In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

CHAPTER X Peasant Revolution INTRODUCTION THE TWENTIETH CENTURY has been the century of peasant revolution.1 In the last fifty years, peasants in certain areas have engaged in prolonged national struggles to change the system of government and the distribution of power. These movements have not been based on a sudden burst of vio­ lence after frustration has built as was often true of the spas­ modic, anomic peasant rebellions of past centuries. Rather, peasants in these cases have engaged in long drawn-out revo­ lutions in a variety of institutionalized ways—as political ca­ dres, as disciplined soldiers, as loyal suppliersof food, money, and shelter, and as active and passive members of a host of revolutionary organizations and groups. With the success of the Chinese Communists and the Viet Minh, with the pro­ longed struggle of the National Liberation Front (NLF) in Vietnam, and with numerous other attempts at revolution by 1 The meaning of revolution used here is that of Meusel quoted by George I. Blanksten, "Revolutions," in Government and Politics in Latin America, ed. Harold E. Davis (New York: Ronald, 1958), p. 121. "A major change in the political order—not merely a shift in the personnel of the government or a reorientation of its concrete policies—must be preceded or accompanied by a drastic change in the relation among the different groups and classes in society." Also, there is violence used in achieving this change. PEASANT REVOLUTION guerrilla fighters,2 peasants have become the focal point for major political upheaval in the third world. In the Chinese and Vietnamese cases, they have acted as a class and made up the majority of the revolutionary movements dedicated to the overthrow of the existing political institutions—move­ ments with formal, hierarchical structures and well-articulated political goals. There has been a lag, however, in the development of social and political theories which could explain the complexity of peasant participation in institutionalized revolutionary strug­ gles. Numerous questions remain unanswered. Why have peasants emerged as such decisive political figures? Why now, in the twentieth century? Why has the character of their par­ ticipation changed from the more eruptive, anomic qualities of the French Revolution, the Taiping Rebellion, and the Russian Revolution to the organized aspects of the Chinese and Vietnamese Revolutions? Previously existing theories have been stretched and adapt­ ed in all sorts of ways to incorporate the novel events of peas­ ants' participation in revolutionary institutions since the 1920s. Marxist theorists have been at pains to analyze the new events in orthodox terms. They have referred to peasants as allies of the proletariat in revolution—at times when the presence of any industrial workers was negligible. Or else they have spoken of the transformation of the peasantry into a segment of the proletariat.3 2 For an account of the Latin American situation, see Richard Gott, Guerrilla Movements in Latin America (London: Nelson, 1970). 3 William Hinton, Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1966), p. 184, writes of the Chinese Revolution: "The Party remained a working class Party which transformed its non-working class recruits rather than allowing them to transform it." Hinton quotes Liu Shao-ch'i, Mao Tse-tung's former comrade-in-arms, as saying that the peasants and intellectuals studied and accepted Marxism-Leninism and Mao's POLITICS AND REVOLUTION In the United States, much social scientific effort followed the government lead and resulted in a largely useless, if not pernicious, body of tactical recipes for counterinsurgency.4 But serious American social and political theorists, as well, have had difficulty incorporating peasant revolutions into ex­ isting theories. As we shall see in the Conclusion, their theo­ ries have most often simply made such revolutions the end point of a spectrum of all rebellious violence, from riots to coups d'etat. The same sociological and social psychological concepts are used to explain all these types of rebellious violence. This chapter rejects the view that long-term participation by peasants in revolutionary institutions can be understood in the same terms as more eruptive, anomic forms of collective violence. A more cogent explanation can be built upon the theory developed in the first nine chapters of this book on social and political change in peasant communities.5 The hy­ pothesis here is that peasants' participation in institutionalized revolutionary movements is initially an attempt on their part theories. "In the course of doing this they changed their original character and became...


Additional Information

MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.