FINLAND: Wet Threats

  • Share
  • Read Later

Presidents of the only two republics with Prohibition are Herbert Clark Hoover and Pehr Evind Svinhufvud. Not to be literally translated, "Pighead"' is the name —aristocratic in Finland—of President Svinhufvud, meaning "Boar's Head" (the device on the Svinhufvud family crest). No pighead, no bigot, the President takes an occasional glass of wine. Told last summer that President Hoover "never drinks," twinkling-eyed old President Svinhufvud chuckled: "It is the same in Finland. I don't drink either."

Early last week Finland's Minister of Interior. Freiherr Ernst von Born, told Finland's Diet that the State was threatened by a coup d'état from increasingly violent anti-Prohibition groups. "Prohibition and the economic crisis." said Freiherr von Born, "have greatly irritated the nation, making it susceptible to direct action propaganda. . . . Extremists are openly challenging the Government, thereby inciting large sections of the populace to lawlessness. . . . Secret bodies have been planning to form 'direct action cells' in both the Army and the Civic Guards. The Government is determined, however, that the constitutional life of Finland shall not be interrupted."

Two days later Premier Julio Sunila presented to the Diet a Government bill to set Dec. 29 and 30 as days on which the Finnish people may choose by national referendum one of three courses:

1) Continuance of Finland's present Prohibition law, which since June i, 1919 has banned beverages of more than 2% alcoholic content.

2) Legalization of 3.2% beer and 12% wines to be sold at restrictively high prices by a national monopoly—as in Sweden.

3) Total repeal of Prohibition.

Based on the report of a Wickershamian commission which recently probed Finnish prohibition, the preamble to the Government bill declared: "In the past twelve years Prohibition has not produced the changes in the nation's habits which were expected. . . . On the contrary, the law has been openly and persistently violated.'1

Debate on the bill was expected to split party lines. Seemingly Premier Sunila, whose coalition Cabinet is adroitly balanced, thought he could win anti-Prohibitionist votes from the officially dry Labor Party, Finland's largest.

Wrathful Drys charged Wet Freiherr von Born with inventing his "threatened" coup d'état. Finland they declared must not, will not be scared Wet.