Mad Maggie and the Brixtonites

The impact of Thatcher’s death has fuelled and perpetuated her strategy for dividing the nation.

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A scene from the Brixton riots (1981)

Last week, as Brixtonians converged outside the Ritzy with drums, trumpets and horns in celebration of the “Iron Lady’s” demise, masked activists re-arranged the letters above the cinema to declare “Margaret Thatcher is dead.”

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© Mike Shelford

The paradoxical splurge of emotions that have emerged perpetuate the very strategy she imposed for dividing the nation – as demonstrated by splintered opinions amongst her non-supporters.

There are those who see the celebration as a pointless waste of energy that should be directed instead at the failure of her successors to reverse her fascist polices.

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Then there are the elated millions who see her death as an opportunity to raise awareness of a crucial period in modern history, particularly amongst younger generations that have little clue as to why the UK is currently suffering the brunt of such a catastrophic state of affairs.

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Elated Brixtonians © Anu Shukla

From home-buyer loans that threaten to inflate the house-price bubble – to the privatisation of the NHS: the toxic legacy of Thatcher is very much alive. Except the depression ahead will be even worse than anything endured during her time in office.

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Brixtonians celebrate outside the Ritzy © Anu Shukla

UK-born writer and traveller, David is one of “Thatcher’s children:”

He says: “Cameron from a distance is so much like Thatcher. So on goes the cycle; history is repeating itself; and on goes the suffering. So sure, it’s good to understand her time, as long as it doesn’t lead to repeating the same mistakes.

“The woman was what she was, but don’t forget she also made us what we are: No Thatcher, no Summer of Love Vol 1 and Vol 2!

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“She gave us something to rebel against; made people political and got them off their arses and into the streets to stand up for their rights. Look at all the crap going on now and the reaction to it; it’s near total apathy and I find that scarier…

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Brixtonians making some noise outside the Ritzy last week

“I remember demonstrating again and again and again as a teenager: against the poll tax, student loans, clause 28; I remember the police truncheons smashing into my head, my best mate getting nearly beaten to death by the police; my black mates getting stopped, insulted, roughed up and harassed constantly…

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“I remember the Brixton slum which is nothing like Brixton now; the raids on the few gay places that existed and the treatment we got from them; the abject boredom, people getting sacked, families destroyed; all the council housing getting sold off…

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Automatic ‘stop-and-search’ tactics to “control crime in Brixton” led to more than 1000 arrests over six days

“I experienced a lot of her shit first-hand and I am not about to forget her vile, neo-fascist police state: but that is an integral part of who I am: my destiny and hers is forever linked. Hate her and I also hate myself. Forgive her and I find peace and can let the past return to being simply that; the past, so that all that pain and suffering no longer affects my present.”

Brixton Riots In London In 1981

Thatcher’s crippling impact on British society set the scene for the string of successors that finished the job for her. New Labour failed the country and brought it to its knees. Privatisation of everything has been the most brutal war to be unleashed on the British public: healthcare, housing, education, social services – effecting the most vulnerable members of society, marginalising them ever more.

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Maggie T passed the truncheon to a succession of vultures: Labour, Liberal, Conservative, Con-Dem. Her blood has continued to run through the veins of the political elite that have dominated British politics since she stepped down from office. Her defeat was no victory though for the damage was already done. So with who should we be angry today? A dead woman or with those carrying the poisonous torch of the legacy she left behind?

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The celebrations surrounding the death of Thatcher have been planned since 2004. Today, thousands will make their way to Trafalgar Square from across the country..; marking a moment in history that celebrates the demise of one of modern history’s most tyrannical leaders.

Also expected are 50,000 Millwall supporters who will be heading into the city after the FA semi-final about 7pm tonight. Tensions are running high as fans “vow to confront anti-Thatcher demonstrators.”

Undercover police will be on the prowl and infiltrating the crowds so watch out for suspicious looking characters like these…

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I’m stuck in Sussex so will be watching from afar. Please send me your photos and reports. I would love to hear some first-hand accounts.

A distasteful celebration?

The iron lady died a natural death. It’s enough to anger the anarchists amongst us that she got to live to such a ripe old age – let alone be granted a state funeral funded by millions of pounds in taxpayer money.

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Meanwhile, much of the media have settled for the moralising score: that it is utterly disgusting to revel in the death of a senile and frail old lady. Some members of the public have also agreed with the distaste of celebrating the death of an evil old tyrant who had lost her marbles.

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With old chum, the murdering Chilean dictator, Pinochet

Yet she is the same wicked witch responsible for the misery of millions of lives; the same evil grandmother with fascist tendencies, who had called Nelson Mandela a terrorist; who be-friended evil dictators such as Pinochet; who closed mines; took away the jobs of steel workers; destroyed the unions; drove people to suicide…

She may have kicked a generation up the arse and forced them to get up and fight (as David, above tells me) – but was it really necessary? If she had not come along, if there was no Maggie Thatcher – would there have been a poll tax and would the Brixton riots have happened?

The sirens began to scream towards the end of celebrations in Brixton last week. It was almost like an anti-climax in the face of the riots that had taken place at this very spot back in 1981.

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That fateful day in 1981, had escalated into a bloody battlefield. People felt the power to fight the system, to stand up against the ugly, controlling, fascist state. Their anger was felt, heard, seen.

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It’s a far cry from the passive resistance we witness today. Just as things begin to get worse than they have ever been – just as we are on the verge of witnessing the impact of degeneration and the emergence of a third world-like economy – the level of indifference rises. History is repeating itself all over again, but on a level we could never have imagined. Resistance is low. Apathy is high. So why?

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There’s a war going on. The Brixton riots became a trigger for it and it was waged by Thatcher who of course lives on in the legacy of Blair, Mandelson, Brown, Cameron: those who are there to finish what she started. It’s a war that has snuffed out the flame of resistance that burned so brightly back in 1981. It’s a war known as gentrification and as these images show us, it began during the years of her reign.

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A toxic leadership that has changed Brixton forever

Brixton is not what it used to be. Strategies for gentrification have seeped like cyanide through the cracks of the streets. Gastro pubs, coffee shop culture, corporate business, boutique fashion and expensive restaurants replace the original Brixtonian market of the Village area.

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Local traders using the space that’s left are being set up to compete against each other… The cost of renting a spot for a stall has increased significantly. Soon there will be none of the traditional market vibe left at all. Simply Starbucks and city slickers taking up over-priced, newly-renovated apartments.

The Jamaican patti – a far and distant Brixtonian memory?

Thatcher set it all in motion. Her fascist policies have trickled like CS gas through the decades, choking the colour, culture, life and vibrant spirit of places like Brixton.

While her death has kicked up a massive storm across the country – it was hard not to notice the absence of Afro-Caribbean communities last week.

There was an even greater absence of police. Local Brixtonian, Paola, says: “Actually, one of the most surprising things was this – that even on a ‘normal’ day in Brixton – there is often more police than what we witnessed on the day of Thatcher’s death. They only came out to monitor the crowds really late. So this is not a democracy. Different rules apply to different people.”

“The reason why you didn’t see so many black people there,” says Katharine who works in Brixton Village, “is because there are no black people left!”

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Police kept a low profile in Brixton, becoming visible towards the end of celebrations. © Mike Shelford

Brixton has experienced a form of ethnic cleansing. Rising property prices, brand new luxury apartment blocks, a commercial culture of consumerism are just vague contributing references to make. The greater the struggle ahead, the weaker the resistance has become – and if there is one place that can reveal this in graphic detail – it is Brixton.

But imagine if Thatcher the milk snatcher had never come along? Where would we be now? Back in 1969, a Labour paper declared that it had intended to do exactly what the ex-PM did: take milk away from school kids (Parliamentary Socialism, 1969, Miliband). So perhaps we would have had a different type of leadership but with similar values? It’s strength, however, remains questionable.

But we’re heading “south” now, for she was the iron-fisted mother who spawned Tony Blair and David Cameron. They are the product of her ideological havoc: they are the ones that must be resisted, put into prison and locked away.

The elation felt by the nation is a powerful history lesson that exposes skeletons in the closet, which many people still need to see – particularly younger generations with little or no clue, for we must understand history if we are to free ourselves of a legacy that has poisoned us for so many decades and that continues to impact us today.

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Delusional members of society and the political elite that praise Thatcher have been long in need of a good mental kicking and now, if any, is a good opportunity to do that. So let’s have a celebration, just a little one. There’s no room for moralising neo-liberals at this party though. It’s a be “purged of your neo-liberal values or die” moment.

Gandhi (no saint by the way) taught a whole nation to be submissive in the face of violence. Thatcher taught a whole nation to uphold a dog-eat-dog attitude and a shamelessly greedy, selfish mentality. Perhaps the celebrations will help us to untangle ourselves from the “values” she imposed to condition us.

So, now that “most” of us are happy she’s dead – what are we going to do about the demise of the nation? In 2014, it’s been argued that the UK economy will be equivalent to that of a developing nation… To what extent is this true? Will we stand divided or will we stand strong and rise against it? Perhaps these “celebrations” will fire up the momentum for the latter.

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2 Responses to Mad Maggie and the Brixtonites

  1. 1earth says:

    great entry. thanks for shedding a light on such a dark matter.

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