Vestas: story of a battle

Submitted by Matthew on 10 December, 2009 - 2:34

Sometimes struggles come along that help us learn, or relearn, many basic and valuable lessons about what it means to be a working-class activist engaged in the fight for socialism. The struggle that took place on the Isle of Wight in summer 2009 to prevent the closure of the Vestas wind turbine blades factory was such a struggle.

It taught us, against ruling-class myths about the non-existence of class or the passivity of working people, that workers can and will fight — even when they are unorganised and have no history of militancy.

It taught us that organised socialists and other class struggle activists can play a vital role in catalysing key struggles; without the work of Workers’ Liberty members and others in the Workers’ Climate Action network — who spent weeks on the island distributing factory bulletins, talking to workers, and building a campaign — the occupation may never have happened.

It taught us that workers’ struggle can connect a wide variety of issues and can ultimately pose a vision of a different form of society. The Vestas workers’ campaign linked the immediate issues of the jobs crisis and climate change to present the case for a society controlled democratically in the interests of the working-class majority, not run irrationally in the blind interests of profit — unconcerned for the welfare of either humanity or our planet.

Those lessons, and others, are all fundamental to developing an understanding of how working-class struggle can change the world and the possibilities for a different form of society it offers. Workers’ Liberty’s new pamphlet — “The Vestas jobs battle: How wind turbine workers became a power” — aims to reaffirm those lessons for those who were directly involved in the campaign and spread them throughout the working-class and environmental movements so that those who were not directly involved will have a chance to consider them. Containing numerous testimonies from Vestas worker-activists, campaign supporters and others — as well as Workers’ Liberty’s Marxist analysis of the dispute, more often than not written and distributed on-the-spot at the protest camp outside the factory — the pamphlet is an invaluable resource for any activist who wants to learn the lessons of Vestas and, crucially, wants to ensure that when the next similar struggle emerges it will end in victory.

• £3.50 (p&p free), from PO Box 823, London, SE15 4NA. Cheques to “AWL”. Or buy online at www.workersliberty.org/pamphlets

A postscript

After four months as the hub of the Vestas solidarity campaign, the “Magic Roundabout”, made up of protestors camping on the roundabout outside the main Vestas factory, was evicted on Friday 27 November.

Following the arrival of bailiffs occupiers were left to hastily pack away their belongings, but were able to put up some resistance.

The “magic roundabout” came into being to maintain a 24 hour picket and as a place to house the solidarity activists who were arriving on the island with their tents and camping gear. Very soon, with the help of a band of practically-minded Climate Campers, the camp, recycling materials from the industrial estate, was operating with a functioning kitchen, sound system, wood burner and water supply. Over the next four months, this industrial estate became alive with the colour, music and vibrancy of working-class solidarity.

The protestors say they will continue their fight to win redundancy money for the workers who occupied the factory in July-August.

• Longer report: www.workersliberty.org