilst the Tories lost effective electoral control of Ulster to hard line, populist Unionists opposed to the Sunningdale Agreement.

The biggest winners from this weirdest of elections were the Liberals and the SNP, both of whom saw their vote surge way beyond the expectations of the metropolitan chattering classes.

In both cases, they took votes from Labour and the Tories. But, thanks to FPP, their greatest impact tended to be in hitherto Conservative seats. So , effectively, they made it easier for Labour to seek and sustain itself in office.

The Liberals’ propensity to snap up occasional Tory marginals (mainly leafy suburbs or rural areas) was a constant of British politics over many decades and, to my mind, rather undermines your contention that they were one of the forces impeding the new Socialist dawn.

....more to come

Victor said...

Continuing previous post.....

Scrolling forward to the 1983 election, it’s interesting to speculate what might have happened had General Galtieri not obliged Thatcher by launching the Falklands invasion (with a little bit of presumably unintended encouragement from the Foreign Office).

Prior to the invasion, the Liberal-Social Democratic Alliance was snapping not just at Labour’s heels but at those of the Tories as well.

Anecdotally, my employment at that time as a Charity fundraiser had me scurrying around England (North and South, rural and urban, posh and plebeian). Over a pint or two after meetings, conversation would inevitably turn to the parlous state of the nation.

I recall the widespread and unmistakable anger at the clearly wrong-headed economic policies of the first Thatcher term, as well as for the rank inhumanity of its social policies.

The only exception I can call to mind, was when meeting a group of Cambridge undergraduates, all of whom, bright eyed and bushy-tailed, proudly proclaimed their belief in free markets and monetarism, with all the wet-behind-the-ears certainty their 1960s equivalents would have evinced when extolling Socialism.

Such is the tribalism of British politics that much of this burgeoning anti-Thatcher vote was never going to go to Labour. But quite a bit of it would have done, had the party not bolted in a direction totally alien to the sensibilities and views of the overwhelming majority of British people, including proudly working class trade unionists.

Yes, the Tory shock, horror machine worked overtime to keep Labour’s foibles in the public eye. But, as someone who’d had the pleasure of meeting Michael Foot on a number of occasions and the vast displeasure of knowing some members of the Militant Tendency, I have to acknowledge how close the caricature was to reality.

Nor would it have been a tragedy for the democratic left had the Alliance parties been the leading beneficiaries of the anti-Thatcher surge that (thanks to Galtieri) never happened.

The Liberal Party was a curious beast with many policies (e.g. industrial co-partnership) somewhat to the left of conventional Labour thinking. And it was still then the party of Keynes and Beveridge, however much it might have been reclaimed by neo-Gladstonians over the last few years. One thing it simply wasn’t was a conspiracy to keep the Bourgeoisie in power.

The Social Democrats were probably to the right of the Liberals (though the’d have denied this). But they, like Labour’s loyalist right wing (but unlike yourself, Maggie T and Tony Blair) still believed in the mixed economy, pro-welfare model of the post war decades.

.....yet more to come

Chris Trotter said...

I bow to your much greater command of the historical and psephological detail, Victor, but would defend my basic contention that the UK's FPP system allowed Thatcherism to survive and thrive without a genuine electoral mandate, and that those who deplored what the "Iron Lady" was doing to Britain squandered repeated opportunities to get rid of her by spreading their support in ways which FFP could only reward with the return of the incumbent.

Bad faith as well as bad judgement, perhaps?

Victor said...

...concluding rant:

And here’s the nub. The post war model had not in fact failed. Across Western Europe,it had produced unprecedented wealth, security, good health, opportunities and welfare for many millions of people.

But Britain, with its outdated industries, badly trained and excessively combative management, class divisions, high military expenditure, long Imperial retreat, anarchic industrial relations and obsession with defending Sterling, had failed to keep up.

Social Democracy had not been tried and found wanting. In the UK, it had been found difficult and not tried sufficiently. That’s why British standards of living had fallen 50% behind those of Sweden and West Germany by the early 1970s and (rather more galling to British amour proper) 25% behind those of Gaullist, Dirigiste France.

True, the 1970s oil shocks helped produce the curious phenomenon of ‘Stagflation’, which seemed impervious to Keynesian solutions. But the shortage was soon followed by a near glut, whilst the serendipity of North Sea oil got spent on Thatcher’s dole queues, instead of the restructuring of British industry.

And now the chickens have come home to roost. Germany, its industries still intact, thives even in the globalist age, whilst the banking and services economy Thatcher helped foster, languishes in the doldrums.

Meanwhile, her heirs redouble her efforts to screw every possible long term economic disadvantage from the disasterousdtihous hand her heritage has dealt them!

Anyhow, enough already! I don’t expect us to agree on this issue. But you’ve pressed the buttons of memory and reflection. So only muted apologies for the length of this tirade.

Victor said...

Chris

Very briefly, as I've probably already been too obsessive in forcing my opinions on you....

In the UK, Tory seats were characteristically more vulnerable than Labour ones to a strong Liberal showing because Tory constituency majorities tended to be narrower and Labour voters even more determinedly tribal.

So, objectively, a strong Liberal showing tended to help Labour. This has changed a bit as Labour's tribalism has got watered down. But, back in the 70s and 80s, that's the way things were.

I agree that Thatcher and many another UK prime minister would not have been able to command a majority under a proportionally representative system.

But the main beneficiary of that would almost certainly have been the Liberals (or the LibDems before Cleggie sold the pass).

As things stood, people who would otherwise have voted Liberal, chose not to do so because it would have meant a wasted vote.

And, despite that, the party's share of the vote was often considerably higher than that of all of NZ's smaller parties combined.

Would a substantially stronger Liberal Party, fed by PR, have helped Labour? Well, it would certainly have been in office more often. But it would have had genuinely to share power, as Social Democratic parties have learned to do across Europe.

Would this have been good for Britain? I think so but I don't expect you to agree.

Was there bad faith in the 70s and 80s? I think so. But on the extreme left far more than on the centre left.

But beyond the bad faith, there was also sheer self-destructive idiocy.

And none of this justifies Labour's subsequent monstrous over-correction in the direction of Blairism.

Chris Trotter said...

I'm not sure why you lump me in with Maggie T and Tony Blair, Victor, especially since, as anybody who has read Bowalley Road for more than a few minutes should realise, I have always been a firm believer in the mixed economy of the welfare state.

My posting simply reiterates what you also clearly believe, that Britain (passim Scandinavia, Germany and France) needed to go further to the Left in 1979 (and 1983) not lurch to the Right.

You seem to be mistaking me for someone from the Militant Tendency. But, in spite of my name, Victor, I've never been a follower of the Trots.

Victor said...

Of course I know you're not a Trot.

But you do seem to be saying that everyone who disagreed with Labour's left wing was somehow or other a traitor to The Cause and inspired by mendacity, snobbery or both.

But the truth of the matter is that there was a whole lot wrong with the Labour left's policies, its choice of leaders and its intolerant approach to the party's right.

Similarly, there was a whole lot wrong with the way the major unions were able to buy (yes, buy)votes in party elections.

And I (rhetorically) chuck you in with Maggie and Bliar, not because I really believe you lack faith in Social Democracy but because that's the logical conclusion of your dismissal of Labour's Social Democrats and, for that matter, of the Social Democrats in other parties.

Chris Trotter said...

If the Labour Right's response to a challenge from the Labour Left is to "rhetorically" align them with the likes of Thatcher and Blair, Victor, then I think you've very neatly proved my point about the behaviour of non-Tory voters in the 1980s and 90s.

Victor said...

Touche!

OK I withdraw my chucking in (it was unkind) but not the rest of my argument.

Robert M said...

In terms of Scotland, maybe much of the middle class vote for the Conservatives in say 1970 or 1974 moved south to England or to Australia, SA or NZ.
I suspect the argument that FPP secured a Tory victory for Thatcher, against the general sentiment, is much more true of the victory of Cameron and Osborne. Half the liberal coalition vote would not have wanted Cameron, maybe more, particularly the Liberal-Clegg ( I've forgotten the current tag for the Liberal SDs)vote outside Sth England.
The Tory victory in 1979 reflects a huge labour non vote, stay at home and this was also much of reason for the Tory landslide in 1983.
I could see little value in a move left in England in 1979 or NZ in 1984. But if Rowling had won in 1981 had won it might have been interesting, even very unfortunate as the Monday Club and Douglas would not have had the strength or influence. For that reason in 1981, I defected from my usual Values, Lab support and voted Nat and worked as a National scruitineer as I felt it would be do dangerous to do anything to challenge Reagan on nuclear ships
visits then, if not four years later. In 1981 NZs contribution to Anzus was still of some value, less so in 1985.

Anonymous said...

There were two England's and probably still are. The North with reasonably old-fashioned extractive and manufacturing. And the south with a tranche of government subsidised defence industries which weren't to be touched. Typical Tory hypocrisy.

Scouser said...

I must repeat one of my earlier comments on your blog in that I feel you over-complicate and look for class and/or ideological drivers and thereby ignore the basics.

I was working class, born and bred in the North of England and saw where the country was. The Strawbs song, "Part of Union" was a clever piece of satire that as early as 1973 neatly summarised the power and, more importantly, approaches of the unions. They had moved from a force for good of the working classes to a blight that had been hijacked for views that had as little to do with the common man as extreme right wing views. Unions had become the new masters for many working class in a way that mimicked the Soviets. They also held great sway in the Labour party.

The country was also going to an economic hell in basket quickly predominantly through a legacy of excessive government spending, lack of economic efficiencies and the unions' tactics. The 70s was a pretty bad time in the UK for many.

The every day person recognised that what had gone before was failing miserably. Most voted against the past. And this is where we fundamentally disagree. Thatcher succeeded because of the previous failure of the left and the excesses of the unions and not through any split in voting (various forms of which had occurred for decades in the UK) or split in the left's organisation. FPP frequently delivered what would be seen as unfair governments under proportional representation for both the left and the right and is irrelevant in that voters knew NOT voting for Labour meant a Tory government. It was a 2 party system that was well understood by the voters.

Frankly, normal people were p*****d off with their situation and laid the responsibility at the feet of excesses of unions and left wing policies. A failure in policy and management not one of organisation of political unity of the left.

Thatcher is also often represented as waging a "war" against various edifices of the left and, in particular, the unions. What this misses is that the language of war was one of the fundamentals of union and hard left speak for decades prior to Thatcher. She accepted a declaration of war. The bitterness, I feel, is that she mostly won.

Chris Trotter said...

Well, Scouser, there has been a great deal written about Britain in the 1960s and 70s - and the picture which emerges does not entirely accord with your own.

Rapidly rising inflation left the trade unions with little option but to lodge compensatory wage claims. To have done otherwise would have condemned their members and their families to falling living standards.

Thatcher's curbs on union power have resulted in exactly what those union leaders' feared - lower living standards for working-class Britons.

The decision-making in trade unions - both here and in Britain - is democratic (especially when it comes to the decision to strike). And only a fool calls out a site if the strike vote is less than two-thirds in favour.

It was Arthur Scargill's suicidal refusal to ballot the whole of the NUM that guaranteed Thatcher's victory. The Miners were defeated not by democratic decision-making - but the lack of it.

Class rhetoric in Britain has always been vitriolic, and, as I'm sure you're aware, Scouser, those engaging in it are equally likely to hail from the upper as the lower classes.

Are you sure you're not just a small-c conservative working-class lad from the North who couldn't quite manage the political transition from Labourism to Socialism?

And, given what Thatcher did to your country, have you never wished you'd tried a bit harder to make the leap?

Scouser said...

"The decision-making in trade unions - both here and in Britain - is democratic (especially when it comes to the decision to strike). "

Not based on the feedback from my large number of working class relatives - Unions were effectively ran as little dictatorships where the average worker was presented with an outcome that should he talk against he found himself on the outside. In Liverpool that often resulted in insults, stuff stolen from lockers, slashed tyres etc. It was not some pretty democracy with secret ballots. It was often brutal.

My own father (and many other of my relatives) worked at several factories, which closed down PRIOR to Thatcher and he was remarkably sanguine at what he saw as a culture of screwing themselves over whilst trying to screw over the management. "Bone Idle B******s" he called many workers and especially the union reps. It was remarkable how many short men became union reps. He and many of my Uncles and Aunts predicted it would end in tears.

"Are you sure you're not just a small-c conservative working-class lad from the North who couldn't quite manage the political transition from Labourism to Socialism?"

Except this wasn't Labourism or Socialism - it was the excesses of the unions who were the source of their own demise - they did not represent their own workers in the end.

And in terms of your characterisation of me disguised as a question that is on a par with me asking whether you are an intellectual from the Antipodes with a sesquipedalian approach to your hobby of socialism. But to answer your question - no, I'm positive I'm not.

I appreciated what the unions had done just not what they had become. They were a large part of why Thatcher was successful.

Your reference to living standards does not match what I personally saw. They continued to rise in Liverpool - crime and drugs, however, ruined the place in the end.

I do agree with those who railed at Thatcher's approach. It was harsh and I am sure it could and should have been more humane. It almost felt like there was an element of rubbing salt in the wound. But I'm also pretty sure if the then approach had been allowed to continue the consequences would have been worse - Greece comes to mind.

Back to your original proposition - I suggest the fractures in the left were as a result of their failure rather than the cause. They were struggling for alternatives.

Chris Trotter said...

"Sesquipedalian" - marvellous! (And, I have to confess, occasionally true!)

For those not in on the joke, the word sesquipedalian denotes someone who likes to use long-words.

And, just soze ya noze, Scouser, I used to be a union official, and in my neck of the woods the sort of behaviour you describe just didn't happen. It may have, elsewhere in the movement, but I never saw it.

I'd also like to know how a group of bullies - such as you describe - could persuade a whole factory of workers to forego their wages simply to make short men feel taller?

In my experience you have to talk long and hard, and people have to be pretty pissed off, before a strike ballot has a chance of being carried.

Maybe you Brits are different!

Anonymous said...

Thatcher's legacy on inequality:

http://www.progressorcollapse.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/gini-index-uk.jpg

Scouser said...

"Sesquipedalian" - marvellous! (And, I have to confess, occasionally true!)"

Occasionally??? This article started with "DE MORTUIS nil nisi bonum" - Your addiction to the bon mot is untreatable but I don't suggest you change. I only have to reach for a dictionary when I read yourself or Dalrymple though I notice he has lost none of his bludgeoning logic but rarely stretches the use of language in the way he used to.


"In my experience you have to talk long and hard, and people have to be pretty pissed off, before a strike ballot has a chance of being carried"

Not for a while in the UK that's the whole point you struggle to get. Peer pressure, collective thinking etc. Striking was no longer solely about workers' rights or benefits. Loss of "Wages" was protected by the large strike funds the union kept - money that had come from workers in the first place. In effect, striking for several days a year provided a break from work as the money had already gone. An amazingly economic decision. Scousers are quite clever in that way.

Victor said...

Chris

It's a wee bit piquant for you to accuse Scouser of being a working class, small 'c' conservative.

That's exactly what the UK unions had become by the 1970s, hanging on for all they were worth to old practices, old demarcations, old slogans and old industries.

Personally, I wouldn't object to being called a small 'c' conservative, as it's sensible to hang on to things that have served you and yours well in the past.

But, by the 1970s, union practices had become part of the mix that was making Britain economically sclerotic. And, yes, poor management practices and an antediluvian class system were at least equally part of that mix.

Reform was long overdue. Yet, instead of reform, we got regression. The unions might still have been living in the 1940s. But Thatcher took us back to the 1930s, if not to the 1830s.

The essentially conservative nature of UK unionism in those years was only partially disguised by a vogue for pseudo-Marxist rhetoric and the much reported antics of small cliques of Trotskyite entry-ists.

Much of the time, it was a case of sound and fury signifying the opposite of reality. And, in the meantime, rubbish piled up in the streets.

May both you and Scouser both retain your sesquipedalian tendencies.