It is with great sadness that we inform you that our comrade Patrick Rolfe has died at the age of 24. He passed away on the evening of 10 June, following a long battle with a rare form of stomach cancer. Although he had been ill for some months, his death was unexpected and has come as a shock.
Patrick Rolfe joined Workers’ Liberty in 2008 as a student at Cambridge University. Although he was new to revolutionary politics, he immediately threw himself into building a student campaign against the marketisation of education and higher fees. In 2009 he organised an action for the Education Not for Sale campaign, where activists infiltrated a conference by the university bosses’ organisation Universities UK and shut it down.
After graduating from Cambridge, Patrick went to the Isle of Wight as one of a team of three young Workers’ Liberty comrades who sparked the struggle to save the Vestas wind turbine factory. Management had cracked down on attempts by workers to unionise the factory, and were planning to close it down. They expected little resistance; and many workers were convinced that they were powerless to stop the closure.
Camping outside the factory, with little time and few resources, Patrick and his comrades launched a campaign of agitation among workers and the local labour movement, which culminated in workers forming a committee inside the factory and staging an occupation of the plant.
Throughout this struggle and afterward, Patrick did more than organise – he wrote about the ideas of Marxist ecology, fleshing out a class-struggle approach to fighting climate change.
After the Vestas struggle, Patrick undertook a masters degree in environmental policy at Sussex University. There he helped build the Defend Sussex campaign, which launched a series of occupations against the management’s business plan to radically reform the University and sack over 100 staff. Patrick was victimised, as one of the “Sussex Six” he was suspended from his course.
The victimisation never fazed Patrick, and he and his comrades launched a national campaign for reinstatement, and won. At the same time, Patrick was organising the southern region of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, bringing activists from across the south coast to co-ordinating meetings.
Later on, Patrick developed disagreements with Workers’ Liberty and left the organisation, but he never dropped out of political activity. During the student movement of winter 2010, Patrick was organising protests with us at Leeds University.
Patrick will be fondly remembered by those who met him and who worked alongside him in the many campaigns he animated and took part in. He had a cool, rational approach and could be relied upon to work calmly and methodically, no matter what pressure he was under. He had a sharp, often dark sense of humour and a warm manner that endeared him to those who knew him.
For me the most impressive thing about Pat was his determination to always reason things through and pursue the truth, by his own lights. He never, ever ran away from his ideas. He was unafraid of the conclusions he drew. His political commitment never wavered, and he was writing articles, discussing politics with friends and planning campaigns from his hospital bed until the end.
The next issue of Solidarity will carry a fuller commemoration of Patrick’s life and political activism. We invite comrades to write in with their memories of Patrick.