Bread & Circuses

(Or Jubilee-Olympics)

Olympic torchbearer Dimitrios Chondrokoukis, a Greek high jumper, at a special ceremony to mark the handover over of the torch by Greece to a London 2012 delegation. It was then flown on a special chartered British Airways flight — BA2012 — to an airbase in Cornwall.

It would be hard to find anything which could better sum up the bankruptcy and degeneration of the ‘big-society’ political and social elite in the UK, than the efforts they have put into the two ‘big’ events scheduled for 2012.   If the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, was accompanied by ‘bread and circuses’, then this last-gasp of the British Empire, may well be imitating this previous period of history.

This year will see already low standards of living reduced further, the level of personal debt increased to destructive levels and the banking and sovereign debt levels, threaten to bring the system crashing down.  Yet amid this looming crisis millions, if not billions of pounds have been spent to present two huge extravagant distractions – the Olympics and the Jubilee.


The capitalist nature of these two events is hard to ignore because both are funded by the tax payers and paid from the public purse, yet the main beneficiaries, will be capitalist companies and elite individuals.  The Royal family, that remnant of the feudal system, and now a fading part of the English heritage industry, is said to be worth the cost because of the tourism the spectacle brings in.  It is true, that some people have enough money and time, and are so lacking in interesting lives, that they will fly or drive to London to peer through the railings at Buckingham palace, wave flags and buy some memorabilia. However, the money they spend goes into the private capitalist coffers of airlines, hotel owners, cafes, taxi cabs, restaurants, shopkeepers, Harrods etc. Yet the cost for the lavish life-styles of the extended family of Royal persons is born by every working person in the country.

The same goes for the Olympics.  Despite private capital sponsorship, much of the cost of the Olympics is born by the tax-payer.  Infrastructure projects, stadiums, buildings, high-tech torches, will all cost tax-payer money.

July 27, 2012 — August 12, 2012 — Britain is preparing to mount its biggest ever peacetime security operation for the London Olympics, involving thousands of police and military personnel backed by warships, fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles. Graphic shows security preparations for the London Olympics. Click to see full size.

The massive spending on policing and security, will also be born by the tax-payer. Yet who benefits?  It is of course, the elite athletes, some already earning astronomical incomes.

Who else? The same as the above! It will be airlines, hotels, restaurants, shops etc.  So this year we are supposed to forget the cuts in services, wages, salaries, pensions and the rising cost of fuel bills, food, petrol, mortgage payments, and unemployment. We are encouraged to dust off our union jacks, wave our arms at the flame as it passes and cheer on our athletes, many of them, like other UK elite’s, probably have tax-avoiding payment schemes and portfolios.


The other high-cost, tax consuming circus in town just recently has been the Leveson Inquiry. Here we continue to have a seemingly endless parade of the so-called ‘great and good’ waxing lyrical, or not, about the capitalist press – without ever mentioning the fact that their low moral standards, as with everything else capitalism touches, are motivated by profit.

You would think from the frequent hand wringing, of politicians and media gurus sat on the witness platform, that money and power never entered into their calculations. You would think from what they say, that their only concern is for the public good, the national interest and that the sanctity of, mainly elite, family life is respected.  In many ways, this other 2012 tax-funded charade, is a delicate sparring contest among the ‘establishment’ elite, who have been caught out having their normal, cosy, palm-greasing relations with each other exposed, when they pretend to be ‘professional’ and above this.

A particularly stomach-churning session occurred when the alleged war criminal Tony Blair took the witness stand. Many people saw the purpose of his round-the-world flight (at tax payer cost?) to talk to Rupert Murdoch, as attempting to do a deal. The deal being – Murdoch to support New Labour’s return to government, the future Labour government to not be hostile to Murdoch’s media empire building. When asked about this trip, Blair denied anything other than a chat to familiarise Mr Murdoch with New Labour’s Policies.

No one bothered to ask him an obvious question. ‘Could this not have been done more cheaply by sending him an email or a copy of the election manifesto’?  Blair also thought there was nothing unusual in phoning Murdoch several times in the lead up to the legally dubious invasion of Iraq.

Well of course, under capitalism, there isn’t anything wrong with this elite networking. Its normal for the capitalist elite to nurture their interface with the pro-capitalist political elite, its just that its not to be too publicly demonstrated.


The hatred, with which the elite project against those who reveal too much of their antics has been demonstrated by the treatment of  Bradley Manning and Julian Assange due to their activity via Wikileaks. The hatred and vengeance directed against them is probably in direct proportion to the insecurity the elite feel. They know what they do is exploitative, dangerous and immoral even by their own low standards. They detest this being exposed. However, the phone-tapping scandal in the UK has also temporarily lifted another veil, which normally obscures the insider dealing, the collaboration of capital and the state, and their contempt for ordinary people.

Finally! Over this past week or two, the hypocrisy of the political elite has also been ably demonstrated with regard to the trip of the Olympic flame from Greece. Greek people have been falsely pilloried as tax-dodgers, victims of their own malfeasance and laziness. On one occasion by an EU official who herself dodges paying taxes.

Greece has had, huge austerity imposed upon it. UK Prime Minister Cameron has been particularly disrespectful with regard to Greece, yet along with others, enthusiastically celebrated, the Olympic flames journey from that increasingly battered country. The Olympic flame, supposedly a symbol of amateur unity and international solidarity, already prostituted to professional competitive elitism, has clearly not inspired the UK political elite to exhibit such positive sentiments and characteristics themselves.

Roy Ratcliffe (May 2012.) [Also at .]

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