Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Temperance campaigners in Germany

I'd always though the Germans were far too sensible - and loved their beer too much - to fall for that temperance crap. It seems I was wrong  

There was a temperance movement in Germany, and, as in many other countries, it reached its peak around the the end of WW I and its immediate aftermath.

It's amazing how events in Germany - at least when it came to beer and brewing - follow a very similar pattern to in the UK. Including the tactic of the temperance twats. Realising they had zero chance of getting total prohibition overnight, they instead chose a piecemeal approach. Hoping to gradually turn one area after another dry.

The bastards tried exactly the same trick in the UK. Where they succeeded in getting local veto legislation passed for Scotland. Allowing districts to vote for a partial or complete ban on alcohol sales. It initially had some limited success, for example in some of the posher bits of Glasgow, but quickly ran out of steam. 

Parts of Scotland remained dry for decades. But, as you only needed to travel a mile or two to buy booze, it had fuck all real effect.

The Germans never let things get that far:

"d) Temperance movement, opposition to the local veto
The efforts and attacks of the temperance movement to restrict the consumption of beer and alcoholic beverages continued during and after the end of the World War of 1914/18. They were particularly lively during the wars and the first few years after the war and reached a high point after the currency stabilized in around the 1930s. The temperance movement received strong impetus through successes in Scandinavian countries and after the introduction of prohibition in the USA. With considerable resources and strong support from the circles of women’s associations and charitable organizations, the temperance movement, which was united in the International Association against the Abuse of Spiritual Drinks, put the main focus of its activities, amongst others, in Germany. In later years the efforts of the temperance movement failed because of the defence of the economy and the attitude of the German population. But it tried again and again to force through legislation for restrictive measures in the field of the production of beer and alcoholic beverages. The efforts of the temperance associations and those close to them were aimed in particular at the introduction of a local veto law in Germany, which would have represented a serious interference with the way of life and the right of the population to self-determination. In the case of the local veto, the amount and type of sales of beer and spirits within a municipality were to be determined by a general referendum of the municipality members entitled to vote. The introduction of a local veto in Germany would have had disastrous consequences for the brewing industry.

The defense against these measures led to the formation of a broad counter-movement, which included all circles of the population and public life, and to the establishment of the Reich Committee against the right to a local veto."
Beiträge zur Geschichte des Berliner Brauwesens und seiner Organisation by Karl Bullemer, Berlin, 1959, page 131.

The brewers were well organised. And pointed out the economic impact if a local veto were introduced. They managed to ensure that a proposed law was voted down in parliament.

"In the months that preceded the decisive vote on the draft law in the Reichstag, the Reich Committee developed an extraordinary activity to educate the population, public opinion as well as the government and parliaments. In cooperation with the leading associations of the brewing trade based in Berlin, the Berlin association played a decisive role in the defensive movement. The combined defensive movement against the right to a local veto in all parts of Germany succeeded in bringing down the bill in the Reichstag. It was rejected at the session of the German Reichstag on May 11, 1926 by 241 votes to 163 with 3 abstentions. The rejection later formed the subject of lively discussion in the daily press.

In spite of this voting result and the legal and economic points of view presented by the Reich Government in the reasoning for the Bar Act against the introduction of the local veto law in Germany, the temperance associations tried again, albeit in vain, to force through the introduction of a local veto law, albeit in a milder form. Remnants of the application of the local veto law have been preserved in, amongst others, some Scandinavian countries."
Beiträge zur Geschichte des Berliner Brauwesens und seiner Organisation by Karl Bullemer, Berlin, 1959, page 132. 

I'm surprised, given the financial and social importance of beer in Germany, that the vote was as claose as three to two against.


Mike in NSW said...

I remember back in 1975 when touring Scotland on my Highlands and Islands travel pass, the country was still dry on Sundays apart from special conditions like pre booked meals at restaurants, or weddings. Camping at a holiday park in the dunes East of Nairn I went for a walk into town, absolutely hurting for a pint or five, and noted a very busy pub. Probably a wedding or funeral.

On approaching the bar I got served a pint of Guards Heavy and a double scotch and on stating "I thought Scotland was dry on Sunday" I was told "No in Nairn it's no, no in Nairn.

Anonymous said...

Due to the influence of the Methodist Church, there were quite a few German-American temperance types. I'm curious if they were a significant part of the reason why US prohibition was an inspiration for German crusaders -- a lot of German Americans were bilingual in the first half of the 20th Century and still communicated with the old country.

This is an interesting article about (often literal) fights in the German American community over temperance, including shotguns and cow dung.