A new TV documentary reveals the scandalous negligence by cost-cutting management and authorities which led to the shocking tragedy of the Grenfell fire. The fight for justice must be a fight against the corrupt, rotten capitalist system.
Channel 4’s recently released documentary Grenfell: The Untold Story aims to shine a new light on the tragedy that befell the residents of Grenfell Tower in London four years ago.
The documentary reveals never-before-seen footage from inside the tower block, captured by artist Constantine Gras; and it highlights the struggle of its tight-knit community against an aloof and abusive Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) throughout the two years prior to the harrowing inferno that claimed the lives of 72 people.
Unaware that they were actually fighting for their own lives, the residents of Grenfell endured a hard, long battle against the botched refurbishment of the tower, first built in 1974.
Increasingly aggrieved at decisions made by the TMO without taking their interests into account, and faced with a number of health and safety hazards, the tenants escalated their complaints to the local authorities.
The documentary is permeated with a sense of helplessness as these complaints fall largely on deaf ears. The viewer will share in the residents’ growing desperation as they are backed into a corner by a bureaucratic monster that was eventually to engulf their homes in flames.
Constantine’s footage is a first-hand account of the contrast between the justified concerns of the Grenfell residents, and the callousness and indifference of the representatives of capitalism.
Peter Maddison, a director at KCTMO, the company managing the tower, is seen dismissing tenants’ complaints, whilst evasively claiming that they were being taken seriously. In another clip, former Tory MP Victoria Borwick cracks a tasteless joke whilst tenants look disgruntled at the abuse and harassment they are suffering at the hands of the TMO.
The Grenfell community felt powerless as the refurbishment of the high-rise building lurched from one terrible decision to another. These included bungled window replacements and boilers being moved from kitchens to hallways, where they obstructed exit routes and thus became a safety hazard.
These decisions were made with the sole purpose of cutting costs for the company managing the building. Profiting off Grenfell was their absolute priority, placed well above the tenants’ interests and indeed their lives.
With this in mind, corners were cut at every step of the way, leading to that fateful decision to cover the outside of the building with flammable cladding.
Here we see capitalism in all its ‘splendor’. Suppliers raced each other to the bottom with their lowest bids. And they glossed over safety tests that demonstrated that the materials used in the cladding and insulation were extremely combustible.
This cladding greatly magnified the risk of a fire spreading from one flat to the rest of the building. And it rendered ‘stay-put’ policies, which were in place when the fire broke out, wholly inadequate.
Grenfell: The Untold Story is likely to bring tears to your eyes as we proceed towards the day of the fire. We are given very personal accounts by the residents themselves of the events that preceded and followed the Grenfell fire.
Heart-wrenching from start to finish, these narratives are also at times heart-warming as the survivors fondly recall memories of their friends, neighbours, and loved ones. Names and faces are given to the appalling tragedy as we discover their stories – such as that of little Mehdi, whose beautiful smile, full of life, was forever extinguished.
Real justice now
Four years after the blaze, those responsible for such a senseless disaster have yet to be held accountable.
Grenfell saw an entirely avoidable loss of life, which makes it all the more revolting. The fire can be directly attributed to the negligence of the TMO, as it prioritised profits over lives, and to the local and national authorities, who failed in their duty to protect residents.
It is a scandal that today thousands of people are still living in buildings that are a public safety hazard, fighting long and bureaucratic battles to have flammable cladding removed from their homes. In a country where immense wealth exists alongside the most abject poverty, those who are most vulnerable are treated with the greatest contempt.
We honour the lives of those lost at Grenfell by fighting for justice and ensuring that such a catastrophe will never happen again. But this can never be achieved until we do away with capitalism and all of its corrupt institutions.