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Issue #1593      May 15, 2013

Culture & Life

Chaos and destruction

Q: Why were there so many troops at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral?
A: To make sure she stayed buried.

For all her cult hero status in the reactionary British media, British capitalism was glad to be rid of her. Her neo-fascist politics laid waste the British economy and embarrassed other world leaders anxious to prove their adherence to “democracy and the rule of law”.

In an interview with the Irish Republican paper An Phoblacht, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said of her: “Margaret Thatcher did great hurt to the Irish and British people during her time as British Prime Minister. Working class communities were devastated in Britain because of her policies.

“Her role in international affairs was equally belligerent, whether in support of the Chilean dictator Pinochet, her opposition to sanctions against apartheid in South Africa, or her support for the Khmer Rouge.

“Here in Ireland, her espousal of old draconian militaristic policies prolonged the war and caused great suffering. She embraced censorship, collusion and the killing of citizens by covert operations …

“Her failed efforts to criminalise the Republican struggle and the political prisoners are part of her legacy.”

However, although much of the British ruling class disapproved of her tactics at the time (one of her first acts was to stop the supply of free milk to school children, for example), they had no quarrel with her underlying philosophy. Her mean-spirited, hostile approach to the working class and to poor people generally, is today embraced across the capitalist world. “Austerity measures” are forced on people, measures that make the poor poorer – real wages fall while rents, food, petrol and fares soar – and homelessness grows.

Homelessness is another of Thatcher’s legacies: she encouraged the privatisation of council housing. As Daphne Liddle put it in The New Worker, “A high proportion of those [privatised council] homes are now owned by private profiteering landlords while the working classes do not stand a hope in hell of ever being able to buy a home and we have a massive housing crisis. … London is now full of luxury apartments that stand empty – owned by foreign millionaires who buy them as an investment and to have an address in London so they can benefit from its tax-haven status.”

No wonder there were celebrations amongst poor people when she died.

Looking elsewhere in the capitalist world, did you see where a police sergeant in Florida has been sacked for using paper targets emblazoned with a photo of 17-year-old black murder victim Trayvon Martin for shooting practice. The Martin family’s lawyer condemned the act as “depraved”.

Trayvon Martin died when he wandered unarmed into a white neighbourhood where he was shot dead by a watchman, George Zimmerman, who claimed he felt threatened by Martin’s presence in the area.

Florida is on the Gulf of Mexico, adjacent to the other Gulf states, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. They all have one thing in common: extreme variance between rich and poor. Some really rich people hang out in Florida, or call Texas home. At the same time, the signs of all-pervading poverty are everywhere in these states. Ignorance is rife, jobs are scarce, for most people “the American dream” is just that – a dream.

Gun culture is entrenched, police brutality is commonplace. If the USA’s Gulf States were a separate country it would be classified as a “failed state”.

Even before the devastation caused in Louisiana by Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was among the poorest cities in the USA. Now it is almost certainly the poorest as well as the most violent. Paranoia and fear are the order of the day. The homicide rate there is seven times higher than in New York.

Most of the people in the USA have no desire to live in such conditions, but they have few opportunities to escape their plight. That same fear and paranoia is used to keep large numbers of them too frightened to give up their guns, too frightened to trust outsiders or people with new ideas, too convinced that “you can’t fight city hall”.

However, despite this (or perhaps because of it?) there are still plenty of people in the USA who are prepared to fight for a better life, to fight against the banks and the bosses and the media tycoons. The “Occupy” movement that swept the USA was a powerful call to the people to challenge the power of the exploiters. When that popular anger grows even more, and merges with the organised working class movement and Marxist ideology, then we will see exciting things from the American people.

Meanwhile, the people of Syria are fighting for their lives, their culture and their secular state against what can now be seen as a much-refined “Bay of Pigs” type invasion of their country. The “contras” in Syria are much better armed than were their counterparts in the abortive invasion of Cuba: the “rebels” in Syria have received massive airlifts of weapons since the end of last year, courtesy of the Middle East oil kingdoms (all US client states, of course), with the deliveries co-ordinated by the CIA. The latter organisation has also been revealed to be running a military training camp for jihadists and anti-Syrian “rebels” in northern Jordan.

The US still talks about its objective as being “regime change”, but in fact US imperialism and its allies are more interested in simply destroying the Assad government than in replacing it with some other stable regime. As in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, US aims are satisfied if its intervention leaves behind a country in chaos. Powerful corporations, backed by the US military, can exploit the resources of countries even when those countries have been reduced to rubble and disorder.

In many ways, not having to deal with a strong central government makes the task of exploiting a nation’s natural resources a lot easier. In conditions of chaos, imperialism can pose as the champion of order, fairness and even legality. It worked for France in Mali. Why not everywhere?   

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