One year since the Grenfell inferno
14 June 2018
One year ago, the worst high-rise fire in British history in Grenfell Tower cost the lives of 72 people.
What took place in the early hours of June 14, 2017 was social murder. This was the term first coined by Frederick Engels in his famous study, The Condition of the Working Class in England. Writing in 1845, at the beginning of industrial capitalism, he explained, “When society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death…” and “yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual.”
Engels’ indictment of an entire social system—capitalism—resonates more than 150 years later.
This is because it speaks to the common experience of working people the world over. From poisoned water in the American city of Flint, Michigan to collapsing garbage dumps and mudslides in Colombo and Sierra Leone that have killed many, to an entirely preventable tower block inferno in London—one of the richest cities in the world—the lives of working people are considered expendable by a parasitic financial oligarchy that subordinates every aspect of social and economic life to its enrichment.
Grenfell was the direct result of the deregulatory policies carried out by successive Labour and Conservative-led governments.
From Margaret Thatcher’s “There is no such thing as society,” through the Blair government’s insistence on being “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich,” to David Cameron’s pledge to “kill off” the “excessive health and safety… albatross around the neck of British businesses,” workers’ living standards and conditions have been gutted to fill the bank…