From the May 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard
Recent TV documentaries on Australia’s ABC have shown the scientific evidence of severe damage to the brain and other organs caused by alcohol abuse. There is no doubt that it is a very serious problem affecting a significant portion of the population.
It would be nice to think that this concern about the effects of excessive alcohol consumption was motivated by humanitarian feelings for the wretchedness of ruined lives. However, it doesn’t require much digging to reveal the real concerns of the nation’s accountants and politicians—it is costing a great deal of money in lost lives, hospital bills, social security payments, property damage and lost production.
Who has to pay for this? Ultimately it costs the class whose income is derived from their ownership of the means of producing and distributing wealth; for the size of the tax bill is a major factor affecting the profitability of their businesses. The Melbourne Age (10 July 1990) ran an article confirming that, as usual, human lives and misery have been debased and alienated by measuring them in terms of money:
Mr Staples [Federal Minister for Aged, Family and Health Services] says a conservative estimate of the yearly cost of alcohol and associated problems to the community is $5 billion. (The Royal Australian College of Physicians puts the figure at between $5 and S12 billion).
Of course the owners of the breweries and liquor and hotel outlets are against any moves to reduce alcohol consumption, while the owners of other businesses are unimpressed with having to pay for the damage caused by alcohol abuse. Who said the capitalist class are united?
The capitalist class are anxious not to overdo the anti-alcohol-abuse campaign. After all alcohol helps keep the workers sedated between working and sleeping. Can’t have the workers doing too much serious thinking—they might just wake up to the whole rotten system and throw it out!
Drug abuse is a direct result of the system of society we live in. Not only is there profit to be made out of supplying the drugs be they legal or otherwise, there is also a willingness to “get out of it” on drugs by many. Is it any wonder that people want to “escape” from their unhappiness which is a result of alienation from the means to life? Poverty, wage-slavery, powerlessness, menial and repetitive work, and the whole sick social environment of capitalism will grind down the most resilient of people.
Drug abuse and the human suffering it causes will not go away while the conditions which are its cause remain. Capitalism will not go away until the majority of us have become convinced of the urgent need for its immediate abolition and replacement with the only alternative—free access socialism.