Changing Anarchism: Anarchist Theory and Practice in a Global Age

By Jonathan Purkis; James Bowen | Go to book overview

Colin Craig


7
What did you do in the Drug War, Daddy?

Inhaling metaphor

The War on Drugs has been going on since US President Richard Nixon coined the term in the late 1960s. It appears at first sight to be a completely illogical concept: how, we might ask ourselves, can a war be fought against a conceptual term that defies definition? Of course, the War on Drugs refers to those drugs that have been proscribed by law and therefore deemed illegal, and it represents a conflict with the express intention of eradicating illicit substance use from the face of the planet. In actual fact, since the outset of the War on Drugs, there has been both a proliferation of drug use across the whole world and an enormous growth in the numbers of consumers. Former Eastern Bloc nations where drug use was previously virtually unknown now have huge burgeoning drug markets fuelled by the breakdown of borders, the growth in trade and ultimately by mass populations with a desire to seek out new forms of oblivion.

Wars of metaphor are an important element in modern political culture and the War on Drugs and the War on Terror are the latest in a long line, which most famously included the War on Poverty in the United States of the 1960s (Piven and Cloward, 1977). For the purposes of this argument it is important to see the War on Drugs and the War on Terror as crucially interlinked. The use of these particular metaphors has enabled the same secretive governing forces to extend conflicts across international boundaries without declaring war in a conventional sense. The consequences of these 'wars' have been the subjecting of populations to ever-increasing repression, monitoring and control in the name of a 'drug-free' and 'terror-free' world (even as governments actually profit from the international drug trade in the process). Moreover, these conflicts of metaphor represent a new asymmetrical form of warfare; one that can never be won, yet which must be constantly fought.

Anarchists and libertarian socialists have been historically uncomfortable with how to position themselves in relation to these issues. When it comes to drugs, should they be prohibitionists or libertines? Is legalisation good, bad or irrelevant? How does one deal with a drug pusher at the school gates or a liberal

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