Indeed, farmers still comprise over half of humanity, and in one form oranother remain the central component of mass protest movements – not justin so-called Third World nations [
,2007] but also in metropolitan capitalist countries [
, 2001].Since the 1980s there has been a dearth of empirical studies that seek tounderstand the nature of agrarian uprisings in terms of why certain segmentsof the peasantry may or may not spearhead (or at least participate in)rebellions. Marxist scholarship that has retained an interest in the study of the peasantry and peasant societies – including agrarian revolts – has for the most part retained the well-tried paradigm which conceptualises a peasantryinternally differentiated by class, on the basis of social relations of production.Building on the seminal Marxist framework – elaborated initially by Lenin, and subsequently by Mao [1954: 82ff.] – examining the revolutionary potential of different peasant strata, a number of later theoreticalanalyses havelooked at the characteristics, the presence and the political role in agrarianmovements of rich, middle and poor peasants in a variety of contexts [
, 1973, 1975;
Although there is no universally accepted typology of characteristics thatdeﬁne class differentiation within the peasantry, the Marxist literature onthe subject tends to be consistent in its identiﬁcation of some broadcategories. At the top of the hierarchy are the propertied classes that own/control substantial means of production – especially land – and share political power at the national level. Whilst arguably there are importantdifferences between the categories of capitalist farmer, rich peasant andlandlord, the characteristics they have in common are far more signiﬁcant.In particular, each owns the means of production (land, capital), andexploits the labour-power of others (whether sharecroppers or agriculturalworkers).
At this end of the hierarchy rural property being vastly in excessof subsistence needs means that its owner frequently has to lease holdingsin order for cultivation to occur.The second category is that of the middle peasant, who also owns land buttypically does not exploit the labour-power of others. In the case of this particular peasant stratum, provision of basic family subsistence requirementsis effected by means of family labour itself. Leaving aside the vexed questionof whether the employment of non-waged family labour or paid workers whoare also family members is so different from the employment of hiredworkers from outside the domestic or kinship group, middle peasants aremore likely to be the exploited (by landlords, rich peasants, or merchants)than the exploiters (of their own family workers).
In good years they survive,to continue as petty commodity producers in the following agricultural cycle.In bad years, by contrast, when crops suffer damage or drought strikes,middle peasants join the ranks of the landless.480
THE JOURNAL OF PEASANT STUDIES
D o w nl o ad ed B y : [ U ni v e r si t y of Illi n oi s] A t : 20 :22 2 J ul y 2010