Kensington Philadelphia

Kensington, Philadelphia: Capitalism Deserves to Perish

In the first capital of the richest country in world history, a short walk from the prestigious campus of Temple University, beneath the elevated-train tracks, bordering I-95 and the Delaware River, lies a small neighborhood filled with indescribable human suffering: Kensington, Philadelphia.

More homeless opioid addicts live here than any other neighborhood in the country. They trudge along the streets, sleep on the trash-filled curbs, and eke out what shouldn’t be called an existence, let alone a life. This is the heroin capital of the Northeast, now polluted with even more dangerous chemicals like Fentanyl and “Tranq,” an animal tranquilizer with which many street drugs are now cut. It causes a more extreme yet shorter-lasting high, and leaves horrific, bleeding open wounds on the skin of its users.

More homeless opioid addicts live in Kensington than any other neighborhood in the country. / Image: Socialist Revolution

As Lenin once said, capitalism is “horror without end,” and there can be no better description of a neighborhood resembling one of Dante’s circles of hell. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Smell the burnt heroin, the vomit, the feces. Resist the urge to turn away, and you won’t need to walk far before seeing discarded needles and lines of tents. Observe the emaciated bodies lying on the ground. Are they dead or just sleeping? It is hard to tell.

Men and women up to 100-pounds underweight scrounge through piles of trash looking for food. Others beg, but few have money to give. Decrepit buildings stand behind lines of what can only be described as zombies. The sound of gunfire rings through the air, as drug dealers and gangs fight for control of strategic street corners. Prostitution and human trafficking are rampant, as is pregnancy while addicted.

Few realize that the McPherson Square public library is, in fact, a library. Instead, it’s known as “needle park.” The library workers are experienced in the use of Narcan and other resuscitation techniques. Before COVID-19—which multiplied the terrors already rampant in the neighborhood—there was a hepatitis A outbreak here. Why? Because there is so much public defecation, so much feces lining the streets.

Some might call this a dystopia. But this is the reality of capitalism in terminal decay. This formerly industrial, working-class neighborhood has been trashed by capitalism’s housing crisis and opioid epidemic.

The New York Times called this the “Walmart of Heroin.” Philadelphians know it as “zombieland.” Search “Kensington, Philadelphia” on Google, and one of the first results is “zombies.” Plenty of YouTube channels, Instagram profiles, blogs, articles, and artsy photography showcases are dedicated to Kensington. It is a morbid fascination to some. To others, it’s something to be laughed off, because what else can you do?

But to many, this is where a loved one has gone. Everyone knows what it means when you say, “so and so lives in Kensington now.” Not everyone responds with numbness. Many seethe with anger at this needless human misery. This is the “molecular process of revolution.” Inflammable material is building up in the minds of workers riding the El train through this hellscape on the way to jobs they hate, knowing that life doesn’t have to be this way.

This formerly industrial, working-class neighborhood has been trashed by capitalism’s housing crisis and opioid epidemic. / Image: Socialist Revolution

Of course, there are proposed “solutions” from the city’s grandees: humane efforts like clean needle exchange sites, free Narcan, or building more homeless shelters. There was even a proposal to designate the neighborhood a FEMA disaster zone. Alongside these half-measures, the capitalist housing market pursues its own master plan: gentrifying Kensington into nonexistence. Right next to “bad” Kensington, there are endless blocks of renovated houses where craft-brewed IPAs are the drug of choice for young professionals in button downs and Vineyard Vines.

What’s required is a surgical operation against capitalism itself. Republicans and Democrats alike blame the homeless, unemployed, and addicted for their problems. Weak reformists offer tepid “solutions” that push the problem off to tomorrow. We say no: only the socialist reconstruction of society can end the opioid epidemic, house the 500,000 who sleep rough every night in the US, and transform areas like Kensington into neighborhoods worthy of human existence.

The working class needs and deserves a mass communist party to fight against this rotten system, to conquer every obstacle standing in the way of a world of superabundance for all.

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