The culprit has a name. If in Israel Benjamin Netanyahu has just won alongside a religious and racist extreme right, if in Brazil Lula was elected only by a small margin against an incumbent as grotesquely macho as totally incompetent, if Mrs. Melloni leads Italy while a coalition of right wing parties and former Nazis has taken control in Stockholm, if Donald Trump has announced his return and the National Rally is not far from gathering half of the votes in France, Margaret Thatcher is at fault.
She is not of course directly responsible, but her triumph and her legacy are, because she had been so successful in expressing the middle classes’ rejection of the “Too Much State” that the “conservative revolution” has reshaped the world up until the present day.
Yet what were the consequences of this revolution?
Inequalities have increased dramatically. The decline in tax pressure has limited redistribution and the financing of public services, which have been weakened as a result. Outsourcing to low-cost production countries has put strong pressure on wages, making employment scarce and increasing unemployment. Finally, the development of free trade has had a number of perverse effects.
It has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, who have suddenly been able to work for export to the most developed countries. At the same time, it has enabled the less wealthy Europeans and Americans to equip themselves, clothe themselves and even feed themselves for less. This is certainly not negligible. The apostles of the Iron Lady are not wrong to say so, but, without even mentioning its ravages on the environment, free trade has also impoverished the middle classes and made China a superpower in a position to compete with our high-technologies industries and to threaten peace by upsetting the most established international power relations.
Profits and losses, the balance sheet of Thatcherism remains to be drawn, but one thing is already certain. While the extreme right wing parties were kept out of power by the defeat of Nazi infamy, Western lefts and rights followed the lead of what was wrongly called “liberalism” for more than thirty years. The far right was not part of the conservative revolution, while the left and the right wings, whether they were worried about this international dynamic or applauded it, had to follow the Reagan-Thatcherism because they were in government and the attraction of China and the Soviet implosion left them with little choice.
Left- and right-wing factions simply could not resist the mainstream and are now paying the price because the extreme right can nowadays accuse them of everything and anything – of having presided over the social setbacks and deindustrialisation of recent decades, global warming, the weakening of patriarchy through the affirmation of women’s and gay rights, the erosion of Western pre-eminence and, above all, migratory pressure.
Margaret Thatcher thus claimed three victims. In addition to the right and the left, she also disfigured liberalism – the womb of leftist movements, the child of the Enlightenment – under whose name Viktor Orbán, Vladimir Putin and all the extreme right deliberately confound Thatcherism with civil liberties so that they could better attack them.