Neutralism. Peter Lyon, Leicester University Press, 25s.
It is remarkable that, despite the immense impact that the neutral nations have made on international politics. There have been hardly any serious studies of the concept and rôle of positive neutrality in the world today. One therefore opened Peter Lyon’s book with pleasurable anticipation; here was an academic, without an obvious political axe to grind, who had chosen an interesting and, in this country at least, largely untouched subject.
This reviewer’s reaction can only be described as extreme disappointment. A great deal of the book is a simple chronology of international events in the 1950’s. There is little that throws any new light on the events recorded. Indeed, it is probably not unfair to describe the chronology as a summary of the relevant extracts from Keesings Contemporary Archives. This is not to denigrate the Archives...they are an essential tool for anyone who wishes to understand what is happening in the world. But they are a tool, not a substitute for thought...
The basic weakness of the book it undoubtedly Lyon’s lack of sympathy for the views and aspirations of the neutral states. He simply cannot see for example, that most African and Asian countries today have a far greater fear of colonialism (a word which he characteristically puts in inverted commas)—that is actual military occupation by the West, than of a hypothetical occupation by the Red Army some time in the future.
There are, of course, a few palpable hits, as when the book decries the rather pathetic letters the Belgrade Conference in 1961 sent to Khrushchev and Kennedy. These criticisms would however, be far more effective if made by someone genuinely attempting to understand the aims of the neutrals. But to Lyon there are really only two worlds: the democratic, civilized West and the totalitarian East. For this viewpoint, the logic must always be that neutralism is immoral, even though Lyon takes John Foster Dulles to task for being tactless enough to say so.
The book, in fact, has the rather dated flavour of a commentary on events from the standpoint of 1954. After all, in 1964, even the Prime Minister, whatever he may think in private, no longer talks in public about foreign affairs in the terms in which Peter Lyon writes—although, admittedly it is not so long since he did so. Ian Campbell
Copies of the paperback edition of The Socialist Register are available 16/-post free from the publishers, The Merlin Press, 112 Whitfield Street, London W.i.