London 2012: Hysteria and militarization

Community protest June 30, 2012 against the installation of missiles throughout London as part of “security” during the Olympics

MUCH HYSTERIA is being generated over the issue of “security” during the London 2012 Olympic Games, which has its opening ceremony on July 27.

The Games have become a pretext for the militarisation of society, and as a training exercise for the military, besides being organised to serve the interests of the financial oligarchy, not the people.

Militarisation

Missiles being set up on top of housing flats in Bow

Using some vague and undefined threat of a “terrorist attack” on the “attractive target” of the Games, in the words of the head of MI5, surface to air missiles are being placed on the roofs of blocks of flats and elsewhere near Olympic venues. One of the most notable is the placement of Starstreak missiles on the tower of what was the Bryant and May match factory in Bow, now flats, which is the site of the famous match-girls strike of 1888, a landmark in British working class history. As many have pointed out, the move lacks all sense of logic, and the conclusion has to be drawn that it is a calculated exercise of the militarisation of society. Another is the Fred Wigg Tower at Leytonstone, East London, after the local council signed a secret deal with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) earlier this year. On nearby Wanstead Flats, which has the legal status of common land, there has also been erected an eight-acre camp for the police, surrounded by an 11-ft fence. It is also reported that the Metropolitan Police have been stockpiling rubber bullets.

All this has aroused the anger not only of the local communities but a wider sense of outrage. Despite a campaign being fought through the courts to prevent the police base being built, Parliament temporarily suspended the 136-year-old act which prohibits building on the common land. Residents of the tower block took their opposition to the High Court, who ruled in favour of the MoD, and they now find themselves being harassed by the soldiers on “security” grounds, as they enter and leave the building.

There are six locations in and around London where it is known that missiles are being placed. Rapier missiles sites are at Blackheath Common, Oxleas Wood, Eltham, William Girling Reservoir, Enfield, and Barn Hill, Netherstone Farm, near Epping Forest, in addition to the Starstreak missiles in Bow and Leytonstone. The opposition was summed up by a South London resident: “They have not answered any questions, they have just said we’re doing it — it’s a sad day for democracy.”

All sections of the armed forces are involved in this militarisation, including the Special Services. The navy’s biggest warship HMS Ocean is being moored on the Thames, and the air force is ready to scramble Eurofighter jets to combat any “terrorist” threat from “rogue” aircraft, and has many other aircraft in varying roles. Fighter jets will be stationed at RAF Northolt, in west London, for the first time since the Second World War. RAF and Navy sniper teams are on standby. Puma helicopters will be based in Ilford, east London. Naval vessels will be stationed along the south coast. Already there are restrictions on the airspace over London and over much of South-East England, enforced by the military. An MoD spokesman told the press, “The government has reserved the right to extend the airspace restrictions, and the deployment of military assets, including ground-based air defence.”

In what is being described as a “significant” step, US security agents are being stationed at Heathrow and other airports from one week before the Olympics to one week after the end of the Paralympics, a period of almost two months. Can this just be considered a one-off, or is there some more long-term aim?

On top of this, the G4S scandal broke that, late in the day, it has been discovered that this private security firm has recruited and trained only 4,200 of the 10,400 staff that were promised to the government. What is also part of the story is that last December, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), suddenly decided that the number of security staff required would not be 2,000 but 10,400. (G4S employs over 657,000 worldwide. It is the company which has a number of public sector contracts, including running prisons, and in whose custody an asylum seeker recently died during deportation.) Thus the government is drafting in 3,500 extra army soldiers. This is on top of the 13,500 which it was revealed are ready to be deployed. This compares with the number of 9,500 British occupying troops in Afghanistan. What is the role of 17,000 soldiers? Where will they be stationed? Airport-style checks are being mentioned. It is reported also that a further 2,000 are being held in reserve “on notice to move.”

Queen’s Jubilee – The unemployed bussed in to work as unpaid stewards and forced to sleep under London Bridge

There is a connection here with the Queen’s Jubilee workfare scandal, when unemployed were bussed in to act as stewards and treated like serfs. Not only is G4S part of the Department of Work and Pensions “Work Programme,” but CPUK, the company which did the bussing, is subcontracted to G4S to provide fire safety stewards for the Games, and had justified its Jubilee behaviour by saying that the experience would be good preparation for the Olympics. It was to recruit students and the unemployed that G4S had been awarded the £284 million contract for the Olympic Games.

Added to all the above, it was suggested at the beginning of this month that police are expecting that riots will take place in August as they did last year, according to a study conducted by the London School of Economics and The Guardian. This promotion of police scaremongering both adds to the hysteria and prepares the ground for further police repression.

All in all, it can be seen how a hysteria is being created in order to give effect to restructuring the state and openly permit the state forces free rein against the people.

It emphasises how the occasion of the Olympics is being made the occasion for the overt use of the military in public life, and is of a piece with its promotion in the monopoly media and elsewhere.

Paying the Rich

It is even reported that the 800 food outlets other than McDonald’s at the Games should not serve chips because serving fries is to be the exclusive right of that global giant.

As part of the hysteria, it was also announced that 300 “brand police” – uniformed Olympic officers – are to check up that only the brands of the Olympic financial oligarchy who are its corporate sponsors are associated with the Games. These sponsors include McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, BP and Adidas. Thus pubs are not to be allowed to advertise viewing of the Olympics in conjunction with any other logo, for example. In advertising, non-Olympic brands must steer clear of Olympic-associated words, such as “summer,” “London,” “bronze,” “silver” or “gold.” It is even reported that the 800 food outlets other than McDonald’s at the Games should not serve chips because serving fries is to be the exclusive right of that global giant. It is not the Olympic financial oligarchy, but the small businesses who fall foul of these edicts who are said to be engaging in “ambush marketing.” The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has appointed the uniformed officers who have powers under the Olympic Games Act passed in the last session of Parliament to take offenders to court where they face a fine of up to £20,000. This emphasises the stranglehold of the monopolies on the economy as well as on society’s cultural life. These “partners” of London 2012 together are funding £1.4bn of the Games’ £11.4bn budget, but naturally expect a massive return on their investments, not to mention the tax breaks such sponsorship brings with it.

While billions are going to the monopolies, musicians and others, for example, are being asked to contribute without being paid.

The International Olympic Committee itself is dominated by the international financial oligarchy, and the Games are organised in a totally capital-centred way. Everything is done to serve and protect the interests of monopoly capital. Whether it is on the construction projects, on infrastructure, on security or the armed forces, the people are being made to pay for the Olympic Games. While billions are going to the monopolies, musicians and others, for example, are being asked to contribute without being paid. The people of London in particular and the people as a whole are being saddled with the extra burden of state spending, not to mention the cost of attending the Games and the massive disruption to normal life being caused. This is coming at a time when the government is cutting investment in essential social programmes and further privatising them, is dragooning the youth through workfare programmes and slashing benefits under the fraud of having to reduce the deficit.

For a human-centred alternative

Although they are being promoted as a great people’s spectacle, every aspect of the London 2012 Olympic Games in its present form is being organised to serve the monopolies and as an exercise against the people. Whether it be on the massive cost as a festival for the monopolies, or through the militarisation of society or with the hysteria and suspicion being fostered on the issue of security, the burden of the Olympic Games falls on the people and leaves them politically and culturally marginalised.

The stated ideals of the Olympics of sport in the service of the harmonious development amongst people, promoting a peaceful society and human dignity are completely swamped in the context of an exercise against the people’s well-being and strengthening the power of the state against them. The working class and people must demand a human-centred alternative.

Workers’ Weekly Internet Edition, Weekly On Line Newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), 

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