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April 14, 2013

Margaret Thatcher: Wrong on many things, but right on the one thing that mattered - or so argues Christie Davies

Posted by Christie Davies

Margaret Thatcher was a great Prime Minister because she was right on the one issue that mattered in her time - the need for socialism to be defeated both in Britain and in the World. The views expressed here are those of Christie Davies, not those of the Social Affairs Unit, its Trustees, Advisors or Director.

The late Lady Thatcher, the great Mrs Thatcher, was wrong about most things but she was right, relentlessly right, about the central problem of her time the menace of Socialism. She will always be remembered as the woman who destroyed Socialism, much as we remember Churchill as the man who stood up to Hitler. Churchill was wrong about India, about the economy, about most things but on the one big issue he was right. Today we are also free of the spectre of Socialism that haunted the 20th century. That is Mrs Thatcher's legacy.

It is difficult now to remember how close Socialism came to victory in the 1970s. The Soviet Union was steadily advancing its control over the world, notably in Africa and in South East Asia. Latin America was threatened with subversion. The release of the KGB files has shown how many people, including Allende in Chile and senior politicians in India, had been under their control. The Brezhnev doctrine decreed that no country which had ever come under socialist rule could return to democracy. East Europeans feared that their slavery would last for ever.

It was to change. Mrs Thatcher came to power in 1979 and Ronald Reagan in 1981. Between them they defeated the evil empire. The Soviet Union went from world domination to downfall in ten years, the ten years of the woman the Soviets called the Iron Lady. Where other British leaders had been timid, she was bold. Where they had been silent, she was vocal. Where they had been shaky, she was resolute. She understood exactly what the Soviet Union was and meant.

In 1979 Britain was on the verge of economic collapse. The Labour governments of 1974-1979 had been the servants of the trade unions, as well as of their own ideology. Britain was close to being a socialist economy. A large section of industry was owned and run by the State - coal, iron and steel, gas and electricity, telephones and railways. A large part of the country's housing stock was council-owned.

Other important sectors, such as car manufacturing and shipbuilding, depended on government subsidies and were the subject of government directives. The combination of trade union power and lax monetary policy had led to high inflation. Governments sought to deal with this through the state regulation of prices and incomes. Marginal tax rates were very high. The very bases of capitalism - the price mechanism, incentives to earn, save and invest, and rapid change and innovation - were undermined and rendered inoperative.

As in their dealings with the Soviet Union, most of the British elite were defeatists. There could, they said, be no reversing of nationalization and no selling of council houses the ratchet of Socialism was inexorable and irreversible. Trade union power was a fact of life, inevitable and eternal. Some even wanted the Unions to be given a direct stake in the ownership and direction of industry on the basis that this would enable and perhaps force them to behave responsibly.

Mrs Thatcher swept away this entire rotten socialist world. Industries were privatised, subsidies were removed, taxes were cut, council houses were sold, exchange controls abolished and prices and interest rates allowed to do their work. Capitalism was restored and it is this that was the basis of the decades of prosperity that followed. In the 1970s Britain was the sick man of Europe, the country that had to grovel to enter the EC and to the IMF for loans to stave off bankruptcy.

Mrs Thatcher undermined the trade unions not just by tougher laws but by more stringent monetary policies. When one of them, Scargill's NUM, chose to fight, Mrs Thatcher smashed the strike. The strikers were defeated and the NUM enfeebled. Mrs Thatcher had destroyed the entire working class movement. Edward Heath had lost to the miners twice, the second time disastrously in a confrontation that nearly destroyed the economy and indeed British democracy. Heath talked tough but he never planned for a conflict. Mrs Thatcher did. When Scargill's strike began, coal stocks were high, the flow of coal imports steady, transport dependable and the police well organized. Mrs Thatcher defeated the trade union barons and the wreckers on the shop floor alike. Power was returned to the capitalists. The tide of history had been reversed.

When facing international Communism, Britain was of necessity a junior partner to the United States. It was Ronald Reagan, Mrs Thatcher's close friend and ally, who directed the political, economic and military strategy that led to the fall of the Soviet Union. Nonetheless Mrs Thatcher's determination was an important factor. The imperial will with which the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands was repelled and turned into a great British victory was noted by the Communists. So too was her official recognition of the Soviet Union's full responsibility for the murder of the Polish officers at Katyn and her refusal to be deflected from her policy of constructive engagement with South Africa. The defeat of Communism was always her first priority. When Reagan needed to station Cruise Missiles in Britain to counteract the build up of Soviet missiles in Eastern Europe, he knew that Mrs Thatcher would not flinch either from the risks that might be involved or from the political protests it would cause.

Mrs Thatcher was wrong about most things, often because she was insufficiently right wing. During her time in office education continued to decline and crime rose inexorably. Her policies on education and crime, policies designed by unelected leftists on their long march through the institutions, actually made matters worse. She should have purged the relevant ministries and abolished the quangos as her more radical supporters wanted. She checked but failed to roll back Europe and left the road open for her spineless successors to concede even the minor gains that her obduracy had brought.

But she will always be remembered as the Prime Minister who fought and defeated socialism at home and helped to fight and defeat it throughout the world. That we are free today is thanks to her achievements. There could be no finer legacy.

Christie Davies is the author of The Strange Death of Moral Britain. The views expressed above are those of Christie Davies, not those of the Social Affairs Unit, its Trustees, Advisors or Director

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Mrs Thatcher - great lady. She saw off the Argies and the Scargies.

But what do you mean by right wing? OK, you have answered that question. But the Left having managed a clever job by creating a confusion between at least three categories:

(1) Fascist-type regimes;
(2) Capitalism on top;
(3) Preserving the social order (morality, religion, and all that jazz.)

A lot of people have been saying that Mrs T. was divisive. But in regard to the Miners' Strike, was there any option? The NUM was led by a hard-line Marxist, and as Bertrand Russell said of Karl Marx and his philosophy:

"one, that he was muddle-headed, and the other, that his thinking was almost entirely inspired by hatred".

There was no other option but to expel that movement from the body of Britain.

Posted by: HedgehogFive at April 19, 2013 10:13 AM
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