Archive for May 11th, 2010

“Drugs and Police, the same filth.”

of banned ‘legal high’ substances – The Irish Times – Tue, May 11, 2010

following is a list of so-called ‘legal high’ drugs which are now
subject to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 under the Government Order.









substance structurally derived from 3–(1–naphthoyl)indole or 1H
–indol–3–yl–(1–naphthyl)methane by substitution at the nitrogen atom of
the indole ring by alkyl, alkenyl, cycloalkylmethyl, cycloalkylethyl or
2–(4–morpholinyl)ethyl, whether or not further substituted in the indole
ring to any extent and whether or not substituted in the naphthyl ring
to any extent.

On the road to Drogheda there’s an advertisement for a housing estate that displays the name of the estate in the shape of the Carlsberg logo. It appeared to be saying: buy your own house so you can drink to your heart’s content. I don’t know if this is a stupid or intelligent piece of advertising, but the point is that alcohol is an integral component of life itself.

Alcohol, and alcohol advertising, permeates all facets of life on this island, from sports tournament sponsorship to pre-sporting event activities to political organising. In the glaring absence of other public amenities, the pub -a site where the primary activity is drinking- becomes the default location for all manner of political meetings.

Although ‘pub’ is short for ‘public house’, these are by no means people’s spaces: many of the capital’s bars belong to companies traded on the stock market (the biggest of these belonged to the not-inappropriately-named but ill-fated ‘Capital Bars’) or are the property of would-be or once-were oligarchs (Buswells Hotel and Quinn’s in Drumcondra belong to the Quinn Group: instances of the politial-media-sport-financial-alcohol complex).

There is a popular romantic mythology that pubs are hotbeds of seditious collusion; the reality is that most pubs take active depoliticising measures in the interests of raising profitability, whether by raising the volume of music so as to render conversation impossible, or by erecting huge TV screens for sports events, placing sport at the centre of common interest.

It’s well known that alcohol consumption has devastating effects on mental health, but it is a priority of the State to keep people drinking. In a sop to the drinks industry in the last Budget, under the guise of stemming the flow of shoppers north of the border, Excise Duty was reduced on Beer and Cider by 12 cent (VAT inclusive) per pint, on Spirits by 14 cent (VAT inclusive) per half glass, and on Wine by 60 cent (VAT inclusive) per 75cl bottle. It’s therefore strangely fitting that the minister with responsibility for mental health is also a publican (grimly enough, he is also an undertaker).

There have been many people wondering out loud on airwaves and in media publications as to why the Irish population has been so apathetic in the face of such brutal attacks on living standards. Many explanations resort to simplistic diagnoses of congenital defects; the more refined point to the docility induced via the combination of massive household debt, low levels of trade union membership, and the burgeoning reserve army of the unemployed. The latter explanations are more accurate, but they do not tell the full story. The role of alcohol consumption habits also needs to be examined.

As someone who has had more drinking sessions than I could care to remember, it’s only now starting to hit me how much alcohol fulfils a disciplinary function in social gatherings. In the company of people engaged in a drinking session, people who have no good reason not to be drinking, usually in the form of a set of car keys or liver disease, are often felt to be subverting the occasion, a lot of the time the butt of taunts and cajoling which occasionally borders on the menacing. A person who never drinks is viewed with equal parts suspicion and bafflement. Someone who advocates temperance or abstinence is inevitably viewed -perhaps on account of the Catholic Church’s activities in this field- as a freakish puritan, possibly in league with the Taliban.

With this in mind, the CNT‘s monthly journal, which is always a good read, has a report by Félix Rodrigo Mora on sessions held in Valladolid by the Straight Edge movement. What follows is a translation of most of his report, at which he gave a presentation. It’s not quite where I’m at, but it’s food for thought nonetheless.

‘The movement is linked to the ‘hardcore’ (punk) musical style, which militantly opposes alcohol, drugs and tobacco, and is both vegan and anti-system. There were sports sessions, chats, assemblies, debates, presentation and distribution of fanzines, showings of documentaries, all in an excellent, harmonious, healthy and dynamic environment, radical and free of drink, tobacco and drugs.

Among the reading materials to be found was “The dirty business of bars”, “Addiction is obsession, obsession is submission”, “Drug free”, “Psychiatric drugs: medicine or quackery?” and “Drugs and social movements”, among others.

The movement is a response to the terrifying rise in the consumption of alcohol and drugs in contemporary societies, a grim reality of clear political significance, since behind this we find state apparatuses, in particular the police and secret services, as well as a large part of communications media, not to mention the perfidious academic and aesthetocratic intellectual castes. All this takes place in circumstances in which a proportion of revolutionary-minded people has lowered its guard on these matters, adopting either a dangerously permissive or indifferent position towards narcotics or alcoholic drinks, to say nothing of psychiatric drugs, which the “public” (state) health system imposes, particularly on women.

We need to recover the old and magnificient traditions of the workers’ movement in our country, especially up to the civil war, of resistance to the great evil of alcoholism and tobacconism (el tabaquismo), in which many conscious working men and women neither smoked nor drank. Back then it was well understood that alcoholization is a weapon of capital and the state entity, a conviction which, today, regrettably, is quite distorted and weakened.

In the present, drink and certain drugs (the joint for starters), have been surrounded by an aura of false radicality, of being ‘transgressive’ and ‘anti-system’ products, of being substances which facilitate relationships between people. They must lose this, in order to appear what they are: weapons of constituted power to degrade, to brutalise, disorganise and even to kill, since 20,000 people die every year from alcohol in our country. At the same time, alcohol and tobacco are a healthy source of fiscal funding for the State, as well as branches of capitalist production which allow enormous profits and capital accumulation.

An innovative aspect of the Straight Edge movement is the emphasis placed on the development of physical vigour and bodily exertion, breaking with the dire habit of laziness, apathy and sloth, so common among people dependent on hashish and beer: a habit which has grown in a worrying fashion, to the point of seriously compromising emancipatory activities.

In the 2nd Meeting I had to lay out “No Piss-ups. Past, present and future of the rejection of alcoholisation”. I presented a script which, corrected and improved during the debate, will be published as a leaflet or fanzine.

In it it is shown that our country was free of mass alcoholism until 1965-1985, during which, through joint action of francoism, and then, the party-parliamentary dictatorship imposed by the constitution of 1978, it developed in a very short amount of time, until becoming a fearsome mass phenomenon. The worst years were between 1977 and 1985, in which the institutional left, in particular the PSOE in central government since 1982, and also the PCE (Spanish Communist Party) and its new brand, IU, would bring forward a plan for the alcoholization and drug addiction of the popular classes, imitating what Bolshevism in the USSR.

It emphasises the role in that vile activity played by the then PSOE mayor of Madrid, Enríque Tierno Galván, with his catchphrase “get loaded everyone!” (‘¡a colocarse todos!‘), and with his policy of generous subsidies for innumerable shitholes (tugurios) dedicated to the consumption of alcohol and drugs, out of which came the “movida madrileña”, led by narcotics apologists as notable as Almodóvar, Almudena Grandes and other intimates of the progressive “anti-francoist” intelligentsia. As a consequence, by 1985 a society had been formed in which drunkenness is a mass phenomenon that has continued to grow since then, with new inventions, such as the dreadful botellón (basically, a massive street drinking session).

It refutes the pretension of considering as “nonconformist” and “rebellious” the activities of drinking and taking drugs: an idiocy cooked up by the counterculture of the 60s and 70s of the past century, by showing that it has been apparatuses of domination, from the CIA to diverse police forces of all countries, who have done most to popularise drug-taking, of whom the counterculture was a propaganda agency, at least in this respect. I challenge the bourgeois anticlericalism, which tries to classify as ‘moralism’ and even ‘clericalism’, temperance and sobriety, showing that in the past the best militants of the workers’ movement, in general non-religious and atheist, fiercely opposed alcohol, as well as tobacconism. It points to the slogan of Mothers United Against Drugs, chanted in their demonstrations, “Drugs and Police, the same filth.”

All this ended in slaughter, since, as a result of drugs, more people have died in our country in the last 25 years than in the Civil War of 1936-39. If this was butchery with firearms, to save the constituted order, alcoholisation and mass drug addiction, promoted above all by the left and progressivism, is another slaughter, of political significance, carried out to enforce fealty to the current parliamentary, party-cratic (partitocrática) and constitutional dictatorship, governed by the intolerable “Spanish Constitution” of 1978.

Refraining from treating the issue of alcoholism in a facile, superficial and reductionist manner, four blocks of causes are established (for deeper study of which I refer to my book “Democracy and the triumph of the State”): -the doctrinal, the structural, those concerning the auto-construction of the subject, and the existential- dedicating some space to the examination of each of these. The conclusion is that in the face of such a grave problem, and one which will get progressively worse, since the State and capital are not going to put down this weapon, the total transformation of the social and juridico-political order (revolution) is an inexcusable necessity, but insufficient, in that complementary tasks are demanded, such as the elaboration of a system of ideas for the free and autonomous building of the subject, and a reflection on the existential problems of the human condition, until now forgotten.

Finally, I have a go at sketching out a first draft of a strategy against the great evil of the alcoholisation of the multitudes in fully modern societies, in the hope that the input from other collectives and persons allow a move forward in its correction, expansion and improvement.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Or not.


Fintan O’Toole has a pop at Peter Sutherland in today’s Irish Times. It’s hard not to approve of any attack on members of the ruling elite, even if these emanate from the pages of the newspaper of the ruling elite. And since the majority of people are going to be taken for a very rough and ever worsening ride in order to meet the demands of finance capital, there’s no harm in pointing out that one of its most powerful local figures is an egregious hypocrite. Or is there?

Although Sutherland is a figure of grotesque influence among elite circles, there is nothing particularly remarkable about his hypocrisy.

Reinhold Niehbuhr observed that the ‘moral attitudes of dominant and privileged groups are characterised by universal self-deception and hypocrisy’. For O’Toole to say that ‘precisely because (Sutherland) is idolised in the Irish business community, he had the opportunity to change the culture of Irish banking’ is to suggest that the ‘Irish business community’ could, in fact, have had as its idol a moral agent rather than an agent of capital accumulation. This is an absurdity: it is precisely on account of Sutherland’s capacity as an amoral wheel-greaser that he occupied that position in the first instance.

Sutherland could have led by example – The Irish Times – Tue, May 11, 2010

The illusion that Sutherland wishes to maintain is that there is a “we” that includes ordinary citizens and high-flyers of global finance in a shared pain. There is no such “we”.

There is just us and them.

But there is not just ‘us’ and ‘them’.

Because if the dividing line is one’s status as a high-flyer of global finance, then the ‘we’ of the ‘ordinary citizens’ contains an immense supporting cast of people whose interests are intimately tied to the prosperity of finance capitalists.

Such a binary opposition means the managers of large corporations and their lawyers, high-level government officials and politicians all sit comfortably among ‘us’ alongside O’Toole’s ‘old lady whose home help services are being slashed’.

Not only that: the ‘we’ of the ordinary citizen excludes people who don’t fall under the formal category of citizens, as is the case with migrant workers.

So, pointing the finger at the hypocrisy of global finance bigwigs, while ignoring their relation to aforementioned managers, lawyers, officials and politicians (and also the media professionals who legitimate the views of the likes of Sutherland by offering them a platform of authority), has a couple of important effects.

First, in so far as we are talking about a sermon -there’s nothing wrong with sermons as such- demanding greater moral agency in a newspaper with a target audience including those managers, lawyers, officials and politicians, it absolves these groups of any sort of responsibility, and invites them to continue deceiving themselves in their role enforcing the imperatives of finance capital, since, it follows, they are mere ‘ordinary citizens’, and class antagonisms can be soothed with a balm of righteousness.

Second, in so far as the use of the category of ‘ordinary citizen’ refers to a relation to a State that exists in fact, and not some ideal citizenship of an all-inclusive State that does not exist, the effects of the predations of global finance high-flyers on those who fall outside that category -in the forms of racism and discrimination, among other things- are ignored. The April CSO figures report show that ‘non-Irish nationals’ comprise 18.1% of all persons on the Live Register and 14.3% of all persons in the labour force. If Peter Sutherland’s ‘commonality of Irish interest’ is to be deplored on account of conflating ‘special interests with general interests and universal values’, then the same must also be said the opposing figure of the ‘ordinary citizen’, since this does the same thing. The logical outworking of a political opposition between the ‘global high-flyer’ and the ‘ordinary citizen’ is a category of super-exploited worker who has to bear the brunt of the ‘ordinary citizen”s demands for nationality-based justice.

UPDATE: I had written this piece before I read this:

Right to work non-EU family members of EU citizens – The Irish Times – Tue, May 11, 2010

THE GOVERNMENT is removing the right to work for non-EU family members of EU citizens while they await a decision on their right to residency in Ireland.

The decision reflects concerns over rising unemployment and the Department of Justice’s ongoing campaign targeting so-called “sham marriages” between EU citizens and third country nationals.

Revolting stuff from a racist government. But Fintan O’Toole’s ‘ordinary citizen’ need not worry.

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