In true demagogue fashion, in May 2023 Donald Trump demanded a ramping-up of the so-called “War on Drugs.” In Manchester, New Hampshire — where opioid deaths have spiked — Trump declared that “the only way” — in his world — to deal with the question of drugs was to execute drug dealers. In the exact same city, during his first presidential run, Trump said he would have dealers executed.

Britain’s opium war against China

In June 2023, Trump again declared he would execute drug dealers. This time, however, the contradiction between his actions and his words were challenged by conservative commentators interviewing him.

As president, Donald Trump, at the behest of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, released incarcerated workers who were in prison for drug offenses. One, Alice Johnson, who was charged with nonviolent crimes: cocaine distribution and money laundering, would have been executed under his plan. The contradiction is more apparent when looking at Trump’s second presidential campaign: In 2020, during the Super Bowl, he announced his pardoning of Johnson as part of his efforts to “reform” the criminal (in)justice system.

Releasing Johnson, and several others, doesn’t change the nature of the War on Drugs or the fact that more and more people are being arrested for both nonviolent and violent drug-related crimes. Trump’s demand to execute drug offenders didn’t originate with him. It came from another demagogue, former President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, whose “War on Drugs” involved the deaths of thousands of people, mainly the urban poor. Duterte didn’t just use the state to enact this violence, he employed his own band of violent thugs to carry it out.

In the U.S. where Trump enjoys wide support among armed white-supremacist thugs of his own, including militias and neo-Nazis, it is not entirely out of the realm of possibility that these forces would engage in extrajudicial violence. The Ku Klux Klan have often engaged in their own white-supremacist brand of “neighborhood watches.”

It’s obvious to anyone paying attention that executing drug offenders or even imprisoning them won’t defeat the drug scourge. And drugs are a scourge, a weapon against the proletariat from forces that are as complex as they are numerous. What will defeat it is a combination of new ideas and old.

Drug use – coping mechanism under capitalism

In capitalist societies, people are going to use drugs. As long as capitalism drains the minds and exploits the bodies of workers, people will consume mind-altering chemicals as an escape mechanism and to deal with pain. What we need to do to end the opioid and overdose epidemics is to engage in a multistep plan, one that has been tested in multiple countries — even reformist and bourgeois — and succeeded.

  1. Open drug safe-consumption sites — In New York City, Vancouver, Canada and elsewhere, safe consumption sites have opened with the sole mission to protect the ever-valuable lives of drug users and addicts. Philadelphia was slated to have Safehouse, but right-wing ‘Not in my back yard’ (NIMBY) forces temporarily derailed it. Safe-consumption sites act as a sort of anti-overdose force. While thousands use there, and a few overdoses occur, each overdose is survivable.

 

  1. Expand and destigmatize Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). MAT is a form of treatment that replaces dangerous street drugs with medically controlled medications. In the U.S. there are currently three medications used for this purpose: methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.

 

In Canada and elsewhere, there exist two more options for MAT. One is diacetylmorphine (heroin) and another is hydromorphone (Dilaudid). Expanding MAT to include these medications can assist people addicted to stronger opiates such as fentanyl. It’s important to destigmatize MAT, because many addicts cannot live without it, and the intention behind MAT is to act like insulin to the diabetic, medicine for people who cannot stop using on their own.

 

  1. Decriminalize all drugs — in Portugal, drug-related crime and drug-related diseases (such as HIV and hepatitis C) fell after it decriminalized all drugs. This is a radical, yet needed step in keeping people on drugs healthy and ending the War on Drugs and the deleterious effects of street drugs.

In Canada and elsewhere, there exist two more options for MAT. One is diacetylmorphine (heroin) and another is hydromorphone (Dilaudid). Expanding MAT to include these medications can assist people addicted to stronger opiates such as fentanyl. It’s important to destigmatize MAT, because many addicts cannot live without it, and the intention behind MAT is to act like insulin to the diabetic, medicine for people who cannot stop using on their own.

The scourge of drugs is rampaging across the U.S., where the drug problem exceeds that of other countries largely because of the negative actions of big pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma. But the drug problem here is not the worst one that’s ever occurred.

Imperialism forced China to import opium

From 1839 to 1842, China was forced to import opium by imperialist countries. China rejected the idea of importing such a dangerous and addictive substance, but they were forced to do so by the British during the Opium Wars.

As the addiction problem in China increased, China was so weakened that Western imperialism and Japan were able to colonize parts of it. This indignity stood until the end of the Second World War, when Japan was forced to give up its colonies. The problem of opioid addiction in China still raged, despite victories against their captors.

It wasn’t until the victory of the Chinese Revolution, led by Mao Zedong, that the People’s Republic of China was established in October 1949. Within a short time, they developed a plan to deal with the problem of both dealers and users.

Socialist 12-step program

China’s plan was a multistep one. First, they used ideology to teach the populace that drugs were a tool that put their nation on a backwards course and that drugs themselves were highly deadly. Then, they asked that people growing opium destroy their crops and replace them with helpful crops such as wheat. They had revolutionary communists destroy smuggling and selling operations in China. Lastly, the addicted themselves were encouraged to admit their problems and to work in the new society. This approach could be considered a proto-12 Step approach, as the 12 Steps demand service to society.

The idea of executing drug dealers, which would inevitably catch drug users on the net, is not just inhumane and cruel; it is also ineffective. What helps stop drug addiction and sales is a multistep approach that we can synthesize: Acknowledge that some addicts can never achieve abstinence; acknowledge that medication-assisted treatment is one of the pathways to recovery, and acknowledge that we can do what the revolutionary Chinese did.

The Chinese path to freedom from addiction required Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thought and a post revolutionary society to work, yet aspects of this approach can be used within the bourgeois state. We —  addicts, loved ones of addicts, people of good faith, and revolutionary Marxists — should fight back against the Duterte-Trump strategy to murder people.

We must push society into knowing there is a way out of our drug problem, without imprisoning or executing people. This is the only way to deal with the problem.

Princess Harmony

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Princess Harmony

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