HAVANA TIMES — Political extremes tend to curtail our better judgment and, on occasion, our sensibility as human beings. A few hours ago, I read an article by Mario Vargas Llosa, in which the award-winning writer issues a kind of praise-filled obituary for the recently-deceased Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher.
As I skimmed through it, I saw that Vargas Llosa’s omission of the costs and victims of Thatcher’s policies reached astronomical dimensions. He made me realize that, if a corrupted socialist can descend into Stalinism, intransigent liberalism can easily lead to neo-conservative stances that are hard to reconcile with the ideals of democracy and justice.
It has certainly been deeply unsettling to see someone as intelligent and well-informed as Vargas Llosa write a piece of this nature. For, though I do not agree with all of his ideas, he is an intellectual whose work as a writer I usually enjoy, a public figure whose coherent postures, such as his head-on attack on the Fujimori lot and his apt critique of left-wing dogmatism, I have learned to admire.
But, when he writes that “(…) When the Iron Lady rose to power, Great Britain was mired in mediocrity and decadence, the natural outcome of Statism, interventionism and the socialization of a country’s economic and political life, processes which, to be sure, the nation had undertaken without excess and without encroaching on institutions and freedom (…) She set in motion a program of radical reforms that shook the very foundations of a country that had been lulled to sleep by an antiquated form of socialism, a lethargic socialism that had bogged down and nearly castrated the cradle of democracy and the Industrial Revolution, the most fertile wellspring of modernity”, I believe he is assuming a non-critical stance that merely betrays complicity with the figure and legacy of the former British politician.
It is inconceivable that, in his touching portrayal of Thatcher, the Nobel Prize laureate should have neglected to mention the countless families and entire peoples who were plunged into poverty by her neo-liberal policies, or the hundreds of social activists and union leaders who were subjected to the repressive rigors of her government.
Or that he should have said next to nothing of the foreign policy adventures the prime minister supported, such as Britain’s support for Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile – mentioned by the article only in passing – and South African apartheid.
I can only hope that the Welfare State, which the Peruvian author portrays as a horribly decadent institution, still tugs at one of his heartstrings, at the very least for having been the solid ground on which equitable human development was achieved in the Post-War period, to the benefit of hundreds of millions of Europeans.
Luckily, the Old Continent is still populated by citizens and intellectuals who, in defiance of the Hispanic novelist, the Brussels bureaucracy and the Dusseldorf bankers, can offer a different reading of the neo-conservative legacy and propose more viable forms of defending and impelling the much-maligned and besieged Welfare State.