Socialist Worker

Grenfell Tower fire shows up everything wrong with our system—it's time to end it

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2559

Residents of Grenfell Tower and their supporters are fighting for justice

Residents of Grenfell Tower and their supporters are fighting for justice (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The fire at Grenfell Tower has become such a focus not just because of the appalling loss of life. It sums up everything that is wrong in Britain.

It is about gross inequality, the remoteness of the political elite and social cleansing from rich neighbourhoods.

It’s about the racism that further shapes how the poor are treated, the bitter results of austerity—and class.

It has highlighted greedy developers, a system that says business must be let rip and regulation swept away, and a council that abandons its ordinary residents. Never more so than when they needed help after the fire.

The fire would always have been revelatory. But it has become central and potentially transforming because people are fighting back.

Instead of “dignified” silence and acceptance the residents and their supporters have chosen the dignity of struggle.   

Our social system encourages a mindset that decides to save £2 a square metre by choosing cladding that is banned in the US and Germany because it is so flammable.

And that cladding was also chosen partly to make the tower more pleasing to the eyes of the rich in the gentrifying neighbourhood.

Those responsible must now pay. After every terror incident the police smash down doors and drag off those they deem potentially connected.

It is quite possible that more people died in Grenfell than in all the terror incidents in Britain in the last 15 years. But nobody is hustled off for questioning.

They should be rounding up the Tory cabinet ministers and MPs who made the life-destroying cuts. They should arrest the suited money men who saw the area as just a chance to make profit. 

Yesterday, chancellor Philip Hammond said the cladding used at Grenfell was illegal for such a building. Why has noboody been arrested?

Grenfell is not some great exception to capitalist rule. It is a particularly sharp example of business as usual

A man who posted pictures on Facebook of a body was jailed within 24 hours for three months. Will any of the real culprits face such treatment?

There are now dozens of practical campaigning steps that can be taken in the aftermath of the fire. Demanding sprinklers on all tower blocks, rigorous safety audits, immediate imposition of proper building regulations.

But this murderous incident demands more. It should end May’s tottering regime.

Every activist can do something, and union leaders could do a great deal more. Let’s build more furious marches like the ones we saw in London last week, and link Grenfell to all the other areas of struggle.

But this week, in these circumstances, the greatest opportunity is for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to call the actions to finish off May.

Flush with the enthusiastic loyalty of millions after the election, a call from Corbyn for a demonstration remembering the dead and fighting for the living would produce a huge effect.

And when even the Labour right are calling for the requisitioning of homes, why can’t Corbyn call for work stoppages? The Tories must not be allowed to escape.

It is right to seek out ways to pressure May in parliament and increase the Tories' crisis through such methods.  

But this is no time for limiting the struggle to conventional parliamentary political moves. It’s time to tear the head off the system.

Corbyn was right to say yesterday that people displaced from Grenfell should be able to occupy the empty homes hoarded by the rich. We need radical measures to win decent housing for all.

Grenfell is not some great exception to capitalist rule. It is a particularly sharp example of business as usual.

Our sorrow and rage and defiance over Grenfell should be a spur to end the system of class division that produced it. 

Our anger cannot be satisfied by anything less than fighting for revolution that takes back power from the rich and uses it democratically in a socialist society.

Avenging Grenfell means revolution.


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