Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Iron Beauty and the Clay Beast

I stand before you tonight in my Red Star chiffon evening gown, my face softly made up and my fair hair gently waved, the Iron Lady of the Western world. A cold war warrior, an amazon philistine, even a Peking plotter. Well, am I any of these things? (…) Yes I am an iron lady, after all it wasn't a bad thing to be an iron duke, yes if that's how they wish to interpret my defense of values and freedoms fundamental to our way of life. (1976)

This is how Margaret Thatcher, then opposition leader, launched her career. She was the female personification of Britannia itself - not as it is now, but as it ought to be - free, proud, indomitable. Britannia that had always “ruled the waves” - the waves of liberty that ate away at the landmass that so often came under despotic sway. British history abounds with feminine symbolism. The Iron Lady had an air of the “virgin queen”, Elizabeth I, whose fleet defeated an empire where the sun never set. She was also inspired by the “iron duke” - Wellington, who brought to an end a utopian project to unite Europe under Napoleon's tyrannical rule. Britain’s ascendancy following the Napoleonic Wars ushered in the era of Queen Victoria - another embodiment of British glory that evoked nostalgia in Thatcher’s heart. As the British sun set by the mid-20 century, it still managed to strike a death blow against the mad prophet of National Socialism:

Over the centuries we have fought to prevent Europe from falling under the dominance of a single power. We have fought and we have died for her freedom. (…) Had it not been for that willingness to fight and to die, Europe would have been united long before now—but not in liberty, not in justice. It was British support to resistance movements throughout the last War that helped to keep alive the flame of liberty in so many countries until the day of liberation. (…) And it was from our island fortress that the liberation of Europe itself was mounted.

The Iron Lady summed up Britain’s historic mission in the following way:

Britain’s always stood for liberty. (…) Britain isn’t just another country. We’ve never been just another country. (…) It is Britain who stood when everyone else surrendered. And if Britain pulls out of that commitment, it’s as if one of the pillars of the temple has collapsed. Because we are one of the pillars of freedom.

Thatcher’s challenge was as great as those faced by Britain before - she stood up to an Evil Empire that had subdued half of the globe and aspired to dominate the other half. Attila’s hordes had resurrected from their graves and were intent on plunging the Western civilization into a sea of blood. The policy of Thatcher’s predecessors had been one of concession, appeasement and surrender - Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson was even rumored to be a KGB spy. But Thatcher, along with Reagan, realized that the Soviet colossus had feet of clay - the only thing necessary to defeat it was to withdraw Western sanction and support. Without the resources created by liberty, the monster eventually stagnated and collapsed.
But the Cold War front ran not only through the infinite plains of Eurasia but also through the heart of Britain. In Liverpool, the Trotskyite “militant tendency” took over the city council. Even more important was the struggle between Thatcher and the trade unions, which dominated the Labour Party (which still advocated public ownership of the means of production). It was a fight over whether Britain would be a planned or free economy.
In 1974, Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath called an election, asking the voters who governed Britain - Her Majesty's cabinet or militant union bureaucracy - and lost it. Thus the National Union of Mineworkers brought down the government.
By 1979, Britain was turning into something like an anarcho-syndicalist utopia, entering an era of union violence gone mad - known as the Winter of Discontent. As we shall see, the Thatcher era abounds with Shakespearean suspense and drama:

Now is the Winter of our Discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York
(Shakespeare, Richard III)

Just like Henry VII triumphed over Richard III in 1485, ending the War of the Roses, Thatcher came victorious in the 1979 election and brought to an end the quasi-civil war waged by the unions.
In 1984-1985, the National Union of Mineworkers mounted another challenge against law and order, this time under the leadership of Arthur Scargill, alias king Arthur of Red Britain. Scargill was a member of the Young Communist League from 1955 to 1962. He did not mince words:

Capitalism is an obscene system which deserves to be overthrown.

Scargill also called for taking "into common ownership everything in Britain" and "immediate nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange." Moreover, he explicitly advocated bringing the entire press under state control, as communists have done in every country they ruled.
Like Thatcher, King Arthur was no compromiser. He was Thatcher's complete opposite:

I do not believe compromise with the capitalist system of society will achieve anything.

King Arthur's communist Camelot was being bankrolled by the Kremlin. He also made numerous trips to the USSR and Cuba. Not only was Scargill a communist - he was the most hardcore type of a red, a Stalinist. He mourned Stalin's removal from the Mausoleum and criticized the Soviet Union's post-Stalinist leadership for squandering his "great heritage". Many members of Scargill's Socialist Labour Party were also members of the UK's Stalin Society.
Like all communists, Scargill used "democracy" (i.e. mob rule) to subvert the rule of law. Thatcher, who (like the US Founding Fathers) was committed to a "government of laws and not of men" (not democracy!), would not tolerate this:

I must tell you ... that what we have got is an attempt to substitute the rule of the mob for the rule of law, and it must not succeed. It must not succeed. There are those who are using violence and intimidation to impose their will on others who do not want it.... The rule of law must prevail over the rule of the mob.

Eventually, Thatcher prevailed. Baronness Thatcher's victory over King Arthur (much like the barons' victory over King John, which ushered in the Magna Carta) entrenched law and order in a country that had been torn by socialist anarchy. It was a clash of the diametrically opposed principles - the free market and the planned economy. The free market won.
But the victory seems to have been Pyrrhic. Since Thatcher resigned, Britain has been ruled by bland, insipid, non-committal, pragmatist non-entities like Blair, Brown and Cameron. Under Thatcher, there was a clash of fundamental principles. But now Britain is mired in a swamp of consensus, with everyone paying lip service to free markets but at the same time undermining its very foundation. In some respects, it is easier to fight a gigantic monster with clear-cut, explicit views than a host of fleas and bacteria that are not committed to any basic idea or principle.
Moreover, Thatcher bought Gorby’s devious “perestroika” business, which was nothing more than a ploy to keep the Soviet elite in power. And it is still in power in most post-Soviet states, despite the USSR’s collapse. Besides, the corpse of the communist behemoth is now being resurrected in the edicts of Brussels (the “EUSSR”), while the Soviet-led anti-nuclear socialist “peace” (my ass) movement has re-branded itself as environmentalist and anti-globalist, and third-world savages that once espoused communist struggle against “imperialism” are now advocating the same thing under another guise - the Islamic jihad against the West. History repeats itself… This time it’s a farce but it may soon turn tragic.

1 comment:

Reasonsjester said...

I hope you are saving all of these articles for a monograph. Truly fascinating and well-written stuff.