-David A. Marin
If the bourgeois state is a reactionary, capitalist state, therefore it acts similar to a large, monopolist corporation: it exploits the mass of people, the backbone of society – industrial workers, peasants and even the craftsmen/artisans/artists, the urban middle classes and so forth. It generates profit for a select amount of corrupt politicians acting as instruments for the real, economic oligarchs that have conquered the state mechanism, and acts as a “private” enterprise, under the guise and imagery of a national flag.
The institutions of the state are thus also corrupt in the same way. For instance, if the state in question first represents the interest of the ruling class, so does the police and the military, for capitalism acts here like a disease that infiltrates every limb of the organism. While good, honest working-class people might be part of those institutions, them as a whole will nonetheless still be reactionary and will still do harm to the essential mass of people.
While communists can organize within these state institutions against their often-reactionary missions, it is important to remember the premise – the institutions reflect the state, and the capitalist state reflects the interests of capital. The law itself might become, more or less, an instrument of oppression. Therefore, the vanguard, the communists need to look towards those outside the law with interest and understanding – the common misfits, the lumpen-proletariat, the outlaw exhibitionists with their controversial pleasures and occupations, these are nonetheless still part of the disenfranchised masses.
Recall ’60s America – without accepting and integrating the “freaks” into the communist movements, groups such as the Yippies and the Weather Underground wouldn’t have risen like they did, and would have been doomed to fall even earlier than they started withering away. To develop into an even more particular theme regarding what is outside the law: all the small, little people pushing scientifically harmless herbs such as cannabis on dark alleys are not degenerates, but simply part of the alienated mass, in the same bowl with the other oppressed classes despite working outside of regular norms and conventions. Moralism is not a key aspect of Marxism – be it the herbs they smoke, be it the sexual relations they maintain and their loud, bawdy parties, these people nonetheless do not accumulate large amounts of wealth and do not oppress – they also generate income for wealthy gang-lords or drug emperors, but that doesn’t make their manifestation and their enjoyment of certain substances wrong.
Are the oppressed Native Americans doing any harm in ritual practices where they ingest mushrooms? They are not – and they wouldn’t be at fault, and nor would the psychedelic brew inherently, if a local chief would create a monopoly and start generating personal fortunes from an illegal mushroom-pushing deal. Once again, we see class: the bourgeois might be within or outside the law and may sail this line as it might desire, while those at the bottom might be either within or outside of it as well, but since the law of a country is a manifestation of the interests of the ruling class, this does not make the unlawful downtrodden any more or less “degenerated” than the lawful.
It is also important to analyze some of the particularities of how law enforcement works based on class. Wealthy crime lords, for instance, are usually protected by the state machinery through, in most cases, a form of passivity, of turning a blind eye. In return, the wealthy crime lords finance corrupt politicians and corrupt policemen, and every now and then they provide the authorities with information about smaller pushers, who end up suffering persecution – the press will perhaps make a big scene, a big event out of a local drug capture, the police will use this as an opportunity to advertise itself to the “good, law-abiding” common folk (perhaps organize a ball or a prom!) and act as if something has changed in terms of crime rate or in terms of how society functions.
Obviously, the real dangers of organized crime come from the top down, but the top is usually unaffected by the activities of the law (and it usually sails that line between outside and inside of the law) – generally, those who suffer are those who are thrown into these businesses because of poverty and a harmful environment, while the crime lords inherit their crowns.When it comes to some of the dealings of the outlaw-downtrodden, some of these occupations are not inherently wrong but are plagued by the element of class in practice. Let us tackle a subject that is quite popular today.
Most scientific research lists more benefits than negative consequences when it comes to the medical and recreational consumption of cannabis. There is a generally established consensus across the globe now, and more and more people every day come to the terms with the fact that this is simply an herb that mankind has used for ages in many constructive ways, and obviously one that can also be abused in less constructive ways. Similar (but less harmful) to alcohol, there is no reasonable Marxist argument to be made against it, no reasonable argument to be made for full criminalization unless one confounds Marxism with Stoicism! Something which is sadly quite popular among some circles. Marxism does not want to rip man from pleasure, and those who rise such cases under the guise of radicalism are being extremely naïve and unreasonable, alienating many people who would otherwise be incredibly open to radical Marxist politics.
Some try to say that it is the bourgeois that consumes cannabis! Plants are plants, their social nature is one that we distribute towards them as a society, they do not have social concepts inherent in them. The fact that is so happens that, in some cities, in some countries, the working class will have less access to cannabis should not be used to vilify the herb. Look at the United States – one of the reasons that cannabis was illegalized in the 20th century was the fact that it was harmful towards the interests of big pharmaceutical capital and it was also a means to attack the working class (especially the Mexican and Black communities). Decades later, the war on drugs by and large was a war on people – a war on the ghetto, a war on the downtrodden. Even today many Black people in the United States suffer unjustifiably brutal police treatments and incredibly large prison sentences for selling nothing more than a joint on the street – or for being found in possession of some kind of other substance. They then end up usually working for less than a few cents an hour in private prisons – an industry, a slave industry that benefits capital.
Drug abuse of any kind, and especially when it comes to harder substances, is first of all a medical problem. The justice system should not be the key champion against drug abuse – the champion here should be a thorough and compassionate medical program, related to both physical and mental health. Portugal, which is by no means a socialist country (yet it is one that acts more rational on this topic), has decriminalized all drugs – when somebody is found in possession, the person is helped, not arrested. If it is decided that they are not doing excessive harm to themselves or to those around them, they are, well, free to party – if it is decided that they need assistance, they are given assistance, even free drug rehabilitation programs.
The country managed to reduce drug abuse by half. Imagine a socialist project – where people are no longer the slaves of capital, no longer disenfranchised, no longer alienated by a cold, horrendous machine that subjugates their lives. This is a grand factor in generating warmer, healthier, stronger communities and social relations between people, and in ensuring that the essential mass of society has a purpose. Drug abuse, and usually abuse of any kind, finds its root in the alienation that we face in our day to day lives. Give meaning to people, and give freedom to people, both at the same time – emancipate them from capital, but give to them the freedom to live as they desire as long as they do not oppress others, and you shall see how tragedies such as drug overdoses will wither away by each passing day.
It is only through such lines that we can approach the outlaw-downtrodden. Marxists who believe denouncing these people and all of their practices and occupations as “degenerate” and whatnot do nothing more than alienating and antagonizing people who could otherwise be nothing more and nothing less than revolutionaries. The class interest of the outlaw-downtrodden are in the line with the interests of today’s global working class.
Do not fall into bourgeois moralism, do not fall into those preaching it under the guise of Marxism, and learn to approach the realities that we live in according to our revolutionary interests and for the benefit of the people. Marxism is an evolving science, and we must fight any attempt of associating social-conservatism with Marxist economics as it is nothing but a counter-productive endeavor, nothing but self-sabotage.
Yes, at large I also want to imply what most Marxists would think it would be unthinkable to end with in an analytical essay: the next time you visit your ‘guy’, comrades, bring him a communist pamphlet. It might be more effective than you think.