An international drugs war on workers

New Zealand was locked into an anti-drug war / policy through United Nations policy, where NZ and most of the world, were forced by the United States (US) into their anti-drug / war on drugs policies. In drug policy NZ are lapdogs to the USA policy. Internationally, the US war on drugs has given the U.S. another excuse to justify its campaigns and interventions into other nations. US lies have clearly been exposed: the Iran-contra scandal showed the CIA was involved in drug dealings. In the US, the “War on Drugs” has given the USA an excuse for imprisoning the highest proportion of the working class, in the world. The USA spent heaps on keeping state forces in practice, police and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Law on Drugs

Drug laws are a frequent sideshow in the parliamentary circus. In the last month we have had Jim Anderton introduce Joe Walsh in the “fight against ‘P’” and the Green party has re-released its policy. Anderton plays on people’s fears by saying he is fighting organized crime with his anti-drug policy. In the workplace, employers are trying to make drug testing mandatory and to justify this level of control of the working class.

US lapdog: Jim Anderton

The Associate Minister of Health in the Labour lead NZ government sounds off with the same fighting anti-drug talk, typical of US policy.

Joe Walsh was happy to come to NZ because he is a born again drug-free rocker, who found god with in some Maori spiritual experience. He was ready to weigh in against drugs. Jim Anderton was borrowing Joe Walsh as support for a war on drugs.

Anderton tours NZ to promote himself as a politician who is doing something to protect communities. His initiative is a spin for himself, without real solutions to the problems. His only solution is police control, and ambulances to pick up the pieces.

He now says lowering the drinking age was a mistake, (but good for the taxes). And that alcohol is the main drug problem in NZ. (I doubt that Alcohol will ever become illegal – the taxes on it are too good).

Restaurant & Hotel workers threatened

“Prevalent drug use” had prompted the Restaurant Association to launch a drug and alcohol education programme, said chief executive Neville Waldren. According to research by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), up to 40 per cent of the New Zealand workforce had tried illegal drugs at least once over the past 12 months. The employers group thinks that: drug abuse was the number one cause of workplace violence and workplace theft in the restaurant industry.

Mr Waldren said because of the social nature of the hospitality industry, combined with the relative youth of the workforce, the 40 per cent figure held true for the hospitality and food service sectors. The Restaurant Association/ESR has promoted employment agreements that allowed drug testing.

Was this an attempt of the part-privatised (now competitive – commercialized) former Department of Industrial and Scientific Research (DSIR) to gain some business? They are the testing agency in the NZ. Has the commercial pressure (capitalist profit motive) over-ridden the ethics of scientific practices?

"We see this as a crucial health and safety issue. Kitchens can be hazardous places to work ... and for front of house, it is essential our staff act in a professional manner ... A barman or waitress under the influence of drugs or alcohol does not live up to that image."

Union criticises bosses’ drug testing plan

The Service and Food Workers Union has condemned employers in the hospitality industry. Union spokesman Alistair Duncan said if the industry had the welfare of its customers and its workers at heart, it would put money into training, improving wages and, for the tiny proportion of staff that had drug problem, providing assistance.

Mr Duncan said that, "just because 40 per cent of workers may have tried illegal drugs once over the past 12 months doesn't mean all of that percentage has a problem that is affecting their work." A court case between Air New Zealand and the Engineers Union, earlier this year had showed judges thought that widespread drug testing was not appropriate. The Employment Court in Auckland decided Air New Zealand could drug test some of its employees in specific circumstances. The court found that the Health and Safety in Employment Act and general law imposed "absolute duties on employers to take all practicable steps to eliminate hazards to employees and others". Because of this, the court said, it was reasonable that employers should be able to take measures, including drug testing, in "safety-sensitive areas".

Fighting unions could claw back pay rates and overtime for working anti-social hours. Let’s fight in the unions for protection against unnecessary shift-work, and against long hours for youth.

Green Party

The Green Party had a re-release of their drug policy. Capitalist class makes drug policies that control the working class, and that make sure workers are fit and ready for work, the Green Party policy is no different. They do not go so far as to advocate the legalisation of cannabis. Rather the Greens just re-classify the drugs on a scale of bad to worse. Their scale is from illegal in some situations to illegal in all situations. This leaves workers vulnerable to police harassment using the excuse of suspected drug use or trafficking.

A Marxist explanation

Drug use has been an aspect of all cultures. Drug use in current society occurs for many reasons, at different levels. A Marxist explanation, which the capitalist class will not wish to acknowledge, is that some workers may use drugs to cope with the alienation of the working class from the means of production and the fruits of our labour. Or that the some of the working class use drugs to cope with the stress of their work, Or to try to have a social life as well as work.

Marxists see drug use on a social scale as a symptom of capitalist exploitation. The real solution is the overthrow of a capitalist system, the sharing out of work, and the creation of meaningful community that truly belongs to us all. This would take out the capitalist motor that drives many people to try drugs to escape harsh realities.

To counter the capitalist anti-drug policies Marxists argue for the legalisation of all drugs. Why legalise?  No excuse for as many police. The police are used as strike breakers in times of working class resistance, the less organized state forces that may act against workers, the better. Fewer police raids. Legalisation of drugs would remove one excuse of the police for raiding workers in their homes and / or searching people in their cars or walking down the street.

Less unpredictable reactions. If drugs were made in standardized laboratories then they could come at a predictable strength and quality. Like, tobacco (nicotine) other drugs could be sold with warning labels on them. Unlike cigarettes currently – it is possible to measure the drug content (e.g. amount of nicotine) and print that ‘dose’ on the labels. This is beginning to occur with alcohol; “standard drinks”.

Crime would decrease. There would be easier access to drugs and the price would fall, so there would be less and less money to be made through drug trafficking. When the price fell drugs would be more affordable, and so theft (to fund drug use) would occur less. Would the market price of “P” be so high if it was a legal drug? No – 40 years ago amphetamines (speed or ‘P’) used to be available as a diet pills on a prescription and affordable to workers.

Fight in your unions
Resist drug testing in the workplace
Protection from harsh hours of work, especially for youth
Overtime rates for anti-social working hours
Legalise all drugs : Ditch the US / UN war on drugs policy
Workers control of the production and packaging for all drugs
Against police control of workers 

From Class Struggle 58 October-November 2004

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