THE HORROR felt by millions of workers after the Grenfell Tower inferno which claimed the lives of many men, women and children rapidly turned to anger in the hours and days after the fire as it emerged that the disaster was man-made, and that cheap non-fireproof cladding and massive deregulation, both brought in as capitalist measures to maximise profit at the expense of safety, were responsible.
The anger has now become much stronger since only 12 families have been rehoused, and there are to be no criminal charges levelled against those responsible for the killing of the over-100 missing residents.
In fact, in ultra-rich Kensington, life has gone on as ‘normal’, as the latest revelations show. Kensington and Chelsea council has accidentally released a list that shows that there are 1,652 empty properties in the borough, and that the absentee owners range from Ukrainian oligarchs, Arab millionaires and homegrown billionaires and millionaires, to huge off-shore companies.
It turns out that the lives of tenants and their families at Grenfell Tower were expendable in the pursuit of profit, but that the private property of the millionaires and billionaires is absolutely sacred.
The day after the Grenfell disaster, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, called for homes left vacant by the rich in Kensington and Chelsea to be ‘requisitioned’ for the use of the survivors of the inferno. The Labour leader described the borough as ‘a tale of two cities’, with great wealth in the south and pockets of severe poverty in the north.
He told MPs: ‘The south part of Kensington is incredibly wealthy, it’s the wealthiest part of the country. The ward where this fire took place is, I think the poorest ward in the whole country. And properties must be found, requisitioned if necessary, in order to make sure those residents do get rehoused locally.
‘It cannot be acceptable that in London you have luxury buildings and luxury flats kept as land banking for the future while the homeless and the poor look for somewhere to live. I think we have to address these issues.’
However, Corbyn and Co have not addressed these issues at all. The homeless have been left homeless, while the rich continue as if nothing happened. Now Corbyn, and the Labour Party must step forward to demand in parliament that all of the empty properties are requisitioned to provide permanent accommodation for those who survived the blaze. But this task cannot be left to the Labour Party reformists who specialise in left talk as a substitute for action.
The trade unions must now take action. Everybody knows that the savage cuts to the fire service led to a situation such that it could not tackle or put out the Grenfell fire. Everybody knows that deregulation led to Grenfell Tower and many other tower blocks becoming death traps. Now this must be put right.
The trade unions and the tenants of Kensington and Chelsea must form a Council of`Action to seize, occupy and hand over all of the empty properties of the rich in the borough to be permanent accommodation for the Grenfell survivors and the borough’s homeless.
Councils of Action must then be set up in all of the areas where there are tower blocks, where tenants have been removed from their homes and given temporary accommodation, and also in areas where the numbers of homeless are rapidly growing. All empty properties must be seized and taken over to house Tower Block residents and also to house the growing army of the homeless.
Councils of Action will be the way that the millions of oppressed workers and youth in this country have the decisive say in how the country is run. They must tackle the housing crisis by requisitioning empty properties and lay the basis for action alongside the trade unions to bring down the government and bring in a workers government and socialism.
This means that Councils of Action will be the driving force to make the TUC call a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers government and socialism. This is the way forward. Only the WRP and the Young Socialists fight for this policy. Join them today to build the revolutionary leadership that the working class requires.