Death of the Titans
In the span of about a month the world has seen the death of two iconic political figures, both representing fundamentally opposing worldviews.
Last month saw the death of Hugo Chavez, an iconic figure of 21st Century Socialism.
Today saw the death of Margaret Thatcher, an iconic figure of 20th Century neoliberalism.
There are quite a few of those on the left who are celebrating her death. I am not one of them. I certainly won’t shed a tear at her death, but nor do I see it as a reason to celebrate.
The death of anyone is always sad for their loved ones. For all that she represented, she was still a daughter, a wife and a mother. She was loved and she loved. For her family and loved ones, I offer my condolences, as I would to any family suffering such a loss.
On a political and social level, what she represented, as an icon or a figurehead of the neoliberal revolution, which she, along with Ronald Reagan were the Western leaders, is very much in opposition to my entire worldview. To me she represented a personification of the inhuman and heartless capitalist logos.
But as far as I’m concerned she was nothing more than an iconic figurehead, a vehicle, for the ideology of neoliberalism. That ideology continues, and it has new figureheads.
Once the barbarism of neoliberalism and capitalism is dead and buried, consigned to the graveyard of history, that I’ll celebrate.
Her death doesn’t change the fact that her legacy continues, that much of todays geopolitical and economic crises have their origins in the neoliberal revolution she helped lead.
Nor does it change the fact that the neolibral revolution she helped lead won, and it continues, despite suffering a legitimacy crisis in both political and economic terms with the global depression starting in 2008.
Quite frankly, the politics and economics of neoliberalism have been shown to be bankrupt and to have failed. And yet neoliberalism continues, zombie-like. A living-dead socio-economic system.
The high priests of neoliberalism – of economy and State – continue to frantically try and salvage the project, almost Frankenstein-like, with reassembled parts and shock therapy. And yet the system continues to both decay even while it remains animated.
In many ways I think neoliberalism continues in this zombie-state more out of the failure of the left to articulate a coherent vision of an alternative, as well as ongoing organisational crises, aftershocks of the double-blow of the neoliberal revo and the (justified) discreditation of 20th Century Socialism, a la the Soviet model.
Increasingly though, this alternative vision, this vision that a better world is, indeed, possible, is developing. And along with it are novel organisational forms for the left, based on horizontal non-traditional forms of party organising, as seen in the Greek Syriza and the Venezuelan PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela).
From the Iron Lady to Red Rosa
Thatcher is dead. Thatherism continues as the living dead.
Today is not the time to celebrate. Today is the time to take stock and to organise.
The old cry ‘socialism or death’ remains. Socialism or the living-death of Thatcherism, of neoliberal capitalism; Socialism or barbarism and ecocide.
Perhaps it is fitting to end this piece on the ‘Iron Lady’ of neoliberalism with the last known words of ‘Red Rosa’ – on the challenge for socialism which we still face:
“The leadership has failed. Even so, the leadership can and must be recreated from the masses and out of the masses.”
“The masses are the decisive element, they are the rock on which the final victory of the revolution will be built. The masses were on the heights; they have developed this ‘defeat’ into one of the historical defeats which are the pride and strength of international socialism. And that is why the future victory will bloom from this ‘defeat’.”
“‘Order reigns in Berlin!’ You stupid henchmen! Your ‘order’ is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will already ‘raise itself with a rattle’ and announce with fanfare, to your terror: I was, I am, I shall be!”