Front Page Titles (by Subject) APPENDIX %u201CA%u201D: ALCOHOLISM IN RUSSIA - Where and Why Public Ownership has Failed
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APPENDIX %u201CA%u201D: ALCOHOLISM IN RUSSIA - Yves Guyot, Where and Why Public Ownership has Failed 
Where and Why Public Ownership has Failed, trans. H.F. Baker (London: Macmillan, 1914).
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ALCOHOLISM IN RUSSIA
The best minds in Russia stand aghast at the ravages wrought in Russian society by the abuse of vodka, the national spirituous drink of the lower orders. The Government at St. Petersburg has maintained a monopoly in the manufacture and sale of this commodity, and has promoted with great energy its production and use. The Army and Navy that fought with Japan were supported by the revenue that came from this monopoly, and Russia, we are told, has replenished the privy purse of its sovereign from the sale of a drink that is actually tending to the demoralization of the common people. As far as we can learn from the opinion of the Russian press, ever since the Russian Government declared vodka a state monopoly, and assumed the rôle of the saloon keeper, the liquor business there has been making rapid progress, and has become one of the main sources of income of that country. Last year the Government of the Czar realized from the sale of liquor $412,000,000, and for the first six months of this year the proceeds exceded those for the corresponding period of last year by nearly $23,500,000, which figures, perhaps, tend to show that the Russian bureaucracy has been successful in one branch of endeavour, at any rate. It may be recalled here that Mr. Maklakov, the Minister of the Interior, said in an interview with a French journalist some time ago that the “severe climate of Russia makes alcohol a vital necessity to the masses.” But some Russians do not agree with that statesman's view, and have very different ideas about the results of the Government's activity in that direction. “Public drunkenness has been growing to extraordinary proportions,” says the Ryetch (St. Petersburg), and the increase in drinking “has assumed a really threatening character.” The radical press, and even some conservative organs, have been conducting a vigorous campaign against the liquor monopoly. Mr. M. Menshikov, of the Novoye Vremya (St. Petersburg), condemns it in the following words:
“A state monopoly of the source of drunkenness exists only here, in Russia, and all the rest of the world —it seems, without exception—does not allow the complicity of the Government in this public vice. In the whole world, even in the barbaric and pagan, the rôle of the Government is presumed to be a struggle against vices, but not participation in the way of their exploitation. . . . Our official publicists (oh, how hard their task is!) maintain that the Government sells alcohol exclusively with a view to limiting the evil: that if it should allow perfect freedom in the manufacture and sale of this poison, drunkenness would reach ‘quite incredible limits.’However, the experience of all nations—both Christian and pagan—which grant freedom in this respect shows different results. Public intemperance in those countries persists, but it is far less and not so appalling as here. Why? For one simple reason. Repudiating the monopoly of liquor, the governments in the West deprive this vice of the most powerful capital in the world, that of the state. They deprive it of the most powerful mechanism of distribution, the governmental system. They take from it the highest authority, that of state approval. That alone constitutes a hard blow to vice. . . . Some may say: Permitting the manufacture, sale, and consumption of alcohol, the governments in the West grant freedom to this evil. Not at all. Only an opportunity for evil is afforded, but simultaneously measures are taken to limit the opportunity. Not getting into an irreconcilable contradiction with itself, like our Government, the western authorities can fight drunkenness like any other vice. But here the temperance movement, as is known, frequently meets with opposition on the part of the Government. The resolutions of numerous village assemblies regarding the closing up of saloons and Government liquor stores have not been affirmed, petitions have not been granted, preachers of temperance have frequently been dealt with as common rioters, and subjected to punishment. . . . Despite the categorical ‘wish’of the Imperial Duma that liquor should not be sold in the colonization lands of Siberia belonging to the Government and the Ministry of Domains, liquor is being freely sold there. . . . For many years the press and society have pointed to the unseemliness of selling liquor on great Christian holidays or in the early hours when the working people go to their factories and mills, or of selling it in such small quantities that the last cent might be taken from the beggar. The indecency and the great harm of it are well understood, but what can you do if the nature of trade in general and that in liquor in particular demands that the trade should adapt itself to the chief consumer—the drinking masses? Having become the owner of and dealer in such a poisonous product, the Government has placed itself in a false position from which there is no way out. To limit the traffic means to limit the income . . . not to limit it means really to make drunkards of the people.”
In conclusion, Mr. Menshikov takes this more hopeful view, however:
“No matter how much bureaucratic eloquence the ‘liquor publicists’should expend, the fate of the liquor monopoly in Russia is already decided. If not the days, the years, of this unhappy child of Count Witte and Kokovtzov are numbered. I say this with absolute certainty, because I cannot conceive that the clouding of the Government's consciousness in this question can last much longer. Seeing the terrible results of public intemperance, it is quite improbable that the Duma and the Imperial Council will not attempt to check the danger, that the church will not take a hand, enlightened society, and lastly the Government itself.”—Translations made for The Literary Digest.