Peter Sedgwick

States Of Emergency

(Winter 1962)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.11, Winter 1962, p.31.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Independence and After
Richard Harris
Oxford University Press for the Institute of Race Relations, 7s 6d.

World Order and New States
Peter Calvocoressi
Chatto and Windus for the Institute of Strategic Studies. 12s 6d.

Richard Harris’s essay is a sympathetic account of political aims and processes within emergent (and especially neutralist) territories. Its main thesis is that the nationalist movement in these areas is not basically ‘anti-Western’ and that given time and ‘the swing of the pendulum’ on-alignment ‘will not be so hostile to Western or so friendly to Communist interests as it seems at first’. We may indeed suspect that this conclusion is horridly true. On the way to establishing it Harris brings in a good deal of lively information on the traditional obstacles to thorough going social change in the ex-colonial world; he is particularly illuminating on the influence of pre-imperial tribal and cultural rivalries in and around Laos. A pragmatic case is made for non-intervention, so as to allow the limited domestic and international ‘revolution’ of the neutralists to run its course. From a neo-imperialist standpoint this policy would have much to recommend it. Fortunately or otherwise, Western governments show every sign of being prepared to disregard it, partly because there is always the risk that the colonial masses will take the militant slogans of their leaders seriously, partly because the leaders themselves may be too troublesome either temporarily (like Sekou Touré) or more permanently (like – cross fingers – Castro).

Troublemaking and troubleshooting in underdeveloped troublespots is the theme chosen by Peter Calvocoressi. He is worried over the proneness of emergent nations to various kinds of disorder, and with the policing arrangements that might he loaned or imposed thereon by Western governments (Calvocoressi is aware that the Great Powers cannot themselves be policed from outside without starting a world war.) His essay is an assorted mixture of detailed points and practicalities (e.g. about exchanges for police- and officer-training), along with general meditations on international law-and-order and its failures. Most of the meditative passages, are couched in a bluff and rather witty no-nonsense style which apparently disdains moral commitment: ‘look,’ it seems to say, ‘this is how the world is, chaps, like it or not.’ If Calvocoressi had probed deeper, into the presuppositions behind the Law and Order he takes as an assumed norm, he would have had to drag into the light of day his own fundamental attitude towards the social and economic systems functioning in the world he is analysing. As it is, he never considers whether such breakdowns of ‘order’ as riots, revolutions, terrors and even atrocities can perform a useful role in resolving the property question.

At times, however, his commitment does poke out a bit. Thus Calvocoressi on the Nark (or, as he calls it, the Special Branch), export brand: ‘the police must make and keep contact with the forces of disorder in order to be able to catch and defeat them and so earn the gratitude and co-operation of the silent mass of the community.’ This kind of thing makes one very wary of his chapter on possible United Nations policing arrangements, which include ‘a document describing techniques for dealing with riots and using minimum violence prescribing exactly what units must bring with them when summoned, etc.’ Clearly we in the forces of disorder will have to have an eye cocked open for the United Narking Organisation as well as for the usual agents of M.I.5, transport House, the Russian secret police and so on. Vigilance, comrades.

Peter Sedgwick

Last updated on 21 February 2010