Michael Kidron

Whiff of Decay

(Spring 1966)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.24, Spring 1966, pp.36.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Crisis of India
Ronald Segal
Jonathan Cape 42s; Penguin 5s

Segal is uncommonly perceptive and even more uncommonly outspoken about the cant, hypocrisy and immobility of the Indian political elite; about the rot and corruption and avoidable harshness of Indian society; the void between rulers and ruled, between plans and performance; and about the appalling poverty and degradation. Yet – “India must ...”, “India should ...” – he hasn’t escaped the admonitory mode assumed by most foreigners within minutes of arrival.

But then he doesn’t even begin to see the outlines of an alternative. His peasant India is still the text-book version: locked in Hinduism, cute and fiat apathy. In it there are no stirrings – for education, for urban horizons, for politics (if only caste politics), for defying old authority (if only by walking shod in the presence of Brahmins). And his working-class India doesn’t exist. On a different plane, be appears to accept Cold War and an open economy as immutable – at least the reader is not confronted wit any other view.

What remains is the Western-educated elite – and the lecture. To do him justice, Segal lectures them well. He does focus on some of their “areas of darkness”; he does hold stinking chunks of reality to their nostrils and demand they sniff. But the problem of India’s decay is larger than the defective sense of smelt of her middle class. And that we are not told about.


Last updated on 19.10.2006