Should Revolutionaries Drink?


Once, when I was out drinking with a comrade, a subject of some political sensitivity came up. Sometimes, we can discuss such things in public, but with a certain amount of caution, euphemistic language, etc.

But as I was relatively drunk at the time, I was not careful, and worse still, when my comrade tried to quiet me down, I interpreted him as disregarding what I was saying (because it related to a previous disagreement), and I only got louder and more belligerent as a result.

Some days later, when I gave my self-criticism, my comrade suggested I learn to not discuss politics when inebriated. I am a very political person, and again, discussing politics all the time isn’t an issue so long as I know how to bring up sensitive issues or what sensitive issues not to bring up. The problem being, of course, that when one is drunk, self-control is always found wanting.

To me, the natural answer seemed to be to give up drinking. Unlike smoking cigarettes, giving up alcohol was not an issue of addiction. Rather, it is the effect on behaviour which worries me. As I meet more or less regularly with comrades and fellow travellers, my social life involves discussion of politics to a significant extent. Being in total control of how I communicate is very important, and this is difficult to reconcile with keeping alcohol as part of my social life.

Does one have to be constantly disciplined to be a revolutionary? Marx didn’t seem to think so. But he had different ideas about what organised life meant. To be sure, many successful revolutionaries enjoyed alcohol, and many comrades of mine drink still. But I think every revolutionary ought to ask themselves about their relationship with drugs. I don’t refer just to the stoner who can’t function…

…but even to someone who rarely does drugs, and can function, who can contribute to practical work, but who, in simply trying to unwind and have a good time, ends up nullifying important security practices. Nobody wants to be the security risk for the organisation, and making small sacrifices for the good of the revolution is certainly a good practice to have.


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