Vestas wind turbine blade workers occupied their factory at St Cross, Newport, on 20 July. They demanded that Vestas hand over its two Isle of Wight factories to the Government, and that the Government nationalise them and continue production. The factories were not unionised: attempts to recruit workers into the Unite union had been repressed by management. But, after a campaign of leafleting and meetings, the workers acted. The occupation made Vestas central to two big issues: the fight for jobs, and the fight to save the planet from destruction generated by profiteering. This Pamphlet brings together articles and opinions from Vestas workers who took part in that occupation and their supporters.
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. This pamphlet 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.