10 APRIL 1936, Page 21


[To the Editor of THE SvEcTivron.]

SIR,—Lord Olivier takes the tummtal course of using your review of my book, Warning from the West Indies, to pursue his own 'attack, and his observations are so misleading that - I must crave leave to reply. Even the authority justly due to "fifty yeais Close acquaintance" with those Isbuids is no warrant for an assertion, unsupported, that the book is "largely incorrect." When, as rarely, he is specific he • does not controvert, rather confirms, my main point that peasant owners are far too few ; and he chooses to ignore the fact that, even in Jamaica, the land holdings of the vast majority (even there only a minority of the population) are too small ever to allow their peasant owners to rise above a low subsistence level, or even to be independent of wage- earning.

Lord Olivier, a life-long Socialist, surprisingly champions peasant ownership as the one sovereign remedy for the economic ills which he admits, and scents heresy when the policy he has sponsored is seriously examined—not attacked . as he would make out. I ventured to question whether. peasant agriculture is, by itself, any more capable titan. that of the old-time planter of remedying the dire poverty. of the West Indies ; but I should be glad to think that Lord- Olivier's " perspicacious " plan of making the best of both. the capitalist and non-capitalist worlds has all the efficacy he claims for it. The peasant policy, I agree," is something," but not enough to meet the present need, either of tenants, or of the great mass of utterly landless coloured labourers to whom White Capital now offers only intermittent employment.

. Incidentally, Lord Olivier, who himself denounces capitalist economies, takes me to task for failing to do justice to the capitalist employers of Barbados for their " astonishing. feat" of maintaining the industry of that populous island.. My own praise was quite as definite. In one of several references (p. 75) I expressly comtnended their example to South Africans as "a considerable achievement." I must leave Lord Olivier to choose among his own adjectives and decide whether in this as in other examples his pontifical pronouncement, like his reading of my book, is incomplete, superficial, or—merely—incorrect.--Yours, &e., W. M. MACMILLAN.