NO ADVERTISING, GOVERNMENT OR CORPORATE FUNDING

  • Latest News
  • Pitch a Story
  • Work with a Journalist
  • Join the Blog Squad
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Baltimore
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Russia
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Health Care
  • Military
  • Occupy
  • Organize This
  • Reality Asserts Itself
  • US Politics
  • Under Thatcher, the Poor Became Poorer


    John Weeks: Thatcher and Reagan set out to crush the union movement and assert the power of capital -   April 10, 13
    Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here

    Audio

      Share to Twitter
    Share to Facebook




    What a hidden gem - Jack
    Log in and tell us why you support TRNN

    Bio

    John Weeks is Professor Emeritus of the University of London and author of the forthcoming book, The Economics of the 1%: How mainstream economics serves the rich, obscures reality and distorts policy. His recent policy work includes an supplemental unemployment program for the European Union and advising the central banks of Argentina and Zambia.

    Transcript

    Under Thatcher, the Poor Became PoorerPAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay.

    Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher has passed away. And, of course, now her legacy is a matter of great debate. She is seen by many as the savior of capitalism, savior of the Western world, alongside Ronald Reagan.

    Now joining us to talk about the history and legacy of Margaret Thatcher is John Weeks. He's a professor emeritus at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies. He's also the author of many books, including Capital, Exploitation and Economic Crisis, and more recently The Economics of the 1 Percent. And he writes at JWeeks.org.

    Thanks very much for joining us, John.

    JOHN WEEKS, PROF. EMERITUS, SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL AND AFRICAN STUDIES: Well, thank you for inviting me.

    JAY: So why is the prime ministership of Margaret Thatcher seen as being of such importance? And what do you make of it?

    WEEKS: First I should say I think think there are a lot of Americans who think that Margaret Thatcher may have been extremely conservative or reactionary. But she was actually sort of a major figure. These are probably people who went along and saw the film about her with Meryl Streep and so on.

    First thing you have to realize is that Margaret Thatcher had no positive side. It was my son who said [incompr.] the Wicked Witch is dead. She was an unrelenting opponent of the working class. She took as her major task as prime minister of Britain the crushing of the trade union movement, which she was, I regret to say, extremely successful. The war with Argentina [incompr.] sideshow is terrible for the Argentines, but the main function of it in Britain was to get her reelected in 1983 when her ratings were very low. And she was, from beginning to end, as we say over here, a very nasty piece of work indeed.

    JAY: So she comes to power at a particular time in the United States. It's her--more or less the time of Reagan, and Canada it's Mulroney. It's a time when corporate and financial power seems to even assert itself more than it had previously. I mean, talk about sort of the general context we're in at that time, and then more about what Thatcher did.

    WEEKS: Well, I think that for my generation, when people talk about who saved capitalism, it was Roosevelt. And I think it's useful to make that comparison. The way Roosevelt was supposed to have saved capitalism was that there was an uprising of the working class and of the progressive people throughout the United States and there were marches in the streets, and Roosevelt came up with a semi social democratic government, which then neutralized those popular protests--or at least that was the story--and then sort of institutionalized [incompr.] establishment [incompr.] then, you know, sort of saved capitalism, in the sense that there wasn't something more radical.

    Margaret Thatcher did something quite different. By the end of 1970s, the bourgeoisie, the capitalists in the United States, Britain, and perhaps elsewhere (but I don't know the details in every country), they had a new strategy. Their strategy was: we don't have to have this accommodation, we don't have to have this deal with the trade unions--labor bosses, as they were called. We can actually get rid of them and we can rule alone. And I think that Reagan and Thatcher represented that faction of the bourgeoisie, which [incompr.] at first wasn't necessarily the majority of it, but quickly became a majority when the other parts of the capitalist class saw that actually this was quite a success. You know, they said, oh, no, no, no, you can't do that, you can't just crush the trade union. Then they discovered that Thatcher and Reagan were successful.

    And there is a parallel there that we discussed before, Paul, that Reagan broke the unions in the United States [incompr.] in Britain. The air traffic controllers, that was a very strategic defeat for the U.S. working class [incompr.] the coal miners strike in 1984, '85 was in Britain.

    JAY: Now, this wasn't just a triumph of the ideas of Margaret Thatcher and Reagan. Was it not more a reflection of a change in the balance of forces in the world? I mean, one, the idea that the Soviet Union was some socialist paradise as an alternative for the workers had more or less been discredited, that, you know, the Soviet Union was weakening economically, and most people didn't see it as a paradise by this time. So the idea that there was a real alternative to capitalism didn't seem possible. And maybe even more importantly, the development of globalization that it's really around this time that industry can start to manufacture in different parts of the world with much cheaper laber and can say to workers in Europe and England and North America, you know, either you make concessions or we're just going to move your jobs offshore. So is it that change in balance of forces that gets reflected in Thatcher and Reaganism?

    WEEKS: I think it is. But I think that that in itself [incompr.] the popular struggle [incompr.] that, I regret to say, and I think that the trade union leadership in Britain and the United States became further and further alienated from their base. It had been that base which the threat of a restive, you know, great unwashed, which had brought about the progressive [incompr.] in both Britain and United States, much deeper in Britain than in the United States. And by the late 1960s and into the 1970s, that role of the trade union movement was beginning to weaken. And there had been [incompr.] cliche [incompr.] but they no longer had a strong link to the base. So it became easy to defeat them.

    Once you weaken the trade union movement, then things like moving offshore, which couldn't have really been--it wasn't a technical question. It wasn't something that happened in the world economy that made it technically easier to produce offshore. What made it easier was that the working class was not in a position in the United States and Britain to oppose it and was strong enough to oppose it, and that the laws began to change to facilitate it. I mean, it's quite clear.

    So I think you're right. There were fundamental changes. But I would relate it more to what was going on in the popular struggle or lack thereof than changes in the nature of our capitalism.

    JAY: But in Britain the unions were stronger, more workers were in unions, and the unions were, I think, more progressive on the whole. There were some progressive unions in the United States as well. But Thatcher took on a union movement and a working class that was more, you could say, conscious and more powerful, and she was rather successful, too.

    WEEKS: Right. It's true. I think it's hard for somebody who is in the United States in the 1980s to imagine what was going on here. I happened to be here in--when the coal miners strike of 1984, 1985 was going on. It was class war. I mean, it was not a question of the working class leaders capitulating. There were [incompr.] there were people who didn't support the miners. But it was straight class war. Thatcher sent out the army. When Roger Scargill, the head of the miners union, who I think had a fatally flawed strategy, but at any rate, when he decided that the key was to shut down all the mines, Thatcher used the army, not just the police. People were beaten up, people were arrested, and it was a war. And the bourgeoisie won the war.

    And that was--up until '85, for the most part, the British working class, British labor leadership could confront Thatcher and prevent the worst changes. After that, [incompr.] weaker, and they just became weaker and weaker and weaker. And then you [incompr.] a Labour government with Tony Blair which was about as venal as you could get--not as bad as Thatcher, but certainly in the same league. And now there is some small hope for recovery, but it's been pretty--I mean, to give a statistic, as I recall, I think in 1985 that something like--of the private sector in Britain, something like 60, 65 percent were in trade unions. We're now down to 20 percent.

    JAY: And if you look at today's economic crisis in Great Britain, financial mess, unemployment is high, and such, how much of this, the roots of all of this, are with Thatcher?

    WEEKS: I think that after probably--if she were alive today like she was yesterday, though I think she's been pretty senile for quite a while, she laid the basis for it. She never dreamed, probably, of going this far. But she went [incompr.] she pushed it as far as she could. She said some extraordinary things which had never--. Neil Kinnock, earlier today--Neil Kinnock was leader of the Labour Party during the 1980s, during most of the Thatcher years. He was interviewed [incompr.] what is Thatcher's legacy. He said Thatcher's legacy was: for the first time in the 20th century, under Margaret Thatcher, the poor became poorer.

    JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, John.

    WEEKS: Well, thank you.

    JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

    End

    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


    Comments

    Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at contact@therealnews.com

    Comments


    Latest Stories


    Affirmative Action Ruling Will Further Racial Inequality
    Evidence for Russian Involvement in East Ukraine Based on Shoddy Journalism
    Ivy League Study: The General Public Has Virtually No Influence on Policy
    The Modern History of Venezuela and Popular Democracy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (9/9)
    An Asia "Pivot" Should Mean Cooperating with China to Solve the Global Environmental Crisis
    Assessing the U.S. Environmental Movement
    Intimidation and Political Interference Goes Unpunished in UAW Case
    Exclusive Investigation Uncovers How BP Uses Bribes To Do Business
    The Modern History of Venezuela, The Protests and Democracy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (8/9)
    Greek Politics 4 Years After The Financial Crisis
    CBO Report Confirms U.S. Deficit Back to Normal Level
    Israel Uses Refugees as "Currency" in Arms Trade with Africa
    Who Will Pay for Climate Change Disaster?
    Canada Shifts to Right Under Harper, Mimicking the United States
    The Savings and Loan Crisis Demonstrates the Importance of Glass-Steagall
    South African Platinum Miner's Struggle Challenges ANC Leadership
    TRNN Original Report: Manning Determined to Fight Back After Army Upholds 35- Year Sentence
    Hundredth Anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre
    The Bundy Ranch Standoff Demonstrates Values Shared by Corporations and the Far Right
    The Resegregation of American Schools
    The Modern History of Venezuela, Why Still So Much Crime? - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (7/9)
    What Role Has Russia Played in Eastern Ukraine?
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (2/2)
    University Sit-In Targets World's Largest Private Coal Company
    The Modern History of Venezuela and the Need for a Post-Oil Economy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (6/9)
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (1/2)
    One Percent of Environmentalists Killings Lead to Convictions
    Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Ukraine Transitional Gov't Moves Militarily To Reclaim Seized Buildings
    IPCC Report Flawed By Narrow Focus on Carbon Emissions
    The Modern History of Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (5/9)
    Obama Signs Directives to Reduce the Gender Wage Gap
    Eastern Ukraine Lacks Political Representation in Kiev
    Demystifying the Role of Mitigation in the Most Recent IPCC Report
    Hypersurveillance State Won't Prevent Another Boston Marathon Bombing
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Univ. of Maine Faculty Reinstated After Students Protest Against Cuts
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1908 to 1973 - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (2/9)
    IMF Will Address Global Inequality, Says Managing Director Christine Lagarde
    Raising Big Banks' Leverage Ratio Good, But Not Nearly Enough
    TRNN Replay: Austerity Road to 19th Century
    Has Palestinian Maneuvering Revived Peace Talks?
    Late Jackson Mayor Lumumba's Son Wins Primary to Replace His Father, Runoff Election Ahead
    Quebecers Reject PQ and Elect a Liberal Government Representing Big Business
    TRNN Debate: Decriminalization vs. Legalization
    The Beginning of the Chavez Era - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (4/9)
    "Off With His Head": Court Upholds Obama's Power to Kill
    Workers at Nation's Top Hospital Strike For Fair Wages
    From Exile to Radicalization in Venezuela - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (1/9)
    Rwanda 20 Years Later: Genocide, Western Plunder of Congo, and President Kagame
    Ukrainian Protesters in the East Demand More Autonomy From Kiev Government
    Hunger Strikers Demand President Obama Halt His Record 2 Million Deportations
    Indian Parliamentary Elections - A Primer With Vijay Prashad
    West Looks to Carve Up Ukraine & Privatize Industries Held by Kleptocrats
    Where Are Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations Headed?
    The Multiple Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia (5/5)
    Do the Afghan Presidential Elections Signify Progress?
    Republican Presidential Hopefuls Pay Homage to Billionaire Casino Tycoon Sheldon Adelson
    Will Extremist Lieberman Become Israel's Next Prime Minister?
    Why do the Saudis Want the US to Attack Iran? (4/5)
    Immigrant Advocates and Families Tell President Obama 'Not One More'
    Elections, Pipelines, and Protests - The Canada Panel
    Chris Hedges on "Israel's War on American Universities"
    Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing
    Yellen Talks the Talk But Will She Walk the Walk?
    Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"
    Will Venezuela's New Floating Exchange Rate Curb Inflation?
    The European Central Bank's War on Wages is Pushing Europe's Economy to the Brink
    Supreme Court Decision Opens Floodgates for More Campaign Cash
    Charles Keating, the Financier Behind the Savings and Loan Scandal, Dies at 90
    Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda Monster (3/5)
    Maryland Residents Voice Opposition to Natural Gas Fracking Export Facility
    Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections
    What are the Saudis Afraid Of? - Madawi Al-Rasheed (2/5)
    Baltimore's MICA Adjunct Professors Set to Vote on Unionization
    Boycott of Israel Moving to Next Level?
    Hypocrisy Dressed Up as "Realism" Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship
    Immigration Reform in the Shadows of Cesar Chavez's Legacy
    Leaked Senate Report Shows Use of Torture As "Ineffective"
    UN Report Says Climate Change Will Threaten Food Production Worldwide
    The Hypocrisy of US Calling for Enforcement of International Law
    How the Ecuadorian Economy Grew in a Global Recession
    'Shadows of Liberty' Trailer
    Kristina Borjesson on Why CBS Shut Down Her investigation into Flight 800 (2/8)
    Glen Ford on Racism in the American Media (3/8)
    Paul Jay on What Drives Corporate Media and What Drive The Real News (4/8)
    Creating a New Media Paradigm After Citizens United (5/8)
    Should The Left Engage with the Mainstream Media? (6/8)
    What Is the Financial Backing For The Real News? (7/8)
    Standing up to Character Assassination (8/8)
    Oligarchs, Fascists and the People's Protest in Ukraine
    TRNN Debate: Is Obamacare In the Interest of Workers?
    Too-Big-To-Fail Advantage Remains Intact For Big Banks
    Obama and the Saudi Agenda
    TRNN Replay: Investigating the Saudi Government's 9/11 Connection and the Path to Disilliusionment - Sen. Graham on Reality Asserts Itself pt 1
    The Iraq War's Real Legacy
    Petitions with 100,000+ Signatures Call for Snowden's Passport to be Reinstated
    We Need to Harness People Power - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (4/4)
    BC Pipeline Fight and Quebec Elections - The Canada Panel
    Jonathan Schell - 1943-2014: Board Member of TRNN on Why We Need The Real News
    Teachers on Strike from the UK to Argentina
    Connecticut Poised to Become First State with $10.10 Minimum Wage
    Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife and Local Economy
    DC School Test Scores Up, But Poor Black Kids Are Doing Worse - Andy Shallal on RAI (3/4)
    Obama's Proposal To End NSA Bulk Data Collection Won't Protect Privacy
    How Google, Apple & The Biggest Tech Companies Colluded to Fix Workers' Wages
    An American Should be One that Questions Their Government - Andy Shallal on RAI (2/4)
    What's Driving Putin & Obama's Posturing on Ukraine?
    Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to Public Higher Ed
    Due Process 'Impossible' In Harsh Death Sentencing Of Over 500 Muslim Brotherhood Members
    Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?
    Being the "Other" in America - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (1/4)
    TRNN Debate: Should Baltimore 'Ban The Box'?
    How Fallujah Became the Iraqi Government's New Battleground
    Why I Decided to Blow the Whistle on the NSA
    NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
    Professor Who Teaches Israel-Palestine Conflict Accuses College of Violating His Academic Freedom
    CIA and NSA Wrongdoing Requires Independent Investigation, Says Former Church Committee Staff
    Are Tuition Breaks Enough To Combat High Student Debt And Low Graduation Rates?
    Industries Across the U.S. Are Stealing Wages From Their Lowest Paid Workers
    Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?
    NSA Recording All International Calls From U.S.
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (2/2)
    BP Gets Green Light to Drill in Gulf, But Has Safety Improved?
    Residents Still Not Drinking Tap Water Two Months After West Virginia Spill (1/2)
    Libya's Descent Into Turmoil Three Years After NATO Intervention
    From Pipelines to Peladeau - Canadian Report
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (1/2)
    Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Strikes Back Against Austerity
    Libya Three Years Later - Chaos and Partition
    Why Was Gaddafi Overthrown?
    Should Ukraine and West Accept De Facto Crimea Joining Russia? (2/2)
    Tony Benn Saw Socialism as the Culmination of Democratization
    Why Didn't Bush/Cheney Attack Iran and Can Obama Make and Sell a Deal? - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi? (2/2)
    Crimea Referendum: Self Determination or Big Power Manipulation? (1/2)
    Sen. Graham: President Must Side with Openness About CIA and 9/11
    Manufacturing a Narrative for War - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3)
    Protesters Hit the Streets of Brooklyn to Demand $15 Minimum Wage
    Hammer: 'Moral Bankruptcy' Behind Massive GM Recall
    White House Withholds Thousands of Documents from Senate CIA Probe
    I Grew Up Believing in Time Magazine's Version of America - Gareth Porter on RAI (1/3)
    Western European Banks Vulnerable to Ukrainian Sovereign Debt Crisis
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (2/2)
    CIA vs. Senate: Who Is Obama Protecting?
    Will Tipped Workers Get Excluded Again From Minimum Wage Hike?
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (1/2)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi?(1/2)
    TRNN Replay: A Look at Who's Poised to Become No.2 at the Fed
    How Right-Wing Nationalism Rose to Influence in Ukraine (2/2)
    Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase
    Moving Towards a Police State - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (7/7)
    Fighting Reagan's Secret, Illegal Wars - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (6/7)
    Puerto Rican Independence Movement and Cuba Further Radicalized Me - Michael Ratner on RAI (5/7)
    The Butcher of Attica - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (4/7)
    MLK and a Radicalizing Moment in American History - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (3/7)

    RealNewsNetwork.com, Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

    All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network.  Click here for more

    Problems with this site? Please let us know

    Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting