How the Chinese Revolution ended Drug Addiction

9 out of 10 were addicted to drugs. Drug addiction was however erradicated in a few years – with help from the forces of the masses. How did this happen?

The goal to end drug addiction seemed impossible. Reactionaries all over the world claim that they are «fighting drugs», with police, relegion and all sorts of therapies and useless «say no to drugs»- campaigns. In spite of all this, the drug problem, which is experienced worldwide, does not disappear. Why is that? The answer is simple; because reactionary forces in the system profits of drug trade. Such trade is a natural consequence of capitalism.

The incredible change

Production, transportation and drug sales, is a industry worth incredibly many million kroners. Big business capitalists, with ties to the American government, CIA and the police, are at the forefront of drug trade in the world. While at the same time, reactionaries place the blame on emowerished people for the drug problem.

It might look bleak; as if nothing may solve this crisis. Communists during the Chinese revolution believed that all forms of oppression, all forms of shackles which holds the people down, including drug addiction, can be abolished.

When the revolutionary people’s army, victored over the reactionary forces which governed China, only 3 years went by before drug addiction, drugs, drug dealers, opium plantation and drug smuggling ceased to exist. In 3 short years China went from 70 million drug addicted to none.

A historical depiction

Before the revolution in 1949, the people lived in desperate poverty and was suppressed by a handful of rich warlords, foreign capitalists and other reactionaries. Because of the desperate povery, the miserable living conditions, in addition to constant war for several periods of time, people took opiates as an attempt to escape reality. By opium, heroin and morphine, but mostly opium.

Opium has a long history in China. Before the revolution China had the world’s biggest drug problem. It bloomed in the 1770ies, when England colonized India and Burma. Great Britain needed huge amounts of money to colonize the vast land areas. The solution was opium. Taxation on opium brought in the huge profits which Britain required, and she desided to begin the sale on «the most practical market»: China. From the 1770ies- until 1858 the supplies of opium increased, which flooded China from 220 coffins to 70 000.

Because drug addiction eventually erupted into crisis-like conditions, emperor Dao Guang realized that it started to become a substantial problem. He forbid all import of opium to the country. However, with the help of local smugglars British captains opposed the prohibiton, and continued to import big quantities of opium to China.

Opium was so widespread that in 1838 officials in the provinces of Guandong and Fujian rapported that 9 out of 10 was addicted to opium. The emperor took action by promoting a man by the name Lin Zexu to high commissioner. He received strict orders to get rid of opium in the entire country for good. He started by confiscating and destroying all opium supplies and pipes sold by Chinsese merchants. Lin put so much pressure on the smugglar ships to deliver the opium to him. This led to tension between China and Great Britain, and eventually erupted into the Opium Wars, which lasted from 1839 until 1842, and from 1856 until 1858. Because of Great Britains superior weapon power, China capitulated, and was therefore forced to remove the prohibition.

The American revolutionary Malcolm X wrote as follows regarding the opium wars: «Imagine! To declare war on someone who is opposed to being narcotified!»

As a backdrop for the wars, Great Britain claimed that they would teach the Chinsese a lesson about «free-trade». What they meant by this, was clear not long after; when ships of opium again began to head to China. The British sold the opium cheap, because of the enormous flood of opium, and to once again get a strong grip on the market.

From 1880 China imported 6500 tonns of opium each year, and growing of opium locally had also begun. Early in the 1900s, the amount of opium had increased to 22 000 tonn each year, which led China to become the worlds biggest producer of opium. Some of the many reactionary, which exploited this situation, was a syndicate by the name «The green gang», which united all the gangs to one big drug-syndicate.

The president of China during that era; Chiang Kai-Shek, was shaking from fear by the thought of a communist revolution, and therefore allied with The green gang in the battle against revolutionaries. On behalf of Chiang Kai-Shek, and the nationalist government, The green gang slaughtered thousands of communists, trade-unionists and innocent proletarians. As thanks, several members of The green gang was appointed to advisors in the nationalist government, amongst them their leader Du Yuesheng.

The situation was so desperate that starving workers abused opium to escape from the pain caused by hunger and hopelessnes. All people, included children, were addicted to opium in some areas. Small bottles of opium was being sold on street corners like ice cream, and many empoverished people used what little money they had on pipes instead of food. The addicted abandoned their children, and worse; sold their children to finance their own addiction.

Opium-addicted women was often indirectly forced to become prostitutes, and many died of illnesses. This misery was forced upon China by rich colonialists in Europe and America, by big business capitalists who made huge amounts on drug-sale, and because of the need for money to continue to colonize and ovetake China. All by the help of corrupt Chinese government officials.

In this way, the American ruling class continues to expand the drug trade on all levels. All the time, the ruling class organizes, finances and defends it. In the 60ies CIA flooded empoverished neighbourhoods with heroin, to finance US participation in the Civil War in Laos, and to strike down on riots. In the 80ies, under Reagan, CIA expanded the cocaine-trade to finance the war against Nicaragua. Reactionaries in US, and the world over, profits from drug trade.

A socialist China – a China without drug addiction

When the Chinese revolution victored in 1949, society experienced a total shift of power. For the first time there was a government which served the people in power – ordinary people, proletarians and peasants. There were many problems left from the old society, and one of the biggest problems was opium addiction. Chairman Mao erradicated this problem fast. In newspapers and radio, drugs was portrayed as a destroying element from the old society, a roadblock for success and a tool for reactionaries to force the people on their knees. And hence begun the big mobilization of people, and the revolutionary struggle against drugs which had ridden the country like a horse.

At this time there were many 10s of million drug addicted people in the country. The new government took on the task to tackle this enormous problem, and several measures were made. Already in the first months, the revolutionaries begun to incorporate the mass line to fight drug addiction. The communists were dependent on the masse’s own mobilization and organizing, to victor over the shackles which held the people down – which included the socialist struggle against opium.

Educating the people

Peasants everywhere which grew opium was requested to plough their opium crops to sow wheat or rice, instead. Neighbourhoods were mobilized to a big people’s educational program, which educated people about the dangers of drugs. Committees in every neighbourhood, which led these campaigns held study circles about the topic. The drug-addicted was surprized that they weren’t held accountable for- and shamed- for their addiction, in the new society which was on the rise. On the contrary, they were requested to seek help, and were praised for all progress. Together with the help they received, they were trained and received paid jobs. Many were hired by the government to work with other drug-addicted people.

The communists organized people to destroy networks of companies that poisoned the people by drugs. The struggle against drugs had become a big-scale mass movement. The reason being that there were mainly poor people which were addicted to drugs, and because of this class division, drug addicted people were not arrested when they were out in public. They were continueously praised when they participated in the revolutionary struggle. They were no longer afraid to seek help, because power was in the hands of the people.

The rehabilitating drug-addicted received deadlines of several months to become free of drugs. In this period, they also received injections by small doses, to ease the muscle cramps due to the decreased use of drugs. Pressure was put on the pushers. Those that gave in to the pressure, was accepted and was welcomed by society. They were furthermore trained to have meaningful work and was given jobs. The small-scale pushers was given one chance; they got to go free if they helped with ending the drug-trade. The Chinese government also bought all the opium from the pushers hands, in exchange the pushers would have to stop opium growth for good. The big-scale pushers, who made a fortune on ruining peoples lives, were brought in to people’s courts where victims of opium addiction testified against them. Unlike the old government, which was downright corrupted, the new government (controlled by the communist party) was based upon class conciousness and discipline. This made it impossible for big-scale pushers to bribe officials.

A socialist economy fights social need

The development of a socialist economy made it possible to offer jobs to all, and to erradicate poverty which had forced the people to start with drug-trade to begin with. New China (China’s official News Agency, also called Xinhua (edit.remark)) decleared that from 1951 the People’s Republic of China had practically eliminated its drug problem in the northern parts of China (which was liberated first). Approximately a little under a year went by before the southern parts of China also was completely rid of the drug problem. Getting rid of the crisis was hard, as well as the drug-addiction and the drug-problem; but they managed it through the mass line and a massive revolutionary mobilization of the people.

The situation today

Ending the drug-problem was a part of the class struggle against the old society. The big-scale pushers was viewed as enemy of the people, which poisoned the masses, whilst drug-addicted people was viewed as victims of the system. This is the opposite approachh from the ones used by cop-pigs and religious preachers-which claim that the system has no flaws and which treats addicted people as human garbage and criminals. Empoverished drug-addicted people were given a chance in China, and was offered a way out of the drug-addiction. They were offered jobs and was invited to participate in the struggle for a new and better society. Former big-scale pushers, which fled to Taiwan, was later sent back to China, as CIA-spies to investigate between 1962 and 1967. They concluded and reported back to the CIA that legitimate agricultural crops was being grown in areas where there had former been opium growth. They didn’t find a single trace of opium-growth.

Todays China is not Mao’s China

China was free of drugs for over 20 years, until the revisionist coup in 1976, where Deng Xiaoping came to power, and reinstated capitalism. Calculations from 2003, showed that there were 4 million drug-addicted in China, and according to «The Diplomant», this number is on the rise. A new drug-epidemic is becoming more widespread in China.

According to statistics published by the Chinese Supreme Court in 2012, drug criminality has more than doubled between the period between 2006-2011, with the number of accounts increased from 31, 350 to 69 751. Criminality related to drugs has increased in an average of 15 prosent, each year, from 2007-2011. In 2015, Lie Yuejin, the Vice president of China’s National Narcotics Control Commission, told Xinhua that it is estimated that over 14 million Chinese now are addicted to drugs. It seems like this number is going to increase the direction things are headed now. This is bitter proof of how people cannot be liberated from the shackles of drugs, without abolishing capitalism first.

The US led «War on drugs» is a «War on the poor»

The experiences of US’ «War on drugs», and the experiences from China, shows how today’s system can never solve the problem of drug addiction. The system is causing suffering and isolation, which makes people want to escape reality by drugs. Capitalism used drug addiction to weaken the people and making them slavebound. All sorts of big business capitalists earn huge sums of money on drugs. To sum it all up; the system causes drug addiction, and profits on it. The Chinese revolution rejected the bourgeois approach to the drug-problem. Socialism is not about giving more money to the state for rehabilitation-programs, like capitalist governments do. Socialism is not about filling jails with drug-addicted people, whilst big business capitalists, who gets richer off drug-trade, walks free. It is about giving real help to drug addicted people, and giving them meaning in life; to build a new and better society.

Real change requires the abolishion of capitalism

Today’s debate on society regarding how to get rid of drug addiction, without a proletarian revolution, is only a wish. It is about stopping the slavery which leads to drugs, and to stop the big-shot capitalistic drug-trade which profits on people’s suffering. The revolutionary masses in China got rid of drug addiction, prostitution, selling children, desperate poverty, illiteracy, abuse of women, police-brutality, and much more. The revolution changed the lives and completely changed the mode of thinking for millions of people. It led people to something which was unthinkable a few years eralier: to get rid of the drug addiction, by abolishing the capitalistic system.


C. Kistler

Also editor of Nouvelle Turquie.