Why it’s okay to celebrate Thatcher’s death

In fact, more than okay: it’s the duty of every right-thinking person. But after the shameful recrimination by Martin McGuinness, some clear thinking is in order.

McGuinness says that “it is a mistake to allow her death to poison our minds.” This is a feather-touch compared to the words of the right-wing, who think they’ve found the heart of the matter: the Left is only compassionate towards it own. When it comes to the Right, they’re as bloodthirsty as those they claim to condemn. Cue calls of hypocrisy and comparisons with Stalin.

They won't forget us (La Commune)

This is another strawman argument. It implies that the Left is calling for her death. Outside of Irish dissidents, nobody is. Celebrating her death is very different: it’s saying that we survived the damage she did. That she won’t curse the world with her presence any longer. And that, naively, maybe her ideology will weaken now that she’s gone.

There is no moral equivalency between Thatcher and her critics, but not in the way that the Right believes. Thatcher condemned thousands to death through her policies. She did this directly in The Falklands, through her Irish policies and through her agitation for the Gulf Wars. She did this indirectly through her friendship with Pinochet – helping to shield him from justice, and justifying the thousands of people he killed, as well as the thousands of Britons she helped to an early grave through her attack on the working class, removing social safety nets and destroying communities. Even if you count IRA attacks as simple brigandry, rather than a substitution of individual terrorism for national liberation, with all its murderous consequences, the body count is still significantly stacked in her favour. In other words, Thatcher, the Tories and all neoliberal ideologues have the machinery of state apparatus at their disposal. You can’t equate their violence with the violence of those they oppressed, in numbers or quality, any more than you can equate the violence of Palestinians with that of Israeli settlers. And you certainly can’t equate it with satisfaction that she’s dead.

Violence (Harlan County USA)

Most importantly, the lack of moral equivalency points to a bigger conclusion: the ruling class aren’t on a different point of the moral compass, they use a different compass altogether. They are ruthlessly pragmatic, with no concern or respect for the lives of their enemies. Why should they have? They know what the stakes are: if the workers discover they don’t need bosses and take over, the rulers are finished. This is why every movement for democracy and labour rights that seriously challenged capitalist power, state or corporate, has been drowned in blood. There are dozens of historical examples, but I prefer a fictionalized one because it’s prettier: the incredible I Am Cuba:

I’m afraid I can’t embed youtube’s deep-links, so here are the scenes are directly, each about two minutes. In one scene, the student radical tries to assassinate the hated police chief of Batista’s corrupt regime. But he sees the chief on his balcony, eating breakfast with his family, and instead runs away.

Later he’s on a demonstration, where his comrades are being blocked by water cannon. He picks up a rock and advances alone to the police line. The same police chief takes out his pistol and shoots him without a moment’s hesitation.

With us or not? (Kin Dza Dza)

The student wants to create a world based on justice and compassion, and he can’t rectify that with killing. The police chief wants to defend a world based on exploitation and corruption, and knows he has to kill to maintain it. It’s not simply that he decides murder is worth it, it’s that the two approach the issue from opposite standpoints.

When the Right brays at the left for hypocrisy, it’s braying at its own reflection – hence why it has to shout even louder, to drown out the guilt that it sees looking back at it. Because Thatcher was guilty, of promoting that world of capitalist rule, where might makes right, where death is an inconvenience at best, and where it’s okay to sacrifice the lives of thousands and the well-being of millions to maintain profits. I don’t expect right-wingers to agree with this; I do expect left-wingers to stop being so timid about their convictions. Ours is a better moral code, and that’s precisely why we celebrate the end of a class warrior for the other side. Good riddance, Mrs. Thatcher. I’m glad you’re dead.

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