Stifle, demobilise, deradicalise – a lesson in opportunism

On 15 June the Revolutionary Communist Group attended the ‘Justice4Grenfell’ (J4G) national demonstration at Whitehall, to mark the second anniversary of the west London fire in which 72 people were killed.

With only around 200 people present this dismal affair was the result of two years of controlling, deradicalising opportunism. As we argued in FRFI 267, ‘The horrors of the Grenfell fire could and should have been a launchpad for a militant class struggle – in an area of London with a history of resistance against state racism and repression. The RCG is amongst those who fought to allow the voices of those demanding justice, action and accountability to be heard. The possibility of building such a movement was derailed by opportunist forces who, consciously or otherwise, ended up serving only the interests of the state. These are the forces which time after time will attempt to interpose themselves between the working class and its enemies.’

This demonstration was called to protest against the ongoing failures of the state to deliver anything looking remotely like justice in the two years since the Grenfell Tower fire. We attended in solidarity with those affected by the fire, and to invite individuals and organisations to our planned demonstration at the next Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council meeting on 26 June.

As well as Justice4Grenfell, representatives from The Grenfell Trust survivors’ group, numerous Fire Brigade Union branches with banners and also activists from the Workers’ Revolutionary Party (WRP) and some unaffiliated others. The poor attendance was in stark contrast to the thousands-strong Silent Walk for Grenfell the night before.

As we have experienced before (see ‘Justice4Grenfell – letting Kensington and Chelsea Council get away with murder’ on our website), J4G and SWP members Moyra Samuels and Brian Richardson used sectarian tactics to try to control the event, ordering the RCG to move our stall away from the protest upon our arrival. We refused to comply.

The role of J4G since its inception has been to attempt to control and stifle any emerging local working class movement in response to the fire, and divert any anger or resistance down ‘respectable’ and ‘official’ paths that will be acceptable to the SWP’s allies in the trade union and labour movement. This opportunism is typical of a petit-bourgeois left that resorts to tactics of sectarianism, exclusion and censorship to prevent any revolutionary voices being heard.

The focus of the J4G speeches on the day continued this tradition, with a closed mic and almost every speech ending in calls for a Labour government. With the majority of social cleansing through estate ‘regeneration’ currently being enacted by Labour councils, and with Labour councillors seeking election and re-election in RBKC council, this is a glaring example of opportunism. This has completely derailed the the possibility of building a movement in the aftermath of the fire capable of delivering justice not only for the survivors and the bereaved, but for all working class people forced to live in unsafe, overcrowded and unacceptable housing conditions across the country.

However, it is clear that patience with ‘respectable’ politics within the north Kensington working class community is wearing thin. On the Silent Walk held on 14 June, there were for the first time sustained calls for criminal charges against the council members responsible for Grenfell Tower, and for the immediate rehousing in the area for all survivors who want it – a promise made two years ago that has still not been fulfilled. At the end rally, there were shouts of ‘justice now!’ It is time for an independent movement that takes up that call and fights to make it a reality.

Join us in protest at the RBKC meeting two years after the fire:

Where's the Justice? - 26 June, 6pm - Kensington Town Hall, W8 7NX



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