Free Michael Hilton! Scrap the Bedroom Tax!

September 25, 2014 at 9:51 pm (benefits, Disability, homelessness, Human rights, Jim D, Tory scum)

This is an absolute fucking disgrace:

Michael Hinton, a mentally ill man from Accrington was being evicted from his home of 33 years for £500 worth of bedroom tax arrears, when he tried climbing onto the roof to escape the bailiffs. He has now been jailed for criminal damage to the tiles.

This case, though particularly shocking in its blatant injustice, is just one of the more newsworthy cases of the misery and homelessness imposed by the full weight of bailiffs, police, courts and councils’ pursuit of people who can’t pay the Bedroom Tax..

Mr Hinton had every right to resist eviction and socialists and the union movement should offer practical solidarity to all of those resisting, as well as campaigning for Michael’s immediate release.

The Labour Party has promised to repeal the bedroom tax, which is a positive step, but we need Labour councils to adopt a no evictions, no implementation policy and for housing associations to stop evictions over these arrears.

The incident happened on June 4. Mr Hilton has since pleaded guilty to committing criminal damage and has been remanded in custody. Mr Hilton has been in Forest Bank prison in Salford since June 5. He will be sentenced at Burnley Crown Court on October 9.

A protest in his support took place outside the court on Monday and another is expected at the court on October 9.

More background detail here.

H/t: Dave K

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Shit of the Week: Grant Shapps

September 14, 2013 at 12:29 pm (Asshole, benefits, Beyond parody, capitalist crisis, homelessness, Human rights, Jim D, Tory scum)

Following a scathing report on UK housing conditions (and, in particular, the bedroom tax) from UN special rapporteur Raquel Rolnick, Tory Chairman Grant Shapps appeared on the BBC Today programme not to respond to her points, but to rant about her being “a woman from Brazil” and to demand “an apology and investigation into how this came about” from the UN.

Ms Rolnick, a member of the Brazilian Workers Party,  had said of the Bedroom Tax, “I was very shocked to hear how people really feel abused in their human rights by this decision and why — being so vulnerable — they should pay the cost of the economic downturn, which was brought about by the financial crisis. People in testimonies were crying, saying ‘I have nowhere to go’, I will commit suicide’.”

Ms Rolnick is a former urban planning minister. Grant Shapps is…what, exactly?

Grant Shapps

Well, a shyster, liar and charlatan for a start.

The photo above shows him posing as “Michael Green”, a “multi-million dollar web marketer” at an internet conference in Las Vegas in 2004.

Between 2004 and 2009 he ran a website called MichaelGreen-Consulting.com (part of a company he owned called How To Corp) giving get-rich-quick advice until blocked by Google for breaching its rules on copyright infringement. In his early years as an opposition MP, he also charged clients £183 an hour for advice on how to make money from the web and tips on beating the recession. When he unsuccessfully ran for Parliament in 1997, in the South London seat of Southwark and Bermondsey, his election leaflets described him as ‘a Londoner by birth’. When he stood successfully in Welwyn Hatfield in 2005, his literature stated that he was ‘born in Hertfordshire’.

In 2008 Shapps transferred his share in How To Corp to his wife and claimed he had “no [further] involvement” with it. Since he entered Parliament in 2010, all How To Corp’s websites have disappeared, removing all traces of “Michael Green” and his business activities.

So who would you trust and believe on the bedroom tax (or anything, come to that): the UN’s special rapporteur on housing, with five years’ experience of carrying out housing investigations in places as varied as the US, Croatia, Argentina, Israel, Rwanda, Palestine, Kazakhstan, Indonesia and Algeria… or a fly-by-night spiv from Watford who once used a false name to sell get-rich-quick schemes?

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SWP v anti-rape campaigners

March 31, 2013 at 9:44 am (Feminism, homelessness, Jim D, misogyny, protest, sectarianism, strange situations, SWP, thuggery, women)

A very unfortunate and, it seems, very nasty confrontation between SWP stewards and anti-rape campaigners at the Bedroom Tax demo in Glasgow yesterday. This footage isn’t, perhaps, conclusive proof of SWP culpability, so we’d appreciate comments from anyone who was there.

The person who took the film and posted it on Youtube, writes: “i should make it clear, i only got my camera out after the stewards started to push people back and started all this off, i hadn’t gone intending to record anything, just show my opposition to the bedroom tax.”

See also:http://twtrland.com/profile/glebbityshem

and https://twitter.com/CathElliott

H/t: Mod and Jelly (an unlikely pair…)

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Stand with the Dale Farm Travellers!

September 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm (Anti-Racism, Civil liberties, homelessness, Human rights, Jim D, solidarity, travellers)

From Dale Farm solidarity:

UPDATE: Look around Dale Farm today you will find a community of increasingly stressed and sleepless but undefeated residents: grandparents, parents, children, and babies living close together, supporting each other, and welcoming into their midst supporters of all ages and backgrounds: altogether so many thoughtful, considerate, and inspiring people who are part of many different humanitarian, political, religious, and mutually supportive communities and groups who don’t want to stand by while hundreds of Travellers are brutally and senselessly evicted from their homes.

Government inspectors say that Basildon has a “dire shortage” of Gypsy and Traveller sites, and have placed pressure on the Council to provide 62 pitches. So when Basildon council repeats the statement that they are simply upholding the law, they are masking a huge injustice. The Travellers from Dale Farm have nowhere to go, but the council would rather throw them out on the roadside than find appropriate land for Travellers to live on. Planning Inspector Mark Dakeyne has stated that: “There is a clear and immediate need for more sites in the district.”

Bishops have offered their services to help mediate between the council and the Dale Farm community to avoid the costly forced eviction. The residents of Dale Farm gratefully accepted the offer – they have always made it clear that although they don’t want to be uprooted they are willing to move on from the site peacefully, if an alternative viable site is found. After visiting Dale Farm on Tuesday, Bishop Thomas McMahon and Bishop Stephen Cottrell of the Diocese of Chelmsford said in a statement, ‘if elderly and infirm people were shown on TV being forced out of their homes, we wouldn’t think we were watching something happening in England, but that is what will happen here.’ So far, Basildon Council has not responded to the Bishops offer of mediation. Dale Farm Solidarity calls on Tony Ball, the leader of Basildon Council, to accept this offer and avoid the spectre of forced eviction.

The UN have released a statement condemning the eviction of families from Dale Farm, when no alternative land has been found for the families to live on and so that the community will be made homeless. “We call on the Government to suspend the planned eviction, which would disproportionately affect the lives of the Gypsy and Traveller families, particularly women, children and older people,” the Committee members said. “We urge the authorities to find a peaceful and appropriate solution, including identifying culturally appropriate accommodation, with full respect for the rights of the families involved…Travellers and Gypsies already face considerable discrimination and hostility in wider society and the Committee is deeply concerned that this could be worsened by actions taken by authorities in the current situation and by some media reporting of the issues,” the Committee added.

Dale Farm Solidarity is standing with the Dale Farm community and calling out for support. Since the deadline has passed for the eviction notice period, families are increasingly stressed and in need of strong physical presence on site to feel some safety. A Dale Farm mother came to the gates early yesterday morning, in tears asking us to collect timber, to help strengthen barricades to keep out the bailiffs, and to keep her family safe, saying she couldn’t sleep for fear. She has nowhere to go and is living in fear of eviction and homelessness. The situation is desperate for the families and community at Dale Farm who have nowhere to go and families to look after, including many sick relatives and young children.

The council is imposing a blockade on the roads around Dale Farm, leaving the residents feeling trapped, penned in, scared, and persecuted. This is how rural England does ethnic cleansing and it has to be stopped. So, there’s loads to do…

  1. Come to Dale Farm – see here for a little clip of life on Dale Farm and at Camp Constant. Directions to the site are here.
  2. On Sunday, Sept 4th at 12 noon [note time change]: join the Jewish Solidarity visit to Dale Farm — it’s important that cultures with a shared history of oppression support each other when our fundamental human rights face being breached.  That is why this Sunday, Jewish rabbis, citizens and activists will be on site for a special blockade in support of residents at Dale Farm.
  3. There is a workshop, on Sunday Sept. 4th, 2pm, at Dale Farm:  Freedom of Movement and the Right to Stay! This is the rallying cry for Roma, Gypsies and Travellers and of migrants throughout the world. A common thread of persecution, of forbidden lands, eviction and deportation connect the struggles for migrant rights and the rights of Gypsies and Travellers. These realities have met dramatically in the crack-down and deportations of Roma people from France and Italy. Come to the Workshop organised by No One Is Illegal and London No Borders including a speaker who is an activist in Amnesty International’s campaign against the persecution of Roma in Europe.
  4. Check the webpage for stuff that’s needed on site that you could donate/bring along, see here.
  5. If you can’t get to us in person, and you are able, please donate – the residents want to be sure there is a strong and constant presence of supporters on site, and that means feeding and supporting people there.
  6. Demonstration Saturday 10th September, 1pm, Wickford Station – Stop Basildon Council Tories and the Home Office Wasting Millions Bulldozing Dale Farm. This is only a week away, and we need help spreading the word to make it as big as possible, on facebook (‘the dale farm demonstration’), twitter, email lists, in meetings. For more info see here. The demonstration will go from Wickford Station to Dale Farm, leaving Wickford at 1pm. If you can help with transport or need transport from your area, contact savedalefarm@gmail.com

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DALE FARM UNDER SIEGE…

August 25, 2011 at 4:48 pm (Anti-Racism, homelessness, Jim D, protest, travellers)

dalefarmsupport

As the launch of Camp Constant on August 27th approaches, the authorities appear poised to blockade Dale Farm.

ROAD BLOCK WARNING: Notices have gone up along Oak Road, adjacent to Dale Farm, saying that the road will be closed to all but residents from Friday, Sept. 2nd. See http://dalefarm.wordpress.com/contact for details.  Both ends of Oak Road will be blocked (blocking access via both Hardings Elm Road and Gardiners Lane North). Additionally, the lay by on the southern end of Oak Lane (leading on to the A127; by the white ‘Basildon onion’ water tower) will be blocked. There will be a no stop zone on the footpaths on the A127 between A176 at Billericay and A132 at Wickford.  Residents are feeling under siege, with children asking how many more nights they are going to be able to sleep in their beds.  Dale Farm is a big site, so it should be possible to find routes in, but be advised that after Sept. 1, it will be harder to get in, and likely impossible to get vehicles in.

WATER AND ELECTRICITY TO BE CUT: The Council have released information that they intend to cut water and electricity supplies from Dale Farm after the eviction notice period expires on midnight 31st August. This will leave sick, elderly, young, and pregnant residents without access to water or electricity. Amnesty International have condemned the removal of vital water and electricity in these circumstances, and asked their supporters to put pressure on the council to cease this action which represents a serious violation of human rights. An injunction has been sought in consideration of two residents who are dependent upon a constant electricity supply for nebulisers, without access to which their lives are placed in serious jeopardy. See Amnesty’s Kartick Raj speaking to BBC Essex this week.

CAMP CONSTANT: On Saturday, 27th August, we will launch CAMP CONSTANT a solidarity and resistance camp for supporters of the Dale Farm community. JOIN US.

See: http://dalefarm.wordpress.com/activity for more information, the weekend’s schedule of workshops, and a welcome pack.

DESPERATE PLEA TO UN: Richard Sheridan as president of the Gypsy Council has been involved in eleventh-hour negotiations with the UN Commission on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva; the Special Raporteur has already entreated the UK Government to cease the evictions and to ensure the families at Dale Farm are offered viable culturally appropriate alternative sites. Lord Avebury will accompany Dale Farm residents to 10 Downing Street on Thursday, 25th August to present a petition to the PM calling for the eviction to be called off.

INDEPENDENT MEDIA: Any independent media people planning to come on to the site (with video, cameras, etc) please read this first and make contact…

DONATE: use this paypal link to donate some money to the camp.

LONDON INFO-EVENT & MEETING: 2pm, Thurs, 25th August, at the Haircut before the party, Whitechapel…see here for more info.

MAKING THE CONNECTIONS: Workshop, Sunday Sept. 4th, 2pm, Camp Constant, Dale Farm.  Freedom of Movement and the Right to Stay!  This is the rallying cry for Roma, Gypsies and Travellers and of migrants throughout the world. A common thread of persecution, of forbidden lands, eviction and deportation connect the struggles for migrant rights and the rights of Gypsies and Travellers. These realities have met dramatically in the crack-down and deportations of Roma people from France and Italy.  Come to the Workshop organised by No One Is Illegal and London No Borders including speaker who is an activist in Amnesty International’s campaign against the persecution of Roma in Europe.

TELL EVERYONE ABOUT THE DEMO: Sat, 10th Sept, 1pm, see here for more information and email: savedalefarm@gmail.com to add your group’s support to the list…

RISE UP!: We cannot stand by and do nothing while the UKs largest Travellers site, home to hundreds of families, including many children, elderly and sick residents, is brutally evicted. Travellers should not have to live in constant fear of eviction with their lives and communities under constant threat. They should not have to be forced out of their homes and off their land by bulldozers and police. This constant hounding, marginalisation, and lack of provision is how rural England does ethnic cleansing. It is time for a resurgence of support for Gypsy and Traveller communities. Time to stand against the extreme racial discrimination faced by Gypsies and Travellers. Time to defend the right of Gypsies and Travellers to land, life, respect, and dignity.

http://dalefarm.wordpress.com

More on Dale farm here

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‘They Will Be Moving In Force, And Bringing A Grand Piano’

June 29, 2011 at 5:33 pm (Cuts, homelessness, Max Dunbar, protest, strange situations)

Over the last year or so, I’ve developed an acute awareness of how important it is to have somewhere decent to live.

Seems an obvious thing I know, but part of growing up is learning to appreciate the obvious. I walk home every day reflecting on how lucky I am that I don’t have to share a room with three brothers, that I don’t share a bed with an elderly relative, that I can heat my home and cook and wash, that I have a place to go if I do ever lose the home I rent now.

Many, many people are not in that fortunate position, thanks to the property bubble and a chronic underbuild of affordable housing. There are millions in overcrowded properties, another million homeless or sofa surfing. Waiting lists are now so long that even the Tory-led National Government has had to pledge a token number of new social homes. Unfortunately, its plans have been condemned not just by housing charities but also the construction and landlord industries as being both inadequate and unrealistic.

More and more political debate comes back to housing allocation. Labour leader Ed Miliband, under the evil thrall of Lord ‘Blue Labour’ Glasman, appeared to reject the need-based model of allocation when he praised a project in Manchester that prioritised ‘those who are giving something back to their communities – for example, people who volunteer or who work.’ The subtext here is: ‘Let’s provide homes for Those Who Are Deserving, and not large workless families on housing benefit.’

Here is Ed’s problem. True, people do have children that they can’t support. But that won’t guarantee state help. There was a recent case in Manchester where a woman with six children in a three-bed house had been on the transfer list for eleven years. She won’t get a move because only twelve four-bed homes became available last year and there are nine thousand people on Manchester’s list. There are four and a half million on lists nationwide and there will be another million or so as spending cuts hit.

We need around 240,000 new homes per year to meet demand and are building about half that. Whether we allocate by need or virtue, millions of people are losing out. It is a futile game of musical chairs. And it has become a G-spot issue for people who argue over the few remaining seats without stopping to think who’s playing the music.

If David Cameron cared about this issue, he would go to the IMF and say something like: ‘Look, chaps, here’s the thing. We are a country that cannot afford to house its citizens. I know, I know. It’s simply mortifying. Could we have a development grant or something?’

Maybe there’s another choice. The squatters’ movement had a resurgence in the 2000s when the boom drove up city rents. Perversely, there is a chronic housing shortage plus almost a million void properties. They are empty because owners can’t be bothered to do them up, or are waiting until they can sell them on in a recovered market. Recent reports say that squatters now include families who couldn’t make mortgage payments in the recession.

People invested unhealthy amounts of money and emotion in home ownership only to see dreams crash with the crash. This will become mainstream. Many squatters work on and improve properties they inhabit. It’s not just middle-class hipsterism. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The squat in Guy Ritchie’s Fitzrovia place, the HSBC rave, these were great protests and should be celebrated. While the LSE’s religious/totalitarian sympathisers bowed to Gaddafi, the real radical left invaded his mansion and opened it to Libyan refugees. An occupier told Laurie Penny that ‘We are not here to cause any damage… Why would we? It’s our house! It belongs to the Libyan people. We’re here to make sure it isn’t sold to finance more killing.’

Naturally, the government is trying to criminalise it. Cameron has thrown an anti-squatting law into the compromised mess of Ken Clarke’s criminal justice bill. As squat campaigner Paul Reynolds points out, this is essentially the criminalisation of homelessness at a time of housing crisis. I have no idea how this law would be enforced or even if it would be enforced. I think that like so many of this government’s policies, it will be counterproductive, and it will hit them hard.

Housing is where politics becomes real. The British public will put up with just about anything. But I can’t help think that there will be bad consequences for this government if it closes off more housing options for people who have very few options anyway.

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World Cup: the exaltation and the exploitation

June 12, 2010 at 6:14 pm (africa, homelessness, Jim D, poverty, sport)

Even a dedicated anti-sportsperson like me cannot help but be moved by the obvious joy and pride that the World Cup has brought to many South Africans, including (if the media coverage can be trusted) many poor blacks . And, of course, football (soccer) has a long and honourable role in in the anti apartheid struggle.

But there’s another side to it as well: evictions and hyper-exploitation.

THE SOCCER WORLD CUP IS HERE BUT THE POOR CONTINUE TO ‘FEEL’ HARDSHIP

The Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) and allies will be embarking on a march to coincide with the opening of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. The march will start at 09h00 from Ben Naude Drive, opposite Fons Luminous Combined School Assembly Area and will proceed along the Rand Show Road/Aerodrome Drive towards Soccer City. The APF urges all community and other civil society organisations who share our concerns and who wish to add their voices, to join us. We have no intention of disrupting the World Cup but simply to voice our discontent/concerns.

Despite the APF’s attempts to overturn them, conditions have been imposed by the Johannesburg Metro Police (in the name of ‘national security’) such that the march will not be allowed to proceed to Soccer City itself but will end at a designated ‘speakers corner’ some 1,5 kms away from the stadium. A memorandum of grievances and demands from communities that make up the APF has been drawn up and all the main local, provincial and national government offices have been contacted to come and receive this memorandum.

The Soccer World Cup is here and the official theme is “feel it, it is here”. However, despite the fact that most people love the game of soccer, poor communities are only feeling the hardship of South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup and the neoliberal policies which continue to ensure that poor people remain poor.

The massive amounts of public funds used to build new stadiums and related infrastructure for this World Cup have only served to further deny poor people the development and services they have been struggling for over many years. Millions remain homeless, unemployed and in deep poverty, thousands in poor communities across South Africa continue to be brutally evicted and those struggling to survive (like street vendors) are being denied basic trading rights and are criminalised.

Yet, our government has managed, in a fairly short period of time, to deliver ‘world class’ facilities and infrastructure that the majority of South Africans will never benefit from or be able to enjoy. The APF feels that those who have been so denied, need to show all South Africans as well as the rest of the world who will be tuning into the World Cup, that all is not well in this country, that a month long sporting event cannot and will not be the panacea for our problems. This World Cup is not for the poor – it is the soccer elites of FIFA, the elites of domestic and international corporate capital and the political elites who are making billions and who will be benefiting at the expense of the poor.

For the past fifteen years the majority of South Africans have continued to suffer the inheritances of the apartheid regime and neoliberal macro-economic policies. General living conditions, largely due to a lack of basic services and employment opportunities, have gone from bad to worse to bad. These problems are very real and they range from:

* the huge backlog in formal housing (parallel to the increased growth in shack settlements in all main urban and peri-urban areas)
* lack of access to electrification in many poor areas (upwards of 30% of South Africans – most of whom are poor – remain unelectrified and are forced to use dangerous substitutes such as paraffin and candles)
* a poor quality public education system (in which educational resources are scarce and a serious crises in the provision of basic services at public schools continues)
* a dire lack of proper recreational facilities and programmes in poor communities (contributing to a range of serious social problems, especially amongst the youth)
* the immense number of impoverished, unemployed people across the country (despite the promises of job creation through the World Cup, over 1 million have lost their jobs over the past two years – including those workers casually employed to build the new stadiums – and the real unemployment rate is around 40% – a national crisis!).

The APF wants to make it clear that we love the game of soccer. Soccer is a predominately working class sport that is enjoyed by billions around the globe. But this World Cup does not represent those billions but rather the interests of a small elite who have manipulated the beautiful game and have used this World Cup to make massive profits at the expense of poor ordinary South Africans who, after all, are the ones who have paid – through the public purse – for what so few will enjoy.

South Africa is the most unequal society in the world and we believe that addressing this socio-economic inequality must be the top priority of our country, our government is addressed. One World Cup – no matter how much we enjoy watching soccer – is not going to address or solve our fundamental problems. The more we continue to allow the elites to hide the realities of our country, to falsely claim that this World Cup will provide lasting social unity and leave a positive developmental ‘legacy’ and to spend public funds to do so, the farther we move from confronting the real problems that the majority in our country experience every day of their lives.

For comment/further information contact:

Sithembiso Nhlapo 078 148 0153

dubheza@gmail.com

Mashao Chauke 082 212 6518

chaukemash@gmail.com

Sipho Magudulela 074 938 2145

si.magudulela@webmail.co.za

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For a libertarian drugs policy

September 18, 2007 at 10:46 pm (drugs, homelessness, voltairespriest)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketFollowing on from the earlier discussion on this site about the new puritanism in the UK, this is speculative consideration of the demerits of punitive models of controlling substance misuse and consequent criminality in the UK. Much of the “debate” over legislation of illegal drugs in the UK is in reality a case of shades of grey, with governments simply advocating different degrees of punishment and illegality to deter users from procuring substances to which they are often physically and psychologically addicted, and dealers from selling the substances in question. Any attempts to liberalise the law (as the early-years Blair government half-heartedly sought to do when marijuana was downgraded from class B to class C) are greeted with howls from the media and politicians both left and right that politicians are giving succour to criminals. The exception to this was the Independent on Sunday’s brief campaign for cannabis legalisation under its editor at that time, Rosie Boycott – for which she was rewarded with derision across the rest of the press.

However, the reality of the situation is rather different. At the sharp end of drug use, we find that the criminalised status of drug users results in their being unable to access services which would actually facilitate their recovery. Ask any homelessness worker, especially in a small town, what is one of the biggest barriers to successful accommodation and support for people who are currently homeless, and they will tell you that it is the cycle of unsupported drug habits, poor (or non existent) accommodation and consequent crime. A drug habit with a lack of adequate support leads to crime in a desperate effort to support that habit, and this in turn leads to refusals from nervy hostel assessors who are disinclined to admit someone so chaotic to an environment that is often already tense. Arrears on tenancies consequent from financial effects of drug use also prohibit independent housing via social landlords. And to complete the circle, a lack of stable accommodation leads to people continuing to mix in the same circles where they first acquired their habits, as well as being depressed and isolated. Both of these, of course, are trigger factors for the same drug use that serves as a barrier to their accommodation in the first place. Bear this in mind next time you read a newspaper story about “anti-social behaviour” or hear a pub conversation about “dirty skagheads”. If class A drugs could routinely be prescribed as part of therapy programmes, this cycle could be broken.

There is a larger picture here too, and it is not quite the same as law-and-order “common sense” advocates on drugs would have you believe. The story that is usually told is one of brave and under-funded customs services battling bravely against drugs cartels which control massive multi-national empires beyond the reach of governments. Meanwhile, users themselves are either pitied in the press as hopeless tools of dealers and the drug trade, or else demonised as criminals.

An increasing amount of the direct work done with UK homeless people and drug users is done by faith groups, who often (whether consciously or inadvertently) tie that work to religious teaching or practices. As a consequence, people who are at their most vulnerable find themselves demonised by “mainstream” society, whilst being proselytised at by its wackier (however well-meaning) fringes. Witness the numbers of orange-crossed Jesus Army members who are ex-users, and you will see what I mean. 

There is another side, however, and we need only look at the stark scenario to see it. The first is that the global illegal drugs trade is completely untouched by small-scale puritanical social policies on drugs. Indeed, the existence of illegality is arguably a facilitator to the illegal drugs trade, not a break on it at all. It is estimated that some $320 billion in sales turnover goes through the global illegal drugs trade every year (UN Office on Drugs and Crime “World Drug Report” 2005). All of this is tax-free, and much of it goes to fund arms to groups across the world. It would seem that the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror” are not only equally dismal failures, but also somewhat closer tied than one might think.

Perhaps the strongest directly left-wing argument against prohibition is that it causes crime in working-class areas. One only has to look at the precedent of 1920s US alcohol prohibition to see it. It is equally visible now. A gap in the legal market leaves the way open for illegal traders. They need to work in areas where they can intimidate the populace, and in the final analysis those areas are unlikely to be stuffed full of affluent, politically active voters with mortgages and connections. That is not to mention the fact that across the western world, the figures for successful prosecutions, convictions and (especially) incarcerations have a sharp racial bent. The starkest figure is perhaps from the USA, where 13% of the country’s drug users are African-American, yet users from that group are twice as likely to be arrested as whites, and a staggering four times as likely to be incarcerate (The Sentencing Project “Drug Policy and the Criminal System, 2001). Not to mention the impact on new generations of inner city children whose parents have been criminalised and incarcerated rather then helped. Further reading material on the US side of things (it’s of interest to all as well) can be found on this site.

And of course, who would ever seriously believe that capital would only flow on one side of the divide? Such is corporate hypocrisy that whilst the political parties which big corporations fund rant and rage against marijuana use, pharmaceutical companies are trying to research the medical properties of the cannabis plant and patent them. Don’t be surprised if the price of a half-ounce goes up a bit if Glaxo Smithkline get their way. Finally on the subject of marijuana, it is this class C drug which accounts for a large slice of the global drugs trade, and 70% of the “war on drugs”.

Still sound like prohibition is “common sense” to you? Ask yourself a very deep question, and be honest with yourself about the answer. How much of you is really wondering whether they’ll bring down the house prices if they move in next door?

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