A top Communist MP in the Russian Duma has accused the British government of class-based discrimination against its own citizens, which he says resulted in the fatal Grenfell Tower fire.
Aleksey Russkih, the first deputy head of the Duma’s Committee for Construction and Transport, has condemned the North Kensington local authority for the “disgraceful neglect” of the Grenfell Tower residents as well as the “poor response” of Theresa May’s Conservative government.
“First, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the victims, their families and all those affected by this tragedy,” Russkih told RT.
“This terrible incident should not be used for political purposes, especially during the immediate period of mourning and healing, that’s why I initially refrained from commenting on it.
“However, it is crucial that the key lessons are extracted and political pressure is applied on the complacent local government, so that this tragedy does not repeat itself,” Russkih added.
The Communist MP said the Grenfell Tower fire exposes deep-rooted, class-based discrimination in British society.
“Although we still await the official explanation of the fire, it is my understanding that the group of the tower’s residents petitioned the local council on multiple occasions to improve the fire safety standards, which were apparently lacking as the authorities were unwilling to spare more funds to install the sprinkler system due to the ‘lower status’ of the building.
“I am particularly outraged by the fact that the council tried to silence the Grenfell Action Group with threats of litigation for voicing their concerns about what was essentially the failure of the local government to perform its duties to the working-class residents of the borough.
“If it is established that the highly flammable cladding installed to make the building look more ‘acceptable’ for the upper class residents of the borough was indeed the main reason behind the rapid spread of fire and massive fatalities, then it is clear that the government engaged in the inexcusable preferential treatment of some of its constituents simply due to their wealth.”
“The fact that numerous high-end buildings in Kensington and Chelsea are constantly checked by the inspectors and are equipped with extensive sprinkler systems as well as functioning fire extinguishers, whilst being virtually empty, only proves this point.”
Russkih also commended the British firefighters who went to extreme lengths to minimize the number of victims, often risking their own lives in the process.
“I want to point out that it was the working class firefighters who had to step in to mitigate incompetence and perhaps outright greed of the local Tory bureaucrats, who were responsible for the tragedy.
“Although many of the firefighters made an incredibly brave choice to break the safety protocol in order to save more people, they should not have been put in this unbearable position, where they had to choose between the further risk to their own well-being and saving more lives.
“It would have been simply unnecessary. If only the local government had taken the health and safety of the working class residents of the Grenfell Tower seriously, and was not too preoccupied with making the building look pretty for their more well-off neighbours.” Russkih added.
The Communist deputy pointed out that the lack of widespread political mobilization around working class issues was an indirect contributing factor to the Grenfell Tower fire, but expressed hope that the tragedy would reverse this trend.
“Despite the demise of the Soviet Union, arguably the main advocate for the socialist values in the 20th century, it is as clear as ever that the leftist values and the need to fight class-based discrimination are equally important in this age.
“Perhaps even more so, since many rightist parties, such as the Conservatives in the UK, saw the collapse of socialism in Russia as offering them carte blanche on their disgraceful treatment of the working class and the unemployed at home.
“I welcome the British government’s decision to relocate the affected families to the vacant luxury buildings, but I doubt that this would have happened without the pressure by the Labour Party and more importantly by almost all Londoners regardless of their political affiliations.
“I hope that the tragedy of Grenfell Tower would raise the issue of the covert class discrimination to the surface of public debate, and transform this ‘accepted inequality’ into the issue of public mobilization and political activism, since it is now clear that the broad class divide in the UK may well be causing the working class citizens their lives,” Russkih concluded.