Paul T Horgan: McDonnell’s charge of ‘social murder’ at Grenfell is mischief-making nonsense

One thing you can say about the Shadow Chancellor is that he does not hide his Marxist beliefs. Unlike his boss St Jeremy of Corbyn, he is quite open about it.

John McDonnell has been deeply involved in the unconscionable politicising of the Grenfell Tower disaster, blaming the tragedy on capitalism in general and the Conservatives in particular, describing the deaths as 'murder'.

Asked by Andrew Marr to clarify his comments about ‘murder' on Sunday, McDonnell said "There’s a long history in this country of the concept of social murder".

Actually there isn't. McDonnell is talking emotive nonsense. Worse, Andrew Marr and the BBC is letting him get away with it.

The term 'social murder' was coined by Friedrich Engels, second only to Marx in founding Communism. It was used in his survey of the Condition of the Working Class in England. There the term lay until it was reused by McDonnell on television last Sunday. It was not used in the years in between by any journalist or politician of note.

The reason that 'social murder' is a junk term in Britain is that the dire living and working conditions witnessed by Engels improved over time. He and Marx made the mistake of basing their perverse philosophy on a narrow slice of history during a time of rapid, dislocating change called the Industrial Revolution. McDonnell and his equally-deluded fellow-travellers conveniently ignore the fact that the quality of life for people living at the end of the Victorian era in Britain was better than at the beginning. All without the need for a communist revolution, or indeed the threat of one.

There was no 'social murder’; there was actually 'social progress'. No socialist government was responsible for this improvement. The first Labour government was not elected here until the 1920s. Any social improvement between Engels and Ramsay MacDonald has to be the direct consequence of the policies of Liberal and Conservative governments, plus Christian morality. McDonnell's remarks ignore this. Rich or poor, people in this country live to a ripe old age. They mostly die of diseases of consumption or age, and not deprivation, living conditions, or infection, however much socialists would have us believe otherwise.

I will be writing an analysis of the Grenfell Tower disaster soon. One thing for sure, it was not murder, social or otherwise. McDonnell is stirring up trouble and causing mischief out of human tragedy for his personal benefit and nothing more. He deliberately forgets that the only countries that explicitly practised social murder were the Marxist dictatorships. Their incompetent economic management of their slave populations led to the avoidable deaths of millions when they were not being deliberately killed by the state for political reasons. North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela still continue this practice today on a smaller scale. A self-confessed Marxist like McDonnell has to be adept at doublethink lest he be driven insane by guilt.

(Image: Garry Knight)

Paul T Horgan

  • Bik Byro

    Only criticism of the headline is that it’s nowhere near as benign as “mischief making nonsense”. It’s utterly vile political weaponising of dead bodies.

  • Why didn’t Labour do something about this potential ‘social murder’ when they were in power?
    It’s time the Tories started to respond to this sort of thing not just let them pass as some will believe it.
    I don’t much like Trump, but at least he wouldn’t let such a comment pass with out some kind of response; its time our (just) ruling party did the same. As it is, they seem to take every slur lying down and some will stick.

    • Labour_is_bunk

      “they seem to take every slur lying down and some will stick”.

      In the Mirror the other day they were putting the knife into Cameron’s gallivanting round the world “out of touch Tories, etc etc etc” – has any Tory newspaper responded with an an account of Blair’s lucrative doings? Thought not.

      • Precisely. But have the Tories said anything? It’s time they got their collective fingers out and started to use the social media to a far greater extent. It’s no good behaving like gentlemen when the opposition is behaving like hooligans.

    • Alan Llandrindod Wells

      Where does responsibility lie for this awful tragedy?.

      There is a lot yet to learn.
      Who knows

      The Tree-Huggers who pushed for extra cladding based on mythology?
      Miliband ‘s maniacal climate change bill?
      The Fridge manufacturers, inserting combustible materials, because of morons who claimed to have discovered a hole in the ozone layer.
      Whoever told the tenants to stay in their rooms?
      The Council who arranged the work? And who incidentally did not even know who lived in their building? And still don’t.

      • Fubar2

        None of those things, just the Tories. Thats the usual line and it tends to work usually because the modern Conservative party lacks the bodily parts to refute it in the robust fashion that they should and call it out for what it is. A party that is terrified of its own “toxic” shadow which is nowhere near as toxic as that of the left.

        • Alan Llandrindod Wells

          Don’t bring Cameron, May, Clarke, and Soubry into this.

        • The point that I keep making. Use your opponents weapons, ‘meet fire with fire’ if it isn’t inappropriate in this case!

      • Even worse, rather than an enquiry into the building and its construction, whether it met the relevant regulations, whether the regulations were fit for purpose, etc, the activists seem intent in turning it into a social enquiry. The only social aspects are how many unknown residents were in the block, and whether they complied with normal standards of behaviour.

      • With regard to staying in their rooms, I believe that was the standard procedure for concrete buildings that are naturally fire proof for specified time limit – however Grenfell was no longer fire proof when the flammable cladding was added (for the reasons you mention). I think it took a while for the authorities to recognise this and then told people to evacuate when it occured to everyone what was happening.

        • Groan

          Exactly so. As is demonstrated by the building being still there . I think it is easy to forget both the number and speed of change as the buildings have been “clad”. Having worked in disability for years I’ve had to be keenly aware of the fire regulations for buildings. The common advice for reinforced concrete buidings both office and residential has been “stay put” in rooms or the main concrete utility core (often in fact at the ends of offices. Of course these older buidings became considered “over engineered” and more modern steel frame (with a narrow concrete core) have different advice as they can’t offer such secure refuge. I certainly looks like the burned block was caught between “old” advice perfectly adequate for concrete buildings(and tested by fires in such blocks over the years) missed the new cladding and its potential to bridge the concrete.

  • Notforinfants

    I suggest there is no such thing as “social murder”. It has yet to be established that the Grenfell fire was caused by criminal neglect or a combination of other factors involving Kensington Council or contractor’s installation of cladding or possibly gas supplies. All are subject to a very thorough investigation and therefore charges of “murder” are hysterical nonsense.

    Wiki defines murders as: Murder is the unlawful killing of another human without justification or valid excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought

    Is this Marxist wannabe Chancellor really asserting that possible “malice of aforethought” was involved at Grenfell? If he has evidence of this then his clear duty is to report it to the police with his supporting evidence. Otherwise this dangerous ranter should shut-up and await the outcome of the enquiry like everyone else

  • paul parmenter

    If you maintain that this event constituted murder, you must surely be able to tell us who the murderer or murderers are. Will McDonnell do so? Can he name names?

    • SimonToo

      Society, presumably. We should all join Dr. Heinz Kiosk in a cry of, “We are all guilty!”. Perhaps, and even better from his point of view, given it was a tower block, High Society is responsible.

  • Colkitto03

    I would say this. to Mr McDonnell. Of the 1823 deaths attributed to the IRA 581 of them were civilians. What kind of murder would you call that? Social, Actual, Political? How do you describe those?
    I ask because you were so very close to Sinn Fein for many years,you opinion would be interesting.

    • SimonToo

      [Attached to wrong comment]

    • Sheik Rhat el Anrhol

      Yes but he simply does not care.

      It is the purity of dogma which trumps everything else.

      You simply have to understand this to take on board what is happening within the group which controls the Labour party.

      They are very close to ruling the United Kingdom.

      • Alan Llandrindod Wells

        Very close.

        And the Blairite, Socialist, Conservative MP’s have only themselves to blame.
        They have no clear blue sky between them and Labour.
        They let the BBC off the hook.
        Left the indoctrinating education system in place.
        Clarke and Heseltine , the Thatcher assassins ,shared platforms with Blair and Mandelson.

        What a shower.

        • Sheik Rhat el Anrhol

          Yes and I fear it is too late to prevent Corbyn taking power in the UK.

          I am very fortunate in being able to move to any of three different countries but many people in the UK will suffer grievously for allowing this catastrophe to happen.

          • Alan Llandrindod Wells

            It will not be the Blairite, EUmaniac, Conservative MP’s.
            Such as Offshore Dave, and Gideon, are immune.

    • timbazo

      ‘To make an omelette, you have to smash some eggs’. An old socialist saying. Presumably civilian eggs included.

    • Reborn

      It’s interesting to compare the cold blooded murder of Airy Neve by the IRA
      with the unfortunate death of that Labour woman (forget her name temporarily
      despite all the virtue signalling).
      She was killed by a loner with no political connections.
      Result, annual commemorations by gullible idiots.
      He was killed by professional terrorists & is not mentioned by anyone much,
      since his killers have been rendered respectable, not unlike Saint Mandela.
      In fairness to NM, he did come out infinitely better than he went in.
      Prison works.

  • Mojo

    The Conservative Party are once again failing in their duty to call out the lies and innuendos of the Labour Party. The big headlines today should be the backtracking of the student fee promises. Where are the Conservatives in making this an issue. Guess what….they are all arguing arguing amongst themselves how best to unhook Mrs May and destroy this country.

    • PierrePendre

      The Tories tried calling Corbyn and O’Donnell out over their terrorist sympathies. Nobody cared despite two terrorist attacks during the election campaign. O’Donnell’s provocative allegation of social murder is what you’d expect from an oppo pol of his stripe trying to keep his base on the boil. The idiots who respond to this kind of extremism don’t vote Tory anyway. Reasonable people will be more likely to think twice before voting for a man who can’t make an argument without resorting to garish language to attract attention. I suspect he’s done a lot more damage to himself by his retreat from student debt. Labour obviously wants to get out of this trap as quickly as possible but it blows a huge whole in their credibility.

      • paul parmenter

        Yes, it is strange what gets traction these days and what doesn’t. I am starting to think that this country has taken a decided turn down a very unpredictable rabbit hole; one that I want no part of.

  • Fubar2

    “McDonnell is talking emotive nonsense. Worse, Andrew Marr and the BBC is letting him get away with it.”

    Now theres a novelty.

    “McDonnell is stirring up trouble and causing mischief out of human tragedy for his personal benefit and nothing more.”

    No kidding. Makes you wonder who’se interests it is in to give such emotive, manipulative nonsense a free pass without any kind of rigorous questioning.

    “…He deliberately forgets that the only countries that explicitly practised social murder were the Marxist dictatorships. Their incompetent economic management of their slave populations led to the avoidable deaths of millions when they were not being deliberately killed by the state for political reasons. North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela still continue this practice today on a smaller scale. ”

    Yeah, but we’ll gloss over that. Nothing to see here, move on…

    “A self-confessed Marxist like McDonnell has to be adept at doublethink lest he be driven insane by guilt.”

    Guilt? Socialists dont do “guilt”. Thats something to be projected onto Conservatives and little people. It should be called out for what it is. Brazen lying.

    • Reborn

      McDonnell is the most sinister figure from the Far Left ever to have got
      so far in UK politics.
      The mass media appear frightened to reveal his very recent past & his
      The much missed actor Peter Vaughan would have been able to portray
      this dangerous but quietly spoken man most effectively.
      Corbyn, in comparison, is a naive clown, little smarter than Diane Abbott

  • SimonToo

    That’s a relief, then. Thank goodness it is not anti-social murder.

  • JabbaPapa

    If any so-called “social murder” took place, surely the blame for it must lie with the Marxist/Trotskyite Governments of the 1960s and 1970s, who first decided to just jumble people together like battery chickens in these vile tower blocks ?

    • timbazo

      The architecture movement was known as ‘The New Brutalism’ and inspired by a belief that working-class people wanted ugliness, discomfort and be treated as identical and inter-changeable units.

    • Reborn

      Plus, don’t forget the demands of the Greens in such cases.

  • James Chilton

    There’s a long history of social misery: it’s always with us. The concept of “social murder” is a fiendish political imposture.

  • timbazo

    Labour know that they have to act fast and shape the political agenda concerning the Grenfell Tower Fire, if they are to differentiate themselves from the Tories. Blaming ‘austerity’ is ridiculous given the level of reserves that Kensington & Chelsea hold.

    Then there is the proximity of their new MP Emma Dent Coad to major decisions concerning the Tower. Here is part of her biography on Wikipedia: “Dent Coad … served as a council-appointed board member of Kensington and Chelsea TMO, the tenant management organisation which manages the council’s housing stock, from 27 June 2008 to 31 October 2012. In 2013/4 she was a member of the council’s Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee. She has been a member of the council’s Planning Applications Committee since May 2013, and a member of the main Planning Committee since June 2014. She is a member of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority.” She will presumably be asked by any inquest to justify any decisions she was part of and explain why she did not complain more vehemently. (It is only fair to acknowledge that she may adequately answer all of these questions and prove her personal integrity).

    The most likely outcome of the inquiry will be a picture of local authority incompetence and corruption: corrupt tender processes, bungs and a failure to adequately monitor major projects leading to the substitution of inferior materials for those specified on contracts and to poor workmanship that was not corrected. This will almost certainly apply equally to Labour run and Tory run boroughs. Camden appear to have acted quickly to dismantle their own fire traps.

    If the investigation of poor construction practices spreads into other public sector areas such as hospitals and schools, the long-term effects of Gordon Brown’s PPP projects will also come under the spotlight.

    There is a separate issue. Corbyn and McDonnell criticize K&C council for failing to find accommodation for the former residents of the Tower without explaining where the council can do so. They need to keep making this accusation to stop others from pointing out that London is full in large part due to the immigration policies that they support.

    Last and possibly least are the accusations made that people like David Lammy that there has been a conspiracy to reduce the official number of casualties. The police appear to be making a great effort to justify their figures, while continuing to accept that the total of deaths may yet rise. They have released at least to some in the media that numbers of the flats from which survivors emerged and the numbers of the flats where people died and the identities of those assumed to have perished. The work of sifting through ashes looking for human remains day after day in a structure that may not be stable must be horrific. There will soon come a point where Lammy should either provide evidence to back his accusation or to apologize. I am not holding my breath. Being a socialist of course means never being wrong and never having to say ‘sorry’.

    • JabbaPapa

      The most likely outcome of the inquiry will be a picture of local authority incompetence and corruption: corrupt tender processes, bungs and a failure to adequately monitor major projects leading to the substitution of inferior materials for those specified on contracts and to poor workmanship that was not corrected

      Perhaps up to a point, but ultimately this is a national failure not a series of a few hundred local ones in the few hundred high rises where fire safety is not assured in present conditions.

      I actually don’t blame this Government or that, this Party or that one — though special mention can be made for Labour’s Fire Safety Order 2005 which is the origin of why sprinklers were not mandatory.

      Parliament is to be blamed generally, in the broadest multi-party manner. It is Parliament, not Government, that decided to entrust the determination of construction and fire safety standards to a bunch of self-interested career politicians rather than to a group of competent engineers and architects.

      Also to be blamed however is the de-regulation of contracts away from Government (including local governments such as the local Councils — Hammersmith and Kensington actually had very little power over the renovation work at Grenfell) and into the private sector, as well as their globalisation, during the 1980s, under OECD treaty stipulations, from the political impulse of Reaganomics internationally and Thatcherism locally in the UK.

      • timbazo

        Firstly, thanks for your thoughtful and informative reply, very different from the partisan and racist comments I often receive on this website. You focused on an aspect I did not consider directly – the building regulations – as I was looking at the politics of the case and Corbyn has focused more on the amount spent rather than how it was spent.

        I understand your point about it being ‘a national failure’. I have a feeling that many officials in both national and local government have grown lazy with the EU. For 40 years, they have rubber-stamped what came from Brussels. Their opposition to BREXIT is that it involves them once again having to think intelligently about issues such as building regulations before picking up their salaries.

        You seem to know more about the prevailing building regulations than I do. The politicians may have accepted the change in regulations. They however would still have taken advice from someone surely? The construction industry? Was there a group of disinterested engineers and architects available? Again there is a deeper issue: the lack of scientific knowledge and understanding amongst ‘educated’ people.

        Did the Borough of K & C not have to pass the work done on Grenfell? If not, who then did? I’d value any insight, as the issue of the private sector writing its own safety certificates would explain just why the Tory Government’s reaction to the tragedy has been so hamstrung.

        Finally, an issue ignored by the media is what has gone wrong with TMOs. Set up in the 90s to give residents a say in the management of their own homes, the KCTMO was at odds with the people it was set up to represent, at least the residents of Grenfell. The majority of the board (8 out of 15) are supposedly residents. The pictures of the board members have been taken down from the website, but I can clearly remember it showing that several were black and I think the majority were women. That would suggest that the calls for diversity on the inquest is missing the mark. Diversity is needed but not on the basis of race and gender. What is needed is that the inquest is not stuffed with civil servants or construction industry representatives looking to protect their own.

        • JabbaPapa

          Did the Borough of K & C not have to pass the work done on Grenfell?

          As I understand it, deregulation and competitiveness rules actively prevent such local Councils from doing so — the purpose of the OECD treaty framework (i.e. this is not something created by the EU) for this is to prevent local governments excluding foreign contractors from winning contracts ; and so instead, there are deregulated “non-partisan” (cough !! cough !!) bodies that manage such building or renovation works independently of any government oversight with the principle exception of cost control, because it’s the Councils footing the bill in this case.

          the issue of the private sector writing its own safety certificates

          As far as I’ve understood this (some articles at the Guardian in the aftermath were surprisingly non-partisan and informative), the multiplication of private companies working on projects and oversight committees from other private companies, none of which really have any right to intrude in each others’ private affairs, and the institutional lack of any genuine governmental control over these affairs means that generalised cost-cutting and cheating is the norm, regardless of whether lives are at risk or not ; even where there may be individual persons involved in such projects who are genuinely trying their best.

          The active seeking of always the cheapest solution possible, at every level, also leads directly to the shoddiest work possible being done.

          In fact, Reaganomics actively encourages this sort of universal corruption in the name of “profit” and “growth”, even though in the long run these strategies can only lead to the direct opposite. One need only look at the utterly atrocious condition of the major infrastructures throughout the US to see what state of affairs Reaganomics mechanically leads to.

          Influence from the private sector into the definition of rules and standards occurred however at the level of Parliament, not in the sphere of this deregulation specifically. Had the rules and standards been more robustly determined by Law, even the deregulated companies etc would have been more closely subjected to the better security protocols that Parliament in fact had failed to provide nor to impose.

          But as things stand, the non-existence of sprinklers at Grenfell was perfectly legal, because the Labour MPs in charge of deciding this question back in 2005 decided that sprinklers would be “cost-effective” only in wealthier homes.

    • PAD

      The whole TMO thing is basically a scam.
      Local Councils eventually hand over housing stock to TMOS which amalgamate with adjacent TMOs and become ‘Housing Assocs’ that become staffed by EX Council penpushers who suddenly become CEOS of property companies on MASSIVE salaries.
      These new Limited Liability Companies can borrow straight from banks(where Councils cant)..with large property portfolios and a guaranteed stream of mainly HOUSING BENEFIT.

  • Cassandra

    An interesting visit from someone who is on record as declaring that political change, i.e. the Revolution he believes in, might involve blood being shed.

    Political murder, I would call it.

  • Royinsouthwest

    Although McDonnell is just a trouble maker the tone of the article is somewhat complacent. There is a big difference in life expectancy between people living in the richest and poorest parts of Britain.

    • timbazo

      Due to lifestyle choices or due to different levels of health provision? The richest parts may reflect access to private healthcare. Take them away and there is probably still a large difference in life expectancy between people depending on the same NHS. In fact it is not the same NHS. In Glasgow per capita expenditure on the NHS is greater than in most parts of England.

    • PAD

      As there is in most parts of the world.

  • Groan

    The tragedy was gearing up to produce a wave of public sympathy as had been so in Manchester and London. However it seems to be the very rapid “politicisation” of this by both local agitator groups and “Momentum” in Labour cut that off. I may be wrong but this politicisation looks as though it will be an “own goal”. Sadly the actual victims of an appalling tragedy have found themselves as political tools. The Day of Rage and its abject failure created a wish to be distant from what all to quickly moved from a horrific human tragedy to cynical political lobbying.