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How Maoist Revolution Wiped Out Drug Addiction in China
by C. Clark Kissinger

In the United States today, ending drug addiction seems impossible. The system claims to be ``fighting drugs'' -- with cops, new medications, religion, new therapies, and ``just say no'' campaigns. But despite all of this the drug problem won't go away -- while armed police enforcers harass and brutalize the people.

Why? Because this dog-eat-dog system causes drug use, and because powerful forces within the system profit off of drug sales. The production, transportation and sale of drugs is a multi-billion-dollar business. It is run by big-time capitalists who have ties throughout the U.S. government, the CIA and the police. Meanwhile, the top rulers of this system blame the people for the ``drug problem'' -- especially poor ghetto youth.


How do we know? Because after Maoist revolution won in China, in 1949, the people themselves led by the Communist Party of China used Maoist methods to wipe out drug addiction. This experience and these methods are very relevant to the world today!

Revolutionaries all over the planet are studying the contributions of Mao Tsetung, the greatest revolutionary of our time. And they are teaching the people how Mao's theory and practice can show people today how to liberate themselves. On Mao's 100th birthday, December 26, 1993, celebrations of the Mao Centenary went into high gear.

This story of how Maoist Revolution ended drug addiction shows that ``WHEN REVOLUTION HAS ITS DAY, PEOPLE SEE THINGS A DIFFERENT WAY.''

Old China Had the World's Biggest Drug Problem

Before Mao's revolution won, in 1949, the people of China were miserably poor, ruled by a handful of rich landowners, warlords and foreign capitalists.

Under that old society, many people were strung out on the pipe. There were 70 million junkies in China -- addicted to opium, morphine and heroin. Half-starving laborers used the sweet opium dreams to cover the pain of hunger and hopelessness. And the lazy rich used drugs to fill up their empty hours. In some areas everyone even children, smoked opium. In the cities, tiny bottles of drugs were sold on the streetcorners like ice cream. People got high on the job.

The people of old China suffered terribly from this drug addiction. Many poor people used their pennies on the pipe instead of food. Addicts often abandoned their children or even SOLD their children to buy more drugs. Addicted women were often forced to become prostitutes and many died of diseases.

How the System Started this Drug Addiction

Drugs were forced on China by the rich colonialists of Europe and America. The British government even waged the famous Opium War in 1839 to force China to accept opium brought on English ships. Malcolm X wrote: ``Imagine! Declare war upon someone who objects to being narcotized!''

This drug trade started because big capitalists could make fortunes selling addictive drugs, and because colonialist governments needed that trade to finance their takeover of China itself. Corrupt Chinese officials profited too, by helping the foreign capitalists enslave the people. This is similar to the way the U.S. ruling class helped create today's worldwide plague of drug addiction. The U.S. ruling class is tied into the drug traffic at all levels -- they often organize it, finance it and defend it. In the 1960s, the CIA flooded heroin into oppressed communities to pay for their secret war in Laos. Then, in Reagan's 1980s, the CIA expanded cocaine traffic to finance their secret war against Nicaragua. U.S. drug companies make profit off speed and downers which are sold in both legal and ``illegal'' ways. The official connection goes down to the street level -- where cops demand their ``cut'' of drug profits.

The experience of both China and the U.S. shows why this system can never solve drug addiction. The system causes the suffering and isolation that makes many people escape into drugs. The system uses drug addiction to weaken the people and enslave them. And all kinds of capitalists and officials then make big money from drugs. In short, this system CAUSES drug addiction and profits from it.

In China, the Maoist revolution ended drug addiction QUICKLY. Mao's revolutionary armies defeated the oppressors' armies in 1949. THREE YEARS LATER, in 1952, there were no more addicts, no more pushers, no more opium poppies grown, and no more drugs smuggled in. In only three short years China went from 70 million drug addicts to none.

How Did the Maoist Revolution End Drug Addiction?

In China, the revolution created a People's Liberation Army and then a new People's Government. This government and the revolutionary masses were led by the Maoist vanguard party, the Communist Party of China. When the revolution won in 1949, the power in society SERVED THE PEOPLE for the first time, not the oppressors. There were big problems of all kinds, left over from the old society. But now it was possible for the people to be organized in their own interests to solve those problems.

From the first months of the NEW POWER, the revolution used the Maoist method of MASS LINE to take on drug addiction. This campaign did not rely on social workers talking down to the people or on punishments. The revolutionary communists relied on THE MASSES OF PEOPLE -- throughout cities and countryside -- to organize themselves to end drug manufacturing, sale and use.

The Maoist revolutionaries called on the addicts themselves to step forward, kick their habit and join the struggle for a new society. The Maoist revolutionaries organized the people in the communities to struggle with their addicted brothers and sisters: to persuade them and educate them. Ex-addicts and their families joined big marches and rallies. Drugs were burned at neighborhood celebrations. Kids were organized in their schools. The NEW POWER meant that the newspapers and radio were mobilized to support the revolutionary campaign.

It was hard to kick the habit, and many addicts resisted at first. But the masses knew if an addict was still copping drugs. Children argued with parents. Wives argued with husbands. Everyone asked the addicts to get with the new society.

At the same time, the revolutionaries organized the people to bust up the business networks that sold drug poison to the people. This meant that supplies were disappearing -- it was getting harder and harder for addicts to stay high.

In short, the struggle against drug addiction became a large-scale mass movement -- the kind of mass movement only a true revolutionary government of the people can create.

Ending Drug Addiction Is Part of the CLASS Struggle

Mao Tsetung said "UNITE ALL WHO CAN BE UNITED AGAINST THE REAL ENEMY." In China, the vanguard taught people that ending drug addiction was part of the CLASS STRUGGLE against the old society -- and people were urged to make clear distinctions between the people and the enemy.

The Maoists said that the system and its big-time supporters should be considered enemies, and that the addicts should be considered part of the people and should be treated as victims of the system. This is the opposite approach from the pig-cops and most religious preachers who act like ``the system is OK'' and who treat addicts like human trash and criminals.

Because of these class distinctions, addicts were not arrested when they ``went public.'' Instead, the people praised the addicts for doing the RIGHT AND REVOLUTIONARY thing. Because the people were in power, the addicts eventually lost their fear of seeking help. Deadlines were set: addicts got several months to get clean. During this period, they could keep a little opium and they were given injections to ease the muscle cramps of withdrawal.

Mao's revolutionary government also said small-time drug dealers would not be treated as Enemies of the People -- IF these small-time operators helped end the drug trade. The revolutionary government offered small-time dealers a one-time-only deal: Mao's government bought out all ``the product'' that small dealers and growers had. In exchange, these small-time operators had to get out of the drug business for good. Some small-time drug dealers resisted this deal -- they were called out by the people and arrested. Some were put under constant neighborhood surveillance, others went to prison to be re-educated.

This revolutionary policy treated all poor people as brothers and sisters. Poor addicts and dealers got ``A WAY OUT'' of the drug trade. They were given jobs and were encouraged to join the struggle for a new society.

A different approach was taken toward the big-time drug traffickers who got rich off the suffering of the people. They were classified "Enemies of the People." These big-time criminals were put on trial in front of thousands of people. People whose lives were ruined by drugs testified against them. These big-time oppressors got COLD HARD JUSTICE: life in prison or public execution. There weren't many such executions -- only five or ten in the largest cities.

Mao's Anti-Addiction Campaign was a Great Success

By the end of 1951 the New China News Agency announced that the drug problem had been ``fundamentally wiped out'' in northern China (which had been liberated first). Southern China, which included many opium-growing areas, took another year or so.

The fact that there was a new revolutionary STATE POWER made all this possible: There was new money issued and revolutionary control of banking that stopped money laundering. The discipline and consciousness of the revolutionary movement meant that drug dealers couldn't buy off people in the new government. And the development of a new SOCIALIST economy meant that it was possible to provide jobs and eliminate the poverty that forced people into the drug trade.

China had almost no drug addiction for over twenty years. Then it came back, after 1976. This is because the Maoist revolution was overthrown. As soon as old-style capitalism came back, drug addiction started to reappear. In a bitter way, this capitalist restoration also shows how YOU CAN'T FREE THE PEOPLE WITHOUT MAKING REVOLUTION AND THEN STAYING ON THE REVOLUTIONARY ROAD.

Maoist revolution rejected the whole BOURGEOIS approach to drugs: Maoism is not about a few reforms, ``some money for drug rehabilitation.'' It's not about individual ``solutions'' through one-on-one therapy. It's not about filling prisons with addicts while allowing big capitalists to get rich on drug trade. It is not about the hypocrisy and useless moralism of the preachers. Any talk about getting rid of drugs without proletarian revolution is just a pipe dream.

Mao's revolution was about real solutions -- it was about stopping the terrible slavery to drugs, and stopping the capitalist drug trade that profited off people's suffering. And lots of other oppression was being wiped out too. Using Maoist methods, the revolutionary masses got rid of prostitution, sale of children, brutal poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, wife beating, crime, police brutality, and so on. The revolution completely changed the lives and thinking of millions and millions of people. It led the people to do things that were unthinkable only a couple years before.

MAOIST REVOLUTION WORKS because it gets to the root of the problems: Maoist revolution overthrows the oppressors and their old system, and then relies on the masses to continue the revolution and build a whole new society.

That's what it's gonna take here too: a revolution. Real change is way past due.

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A longer version of this article is available as a pamphlet from RCP Publications, and originally appeared in RW #734.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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