Monday, January 16, 2012

Progressive Music Classics: The Best Protest Songs Of The Margaret Thatcher Era



Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.

The era of Margaret Thatcher was a grim time to be alive in Britain, except in one respect: there was loads of fantastic music around. And a number of top musicians were inspired by Thatcher's rule to create some of the best protest music of any era.

A good example, featured in the video above, was The Beat's "Whine and Grine/Stand Down Margaret," featured on the Birmingham neo-ska band's classic 1980 album, I Just Can't Stop It. It was that rare song that made you want to get up and dance and gave you food for thought as well.

Thatcher, of course, has been back in the news lately, on account of the acclaimed new bio film, The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep. The film has sharply divided opinion in the U.K., where Thatcher is not remembered fondly.

I've always detested Thatcher myself (almost as much as I hate her contemporary, Ronald Reagan). Among their many other crimes against humanity, both leaders gutted organized labor in their respective nations. As a result, both countries have seen income inequality sharply rise over the past three decades.

A big irony of both Thatcher and Reagan is that they both set back the cause of the capitalist system they both admired.

The fact is, First World capitalism really can't survive without a strong, prosperous middle class. Given that Thatcher and Reagan seriously damaged the middle class in their nations, they unwittingly inflicted serious long-term damage to capitalism itself.

After all, capitalism only works if there is a strong, healthy middle class around to buy the products that the system creates. It's a lesson that the likes of Henry Ford once learned a long time ago (but has been long since forgotten by today's industrialists).

In America since 1980s, the reality of a shrinking middle class has been masked by consumers going into ever-deeper debt. It's a cycle that is unsustainable.

I would maintain that whatever "prosperity" Britain and the U.S. have seen since 1980 has been largely a credit-card-fueled mirage, boosted by occasional other smoke-and-mirrors phenomenon, like the recent housing bubble. It's only a matter of time before the whole Ponzi scheme system comes crashing down on our heads.

But back in the 1980s, this side effect of Thatcherism wasn't yet apparent. Back then, people were just appalled at her all-out assault on working people. Decades later, it has become apparent that Thatcherism was even worse than its 1980s critics believed.

There are many other classic anti-Thatcher songs out there. I also recommend Elvis Costello's 1989 song, "Tramp the Dirt Down," (perhaps the most savage song Costello has ever cut). For sheer rage, though, nothing tops the anti-Falklands War protest song, "How Does It Feel to Be the Mother of a Thousand Dead?" by anarchist band, Crass.

Also, be sure to check out Morrissey's no-holds-barred assault on the Iron Lady, "Margaret on the Guillotine" (see below). Sadly, the eight horrific years that Geoge W. Bush inflicted upon America never inspired any of the dullards who clog up our pop charts to create anything as memorable as these U.K. anti-Thatcher songs.