Plagues, vaccines and revolutionaries

I have written a short piece on Plagues, Vaccines and Revolutionaries: When Waldemar Haffkine met Shapurji Saklatvala in Colonial Bombay for the London Socialist Historians Group Newsletter, 72 (Spring 2021) which explores the life of the little known Russian-born bacteriologist Waldemar Haffkine, hailed by Joel Gunter and Vikas Pandey recently on the BBC website as ‘the vaccine pioneer the world forgot’, including his connection to the Indian-born Communist Shapurji Saklatvala, who was elected an MP in Battersea.

Though I am not sure he would have totally appreciated being linked to an article primarily about revolutionary figures such as Haffkine and Saklatvala, I would like to dedicate this piece to the memory of a friend of mine, Ed Rooksby (1975-2021), who I knew while were both Phd students at York University in the mid-2000s, and who tragically, despite being only 46, died of Long Covid at the start of 2021. There is a bibliography of his writings here – – and my piece in a sense is a belated continuation of a longstanding dialogue between us about reform or revolution – one to which Ed will sadly never be able to respond to. I last saw Ed in about May 2019, when he very kindly (kindness was a characteristic of Ed) put me up in Oxford for a night while I was researching what became the little booklet I co-wrote with Geoff Brown, Apartheid is Not a Game: Remembering the Stop the Seventy Tour (2020). I never thanked him in the acknowledgements to the book – I probably just bought him a pint at the time by way of thanks – so I am recording my thanks here and now. Ed Rooksby’s untimely death – though of course just one of so many tragedies amid Covid – was so unfair on so many levels – not least as he never published his long awaited book Taking Power: Reform, Revolution, Socialist Strategy which would have brought him the audience on the international left that he deserved. Ed Rooksby exemplified some of the best traditions on the Left in his lack of sectarianism, the seriousness of his commitment to politics – and trade unionism, and his very dry wit and humour – and will be widely missed. RIP Comrade Rooksby.


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