By Beatrice Adler-Bolton and Artie Vierkant
Verso, 240 pages, $24.95
A year ago, the “Freedom Convoy” of truck drivers protesting Covid-19 mandates descended on the Canadian capital of Ottawa. The truckers and their many thousands of supporters were seeking an end to Canada’s harsh, two-year-long pandemic restrictions, notably the vaccine mandate at the US-Canadian border. The convoy became a rallying call for all people across the globe who also disagreed with the prevailing narrative that their rights ought to be sacrificed by elites in the name of “health.”
In their new manifesto, Health Communism, Beatrice Adler-Bolton and Artie Vierkant address the link between health and social and political exclusion that prompted the Ottawa protests. In the book’s opening pages, they promise to “articulate how health is wielded by capital to cleave apart populations, separating the deserving from the undeserving, the redeemable from the irredeemable, those who would consider themselves ‘workers’ from the vast, spoiled ‘surplus’ classes.”
However, it’s unlikely they were any more sympathetic to the Freedom Convoy than the rest of the North-American left. The authors are correct that “health” has long been wielded by elites as a tool to exclude and exploit. But their premises are, in fact, those of the system they claim to be challenging: that health is something provided to us by medical experts, rather than something we may cultivate autonomously. It was this logic that, in Canada and elsewhere, drove the decision to mandate Covid vaccinations, thereby creating a dangerous new rationale for mass social exclusion.