Drug Traffic and Imperialism are Historically Intertwined

Drug Traffic and Imperialism are Historically Intertwined
The People
January 1997



The mushrooming heroin epidemic has shattered the lives of many American working-class individuals, families and communities. The heaviest casualties are in such large urban areas as San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Baltimore and Newark. A large portion of the "China white" heroin smuggled into the United States originates in the opium poppy fields of the "Golden Triangle," which is a region composed of sections of China, Burma, Laos and Thailand. The heroin traffic from this multinational area is controlled by international Chinese gangs known as "triads."

As avowed cornerstones of U.S. capitalist rule, neither the Republican nor the Democratic parties have been truthful about the "war on drugs," rhetoric notwithstanding. Moreover, there are parallels between the heroin trafficking of the triads and the "crack" trafficking of the Nicaraguan Contra-CIA-Medellin network. In neither case can this be dismissed as the work of a handful of renegades or zealots who got "carried away." Rather, this is deeply woven into the fabric of capitalist institutions. (Unwittingly or not, Kingman Wong of the FBI hit the proverbial nail on the head when he said, "The most accurate description of these groups [triads] is that they are made up of entrepreneurs.")

Drug trafficking and capitalist imperialism in Asia have been intertwined for more than 150 years. It dates at least from the 1830s and 1840s, when what Marx facetiously called, "English philanthropy had imposed a regular opium trade upon China, blown down by the cannon's mouth the Chinese wall, and forcibly thrown open the Celestial Empire to intercourse with the profane world." ("The Monetary Crisis in Europe," 1856.)

When Chinese officials at last said "enough!" and outlawed and destroyed the opium, the Opium Wars broke out between Britain and China in the 1840s. This tightened the yoke of foreign domination in China, which put more pressure on the Ching (Manchu) Dynasty. Finally, the secret Chinese societies (triads) were instrumental in the overthrow of the Ching Dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China in 1911 under the leadership of Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or Guomindang).

Thereafter, the triads lost no time in seizing control of large portions of China's economy, adapting the characteristics of bourgeois mobsters. After the death of Sun in 1925, the Nationalist Party (with its Siamese twin, the triads) fell under the domination of Chiang Kai-shek and his wife's relatives, the Soong clan, who, in turn, were bankrolled by the United States to uphold American material interests in the region.

In 1949, after years of warfare, the victorious Communist Party under Mao Tse-tung forced Chiang and company to flee to Taiwan, which they treated as their own "fiefdom." There the Chiang Nationalist Party regime thrives even today. Other remnants of the triad-financed anticommunist Nationalist Party army fled to Hong Kong and northern Burma, where they became deeply entrenched into "legal" economic (and social and political) systems, as vital links of the heroin Golden Triangle network. Consequently, when Hong Kong, a British colony for 100 years, will be returned to China in July 1997, the triads, fearing reprisals from "communist" China, have developed their networks in other nations, such as the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia. However, Beijing has not only tolerated "patriotic" triads in Hong Kong, but has penetrated these underworld associations, becoming an important link in the triad international ventures, including the Golden Triangle, money laundering, murder, gambling, high- tech robberies and enslaving young girls in brothels. Concerning triad criminal activity in Los Angeles, for instance, detective William Howell observed "a cooperative effort between Taiwanese organized-crime groups and mainland Chinese that we never saw before."

Naturally, the particular interests of various elements of the capitalist class will be hindered or helped by different triad operations. For example, law enforcement officers in Los Angeles confiscated a triad's counterfeit copies of Microsoft's Windows 95 software three weeks before the real thing was available in stores. This is only the tip of the iceberg in sophisticated high-tech fraud, involving billions of dollars.

However, when the triads smuggle around 25,000 illegal Chinese immigrants into the United States every year (and usually under inhuman conditions) they are providing some businesses with an abundance of cheap labor.

The triads, like the Colombian cartels and other underworld drug networks, rake in billions of dollars off the misery of millions of people throughout the world who suffer from the plague of dangerous drugs like heroin, cocaine or "crack." Under capitalism and so-called "communism" these epidemics will never cease. Workers of the world should harbor no illusions about "leaving the fox in charge of the chicken coop." A real "war on drugs" calls for nothing short of the abolition of class-ruled society.