Global elite descend on East London for Olympics

Paul Stuart

Octopus, Ilona, Seanna & Harle superyachts. (Photo: Pretre/flickr)

The Royal Dock complex, adjacent to London’s financial district at Canary Wharf, is hosting up to one hundred super yachts, including twenty of the world’s most opulent, as the Olympic Games begin.

Its transformation into a Monaco-style marina playground for the super rich is a telling rebuttal to all the official rhetoric about the “peoples’ games.”

East London’s Royal Docks, including the Royal Albert Dock, the Royal Victoria Dock and the King George V Dock, was once a centre of industry and trade employing hundreds of thousands of workers.

The games in general are dominated by the vast global social chasm. Buckingham Palace played host to an Olympic reception on Monday, where Queen Elizabeth and others received the Olympic committee. It is estimated the official functions alone will cost up to £100 million; in addition, numerous unofficial events will be held.

The global elite view staying in a hotel as passé, or “so Beijing” as one newspaper put it.

Accordingly, many have therefore brought their super yachts and will arrive at Olympic events in helicopters or speedboats along the Thames, which connects Windsor Castle and Hampton Court, the Bank of England, Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, and so on. Curator of the National Maritime Museum Robert Blyth made the telling comparison that “Historically, kings and queens would have travelled by river—the roads were rather uncomfortable and dangerous.”

Fully 30 miles of road lanes are reserved for Olympic VIPs and competitors. “Games Lanes” is their official title, but they have been dubbed Zil lanes—after the limousines used by Stalinist apparatchiks in Soviet Russia who travelled in lanes that were reserved for them. To stray into one will cost a member of the public a £130 fine. In addition 1,300 sets of traffic lights will be changed to facilitate Olympic traffic.

Pervasive unemployment and poverty in London areas hit by riots

Paul Stuart

The British political establishment and its state apparatus are imposing the most vicious class justice against young people accused of involvement in the riots that swept London and other cities last week, following the police killing of 29-year-old father of four Mark Duggan.

Nearly 3,000 people have so far been arrested as police continue to raid homes across the capital. Already, almost half of these have been dragged before kangaroo courts with barely any pretence of due process. Despite the fact that most have no previous convictions, more than two thirds of those rounded up are being held without bail and subject to punitive custodial sentences.

Collective punishment is now the order of the day, as whole families face eviction from council housing in a fundamental assault on their democratic and social rights.

The family of 18-year-old youth Daniel Sartain-Clark, from Battersea, South London, is the first to have been served with an eviction notice. This is despite Sartain-Clark pleading innocent to charges of involvement in the riots in neighbouring Clapham.

His mother, Maite De La Calva, accused the police of beating up her son and his girlfriend. “It was brutal the way Daniel was treated”, she said. “My child and J-Niel [Daniel’s girlfriend] were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were being stupidly curious.… The police have made mistakes. They have beaten two children up.”

Daniel, his mother and 14-year-old sister face homelessness. De La Calva has made clear the family has nowhere to go. Not only are they unable to afford the astronomical rents in the private sector—especially under conditions where the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government is cutting housing subsidies as part of its £80 billion package of austerity measures. But a campaign is underway to block legislation designed to protect people against destitution from being used to provide emergency accommodation to those evicted.

The Conservative leader of Wandsworth council, Ravi Govindia, said the eviction notice against De La Calva and her children was only the start. Local authority “officers will continue to work with the courts to establish the identities of other council tenants or members of their households as more cases are processed in the coming days and weeks,” he threatened.

Labour-controlled councils in other parts of the capital, and in Manchester, the West Midlands and elsewhere, are following suit. In Manchester, the Labour-controlled city council has said it plans to evict the family of a 12-year-old boy accused of stealing a bottle of wine from a supermarket during the disturbances.

Spanish air traffic controllers’ union facilitates government persecution of its members

Robert Stevens and Paul Stuart

"The defeat of the air traffic controllers [is] a critical factor in [the Spanish government's] bid to privatise Spain’s airports, the largest remaining state-run system in Europe."

The Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) government has stepped up its offensive against 2,200 air traffic controllers.

The controllers are currently under a State of Alert, imposed by the government by Royal Decree (1673/2010) on December 4. Under the order, the controllers have been forced to work under “military discipline” under the command of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force until the State of Alert ends. The order was imposed following a mass walkout by the controllers on December 3 to protest intolerable working conditions and attacks on their legal rights.

On December 29, Eduardo Esteban [Audio], the chief prosecutor of the Madrid Court, issued a letter demanding the prosecution of air traffic controllers on charges of sedition for stopping work on health and safety grounds over December 3-4. The government has now escalated the threat of prosecution to involve controllers “in general”, according to an insider at the Public Prosecutions office reported in El País.

Attorney General Cándido Conde-Pumpido is demanding sentences of up to eight years under article 20 of the 1964 Air Navigation Laws. This is the second law carried over from the dictatorship of General Franco deployed against air traffic controllers. The government’s declaration of a State of Alert was the first since the end of the Franco regime in 1975.

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