Several Workers’ Climate Action supporters are currently in Denmark, making trouble for capitalist politicians and bosses (including Vestas bosses) through actions like this.
Read on for the text of a bulletin distributed at the actions in Copenhagen, and throughout Denmark, by WCA supporters.
WCA in Copenhagen
The struggle around the Vestas turbine blade factories this summer exploded into a huge national campaign demonstrating the poverty at the heart of capitalist solutions to climate change and showing the power working people have at their fingertips through organised, collective action. It also showed the difference a small group of activists, working with clear, class-conscious politics, can make to such struggles.
In June three Workers Climate Action activists travelled to the Isle of Wight where Vestas, a Danish wind turbine producer, was closing its only UK operations to move to cheaper labour markets and more profitable government contracts in China and America. The three activists immediately set about making contacts amongst the local labour movement and visited one of the two Vestas factory sites to have a closer look. They stood outside the factory gates at shift change, spoke to the workers and started producing and distributing a factory bulletin. A few days later they began to organise a public meeting, spending a week leafleting at the factory and in local towns.
At first many were reluctant to fight for their jobs, but slowly a few were won round to the idea of a factory occupation after hearing Visteon worker Ron Clark. After the public meeting a group of workers, aided by activists, began to plan what would eventually become an eighteen day occupation. Across the country and the globe activists, trades councils and union branches vocalised their support for the workers and took part in solidarity actions. Many travelled to the island to an impromptu campsite opposite the factory to support the Vestas workers in person. A group of activists even occupied the rooftop of another Vestas factory elsewhere on the island.
As a solidarity network WCA mobilised large numbers of activists to build the solidarity camp outside the factory gates. And we’ve stayed on the island helping to build a working-class campaign for socially useful green jobs, the bailiffs were finally sent in to remove the camp Friday 27th November. We not only offered
support in day to day tasks, working in the campsite kitchen, leafleting and helping to support democratic structures the workers developed to run their campaign. We also argued with the workers over tactics and actions, attempting to engage with workers on a political level and convince people of the importance of an anti-capitalist, working class movement to fight climate change. We developed a solidarity that is critical, politically sharp, open, honest, engaging as equals (not just supporters) of the workers in struggle. The
struggle to save the planet is everyone’s struggle.
Whose Blades? Our Blades!
The occupation was eventually forced out by a court order and so workers and activists moved to mounting a blockade of the factory to prevent the blades from being moved. Some were critical of this – why would we stop blades from being put up? However, the Vestas bosses couldn’t care less that they were shipping turbine blades, to them it might as well have been gold or cocaine; the blades are simply another commodity to make profit from. To the workers and activists the blades were a part of the technology that will enable humanity
to fight climate change, producing them in China and America is a good thing, ceasing production in England is short-sighted insanity.
As the blockade continued and national press lost interest, WCA activists joined with others to occupy part of the docks in Southampton where the blades would be shipped off to the US. The blockade was eventually broken apart by the South Hampshire Police Force in an operation requiring over a hundred officers.
Though climate change threatens us all, so far as capital and the state are concerned, nothing can be allowed to threaten profits.
Supporting Workers in Struggle
WCA activists didn’t support the Vestas struggle just because it was a wind turbine factory. WCA is also closely involved in action around Heathrow, Ratcliffe and Kingsnorth. We support workers in all of these workplaces in any confrontation with their employer offering solidarity and trying to find common struggles. At Vestas we saw a glimpse of the force that will be able to create a sustainable future, the organised working class. It wasn’t enough just to keep Vestas in the UK, the factory would have to be put under new management – under workers’ management. Climate change is produced by workers following the bosses’ orders. It can only be stopped by democratic control of the workplace. WCA activists come from a broad spectrum of campaigners, but agree that the organised labour movement is central to fighting climate change on an anti-capitalist footing, arguing and fighting for a just transition rather than another business solution. We continue to involve ourselves in workers struggle and argue in these struggles for ecological politics.
Carrying Just Transition Forward
Recently the magic roundabout, the protest camp opposite the Vestas factory, was evicted. WCA activists built the camp on ecological principles and it has been central for taking the campaign forward. We’re continuing to campaign for the re-instatement of those who were fired instead of being made redundant and
continue to build the campaign for green jobs. The struggle at Vestas has reinvigorated the Isle of Wight workers movement and this year there have been strikes on the post and the buses. We’re continuing to solidarise with this movement.
Elsewhere WCA activists argue for the green movement to relate more closely to community and workplace campaigns and carry environmental politics with them when they offer their help and solidarity to other workers’ struggles.
COME TO COPENHAGEN – HOME OF VESTAS!
Not only are world leaders meeting in Copenhagen to discuss how to destroy the planet. But Vestas bosses will be there too (they live there)! If you are going to the mobilisations then get in touch to organise action at Vestas. Expose “green” capitalism. Justice for the Vestas occupiers! contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Climate Change is a Class Issue!
Climate change is not simply a question of carbon emissions. The depletion of water, soil and mineral resources and decimation of biodiversity and ecosystems now being experienced across the planet are the result of an utter bankruptcy in the relationship between human economic activity and the rest of life on earth. It is now clear that if this relationship is not drastically altered in the coming years the consequences will be, to say the least, disastrous.
What is this borne of? The very language we use and metaphors we draw upon to describe the ecological crisis; that of exhaustion, degradation and exploitation are all familiar to us as trade unionists and working class activists. The world over, workers are subject to overwork and exploitation to the point of physical and mental collapse. The reality we face now is that the planet itself faces such a collapse. The force that drives the stripping of rainforests and the poisoning of the atmosphere is the same that drives the exploitation of one human being by another; the logic that profit should be the basic imperative of human activity, the logic of capitalism. We should draw no distinctions between it’s willingness to wreck human life or that of any other living thing. Capitalism is and will always be hostile to all life.
We are creative and dynamic enough to be able to build a society that does not put itself in a state of perpetual warfare with the other living things we share a planet with. But right now we are not the ones in control to our own creativity or dynamism; our capacity to produce. The basic question of who decides what people’s work and efforts are applied towards is the key to understanding environmental damage. Wresting back the control of our own work from the class of bosses who have squandered and wasted generation upon generation of both people and resources must be fought for with a fire and passion. In this struggle everything is at stake.
So what? It is easy enough to say that you won’t ever get a sustainable capitalist society. We cannot be part of a movement that is happy to say ‘we’ll sort out the environment after the revolution,’ no. This counter posing of the two is just as philistine as those who say ‘forget the revolution; we need to save the planet.’ It is clear that more and more, the impact of climate change will start to have massive implications for the daily lives of huge sections of the world’s population. This is a line of struggle right now.
Workers Climate Action
WCA is a network of socialists, anarchists, trade unionists and other working class activists brought together by an understanding of climate change along the lines set out above. We have largely been active in the Camp for Climate Action and have been part of its mobilisations against the building of a third runway at Heathrow and the proposed new coal fire power station at Kingsnorth. This summer we helped initiate the occupation of Vestas Blades and were key to the ongoing solidarity campaign (see inside).
The basic principle is that in all instances you make solidarity with the oppressed; in the case of an environmentally damaging industry therefore there is a contradiction. While the short term economist interest of the workers is for the expansion and continuation of that industry, the wider interest of the working class and of the world is that their skills are applied to another role. The only principle that can break through this problem is that of solidarity, solidarity with people and planet regardless of any distinction.
HEATHROW / AVIATION
Heathrow is the largest single site workplace in the UK and with a proud history of industrial militancy. The official trade union line is for expansion of the industry support for the third runway. We have been organising with workers and local residents to stop airport expansion. As we write 14,000 BA cabin crew are being balloted for strike action over job and pay cuts. We’ll be there on the picket lines with them arguing for workers’ led just transition.
THE VESTAS CAMPAIGN CONTINUES…
Just last week arms manufacturer BAE systems announced job losses on the Isle of Wight, taking the total to 2,500 forced redundancies this year alone. The workers and WCA activists involved in the Vestas campaign are broadening out to create a working-class movement that can demand socially useful jobs that meet the needs of the people and planet, not the needs of profit. Get involved in the campaign for reinstatement.
KINGSNORTH / RATCLIFFE-ON-SOAR / POWER
During the Kingsnorth Climate Camp, WCA activists went down to the factory gates at shift change with our banner “FOR KINGSNORTH WORKERS. AGAINST E:ON BOSSES”. Since then we have been back time and again. As E:ON (for their own reasons) have postponed building of the proposed new power station on the Grain peninsula, a lot of workers will be thrown on the scrap heap. We are still going down to Kingsnorth and trying to organise a fight for green jobs and just transition.
* Tubeworker Climate Action in collaboration with RMT militant. Contact: email@example.com
* Many car workers have lost their jobs in the recession. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
* There are local WCA groups being set up across the country to spread the message of class struggle environmentalism. To find out about your local group, contact email@example.com