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International Socialism, Summer 1961


David Breen

Much ado about India


From International Socialism (1st series), No.5, Summer 1961, p.31.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Mind of Mr Nehru
R.K. Karanjia
George Allen & Unwin. 10s 6d.

Indian Economic Policy and Development
P.T. Bauer
George Allen and Unwin. 16s.

India’s Villages
M.N. Srinivas (ed.)
Asia Publishing House. 32s.

These three books are typical of the literature that has accompanied India’s emergence as the Great Experiment in reproducing capitalism in backward countries. That it is an experiment, and an unstable one at that, is clear from the awe and trembling which surround every act or thought of the men on whom History seems to hinge. Karanjia’s obsequious recording of Nehru’s platitudes is in this tradition; from it one learns more about the educated Indian middle class’ impotence and lack of self-assurance than anything else.

Bauer represents another tradition, that of the last-ditchers of Western hegemony in the ex-colonial world. ‘Western aid would’, in his scheme of things, ‘be varied in accordance with the overall economic policy pursued by the Indian Government ...’ (p.133). So tightly-knit to this proposition are his selection of fact and economic argument that the reader would be foolish to give credence to his seemingly telling criticisms of the Indian Government’s economic performance without independent verification.

The collection of essays on India’s villages is certainly the most valuable of the three. It is uneven as such collections usually are, but it leaves the reader with an impression of the corrosion of traditional village society throughout the country, of the importance of the towns as an escape valve for the class tensions engendered thereby and, more significantly, of their potential role in providing leadership for an agrarian revolution. Unfortunately, it is an impression: to end where we began, the middle-class observer is too remote from village life and problems, too unsure of the direction of social change, to do more than record them as interesting phenomena for anthropological study, a motley of caste custom. To deal with them for what they are – the brushwood of revolution – is as yet unthinkable. One thing is still lacking in the spate of literature about modern India – a socialist analysis.

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