Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/25821

Posted on 11 July 2017 at 14:35 GMT

Outside the Tower, photo James Ivens

Outside the Tower, photo James Ivens   (Click to enlarge)

Grenfell stitch-up: unions should call independent inquiry

Councils must act - cladding off now!

Bob Sulatycki, West London Socialist Party

The weeks go by, and still survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire are homeless, and still cladding testing is finding blocks around the country unsafe without action. Meanwhile, the official inquiry's descent into a cover-up makes the call for an independent workers' movement inquiry doubly urgent.

For an independent inquiry led by workers' and residents' organisations

When the government announced that judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick was to take charge, it was immediately apparent that the ruling class was choosing a safe pair of hands for itself. Although an expert in commercial law, Moore-Bick's foray into housing involved allowing Tory Westminster council to rehouse a tenant 50 miles away in Milton Keynes.

Rightly the community has no confidence in him. It's increasingly clear that the class responsible for this crime cannot be trusted to investigate it.

The Hillsborough stadium disaster campaigners' 28-year struggle for justice has led to widespread understanding that the establishment's overriding concern in such situations is to cover its own back. This means, among other things, blaming the victims rather than the real perpetrators.

In a guarded form, this started immediately in some quarters of the capitalist press and political establishment. But it is clearly apparent to most observers who is to blame:

The authors of the austerity programmes that have savaged fire services and architects and building inspectors in councils. Profit-hungry private contractors. National and local governments' privatisation and deregulation drives.

In this situation, only the trade unions, working in liaison with local tenants' and residents' groups, have the authority to establish a meaningful investigation. For example, general union Unite which organises housing and construction workers, and the Fire Brigades Union.

The unions should use their resources to initiate a genuinely independent workers' inquiry, with far-reaching terms of reference set by survivors and those immediately affected. Jeremy Corbyn could also step in and use his huge authority to start this process.

Take the cladding off now

Nearly 200 towers around the country clad in 'aluminium composite material' like Grenfell have now failed combustibility tests.

More are still waiting for results before any decision on removing cladding. Why? At this stage the material has been decisively proven unsafe.

In Greater Manchester, a housing association and an ex-council 'arm's-length management organisation' (Almo) have actually suspended removal on 20 blocks where cladding failed tests. An executive for one said: "Advice regarding the removal of cladding is now unclear and there is conflicting information about the need to remove the panels"!

Councils must act now to make working class homes safe. They should spend reserves to fund emergency maintenance work and 24-hour fire watches for all tower blocks, and send the bill to central government.

The Socialist Party encourages residents to organise to fight for safety. Our members have been campaigning on this issue, and working with tower block residents to establish safety campaigns. We have raised the idea of withholding rent if necessary.

Requisition the empty properties

The issue of rehousing in Kensington and Chelsea is still live. There are 1,399 properties standing empty there - more than any other London borough.

When Jeremy Corbyn raised the idea of requisitioning these empty properties, there was a horrified reaction in parts of the capitalist media. Unfortunately, the Labour Party locally and nationally does not seem to be echoing his call.

However, it remains a realistic and very popular demand.

Marching in central London, photo Paula Mitchell

Marching in central London, photo Paula Mitchell   (Click to enlarge)

After all, this is not about granny's flat that hasn't been sold yet, as the capitalist press would have us believe. Rather it's about land 'assets' mainly belonging to investment companies, hedge funds and oligarchs, traded on international markets to make millions for their owners.

The value of such assets drops if they acquire tenants, and so some have remained empty for up to 15 years. In fact, the number of empty homes has swollen as the rate of return on property outperforms productive forms of investment in crisis-ridden capitalism.

The real scandal is that families with nothing left after the fire are pressured into taking inappropriate accommodation far from their home community, while these potentially suitable properties continue to stand empty.

And there is the continuing scandal of the 300 million languishing in the council's reserves while homeless survivors are stranded. The main purpose of Kensington and Chelsea's housing income surplus was not ensuring safe, well-maintained council homes, but providing the richest private residents with huge council tax rebates.

North Kensington: a history of struggle for housing

The local fear over dispersal is based on the real experiences of working class communities in North Kensington and neighbouring west London areas. The Tories - and Blairites - are the friends and representatives of big landlords and property developers.

This isn't a recent development. In the 1960s, tenants and labour organisations fought against local slum landlord Peter Rachman, a campaign involving many socialists.

Even before that, in the 1940s Communists in North Kensington lead a campaign of occupation of luxury houses. In a parallel with today, many grand homes were unoccupied while working class families who had been bombed out in the war remained homeless. These early examples of squatting attracted huge support and interest from working people across London.

Such traditions have left their mark on consciousness locally. It is to those traditions local people will need to return to build an effective fight against the super-wealthy elite which caused this disaster, and which will cause others if its rule is left unchallenged.

Read more


This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 11 July 2017 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 






Related links:

West London:

triangleWest London Socialist Party: Lessons of the 1973 military coup in Chile

triangleWest London Socialist Party: Closed until further notice; arts and culture after coronavirus

triangleWest London Socialist Party: How we can achieve a classless society?

triangleWest London Socialist Party: Globalisation/deglobalisation and the world economy

triangleSouth West London Socialist Party: Socialist feminism - the fight for equality for women today

Unions:

triangleCovid crisis boosts union membership but TUC leaders want to cosy up to the bosses!

triangleThe 'Lucas Plan'

triangleHull Trades Council debates workers' political representation

Independent:

triangleFinal push for May Day greetings

triangleMay Day greetings: we need to fund independent workers' media now more than ever

triangleBuild independent workers' media with May Day greetings

Homes:

triangleLeicester care workers face pay cut and worse conditions

triangleGoing viral: Socialist comments and letters on the corona crisis

Housing:

triangleStarmer in full retreat over C-19 rents crisis

Fire:

triangle'Worst crisis in housing since World War Two' - Barking Riverside inquiry into fire

Council:

triangleCouncil finance disaster: set emergency no-cuts budgets and fight for funds!

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

3/6/20

Equity

Equity union general secretary election

3/6/20

Socialist

Pandemic doesn't stop Socialist Party educating organisers: northern meeting

3/6/20

Labour Party

Blairite general secretary elected - Starmer's takeover of Labour Party consolidated

3/6/20

Racism

Fight racism and class inequality, fight capitalism!

3/6/20

Covid

Hospital closed following rampant spread of Covid-19

3/6/20

JCB

Coordinated union struggle needed to save jobs and nationalise JCB

3/6/20

PCS

PCS pay claim: Vital work unrecognised

3/6/20

Schools

Schools... no going back until it's safe

3/6/20

UCU

Reject the university employers' offer on pay, workload and casualisation

3/6/20

Buses

Fight continues for safety on London buses

27/5/20

Fighting Fund

We need readers' support to fight capitalist crisis

27/5/20

Ferries

Fight P&O's billionaire bosses' jobs cut plan

27/5/20

Schools

Schools aren't safe

27/5/20

Energy

Energy firm plans to make 2,600 redundant

27/5/20

Hull

Hull Trades Council debates workers' political representation

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 07748 534 891

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999