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Dean Richard's "On Solving Silver Spring’s Illegal Drug Problem"

            Most Park Morton Apartment residents in Washington, D.C. rank illegal drugs as the main problem in their neighborhood. They view child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, school failure, many mental and physical health deficiencies, and the bulk of the housing code and criminal violations at Park Morton as growing out of the illegal drug problem. Common housing code violations at the Park Morton Apartments are: vermin infestation, defective plumbing, including toilets that overflow after use, non-functioning door and window locks, broken electrical connections and electrical boxes that overheat and create a danger of fire, ceilings that have caved in, holes in walls, water leaks, overcrowding of apartments (too many children in a single bedroom), and different sex children in the same bedroom. Criminal violations include theft, robbery, prostitution, gunshots, disorderly conduct, assaults and traffic violations.

            To help solve the illegal drug problem, the residents have called the police and have tried to install high intensity, bullet-proof lighting, restricted outsiders to common areas via no-trespass signs, taught their children the addictive nature of drugs and kept them indoors and away from hallways and public spaces. Some have tried to escape the problem by getting Section 8 certificates or paying high rents to move to the suburbs.

            These measures help reduce, if not solve the problem. Some residents believe that reduction of the problem, even when it is achieved, is not enough. Illegal drugs are not inevitable. Even in the U.S., in relatively recent times, illegal drugs have been eliminated. During World War II, the security measures designed to prevent infiltration of foreign spies and sabotage to naval installations, made smuggling into the U.S. virtually impossible. Most American addicts were forced to break their habits during the war and consumer demand just about disappeared.[1] At the end of the war the Federal Bureau of Narcotics reported there were only 20,000 addicts in all of the U.S.[2] After the war the number of drug addicts rose to 500,000 addicts, which was reduced to 200,000 in the mid-1970s by the efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration.[3] Global production of opium, 70% of which was from Southeast Asia, fluctuated from 7,600 tons after the war to 1,000 tons by 1970 and to 4,200 tons by 1990.

            Cuba. The best examples of where illegal drugs have been eliminated are where working people have taken power, as in Cuba. With their overthrow of the profit system in 1959 the Cubans freed themselves from organized crime and the drug dealers.[4] The drug trade was eliminated by providing jobs, education and counseling to the addicted and by repression of the distributors. Alfred McCoy, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, described the drug situation in Cuba prior to the 1959 communist revolution:

Organized crime was welcome in prerevolutionary Cuba and Havana was probably the most important transit point for  Lucky Luciano's European heroin shipments. The leaders of Luciano's heroin syndicate were at home in the Cuban capital and regarded it as a "safe city." Meyer Lansky owned most of the city's casinos and the Santo Trafficante Jr. family served as Lansky's resident managers in Havana.[5]

            The Cuban Revolution forced Traficante to write off his Havana casino operations as a lose. But he was partially compensated by the flood of Cuban refuges to Miami. His association with Cuban gangsters and politicians when he was living in Havana enabled him to expand his control over the Florida bolita lottery, a Cuban numbers game. When the pope visited Cuba on January 21, 1998, Fidel Castro in his welcoming statement, mentioned the problem of illegal drugs and many other problems of concern to working people, which communist Cuba had ameliorated:

In your long pilgrimage around the world, you would have been able to see with your own eyes many injustices, inequalities and poverty; uncultivated lands and landless hungry farmers; unemployment, hunger, illness; lives that could be saved with little money, being lost for lack of it; illiteracy, child prostitution, 6-year old children working or begging for alms to survive; shanty towns where hundreds of millions live in unworthy conditions; race and sex discrimination; complete ethnic groups evicted from their lands and abandoned to their fate; xenophobia, contempt for other peoples; cultures which have been, or are currently being, destroyed; underdevelopment and usurious loans, unpayable and uncollectable debts, unfair exchange, outrageous and unproductive financial speculations; an environment being ruthlessly and perhaps helplessly destroyed; an unscrupulous weapons trade with disgusting lucrative intents; wars, violence, massacres; generalized corruption, narcotics, vices and an alienating consumerism imposed on peoples as an ideal model. . .

What can we offer you in Cuba? People exposed to less inequalities and a lower number of helpless citizens; less children without schools, less patients without hospitals, and more teachers and physicians per capita than any other country in the world visited by the Holy Father; educated people you can talk to in perfect freedom with the certainty of their talent and their high political culture, their strong convictions and absolute confidence in their ideas; people that will show all due respect and consciousness in listening to you. Another country will not be found better disposed to understand your felicitous idea--as we understand it and so similar to what we preach--that the equitable distribution of wealth and solidarity among men and peoples should be globalized. Welcome to Cuba!

            Vietnam. Similarly in Vietnam illegal drugs were eliminated when the working people won power, first in the north in 1954 and in the south after 1973. In the 1940s Ho Chi Minh complained that for three centuries plantation workers, miners and urban laborers had been spending their entire wages in Indochina's 2,500 state-licensed opium dens. This hurt their families and their class and it strengthened the colonial governments.[6] The French in Saigon, the British in Burma, Malaya and Siam and the Dutch in the Indies promoted drug addiction in their colonies because the licensed opium dens gave tax revenues. In some colonies opium revenues provided 60% of the taxes for road, canal and rail construction.[7]

            The elimination of illegal drugs in Vietnam was aided by the Chinese Revolution. Within ten years after the end of World War II, Southeast Asia was cut off from foreign opium. The Chinese People's Liberation Army, after winning the civil war, drove Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalist Army out of Yunnan Province. Yunnan was China's second largest opium grower and much of its poppy harvest had been smuggled into Southeast Asia. When the People's Liberation Army began patrolling the border in the early 1950s to prevent an expected counterattack by CIA-supported Nationalist Chinese troops, most opium caravans were halted. By the mid-1950s People's Republic agriculturalists and party workers had introduced substitute crops and any possible opium seepage into Southeast Asia ceased.[8] A report produced by the U.S. Army in 1971 testified to Vietnam's elimination of illegal drugs:

The opium-growing areas of North Vietnam are concentrated in the mountainous northern provinces bordering China. Cultivation is closely controlled by the government and none of the crop is believed to be channeled illicitly into internal markets. Much of it is probably converted into morphine and used for medical purposes.[9]

Communist Vietnam eliminated illegal drugs, but the U.S. Army in 1971 accused the U.S. puppet government of South Vietnam of pushing drugs.[10]

            China. The Chinese Revolution helped eliminate illegal drugs in Vietnam and it also ended a long history of drug trafficking in China.[11] As early as 1650 the Dutch were exporting shipments of Indian opium to China totaling more than 50 tons/year. The Dutch introduced the smoking of opium in a tobacco pipe, which increased the drug's use among the Chinese. The Chinese government in 1729 prohibited opium use. However, British capital evaded the prohibition. In the 1770s, the British East India Company took control of the export of Indian opium to China.[12] In the first half of the 19th century, with the British exporting 3,200 tons of Indian opium to China per year, one quarter of the Chinese male population were opium smokers.[13] Chinese resistance to the British opium trade resulted in the First and Second Opium Wars (1840-1842 and 1856-1860). In the first war the Ch'ing dynasty refused to utilize the support of the people in the struggle against the aggressors and capitulated. In the second war British and French capital took advantage of the civil war which was underway (the T'ai P'ing Rebellion) in October 1856 to seize ports and turn the country into a semi-colony. By 1900 China's population of 400 million included 13.5 million opium addicts who consumed 39,000 tons of smoking opium annually.[14]

            When the communists took over in 1949, China's 40 million addict population was the largest in the world.[15] The working class attack on illegal drugs began with a detoxification program that eliminated the demand. Addicts were sent to local drug clinics where opium was denounced as an "imperialist and capitalist activity." Those who persisted in their addiction were subjected to the criminal justice system and sent to labor camps.[16] Through the process of land reform, extensive poppy fields were reclaimed for food production and further opium cultivation was banned under regulations approved at the state administrative council in February 1950.[17] Historian Jack Chen summarized the Chinese effort at elimination of illegal drugs:

The drive against drugs began in much the same way as in all such campaigns--with a thorough investigation. As Mao says: "No investigation, no right to talk." That concluded, it was decided that the man who took dope, mostly opium, an easy drug to trace because of its odor, was considered less a criminal or evil doer than a victim of the drug pusher and the foreign powers which had pushed the drugs down the throats of an unwilling people, the better to enslave them. Treatment was then given, mainly "cold turkey" withdrawal which though hard to endure, was swift, effective and cheap. The weight of the law fell on the pushers, the exploiters who made money out of the traffic. These might be jailed for lawbreaking, but here too the emphasis, as in all such cases, was on reform and rehabilitation, on convincing the wrongdoer that he was indeed doing wrong, explaining why his wrongdoing was antisocial, and getting him to decide himself to mend his ways.

This problem was swiftly solved because of the curious fact that the former main culprits, the foreign powers, were now actually assisting the antidrug campaign in a negative way by their embargo on all trade with China. With the virtual ending of foreign trade with the capitalist countries no new shipments of drugs came to China and none went out. Inside China it was a relatively simple task to end the planting of the opium poppy. With the advance of cooperation to every farm area in the country it became virtually impossible for any farmer to plant flamboyant poppy fields without his neighbors knowing. Such was the efficacy of the mass line.

Within a few years by such means Peking became a city without prostitution, without beggary, without drugs or organized crime. After a couple of false starts even the Tungtan Market stall-holders gave up haggling and established strictly fixed prices and fair practices. Mass social education and action was indeed paying off.[18]

            Economic and Psychological Foundation. The illegal drug problem has both a push (drug profiteers) and pull (the consumer) aspect. What kills the drug profiteers in the communist countries is the same thing that kills other aspects of the profit system: the establishment of a politically viable planned economy and a society that is labor dominated. Under working class rule nutrition, health, housing, transportation, education, and recreation essentially become free and rationed. For example, in the Russian federation, starting in 1928 the legislature set 9 square meters (97 sq. ft.) as the "minimum sanitary standard per person of living space" toward which government planning would aim. When the 9 sq. meter mark was achieved in the 1960s, it was raised upward to 15 sq.m. per person.[19] During the period from 1928 to 1960 the maximum size of the basic three-room apartment that could be constructed was restricted to 60 sq.m. This rented for less than $5 per month (one percent of income). No matter how much money a recording artist or author or inventor or black market profiteer might accumulate, they lived in the basic three room apartments because that was all that could be built. The units could not be sold or subleased. So there were no landlords.

            The great complaint of profiteers under communism is that their gains are good for nothing. With housing rationed and free and the same dimensions for all, money cannot buy anything larger. Similarly, with education and health care free at all levels, money is useless. Drug dealing and organized crime do not prosper in communist countries for the same reason that capitalist dealing does not prosper. When money is worthless, those inclined toward profit have an obstacle. That is why organized crime, no less than capitalism, opposes communism.

            Communist society provides the economic and psychological basis for discouraging both the profit push of illegal drugs and the consumer pull. Why do some working people in capitalist countries engage in compulsive, self-destructive activity, such as drug abuse, gambling, alcoholism, tobacco, sexual promiscuity, gluttony, escapist religion, envy, money borrowing, and consumption of luxury goods (expensive cars, houses, clothing and vacations). The reason in part is because capitalism teaches the gospel of mindless consumerism. People are encouraged to value themselves by what they consume. Victimized are the emotionally unstable, those without impulse control, the youth, the mentally immature and those without positive social attitudes and education. Consumerism is used to fill the spiritual void that is basic to the profit system. The purpose of the capitalist media is not truth but to promote consumption. Movie and sports stars, journalists and culture in general are little more than sellers of advertising. The purpose of capitalist housing is not shelter, but profit. Some people have more than enough space while others have little or nothing. The purpose of capitalist transportation is similarly perverted for profit. While some go in luxury, others, if they are lucky, have inadequate, dangerous and expensive public transportation.

            Under communism, one's value is based on labor. All are workers. Food, clothing and other necessities are distributed according to the golden rule, which translates into distribution according to need. Media, culture, religion, sex, food, clothing and shelter are not for profit. Mindless consumption is not made the purpose of life. In communist society both the push and pull for self destructive activity is reduced. Problems such as illegal drugs, unequal distribution of housing, education and transportation are relatively easy to solve under working class rule. Other problems such as alcohol and tobacco abuse need attention. One billion (25%) of the world's 4 billion population smoke tobacco. Eighty-five percent of the smokers are male, 15% are female. The World Health Organization recommends that all nations establish label warnings, smokeless areas in the workplace, stop sales to youth and bar it from public congregating areas.

            Conclusion. Illegal drugs and the problems associated with them are not inevitable. U.S. and world history provide examples of where they have been eliminated. In combating the drug problem, Park Morton residents have called the police and participated in their tenants association. Some have also addressed the bigger picture in order to better combat the illegal drugs. They subscribe to and read the communist newspaper, People's Weekly World. They attend the meetings of the Frederick Douglass Club, which is the neighborhood branch of the Communist party or they have joined the Communist party. Comrade Dextan at 202   is the organizer at Park Morton. The Communist party has proved an efficient tool throughout much of the world in solving the drug problem. The present U.S. system is dominated by the profit makers. Only by addressing both the smaller and larger picture can a decent society be constructed to replace capitalism.


[1]United Nations, Economic and Social Counsel, World Trends of the Illicit Traffic During the War, 1939-1945 (E/CS 7/9, Nov. 23, 1946), pp. 10, 14; Alfred McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade (New York: Laurence Hill Books, 1991), p. 24.

[2]U.S. Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, "The World Opium Situation" (Wash. D.C.: Oct. 1970), p. 10; U.S. State Dept., Bureau of International Narcotic Matters, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (Wash. D.C.: U.S. State Dept., Mar. 1990), Pub. No. 9749, pp. 19-20; McCoy, The Politics of Heroin, p. 18.

[3]McCoy, The Politics of Heroin, p. 19.

[4]Freda Adler, Nations Not Obsessed with Crime (Littleton, Colorado: F. B. Rothman, 1983); David Bakin, "The Redistribution of Consumption in Cuba," Radical Review of Political Economy, 4 (August 1972), 80.

[5]Alfred McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade (New York: Laurence Hill Books, 1991),p. 40.

[6]McCoy, The Politics of Heroin, pp. 112-113.

[7]Victor Purcell, The Chinese in Southeast Asia (London: Oxford University Press, 1951), pp. 58, 215; McCoy, The Politics of Heroin, pp. 5, 90, 93.

[8]U.S. Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, The World Opium Situation (Wash. D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1970), pp. 22, 27.

[9]Office of the Provost Marshall, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, The Drug Abuse Problem in Vietnam (Saigon: 1971), p. 4.

[10]McCoy, The Politics of Heroin, p. 233.

[11]Kenneth Meier, The Politics of Sin, Drugs, Alcohol and Public Policy (Armonke, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1994), p. 39; Israel Epstein, From Opium War to Liberation (Peking: New World Press, 1964); Ronald Troyer, et al, (eds.), Social Control in the People's Republic of China (New York: Praeger, 1989); Paul Lowinger, "Why Do We Have Drug Abuse--Economic and Political Basis," in Joyce Lowinson, et al, (eds.), Substance Abuse: Clinical Problems and Perspectives (Baltimore: Williams and Wilkens, 1981), pp. 614-618; Tony Saich, et al (eds.), New Perspectives on the Chinese Communist Revolution (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1995); William O. Walker, Opium and Foreign Policy: The Anglo-American Search for Order in Asia, 1912-1954 (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1991).

[12]McCoy, The Politics of Heroin, p. 4.

[13]Ibid., pp. 94, 509; David E. Owen, British Opium Policy in China and India (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934).

[14]McCoy, The Politics of Heroin, p. 4.

[15]Ibid., p. 123.

[16]C.P. Spencer and N. Navaratnam, Drug Abuse in East Asia (Kuala Lampur: Oxford University Press, 1981), pp. 50-51, 154-155.

[17]U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Intelligence, International Intelligence Division, "People's Republic of China and Narcotic Drugs," Drug Enforcement (Fall 1974), pp. 35-36; McCoy, The Politics of Heroin, p. 123.

[18]Jack Chen, Inside the Cultural Revolution (New York: Macmillan, 1975, p. 65.

[19]Toby Terrar, "Solving the Housing Problem," GeoJournal (Helmstedt, Frg.), vol. 17 (June 1988), pp. 151-154; Terrar, "A Note on the Comparison of U.S. and Soviet Housing Statistics for the Period 1913 to 1980," Housing Science, vol.13, no. 2 (1989), pp. 87-108; A. J. DiMaio, Soviet Urban Housing Problems and Policies (New York: Praeger, 1974), p. 33.