Fighting the drugs war

The news over the Christmas period has been dominated by the scandal over Jack Straw and his 17-year old son, William. Two journalists from the traditionally Labour-loyal The Mirror, Dawn Alford and Tanith Carey, entrapped the unfortunate William - apparently known as ‘Whizz’ to his friends - into selling them 1.92 grams of cannabis for the princely sum of £10. It was reported on Christmas Eve that the “son of a cabinet minister” had been arrested for drug possession.   

There followed a torrent of hypocrisy and humbug from all quarters. The press had great fun playing ‘hunt the parent’ - even though, of course, all the papers knew from day one the identity of the cabinet minister involved. The general public were fed with clues each day. Anybody with access to the internet or who could read French had the opportunity to ‘finger’ Jack Straw long before last Tuesday - mainstream French newspapers available in London had the full story from the start.

This unsavoury cat and mouse game allowed the newspapers, particularly the tabloids, to simultaneously thunder about the “evils of drugs” and the importance of “press freedom”. Perfect. Meanwhile the rest of official society is sucked into a thoroughly reactionary and downright dishonest debate about the war against drugs - which we all support, right?

The fact that the alleged drugs deal between William Straw and the Daily Mirror journalists took place in a pub has not been commented upon once. Surely this hopeless delinquent is guilty of under-age drinking? But we all know that this is generally regarded as a perfectly acceptable form of law breaking (and drug taking for that matter). We all know as well that drug taking - alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, etc - is rife amongst the journalistic community - many of them know about the drugs culture from ‘the inside’. Yet they like to pose as moral guardians.  

The hypocrisy becomes even more pronounced if you take a look at the new year honours list. On this list you will find a certain Sir Elton John, a man not exactly famous for his clean living. Not a word said though.

Jack ‘man of steel’ Straw made the best out of a bad job. When confronted by The Mirror with the incriminating evidence he grassed up his own son. He took young William down the police station, and managed to make political capital out of being the concerned parent (and citizen) who did his duty. The ‘war against drugs’ continues, no matter what the personal cost.

In reality it is a war waged against the working class. It is overwhelmingly working class kids who end up going before the courts - not middle class ones. The inhabitants of leafy Hampstead Heath puff away with no fear of the police knocking down the door in the middle of the night. Oxford University, for instance, is a well known drugs den - the hard stuff is freely available. Funnily enough though, it is not often you read about the drug squad raiding Oxford University and arresting students in the middle of the night (giving them a good kicking in the process).

Nor are Jack Straw’s proposed ‘parenting classes’ intended for the middle classes - let alone himself. This is an authoritarian, nanny-ish measure to be directed against working class parents - single mothers in particular. Anybody forced to attend ‘parenting classes’ will be further stigmatised and alienated from society.

The state uses anti-drugs laws to intervene in and regulate our lives - to make us into ‘productive’ citizens (parliament has its bars open 24-hours a day). The licensing laws concerning alcohol were introduced during World War I. The state was concerned that drunkenness amongst the workers in the munitions factories might have an deleterious effect on the production drive. So they cracked down, making it difficult for workers to drink all night, or get a crafty one in first thing in the morning. A clear head and soberness was necessary for imperialism.

Drug taking goes back to the dawn of humanity. They form an integral part of human culture. Therefore drugs need to be socialised - legalised. In and of itself no drug is anti-social - including ‘hard drugs’ like crack cocaine or heroin. It is their illegality and the general social-economic - ie, material - conditions and circumstances that breed damaging behaviour, not the actual drug. We need a war against alienation, not drugs.

Eddie Ford