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International Socialism, Autumn 1965


David Rose



From International Socialism, No.22, Autumn 1965, pp.29-30.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Indian Immigrants in Britain
R. Desai
IRR/Oxford, 21s

This book fills a significant gap in our knowledge of immigrant groups living in this country. It is important not only in that Indians were, prior to this study, the only major immigrant group in Britain left almost totally unsurveyed, but that they pose what is probably the greatest assimilation problem for our society since the massive influx of Jews around the turn of the century. Desai details the substantial cultural baggage which the Indians and Pakistanis, unlike the West Indians, have brought with them.

Their pattern of settlement in this country is a direct projection and extension of the particular neighbourhood pattern in India. Distinctions of language and religion create weighty barriers between the Indians and the British population, apart from causing a fourfold demarcation within the Indo-Pakistani community itself, where we have a coloured immigrant population which unlike the West Indians does not sport the cultural deference of a pronounced white bias: a group which is culturally distinctive rather than derivative. Despite the splendid descriptive detail of the first eight chapters, consideration of the actual outcome of the interplay of factors described is crammed into a diminutive last chapter. But it is precisely this type of information which is of vital importance in guiding social policy.

Racial conflict, as Ruth Glass has indicated in Newcomers, tends to arise out of and exacerbate strains already present in the social structure. There is a direct connection between racial prejudice and the job opportunities and living conditions of the working class. Because of bad housing and lack of jobs the target for aggression can all too easily become the coloured immigrant, instead of the real cause of bad conditions – the nature of the class structure.

Books such as this one are the necessary preliminaries to the more complex and vital task of delimiting the processes and interests which determine the extent of assimilation and the forces which lead to conflict.

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