Here, richly, with ridiculous display,
The Politician’s corpse was laid away.
While all of his acquaintance sneered and slanged
I wept: for I had longed to see him hanged.
With the modification of the relevant personal pronouns, Hilaire Belloc’s famous ditty seems particularly apt today.
How to remember Margaret Thatcher? Shall we recall the friend of Augusto Pinochet, the woman who protested bitterly about the arrest of Chile’s murderous dictator, a man to whom, she said, Britain owed so much? What about the staunch ally of apartheid, the prime minister who labelled the ANC ‘terrorists’ and did everything possible to undermine international action against the racist regime? The anti-union zealot who described striking miners defending their livelihood as an ‘enemy within’, hostile to liberty? The militarist who prosecuted the Falklands war, as vicious as it was pointless? The Cold Warrior, who stood by Reagan’s side, while the US conducted its genocidal counterinsurgencies in Latin America? The British chauvinist who allowed Bobby Sands to slowly starve to death?
Naturally, the Left must resist any and all attempts to posthumously sanctify this evil woman, particularly as the very publications that launched disinformation campaigns about Hugo Chavez with his corpse still warm suddenly denounce any discussion of genuine history as an outrageous attack on the recently departed. Stay tuned for a ghastly parade of social democrats paying tribute to a woman who despised their kind – and worse still, the disinterment of various ex-radicals to mutter about how, while they hated Thatcher back in the day, they now belatedly mourn the passing of a political giant.
In the fact of that kind of fraudulent sanctimony, well, as Oscar Wilde noted about Little Nell, you’d need a heart of stone not to laugh.
That being said, I’ve never found merriment over anyone’s death particularly edifying. Marx liked the Latin maxim ‘Nothing human is alien to me’, and there’s a sense in which mortality of any kind under any circumstances confronts us all as a common enemy – though it’s entirely possible that those whose relatives sailed the Belgrano feel somewhat differently.
But there’s a more important reason to not get carried away with celebrations over Thatcher’s passing – and that is, simply, she’s not dead.
Yes, the Iron Lady’s mortal flesh might have given up but her ideas, like some malignant virus, have well-and-truly spread throughout the world. There are Margaret Thatchers of both genders sitting throughout the Australian parliament.
That’s the argument embedded in Belloc’s wit. Back in the day, we could confront Thatcherism’s original host body. Now, that opportunity has passed – and the Left faces the much more difficult task of defeating the less obvious Thatcherites who still walk among us.