#Grenfell Tower – act against system failure

Grenfell Tower in flamesThe anger mixed with compassion over the Grenfell Tower fire is threatening to turn into a conflagration of its own as the estimated number of dead soars.

The wave of support by local communities is in sharp contrast to the cruelty that now dominates a system.  The few luxuriate in obscene wealth while the many struggle to survive.

It is crystal clear that the shocking casualties in west London were entirely avoidable. Repeated pleas and warnings by residents about fire and safety issues were ignored by arrogant officials.

When Grenfell Tower residents warned their landlord, Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO). they were ignored, bullied and threatened.

“Catastrophic event” – warning

“Only a catastrophic event”, residents said, would expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord.”

The Grenfell Tower disaster WAS ‘system’-made. It is the result of incompetence and cost-cutting by councils and the companies  in charge of ordinary people’s homes – and lives.

The NHS is sold off. Fire services cut for years. Heroic fire fighters are treated like third class citizens. Warnings by the Fire Brigade Union are ignored.

Shutting people out of power, with no voice and no say, KCTMO authorised refurbishment techniques which transformed homes into death traps.

A report in today’s Times reveals that for a mere £5,000 extra, the external panels could have been upgraded to a fire-resistant version. It was these panels together with the creation of a ventilation cavity, that are thought to be responsible for the rapid spreading of the fire.

But KCTMO advised residents to remain in their flats in case of fire, instead of using the staircase – a recommendation based on the pre-cladding conditions in tower blocks with only concrete walls.

Lack of power

Communities are powerless in the face of faceless and arrogant bodies like KCTMO.  Other councils around the country are the same, working hand-in-glove with companies who seek only profit at the expense of good housing and safety for the many.

May’s announcement of a public enquiry is a tried and texted technique. She wants to dampen down anger in the hope it will go away.  Meanwhile, the true criminals will get away scot-free or run off with a rap across the knuckles.

This is not democracy in any shape or form. It is a system that manages people as if they were things, and in the case of the poorest in society, inconvenient things to be shunted around and battered from pillar to post with lives that get harder all the time.

We live in a cruel, bureaucratic state. Only the needs of the market count. Humanity is out; only profitability counts.

Humanity vs cruelty

Meanwhile, Corbyn’s humanity seems to be more important to people even than his policies. There has been a huge wave of support by local communities.  Unlike the present capitalist system where the few luxuriate in obscene wealth while the many struggle to survive.

But outrage and anger alone are not enough. A strategy is needed. Instead of May’s enquiry, there must be an immediate coroners’ inquest in close association with relatives of the dead.

To prevent future events of this nature, we urgently need real democracy, where society as a whole is the political form, ending the separation between people and state.

The real alternative is to assert power through real and ‘virtual’ assemblies. In this way grass roots people will feel encouraged to act for the common good in a society where any surplus is used for the benefit of all.

Let’s turn this week’s protests – today at Marsham Street, this Saturday, and on July 1 into real action to bring down the May government. That includes strike action by unions and communities.

Immediately, please sign the petition for a fresh election. Let’s take forward the social movement that began before the election.  Let’s transform our democracy. It’s time to pick up on Labour’s Manifesto idea for a constitutional convention and run with it.

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Comment by Gerry Gold on June 17, 2017 at 13:37

Thanks Steve,

You're absolutely right : 

'a relentless war against the public sector, against the working class and against any resistance to the legalised theft of public assets.

Now 'Charing Cross' one of the major London hospital, where I worked in the '80s, is to be reduced to just 13% of its current size - its valuable land auctioned off to the highest bidder. . 

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jun/16/most-of-central-lon...

Comment by Steve Radford on June 17, 2017 at 10:48

   I agree with almost everything Mr Gold has said - with minor quibbles over how closely relatives should be "involved" with a Coroner's Inquest. The deaths of those killed in North Kensington this week were entirely avoidable and the tragedy was an example of a system that classifies some people as less deserving and less worthwhile than others because of their class and social and economic status. Ironically I actually agree with that last point: some people are less deserving than others, but I would reverse the current system by 180 degrees.

   This who profit from the theft of our public assets, those who deliberately run down and dismantle public/municipal housing and privatise it or drive the tenants out into the private market so the properties or the land can be sold off for private development, those who seek to make public housing a ghetto and a means tested benefit rather than long term and secure homes... these people (who certainly include Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council, but also the Tories generally and the Blairites who enthusiastically promoted this course as well) are the ones responsible for the deaths in Grenfell Tower.

   I lived in a block of council flats in London in the 1970s (two blocks in fact) and, like those in Grenfell tower, we were told that in the event of a fire we should remain in our homes while the Fire Brigade dealt with the incident. In fact there were a lot of fires in our blocks as the ground floor was a car parking area (which no tenant ever used) and it was a regular occurrence for stolen cars to be dumped and torched down there. We were safe as the fires did not spread, but nowadays blocks are wrapped in inflammable cladding and for the want of an extra £5000 (saved by rejecting the fire resistant panels and using the cheapest instead) it seems that scores of people have died.

   Many years ago I made myself unpopular with some people in London by declining (in my role as Chairman of the London Trades Councils Anti-Racist/Anti Fascist Committee) to endorse the claims of the 'New Cross Massacre Action Committee' that the deaths of several young black people in a fire was definitely a racist massacre. I took that position because, although I was sympathetic to the claims of police racism and indifference, I saw no actual evidence that the fire was the work of racist arsonists. In this instance I think it is reasonable to call the deaths in Grenfell Tower a massacre - not because the victims were deliberately killed but because they were killed by a system and an ideology that didn't care about them and which actively worked  to get them out of the public sector (which is the rationale behind arms length companies like KCTMO). If this had been a block of private Mansion Flats then there would have been fire alarms and they certainly wouldn't have saved £5000 by fitting cheap and flammable cladding around the building instead of marginally more expensive fire resistant panels. These people died because they were working class council tenants and those who control the local council and the government regard them as an unwelcome nuisance who should be pushed out or hived off from the public sector as soon as possible. They are victims of a relentless war against the public sector, against the working class and against any resistance to the legalised theft of public assets.

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