Soviets praise anti-alcohol drive. But they call for firmer supervision by officials
The Soviet anti-alcohol campaign has produced mixed results over the last two years and needs to be tightened up, the Communist leadership said yesterday. The campaign is typical of many reforms launched by Mikhail Gorbachev's leadership: The leaders first launch a drive, then fill in the details as they go along. As yesterday's Communist Party Central Committee statement shows, new measures require regular supervision from the top to prevent backsliding.
The overall results, the Central Committee claimed, were good: The consumption of spirits was cut almost in half last year compared with 1984, alcohol-related crime went down by 26 percent, road accidents were reduced, and ``for the first time in many years'' the mortality rate also fell.
On the other hand, the Central Committee complained that some ministries and regions had become complacent. In some republics and regions, alcohol-related crime had began to increase again in the first quarter of this year, the report said. It castigated the state Agro-Industrial Committee - headed by Mr. Gorbachev's longtime associate Vsevolod Murakhovsky - for the ``impermissible'' growth of wine and cognac production in the same period.
The report echoed the concern voiced by sociologists and some police officials that the campaign has forced alcohol production underground. The production of home-brew is on the rise. A new law also published yesterday makes production for personal consumption punishable by a fine of 100 to 300 rubles ($156 to $468). People repeating the offense within 12 months of a first conviction face higher fines or up to two years' prison.
The statement, however, emphasizes prevention rather than punishment, calling for more recreational facilities for youth and better educational programs.
But an article on the anti-alcohol program in a sociological journal earlier this year noted that ``sobriety committees'' in work places - a key element of the grass-roots educational campaign - were often treated as a joke by their members.
One of strongest proponents of the anti-alcohol campaign has been Moscow party chief Boris Yeltsin. In a recent public appearance, he recalled a visit to a Moscow factory. ``There they told me that they found 16 people a month drunk at their work. That's a lot in my view. But they said rubbish - it used to be 100 a month.''