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International Socialism, Winter 1961


David Breen

Indology again


From International Socialism (1st series), No.7, Winter 1961, p.32.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Quintessence of Nehru
Selected and with an Introduction by K.T. Narasimha Char
George Allen & Unwin. 21s.

Punjabi Century 1857-1947
Prakash Tandon
Chatto & Windus. 21s.

The first of these books is devoted to recording Nehru’s intellectual idiosyncrasies. There might be some point in quoting him as saying that ‘Evil flourishes more in the dark than in the light of day’ (p.59) or ‘Life is an organic whole ...’ (p.225) but that point can only be appreciated by people who see history as a precipitation of Great Men’s views. Those who see men’s views, even GM’s views, as one of its changing constituents would be better served by an analysis of the problems faced by Nehru and his class on the road from colony to independence, their changing prescriptions and the results of their activity. No such analysts is attempted.

Tandon’s book is less pretentious and more revealing, both as regards that section of the Indian middle class which now links Independent India with foreign big business (Tandon is Vice-Chairman of Unilever’s Indian subsidiary) and as regards the molecular changes within Indian middle-class society, that helped make independence inevitable. It is especially interesting to note how early the ranks of the Indian administration were peopled in all but the highest ranks by Indians, and how even the most conformist and loyal of Indian administrators were goaded into disillusionment (no more than that) by being denied these ranks, or hobbled by ‘communal quotas’. Readers who would like some insight into post-Independence India, or the India beyond the windows of the first class railway carriages that Tandon travels in, will be disappointed.

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