This week in my post-prohibition series we’ll be highlighting the link between Fascist ideology and Prohibition.
We’ll be exploring how the war on drugs and prohibition perpetuates classism, racism and other fascist ideologies.
Fascists are authoritarian by nature, attempting to exhort their will through force to make others succumb to their way of being and thinking. Prohibition is, as we’ve previously discussed, a racist social control mechanism, and as it turns out, also the perfect tool for fascist governments and dictators around the globe.
Harry J. Anslinger is the bigoted and racist father of drug prohibition. However, it is another man, a modern manifestation of this warped worldview, the new US attorney general Jeff Sessions that seems to embody Anslinger’s ignorance.
He sees being nominated by Trump as a personal mission to roll back the clocks of progress on drug reform and stoke the dying embers of the war on drugs by going after America’s favourite floral scapegoat, Cannabis.
Making outlandish statements like “Good people don’t smoke marijuana” will only alienate the tens of millions of Americans in 8 legal states and 29 Medical states; regular folk who are consuming cannabis daily without it detrimentally affecting their health, job, moral compass or jeopardising their standing in their community in any way. Their only worry comes from bigoted and stigmatising statements made by antiquated politicians and the draconian policies they seek to reinstate.
Just last month, Jeff Sessions set about reviving failed, three-decade-old reefer madness rhetoric straight out of the Nancy Reagan propaganda playbook. Homaging the failed “Just say No” campaign by paraphrasing it, saying that “We’ve got to reestablish first a view that you should say no. People should say no to drug use”
“It doesn’t strike me that the country would be better if it’s being sold on every street corner. We do know that legalization results in greater use.” – Jeff Sessions This is a fundamentally untrue and misleading statement, as shown in a fortuitously timed and recently released study – legalisation doesn’t increase consumption. Furthermore, Sessions completely ignores the fact that Cannabis is already available on every street corner, it’s just currently unregulated and untaxed.
The Nazis are an interesting study when it comes to fascism and drugs. They certainly utilised a plethora of substances on the battlefield during the second world war, giving new meaning to the term “War on drugs”. But it’s their domestic policy and approach that is most of interest and relevance to today’s topic.
While the party ultimately allowed drugs to be utilised on the frontline, they, at least when first ceasing power were rather anti-drugs, establishing the Rauschgiftbekämpfung (Reich Working Committee for Combating Drugs) and were proponents of prohibiting access to certain drugs believing that this policy would help the push for cleaner, sober and more orderly citizenry.
The Nazi government was actually the first society on German soil and one of the first societies in the world to adopt such a strict anti-drugs policy. It is interesting that as efforts were being made on the other side of the Atlantic to ramp up the war on drugs, the Third Reich’s attitude toward drug policy was beginning to evolve. As the war intensified the Nazis tolerance towards drug use grew especially to ones deemed useful to the war effort, primarily stimulants and painkillers.
In 1938 the then-Berlin-based drug maker Temmler Werke launched its Methamphetamine compound, Pervitin, which was hailed as “a true miracle drug that could keep tired pilots alert and an entire army euphoric” by physiologist and university professor Otto Ranke.
This lead to him advising that the drug be utilised by the Wehrmacht (The unified Nazi armed forces) and marking the start of a new kind of warfare. The pharmaceutical arms race between warring nations had begun, later leading to the CIA’s failed attempts to weaponise LSD.
This is well documented in the book by Norman Ohler, Blitzed which among other subjects explores the obvious hypocrisies of ruling elites and high up party members espousing purity and sobriety while indulging to excess and fuelling the war effort on narcotics.
The same hypocrisy can be observed in the fact that numerous MPS continue to be caught up in sex and drug scandals – it will come as no surprise that the toilets at the house of commons have tested positive for cocaine.
So at this point in history, the Nazi philosophy was more of viewing addicts and addiction as an illness and dealing with it as a health issue and not a failing of morality, the antithesis of the approach adopted by America, which blamed the addict for their problem drug use labelling it a sin.
Addiction was generally accepted in Nazi Germany to be a curable disease. However, the fascist regime used this disease label as a justification to murder those afflicted with the condition who were also of certain ethnic, religious or sexual persuasions, and those deemed a burden on society as part of the Aktion T4’s forced euthanasia program.
There are interesting parables between the government of Nazi Germany and our own under whom the racial disparity in stop and search has increased. It is now the case in this country that if you are black, you are 8 times more likely to be stopped and searched and 4 times more likely if you belong to an ethnic minority.
These people are profiled and accused of carrying drugs based solely on the colour of their skin or their ethnicity. This kind of persecution is the same discriminatory mechanism used under the Nazis to filter out white drug users from ethnic ones who are then disproportionately punished and penalised just like the US system which incarcerates more people for drug possession and use than any country on Earth. The land of the free is home to the largest prison population on the planet, and this is disproportionately made up of Black and Latino men who are targets and victims of institutional racism.
Most religions are also proponents of prohibition: religions are social control structures that justify the prohibition of certain drugs while praising others as “god’s law”. Most of the countries where you can still get the death penalty for drugs offences are ubiquitously religious and have extremely authoritarian rulers and subsequently excessively harsh drug policies.
Interestingly Iran may be seeking to break this rule by decriminalising some drugs in an attempt to disrupt the relationship between drug addicts and drug traffickers.
The Philippino president Rodrigo Duterte is a prime example of how prohibitive policies can be enforced in a vicious, violent and authoritative way. His recent countries hyperbolisation of the war on drugs has seen thousands of suspected drug users, dealers and political rivals murdered by fellow citizens, vigilante gangs, police and the national drug agency in one of the bloodiest interpretations and implementations of prohibitive policies in recent times.
This is an insane juxtaposition when contrast with the country’s recent decision to legalise Cannabis for medicinal use. However, the genocidal prohibitionist president has warned that: “If you just smoke it like a cigarette, I will not allow it ever,”
“It remains to be a prohibited item and there’s always a threat of being arrested and If you choose to fight the law enforcement agency, you die,”
Another example of prohibition taken to its extreme ideological ends is Maoist China and its massive reduction in opioid consumption following the Chinese revolution in the late 1940’s. Which had been a huge problem for the country for over a century, thanks, in large part to the British.
It is estimated that before 1950, as many as 20 million Chinese were drug addicts. To solve this problem, Mao had the People’s Liberation Army execute the drug dealers and forced millions of addicts into compulsory treatment. All in just twenty-four hours. reminiscent of Durete’s modern-day onslaught in the neighbouring Philippines.
Authoritarian and Totalitarian regimes are almost exclusively prohibitionists and firmly against the use of drugs like cannabis and classic psychedelics primarily because these substances broaden the consumer’s mind, cultivate new and unique ideas and concepts and can undo decades of cultural and societal conditioning in a single evening.
The drugs that are tolerated by these and even more moderate governments are seen as either vital tools that help society function or a necessary evil serving some archaic function regardless of the negative effects on the user and wider society.
Those with power will always seek to scapegoat drugs, blaming them for all of the ills of society as it is far easier than to attempt to understand the complex nature and causes of addiction and problematic drug use and how they’re deeply rooted in the very foundations of our culture and of society itself.
Cannabis is as much the future of the human race as it is our past and with this one plant we have the opportunity, the technology and the ability to end fascist ideology by eradicating the scarcity paradigm, which has been one of the main driving forces behind the spread of bigoted extremism, ignorance and fear, because when we all have enough, everyone is deemed worthy enough.
Ultimately, you cannot have a society which is both free and drug-free.