Guns and Dope: The Anti-Oppressant

“This is the reality of the War on Drugs; it is thinly veiled, and sometimes not, racism.”

From Patacelsus

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From Killer Mike’s music video “Reagan”

The Guns and Dope party: like most Discordian ideas and projects, it went nowhere fast. Also like most Discordian ideas and projects, it won’t go away. A good joke wants to be told, even if it can only make you cringe with how cheesy it is. That’s the punchline of the Guns and Dope party. It is a party that seemingly champions the interests of most Americans, and yet few have heard of it, and no one was interested it when it started. Since Wilson came up with the idea and then died (in what I’m sure are a series of acausal events, separated by like, at least a year or two, I’m sure…), new shit has come to light, man. It has no bearing on the Guns and Dope party I’m sure, since the party seems to be disinterested in asking a person to do anything so humiliating and debasing to human dignity as running for office. It might change your mind about the priority and centrality of some issues.

Maybe you’ll say to yourself, “Now who can argue with that? I think we’re all in debt to Patacelsus for stating what needed to be said. I am particularly glad that these lovely children are here today to read this article. Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish, it expressed a courage little seen in this day and age.” But what do I know? You’d think you could share your love of a comedy without everyone you try to share that passion with taking it to a racist place somehow? But oh no. Every time I tell someone I like Blazing Saddles, suddenly I get put on blast with all the racist jokes. Like race was the only punchline to every joke in that movie. Gives me a fucking headache. I mean, I’m not saying that it didn’t have jokes that relied on the crushing racism of both the “Wild West” and 1974 America for its humor, just that it didn’t exclusively do that. Eh, never mind. I can be particular at times. Let’s get to it then; excuse me while I whip this out!

Not too long ago a writer for Gods & Radicals who calls himself Dr. Bones threw in a pretty penny on the matter of gun control, titled: The Liberal Desire for Gun Control is Going to Get Us Killed. I got all reflective-like, as if I’d had a memory in my brain knocked loose. That memory was The Mulford Act of 1967. A full year and some change before the Gun Control Act of 1968, the Mulford act was signed into law by Ronald Reagan (the actor?), who claimed that the Mulford Act “would work no hardship on the honest citizen.” You know, because having the police raid your home and murder you and your family for the crime of being black is naturally no hardship for a true patriot.

Now, most Federal gun laws legislate the manufacturing, transportation, and sales of firearms. This is not out of the ordinary because the power to regulate interstate commerce and all that crap is “constitutional”, if you go in for caring about that kind of thing. The Mulford Act stands out, as you may know if you read Dr. Bones’ articles and the links he attaches, was meant specifically to disarm the Black Panthers. Now, let’s be clear, these are the guys wearing black leather jackets and berets, not the Wakandan King. You can tell they’re serious too, because who else wears a beret with black sunglasses and a rifle but a serious mother fucker. I mean, without the beret, they would have just been weirdos with guns.

Why should one racist California law matter? Could you please stop referencing movies and get to the point? Where are you going with all of this? The answer is nowhere special. Well, the answer is stop and frisk laws; but also the answer is, no, I will not stop with the movie references, I get a big kick out of it and you’re just going to have to put up with it until I get bored and move on to cryptography puzzles.

So the next year after the Mulford Act was passed, the 90th U.S. Congress passed the Gun Control Act of 1968, which was actually a response to the assassination of Kennedy, but it is the U.S. Congress, so a 5 year lag shouldn’t surprise anyone. How the fuck does racism fit into the Federal effort though? I could do the lazy thing and point out a Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership opinion piece that claims the GCA of 1968 is copied wholesale from Nazi laws banning Jews from owning firearms, sans the Jew part and all the provisions for licensing firearms and not outright banning them. But such laziness would be wrong. Instead I’ll just outright say that Politicians were afraid of an armed uprising in 1968 (the year Martin Luther King Jr. got killed, along with Bobby Ken), and that was the real thing that kept that 5 year lag from becoming an infinite lag. I wonder were the Congress got the idea to use gun laws to suppress minorities?

I mean, it was probably a bunch of Republicans in a Republican controlled Congress, right? Baeh! Wrong! In both House and Senate, Democrats had the seats. Not only that, but almost as many Republicans voted yea as Democrats in the House and Senate. Also, fewer Republicans said no than Democrats. Think about that a sec. Confused? Permit me to explain with much abbreviation and little detail. The Dems use to be the party of the Klan, and the Triangle fire flipped the bitch on the U.S. political spectrum. Want more detail? Read a fucking book!

Hey! Check this out!:

“( h ) I t shall be unlawful for any person—

“(1) who is under indictment for, or who has been convicted in
 any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term
 exceeding one year;

“(2) who is a fugitive from justice;

“(3) who is an unlawful user of or addicted to marihuana or
 any depressant or stimulant drug (as defined in section 201 (v) of
 the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act) or narcotic drug as defined in section 4731 (a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954); (sic)

Now, if you didn’t want to read this legalese gibberish, I can tell you that it is the bill that will convert a state hospital for the insane into the William J. Le Petomane memorial gambling casino for the insane. Ha! No, it is a portion of the 1968 GCA. That part in bold seems kinda weird right? Well, to most it wouldn’t, if that most was America in 1968 (haha, like people in America read it, right?). It comes after the provision which states, “it is not the purpose of this title to place any undue or unnecessary Federal restrictions or burdens on law-abiding citizens with respect to the acquisition, possession, or use of firearms appropriate to the purpose of liunting, trapshooting, target shooting, personal protection, or any other lawful activity, and that this title is not intended to discourage or eliminate the private ownership or use of firearms by law-abiding citizens for” blah blah blah, you get the idea. The direct mention of Marihuana(sic) seems fishy to me though. So after looking up “liunting” (the best I could find was ‘linting’, which is ‘to walk around smoking a pipe’), I looked to see if any of the authors of the Mulford act moved up from state assemblyman or senator to U.S. Congressperson. Ha! No such luck. Just a whole bunch of dudes in the U.S. Congress and the California political class who all knew or were in the same circles as Nixon. Nothing to see here, move on.

So, no, I have no grand conspiracy theory for you about how this was all designed from the start. Just a bunch of rich white dudes that thought it best to specifically mention marijuana in a Federal gun control act. To be honest, it doesn’t matter if this was orchestrated conspiracy, the inertia of racist habit, or complete accident. The result is racism; and similar acts, enacted in the same era, were definitely meant to be racist. So it’s time for a hard subject cut; remember when Richard Dix came in here and tried to take over this town?

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. That is not a claim I’m making, and it probably isn’t news to anyone reading this. It is a quote from a Harper’s magazine interview of John Ehrlichman from 1994. Ehrlichman was Nixon’s domestic policy chief, so he’d know what he was talking about. Want to know the source of the War on Drugs? Nixon! Yes, all bad things eventually lead back to Nixon; in fact, I bet you could make a pretty good game of a variation of Six Degrees of Bacon, call it Six Degrees of Nixon, and see if you can connect a fucked U.S. law to Nixon in six associations.

Anyway, he goes on to say

“You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Oh wow, the 1968 Nixon campaign ran on a promise of fighting drug fueled mad-men and might have had an influence on an Congressional Act being passed that year, and was signed into law by a Democrat in October? Do tell, I’m so surprised. I’ve never even considered that a Democratic congress might pass a law to counteract the political rhetoric of Richard Dix, I mean Nixon (allegedly…).

This is the reality of the War on Drugs; it is thinly veiled, and sometimes not, racism. As well, it is about quashing political dissent; but mostly it has been about racism. I’ve seen the Left shoot down people that tried to drum up support for drug decriminalization pretty savagely. Because I guess, the “hard core” Left is against the government telling people what to do, except when it is about drugs, then the oppression is less important somehow (hopefully, if you still have some gonads and human blood in you, you’re saying to yourself that you don’t need anyone’s permission to get high, good!). But for many on the “Left”, Uncle Sam swiping your recreation options from you doesn’t count as important. And some of you fuckers probably wonder why the Left have a reputation of being such a joyless and humorous lot too, I’ll bet. Well, if you can’t get off your asses, to tell Uncle Same to fuck off, for the sake of getting high: can you be bothered to give a damn for the civil rights of black people? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

So here we are, Stop and Frisk laws. Terry Laws are actually older than all this crap, by several decades. They have their origin in the efforts of the LAPD in the 1930’s to combat “crime”. Essentially they would flood an area where a crime had occurred and search anyone and everything. Of course this became the norm for black neighborhoods in the 50’s. New York made the words “Stop and Frisk” the unofficial name by passing a law of that name in 1964. Yup, Stop and Frisk, which definitely has targeted minorities in large proportion, was in place before the contraband laws were. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the supposed guardians of law and order have been holding on to Stop and Frisk tightly as they can, and use their tongues prettier than a twenty dollar whore to defend it.
So, not everything is coming up roses in California. We innovate a lot out here.

Unfortunately, that means this state comes up with a lot of grade A racism and the racists to legislate it. From Stop and Frisk, to Ronald Reagan, we have a problem with racism in California that most people pretend isn’t here. Even the Right pretends we’re a centrist liberal fuckhead bastion, all the while their Moses and Jesus, Nixon and Reagan respectively, both hail from California. These are the real problems in California, the ones no one really talks about on the grand public stage of approved public discourse, a.k.a. “news”. But never mind that shit, here comes Mongo!

Or as most know him, Donald Jiggle Jowl Trump. Nah, I’m just kidding, I just wanted to see the words Jiggle Jowl published. Actually, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who is so super into coming down on Marijuana (black people) that it gives his little weasel rigor mortis, is who I want to mention. I could say a mouthful about him, I guess, but instead I’ll use this time to say, “Instead of a weasel, why not an Ostrich?”

Yes friends, the Guns and Dope party only nominates the finest Ostriches to Congressional office, specifically because their, “mysterious and awesome dignity will elevate the suidaen barbarity long established there.” Yeah, I’m supposing Rhyd would like me to finish this with some insight on race, or law, or something. So here you go Rhyd, here’s your insight. The attempts to suppress minorities through laws has instead led to the majority of Americans having their lives ruined, lives ended, their property stolen by the government. It has resulted in wasted money, and in inane bullshit being spread far and wide. Everyone has had a shittier life because some rich fucks wanted to oppress a minority their feeble psychology associated with the scary stuff. The oppression of a few only results in the oppression of all. We either take care of everyone, or we can take care of no one. This is not a philosophical proposition being offered you, it is truth based on fact. I doubt this article stated the case for this truth from fact clearly, eloquently, or convincingly. But that’s ok, maybe someone better at this will read this and hopefully do better than me.

Of course, you’ll have the good taste not to mention that I spoke to you.


Patacelsus

mal1A Discordian for 20 years, Patacelsus finally got comfortable when the 21st century “started getting weird.” When not casting sigils, taking part in Tibetan Buddhist rituals, or studying the unfortunate but sometimes amusing stories of the dead, he’s been known to wander the hidden ways of the city, communing with all of the hidden spirits one can find in a city. As Patacelsus sees it, we’re all already free; after completing the arduous task of waking up to that we can then proceed, like a doctor treating a patient, to try to rouse others from the bitter and frightening nightmares of Archism. He laughs at Samsara’s shadow-play in lovely California, in the company of his wife, two cats, and two birds.


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Chasing Ambulances

 

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Demonstrators flooded streets across the globe in public protests on Saturday, calling for action against gun violence. Hundreds of thousands of marchers turned out, in the most ambitious show of force yet from a student-driven movement that emerged after the recent massacre at a South Florida high school.

The student activists emphasized that they would soon have access to the ballot box as they hope to build support for candidates who support universal background checks and bans on assault-style weapons.

[Source: New York Times]

How should leftists have engaged with this weekend’s March for Our Lives?

Over a million people attended nationally-coordinated rallies calling for federal laws restricting the sale of firearms. Students who survived the recent school shooting in Parkland, FL headlined the main Washington, DC march (alongside performances by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Miley Cyrus, and other celebrities). Meanwhile, more than 800 satellite events featured Democratic office-holders, from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Plenty of socialists showed up as well, hoping to “put forward an alternative to this system that is built on violence at its core.”

Similarly, the recent teachers’ strike in West Virginia inspired enthusiastic leftist support, with radicals “stand[ing] in solidarity with the teachers of the state in their fight for better pay and better healthcare and offer[ing] our full support.” However, few of the leftist groups either attending the marches or urging solidarity with the teachers had done any prior work to speak of among either anti-gun high schoolers or West Virginian teachers. So what did “fully supporting” or “putting forward an alternative” concretely mean?

Any time a protest event receives significant media coverage, radical groups put out similar statements. Where does that impulse to endorse come from? Does responding in the same way every time obscure deeper differences between one self-declared “movement” and another?

What place should this “support” have in revolutionary strategy?


 

A political group employing an activist-networking approach is looking for a new campaign. They read the news to find “hot issues” that are being reported on in the media. Once they’ve determined the issue they want to agitate around, they look for an NGO they can “partner” with, providing warm bodies to show up at the NGO’s events and to help actuate the already-existing strategy of the NGO. Often this looks like showing up to City Hall or the state capitol, as part of a coalition of “the usual suspects,” to lobby legislators to support or oppose a particular bill, or showing up at a rally put on by the NGO in command of the campaign. Usually the passage of a law is the primary goal of these campaigns.

Maybe the group might try to recruit one or two participants from the action, but since most of these people are already organized and are members of one of the larger groups, only a handful of people are brought into the organization. As enthusiasm inevitably drains from the campaign in the face of setbacks, participation bleeds away, so the group ends up back at square one, or worse, end up with fewer people involved than they started with. At this point, groups usually cut their losses and look for the new “hot issue” of the day, thus repeating the cycle.

Tim Horras

While their desire to support popular movements is well-meaning, activist leftists are basically ambulance chasers. When they see the media cover something politically exciting, their instinct is to show up offering “leadership” and “the socialist perspective.” Generally, no one takes them particularly seriously when they do. Why should they? The radicals have no pre-existing relationship with them and haven’t shown why they deserve anyone’s attention. So, the socialists’ efforts go nowhere. They lose a few people, pick up a few more, rinse, and repeat. They come to exist for the sake of existing rather than serving a particularly useful role. If an organization’s practice boils down to providing “boots on the ground” for “movement” nonprofits’ campaigns and rallies, why bother with the organization at all? Isn’t it easier to just work with the nonprofits directly? That’s why so few people in a given movement join any of the socialist organizations that try to involve themselves. When a group has made itself superfluous, people can tell. So, leftists continue to exist on the margins of the activist subculture, never realizing that they’ve no one but themselves to blame for their irrelevance.

Your ideology is not the beliefs you affirm. It’s what your actions show that you value. If your practice consists of listening to podcasts and arguing on Facebook, then that’s the substance of your ideology, not the particular ideas you agree with. If you mostly wave signs at protests and issue calls for things you can’t deliver, then your ideology is about bearing moral witness within the activist scene (which, don’t forget, is just the organized infrastructure of the Democratic Party).

You are always promoting your ideology to the people around you. That doesn’t mean you’re telling them your opinions. Ideology isn’t made of opinions. Rather, you’re teaching them through example what you actually consider important – and that’s what will determine their perception of radical politics. Ambulance chasing teaches that leftists are basically flaky: they make promises they can’t keep and don’t stick around after the news cycle moves on. People learn that socialism offers them nothing because your actions have taught them that it means talking big and not following through.


 

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West Virginia teachers on strike. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The March for Our Lives and the West Virginia teachers’ strike were fundamentally different phenomena.

The former was a choreographed, slickly-branded rally organized and promoted by Democratic Party front groups, especially Everytown for Gun Safety and Giffords (named after a retired Democratic member of Congress). The teenagers from Florida weren’t actually calling the shots; the whole thing was run by a nonprofit called the March for Our Lives Action Fund, whose decisions were made by a board of professional Democrats (albeit in consultation with a powerless “student advisory board”), and the satellite marches prominently featured sitting Democratic politicians. That’s why they so heavily emphasized voting in the midterms for candidates who support the Democratic Party’s legislative priorities around gun control, and why explicitly left-wing and anti-police demands from student groups without the official March for Our Lives franchise (such as those in Chicago and Philadelphia) were generally ignored. The Democratic platform, after all, is more amenable to outright reactionary policies like the expansion of police presence in poor, working-class, and non-white schools and the abolition of basic legal rights for people with psychiatric diagnoses.

Conversely, the teachers’ strike was collective action, not media spectacle. West Virginia’s unionized teachers, not Democratic fronts or politicians, organized it themselves. It was a non-symbolic, illegal strike. The point was not media coverage or Democratic voter turnout. The teachers wanted better pay and benefits, so they withheld their labor until they got it. They used their access to meaningful social and economic power to improve their lives. They didn’t have to trust Democratic candidates to keep their campaign promises. Collective action works because class struggle defines class society. But high-profile Democratic Party rallies, like the March for Our Lives and the Women’s March, ultimately only benefit the Party itself.

However, leftist conversations about the strike and the march mirrored each other closely. Are their demands sufficiently radical? How much criticism is too much? How can leftists help? In both cases, the Left offered its support reflexively because “organizing is good.” But there was a category difference between the events. Where was the corresponding category difference between left-wing responses to them?

Well, when you’re an ambulance chaser, you lack a meaningful social base. You act as a club for hobbyists within the protest scene who happen to prefer a socialist or anarchist brand to a liberal one. So, whether it’s a Democratic media event or an actual instance of class struggle, you find yourself on the outside looking in. In either case, your “support” consists of waving placards at demonstrations and publishing official statements until the news cycle moves on. Ideology is practice and for you, there is no practical difference. So, your ideology considers them equivalent. Anything that feels like mass politics is equally attractive, whether that feeling is just PR (as with the March for Our Lives or the Women’s March) or has a basis in something real (as with the West Virginia strike).


 

A crisis will only catalyze a well-formed communications network. If such networks are embryonically developed or only partially co-optable, the potentially active individuals in them must be linked together by someone . . . In other words, people must be organized. Social movements do not simply occur.

Jo Freeman

When a constituency mobilizes (whether it’s for a strike, a march, or a show at a nightclub), it’s not because all of the individuals involved just happened to show up at the same time. Just as a venue, sound equipment, etc have to be acquired and set up beforehand, attendance and participation have to be deliberately organized. When the West Virginia teachers struck, they did so through preexisting organizing networks: their union and a private Facebook group. When people attended the March for Our Lives, that was also done through preexisting networks: activist, religious, and campus-based groups went together as groups, and the march’s sponsors hired publicists to reach out to the unaffiliated. Similarly, the crowd at a show mobilizes through friendship networks of clubgoers, performers’ fan bases, and promoters’ advertising efforts.

The importance of organizing networks doesn’t mean that a constituency can’t act for itself on its own initiative, “from below.” Rather, an infrastructure of organizing networks is the means by which it’s able to do so. Leadership doesn’t impose itself from outside. It happens when people within those networks persuade others to act collectively. Distinct from leadership, organizing means constructing those networks in the first place.

Leftists often want to be leaders. They should instead prioritize being organizers. After all, by the time a strike or a rally is on TV, the participants don’t need radicals. They already have their organizing networks and their leadership within them. At that point, revolutionaries can express support in words, but from the point of view of the people mobilizing, they’re unnecessary. It makes perfect sense to ignore them. Then, when the leftists realize their efforts are getting no traction, why wouldn’t they move on to something else? So, radicals are always moving on. They never develop long-term political relationships or a stable base. That keeps them extraneous, marginal, and ineffective.

That’s the ambulance-chasing cycle. It needs to be broken.


 

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The mass line: a basic communist technique of social investigation and leadership. Source: Hope & Timmel, Training for Transformation: A Handbook for Community Workers, Book 1, via Revolutionary Initiative

Do you want to spread revolutionary ideas?

Remember what ideology is. It isn’t words – it’s a living, physical thing. It’s practice and what practice teaches. Don’t take words at face value, not even your own. The ideology you spread is the ideology you practice (whether you realize you’re practicing it or not).

Is a teachers’ strike important and exciting? Sure. Does that mean most leftists can participate in a meaningful way? By and large, no. They aren’t needed, so why should the strikers care what they have to say? Trying to piggyback on someone else’s organizing and leadership is opportunistic, and people can tell. So, they quite reasonably conclude that radicals are opportunists, not long-haul organizers. The same goes for events like the March for Our Lives (although the weakness of socialists at Democratic media spectacles is probably a good thing on balance. Leftists have no business supporting reactionary goals in the first place).

Being a revolutionary should mean, before anything else, building a revolutionary base. That means identifying a constituency in a neighborhood or industry and making a long-term commitment. Do you have even a small group of friends or fellow radicals interested in doing political work together? That’s enough to start! Go out and talk to people in your target constituency. Find out what their lives are like. What are their needs and aspirations? Then, come up with ideas for programs that tangibly address their lives, have a low barrier to entry (so that as many people as possible can participate), and that can grow your group’s membership and organizational capacity. Reach out – canvass, hold cookouts and potlucks, have public meetings for people to express their needs and views. Build organizing networks. Make promises and follow through. Win credibility. Then, in five or ten years, you’ll have a base of your own. You’ll have created the networks and you’ll have earned enough respect to provide leadership within them. You’ll be the ones putting together exciting mobilizations, and other groups will be the opportunists trying to tag along.

Working and unemployed people don’t need to be told they’re oppressed. They live it out every day – those from specially-oppressed demographics, even more so. But that doesn’t mean revolutionaries don’t have a central role to play! As feminist writer Jo Freeman says, “[P]eople must be organized. Social movements do not simply occur.”

No constituency automatically becomes a revolutionary base. Because liberalism and conservatism enjoy cultural hegemony – they’re so widely accepted that most people don’t realize there are alternatives – social movements tend to become conservative or liberal by default. But, if socialists, communists, and anarchists create the organizing networks through which a constituency can act collectively, then provide effective leadership within them, a movement can be revolutionary instead. Revolutionaries are just as capable of proving, through practice, the value of their ideology as conservatives and liberals. If that’s what your actions teach, that’s what people will learn.

But that means being more than “boots on the ground.” It means taking on the slow, patient work of knitting together a base, year by year, project by project. It means earning the ability to lead, not claiming to have it already.

And no amount of external “support” for the teachers’ strike, the March for Our Lives, or anything else can replace that.


Sophia Burns is a communist and polytheist in the US Pacific Northwest. Support her on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/marxism_lesbianism


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