As the tragedy of Grenfell Tower continues to unfold, we are reminded of the saying that we are always wiser after the event. The post-mortems on why this blaze took so many lives are now being conducted by the media and then there will be the official inquests determining causes and apportioning blame. The usual refrain after such disasters is “Never Again” yet there is always another avoidable catastrophe.
In November 2016 residents wrote on the Grenfell Action Group website that they feared such a fire could break out and warned of the potential for a "major disaster".Following the fire, the group posted: "All our warnings fell on deaf ears and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time."
For socialists, the guilty party has already been identified. Capitalism. Cheaper less safe materials used to cut costs. Preventative equipment such as a sprinkler system not installed because of expense. The priority in capitalism is rarely health and safety but always the project budget and the account ledger.
A socialist society may well not stop fires breaking out but it will guarantee a less death toll from them. Fires are inevitable, but the loss of life is not. In events such as the Grenfell inferno, volunteers are never slow to offer assistance for we are endowed with the ability to sympathise and empathise with our fellow humans and we are at their best when faced with the worst and will go to extraordinary lengths to help alleviate the suffering of others. The history of capitalism is littered with the unnecessary and avoidable deaths of the working class. Instead of carefully assessing risks and consciously accepting them, those in power close their mind in advance to the consequences of their cost-cutting and will rationalise the risks into an acceptable factor. It is a problem that is out of sight, out of mind – until disaster strikes – and then it is a matter of denying or minimising responsibility and passing the buck. We have also witnessed it before, haven't we?