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vrijdag 20 januari 2017

BOEK / alcohol en de revolutie en Louise Bryant

'Gratis alcohol in het parlement', koppen de kranten vandaag, daar waar politici die wij, burgers, van een job en geld voorzien om een beleid uit te werken waar burgers een fatsoenlijk leven op kunnen bouwen, dagelijks beslissingen nemen zoals het pensioen verlengen tot 67, ''flexibele werkweken van 45 uur, besparingen allerhande en het opmaken van een begroting waarvan het gat alsmaar dieper, zwarter en groter wordt. Ondertussen geldt in Antwerpen al een aantal jaren een alcoholverbod in de straten rond het Antwerpse Centraal station. Ik moest plots denken aan dit stukje uit het boek (Six Red Months in Russia) van Louise Bryant, over alcohol en de Russische revolutie:

"Revolutionary discipline amid all the intensity of that tremendous upheaval which will be known in history as the first proletariat revolution was largely due to the Cronstadt sailors. Through all that intensity they moved splendidly with a fervour that created around them forever a legendary glamour – loved and depended upon by the people – feared and hated by the aristocracy and the counterrevolutionists.

They were true moralists, the sailors; for they cleaned first their own house before they went abroad to sweep up the dirt of others. In Cronstadt they posted notices forbidding all drunkenness, and thieves were punished by death. Their method was pituresque as well as severe. Thieves caught in the act were taken to the edge of a cliff and shot.

Wine produces different effects on different races. On the Russian soldier it does only one thing – it brings out his most bestial tendencies. It was extremely dangerous for the cause of the revolution if the soldiers and sailors or Red Guards would grow slack in regard to prohibition. There was enough wine in the cellars of the palaces and various warehouses and private houses to keep most of Russia drunk for several years.

Early in January the Cadets hatched a sinister plot. The masses were hungry and cold and in rags. They calculated that it was the psychological moment to open the wine cellars and start a reign of terror, and that by breaking down the revolutionary discipline they could easily take over the power.

I will never forget the night I came up the street and met five roaring, drunken soldiers. They were like animals. I could have sat down in the snow and cried, only I didn’t have time. We were near the Winter Palace, and just at that moment a crowd of Cronstadt sailors ran around the corner and, screaming curses on their drunken brothers, they opened fire. One soldier was killed and the rest got themselves somehow out of danger. That night the Cronstadt sailors had to kill thirty soldiers. But they smashed the plot.

For days after that we could hear firing in all parts of Petrograd. A strange performance was going on. Beginning with the Winter Palace the sailors were systematically all over the city and finished the “booze” problem. They poured the wine on the streets or threw it into the canals. Cellars were flooded with it and pumped out with the aid of fire engines. The snow was rose stained and the city reeked with stale alcohol.

Groups of from ten to twenty sailors would come hurtling down the wide streets standing in a great motor-truck, armed and determined. “Another wine pogrom,” the passerby would remark. It was a tremendous achievement; it kept the Russian Revolution clean from the hideous guillotine days so characteristic of the French Revolution.

It was a miracle almost when one remembers that the sailors were hungry and cold and the wine would have warmed them – when one remembers even that the wine was worth millions of dollars.

(Six Red Months in Russia / Louise Bryant)
Het volledige boek: HIER