We are not opposed to the Prohibition— of swipes and adulterated water. Nor do we, like the brewer and his friends, pretend that Prohibition is a matter of vital concern to the workers. There is a Socialist view on this matter, but, like our views on all questions, it is in conflict with those of the reformer. The brewer endeavours to convince us that drinking is a noble and commendable act, for the same reason that the Nonconformist cocoa manufacturer boasts of the food value of his product and supports the Temperance movement. Profit greed determines what they think good for the dear worker, and the Temperance reformer with the anti-Prohibitionist reflect their interests.
“Drink causes poverty! ” says the former, in his inverted reasoning. The fact is that the workers are born poor and must remain poor within the capitalist system because wages never provide more than a bare existence even to the life abstainer. “Without drink,” the reformer tells you, “money formerly so spent could be used to purchase things more necessary.” He incidentally plays upon a weak spot by the glad news that such alternative expenditure will mean more wor-r-r-k. In face of the ever-increasing army of unemployed, willing to accept a job at the lowest possible price, the idea that the workers would continue to receive the same wage after a lowered cost of living—is a joke. The sum spent on drink is an item in the average wage; if it should become no longer necessary, the abstainers’ previous advantage will disappear.
As a result of Prohibition, those engaged in the brewing industry, including auxiliary workers, publicans, barmen, maids, cork and glass makers, sign writers, carmen, etc., would lose their employment. In actual practice this is the fate of the present unemployed whose numbers are in excess of the requirements of capitalistically produced wealth. Some claim that drink causes wretchedness, but the pathologist could prove quite the reverse. We know by experience that poverty surroundings cause depression. Drink is merely an attempt to counter its effects. In a city like Glasgow, where poverty and slumdom stalk naked and unashamed, the craving for stimulants almost becomes a disease with some of the very poor. Unable to afford ordinary spirits, they resort to methylated spirits as. a substitute.
It is vile living conditions that cause people to become hopeless sots; it drives them to the glamour of the tavern. Whilst capitalism persists, most moderate drinkers will continue by habit to take to the present method as the line of easiest resistance to obtain a makeshift social intercourse and infuse a little colour into a grey world. As to the need in the future for alcoholic beverages, that can be safely left to a generation wise enough to realise that this earth provides the only opportunity that they will have to enjoy paradise. Those who produce the best will have the best, for with the coming of a sane system of society the cheap and nasty pleasures reserved the workers will be laid to rest with all the sordidness of the present system.