Stalin’s cure for drunkenness

You have to admire the sheer idealism of early socialist policies, such as the policy on drunkenness by the Georgian branch of the party in 1909. Stalin writes: ‘drunkenness is regarded as an inevitable evil under capitalism, which can be abolished only with the fall of capitalism and the triumph of socialism.’ This might initially elicit a smile and a shaking of the head. If only it were so easy. But then he goes on to make some valid points:

By reducing the workers and peasants to the condition of rightless slaves and robbing them of the opportunity to satisfy their cultural requirements, the existing autocratic-feudal regime helps to spread drunkenness among the toiling population to the utmost degree. This is apart from the fact that representatives of the ‘authorities’ deliberately encourage drunkenness as a source of revenue for the Treasury.

In Australia, as in many countries, alcohol fueled violence and binge drinking (especially among young teenagers, with long-term damage as a result) has reached problematic levels. Why? The powerful alcohol lobby has any government at its mercy due to political ‘donations,’ and the tax revenue is something governments are reluctant to lose. So alcohol is cheap, ubiquitous and easy to get. What is the standard response by these clowns?

Neither the sermons preached by the ‘liberals,’ who convene congresses to combat drunkenness and organise ‘temperance societies,’ nor the exhortations of priests can diminish, let alone abolish, drunkenness, which is engendered by the inequalities in society, and intensified by the autocratic regime.

So you find weak-kneed invocations to show personal responsibility. The problem is not the widespread availability of alcohol and inducements to drink, but willpower and responsible drinking. The problem is not the alcohol itself but the person who drinks it. Strange how the same is not said of smoking or hard drugs or guns (except in the USA, where 30,000 homicides a year are due to guns). Stalin’s solution is perhaps a little too simplistic:

But for such a struggle to be successful it is first of all necessary to overthrow the tsarist regime and to win a democratic republic, which will create the possibility for the free development of the class struggle and for the organisation of the proletariat in town and country, for raising its cultural level and for widely training its forces for the great struggle for socialism. The Baku Committee regards the forthcoming congress to combat drunkenness as a means of agitating for the democratic and socialist demands of the Russian proletariat, and instructs our delegate to combat the opportunist delegates at the congress who obscure the class tasks of the proletariat.

But the underlying point is what may be called the ‘education of desire.’ A good dose of authoritarian control and strict regulation is the way to go. Make it expensive, ban advertising, restrict the amount and types available. Sure, people will drink, but make it really tough to do so. As an example, here we have the so-called ‘Newcastle solution’, which is relatively mild form of regulation. Clubs and pubs have a 1.00 am lockout (if you are inside, you can stay for a bit, but you can’t get in), shots are banned after 10.00 pm, as also unmixed or strong drinks. The result has been a 30% reduction in alcohol fueled violence. As as stronger example, strict regulation works a wonder with guns.


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