Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 47 Number 12, July 1, 2017 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

The Need for Empowerment:

The Grenfell Tower Tragedy

On June 14, a fire broke out at Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey residential housing block in North Kensington, London. At the time of writing, the official figures are that at least 80 people are dead or missing presumed dead, though the reality is that the horrific inferno has claimed the lives of an unknown number of residents, which many are putting at well over a hundred. The tower, which provides social housing, contained 127 flats. The block is owned by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea but management of the block is the responsibility of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.

WWIE takes this opportunity to add its heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost family, friends and neighbours in this tragedy, and its sympathy to all those who have been affected and traumatised. Our thoughts are also with the firefighters who had to heroically cope with the immensity of the tragedy under very difficult circumstances. Our solidarity also goes out to the local people and other volunteers that stepped in to do the work which by right is the responsibility of the public authorities.

It was clear that the fire spread rapidly up the building and the concerns which have been raised over recent renovations and the lack of fire safety measures in place are proving well-founded. We condemn the social irresponsibility and the criminal negligence of the ruling elite that has led to this tragedy. But those affected are not sitting idly by. It is a fact that the grief which has been experienced is turning to anger and to action, as the demand is put forward "Justice for Grenfell". There have been mass protests by local residents and other concerned people, and the realisation is that what has led to the tragedy is a crime of national dimensions, involving widespread breach of safety regulations, flammable cladding and "refurbishments" which have played fast and loose with residents' lives and safety. Experts and others who have investigated have been horrified. Furthermore, cladding from all 149 tower blocks in 45 local authorities which have so far been tested have failed fire safety tests. All this represents the complete anarchy which prevails in the economic sphere, and which pervades all political, social, cultural, national and international affairs. Where is the authority which will take responsibility?

Letter from Kensington Council Solicitor to Grenfell Action Group in 2013 threatening legal action if they do not remove criticism from their website in relation to investment on the estate

This terrible human tragedy is one more factor which has led to even more demands from all quarters for Theresa May to go. Her lack of humanity and the government's pursuit of an aggressive austerity agenda have fuelled these demands. Even the Queen herself put Theresa May in the shade by visiting survivors of the tragedy, which May refused to do. Perhaps it was realised that the deployment of the head of state was necessary to prevent the spontaneous revolt of the people.

Nevertheless, the people have resisted and are demanding answers. In fact, it is clear that they themselves have the answers, but wish to have justice. What they are coming up against is the private interests in cut-throat contention with each other who see no authority but their own self-serving drive for profit, and let the devil take the hind-most.

It has been revealed how Housing Minister after Housing Minister has sat on reports even from Westminster's own Select Committees which have drawn attention to the stark dangers which were lurking, and demanding that the government take action. The very last of these was Gavin Barwell who lost his seat at the general election, and was then appointed May's head of staff in a private capacity.

The Inquiry which has been set up under the chairmanship of Sir Martin Moore-Bick has the narrowest terms of reference which focus on the mechanics of the fire, deliberately excluding who should be held accountable, how the concerns and campaigns of the community were dealt with or ignored, and the response of the public bodies, including the Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council and Theresa May's government itself, in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, as well as the resources which must be made available. Nor is the Inquiry to deal with the issue of the provision of social housing, the right to food, clothing and shelter. And despite Theresa May's claims that those most affected by the tragedy would be involved and consulted, the people have in fact been excluded from participation in setting the terms of reference, from voicing their concerns, and from putting forward the crucial issues which have affected their lives. Indeed, it could be said that the Inquiry has the aim of covering over and burying these crucial issues.

What this whole tragic and sorry affair is bringing home in the wake of the election is that the people must have the power which belongs to them by right, and which they must take into their own hands. The working class and people as a whole must join with the residents and victims of Grenfell Tower in the fight for the rights of all, in which the security of the people lies.


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