Why I am not a Defeatist

As previously stated, the left hated Thatcher for her personality. But what makes the hatred fever-pitched is the nature of her successes. It’s not just that she successfully implemented a right-wing agenda – she did huge damage to the self-image of the left.

The fundamental tenet of the socialist left is that they represent “the people” – a broad and massive working class with common interests. This myth was exploded. The miner’s strike was horrible for Nottinghamshire miners, which is why they didn’t join in. Tenants benefited from being able to buy their council houses. Workers, given the choice, didn’t want to join unions. The country was shown to be fundamentally middle-class, much to the left’s dismay. And so on. Thatcher made them realise that they were actually representing narrow sectional interests, and they have never forgiven her for it.

But the damage to the progressive left was even more severe. Perhaps their most fundamental belief is that force doesn’t work, that you need dialogue, mutual understanding, “education.” That is their solution to every issue, from juvenile delinquency to nuclear war, whereas we on the right are more willing to use force. For example, for conservatives fighting crime means more bobbies on the beat, for progressives it means tackling social issues. But whereas the right are pragmatic about this and willing to change strategies if one is shown not to be working, the liberal view in this matter is pseudo-religious*. Another of these pseudo-religious beliefs is that without the benign intervention of government, there would be complete anarchy. I regard this as a “government of the gaps” philosophy because however much is gets exploded, it merely retreats, it never dies. Every time the government gets out of a sphere of activity, the benefits are enormous and immediate, but the left always insist that if the government steps back in the next area, disaster will ensue.

*There are of course pseudo-religious beliefs on the right too, in other areas.

For so many on the progressive left, their personal identity is tied up in the idea that they are wiser and more moral than the rest of mankind – hence the right are evil for disagreeing with them. It’s a status claim. So any time their predictions about the state of the world are challenged, they treat it as an attack on their sense of virtue and personal identity. And boy did Thatcher give that sense of identity a battering.

I think the clearest example is the Falkland’s War. When Argentina invaded, few believed that the British government would have the nerve to do anything about it. And they wailed about how if we did act, it might cause the Argentinian government to fall, and then we’ll get spooky noises something much worse. We should throw in the towel, and negotiate, and so on. Probably that would have been the course of action if Callaghan had been in power, but not so under Thatcher. We acted forcefully, and won. The reason it was such a popular war is not merely because it was a total and relatively bloodless victory* – more important was the sense that the British government was prepared to act vigorously. It was the same a year earlier with the Iranian Embassy. People wanted a government that was prepared to stand up and defend them and their rights, not one that was happiest in comfortable and eternal retreat and defeat.

*I do not mean to downplay the sacrifice of the 257 Britons who lost their lives, but as wars go that is relatively few casualties.

This was all hugely popular among the populist left, but not so among the progressives, for whom, as stated, it was a crushing blow to their identities. When the victorious troops returned home, the progressives said things like “what a terrible time to be young and left wing” (that’s a real quote by the way). They did not want our country to be victorious, which is why the likes of Tam Dalyell spent the next decade plus on such nonsense as the Belgrano. The rational response would be to be less sure of themselves and to consider adjusting their worldview – particularly in light of the fact that the war caused the Argentinian junta to fall and be replaced by multi-party democracy that has lasted to this day. But as these beliefs are religious, rational re-evaluation is not to be expected, instead they lashed out, and continue to do so to this day.

The nature of that will be examined in a future post.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: