by Adam Ford
It was an oddly relaxed mid-afternoon on the seventh day of the Vestas wind turbine factory occupation yesterday [Tuesday 27th July], as demonstrators in the roundabout solidarity camp listened to a couple of musicians in the Isle of Wight sunshine.
With Vestas going to court on Wednesday in an attempt to get legal backing for an eviction, it was very much a case of the calm before the storm. In the meantime there was apparently little for people to do except lounge around in their tents, and occasionally shout their support to the occupiers when they came out on the balcony.
The two-strong police presence looked quite bored, faced by a small but diverse gaggle of campers. There seemed to be little interaction within the camp, as representatives from the RMT sat quietly next to timid elderly green protesters and younger climate activists. More importantly, there was no organised practical way in which casual visitors could contribute.
Certainly, it could be argued that a ‘do it yourself’ ethic could form part of the way forward, but the absence of even a collection bucket for the solidarity fund illustrates a disconnect between the various groups of experienced activists present (all of whom have their own agendas to push), and a general public which will be looking for an entrance point to radical politics in the months and years ahead.
There can be no doubting the significance of the red/green alliance on the Isle, but Monday’s evidence suggests it is still very much an uneasy one.
6 thoughts on “all quiet on the vestas front”
Last night there was a rally in London in support of the occupation. What was quite clear was that the Green Party and the likes of Friends of the Earth (whose speaker revealingly prefaced his comments to the effect that he was more used to speaking to House of Lords Select Committees than to demos) are obsessed with the idea of the ‘benign state’ intervening to support such industries.
There were repeated calls for the nationalised banks to bail out Vestas (which is not going bust, by the way); if this was anything more than simple naivety, given that the likes of Northern Rock and RBS are no different from any other bank, they certainly didn’t show it. Their language was redolent of a long tradition of state-socialists calling for the government to “take a lead”, invest “productively” and so on, which is also reflected in the Keynesian “Green New Deal” project.
It may make some sort of propaganda point to embarrass the government’s own hypocrisy on wind energy etc.: but this is repeated endlessly and seems to be the be-all-and-end-all of their perspectives, as if they thought making that point were more important than forcing the company itself to keep the plant open, which seems at least as likely.
The call for state-ownership of the company is a very disarming perspective which removes the focus from actually mobilising to defeat the employer, such as by international solidarity and instead turning inward toward our own national state taking over. When the Liverpool Dockers were sacked they biult an international campaign of solidarity with other workers they did not call for nationalisation etc. State socialism not only fosters illussion in the capitalist state it inevitably has a debilatating affect on the self-activity of working class struggle itself.
This is true. In the case of the Liverpool dockers, they certainly did build international links with other dockers, but the bureaucracy limited links with other workers in the UK, following the TGWU line. Vestas workers don’t really have a union encumbering them, with only RMT trying to increase their minority representation.
I don’t see what’s wrong with the demand of ‘nationalisation under workers control’? What’s the Commune’s alternative programme/recommendation of appropriate demands and aims?
One alternative would be a workers co-op, this was the solution at Dundee Prisme Factory. But in a sense this lets the ruling class off the hook with their huge resources and capital, it is the workers who have to put up the bread and take the risk and consequences going under. And workers co-op’s still have to operate on the market and therefore are shaped by these dictates.
In Wales, a fine trade union militant and miner, Tyrone O’Sullivan became an evangelist for workers buy-outs, but Tower Colliery was an isolated incident, these are not islands of socialism in a capitalist sea, the priorities are determined by the market not by what is best for the community, workers etc.
As one S.Wales commentator noted in the case of Tower:
‘ the early period there was a large measure of workers’ control of production (miners had always run mining to a large extent under British Coal anyway). Pay rates were increased; a two-shift, four-day week was introduced; safety was improved; and a whole range of reforms benefited the workforce.
Releasing the initiative and invention of miners allowed the development of new mining techniques including the pioneering innovation of a safety area in the case of accidents.
But from the beginning, the energy market and the private coal industry exerted their pressures on Tower through the demands of banks, customers and suppliers, but especially through the influence of the mining managers and engineers who had been retained from British Coal.
These specialist skills were necessary to make the pit work, but the managers and engineers were opposed to the ideas of workers’ control and renationalisation. There was a constant tension between the workforce and these pro-capitalist agents in their ranks who knew a good thing when they saw it.
The specific structure of the co-operative meant that the miners did not control the managers and engineers and the leadership of the NUM lodge was drawn out of the lodge into running the colliery with these managers.’
It may be an idea to interview a Vestas worker to get their views on nationalisation and the effect this has had on the impressive mobilising efforts that they have been at the centre of. Clearly they have advanced this slogan not as good Democratic Socialists or left Keynesians but for mainly pragmatic reasons, as they have perceived that this may be their best chance of keeping in a job. In this respect support for nationalisation, in this specific instance, is to support a demand these workers are self organising around and not indicative of support for bankrupt state socialism. It also shows that the demands that are made by workers in struggle are infinitely more intelligent than those on the left who maintain that workers should rely on the state, as its clear the workers making these demands are relying on themselves.
What evidence do you have the workers are advancing this slogan? So far all I have seen is the left advancing it. All I have heard is the workers demanding their jobs.
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