Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 14. 1967.
Autocrats not needed
Autocrats not needed
Sirs,—In your issue dated September 22. your reporter quotes the Rev. Allan Brash as saying that dictatorial government is "inevitable and necessary' in the underdeveloped countries of Asia and envisaging with some amount of optimism "that it will be a centralised and authoritative government which will rule India."
While I can sympathise with the sense of agony and frustration which led Rev. Brash to this conclusion, I am inclined to doubt whether he weighed very carefully the consequences of the alternative he suggests for the admittedly sloppy methods of democratic reform.
Such methods have for long been under heavy fire from interested quarters, but one does not expect the voice of the Church to add to the confusion that already to some extent clouds our future citizens' appreciation of the important moral issues relating to means and ends.
Taking India as an example, we all deplore the perennial privations her people suffer, enhanced in recent years by unusual natural calamities. But the democratic character of the government in India has at the very least forced it to beg or borrow from abroad to keep people alive.
Under an authoritarian government in 1943 two million people were allowed to! die of starvation in less than four months, the government arguing all the time that no real distess existed. (Reminiscences of this event will be found in Ian Stephens' Monsoon Morning published last year.) No authoritarian government can be expected to own up to its deficiencies With all the News Media under its sole control it is inevitably led to the suppression of unsavoury truth.
Despite their privations. Indians today do not have insult added to injury in the form of cooked-up figures to establish that the privation is a myth. A reasonably free Press and public demonstrations keep governments on the alert. No Indian need drivel himself to neurosis for fear of a visit from the Secret Police at dead of night or of a denunciation in public from his erstwhile colleagues.
What Asian countries need, therefore, is not less of democracy, but more of it of a better kind. Like all democracies in the midst of crisis, they need political parties with sound programmes, imaginative leadership and dedicated fellowship. The mere suppression of democratic freedom and the advent of an autocrat will hardly improve matters.
D. C. Bhattacharyya
Senior Lecturer in Economics, Victoria
University of Wellington.