Saturday, April 20, 2013

Liverpool Reds Rejoice At Mass Thatcher Death Party

A small section of the jubilant crowd. Photo: I am un chien andalusia
On Wednesday, a huge crowd gathered at St George's Hall in the centre of Liverpool, to celebrate the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Though the corporate media claimed that only a couple of hundred had shown up - or one hundred in the preposterous case of Sky News - all the steps and down the Plateau were quickly filled with partygoers, with a steady flow of people coming and going all the time. I am un chien andalusia has some great photos and YouTube links of the festivities, but I want to consider the meaning of the event - for participants, opponents, and the media.

The event had long been 'scheduled' at that venue on the day of Thatcher's funeral. For years, people locally have whispered that we should all meet up on the joyous occasion. When she finally pegged it, Liverpool fans on Twitter started publicising it, and asking people to turn up dressed in red. After this, a group of radical activists started spreading it on a Facebook event page which eventually got over eight hundred confirmations.

From everything I've seen, it was one of the biggest such parties in the country - rivalling even the much trumpeted Trafalgar Square event last weekend in terms of sheer numbers. The reasons for this should be obvious - Thatcher waged pitiless war on the working class population of the city during the 1980s - from the repression of the Toxteth uprising in 1981, through to the smashing of municipal-based resistance and 'needs budgets' a few years later, then the Poll Tax and ever-increasing urban despair. Only last year, the truth about the establishment's lies over the Hillsborough disaster at least partly emerged, and this was a significant factor for some of the Liverpool fans too young to remember anything about her other policies.

So in many ways this was an eruption of the tribal locality-based Liverpool solidarity so hated feared by the likes of Boris Johnson. Chants of "Merseyside, Merseyside, Merseyside" broke out frequently, emphasising the unity felt by football reds, blues, and dare I say even whites over Thatcher's attacks. Having said that, it is doubtful that many from Mossley Hill or Heswall were present - this was very much a working class party, and people could often be heard declaring themselves "working class and proud", or a variation on this.

For the local mass media, and particularly the Liverpool Echo, this was all a bit embarassing. Though they wrap themselves in parochialism too, it is a parochialism focused on business interests. Such layers are forever concerned with "Liverpool's image", and avoiding a return to "the bad old days" of mass working class resistance to capital. Liverpool is to be presented as a "modern city", which of course means a neoliberal one indistinguishable from any other in the globalised world, apart from in terms of accents, The Beatles saturation, and the marketing of a 'chirpy' - i.e. socially and politically compliant but humorous - scouse stereotype which bears little relation to reality.

Following a sheepish and lying (on the numbers) Echo article, the letters page was flooded with people complaining that such 'mindless yobs', who 'were not even born' in Thatcher's time, risked 'turning the clock back'. The average Echo correspondent - entirely unrepresentative of the city's population - clearly despises any display of defiance.

And that - primarily - is what occurred on Wednesday evening. Against the background of mass media hagiographies of Sainted Margaret, some of us got together to say a big 'fuck you' to all that. It wasn't the revolution - or the beginning of anything which could develop politically, but it was an awesome party.
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