"DOWN GLASSES ! "
THE need of the moment is a " Stop-the-Drink Campaign "—a campaign founded on the facts that as a nation we must economize, and that the only great national economy open to us is the cutting off root and branch of our expenditure on intoxicants. What from the war point of view is the best plan of campaign against the drink evil ? We use the words " from the war point of view " deliberately, for we have no aim but the reduction of national expenditure. We want to concentrate on the war aspects of drink, and to leave aside altogether the peace issues—issues upon which there is no unity of opinion and no prospect of unity. We cannot win the war, or at any rate cannot win it in time to avoid bleeding to death from our wounds, unless we do two things : (1) Stop the waste of our material resources which is now going ou and economize as a nation. (2) Increase and develop our national energies, not only on the fighting side, but in the production of munitions of war. In both cases the only effective remedy for waste and lack of energy will be found in the prohibition of all intoxicants during the war. We must economize, and the only way of economizing worth considering is, as we have said above, in the drink bill. If the nation receives and obeys the order "Put down your glees there till-the war is over 1" we shall at once cease spending some hundred and seventy millions a vear. We shall of course not save all this, but we shall save, say, half of it, and set free a very large number of men engaged in brewing, distilling, transporting, and dis- tributing intoxicants to take up other necessary work, such as time manufacture of shells and rifles. We shall also be able either to use directly as human food, or convert into human food, the barley, potatoes, sugar, and other forms of food out of which we now manufacture alcohol. Next, by depriving our people of all classes of the drug which they use as a sedative, we shall greatly increase their immediate energy and efficiency. By leaving the public-house door unlocked we not only make men less energetic and efficient while at work, but we tempt them to absent themselves from their work and to substitute drinking-hours for working-hours.
It is quite conceivable that under ordinary conditions it is better to allow men to spend their money and their time rms t ey will, and not attempt to control them, even for their good. We ourselves hold that as a peace opinion. If, however, we mean to win the war, no such arguments will stand at the present. We must prohibit the use of intoxicants in order to Have money and get more munitions. This is a policy upon which all of us who realize the true inwardness of the situation can agree. Therefore this is the policy in aid of which we should try to enlist men and women for immediate service. We must make it clear, however, that we are not out on a moral campaign, or to reform our neighbours, or to change their habits per- manently, but simply and solely to win the war. Nobody but a fool would let a man under his orders try to pull a motor-car out of a ditch and repair it while he grasped iu his hand a glass half full of whisky. The first order must be: "Put down that glass of whisky till this job is through! When you have got the machine started again you can drink your fill, but not till then."
So much for the object of our policy—Prohibition during the war. But to carry out this policy without any limita- tions would of course mean the temporary, and possibly the permanent, ruin of the brewers and distillers, and this would be an act as cruel as it would be impolitic. The Government should take over the breweries and distilleries just as they took over the railways, except that they would not work them during the war. Meanwhile they would pay dividends on brewery and distillery shares equal to the dividends paid in the year 1914. At the end of the war Parliament and the nation must decide whether they shall go back to the old system or make certain modifica- tions. They would have a perfectly free hand.
It will be said, no doubt, that under this scheme the publicans, bar-tenders, potboys, and barmaids would be deprived of their livelihood. That might have been true in peace. It is not true now. Superfluous patboys and barmaids could easily find work, and the publicans might in most cases carry on their licensed houries as refreshment- rooms. Men who could not obtain whisky would still in many instances maintain the public-house habit, and -would go to the ' Pig and Whistle' to drink tea or coffee or beef- tea. To sum up. We must try to induce our rulers to See that it is mere folly, or worse, to keep telling people. as did Mr. McKenna on Monday, that they must save or we should be beaten, and yet refuse to point out that the only efficient way to effect a great act of national saving is the abandonment of the use of intoxicants during the war. As it is, the word " alcohol " never passes the lips of our official advocates of economy :— " Oh no, they never mention its Its name is never hoard.
Their lips are now forbid to speak The once familiar word."
They are afraid of " the trade "and of the Irish Members, who have become the Pretorian Guard of Whisky and Beer. One would imagine that not a sixpence was ever spent in this country on intoxicants or on such luxuries as " Scotch Hot." The sellers of intoxicants warn the nation off their preserves. They must take first toll of tia. Till they have done with the King's lieges the Treasury must stand aside and lick its lips in envy and silence. Yet Ministers know its well as we do that the only great saving attainable would be from prohibition.
The only just way of establishing prohibition during the war is by acting on what we may call the railway analogy. On this just and practical policy we may ail concentrate. Whatever our views on the moral or phys'cal issues of the drink problem, we can all support prohibition as a war measure. We are sorry to keep on harping on the same note, but if we want to win the war wo must make up our minds to " down glasses." In spite of the threats of certain Trade Union officials, a stage army marshalled, we should not be surprised to learn, by some of the hidden supporters of " the trade," the opposition of the men who drink is not to be feared. At heart they are ashamed of their war-drinkiugs. The only opposition that is effective is that of " the trade." We are perfectly ready to admit that this is a natural and entirely intelligible opposition. No man wants to be ruined, or, worse, to see his wife and family ruined. Touch liquor dividends and you touch a strong and legitimate force. A. man with hie savings invested in brewery shares will fight to the death to preserve his livelihood—and so would the vast majority of men in his place.. But t his opposition we can only get rid of in time way we have indicated. If those who agree with the opinions we have expressed —such men, for example, as those who signed the excellent letter in Friday week's Times—mean business, they must not be content to preach sermons or write letters to the newspapers. They must hold meetings; they must organize influential deputations to the Prime Minister ; they must influence Members of Parliament ; they must raise debates in the Lords and in the Commons. In a word, they must use the whole of our public and political machinery to insist upon the problem being faced. Above all, they must remember that the essential obstacle to their policy is not the consumer of alcohol, but the holders of brewery !shares and the participants in distillery profits. Let them remember also that their opponents are not bad men, but in many ways excellent citizens. We may adapt to their case what Burke said of the Nabobs : They marry into your families, they enter your Senate, and in private life men bless the just and punctual hand, which elsewhere has set, unconsciously no doubt, but none the less surely, the lure of drink for the munition worker, debauched the soldier wo are training to fight our battles, and enticed to shame and ruin the wives of the men who are shedding their blood for us in France. They are caught in a vicious circle. We must help them out of it, and we can ouly do this by taking over " the trade " and paying it its dividends during the war. If we do not, our waste on the non-necessary of alcohol will undo us even more surely than the force and fraud of Germany and Austria.