London Grenfell disaster, poetry, survivors meet

This video says about itself:

26 June 2017

‘Grenfell Tower, June, 2017’ is a poem written by Nigerian writer Ben Okri. To raise funds for relatives of victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, and for survivors.

Ben Okri and Deborah Levy are organising a writers’ event in London.

From the World Socialist Web Site in England:

Socialist Equality Party holds public meeting on Grenfell fire in London

By our reporter

21 August 2017

The Socialist Equality Party held a public meeting Saturday on the June 14 Grenfell Tower fire, titled, “Social Murder: A crime against the working class.”

Around 100 people attended at the Harrow Club, off Bramley Road, located in the shadow of the burnt-out tower, including a number of survivors, local residents and workers and youth from other parts of the capital and elsewhere.

Chairing the meeting, WSWS writer Robert Stevens explained that the SEP was “very aware that we are dealing with very emotional and sensitive issues today. People here and many others have lost loved ones and even saw them perish in a terrible fire.

“But it is our duty to discuss these questions—not in the manner of the cheap sensationalism of much of the media. We want to present the case for the prosecution of all those responsible for this appalling crime.”

SEP meeting on Grenfell Tower

To ensure that all felt free to speak, the SEP had denied a request from Sky News to film proceedings and told police officers who inquired that they were not welcome.

An attentive audience heard two reports.

The first, given by International Youth and Students for Social Equality member Thomas Scripps, was on the events leading up to and surrounding the tragedy.

The second, given by National Secretary Chris Marsden, was on the political implications of the fire and the perspective advanced by the Socialist Equality Party.

Scripps said, “The Grenfell Tower fire has impacted on every aspect of British life. So much so that it is possible to say that politics in this country can be divided into before and after Grenfell.”

It was the product of decisions taken “which all those involved knew were potentially life threatening, but which were carried out anyway because there was money to be made.”

Scripps demonstrated how the fire started in a floor flat before escalating out of control due to the entire tower being encased in flammable cladding, showing a widely viewed World Socialist Web Site video.

Grenfell Tower became a death trap as the result of the social cleansing policies imposed by Conservative-run Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council and its arms-length company that managed the block—the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.

Scripps noted that “Kensington and Chelsea Council was so keen to destroy social housing and to give Grenfell a cosmetic facelift because it stands to make millions by doing so.

“It is Britain’s richest borough, with the highest house prices in London—an average of £1.37 million last year—and is the site of the most expensive street in the country, Victoria Road, average house price £8 million.”

“Grenfell has taken on the dimensions of a national disaster,” he explained, with hundreds of council-run tower blocks “similarly clad, including the Chalcots Estate in Swiss Cottage.”

“In addition, there are reports of fires involving cladding in the Middle East, Australia and elsewhere—pointing to the international dimensions of Grenfell. Indeed Grenfell was anticipated by blazes involving cladding in at least 20 major high rises all over the world.”

Expanding on this theme, Marsden said that Grenfell, “points to a common experience of the working class all over the world. In country after country, the super-rich get ever richer, while working people suffer an ever-steeper decline in their living conditions.”

He noted that just in the last few months the drive by the capitalist class for increased profits had led to tragedies that have taken the lives of hundreds of people in countries including Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India and Sierra Leone and described these terrible events.

Marsden continued, “Finally, in the richest country in the world, our American comrades have campaigned for years to expose how in Flint, Michigan, Rick Snyder, a multimillionaire Republican governor, and his Democratic state treasurer, Andy Dillon, switched the city’s water supply to untreated water from the polluted Flint River,” with devastating consequences.

Marsden played a World Socialist Web Site video on Flint which has been viewed nearly a million times on Facebook.

The term social murder, Marsden explained, was first coined by the co-founder of scientific socialism, Frederick Engels, in his book, The Condition of the Working Class in England, as long ago as 1845—at the very beginnings of industrial capitalism: “Yet no one today could describe Grenfell in better terms.”

Marsden declared, “The SEP urges all survivors, local-residents and workers everywhere to place no confidence in May’s rotten whitewash of an inquiry … . They must rely on themselves alone, on their social power.

“Workers must demand that all those guilty of social murder at Grenfell in both political and business circles are arrested, charged and put on trial.”

But for this to happen means building the SEP as the political leadership necessary to make it happen.

Following the reports there was a lively discussion period lasting around two hours. The meeting heard moving contributions from survivors of the fire, including Nick Burton, who managed to escape with his wife from the 19th floor, at 3:40 a.m.—thanks to the heroic action of firefighters. Sid-Ali Atmani, who managed to escape from the 15th floor, also spoke on his traumatic experience and his efforts to expose the official whitewash inquiry into the fire. Ali relayed the ongoing contempt with which survivors are being treated by the council and the powers-that-be.

The audience responded during and at the end of contributions with warm applause.

Jerry White, a leading member of the Socialist Equality Party in the United States, spoke during the discussion. What happened at Grenfell was a “crime” in which “lives were sacrificed due to financial and political decisions that benefited a tiny minority at the top.”

White explained how in Flint, thousands of working class residents of the US industrial Midwest city had their water supply poisoned. As with Grenfell, this was due to political and commercial decisions made—in the US by Republican and Democratic Party politicians in alliance with big business—motivated by the drive to cut costs and increase profit. This has already resulted in the deaths of at least 12 people.

Marsden explained in his summation that the government, local council and Metropolitan Police were involved in a “massive cover-up” over Grenfell. He said, “Grenfell has shown one thing and that is the enormous ingenuity, dedication and seriousness of the working class.” To applause he said, “This was a crisis in which people were failed by the official system and everything that happened here happened because of the actions of local residents.”

Marsden explained that the SEP will be holding a regular forum in the area at which residents can come together and discuss a way forward. The SEP would work to expose the government’s fraudulent inquiry into Grenfell: “We will counter their propaganda with the truth.”

… Over the next days, the WSWS will publish coverage of the meeting including interviews with those in attendance.

11 thoughts on “London Grenfell disaster, poetry, survivors meet

  1. Tuesday 22nd August 2017

    posted by Steve Sweeney in Britain

    LONDON Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton revealed yesterday she had received counselling following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

    Ms Cotton told LBC Radio she was still trying to process the “overwhelming sense of responsibility” she felt when firefighters were dealing with the horrific blaze in the west London tower block in which at least 80 people died.

    She said: “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done going forward to make sure that something terrible like this never happens again, so for me, I feel a responsibility for my firefighters.

    “Their mental health and well-being has been really key for me and we’ve been doing a massive amount of work from that.

    “I have been having counselling myself because it’s really important that it’s something that people need to talk about and work through to try to stop them having problems in the future.”

    The Star revealed in June how the number of counsellors trained to help firefighters process the traumatic scenes they witness on the job was cut from 14 to just two under former mayor Boris Johnson.

    Ms Cotton said it was “OK not to be OK” and encouraged fi efighters to “keep talking about it.”

    Meanwhile the London Fire Brigade warned that more people will die from fires started by faulty white goods if the government fails to implement safety recommendations made over a year ago.

    There have been nine deaths and 298 injuries from fires involving white goods in London in the past year, not including Grenfell.


  2. Tuesday, 22 August 2017

    ‘MORE PEOPLE SET TO DIE FROM FIRES’ – Letter to PM May warns

    THE TORY government has been slammed over lack of preventative action, with PM Theresa May being warned that more people are set to die from fires started by faulty white goods if nothing is done.

    In a letter to May, signed by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) Commissioner Dany Cotton, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the Fire Brigades Union, National Fire Chiefs Council, and charity Electrical Safety First, they warn: ‘Thousands of dangerous white goods are still being used in homes across the UK.

    ‘This week marks the 12 months’ anniversary of a major fire at Shepherd’s Court in Shepherds Bush which destroyed the homes and all the possessions of families living in the tower block. The fire investigation showed that the fire was caused by a faulty Indesit tumble dryer which was subject to the corrective action/safety notice by Whirlpool, the parent company.

    ‘A year on, people across the UK are still using white goods that pose a serious fire risk and are subject to recall or corrective action. Worse still, some fridges and freezers are still being produced with a flammable plastic backing which offers very little protection against the insulation foam inside catching alight if a fire starts. We are deeply concerned that, a year after Shepherds Court, decisive action is still needed to improve product recalls and manufacturing standards for white goods in the UK.’

    The letter stresses: ‘There are three fires a day involving tumble dryers in the UK and the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower started in a fridge-freezer.’ It continues: ‘In 2010, 36-year-old Santosh Benjamin Muthiah died from the effects of smoke inhalation after saving his wife and two young children from a fire in their Wealdstone home that was caused by a faulty Beko fridge freezer. The coroner recommended a series of measures to improve product recalls, but these changes have still not been made.

    ‘In 2011, Muna Elmufatish, 41 and five of her children Hanin, 14, Basma, 13, Amal, nine, Mustafa, five and Yehya, two, all died at their home in Sonia Gardens in Neasden which was caused by a Whirlpool chest freezer.’ The letter further stresses: ‘There have been over three years of reports and recommendatons but as yet no action from the government.’

    The letter adds that ‘the process of review has been going on for almost three years, and as yet there has been no substantial changes made to improve this system (of product recall). What is needed now is action.’ It goes on: ‘We are also concerned that the review process did not address manufacturing standards for white goods. For example, all fridges and freezers should be constructed to keep flammable insulation material protected from the components in the appliance which could cause a fire.

    ‘All appliances should be marked with the model/serial number so they can be identified after a fire. There needs to be improvements in the way that producers and distributors undertake assessments of how safe white goods are to specifically take into account the risk of a fire starting while people are asleep.’

    It concludes by calling for ‘a single register for UK product recalls’ and for ‘the government to put its full weight behind bringing about changes in the international standards for how white goods are manufactured and to look at what can be done to bring about these changes more quickly in the UK.’

    The LFB also wants risk assessments to be published when a fault is identified and for the ‘sleeping risk’ to be included in these assessments. Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said: ‘The current product safety system is broken and potentially putting people’s lives at risk.

    ‘The government must put consumers first by creating a national body to lead on product safety and a “one-stop-shop” to provide information and advice on dangerous products and recalls.’


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