Lead and circuses: yet another article about the sodding Olympics

We’re all aware that the Olypmics are a bad thing, right? Not because there’s anything inherently wrong with running or swimming or throwing sticks around, although there’s probably something a bit odd about anyone who genuinely cares about the table tennis bit, but because of the way that hundreds of millions of pounds are being spent on a terrifying dystopian security crackdown over the course of the games. If you have somehow managed to miss all criticism of the Olympics up til now, Games Monitor has a lot of information on various problematic aspects of the games, and Dan Hancox has written on the terrifying policing plans for the event.
So, if the Olympics are definitely bad, what are we going to do about it? I’m open to suggestions, but based on my experience of the British left, I can imagine a few likely options: if you’re a leftist of the SWP variety, your preferred answer will involve a big passive march, with lots of anti-Tory rhetoric, from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square where Tony Benn will speak at the end, and if you’re an direct action activist of a certain stripe, your answer will involve posting calls on the internet for a black bloc with lots of vague rhetoric about smashing. Unless someone proposes something better, I’d prefer a third option: giving the whole thing a miss.
Right now, “our side”, however you want to define that, is not entirely powerless. We can win against landlords and pubs, and sometimes, if the circumstances are right, we can even beat major companies. But I don’t think we can stop the Olympics, and I don’t we think we can beat the police in a straight fight when they’ve been planning it for months and months, and are spending millions of pounds on a massive operation to make sure they can beat down any sign of dissent. That means that any anti-Olympic protests that happen will be more or less ineffective, and I’ve been part of too many failures to have much enthusiasm about wasting my time on another one. I can’t see anti-Olympics protests being anything other than a bigger replay of the protests against the Royal Wedding last year, and I don’t think anyone remembers those as being a great success. So does that mean we should give up and just do nothing? I don’t think so. Instead of a powerless protest against a massive target that’s too big to actually affect, why not spend that time and energy doing something where we might actually win? I can’t say exactly what that means, because issues vary from area to area, but there are a few general suggestions I can make: there are dodgy landlords everywhere, so I’m sure you can find one who’s been acting shadily to start a fight with. If someone you know is under threat of eviction, get together a crowd to drive the bailiffs off, as apparently happened in Bristol recently. Or, if workfare hasn’t been beaten by this summer, why not find an employer in your area who’s taking part and pressure them to stop using unpaid labour?
I don’t think we should ignore the Olympics altogether – whenever we’re arguing against cuts and come up against the idea that we all have to tighten our belts because there’s just no money around, we can point to the Olympics as proof of just how much money our rulers have to throw around. But that’s about it – as with the Royal Wedding, when our rulers are putting a lot of effort into hyping up an event that’s clearly intended to serve as a distraction from how much they’re fucking us over, I don’t think the best reaction is to hold protests that essentially serve to say “hey everyone, look at that distraction!”
A few disclaimers: this post is very much written from the perspective of someone who doesn’t live in London, and it probably shows. I understand that if you live in London, the games may well be pretty much impossible to avoid, and if they’re having a real impact on your area, as with Leyton Marsh, then it’s be totally reasonable to resist that, although I imagine that most campaigning on those issues will have to happen before the Games themselves. But these things are essentially local issues, and while I’m all in favour of solidarity, I don’t think they need a national mobilisation any more than I expect people in London to demonstrate against cuts to my local library or fire station. And this post is very much about people who are political activists of one stripe or another – if the Olympics are challenged by a wave of riots by young people from outside the activist scene, like those which happened last summer, then it’d be pure cowardice to leave them to face the police alone. But if those more-or-less spontaneous riots don’t erupt, then I don’t think there’s much we can do.

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About nothingiseverlost

"The impulse to fight against work and management is immediately collective. As we fight against the conditions of our own lives, we see that other people are doing the same. To get anywhere we have to fight side by side. We begin to break down the divisions between us and prejudices, hierarchies, and nationalisms begin to be undermined. As we build trust and solidarity, we grow more daring and combative. More becomes possible. We get more organized, more confident, more disruptive and more powerful."
This entry was posted in Activism, Anarchists, Protests, Repression, Stuff that I don't think is very useful, The left and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Lead and circuses: yet another article about the sodding Olympics

  1. Pingback: We can’t win by playing their games. | Cautiously pessimistic

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