Five years after the disastrous Grenfell fire, justice still seems a long way off for the victims of this tragedy and their families.
Far from doing justice, the ongoing investigation sheds light on the litany of failures of those responsible for this disaster and their motivations.
Whether it’s ignoring coroner’s reports, cutting the costs of security measures or showing complete disregard for the working class: it’s clear as day that the Grenfell disaster was an almost inevitable product of the corrupt and greedy capitalist system.
Another Grenfell awaits you. Indeed, similar fires have occurred in the past year – such as the fire in a tower in Canary Wharf, Londonwhich even had the same coating as that of Grenfell.
The inquest heard testimony from the Conservative government, as well as accounts of the events that unfolded immediately after the fire.
We have heard that the council (the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, RBKC) is understaffed on the ground. Instead, rest centers have been established and run by community volunteers.
The RBKC was totally unprepared for an emergency and refused to ask for help. He has repeatedly refused offers of support from neighboring councils, fearing it will invite ‘scrutiny and scrutiny’. Senior council officials felt it would make them feel like they “couldn’t cope”.
The survivors slept under the Westway flyover for 10 days. Others were accommodated in unsuitable hotels, with large families sharing a room, forced to move every day.
People who had lost absolutely everything in the fire – keeping only the clothes they wore on the night of the fire – were rejected for state benefits. Some survivors eventually received the smallest amount from the distress fund: a paltry £500, or even just £100. Others have had their claims completely dismissed.
All this happened in a town full of empty houses belonging to the wealthy. These remained empty, while residents of Grenfell Tower and the surrounding area were left homeless.
The only support requested by RBKC on the day of the fire was police support to contain “civil unrest”. Council leaders warned of “community tensions”, blaming “agitators and troublemakers”.
Instead of the material support needed following the fire, what was provided was the police truncheon. Survivors needed immediate financial and emotional support; for safe and adequate shelter. Instead, what they got was armed police patrolling the immediate area.
In the evidence at the inquest, we heard from bereaved people searching for their missing loved ones, only to be met with police orders to move. The whole area was heavily guarded.
All the while, the real criminals – the bosses involved in the deadly renovation of Grenfell – were removing any mention of their role from their websites.
An internal email from an official expressed concern that staff at the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization (TMO) were ‘cleaning up computer records’ and were ‘concerned about criminal charges’ as he “drift” without “any leadership”.
The contempt of conservatives
Testimony heard by the inquiry laid bare the responsibility of the Conservative government, and former housing minister Eric Pickles, in particular.
Giving evidence to the inquest, Pickles showed his contempt for mourners and survivors. He immediately insulted the dead, speaking of those “unnamed 96 who lost their lives”. In fact, 72 people have died – and each of them has a name.
They might be nameless to Pickles and the rest of the criminals responsible for Grenfell. But we and our movement remember it.
Pickles acts with such disrespect and indifference, knowing that the investigation will not do justice.
For decades, New Labor and Conservative governments ignored repeated warnings about the fire hazard of coatings and the lack of clear regulations.
The government’s housing department even withdrew funding for an investigation into the Lakanal House fire in Camberwell, London, which killed six and injured more than 20 in 2009.
The recommendations of Coroner Lakanal’s report were also ignored. In an internal email, the senior official Brian Martin said that the security improvements were “essentially unnecessary”.
The warnings were continually ignored and dismissed. Calls to clarify the regulations were answered with requests to “show me the bodies”.
And why was this done? Because regulation and ‘bureaucracy’ were seen as the enemy of ‘business’ and ‘innovation’, and the government feared the reaction of industry. In other words, building safety regulations were seen as just another pesky obstacle to capitalist profits.
Following the 2008 financial crisis, the Conservative-Liberal coalition government’s response was to roll back regulations – or simply ignore them – to make it easier for developers to save money. Fire safety was just another obstacle to “the business”.
Even a fire test commissioned by the government housing department in 2001 showed that ACM [aluminium composite material] the coating was flammable and dangerous. However, the results were never made public. No one in government wanted to hear it.
The Conservatives have still not implemented the recommendations of the first phase of the Grenfell report. Housing Secretary Michael Gove said he would “everything that’s necessaryto ensure developers cover coating costs. But the investigation did not change the situation one iota.
As long as the ruling class is in charge of the investigation, anyone is unlikely to face jail time for the social murder that was the Grenfell fire. Ultimately, they cannot be trusted to deliver justice. The rich and powerful will always protect theirs.
For this reason, the struggle for real justice goes hand in hand with the task facing the working class: to crush the economic and political power of the capitalists and their lackeys in the state.
It means kicking out this criminal Conservative government and expropriating the big developers and landlords.
Only the fight for socialism can bring justice to Grenfell and prevent another catastrophe from happening again.