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Armando Chaguaceda: At 33, I feel sometimes old and tired; other days I wake up with the desire to strive, to be surprised and to persevere—with decency, affection, ideas and values. I was born in the town of Regla, with its provincial charm and custom of ignoring the sidewalks. I grew up atheist, surrounded by believing friends, in a family of Martí followers and enemies of dogma. I have assimilated my growing marginality, in relation to so many friends who have emigrated, fellow “fighters” of daily Havana life who, regrettably, have been added to the growing bandwagon of the “apolitical.” For 12 years I have combined my dying passion for politics and social sciences with teaching. I’m currently in Xalapa, Mexico, but I feel within me the imperative to return and do something in a Cuba too present, too uncertain, too beautiful, frank, harrowing and different. I hope I will.

Vargas Llosa and His Praise of Margaret Thatcher

April 25, 2013 | Print Print |

Armando Chaguaceda

Mario Vargas Llosa. Photo: wikipedia.org

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.


What's your opinion?

  • Friedrich Joestl

    Yup.Reminds me of our forum participant Moses or our Virgin of the Dollats, Yoani( being of course a big admirerer of her) Aguirre, Capriles ( of whom he is a fan, as Llosa himself is fervent opponent of Chavism) , always talking about the failures and the death of socialism, never about the crisises of Capitalism, alone in the EU with about 25 Millions of unemployed, with poverty rising in all countries as well as the agression level rising unbearable, stress, burnout, criminality, suicides etc. while the Super Richies get richer and richer ( capital attracks capital), devasted not only world economy but also the environment etc. He must have closed both eyes not seeing that Capitalism not only wrecks people but also Mother Earth itself.Hardly to believe, that somebody as intelligent as him, is one of the fiercest apologetists of f this murderous capitalism. But as I said, in their blind aversion against all thats slightest socialist, these people not only close their eyes but also shut off their brain it seems. Good article.

    • Moses Patterson

      Your comments tend to imply that if one does not agree with you and worship at the alter of all things socialist, their heresy must be a result of “shutting off their brain”. Why do socialist always assume that? I simply do not agree with you yet my brain works quite well. I actually have a couple of socialist friends. I would never accuse them of not thinking, only thinking incorrectly and certainly differently from me. Why is socialism apparently synonomous with not accepting differences of opinion?

  • Hubert Gieschen

    Mario Vargas Llosa is clearly wrong about Thatcher. But so was Hugo Chavez about certain politicians in Belarus, Iran or Libya. Vargas Llosa at least has been consistent against Fujimoro. He probably would have failed as a president but he is someone worth reading.

    ironically I remember a film showing at Bolivar House in London, part of the Venzuelan embassy so to speak showing a film of La Ciudad y Los Perros. How is that?,

    • Paddyfar

      Margaret Thatcher was an evil, intransigent woman and her death was celebrated by thousands who suffered under her. Tens of thousands of people do not dance in the streets with joy for nothing, celebrating her demise, as I expained in my article in the HT at the time of her death. Vargas Llosa is a fool. Currently 22% of workers in the UK working with private firms are on zero hour contracts guaranteeing them less than three hours work a week. and about 5.5 million people in total are on this kind of contract. In terms of wages, Britain is now second bottom of the league of G20. The EU has minimum wages but Britain does not as the current Tory government believes that wage insecurity and wage expolitation can be used to drive the economy. A large proportion of the British population would be better off learning Spanish and emigrating to Cuba,which with all its faults may offer a better life and a alternative to the form of slavery being practiced in Britain now.

  • Nick

    As a British fella I have to point out that, due to the vagaries of the British democratic system, old Mrs T’s Conservative party only ever got about 33% of the electorate to vote for them. On the (lack of) strength of this she became one of the key co-authors of neo-liberalist economics. Her economic and social policies, backed by a right-wing media, went against the wishes of the majority in the country at the time and even against many of her own political party.
    Vargas Llosa has made that familiar but slightly sad journey from being a bit of a lefty as a young man to getting more and more conservative as the years roll by.

    • Griffin

      You are incorrect. Thatcher’s Conservatives got 43.9% of the vote in 1979, 42.4% of the vote in 1983 and 42.2% of the vote in 1989. The vote proportions were not due to “vagaries”, but to the fact that the UK has a free and democratic multi-party parliamentary system. Over 30 different political parties ran in those elections, including a half-dozen Marxist factions.

  • Michael N. Landis

    Although I disagree with his politics, nevertheless, I’ve enjoyed some of his novels. I’ve always been able to appreciate the work of even the most politically disagreeable novelist, such as Luis Ferdinad Celline, whose JOURNEY TO THE END OF NIGHT and DEATH ON THE INSTALLMENT PLAN are amongst the best of the “stream-of-consciousness” style (despite the fact that in the 1930’s he switched from being a lefty to being an extreme righty–even collaborating with the Nazis. As a consequence, he is little taught, and is out of fashion, in the academy these days. Likewise, in film, one of my favorite innovators is Leni Reifenstahl (whose “mountain films” are among my tops–not to mention OLYMPIAD 1936 and, err, even TRIUMPH of the WILL for that matter!) Appreciate the art, but seperate it from the politics of its creator. What’s the Christian slogan? “Love the sinner; hate the sin!”? Guess in art, its the other way around!