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Marc Loris

Dope – “Western Civilization’s” First
and Greatest Gift to the Orient

(7 February 1942)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 6, 7 February 1942, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The New York Times of Jan. 27 published the statement of a spokesman of the Treasury Department, denouncing the Japanese government as a trafficker in narcotics. Why does this denunciation come suddenly now, when all the facts cited could have been produced many years ago?

The answer is simple. The present denunciation has nothing to do with the evil effects of the narcotics traffic itself, but is put forth solely as moral ammunition for the war in the Pacific.

However, the Treasury Department might well take care before expressing such noble indignation!

In the realm of narcotics, as in others, Japan is only following its teachers, the great capitalist powers, that is to say, those that are conveniently called “Western civilization.”

Opium was introduced into China by the East India Company, which had the monopoly on the cultivation of the opium poppy in India. The opium trade had for its immediate end the enrichment of the English planters and traders, but it had another more profound economic function.

When England, in search of markets, stood before the doors of China, she had nothing to offer the Chinese. The common people were much too poor to buy the products of British industry, As for the ruling classes, they had their own traditional luxury industries and had no need of what the Occident was able to offer them.

“Western civilization”, that is to say, capitalist England, had its eyes on exactly these luxury products: silk, porcelain. It also desired tea. To induce the Chinese to trade, it had to create an artificial need. Thus it was that opium became the means for the penetration by “Western civilization”; that is to say, by capitalism, of China.

During the last century, importation of opium into China assumed greater and greater proportions and became a danger to the entire race. The Chinese government became alarmed. Let us consult a source which cannot be accused of partiality for the Chinese. We read in the Encyclopedia Britannica:

“The conflict came to a head over the question of the importation of opium. This had long been prohibited by the Chinese government, but foreign merchants brought it in ever-increasing quantities ... After many futile attempts at enforcement, Peking at last took vigorous action ... Foreign merchants were compelled to surrender their stocks of opium for destruction and pressure was put upon them to give bond not to engage further in the importation of the drug. The British objected to what seemed to them high-handed measure’s and in November 1839, hostilities broke out.”

That was the first opium war. Another followed a little later and by the treaty of Tientzin, in 1858, the importation of the drug was legalized. Thus, in the diplomatic-military as well as the economic sense, opium was the open door for “Western civilization” in China.

Later, when China was opened for imperialist exploitation and when the use of opium proved troublesome to this exploitation, several international congresses were held to restrain the use of opium and each expressed its “moral” condemnation of narcotics.

The Treasury Department now accuses Japan of using narcotics as “an instrument of national policy against the Manchurians and the Chinese.” But its indignation will not sound very convincing to us until it denounces at the same time the dope peddlers of “Western civilization” whose methods the Japanese imperialists have adopted.

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