Forget the Judge Led Inquiry – Grenfell Needs a People’s Inquiry

The Grenfell Tower disaster shows British capitalism up for what it is. It is brutal slavery masked up with the grey, smiling face of liberal democracy. The mask slips sometimes and we get to see the full horror of our rich and powerful masters clamouring desperately to put it back straight as quickly as possible before riots break out.

The toffs at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea were woeful in their response to a disaster waiting to happen. In any event the first responders in such a disaster are friends and neighbours. They rallied round, with the help of others who flooded into the area in a display of mutual aid and real democracy the like of which was startling. This ‘anarchy in action’  was amazing to see and even won a round of applause for poet Benjamin Zephaniah when he said we should have more of it in everyday life on the Frankie Boyle’s New World Order show on the BBC.

British anarchism could have a role to play in Grenfell. It isn’t the role we see from the Trots, turning up with placards and papers in an effort to get more members. It’s our role to help extend the anarchy in action so that the spirit of mutual aid continues as the inevitable whitewash begins on who was responsible and whether anyone should be prosecuted. In our language this was just another ruling class crime. Murder is just part of the system and we know who’s responsible. We shouldn’t be scared to call it what it is – structural murder. We also shouldn’t allow those structures to prevent us from holding particular individuals accountable in whatever way we see fit.

No official, judge led inquiry will achieve what we and the victims demand. There is another way. Just as the community and others rallied round to provide help and assistance in the aftermath of the fire, we can also play a role in the pursuit of justice. A fully democratic People’s Inquiry could be a fantastic opportunity to help with this. Organised in conjunction with the victims there is an opportunity to sidestep the official state inquiry and hear testimony from all the people affected. The judge from the official side has already stated that he feels the residents find his inquiry to have too narrow scope. Ours can be as wide as we want.

Here’s my starting suggestion:

  • There should be a place online where people can submit evidence and testimonies.
  • The scope of the inquiry be developed as it progresses so that people can submit evidence they feel is worthy of inclusion.
  • Those that face criticism be invited to make statements so that they can either apologise for what they did or explain why they made the decisions they made.
  • Information from other estates to be automatically within scope. We know already that other blocks may have the same cladding. We also know that many people fear the disaster will be used to demolish their homes and gentrify their estates.
  • Evidence be invited from fire service staff and other emergency responders.

With these simple steps we can build on the anarchy in action we have already witnessed. The state — be it local or national — is not the answer. We are. I know that such a move would take a great deal of organising. It would also face all sorts of criticism about hampering the official efforts and potentially preventing prosecutions. However, we know from Hillsborough and Orgreave that justice in relation to specific events can be sporadic and take decades to achieve. This is our opportunity. Far from prejudicial, the evidence we amass could be used by the official inquiry. Running in parallel the mass media could be invited to compare what we have to what the officials think is important.

A People’s Inquiry can begin immediately. It just needs the support of the local people and /or those that care enough. It needs some guidance, which I’m sure the anarchist community can provide and it needs those involved to be ready for the storm of criticism that would head its way once it’s up and running. Hopefully this can be the start of that process.


Pic of flowers, notes and candles left at the nearby church, taken by ChiralJon (Flickr CC)

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