The New Europe and Prohibition

A Post War Survey

by Guy Hayler
President, World Prohibition Federation

"The Liquor Traffic is a huge monopoly which spreads its ramifications to every part of the world. It is not peculiar to one sphere or one people. Prohibition on the other hand, is the bringing into play of all the forces of good for the purpose of united effort against a universally admitted evil. Soon, perhaps in the lifetime of many now living, the ends of the earth will be linked in one final crusade. The day is certainly coming when men and women will despise -the traffic in intoxicants as much as they now detest and abominate the very name of slavery." - International Record (London)

The New Europe and Prohibition

The various countries of Europe find themselves more than ever dependent upon one another. Whatever policies of isolation may seem to some to be temporarily advisable, it is becoming -abundantly evident that only by common effort and sacrifice can peace and prosperity come again among men.

If a tithe of the energy and courage produced by war were thrown into a mighty movement for social reconstruction, Europe would recover with incredible speed. It is vision, and the faith to believe in the vision, that makes things possible. Yet no one can look at the Continent of Europe to-day without feeling and recognising that very wonderful schemes are in progress. The world's eyes may be dazzled by the limelight of commissions and conferences, which unfortunately seem so futile, but behind the publicity given to such events there is much being actually done to sweeten citizenship and rebuild the waste places. Above all selfish national interests, conflicting creeds, and hateful race barriers, there sits a great spirit waiting the hour of human emancipation when the needs of one shall be the common concern of all.

The story of Europe's slow emancipation from the powers of liquordom is worth telling, and I have tried to tell it as it has come to me through the leaders and workers in the different countries.

In Austria

Since the break-up of the Monarchy, organised labour has been holding congresses and conferences for the special consideration of the question of alcoholism. It may be said with truth that the liquor traffic has no more persistent enemies than labour. For years, a campaign has been carried on in Austria with devotion and enthusiasm, but the woeful condition of things produced by the War has awakened an increase in the activities of the various organisations opposed to the traffic in intoxicating liquors. The question has now reached the State Legislature, and it is the intention of the Austrian Government to spend 50 million kronen on a " dry" campaign. A laudable attempt," says the London Observer, though the means seem inadequate to the task." One must bear in mind, however, that this project has the wholehearted support of the President of the Republic (Dr. Michael Hainisch), Dr. Schober, the Chief of the Vienna Police, and a host of other powerful sympathisers, to say nothing of the great help of the Catholic and Protestant bodies. President Hainisch recently thanked " the World Prohibition Federation, with its constituent bodies, for the help they are giving in the furnishing of means for the dissemination of facts relative to intoxicating liquors." American, English, Swiss, Dutch, Swedish, and other charitably disposed States have been feeding the children of Austria for months and months, while the precious grain has been turned into alcoholic liquors. The grain production could not feed the native population but for a few months at the most, still, in certain quarters, there is a. distinct opposition to the conversion of grain and mill produce into whisky, and this protest is receiving attention. The demand for Local Veto has taken definite form and a Bill has been prepared which will be placed before the legislature.

The Belgians

It was once stated by a Belgian Minister that between 1873-93, the Belgian people drank in spirits alone the value of all the canals, roads, railways, harbours, and fortresses which the State had constructed during its whole existence. Since that time, however, great progress has been made, and the outlook for Prohibition is brightening. It was intended at the commencement of the War to prohibit the sale of all alcoholic liquors, but certain forces were at work which prevented this, and only partial Prohibition was obtained. At the close of the War a law was passed which prohibits the sale and consumption of spirits in public places, such as hotels, restaurants, shops, and railway stations. This measure has been decidedly beneficial to the community. The first steps have also been taken towards Local Option.

Dr. Aug. Ley, a prominent Belgian scientist, stated recently that priests, magistrates and courts of justice, governors of prisons, military authorities, labour leaders, social service experts, and educational authorities, all favoured restrictions on the liquor traffic, and he hoped that their combined effort and influence would convince the members of both chambers so that they might be more impressed by their sense of duty to their countrymen than by the selfish clamours of distillers, saloon-keepers, and liquor dealers. The fine example set by King Albert, Cardinal Mercier, Emile Vandervelde, and others must considerably help the Prohibition movement.

Progress in Bulgaria

Good work was done before the War by editors of medical journals and teachers in the public day schools of the land. Petitions were organised in many places with a view to placing before the Bulgarian Government the evils of alcoholism. This propaganda was effective and resulted in Prohibition being adopted in a number of the villages. Temperance instruction is still being carried on in the schools and Local Option became law in 1920. The Government seems not unfriendly to the movement. There is another interesting phase of the work in connection with the Universities and Colleges. A Student Temperance Union has already enrolled three thousand members, and it is reported that the number continues to grow.

Work in Czecho-Slovakia

It is a significant fact that nearly all the new republics have tackled the question of alcoholism. The Temperance and Prohibition workers have seemed peculiarly active in Czecho-Slovakia, and the time has been extraordinarily opportune for propaganda and legislation.

The President of the Republic (Dr. T. G. Masaryk), together with the help of many influential men and women, actively support the movement against alcoholism. The first struggle of this new nation with the liquor interests came when the Constitution was being drafted. A clause was then inserted which provides that no alcoholic liquors shall be sold or served on election days or the day before an election. This has been followed by the passing of the Hollitscher Law, which prohibits the sale of spirits to young people under eighteen, and beer to any person under sixteen years of age ; and the prohibition of the sale of spirits to those, irrespective of age, attending balls or dances-these are all indications of the trend of thought. A Bill has been prepared for the National Assembly dealing with the prohibition of the manufacture and sale of all alcoholic liquors.

The outlook for the Prohibition movement is distinctly encouraging, and the prophecy that Czecho-Slovakia will be the first Central European country to enact a full measure of Prohibition may very well be realised.

Danish Help

In the three principal Danish Dependencies remarkable progress has been made as regards the Prohibition of the liquor traffic. By popular vote the Faroe Islands banished the traffic; in Greenland a most thorough and efficient Prohibition law is enforced; and in Iceland (now a Free State), despite the tyrannical action of Spain, there is solid opinion favouring Prohibition, and this first country in Europe to adopt such a measure is not to be deprived of it without a terrific struggle.

In Denmark polls have been taken, during the last 15 years, in 299 parishes out of a total of 1,400. In only 52 has there been a liquor victory. Out of a total vote of over 90,000, the Prohibitionists won with a majority of 40,000. That is something more than a straw telling the way of the stream!

One of the Government scientific experts, Dr. M. Hindhede, of Copenhagen, has estimated that under the Prohibition of spirits and a great restriction on the output of beer, the nation was able to save during the War no less than 49 million kilos of corn, 500,000,000 kroner, and lowered the death-rate by six thousand.

Growing Sentiment in Esthonia

Esthonian Prohibitionists are chiefly engaged at the present time in educational work, and they are not pressing the question of a referendum. They hope that within the next three years the matter can be seriously raised as an election issue.

There is much Temperance work being done throughout the Republic, and last year strong protests were made against the entry of French wines into the country, a consequence of the Esthonian-French Commercial Treaty.

The Governments of Esthonia and Finland have appointed a joint Commission to prevent the illegal importation of Esthonian spirits into Finland. A warning has been issued by the Esthonian Government to the effect that vessels carrying liquor cargoes must not stop in Esthonian waters. This is due to a ruling that spirituous and malt beverages must not be brought into the country.

Scientific investigation of the effects of alcoholism has been begun in the new Esthonian University at Tartu ( Dorpat), and good progress is being made in the same direction in other educational institutions. It is of particular interest to note that cooperative effort is being made between the Temperance and Prohibition workers in Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Dry Finland

Since the abolition of the private spirit system in 1864, when Finland could count over 20,000 stills for a population of less than two million people, a decided movement towards Prohibition has been growing, until it has now become an accomplished fact.

Immediately following liberation from Russian domination the Finnish Parliament confirmed the Prohibition Law which had been passed in previous years, but, owing to the action of the Czarist Government, was never enforced. The step has amply justified itself and to-day it has the hearty support of the masses of the people. In 1921 when an attempt was made to revise the law in favour of beer and light wines, the motion was thoroughly defeated by a more than three to one vote. In their eagerness to discredit the Prohibition Law the Anti-Prohibitionists have declared that in 1921 two million litres of intoxicating liquors were smuggled into the country. If this figure is put beside that of the last full year of legal importation (1913)-27,500,000 litres-it will be readily seen how effective the Act is working, and how the governmental authorities are enforcing it. It is common knowledge in Finland that within two years of the enforcing of the Prohibition Act, the crime statistics for the City of Helsingfors which has a population of over 186,000, were reduced by half, and in the rural districts there is a much greater reduction.

The French Problem

The French vine harvest covers three-tenths of the entire world production. This does not include the vines of Algeria, Corsica, and Tunis. This must represent over ten thousand million francs, and it is estimated that over four million people are directly engaged in the exploitation of this part of the national wealth. One need not go further to find out why the alcohol problem has become so acute in France.

It will be readily understood that with wine so abundant the task of the Temperance reformer is a difficult one. There is a strong movement, however, against the consumption of spirits, which is supported very influentially. There is no possibility of a return to the days of Absinthe drinking, a very vile spirit which was prohibited during the War. The consumption of wine is, however, the cause of grave national decadence, and is undoubtedly one of the reasons for the terrible decrease in the population of France. That the young life of the country has been sadly depleted by the ravages of war goes without saying, but, even admitting that to the full, one is bound to recognise in any consideration of depopulation of the country that alcoholism is playing an enormous part.Voices are being raised by many people against alcoholism, and, sooner or later, this great issue must be seriously faced by the Legislature and tackled with no uncertain determination. Prohibition in the United States and Canada has affected the French wine markets to not an inconsiderable extent. Thus, Monsieur Bertrand de Mun, President of the Syndicate Champagne Wine Trade, declares: " There is no longer sufficient outlets for our produce. Our stocks are already excessive, and consequently the trade will be unable to buy this year's grape crop. This is the result of the ' dry' regime in America and the high Customs' duties in other countries."

The Issue in Germany

The German Republic is on the right road to recovery when she begins to deal effectively with the evils of alcoholism. Dr. Wirth, when Chancellor, received a deputation of Trade Union leaders who urged upon him the necessity for prompt action relative to threatening economic collapse and strongly pressed for the immediate prohibition of the manufacture and sale of all spirits, with drastic restrictions on the manufacture of beer. The great labour daily, Vorwarts, also urges that " strong drink should be prohibited to all employees while at work," and insists that " Municipalities and private companies should provide drink free from alcohol for their staff."

There is undoubtedly a growing demand for Local Option, and this has brought about the creation of an Anti-Prohibition League, stated to have " unlimited capital," and determined to pursue an energetic campaign to protect liquor interests. The Deutsche Revue poignantly remarks that " wealthy America is 'dry,'while impoverished Germany is spending millions of marks on spirits." As a matter of fact a Local Option Bill has been prepared which it is hoped may be combined with a Government project intended to improve the conditions under which licences are granted.

Holland Optimistic

In the last Parliament the Local Veto Bill only failed to become law by one vote. At the General Election in July, 1922, many friends of Temperance were elected and leaders of the liquor interest defeated, which augurs well for the re-introduction and passing of the Local Veto Bill. There is great activity in the land of dykes and windmills, and the various organisations are enthusiascally working for effective Temperance legislation to meet the ravages caused by the spread of alcoholism. An important deputation of Dutch business men are visiting America for the express purpose of studying conditions there under the Prohibition Law, and the result of the inquiry will be the subject of an exhaustive report.

Hungary Organising

Prior to the Great War the leading women of Hungary were actively engaged in Temperance propaganda, and issued a remarkable document favouring Prohibition, but nearly the whole fabric of their promising work was wrecked by the catastrophe of 1914. It is of real interest to hear of renewed activity and the forming of a National Prohibition Committee which has prepared a Local Veto Bill for immediate introduction to the National Legislature. The Committee consists of many doctors, lead s of labour organisations, and others. Much missionary effort is in progress, a monthly journal is being published, and central offices are now open in Budapest.

Activity in Italy

Temperance and Prohibition propaganda is now an open feature of social reform activities in Italy. Serious attempts are being made, some with exceptionally good results, to utilise the grape industry for other purposes than wine-making. Professor Eudo Monti, of Turin, has shown by his demonstrations that it is possible to concentrate the grape juice to the thickness of syrup, make it a product of easy transportation, of lasting preservation, and ready for a thousand uses for eating and drinking, for dissolving foods and drugs, and for preparing wholesome bread from the rough brans hitherto supposed to be unsuitable for human consumption. These important discoveries should revolutionise the grape industry and give a free field for Temperance and Prohibition propaganda. It is no longer necessary to fight against the cultivator of the grape, but to wage war against the beverage traffic in alcohol.

The Milan Municipal Council recently passed a resolution urging " the protection of new industries so as to utilise the product of the vine to better advantage for food and to better meet the economic necessity of the community." The Municipality of Genoa has also taken up the question of grape utilisation and issued a diagram showing the enormous contrast between the expenditure on foodstuffs and alcohol. The Institute of Hygiene in Rome has opened the columns of its monthly publication, Dijesa Sociale, for the advocacy of the anti-alcoholic movement.

Government action has brought about considerable reduction in the hours of sale of intoxicating liquors, and thousands of liquor saloons have been closed by municipal authorities.

Iceland's Prohibition Fight

This North-West outpost of Scandinavia has been a Free State since 1918. Long before that date, however, alcoholism was under the serious consideration of Parliament, and a remarkably thorough Prohibition Bill was introduced. Of course, it was not easily passed, but the sturdy northerners faced up to the issue despite questions of revenue, commerce, and the like, which were said to be endangered by the measure. The victory for the Prohibitionists came in 1909, and special services were held in the State Churches of the island to celebrate the passing of the law. The King of Denmark expressed his warmest approval of the action of the Althing, and very pointedly suggested that a similar law for Denmark would give him much pleasure. The Prohibition Law went into full effect in 1915. Thus Iceland became the first country in Europe to adopt Prohibition. After seven years of most successful administration of the law a new commercial treaty with Spain became necessary, and the question of re-introducing wine into the island became acute. The Icelandic fish trade was in peril, to save which the Prohibition Law has been suspended for twelve months. This relaxation of the law permits the introduction of wine only.

Local Option in Latvia

On the Southern shores of the Gulf of Finland we have the new Republic of Latvia, which gained its independence during the great upheavals in Russia. Like other small nations, Latvia is facing her difficulties with great courage. Riga, the capital, has been the scene of many conferences among which the Latvian Anti-Alcoholic Congress figures largely with its delegation of nearly 300. War-time Prohibition came into force on a Czarist decree, but this has been followed by a State sale of alcoholic liquors, obviously intended to raise revenue. State acquirement or control of the liquor traffic in this way has always proved disastrous, and Latvia is no exception to the rule. Prohibition activity has, however, increased recently, and with universal suffrage and a Local Option law adopted in regard to the sale and serving of alcoholic liquors, there should be a slow return to the former state of entire Prohibition, this time backed more ardently by the will of the people.

Prominent men and women in the Republic have allied themselves to the fight against alcoholism, which has now the support of former Mayors of Riga, Government officers, influential business men, as well as many industrial leaders.

Lithuania Advancing

In this new Republic, which is a Catholic country, much good work is being done by the Catholic Total Abstinence Society, "Bleivybe." They are especially endeavouring to educate the electors so that in their National Parliament they may secure a majority in favour of Local Option over all intoxicating liquors, and National Prohibition for spirits. The three Baltic States, Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have decided to unite their efforts against alcoholism in order to be better able to resist the pressure of liquor producing countries.

Norway's Difficulties

Temperance work has for years been a feature of the social life of the Norwegian people, and the General Elections of 1921 gave a great victory to the Prohibitionists. All spirits and strong wines have been prohibited during the last five years by an Order in Council, and a National Referendum resulted in a huge majority for Prohibition. The liquor party were not prepared to accept the popular vote of the people, and publicly stated that if it gained a majority at the elections it would repeal the law. The liquor party was well defeated, and at the polls the majority for Prohibition ran into six figures.

Like Iceland, where the Spanish threat has brought about a temporary suspension of the Prohibition law, so Norway has been compelled to buy 500,000 litres of wine from France under a new Trade Treaty. The wine has been put in bond by the Norwegian Government, pending the decision of the people by means of another referendum. This tragic situation has been wisely expressed in a resolution passed by the fishermen of More and the Fjords, assembled at Maaleoy, wherein they stated that their country ought not to abandon its right to self-government in the question of alcoholism. They further state that they expect the Norwegian Government to conform to the will of the people, and if the vine-growing countries of the South do not wish to admit Norwegian fish unless wine is the exchanging commodity then it is preferable there should be no commercial convention at all.

Advance in Poland

The Ministry of the Interior proclaimed a period of Prohibition throughout the country prior to the elections set for November, 1922. This Order was accepted quietly by the people, but not without some protestation from the Ministry of Finance, which department could forsee considerable reductions on the revenue side of the State ledgers! Alcohol is a State monopoly in Poland. Behind this State monopoly is the idea of revenue, which while it may bring financial aid does not fail to bring much misery.

Intoxicating liquors have been prohibited to all young people, and a Local Veto law has been passed which gives the people power to prohibit the sale of liquors containing more than 2.50 percent of alcohol. An Official Commission has been set up for the establishment of Sub-Committees that shall have the power to grant and cancel liquor licences. This scheme is under the general supervision of the Ministry of Health. The Department for Public Safety connected with the Minister of the Interior can enforce complete Prohibition in any time of necessity, a measure which was in force at the time of the Bolshevik invasion two years ago.

Russia Still Prohibits

The beginning of the Great War also saw the beginning of Prohibition in Russia, decreed by the Czar, and the success of that measure undoubtedly induced the Kerensky Government to maintain the law after the Revolution.

Since that time the Trade Treaties made by the Soviet Government with Great Britain and other nations have all contained clauses to the effect that all commodities are permitted into Russia " except commodities such as alcoholic liquors, of which both the itnportation and manufacture are or may be prohibited in Russia."

Owing to a rumour that vodka and other spirits were again permitted in Russia-or in other words, that Prohibition had been rescinded-the Russian Trade Delegation in London was authorised by the Soviet Government to publish a full denial of this.

Spain Hinders Progress

Spain has figured rather prominently lately in connection with the fish trade of Iceland and Norway. Trade Treaties to renew the wine commerce with these two countries have resulted in a state of affairs at once disquieting and lamentable. Wine-producing countries like Spain and France, seeking outlets for their produce, are finding that the spread of Prohibition closes many markets, hence the economic threat and boycott of the Spanish manufacturers. If the attitude of Spain is passed unnoticed by the great nations of the world then the small nations must become the economic slaves of international liquor dealers.

In Spain one finds certain medical men and not a few social reformers who are working towards the elimination of the evils of alcoholism, but it cannot be truly said that there is a movement of any size in existence there to-day. Sunday closing operates in some big towns and country places, whilst in rural districts the hours of sale are regulated. A group of Prohibitionists publish a journal called El Abstemio.

Sweden Nearing Victory

The elections of 1921 were largely fought on the issue of a confirmation of the previous Government's action relative to the referendum question, and resulted in a return to Parliament of a strong majority favouring the referendum.

The Prohibition Referendum, which was only consultative, took place in August, 1922, and but for the adverse vote in Stockholm, Sweden, would have given a majority for Prohibition. It is of the utmost importance to give publicity to the fact that over 59 per cent. of the women's vote was cast for Prohibition. Most of the newspapers supported the liquor traffic or were opposed to Prohibition. Of the ten Stockholm dailies only two supported Prohibition, one being a Free Church and the other a Communist paper. Never before have the liquor interests fought so hard.

The result of this first contest is not discouraging to the Prohibition and Temperance workers who are feeling that it has taught them much, and should enable them to gain a complete victory next time.

Among the Swiss

The liquor problem in Switzerland has certainly reached an acute stage, and statisticians estimate that this beautiful country spends only one hundred million francs less on alcoholic liquors than is being spent on bread and meat. This comparison is very disquieting, but in fairness to the Swiss it should be stated that the thousands and thousands of tourists who go to the mountains every year would be sure to make a difference in any figures quoted, and a considerable allowance should therefore be made.

Two referendums on the liquor question are pending in Switzerland. The first will be taken in April, 1923, on the proposal of the Government to prohibit the free distillation of fruit, which from time immemorial has been the privilege of the Swiss peasants. The second will be taken later in the year on the question of giving local power to prohibit the manufacture and sale of spirits. It will be remembered that Absinthe was banished from Switzerland by referendums popular and very democratic method of dealing with social evils.

Yugo-Slavia Active

The anti-liquor forces in the enlarged State of Serbia have organised a National Temperance Federation, and are making their influence felt in educating the public mind and Parliament. When the new State Constitution was under consideration it was resolved to insert a paragraph which pledges the State to fight against the misuse of alcoholic liquors. The Social Hygiene Section of the Ministry of Health has prepared a very radical Bill dealing with the liquor traffic, which is to be brought before Parliament at an early date.

The Survey and Its Meaning

This brief survey would not be complete without a few further observations. Everywhere throughout Europe in social centres and rural areas there is direct action being taken against alcoholism.

Sometimes it is by way of efforts to spread total abstinence among individuals; sometimes it is by way of feeling the pulse of the populace with a view to prospective local amelioration of the evil; sometimes it is by Local Option votes which decides the question of Licence or No-Licence; and sometimes it is by a profound national feeling which finds itself expressed in an Act of Parliament at once far-reaching in its prohibitory powers.

A bold bid has been made by the liquor traffic for the vote of the women, but so far that vote has remained wonderfully true to the cause of sobriety and social progress. Universal suffrage has also been peculiarly eff ective in bringing about Temperance reform.

In a large number of the Colleges and Universities on the Continent there is systematic instruction being given in Temperance and Prohibition legislation. In eight or ten countries there is definite Prohibition of all intoxicating liquors to young people, in most cases up to the age of eighteen. Very substantial money grants are made by at least six Governments towards the annual expenditure of the various National Temperance organisations. The good effect of steps like these must surely hasten the day when total Prohibition will be universally adopted.

One may say with truth that there is no country in Europe which has not some kind of liquor restriction law on its statute book. To that extent, therefore, there is no country in Europe without its Prohibition law, and the concern of all Temperance and Social Reformers is to widen the scope of the principle involved therein until it shall apply to all the circumstances attending the use of alcoholic liquors as a beverage.

One would not make any predictions regarding Prohibition in Europe, but it is a significant fact that never before in all its long history has the liquor traffic been so seriously menaced.

"The one hopeful sign is that every year it lives the liquor traffic is being found out. Labour knows it to-day as its greatest foe, social science regards it as its deadliest obstacle, and at last even the Churches have come to recognise that the old alliance of beer and the Bible is a curse to humanity and a degradation of the people." - The late C. Silvestey Horne, M.A., M.P.


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World League Against Alcoholism
Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A.

Templar Printing Works Birmingham

Note: A hard copy of this story can be found in the Anti-Saloon League Collection at the Westerville History Museum.

Westerville History MuseumWesterville History Museum

As the site of the Anti-Saloon League’s former headquarters, the Westerville History Museum works to preserve the history of the temperance movement, the passage of the 18th Amendment, and the Prohibition era.
As the site of the Anti-Saloon League’s former headquarters, the Westerville History Museum works to preserve the history of the temperance movement, the passage of the 18th Amendment, and the Prohibition era.

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