War on Drugs Victimizes System's Most Vulnerable


War on Drugs Victimizes System's Most Vulnerable
The People
February 10, 1996



War is an apt metaphor for social and health policy in the most violent nation on earth. The American ruling class spends 50 cents of each tax dollar on the military, only 3 cents of each dollar on education, 2 cents on food and nutrition, 2 cents on the environment, 1 cent on housing, 1 cent on employment and 1 cent on social services. America is number one in the world in military spending, number one in military aid to foreign nations and number one in military bases worldwide. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that, "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." But Karl Marx assessed capitalist war fever best when he said, "The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe."

It is no surprise then when America responds to the illness of addiction by declaring war. This particular war cost $12 billion in 1990. Just a few of the results of this war are a 4,000 percent increase in cocaine use over the past 70 years, a level of narcotic drug use that has remained the same over 70 years and the shameful distinction of having over 1 million people in prison, more than any other nation. Indeed, during the period 1980 to 1990, the fastest growing segment of our population, up 139 percent, was prisoners. The number of female inmates actually increased at a faster rate than male inmates in 1993. A breakdown of all prison admissions for 1992 shows 30.5 percent sentenced for drug offenses, 31.2 percent for property offenses and 28.5 percent for violent offenses. The ruling class is so punitive that in 1993 the average American prison was operating at 15.4 percent more than its rated capacity and 74 new prison facilities were under construction.

Alcohol prohibition serves as a shining historical example of the failure of prohibition as social policy. The U.S. murder rate actually declined for 11 consecutive years after the repeal of alcohol prohibition. An ultimate measure of failure may be the fact that this war cannot even keep drugs out of prisons.

It is class warfare, racism and easy rhetoric for ambitious and criminal bourgeois politicians. Federal legislation against marijuana has targeted Mexican-Americans, opium laws have targeted Chinese-Americans and cocaine laws have targeted African-Americans. These laws have divided the working class and promoted racism by conforming to the capitalist business cycle and targeting minority workers in times of surplus labor.

A typical victim of the War on Drugs is a young male of color, working-class, perhaps a student, and either a nondealer or insignificant dealer. FBI figures show that in 1989, 42 percent of drug offenders arrested were black, while blacks make up only 12 percent of our population.

Capitalism, with a pathological focus on profit before people, is fertile soil for addiction and other human miseries. The brutal and reactionary response of the ruling class and their servants who shape social policy is to put people in cages. Study after study shows that spending for education, daycare, Head Start, drug treatment and other preventive and life- affirming measures makes more fiscal sense over time than incarceration. A 1993 research report showed that a prisoner costs the State of Florida $13,902 per year, a welfare recipient costs $4,500 and a college student earning an Associate in Science degree costs $2,400 per year. Yet federal spending for education has declined 25 percent over the past 10 years while federal spending for criminal justice has increased by 29 percent.

The capitalist is quite similar to the drug addict. Both seek immediate gratification at the expense of future wellness. Profit is a quick fix and the ruling class are hardened and ruthless junkies who stop at nothing for that fix.

Only the program of the Socialist Labor Party can lead to a society characterized by compassion rather than punishment. Only a cohesive working class, shaped into Socialist Industrial Unions and the all-industrial congress, can change what Aldous Huxley called the "organized lovelessness" of capitalism. Socialism will free human beings from prisons, class rule, the profit motive, despair, alienation and addiction.