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New Left Review I/32, July-August 1965


R.F.

‘Signor Roy’

Signor Roy. Roy MacGregor-Hastie, Muller. 25s.

English eccentricities, often bottled up at home, have a way of thriving abroad. Perhaps it is their shock effect. Labelled ‘mad’, the Englishman is allowed to pursue his impulse until—if backed by money and sufficient zeal— his eccentricities mature and catch people by surprise. Such at least seems the case here. Retreating to his wife’s Piemontese village to repair his marriage, an ex-itv scriptwriter, ex-Labour parliamentary candidate, was angered by the backwardness and apathy of the local hill-farming peasants; this book is an account of his efforts to organize the peasants, many of them still Mussolini supporters, into an agricultural co-operative. Glib, journalistic, sometimes paternalistic (‘my peasants’), it is none the less of interest on some points: the weight of inertia that has to be lifted before small-holding peasants can be brought into any form of co-operation, the depopulation and stagnation of rural areas around a large city (Turin), the necessity of leaving no private sector within the co-operative to sabotage it, are all described. More revealing however, is the fact that right-wing parties and big business interests were the most favourable to the enterprise. The reason is clear. Peasant co-operatives can be a means of contesting capitalist society which has relegated the peasants to marginal lives; or they can be an end in themselves, which the Right clearly sees as a reinforcement of the rationalizing process of neocapitalism and a block to moves for real agrarian reform. Despite professions to the contrary, the author’s attempts fall into this latter category—as sooner or later all do-gooding must. R.F.

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