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Justice for Grenfell

On 22 November, the Revolutionary Communist group held its third public meeting since the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in June this year. The meeting was held at the Maxilla Social Club in north Kensington. This venue has opened its doors to every kind of gathering for the last six months and we like to thank Joe Walsh for his kindness and support.

Of course, this is not the only meeting place. Notting Hill Methodist Church is a centre of support for the neighbourhood. So also, is a large area under the railway bridge and Westway overpass, opposite the burnt-out Grenfell Tower. This has been cleaned and furnished as a permanent social space. It was established by local people as an area of remembrance and for candle-lit vigils. It has a huge Wall of Truth with statements from the community, a Garden of Remembrance, refreshments, seating, warm clothes, pianos and a library as well as an altar and several large and beautifully painted murals.

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RBKC council meeting 25/10/17 - Justice for Grenfell!

On Wednesday 25 October, comrades from the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) joined members of Class War and opponents of the proposed merger of Notting Hill Housing and Genesis to protest outside the meeting of Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council at the Town Hall in Kensington. Despite the gravity of the situation, the meeting had a low attendance, as did the demonstrations outside. The continued neglect and contempt for the needs of survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire by the council demands strong opposition, which makes the lack of political organisation by left-wing groups and activists particularly striking.  

This is partly due to the demoralising nature of the council meetings themselves, which have been consistent in providing little by way of answers to concerns and demands made by residents. At this latest meeting, councillors Rock-Fielding Mellon and Nicholas Paget-Brown, who bear responsibility for the fire, didn’t even bother to attend, despite continuing to collect exorbitant salaries. Residents in attendance noted the lack of publicity given to locals about the scheduling of the meetings, and that little notice is given to them about their having a right to speak at them. Many argued that this is part of a deliberate plan to limit the community’s ability to confront the council as it continues to shirk its responsibilities to those who have lost everything. To add further insult, attendees are forced to navigate barricades at the entrance to the town hall, and are subjected to full body searches, under the watch of a large number of security guards and police officers.

Over four months on from the fire, the vast majority of survivors made homeless are yet to be rehoused, no criminal charges have been laid against those responsible, no commitment to provide social housing has been made, and there has been no progress made in the hopelessly limited Public Inquiry. As residents left the meeting, several made use of the RCG open microphone to share how the meeting had been a waste of time, and how the council continues to fail the people it claims to represent at every turn.

One might think that the Labour Party would be capitalising on the chance to score points against the Conservatives and their inability to provide any meaningful answers or support in the wake of such a crisis, but to do so would be to engage in rank hypocrisy, in light of the fact that Labour councils all over Britain are equally guilty of sell-offs, demolitions, and social cleansing. Those who demand social housing for all must not wait for cues to be delivered by the Labour Party or Jeremy Corbyn, as they may find themselves waiting a lifetime. The struggle for justice for Grenfell is the struggle of all those fighting for safe, decent social housing for all, and it is imperative that those who are committed to the winning of this work to put political pressure on the RBKC council, and all opponents of building and providing social housing. What is necessary is a resolute, mass militant campaign, led by the working class, in order to apply political pressure and achieve radical change.

Whilst there are concerns that public attention towards Grenfell is fading, the silent marches, held on the fourteenth of every month to commemorate the fire, continue to build in numbers. These marches are a chance for those standing in solidarity with the victims and survivors of the fire to come together, pay respects to those who perished, and promise to campaign for justice. Though the ruling class uses many tactics to divert attention away from its crimes against the working class, Grenfell Tower is too large a crime to ignore. It must be a wake-up call to all those fighting for a world that is run for people, not profit.

1917 conference: Days that shook the world

1917 conference

On Saturday 14 October an educational event organised by the Revolutionary Communist Group and Rock Around the Blockade (RAtB) took place at Student Central, near Russell Square.

The event was held to commemorate the immense revolutionary achievements of the past 100 years and to help support ongoing efforts around the world, with five speakers and rounds of discussion and debate.

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'It's us and them' - Report from the KCTMO Annual General Meeting

The Revolutionary Communist Group has been active in the streets of North Kensington ever since the Grenfell Tower fire occurred in June. We have been talking to local residents, relatives and survivors of the disaster, protesting against the Borough Council's shameful inaction and urging people to join their voices with ours in demanding real solutions for the survivors and justice for the dead. On 17 October we protested at the Annual General Meeting of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) to call out this organisation for its role in the great act of social murder that occurred in the property they managed.

At this meeting resident-members of the TMO were to vote on a number of resolutions to decide the future of the organisation. Understandably, KCTMO's tenants have lost all confidence in the TMO. In a joint statement on 10 October the Borough Council and TMO had urged resident-members to vote in favour of terminating the TMO's contract to manage its properties, and to hand total control of the organisation to the Council by making it the sole voter in the TMO, insisting that this was necessary for an 'orderly transition'. But concerned residents believed this could have given the Council the power to hand its housing stock over to private housing associations with little or no consultation. There were also doubts over whether the TMO could be properly held to account in the public inquiry should its contract be terminated.

At a time when they most need certainty over the future of their 10,000 homes, residents of KCTMO-managed properties were instead being asked to make a crucial decision at short notice even as the council withheld key information from them, such as the nature of its Modular Management Agreement with the TMO. A Freedom Of Information request by tenants to get this key document released was ignored. RBKC's contempt for the people of its own borough is obvious. A week after their initial recommendation, on the day of the AGM, the TMO and the council changed their mind and issued another statement recommending that residents vote to adjourn.

In the event, 87% of 276 resident-members who attended - many of whom had expressed confusion about the nature of the resolutions - voted for adjournment until they could properly deliberate and understand the consequences of a vote to terminate the TMO's contract and make the council the sole voter in the organisation. Melvyn Akins of Kensington Residents Alliance, interviewed by Grenfell Speaks after the meeting, urged: 'Keep adjourning until we're ready to vote.' Akins and another KCTMO resident, Samia Badani, suggested that a model of resident-led management must be adopted.

Emerging from the meeting, many were furious from learning that Robert Black, former CEO of KCTMO, was still on full salary in an advisory role. They took up the chant, 'Still paying the murderer!' There was consternation, as well, at the revelation that only a small number of board members of the TMO were actually residents in managed properties - three out of fifteen board members tentatively raised their hands when asked if they lived in KCTMO homes. Later in the meeting the chair claimed the number was actually eight out of fifteen - but why didn't board members admit this to begin with? Equally outrageous was that, just as with previous public meetings, local residents were subject to searches by security guards at the door to the town hall. As Akins described it, the atmosphere of distrust was similar to other public meetings since Grenfell - 'It's us and them'.

A number of news reporters were present, from the Daily Mail and Channel 4, and protestors from the Save Wornington College campaign made their voices heard, shouting 'Rotten borough out!' It is vital that vocal and visible protests continue outside TMO and council meetings, to show the world that we will not let those responsible off the hook. We believe firmly that only direct and radical action can move those in power to address the urgent needs of the working class, for safe, affordable and decent housing, instead of chasing profits until their greed has deadly consequences. Hold the guilty to account! No more Grenfells! End social cleansing now!

The next Kensington and Chelsea council meeting discussing the response to Grenfell is scheduled for Wednesday 25 October, 6.30pm. West London supporters of RCG will be there to protest and show the council that the world is watching.

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