Blog Post

The Biopolitics of Iron Lady

I must say that I absolutely love Meryl Streep and I was so happy to see her win the Golden Globe award for Iron Lady.  Once the film came out I went to see it with my film critic sister.  Once again, I must say I loved the performance by Streep.  After Anna Magnani and Giulietta Masina I think she is one of the most outstanding female actresses of the world.

Meryl Streep’s genius has defied the traditional materialist psychiatry and their view of sexual consumption—in her 60s she much more sexy than many young stars in their 20s and that proves the point that materialist psychiatry was not accurate enough when talking about sexuality.  There should be something other than just flash to human attractiveness—some degree of real spirituality in the Bergsonian sense.  She has even made possible that Margaret Thatcher look sexy in her 60s, which was quite a difficult task considering how close she had to be to the reality. At the night of Golden Globes she was shining much brighter than many young women who are still in their 20s.  That is probably a very important lesson about the interrelationship between spirituality and sexuality that her acting and persona provides.   For me this is a new feminist understanding of spirituality that is not completely removed from your body but is also liberated a from consumerist ‘flash’ concept.  The holistic image of a person is much more powerful than just body parts, speaking in the language of Delueze and Guattari.

In Iron Lady, her image of the leading careerist individualist politician of 20th Century is definitely outstanding.  So I consider it definitely worth watching this film.

 

 

Iron Lady was interesting to me for number of reasons.  I grew up fighting the Soviet Empire in my homeland of Georgia and in late 1980s when I was in my early 20s we admired Lady Thatcher and Ronald Reagan for combatting the “Evil Empire”.  We saw the unjust Bolshevik state that was totalitarian and elitist and somehow we thought that people like Mrs. Thatcher were representing the opposite.  In April of 1989 I stood at the peaceful demonstration in front of the Georgian Parliament facing death at the hands of Soviet soldiers thinking that the West will help and rescue us from this horrible Empire.  It was not until I moved to the United States in early 1990s that I started to realize that my childish enthusiasm about capitalism was not completely founded on truth.  The more years have I spent in the contemporary West, the more I started to realize that even though stores in America and other Western countries were quite different from Soviet ones, there were many similarities as well.  That started to lead me to astonishment.

Lady Thatcher was outstanding in her political skills and rhetoric.  It is also a fact that as a woman she has set up a very good example of how to become a leader in a heavily patriarchal society.  No doubt this is true.  She is a hard working woman and for this she deserves a lot of respect.  The film shows us this and you can see the positive sides of Iron Lady are portrayed quite well.  But at the same time, there is quite a good picture of a lonely life that Maggie Thatcher had and the relationship with her family.  True she has survived in a patriarchal ‘war culture’ and even won the war with Argentina, but the question is at what cost?

Hallucinations of Lady Thatcher portrayed in the film so masterfully are very much telling.  At the end of the film Lady Thatcher sees her husband Dennis leaving her and walking out of their house—going to the other world and she asks him not to leave.  She does not want to be left alone—her husband stops for a second, turns around and tells her that she was always alone.  It is an incredibly chilling scene in a film that is supposed to be glorifying the winner of the Cold War.  Maggie Thatcher—one of the outstanding figures of bourgeois individualism is facing her death alone and has lived all her life alone.  What a horrible nightmare for the winner of the Cold War.  Winston Churchill was defeated at the polls after his win in the Second World War, but came back and lived 20 more years winning a Nobel Prize in literature, and coming back as prime minister in his 80s.  But Thatcher was defeated in her house—her own party deposed her and even her husband told her before his death that she was always alone.  What a cruel ending for a woman who has been praised as a Winner.  I think the difference between Churchill and Thatcher was that while being both Tory and Liberal through his life Churchill was never as individualistic as Baroness Thatcher was.  Iron Lady was a quintessential bourgeois, with extreme belief in individuality and subsequently in loneliness.  Her message was powerful and she had a good like to preside over the dismemberment of the Soviet Empire, but the essence of her reforms was the belief in inequality and egocentrism.  She has worked hard to achieve the unachievable for the “Daughter of a Grocer” and was able to penetrate the commanding heights of a still Aristocratic Society and for that she deserves admiration.  But at the same time she destroyed solidarity and combatted compassion—she was in one line with men like Reagan and Bush senior in crashing unions. The film has some very powerful images of her battle with her loneliness—her hallucinations tell the truth about her life and her beliefs.

The main result of the Biopolitics of Thatcher was loneliness—that is the message that I have got from the film.  Belief in inequality and disbelief in solidarity—socialism is bad and liberalism is too good.  She managed to advocate extreme individualism so well—because of that I find my generation swimming in the sea of ego-centrism. 

 

 

Thatcher was against European currency.  Many say that she has predicted the crisis that is unfolding now—but I don’t believe she did.  I think that big corporations that she has always supported led to the crisis that the world is suffering right now.  We can see very well that the world is suffering not from Socialism, which is virtually nonexistent now, but from the lack of compassion and solidarity.  Since the Washington Consensus her beloved capitalism became pretty much they only game we know.  But Europe has tried to unite and overcome the bourgeois nationalism that was created by Jacobins.  This was the sign of solidarity—but Thatcher powerfully rejected this union in favor of ‘staying alone’ for Britain and Pound Sterling.  Well here again she proved to be a quintessential bourgeois individualist:  rely only upon yourself—do not trust anybody else.  

 

 

In 1990 all of us in the former Eastern bloc were so happy that the so called ‘Socialist Camp’ was ceasing to exist and we were at least becoming free.  It is very telling to watch the transformation of former communist countries into neoliberal authoritarian oligarchies.  Practically all of the former Soviet States became, what I call “Postmodern Authoritarian Countries”.  The State is still taxing the poor and middle class strongly—or there is not much of a middle class in former Soviet Countries, but there is a small class of neoliberal oligarchs, who are extremely rich.  What has happened in Russia recently is a very good example of what happened after the Cold War.  Real democracy never came there—same people—KGB and former Communist Party apparatchiks became ‘owners’.  They have ‘elections’ to cheat people and the world and most often they do succeed.  It is true in Russia, it is true in Georgia and most of the former Soviet colonies.  So the State is still strong when it robs its own people—but now it does not even pretend to care about ordinary people.  Everyone else but the richest oligarchs and their fellow servants is left to struggle to survive.  Yes, you can say many things in the streets and you won’t get arrested for this—but you can die starving—or be killed by “Death Squads’, who are identified by police.  There is a little bunch of technocrats that will come after each and every ‘election’ and will justify results saying that yes there were irregularities but this is the least evil that could have happened.

For former Soviet countries life became much more miserable after the Cold War—already 22 years had gone by.  The biopolitics of “Liberal” Russia or its former colonies is to let majority of the population starve, not to make open political arrests and to send people to Gulag under criminal charges, just like it happened to Khodorkovski.  The hierarchy of political life is even stronger than during the Soviet days, since you need to have substantial financial resource to competes in the elections.  But you need to be a bourgeois to succeed.

Today Russia and its former colonies are witnessing the true face of Thatcherism—neoliberal oligarchy—where too many people die of extreme poverty.  It is very significant that on the 20th anniversary of the demise of the Soviet Union Communists and left wing parties won the election in Russia, but were denied the results by the neoliberal autocratic government of Vladimir Putin.  Yes, indeed, the world is missing communists today—not Bolsheviks but real communists.  The world is missing Anarchists too and many others.  But above all of these, the world is missing the ‘Doctrine of Love” as opposed to the constant rat-race.  Naomi Klein was very good at articulating this very recently and I plan to write about it soon.  But I must say that Meryl Streep is one of the great messengers of this doctrine, even when playing an extreme individualist politician.  

The Soviet Union was destroyed not by Thatcher or Reagan but by the people, who wanted more social justice, freedom, compassion and love.  It is very sad to see historians not giving credit to the people in the Soviet Union, who were the ones who won the battle against totalitarian state.  Somehow everyone suddenly assumed that “Iron Lady” and her friend Ronald Reagan were the ones who won the Cold War.  That is not trueand the fact that Communists won the elections in 20 years after the end of Cold War is a good testimony to this.  People revolted against social injustice in the former Soviet Union and they turned to Thatcher and Reagan to see what a just society would be.  Instead they have got more unjust and corrupt regimes.  Putin, Saakashvili and other leaders of former Soviet Space are competing in authoritarianismthey also have highly hierarchical systems and well organized media propaganda.  They are individualist autocratsthe system works for few ‘individuals’ and other people are HOMO SACER.  This is probably true in most parts of the worldno different situation in different parts of the world.  Giorgio Agamben has it right:  the world is divided between the privileged fewfew Political Humans and  the Neglected Manybillions of Sacred Humans, who could be killed every day but not even sacrificed.  Now we can see that youth is risingrising against the institutionalized ego-centrism and bourgeois consciousness.  Doctrine of Love is coming to substitute for biopolitics of Thatcher and Reagan.

As a former Soviet Citizen who fought against the Totalitarian State I can say that there are many similarities between Bolshevism and Neoliberalism—both rob and kill poor people and both enrich the richest and most powerful small groups—whether they are called Politburo or “Successful Entrepreneurs”.  State and police helps these small groups to remain I power.  Thatcher has made it clear that force is making people superior—in circumstances of extreme competition and feud, the ‘strongest individuals’ win.  In former Soviet colonies these guys are criminals, secret police representatives or former Nomenclatura.  In some cases they are Western educated lawyers or businessmen—they also believe in inequality.  The legacy of Thatcher is very strong in my generation—where the whole cast of careerist yuppies has embraced her bourgeois individualism.

The Bolsheviks are gone—and that is good.  Now is the time for bourgeois individualism to go—for everyone not to fear of dying completely alone, like what happens to Baroness Thatcher in this film.

When we were coming out of the cinema my sister told me that she felt that the film was intended for propaganda purposes and it is quite possible that Tory supporters have paid for it.  I cannot exclude it—for sure film-industry is still a propaganda tool.  To illustrate her criticism of the film she mentioned Thatcher’s policy in Ulster and her treatment of political prisoners.  She suggested watching this very interesting film about the hunger strike in Northern Ireland.  

 

 

This is another powerful picture about Thatcher.  But this time you can’t see her—you can see her soldiers and policemen.  That is also worthy to watch.

So what can we do as an antidote to biopolitics of Thatcherism? Extreme individualism has brought us already enough misery and is bringing us some more.  How can we create the alternative narrative to this UNIVERSAL DISCOURSE OF EGO-CENTRISM.  I guess the film “Iron Lady’ has taught me that overcoming my personal careerism and thirst for ‘success’ and not forgetting the people I should love is the first medicine to this disease.  Love is an antidote to bourgeois consciousness—love creates abundance.

Since I was also the one who fought against the Soviet Empire and liked Iron Lady so much, just like Zizek I would to end my blog with a prayer:  God Forgive us, because we did not know what we were doing!  And also, God forgive Iron Lady since she did not know what she did either and she is an old lady who feels lonely in her hallucinations.   God, give us the power to embrace one another instead of being suspicious and scared. 

Irakli Zurab Kakabadze's picture

Irakli Kakabadze has been a leading figure in the nonviolent movement for social change in Georgia for more than two decades. 

A member of the Civic Disobedience Committee in 1989 and during the Rose Revolution in 2003, he has since been harassed and detained repeatedly by authorities. 

He is the author of five books and hundreds of essays in English, Georgian, and Russian. His play Candidate Jokola controversially depicted a love story between a Georgian presidential candidate and an Abkhaz woman. He is also an author of lyrics for “Postindustrial Boys,” and, together with Zurab Rtveliashvili, practices a literary performance style called Polyphonic Discourse. 

He taught art and peacebuilding at Cornell University from 2008-2012 and currently teach at the Georgian-American University in Tbilisi, Georgia..