Bob Jessop, Kevin Bonnett, Simon Bromley and Tom Ling
Authoritarian Populism, Two Nations, and Thatcherism
Faced with the devastating electoral and political successes of Thatcherism in the past five years, the British Left responded in various ways. [*] The authors would like to acknowledge the initial inspiration and participation of Richard Drane in our discussions on this paper; the fruitful comments of our friends and colleagues at the University of Essex; and advice from the editorial board of New Left Review. Some activists anticipated the imminent collapse of Thatcherism due to a sudden upsurge of union militancy, popular disturbances, or urban riots; or due to a Conservative U-turn prompted by rising unemployment and political unrest. Others called for the Labour Party to adopt more radical economic and political policies and to restructure itself as a vehicle for the eventual implementation of a socialist alternative economic strategy. They hoped that this would undermine Thatcherism by refuting its claim that there is no alternative; or that it would at least give the left the initiative when Thatcherism collapsed for other reasons. Yet others concentrated on the ideology of Thatcherism and called for a similarly ideological strategy from the Left. They attributed Thatcherism’s success to the initiatives of the new Right in constructing a new hegemonic project and mobilizing popular support for a right-wing solution to the economic and political crisis.
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