Canadian Truckers are Exposing our Governments’ Vulnerabilities
There are many western countries that have placed previously unthinkable restrictions on their citizens in the wake of the Covid pandemic, but Canada has been particularly cruel. In Quebec, unvaccinated people are not allowed to shop in common retail stores unless accompanied by a ‘health monitor’ to ensure they only purchase food and medicine before being escorted out. Canadians are charged a special tax due to their vaccination status and banned from places like restaurants and liquor stores. In the face of these tyrannical restrictions, the first sign of real resistance has come from an unlikely place: Canada’s truckers. These essential workers formed what has been dubbed a Freedom Convoy traveling towards the nation’s capital to protest the newest round of vaccine mandates targeting truck drivers. Millions of dollars have been raised in support of the convoy and over fifty-thousand truckers have descended on the city despite the subzero temperatures.
In response to the popular outcry, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who called the protestors a “fringe minority” holding “unacceptable views” — has reportedly fled his home in Ottawa along with his family to a secure and undisclosed location. Left-wing news outlets have already joined politicians in warning that the trucker convoy may be full of all the usual boogiemen: racists, extremists, white nationalists, etc. The narrative for a crackdown on the protest is clearly being laid and in one province the necessary legal action has already been taken. In Nova Scotia, the government has cited its powers under the Covid state of emergency that was declared back in March of 2020 in order to functionally ban the protest and criminalize supporting it. Those who finance, aid, or participate in the convoy, along with those who line the road to show support, will face fines up to $10,000.
It is stunning to watch the loudest advocates of liberal democracy rush forward to crush any protest against their new biomedical security state. The same people who deliver endless tirades about the danger our fragile system faces from the looming threat of authoritarianism never hesitate to wield the new powers seized by them during the pandemic to crush their foes. It seems that democracy is so sacred that governments must ban the working class from protesting lest they endanger the delicate system of popular sovereignty. The rush by the commentariat to link the convoy to the favorite villains of the American press also speaks volumes. The Australian media tried a similar tactic during an outbreak of protests against lockdowns last year, smearing the popular outcry against the government as a movement of far-right extremists. It seems that no matter what western country is facing populist opposition to the radical expansion of state power, the narrative remains the same.
Pandemic-related protest restrictions across the west are nakedly political, and this has laid bare the rot at the heart of so many governments that claim the will of the people as the source of their legitimacy. As lockdowns became the norm at the beginning of the pandemic in the United States, large businesses were allowed to stay open while churches, gyms, schools, and family-owned stores were forced to close down. Pastors were arrested for holding services and protesters were arrested for singing hymns outside in defiance of the regulations. Then the death of George Floyd was caught on camera and the burning and looting of American cities became the highest moral priority. The same Americans who had been forced to shutter their businesses for months as they went bankrupt now had to watch as violent mobs emptied those businesses and burned them to the ground. Health experts who had warned that the smallest family gathering could turn into a super-spreader event enthusiastically endorsed massive street protests. Biden supporters were allowed to drink champagne maskless in the streets while people with the wrong politics were required to hold funerals for their loved ones over Zoom. Some Trump supporters took this to mean that the rules for street protests had been suspended in the United States, but on January 6th they quickly learned that political allegiance is now the determining factor when it came to the application of the law.
As regimes across the west engage in an arms race to see how much power they can exercise over their citizenry in the name of Covid, it has become increasingly obvious that the freedom to assemble is a privilege handed to the loyal, not a right afforded to free citizens. The fact that a doctrine of individual rights, liberal democracy and constitutional government has in no way inhibited the dynamic expansion of government power in western countries should give pause to those who have assumed these as shared values. It is clear that these words have become shibboleths stripped of any real meaning. The phrases are used as hollowed-out relics of a civic religion that once animated our civilization but can now only be worn as a skinsuit by those hoping to use the last bit of shared cultural fabric to herd their populations into the new security state that has been fashioned for them.
Still, the caravan of Canadian truckers reveals a serious flaw in the plans our ruling elites have laid out for their brave new world. The professional-managerial class that rules over much of the west built their power on technology and propaganda. Their loyal followers make up the staff of the universities, newsrooms, corporate HR offices, and public schools. They are the party of the laptop class, ruling through the manipulation of procedure and information. Automating away the working class is their eventual goal, but for now, they are heavily reliant on exactly that class to keep the already fragile infrastructure of their regimes running. They have attempted to abandon the working class before they can make them obsolete, and that is a serious tactical error.
Transportation seems to be a particular vulnerability for these regimes. In October, Southwest Airlines was forced to withdraw a planned vaccine mandate for their employees after a wildcat strike forced the company to cancel hundreds of flights. Southwest simply could not figure out how to operate their company while enforcing the looming government mandate, and one coordinated action by their employees brought them to their knees. Despite their counter-revolutionary zeal, the attempts by governments to enforce the restrictions have been arrogant and sloppy. The weight of propaganda and some clumsy legal restrictions were expected to do the job, and the ruling class had no plan on how to handle collective action from essential workers.
The fact that both the trucker caravan and the Southwest strike took place with little to no support from either of their countries’ political parties is important to note. In the past, the left would have been desperate to portray their party as the champion of the working class, fighting for the rights of organized labor. Now they are the ones looking to crush any opposition to the Covid mandates. You would expect the Right to swiftly move to adopt a valuable voting block that is now politically homeless, but in both America and Canada the conservatives have remained largely on the sidelines when they are not actively complicit. In many ways this is a positive aspect of the movement; it remains organic and independent, instead of being co-opted by cynical party politics.
The organic nature of the movement is currently an asset but the idea of the purely popular revolution, political or otherwise, is a myth. Eventually leadership is required to coalesce that energy into a movement that can build and maintain power. Populist movements in both Canada and the United States have seen firsthand that their governments are willing to build a two-tier society, reserving political rights only for those that demonstrate sufficient loyalty. Protests often serve only as a pressure-release valve for dissent; but modern technocratic governments face a real vulnerability in their fragile and aging infrastructures. That is where workers today have a real fighting chance to stand up and be heard.