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the officer. " It is strictly forbidden. But I
should be very grateful for a cup of tea." For
some time past there have been no more articles
in the German papers on the subject of Russian
drunkenness.

Writing in The Times a neutral observer makes the
following remarks : " The one thing which impresses
the observer more and more each day is the sobriety
and good behaviour of the Russian troops. I have
now been with the army for nearly three weeks, and
have seen thousands upon thousands of soldiers from
all parts of Russia. I have yet to see the first
drunken or disorderly man connected with the
army, either officer or soldier. The dread of soldiery,
which is the rule when armies are spread over the
land, is absolutely lacking. It is certain that the
prohibition of strong drink has worked wonders in
the Russian army, and is one of the great factors
in the isplendid showing, both in the field and
in the cities, that is being made by the Russian
armies both in Galicia and in the Polish theatre of
war."

Another important result of sobriety is shown in
the improved physical condition of the troops.
Innumerable army surgeons have testified to the
benefits of sobriety. Operations are much more
easily performed on men who have been unable to
obtain drink than on those who are more or less under
its influence. They recover from their wounds much
more quickly. Direct proof of this is to be found
in the fact that no less than 85 per cent, of those
wounded in the earlier stages of the war are now



RUSSIA AND DRINK 13

back in the firing line; and the vast majority of
those who have not returned are those who have been
so severely wounded that it is impossible for them
to return to active service at all.

It must be remembered, too, that the Russian
armies in Galicia and Poland during the past few
months have been fighting under weather conditions
far more severe than those obtaining in the western
theatre of war. Although the vast majority of them
are abstainers of only a few months' standing, yet
they have withstood the rigours of the Russian winter
without anything " to keep the cold out." Indeed,
in the opinion of the authorities, frost-bite and the
other scourges incident on winter warfare have been
noticeably diminished as a result of the abstention
from alcohol.

The beneficial effects of sobriety are no less apparent
among the people at large than in the army. " Of
all the impressions gathered during the first three
months of the war," writes the Moscow correspondent
of The Times, " the one that remains most clear in
my mind is that of amazed astonishment at the
almost Anglo-Saxon calmness and stoical dignity
with which the people of Moscow have settled down
to await, not the result of the war, but victory. As
a foreigner, I had scarcely expected this, and the
fierce manifestations round the Skobelev monument
during the first days of the war seemed to confirm
my fears. And then quite suddenly everything
changed. The manifestations disappeared from the
streets. Without a murmur of protest the most
drunken city in Europe was transformed into a
temple of sobriety, and we felt that if Russia could
thus conquer herself in a night, there was indeed
nothing that might not be accomplished. My con-
version was complete when one night early in August
I went to iee a friend's regiment leaving for the
front. It was not the soldiers who impressed me,



14 DRINK AND THE WAR

although they marched as only Russian soldiers can
march. It was the people lining the streets. They
were nearly all of the poorest classes : mujiks, small
shopkeepers, and workmen with their womenfolk.
They did not cheer as an English crowd would have
cheered. In fact, they were strangely silent, almost
one might have said unenthusiastic. But as the
troops marched past each man in the crowd raised his
cap and crossed himself with a look in his eyes that
even to the veriest dullard could have conveyed only
one message. ... In praising this wholly admirable
calmness of the Russian people in these sober days
and it would be hard to over-estimate the effect of the
enforced sobriety in producing this happy state of
affairs I do not imply that the Russian has altogether
banished emotion from his heart. He has only
chained it up. Accustomed by years of tribulation
to the bitterness of defeat, he is a little self-
conscious in the knowledge that he is again on
trial before the world. This time he will not
count his harvest until the last sheaf has been safely
garnered."

In the same paper Mr. Stephen Graham, in describ-
ing Christmas in Russia, shows that the peasant still
manages to be cheerful although denied the help of
alcohol. " Christmas morning comes," he says.
" The tables are piled heavily with roast goose, roast
turkey, ham, sweet pastry, chocolates. The samovar
hums. In come the village choir and an orchestra
of violins and balalaikas and perform three or four
pieces of national music, the National Anthem
certainly. They kiss the good-man of the house,
congratulate the women, take a snack of turkey and
a glass of tea. The village police come in, topers to
a man, and wish you well and cry ' God save the
Tsar,' and they drink a glass of tea. The post-
master comes in, the manager of the vodka shop
(now out of a job), the clergy, the baker, the grocer,



RUSSIA AND DRINK 15

the neighbours, and they embrace and sing and shout
and talk and drink glasses of tea, as it happens this
year. To one who has lived through a village
Christmas it is somewhat difficult to imagine Russia
without vodka at Christmas. It has played such an
enormous part in the festivity ; not really a bad part,
for there is so much good-will and real hearty sociality
at the Russian Christmas that drinking does not result
in sottish drunkenness or crime. But there it is this
year, a Christmas on tea ! "

Writing in the Novoye Vremya a priest in one of
the rural districts says : " The old women in the
villages can hardly believe their ears and eyes, so
changed are their menfolk. Not a hard word, not
a row, but everywhere peace, kindness and industry.
War is said to be hell, but this is like a foretaste of
heaven."

Since the prohibition there has been a marked
decrease in crime, especially in the so-called " crimes
of passion." An improvement is even to be seen in
the famous " Viazemskaia Lavra," the lodging-house
in Petrograd, which is the chief resort of the Russian
underworld. The place was formerly a hot-bed of
vice and crime, and even the police dared not enter
it after dark. But the human wrecks whom Gorki
has described with such keen insight are beginning
to feel like men again as a result of their enforced
sobriety.

With the decrease in crime there has been a cor-
responding increase in industry and thrift. In dis-
cussing this aspect of the question M. Barck, the
Minister of Finance, made use of the following
words : " It is difficult for foreigners to realise how
great are Russia's economic resources, and how
much greater they have become since the promul-
gation by His Majesty of that humanitarian law
which, I may add, is felt by the Russian people
themselves, not as a restriction, but as an inestimable



16 DRINK AND THE WAR

boon conferred upon them by their provident monarch.
I can assure you that the productivity of every class
of workman in Russia, whether we examine those
engaged in agricultural or industrial pursuits, has
already increased by from 30 to 50 per cent., and I
need hardly point out to you what that one act
connotes in a population of 170,000,000, to say nothing
of the cessation of the waste which formerly accom-
panied and followed the consumption of alcohol.
Again, the rates for the maintenance of prisoners
have fallen, because crime has everywhere diminished,
and in some districts has disappeared altogether.
Another indication of the welcome change which has
come over the nation is afforded by the returns of the
savings banks. In war-time people are everywhere
nervous; and in Russia, as elsewhere, large sums
were withdrawn from the savings banks as soon as
war was declared. Well, since the total prohibition
of alcohol, the accounts I have received from these
institutions throughout the country are so encourag-
ing that even I, whose faith in the Russian people
has always been large and firm, did not anticipate
the rapid and splendid result which they denote.
Although only a few months elapsed between the
promulgation of the Tsar's humane and patriotic
edict and the end of 1914, the excess of deposits
over withdrawals amounted to 84,000,000 rubles
(8,500,000), or twice the amount of the preceding
year. Russia's economic situation, therefore, is not
merely excellent, but it is rapidly improving, and my
faith in her future not a blind, but a carefully
reasoned faith is boundless."

It should also be noted that M. Barck has ex-
perienced no great difficulty in making good the
huge loss to the revenue caused by the abolition
of the State monopoly, and that in spite of the
heavy expense of the war. " I have," he says,
" always cherished a great faith in the potentialities



RUSSIA AND DRINK 17

of the Russian nation, but I must admit that even
my optimistic anticipations have been greatly ex-
ceeded by the reality. As you know, there was a
considerable deficit to be covered in the ordinary
Budget of the year 1914. Well, we have stopped the
gap without difficulty or effort. We have 500,000,000
rubles in the Free Reserve, and other available
funds from which we drew, and the problem was
solved. I increased some few taxes during the
remaining months of last year, and I found that the
solvency of the peasants has been raised very con-
siderably by the law prohibiting the consumption of
alcohol, and that the beneficent operation of this
edict continues to make itself felt progressively."

A short time ago the zemstvos, or local councils,
made an exhaustive inquiry amongst the peasants
as to whether they thought the prohibition ought to
be continued after the war or not. The result was
striking. All classes were agreed that the remarkable
increase in the prosperity and happiness of the
people was solely due to the abolition of alcoholic
drink. Nevertheless it was recognised on all sides
that if the vodka shops were reopened there would
be a recrudescence of the old evils. Hence, the whole
nation was practically unanimous in demanding that
the reform should be made permanent.

What will be the ultimate results of this tremendous
change time alone will show. We must wait until we
can see how the scheme works under normal peace
conditions before stating definitely that prohibition
in Russia has proved completely successful. The
potentialities of the situation are enormous. Russia
has vast undeveloped resources and the possibilities
in that direction are unlimited. For the present,
however, it is sufficient that the subjects of the
Tsar are providing the world with the most striking
object-lesson in the advantage of temperance that
has yet been known. It cannot fail to have an



18 DRINK AND THE WAR

effect on public opinion throughout the civilised
world. An ounce of practice is worth a ton of
theory, and the action of the Tsar has done more for
the temperance movement than a whole century of
preaching.



CHAPTER II
FRANCE AND DRINK

FRANCE has dealt with the drink problem with no
less thoroughness than Russia. At the very beginning
of the war it was realised that, in a crisis such as the
present, the excessive consumption of alcohol con-
stituted a danger which could not be tolerated.
With the enemy hacking its way towards Paris it
was obvious to all that everything must be sacrificed
in the cause of the national existence. There was
not time for discussion; half measures were futile.
It was a case for the ruthless use of the surgeon's
knife and France did not hesitate. Absinthe and
similar drinks were prohibited throughout the country.
Not a protest was made against this drastic action,
which a few months ago might easily have resulted
in riots. The people merely shrugged their shoulders
and admitted that the measure was justified.

Fortunately the nation was more or less prepared
for the step. For some time past the French Aca-
demy of Science has been carrying on an educative
campaign among the people. British temperance
reformers would do well to note the methods adopted
by the Academy. The campaign was carried out
in a sober, tolerant spirit; the people were assumed
to be intelligent and care was taken not to insult
their intelligence. Within recent years, too, a num-
ber of authoritative works have been published on
the subject in France. For instance, there is the
excellent book of M. Louis Jacquet entitled VAlcool,

19



20 DRINK AND THE WAR

Etude economique gbnkrale. Every one of its nine
hundred odd pages is worthy of study, not merely
by the ordinary temperance reformer, but by every-
body who takes an intelligent interest in social affairs.

To M. Jacquet's book an eloquent preface is con-
tributed by M. Georges Clemenceau, the well-known
journalist and politician. " The indictment against
alcohol," he says, " has long been drawn. The sen-
tence has been pronounced with such sharpness and
with such loudness, in all the territories of civilisation
and of savagery, that there is no need to reopen
discussion as to the results of experiences purchased
at so dear a cost.

" It is definitely settled that alcohol, in the quantity
in which far too many people are in the habit of
taking it, is a poison a poison destructive of human
energy, and therefore of society as a whole. Alcohol
ravages the wage-earning class the class which
absorbs nearly four-fifths of the alcohol consumed
and in that stratum of society is responsible for
much tuberculosis, criminality, insanity and mortality.
Alcohol is the great purveyor of suffering and human
misery.

" Such is the verdict in its terrible simplicity. . . .
It is astonishing that in the face of this scourge,
whose origins are known and whose effects have been
exposed in all directions, individual action seems
struck with impotency; while the State, with all
the powerful weapons at its disposal, stands an
indifferent spectator of an evil, beside which the
great epidemics of the past arc no more than com-
monplace incidents in the human drama. . . . Every
newspaper offers us pictures of the sufferings and
death which the alcoholist inflicts not only on him-
self, but on his innocent victim. We read, we see,
we at times philosophise on the matter, and we pass
on while everything gives way before the torrent of
devastation.



FRANCE AND DRINK 21

" And this is only one of the aspects of an im-
mense tragedy.

" Alcohol, M. Jacquet tells us, takes more or less
time to kill its victim, but it very quickly makes of
him an individual of poor quality.

" So the evil with its frightful train of miseries
and crimes increases, and together with it and on
what a scale the obscure phenomena of slow de-
generation which transforms the apparently sound
individual into an agent of disturbance. This is the
more dreadful in that nothing warns us to be on
guard against faculties disordered. It can further
happen that these states of unconscious morbidity
can be found in the tumult of public action, bursting
at times into violent explosion. Irreparable damage,
then, for the entire social organism ! Who will take
up the subject, ' Alcohol, Agent of National Decline
in a Democracy ' ?

" The destiny of that people which is unable to
react against a moral and physical degeneration
accepted in exchange for a degrading pleasure is
sealed. All men of good-will without distinction of
party should unite in a common effort for the relief
of the country threatened at so many points and at
one time."

There can be no doubt that, at any rate so far as
absinthe is concerned, this indictment is justified, and
more then justified. According to the British Medical
Journal absinthe is of a very high alcoholic strength,
containing from 47 to 72 per cent, per volume of
absolute alcohol. It is prepared by soaking in alcohol
the leaves and flowers of wormwood, anise, cinnamon,
cloves and other herbs and colouring the distillate
with balm and hyssop. Sometimes spinach and
parsley are used to produce the colour of the drink ;
and in the cheaper qualities artificial colouring mat-
ters, such as indigo, turmeric and copper sulphate,
are frequently employed.



22 DRINK AND THE WAR

Absinthe is at once the most deleterious and most
insidious drink that misapplied ingenuity has yet
invented. Its colour, aroma, taste and effects are
all far more seductive than those of any other drink.
It is easier to break the thrall of drugs than that of
absinthe.

No less than 53,000,000 gallons of absinthe were
consumed in France during the year 1913. Taken
usually on an empty stomach, as an aperitif, the
evil qualities of the alcohol and oils of wormwood
and other herbs contained in the drink have every
facility for producing their worst effects. The poi-
sonous ingredients affect nutrition and act directly
on the nervous system. The first effect of the drink
is one of pleasant intoxication. The mental faculties
are sharply stimulated, and the drinker becomes cheer-
ful and high spirited. But if he persists, brightness
gives place to dullness. All the sparkle vanishes and
he becomes simply a heavy brute. Then follow
various mental and nervous phenomena. The drinker
suffers from hallucinations and such sleep as he
obtains is broken by hideous nightmares. In time
the absinthe fiend usually finds himself in the assize
court or the asylum or both.

When under the influence of absinthe a man has no
control over his actions. All the brutal passions in
him are aroused, but he hardly knows what he is
doing. Hence the vast majority of the crimes of
violence in France have in the past been due directly
to the drink. Some time ago a man who had been
drinking absinthe heavily shot an actor in a restaurant
in Montmartre. He had no motive for the crime, the
actor was a complete stranger to him. It was simply
a case of temporary madness due to absinthe, and
when on the morrow the murderer woke up, and found
himself in a prison cell, he had not the slightest idea
of what had occurred.

Although the population of France has remained



FRANCE AND DRINK 28

practically stationary during the last thirty years
lunacy has increased over 100 per cent. During the
same period the consumption of absinthe has also
increased at an alarming rate. Insanity is most
prevalent in those Departments where the consump-
tion of absinthe is highest, generally speaking, those
in the valleys of the Seine and the Rhone. Statistics
also show that in those Departments the birth rate
is lower and the number of crimes higher than in any
other part of the country.

Another vital danger which has been rousing
attention in France is the fact that absinthe not only
affects the quantity, but also the quality, of the next
generation. It has been conclusively shown that a
very large proportion of the children of excessive
absinthe drinkers are mentally and physically de-
ficient or degenerate. The extent of the danger was
impressively illustrated at the beginning of the war
when thousands of conscripts had to be refused for
one or other of these causes. Unless prompt measures
had been taken it is obvious that the future of France
would have been seriously jeopardised. For years the
population has been stationary or diminishing, while
insanity and degeneracy have been increasing at an
alarming rate ; and now, when the flower of the man-
hood is on the battlefield, absinthe-sodden degenerates
and weaklings were being left to carry on the race.
In such circumstances it is obvious that not to have
prohibited absinthe would have amounted to national
suicide.

Absinthe would doubtless have been prohibited in
France many years ago had not the drink problem
there, as here, been hedged about with so many
difficulties. In the first place, the nation would not
have tolerated prohibition. Absinthe drinking had
become a national habit and although its evils were
apparent they were not realised. In spite of the
earnest educative campaign which has been carried



24 DRINK AND THE WAR

on all over the country the people would not tolerate
the prohibition of their favourite drink even now, had
not the peril of the war opened their eyes to the need
of drastic measures. The war has forced the nation
to admit that absinthe is a poison which will not only
send French men and women to the prison and the
asylum, but will also send France to the limbo of the
powers which have passed from the earth.

There is also the problem of the trade interests.
How vast are those interests can be judged from the
enormous amount of absinthe which is consumed.
In Russia the prohibition of vodka was comparatively
simple because the production and sale of the spirit
was a Government monopoly. But in France, as in
Britain, the drink trade is in private hands. And in
comparison with the population the " trade " is more
powerful in France than in any other country. In
France there is one spirit bar to every 82 inhabitants,
as against one to every 246 in Germany, one to every
380 in the United States, one to 430 in England and
one to 9000 in Norway and Canada. In the Depart-
ment du Nord there are no less than 51,814 drinking
shops.

There are also 1,300,000 people employed in the
distilling industry, forming a very powerful guild
and possessing many ancient rights and privileges.
The members of this guild obviously form an import-
ant section of the electorate and they have often
given evidence of their political power in the past.
But for the war no Government would have dared to
incur the displeasure of the distillers by practically
ruining them. As matters turned out, however, the
measure was accepted as a matter of course.

There can be no greater test of patriotism than the
sacrifice of material prosperity for the sake of the
community. The man who gives his life for his
country on the field of battle is a hero. But it takes
more courage voluntarily to give up one's profits and



FRANCE AND DRINK 25

all the pleasures and comforts they stand for, in order
that victory may be rendered more certain. The
distiller has not the excitement of battle to help him ;
he is not acclaimed as a hero, but rather is scowled at
as a national enemy; there is nothing picturesque
about his action. But he is a Frenchman first and
a distiller afterwards, and so he shrugs his shoulders.
He is ruined maybe, but France will live.

The " trade " in France neither protested nor
whined at the prospect of the prohibition of absinthe ;
indeed, it actually helped the measure forward.
Theirs was one of the most patriotic acts that the war
has seen, although it has passed almost without
notice. It is a pity that it has not been fully recog-
nised, for then there might possibly have been a few
who would imitate it.

The honour of bringing about the prohibition rests
with M. Henri Schmidt, the Deputy for the Vosges.
At the beginning of the war he was employed as a
lieutenant in the medical service. He thus had
ample opportunity for studying the question of drink
and the soldier at first hand. He found that the
majority of the troops who were summoned to the
colours presented themselves in a drunken condition.
This was not usually because the men were necessarily
drunkards, but simply because their friends had wished
them good-bye and good luck with more diligence than
discretion. Very naturally, before leaving for the
military depots, the men had called on their friends
and neighbours to wish them au revoir. As a result
they had consumed innumerable pelits verres. Hence
a mistaken hospitality and patriotism caused thou-
sands of soldiers to be unfitted for their duties for
several days.

M. Schmidt took the matter up, and as a result the
General commanding took instant measures for prohi-
biting the supply of absinthe to the troops. Once
started the movement spread all over France, the



26

police co-operating with the military authorities. At
first a good deal of confusion arose owing to different
orders being made in different districts. But an Act
soon put the whole matter straight. At first it was
suggested that the prohibition of absinthe should be
only a temporary measure, but finally the prohibition
was made absolute. The Bill which in ordinary
times would have caused a storm of controversy
passed both Chambers practically without opposition.


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