In the last three issues of this paper we've discussed the drugs problem in Dublin. In this article Dermot Sreenan adds more points to this debate. This problem is a very serious one and there is a continuing debate within the Workers Solidarity Movement as to how it should be tackled.
"I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour but heaven knows I'm
HEROIN, the drug and all it's side effects, personal, political and social are alive and well in this city. Workers Solidarity has covered this issue on many occasions and we've tried to address this subject at some length. Why? Heroin mainly effects the poorer working class areas of this city. For a long time it wasn't viewed as a problem by the state authorities, for that precise reason. Large sections of the working class in areas like Gallenstown, Darndale, Ballymun, the south western suburbs and the inner city have been isolated and left to live with all the side effects of capitalism but with precious little support. That is the nature of the beast. In a system designed to ruthlessly pursue profit and money, people's lives, hopes, dreams or happiness have no part to play. It is in these communities that heroin is most visible. These are the areas of our city that were left for dead by the authorities decades ago.
It is a major achievement in itself that communities decided to get organised and act against their collective enemy, heroin. Smack has been eating at the soul of this city for too long and people decided to fight it. This fight has successfully focused the nation's eyes on the epidemic of heroin addiction which is sweeping Dublin again. The public were forced to pay attention.
We should remember this. All too quickly the politicians were jumping on board and saying that they were going to lead a crusade against the crime bosses and dealers. "Operation Dochas " was set up on the tide of emotion that swelled when Veronica Guerin was gunned down. Fianna Fáil sickeningly used the image of anti-drugs protesters marching though a flat complex in one of their pre-election cinema adverts. The implication being that these godfathers of corruption had for once been involved in a real campaign to help ordinary people. They weren't.
They were just being their usual populist selves and saying that they would solve the problem for us. They won't. Few politicians had even begun to address this issue in ten years. A decade ago it took the actions of the Concerned Parents Against Drugs to raise the issue. People had to rise up and take to the streets to try and stop the systematic destruction of their communities.
Drugs are here and the question now is what do we do about them? Heroin, and increasingly crack cocaine, are the drugs that are always found in the poorest areas of a city. This is no coincidence in a system that has been grossly negligent of the needs of people. Poverty and depression are the outcome. People are all too used to seeing a bleak future being mapped out in front of them and drugs are one of the escape routes available. Heroin is used as one of those escape routes and this is not surprising when it's sometimes selling at £10 a bag on your street. Alcoholism is also rife. Anything that can be used, will be used to give a partial release from that reality.
Heroin is a killer drug. It is the major reason for the spread of HIV infection in Dublin. It is causing all kinds of medical problems. In any hospital in Dublin if you sit in casualty long enough another overdose case will arrive. It's effects are not just chemical or medical but they are also social. It almost inevitably leads to a life of crime as junkies need to get the money for their fix. It is thought that as much as 80% of 'petty' crime is caused by this need. It is known that some users turn to prostitution, thieving, and pushing smack themselves in order to get enough money to feed their habits. This one example of how heroin is destroying communities.
We in the WSM have explained in detail why we think heroin is different from other drugs. As anarchists we believe that freedom is vitally important. This freedom is not an exclusive one and includes the freedom to choose to take drugs. For this reason in a previous issue of this paper we said that"we call for the decriminalisation of drugs, to allow people to make up their own minds on what they will use, and to make the circumstances under which they make that choice as safe as possible."
Heroin, obviously, seriously effects the end-user but it also effects the communities where it is widespread. It is a drug that is anti-social and therefore effects the freedom of others. It is for this reason that people are organising against pushers in their communities. We believe that everything must be done to try and ensure that the addict-pushers are given every chance to get onto a detox program. We all know that it is no solution to just kick a pusher onto the streets or force them into another community where the same problems will arise. Proper facilities must be provided in the areas effected, such as needle exchanges, detox programs and the social support required to recover from addiction.
Drugs campaigns cannot just concentrate on dealing with addicts and pushers. They must fight for the facilities which will get people off smack and ensure that they stay off. Education is vital to this and should also be an important arm of any anti-drugs campaign.
The State has deliberately ignored the real issues, and people have to fight for funding for the necessary facilities to be provided. Some GP's deal with addicts but many won't. The state should be pouring in the resources to deal with this problem, and some of those resources could go towards ensuring that if addicts want to they can get off and stay off junk.
Heroin should be available through doctors being able to prescribe it to addicts. This would be a way of controlling the problem, ensuring medical treatment for the side-effects, lowering crime, and possibly eliminating the pusher from our society. It would also be a step towards giving people back their dignity and allowing them the possibility of getting off this poison.
The people who deal in heroin on the street are usually the people with the habit to feed. If you take the reason for dealing away then you are going some way towards lowering the possibility of more people getting turned on.
People have begun to do something positive to fight this problem. It had to be done. The fact that thousands of people have taken to the streets on this issue is like a cry for survival. They do not wish to see their communities destroyed, or their sons' or daughters' or neighbours' lives destroyed. But the reason why heroin is here is central. Poverty and inequality are the reasons why the future has been stolen from before people's eyes.
We must have a belief that we can make a better future than the one capitalism is predicting for us right now. The fight against heroin in this city is a positive one, but we are dealing with a symptom of the real deal. It is just one part of the fight. We must also begin to fight the root cause of poverty, alienation, and deprivation. When we begin to fight this we will be beginning to map out a new future for ourselves.