Grenfell: Burning Fury

People in Grenfell Tower lost their lives because those who are to keep them safe didn’t think they were worth spending money on. Those put in tower blocks, which are hazards – and it turns out many of them are tragedies waiting to unfold – are treated as a liability, an unprofitable expense rather than individuals who lack social power and therefore can’t escape exploitation and indignity of every kind. In fact they are the kind of people who work hardest for the lowest wages: zero hour contracts, and such like exploitation.

The contempt in which they are held by Kensington and Chelsea Tory council, and Labour councils too in other places, is expressed in a number of ways. For example, the media has said that if residents pay their council tax on time and do not ask for council services – and this would apply to wealthy people who are most of Grenfell’s neighbours – then they get a £100 rebate at the end of the financial year.  That is, the wealthy pay £100 less council tax than those who have much less.   Those who need council services or are late with their payments – that is, people with very little who have big problems they need the council to help with –they get no rebate and pay the full whack: they subsidise the council tax of the wealthy. When asked about the rebate, the council spokesman could not understand why that was queried, so much is his brain drenched in class bias; so much does he take for granted his rights over the lives of tenants in the tower blocks.

This is the council which would not put in a sprinkler system for £200,000 which would have saved most of the lives; and put in the cheaper version of the cladding which caused the fire to climb the tower very rapidly, ensuring many deaths. £200,000 is not hard for a council to come by if it is really interested in human life. But it is easier to come by if you are interested in destroying human life militarily. The Brimstone missiles fired on Syria, Iraq and who knows where else, cost £100,000 each. The British military fired quite a number and we were not asked to vote on whether we thought our money should be spent in this way instead of on sprinklers and non-inflammable cladding. Such a vote would be real civilisation. As Gandhi said when asked what he thought of Western civilisation, “I think it would be a very good thing”.

One of the placards the Global Women’s Strike carried when it joined the tenants’ demo after the fire was, “Black, immigrant, working class, our lives matter”.

After the fire people described how people like them (and us) are despised, demeaned and murdered in our beds. Such clarity owes much to the recent election and how well the Corbyn movement did. We now have the power of an opposition voice in Parliament and that alone has made us bolder to say what we really think and most of the time have held back from saying. This is only the beginning. We have a lot to say. And to do.

The cost of life saving sprinklers –

compared to killing costs –
Two Brimstone missiles fewer would have paid for a sprinkler system, saving not only lives at Grenfell, but also lives in Iraq and Syria