Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 1. 1967.
Recent political science books
Recent political science books
Most books I've read in the past three months have been political, but I'm not going to apologise for reviewing these books in this issue because most of them are of an extremely high standard.
Britain in the 1930s
The Letters and Diaries of Harold Nicholson (1930-1939. published by Collins (1966), NZ price 43/6, came as a complete surprise to me.
I'd never heard of Nicholson, nor known much about the "inside" of politics in Britain during the 1930s. This book gave me an exciting and intimate glance at the men who decided policy in Britain, Europe and the United States: and also pieced together events that led up to Munich and the Second World War.
Nicholson left the Foreign Office in 1929 and went to work as a highly paid social columnist for Beaverbrook's Evening Standard. Prom the beginning of 1930 he kept a daily diary and recorded in it persona! and political events and insights into the people he met.
These included every prominent person in British politics and literature, and proceeds through Nicholson's association with Mosley's fascist party, his novel-writing, his still respected publications on diplomacy and modern history, his life as an MP from 1935 and his association with the Eden and Churchill groups before and after Munich.
A valuable book to be read by all who want an insight into pre-war policy-making and by those who are interested in the personalities of the people who make decisions.
Cold war diplomacy
Two books to come out last year have created a radical revision in the teaching on Cold War history and diplomacy. They're Atomic Diplomacy, by Gar Alperovitz, published by Simon and Schuster. New York (USA price 7.50 dollars), and The Free World Colossus, by David Horowitz, published by Hill and Wang. New York (USA price 6.95 dollars).
Atomic Diplomacy is the history of American policy in 1945 from the death of Roosevelt until the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Well documented and researched, the book explores the role of the atomic bomb in the formulation of American policy, especially towards Russia from the start of Truman's Presidency.
It's clearly shown that possession of the atomic bomb led Truman into a harder line against the Russians, both In Europe and over the Soviet entrance into the Japanese war.
Truman told his Secretary of War that the bomb "gave him an entirely new feeling of confidence." and he believed that the bomb "put us in a position to dictate our own terms at the end of the war."
The other book. The Free World Colossus, is a far more more polemical work. It surveys the whole period of the Cold War. from the death of Roosevelt to the end of the Kennedy era.
It deals effectively and systematically with such developments as the withdrawal of American support from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, the role the Americans played in Greece, the establishing of the United Nations, the Berlin crisis, and right up to such developments as the Cuban missile crisis and American relations with the Soviet Union.
Horowitz's work is well researched and documented. Although the author, unlike Alperovitz, starts out with a view about American and Western policies in the Cold War, he brings new and startling material to the surface, and by using personal diaries of policy-makers he provides the intimate details of how decisions were reached. For example, whether the atomic bomb should be dropped, and why.
The book is well written, in a completely non-academic style.
I read the two books on the Cold War jointly. Even though both were published at the same time there was no contact between the authors (one in England, the other in the United State).
This column, with comments and review of recent books will be published with each issue of Salient.
Students are invited to send reviews for consideration, and any student interested in receiving books for review is invited to contact the Book Reviews Editor.
Their independent research on foreign policies indicates what the true facts are. These two studies should stimulate further research, and Horowitz's book especially will provide many starting points for other books and doctoral theses.
Denis Warner has long been known as a reputable, but conservative writer on Asian affairs.
He's best known for his articles in The Reporter, and is even reprinted in The Dominion as "our writer on Asian affairs."
His book, Reporting South-Fast Asia, Angus and Robertson (1966) (NZ price 45 -). is a collection of articles written from 1956 to 1966.
Edited and brought up-to-date, they form a valuable journalistic account of developments in Indonesia. Malaysia. Laos. Vietnam. Cambodia and Thailand.
For the general reader who wants to know something about politics in South-East Asia since 1956 this is a useful record, although the book loses much through the disjointed fashion in which the articles are presented.
Although there is a general introduction at the beginning of each section, there's no connecting piece between articles. This would have helped continuity and placed each article in context.
Communication and Political Power, by Lord Windlesham, published by Jonathan Cape. London (U966): (UK price 45/-) is not an academic assessment of the subject.
Windlesham is the Deputy General Manager of Independent Television and a director of Rediffusion Television. Since 1957 he's been intimately involved in television and political broadcasting, as well as being tied up with the Conservative Party as Chairman of the Bow Group and a candidate.
With this record I hoped for a detailed analysis of methods of communication and their political effects in Britain. Although the book gives interesting insights into the distribution of power in the Labour and Conservative Parties, and the efforts of groups (such as the Common Market Campaign, the anti-Common Market League and the Campaign for Democratic Socialism) to influence public opinion, it goes no further.
There's no attempt at an overall analysis: and although there are attempts to comment "on the working of the political system in Britain and America and make some suggestions on the direction in which democratic societies might develop in this communications age." there are no new or revealing conclusions.
Indeed, before Lord Windlesham wrote his book he should have checked the latest research on political communications, especially that of Marshall McLuhan. Without this his book is outdated even before publication.
Another collection of articles, essentially non-political, is Scan, by Kenneth Alsop published by Hodder and Stoughton (1966) (NZ price 31/-).
Alsop calls these 50 articles, written over a 20-year period in journalism, "Conversations, Considerations, and Perambulations."
They run from interviews with Brendan Behan, Ionescu, Ignazione Silone, C. P. Snow and Raymond Chandler to trivial and superficial short stories and childhood memories.
The best are interviews, mainly with writers, novelists and dramatists. Here Alsop has something to say. He knows the people he's interviewing and he knows their work. Although the book is essentially light entertainment it adds something to general knowledge about famous people. One is left with a feeling of disappointment only because the pieces are too short.
When The Dynamics of Communism in Eastern Europe, by R. V. Burks, was published six years ago it was the first attempt to examine the actual make-up of Communist movements in Eastern Europe, to state what social and ethnic groups the leaders and rank and file members have come from, and what their motivation in politics has been.
The book has now been republished (1966) by the Princeton University Press (USA price 2.95 dollars) in a substantially revised form.
This revision has been possible by drawing on three important works published since 1961 on Communist Party organisation and developments in Greece. Rumania and Yugoslavia: written by D. G. Kousoulas, Ghita Ionesco and Ivan Avakumovic respectively.
Burks has relied heavily on the interview technique, and in many cases says he's been unable to disclose the source of information.
Even so, this lack of disclosure doesn't generally detract from some of the useful information obtained in the book.
As well there's a useful glossary and an impressive collection of statistical data. but the book suffers from the lack of a bibliography, and from curious gaps in the references.
There are, too. old biases in his analysis of the Greek situation and his curt examination of Western Communist parties and movements is far too superficial, even as an addendum.
In some areas, Burks also tends to rely almost exclusively on other research, for instance, Gabriel Almond's work on guerilla movements in Malaya, but doesn't draw the conclusions which spring from it.
The bias, the interviewing technique, the patchy examination may all be due to Burk's long association with Radio Free Europe (an American-financed radio station which broadcasts propaganda to East European countries) and an insufficient expansion of the (revised) work after much other original research has been done in the intervening six years, Raht.