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Its Meaning and

National Characteristics




The Macmillan Company


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ing or by any information storage and retrieval system,
without permission in writing from the Publisher.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 73-80792
Published in Great Britain in 1969 by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London
The Macmillan Company
Printed in the United States of America

1 N O R T H A M E R IC A
Richard H ofstadter

2 L A T I N A M E R IC A 28
A lista ir Hennessy

3 R U S S IA 62
A n d rzej W alicki

4 E A S T E R N E U R O PE 97
G h ita Ionescu

5 A F R IC A 122
John S a u l

6 P O P U L IS M AS A N ID E O L O G Y 153
D onald M acR ae

7 A S Y N D R O M E , N O T A D O C T R IN E 16 6
P eter Wiles

8 T H E S O C IA L R O O T S 18 0
Angus Stew art

9 P O P U L IS M AS A P O L I T I C A L M O V E M E N T 197
Kenneth M inogue

1 0 T H E C O N C E P T O F P O P U L IS M 212
Peter Worsley

IN D E X 251

Professor Richard Hofstadter, Columbia University

Alistair Hennessy, University of Warwick
Dr Andrzje Walicki, Warsaw Institute of Philosophy and
Ghita Ionescu, University of Manchester
D r John Saul, University College, Dar Es Salaam
Professor Donald MacRae, London School of Economics and
Political Science
Professor Peter Wiles, London School of Economics and Political
Angus Stewart, London School of Economics and Political Science
Kenneth Minogue, London School of Economics and Political
Professor Peter Worsley, University of Manchester

A spectre is haunting the world - populism. A decade ago, when

the new nations were emerging into independence, the question
that was asked was - how many will go Communist? Today, this
question, so plausible then, sounds a little out of date. In as far as
the rulers of new states embrace an ideology, it tends more often
to have a populist character. And populism is not an outlook re
stricted to the new nations. In the Communist world, strong cur
rents seem to move in a populist direction. And in the anxious or
agonizing re-examination which has gripped several developed
liberal societies of late, populist themes are prominent.
There can, at present, be no doubt about the importance of
populism. But no one is quite clear just what it is. As a doctrine or
as a movement, it is elusive and protean. It bobs up everywhere,
but in many and contradictory shapes. Does it have any underlying
unity, or does one name cover a multitude of unconnected
The present relevance of populism has also brought about a
revival of interest in some half-forgotten nineteenth-century cur
rents which bore, or were given, the same name. Does the anger of
American Middle Western farmers against urban lawyers, the
droolings of Tolstoy over muzhiks, the rationalizations of East
European resentments against alien traders, and the slogans in
terms of which rulers of new nations legitimate themselves and
subvert liberal institutions - do all these have a common intellec
tual source, and are they parts of one phenomenon? Is there one
phenomenon corresponding to this one name?
The present book is a determined attempt to answer this ques
tion, to give a clear outline to this elusive yet insistent spectre. It
is the work of a set of scholars whose joint competence covers the
highly diverse areas which have been haunted by populism. But
the book is not a mere addition of disjoined researches. The
various contributors cover both the diverse geographical regions,
and the various analytically distinguishable aspects of populism.
Above all, their contributions dovetail with each other (without
necessarily agreeing - there has been no attempt to impose unity
of vision), in as far as each author wrote with full knowledge of
the contributions of the others. Each saw the early drafts of the
other essays. Thus, though of course each author is responsible
for his own views only, the final versions are co-operative in the
sense that they were written or re-written in the light of the
Besides, their common original purpose was to define populism.
A discussion was held at the London School of Economics
on 19-21 May 1967.* The fact that it brought together so many of
the experts in populism with the object of attempting to define
* It had been organized by Government and Opposition, a quarterly of
comparative politics, at the time published b y Weidenfeld and Nicolson,
with the help also of the Humanitarian Trust, London.
The verbatim report of the conference can be consulted at the Library,
London School of Economics and Political Science. A precis o f the dis
cussion was published in Government and Opposition, Spring 1968.
t The full list of participants was as follows:
J.Allcock (Bradford), Prof. S. L.Andreski (Reading), Sir Isaiah Berlin
(Oxford, chairman of session), D r Conrad Brandt (Oxford), D r Peter
Calvert (Southampton), Nigel Clive (Foreign Office), Maurice Cranston
(L S E ), F.W .Deakin (Oxford, chairman of session), P ro f.R .P .D o re
(L S E), Geoffrey Engholm (Sussex), E. Gallo (Oxford), Prof. Ernest Gellner
(L S E , chairman of session), Prof. Julius Gould (Nottingham), George
Hall (Foreign Office), C .A .M .H e n n e ssy (Warwick), Prof. Richard Hof-
stadter (Columbia), Ghita Ionescu (L S E, rapporteur), James Joll (Oxford),
Ellen de Kadt (L S E ), Emmanuel de Kadt (L S E ), D r Werner Klatt,
Dr John Keep (School of Slavonic and East European Studies), Francis
Lambert (Institute of Latin American Studies), D r E. Lampert (Keele),
Shirley Letwin, Dr L.J.Macfarlane (Oxford), Prof. Donald MacRae
( L S E , chairman of session), Dr I. de Madariaga (Sussex), P r o f.G .F .
Mancini (Bologna), Kenneth Minogue ( L S E ) , Prof.W .H .M orris-Jones
(Institute of Commonwealth Studies), Dr John Saul (Dar-es-Salaam),
Prof. Leonard Schapiro (L S E , chairman of session), Prof. H ugh Seton-
Watson (School of Slavonic and East European Studies, chairman of
session), T.Shanin (Sheffield), Geoffrey Shillinglaw (School of Oriental
and African Studies), Dr Zoltan Szabo, Prof. Alain Touraine (Paris),
Prof. F. Venturi (Turin), Dr Andrzej Walicki (Warsaw), Derek Waller
(School of Oriental and African Studies), Prof. Peter Wiles ( L S E ) , Prof.
Peter Worsley (Manchester, chairman of session).

it is in itself significant. The expression is used in English, Spanish
(populismo) and, to a lesser degree in French ( populisme), and with
the implication that the word means the same as the Russian
Narodnichestvo. (But Peter Worsley rightly remarks in his con
tribution to this book that: the translation of the Russian Narod
nichestvo has been rendered as populist, but this very act of trans
lation is itself an imputation, not a neutral simple equivalence,
which translation can never be, since it has to use categories
available in language.) But its use both as a noun and as an
adjective has spread, and is spreading, increasingly. It now links
such strange bed-fellows as young liberals who call themselves
populists and some die-hard socialists who claim to have popu
list traditions. Some political scientists think that Maoism is a
form of populism and Nazism another form. And some historians
of ideas see it run like a distinct red thread from Chernishevsky
to Frantz Fanon and Marcuse. Indeed, one of the reasons why it
is very important to find out more about the expression and
the concept is that so many people are inclined to think that
movements left-of-Soviet-communism such as Trotskyism,
Titoism, Maoism, Castroism and the current ideology of the
students movements are the strident reincarnations of populism
in the second half of the twentieth century and that indeed for the
first time in history a populist international could be conjured
There are perhaps six principal questions on which to base an
assessment of whether populism is a unitary concept, regardless
of the variety of its incarnations, or whether it is simply a word
wrongly used in completely heterogeneous contexts. One question
is whether populism was primarily an ideology (or ideologies)
or a movement (or movements) or both. Perhaps, and this is the
second issue, populism was a sort of recurring mentality appearing
in different historical and geographic contexts as the result of a
special social situation faced by societies in which, as the French
sociologist, Alain Touraine, described it, the middle social factors
were either missing or too weak. Thirdly, populism can be defined
in terms of political psychology. The element of political persecu
tion mania was more acute in its political psychology. It was
imbued with the feeling that identifiable or unidentifiable con
spiracies were at work, deliberately and tenaciously, against the
people. The basic attitude was one of apprehension towards
unknown outside forces: colonial oppression, people living in towns
with international roots or ramifications, bankers, international
capitalists, etc. As such populism could be characterized by a
peculiar negativism - it was a n ti : anti-capitalistic, anti-urban, as
well as xenophobic and anti-semitic. In contrast, and this was the
fifth point, populism worshipped the people. But the people the
populists worshipped were the meek and the miserable, and
the populists worshipped them because they were miserable and
because they were persecuted by the conspirators. The fact is that
the people were more often than not identified in the peasants who
were and are, in underdeveloped societies especially, the most
miserable of the lot - and the more miserable they were the more
worshipped should they be. Finally, until now this recurring
mentality usually disappeared in history by absorption into stronger
ideologies or movements. There were three ways in which this
happened. One led to socialism. One led to nationalism. And, as
for instance in Eastern Europe before and after the First World
War, one led to peasantism.
The present book attempts to throw open to the public the dis
cussion until now held only in intellectual conclaves; and with
due modesty, it hopes to encourage an inquiry into this elusive
concept and its many meanings which deserves to be continued in
many other individual or collective volumes. The material as
sembled in its pages is in the majority based on the papers initially
presented at the 1967 conference. The studies by C .A .M .
Hennessy, G.Ionescu and Peter Wiles were added in order to
complete, as much as possible, the examination of the subject. Even
so though the field has by no means been fully covered and the
editors would like to express their regret that, in spite of their efforts
to reorganize and complete the original material, the book does
not contain studies on Asian or Canadian populisms.
The examination of the meanings of populism was divided into
two major headings. The first part groups the different historico-
geographical examples: Russian populism of the nineteenth cen
tury, American populism of the nineteenth century, Eastern
European populism and peasantism of the nineteenth and twen
tieth centuries and Latin American populism and African populism
of the twentieth century. The second part examines the concep
tual meanings of populism: populism as an ideology, populism
as a political movement, the social roots of populism, the
econom ic aspects of populism and an overall view of the concept of
populism .
T h e present book thus is the first organized attempt to clarify the
m ain aspects o f a concept w hich during the nineteenth century and
even m ore in the tw entieth century has been more fundamental
to the shaping o f the political m ind than is generally acknowledged.
G .I.
E .G .

Richard Hofstadter

The character of American populism derives in great part from

the American tradition of entrepreneurial radicalism. Elsewhere,
populism rested upon the role of the peasantry, but unless one
identifies a peasantry simply with rural poverty, the United States
has not had a peasant class; neither, despite the limited stratum of
large landowners and slave owners in the South, has it had a
class of rural grandees, an aristocracy with clerical and military
connections and conservative traditions.
What the United States has had, in place of a peasantry, is a
class of cash-conscious commercial farmers, producing staples
both for the domestic and the world market and linked to the bust
ling, competitive petty-capitalist life of the expanding small towns
of the American interior. Alongside the farmers, because of the
open character of the society, there has been the constant thrust
of new men - ambitious entrepreneurs, often recruited from the
farms, trying to break into established lines of enterprise and into
the upper echelons of the political or social world.
In the absence also of a powerful tradition of labour radicalism
and of strong socialist parties, American radicalism has drawn a
large part of its strength from heretical businessmen, village entre
preneurs, and the petty capitalists of the small towns. This tradi
tion was entrepreneurial in the sense that it accepted the basic
principles underlying private capitalism, and tended to argue that
its specific programmatic proposals would in fact strengthen the
capitalist order by broadening opportunities and giving the com
mon man access to positions of profit and power. But it was also -
unless we set too stringent demands upon the term - radical in its
continuing assertion of the claims of democracy and egalitarianism,
in its broad humanitarian sympathies, in its sharp criticisms, some
times merely rhetorical but at other times observant and telling,
of the practices of vested interests and monopolies, and in giving
voice to persistent American suspicions of concentrated power.
American radicalism was inevitably shaped by the conditions of
rural life. At the time of the Constitution, the nation was about
ninety per cent agricultural, and its predominant intellectual forms
were established in rustic conditions. Not until nearly the end of
the nineteenth century did the portion of the population employed
in industry match that of the farmers, and it was not until the
twentieth that the urban population exceeded the rural. America
presented an economy rich in land and natural resources, but short
of labour and capital. Under these conditions, there was a great
premium on capital-intensive agriculture - that is, agricultural
practices designed, through the use of machinery, to compensate
for the scarcity of labour by taking advantage of extensive and
relatively cheap land. The pressure for capital, both to acquire
machinery for cultivation and to engross as much land as
possible for speculative purposes, was always high. From its early
beginnings, the American economy was always afflicted by an
insatiable demand for money and credit, and it became the classic
land of homespun and original monetary theorists. It is important
to be aware, as American historians have not always been, that
this demand did not exist solely among the rural classes or among
poverty-stricken del ors. Even in the colonial period, for example,
the influential spokesmen for paper money were not rural scribblers
or demagogues but public officials, leading ministers and other
professionals, and prominent businessmen. In fact, several of the
American colonies, and the new states in the years just after 1776,
had made ingenious and successful experiments with paper-money
issues, in which the expansion of the currency was carefully geared
to landed security.1
Oddly enough, alongside this avant-garde finance, there grew
up in some agrarian circles a contradictory fear, an almost primitive
fear, of banks, of paper money - of everything that Thomas Jeffer
son and his agrarian contemporaries called the paper system.
True wealth, the primitive agrarians believed, came from land
and labour. An overbuilt apparatus of commerce and banking, an
excessive rate of public spending, a large public debt with the
consequent heavy taxation, could only be means by which an
insatiable paper aristocracy would exploit the honest fanner or
This duality in economic philosophy, which is apparent in the
era of the Revolution and the Constitution, continued through
the Jacksonian period. Jacksonian thought was divided between
those who continued in the old hard-money, anti-bank ways, and
those who were more interested in getting access to government
funds and putting them to use in exploiting the great American
bonanza. This cleavage in thought was paralleled by a cleavage in
expressed values and in economic policy. As to values, Jacksonian
democracy is marked by two conspicuous themes that seem quite
at odds with each other: the first is the persistent clamour of new
enterprisers for greater opportunities, the cry against monopoly
and aristocracy; the demand to give the commoners better and
more even access to the big prizes in business, politics, and the
professions. In it one can see the old American urge to get ahead,
the passion for advancement. The second theme is what Marvin
Meyers has called restorationism.2 It hearkens back to the simp
licity, the civic dedication, the nobility, the limited material aspira
tions and high moral tone that were deemed to be characteristic of
the old republic. In it the Cincinnatus-ideal, so integral in the
public reputation of George Washington, is invoked once again.
And restorationists were deeply concerned that the aggressive
materialism of the country, its insatiable quest for opportunities and
profits, for offices and emoluments, would lead not only to wealth
and luxury but to decadence. Even in the 1830s, then, the young
republic showed a distinct strain of nostalgia and a distinct sense
of uneasiness with itself.
These differences in expressed values were reflected in Jack
sonian policy. On one hand, the general passion against monopoly
and aristocracy was mobilized against the Bank of the United
States. Jacksons veto of the bill to recharter the Bank ensured its
downfall. His removal of the governments deposits from its con
trol at first intensified the inflationary effect of the assault upon
central banking. By putting the government funds at the disposal
of state banks whose directors often incautiously geared them to
the hectic land speculation of the time, the Jacksonians set off a
brief speculative spree. When it seemed to be gaining too much
momentum, they shrank from what they had done, clamped down
on the use of credit in land sales, and thus intensified the economic
reaction that was bound to come. Their inconsistency in policy
was, no doubt, attributable to several things - not least to their
attempt to represent social interests that were to some degree in
compatible and to their views of money and banking - but it
reflected in good part their deep uncertainty as to what they stood
for. Was it hard money and the old simplicities? Or was it open
opportunities, brisk competition, speculation, slick dealings, and
the main chance?
The debt of later populism to the Jacksonian heritage is con
siderable. Leaders of the Populist Party of the nineties were very
often men of strikingly advanced age for reformers, born in the
Jacksonian era and thoroughly familiar with its slogans. T he old
Jacksonian cry: Equal Rights for All, Special Privileges for None,
served them as it had served their predecessors. T he same concern
with opportunity as against monopoly, the same fear of the regu
lation of financial affairs from a single, presumably sinister centre,
underlay both movements. Senator Bentons M onster - the Bank
- was replaced by Wall Street, Lombard Street, and the House of
Rothschild. The political principles of Jefferson and Jackson,
argued General James B. Weaver, the Populist presidential
candidate of 1892, were still in vital respects applicable.
The rugged utterances of these statesmen ring out today like a start
ling impeachment of our time. . . . There is enough in them to com
pletely transform and re-invigorate our present suppliant and helpless
state of public opinion. Those declarations were uttered in the purer
days of the republic and before the various departments of Government
had seriously felt the baleful and seductive influence of corporate wealth
and power.3
The old hero, he said of Jackson, understood that a Democratic
government had no use for an aristocratic or monarchical system of
The development of American agriculture in the decades after
the Civil War superimposed upon this Jacksonian heritage stag
gering problems and grievances. The American commercial farmer,
his production organized in a multitude of small units operating
with fixed costs, selling in an increasingly com petitive world
market, and victimized by tariff and taxation policies, was fighting
a losing battle. It was his exports that largely paid for the imported
capital needed to finance American industry and his labour that
produced, at lower and lower prices, the food that nourished
the industrial labour supply, but as time went on he saw that he
was not profiting in proportion to the nation's growth. An import
ant element here is the sheer magnitude of the growth of the agri
cultural sector of the economy, especially in the West. Between
1860 and 1900 the number of farms increased from 2.0 million to
5.7 million, the land in farms from 407 million to 838 million
acres. T he use of machinery made farming more difficult to finance,
and increased its productivity. By 1900 the farmer was eighty-six
per cent more efficient than he had been in 1870. At the same time
the international revolution in communications, marked especially
by more rapid steam transportation, the opening of the Suez Canal,
and the proliferation of the railroads in the American West, drew
the farmer into an increasingly glutted and competitive inter
national market, where he had to compete, behind the handicap of
the tariff, with the food of Argentina, Canada, and Australia,
where new areas of land were rapidly being settled, and with the
cotton of India and Egypt. Prices moved quite steadily downward,
and then fell drastically in the depression of 1893. Farmers in basic
staples, who were in no position to meet their situation either by
cutting back their production or by more efficient marketing, found
themselves with larger and larger crops on their hands, sold at
lower and lower prices. From 1870 to 1895 corn production grew
from 1.1 million bushels to 2 .5 million, wheat from 2.5 million
bushels to 5 .4 million, cotton from 4 .3 million bales to 7.1 million.
But in the same years the price of corn fell from 52 cents a bushel
to 25 cents, wheat from $1.04 per bushel to 50 cents, cotton
from 12.1 cents to 7 .6 cents a pound.
T he years from 1873 also marked the drastic fall in the price of
silver, as successive demonetizations of the metal by various
nations of the western world coincided with a great increase in its
production. Western silver mine owners could look with sympathy
upon the plight of the farmers, but they could also see in them the
mass basis of an inflationist bloc, ready to convert the old fiat
money inflationism into silver inflationism and to go forth in a
common battle for monetary inflation as a remedy for the depres
sion. The strength of the silver forces was increased in 1889-90
when six new states of the West with strong mining interests were
admitted to the union. Inflationists could now look forward to a
strong silver bloc in Congress. M oreover, the silver miners brought
to the populist m ovem ent som ething it needed very badly - a
source of funds. Radical farmers were generous with their enthu
siasm, but they had little m oney to give, and the m ovem ent had to
work with pathetically insufficient funds. But in return for their
contributions the silver interests exacted their ow n price. They were
not much interested in the m ore radical proposals of populism -
like the public ownership o f m eans o f com m unication - and they
were concerned to use what leverage their dollars gave them to get
the m ovem ent to concentrate m ore single-m indedly on the silver
issue. T o this end they did what they could to make silver infla
tionism the dom inant aim o f the populist follow ing, and in this
they had the assistance o f a num ber o f hom espun pamphleteers,
bred in the old traditions o f m onetary panaceas. A m ong these, the
m ost important was W . H . (C oin) H arvey, w hose C o in 's Fin a n cia l
S ch o o l became the great docum ent o f the populist m ovem ent.5

M any o f the qualities o f populist thought stem from the dual
character of the Am erican farmer. In the old ideal, shaped by the
pastoral poets and infused w ith a warm glow by Jeffersonian
writers, the farmer was the independent yeom an : a hardy pioneer, a
good citizen, close to the soil, energetic, hardworking, devoted to
the family that worked w ith him , sim ple, reliable, and honest.
H e cared little for m oney, but was interested in farm ing primarily
as a way of life. H is farm was his hom e, and if he lost one, he lost
the other. In com m on with other m en w ho did m anual labour, he
was a victim o f exploitation by special interests: he carried an
undue share of the tax burden; he paid too m uch for freight and
for credit; he had a hard tim e claim ing his share o f the land, as
against the big land speculators and the railroads. T o the agrarian
theorists there was bound to be som ething w rong w ith any social
system in which agriculture did not get its full sh are:
Whenever, in a populous Nation, agricultural pursuits become of
secondary importance as a means of acquiring wealth, it may be set down
as certain that the callings which have risen above it are operating under
some artificial stimulus which is abnormal and unjust.6
O n every count this image of the farmer had solid reality behind
it. It is true, however, that the self-sufficient yeom an was always
accompanied by the cash-hungry farmer eager to win his place
in the markets of the nation and the world, and it is also true that
after 1815, with the rapid development of the vast American
hinterland and the rapid improvement of transportation facilities,
the yeoman farmer receded into the by-ways of rural America and
the commercial farmer was subject to all the vicissitudes of the
climate and the economy, and he was frequently the victim of
men with more power and fewer scruples - land grabbers, railroad
tycoons, credit merchants, bankers, middlemen.
The farmer himself also become deeply involved in the com
mercial ethos of the American system, to which he belonged. He
was a businessman as well as a cultivator of the soil. He succumbed
repeatedly to the temptation not merely to raise and sell crops
but to profit from the one aspect of his situation that promised
big and quick gains - from land speculation. The dynamics of the
economy pushed him into relatively large-scale enterprise for a
family unit. It entrapped him with machinery and debts. And
often he saw speculative gain as the one way to recoup on his hard
labours and his big risks. In good times, with skilful management
and a bit of luck, he might do well. But the periodic flip-flops of
the economy frequently caught him out. In the long run, he was
playing a losing game: he had little to sustain him through even a
short-run disaster - a crop failure, a drought, the weevil, the locust,
a damaging storm. Against a major social disaster even the most
provident farmer had no security. And two such major disasters
afflicted him after 1860. The first was the Civil War, which, it is
true, provided a tremendous stimulus to the Northern farmer but
which broke the social system of the South and left its farmers in
bondage to the one-crop system, voracious short-term credit and
the caprices of the international market. The second disaster was
the great international price depression of the last third of the
nineteenth century. By the end of the Civil War, the old agrarian
hard-money view had disappeared, though it had left an inheri
tance in the form of a rather categorical suspicion of banks and
bankers. Civil War conditions had taught the farmers and many
of the businessmen of the Middle West to associate prosperity with
high prices. The long deflationary freeze of the 1870s, 8os and
90s confirmed this view. The history of the populistic mind as it
expressed itself during these years is increasingly the history of a
concern with the monetary system, though there are also other
concerns o f considerable im portance centering on the control of
the railroads and the disposition o f the public lands. T he Green
back m ovem ent o f the late 1860s and early 1870s, inspired in part
by the recollection o f the prosperity that had com e with high
wartime prices, concentrated on currency issues. T h e Granger
m ovem ent o f the 1870s and 1880s was m ore centrally concerned
with the regulation o f the railroads by state legislatures. T he plat
form o f the Peoples (Populist) Party o f 1892 em bodied a broad
programme o f proposals for currency, credit (an endorsement of
the sub-treasury schem e), incom e tax, governm ent ownership of
railroads, and the reclam ation o f excess lands ow ned by railroads
and other private corporations and o f all lands ow ned by aliens.
T hese measures were supplem ented by political reforms, among
them the demand for the initiative and referendum and the popular
election o f senators dem ands that were to be echoed in the
Progressive m ovem ent.
But in 1892 the Populists learned that the currency issue - not
ably the demand for free silver - had deeper resonances in the
public m ind than any other; and by 1896, w hen the depression
had struck and the currency issue had grow n still m ore salient,
the demand for free coinage o f silver, to the despair o f left-w ing
Populists like Henry Dem arest L loyd, overshadowed everything
else and paved the way for the nom ination o f W illiam Jennings
Bryan by the Peoples Party. T h e m ost popular book produced
by the Populist m ovem ent was not a work o f general social theory,
nor even a programmatic tract analysing the full range of proposals
that had been advanced to rem edy the ills o f the people, but Coin
Harveys popular treatise on the m oney question, C o in 's F in a n c ia l
School. In this single-m inded work all the social evils that afflicted
the U nited States were traced to the international conspiracy that
was held to have resulted in the dem onetization of silver in 1873,
and it was implied that the free coinage o f silver by the U nited
States at the old ratio of sixteen to one would by itself be sufficient
to remedy the situation.
In response to the oppressions and hardships brought about by
the great international deflation of the late nineteenth century,
populist thinkers evolved their own conception of the world. Q uite
understandably, they thought that the state of America had
deteriorated lamentably since the days before the war.
T h irty years ago, [wrote the Kansas Populist Mrs Sarah E. V. Emery
in 1892] the American laborer was a prospective lord. He saw within
his reach a home o f plenty for his family, and an old age of comfort for
himself. T h e bright picture before him inspired industry, economy and
sobriety, and the laborer was a peaceful, sober, respected citizen.. . .
But today what is the outlook for the wage-worker of this country? He
sees before him only toil, unremitting, half-requited toil; hope dies out
in his bosom, despondency takes possession o f his heart; and unless
sustained b y a strong faith and a giant will he breaks beneath the weight
of oppression, seeks relief in a suicides grave, or worse still attempts to
drown his grief in the intoxicating cup and finally drifts into the great
army o f inebriates.7

The farmer, said Senator Peffer, has been shorn of his power to
help himself in a thousand and one ways that once were familiar
to him. He is now at the mercy of combinations which are in
effect conspiracies against the common rights of the people.8
The basic scheme of populist thought resolved itself into a
number of relatively simple propositions. First, the populist mind
tended to posit an essentially innocent folk, victimized by economic
catastrophies for which it shared no responsibility. For all practical
political purposes, it was assumed that the people constituted a
more or less homogeneous mass. This was not because the Popu
lists could not see any difference between the farmer or the worker,
and between these and, say, the honest small trader, but because
they considered that occupational differences were not of conse
quence in politics and morals; what mattered was that society was
divided between the people who worked for a living and the
vested interests who did not. In some populist literature the
farmer, conceived as the honest yeoman, was considered to have a
certain moral priority because of the natural character of his
labours, his closeness to the soil, and the fundamental character
of agricultural production. But by and large, what is most impres
sive is the ecumenical character of populist thought, its willingness
to grant the moral legitimacy and political acceptability of anyone
who did any kind of honest work. This common bond was thought
to be more important than any differences. Moreover, the masses
were susceptible to being united, the populists assumed, because
of the basic harmony of their interests, their common stake in a
fair, honest, and prosperous economy. Opposed to the people were
the interests, a small but very powerful class of men, headed by
bankers and by monopolists in railroading and industry. The
interests exploited the people - not, it is important to say, through
the normal mechanism of capitalist production (populism, despite
certain rhetorical similarities, was largely unaffected by Marxist
ideas) but through their political privileges and through their
power to control the monetary system. Control of the m oney system
gave the interests im m ense unearned increm ent, as they could
deflate the currency almost at will and increase the value of the
debts owed to them. Their political power had also given them
other unjust privileges, as land speculators, m onopolists in produc
tion, transportation, or som e area of trade or processing, or through
protective tariffs and through an unjust distribution of tax burdens.
(It seems hardly necessary to say that there was a great deal of
reality in this side of the populist argument. T h e best populist tracts
were heavily documented and on many counts well reasoned.)
There was also a widespread tendency am ong populist writers
to attribute a certain demonic quality to their fo e s: their enemies,
they believed, waxed more prosperous rather than less under de
pressions, which enabled them to quicken the pace of their exploit
ation and to concentrate their power even further. T h ey were
frequently conceived in more naive populist writing to have
planned and plotted economic disasters and to be gloating in a
secret and fiendish way over the m iseries they had brought about.
In this sense populist thought has from tim e to tim e rather strong
Manichaean overtones. T hese them es echoed through populist
literature, with its powerful and repeated em phasis upon the dual
character of the social order, the struggle between producing
interests and exploiters. It is a struggle, said Jerry Sim pson,
between the robbers and the robbed. It is a fight, said General
James B.W eaver, between labor and capital. T h e world has
always contained two classes of people, wrote B. S. Heath, one
that lived by honest labor and the other that lived off o f honest
This conception promised that once the people, overwhelm ingly
more numerous, could be effectively organized in an assault upon
the money power, most of the other problems besetting them
would yield rather easily. W ith the destruction of the m oney
power, said Senator William. A. Peffer, the death knell of gam b
ling in grain and other commodities will be sounded; for the
business of the worst men on earth will have been broken up, and
the mainstay of the gamblers removed. It will be an easy matter,
after the greater spoilsmen have been shorn of their power, to clip
the wings of the little ones. Once get rid of the men who hold the
country by the throat, the parasites can be easily removed.10 As
the money power was the primary enemy, the money question was
the central question. When we have restored the money of the
Constitution, said William Jennings Bryan, all other necessary
reforms will be possible; b u t . . . until this is done there is no other
reform that can be accomplished.11
Most of the deflationary measures that had been adopted in
America were intended to hold prices down. Many populists con
cluded that these measures had been the result of a design on the
part of ruthless financial interests to rob and exploit the people.
A widespread sense of the conspiratorial and demonic character
of the money power was expressed by Mrs Emery in accounting
for the downfall of the working classes of the country. The defla
tionary pressure, she said, had originated among heartless men,
the money kings of Wall Street. While others had responded
with sadness or anxiety to the coming of the Civil War the
attentive listener could hear from Wall Street the echoes of jubi
lant satisfaction and harmonious preparations for an onslaught
upon the industry and prosperity of the country. The money
kings rejoiced because they saw in the preparation for war their
long-coveted opportunity for plunder. Though foiled by Lincoln
at first, the Shylocks emerged with a new scheme of brigandage,
and in the end they won, securing a series of legislative victories
climaxed by the demonetization of silver in the crime of 1873.
These legislative victories masked a series of atrocious conspiracies
against this government; conspiracies which for boldness of pur
pose and cruelty of design, are without parallel in the annals of
crime . . . a record of the blackest and most heartless crimes
which have enabled the money power to form trusts and syndi
cates which have reduced the people to a wage-slavery more abject
and heartless than any chattel slavery that ever cursed Gods
If populist rhetoric, cited in isolation, sounds melodramatic, it
is important to remember that an equally inflammatory rhetoric
prevailed on the other side, in which the populists were portrayed
as being at best deluded bumpkins and at worst primitives, dema
gogues, anarchists, and socialists. It became important for them to
assert their respectability. T h e m oney power would be dealt with,
said the Populist Senator W illiam A. Peffer, but within the rules:
Not that there is to be any destructive m ethod; not that there is to
be any anarchistic philosophy about it; not that there is any disposition
on the part of the farmers or any considerable portion of the working
masses to take away from any man his property, or to distribute the
existing wealth of the country among the people; not that there is any
disposition to repudiate debts, to get rid of honest obligations, to rashly
change existing forms or customs, or to indulge in any sort of disloy
W e are Loyal C iticens, wrote one farmer touchingly from M inne
sota, and do N ot Intend to Intrude on any R.R. Corporation. . . .
W e Love our wife and children just as D early as any of you But
how can we protect them give them education as they should wen
we are driven from sea to sea. . . .14 T h is cry for the recognition
of their common hum anity and of their basically respectable
bourgeois status was shrewdly echoed in Bryans Cross of Gold
Speech: T he gold standard forces, he said, cried that their business
interests had been disturbed, b u t:
We reply that you have disturbed our business interests by your
course. We say to you that you have made the definition of a business
man too limited in its application. The man who is employed for wages
is as much a business man as the man who goes upon the Board of
Trade and bets upon the price of grain. . . . W e come to speak of this
broader class of business men. . . . We do not come as aggressors. Our
war is not a war of conquest; we are fighting in the defense of our
homes, our families, and posterity. . . . In this land of the free you
need not fear that a tyrant will spring up from among the people.
T he populist conviction that the forces o f the enem y w ere con
centrated at a single sinister centre engendered for a tim e, as the
populist movement gained m om entum , a kind o f optim ism . I f the
true enemy consisted in the main of a relatively sm all class of
financiers, and if the m ovem ent represented the real interests of
the vastly more numerous honest working people - farmers,
labourers, and merchants - it should in tim e be possible to m ount
an effective assault on the m oney power. O nce the m oney o f the
people had been restored and the m oney barons subordinated,
other necessary reforms would follow, and in due course it w ould
be possible to restore the country to the same state o f prosperity
and virtue, even though by the use of new and enlarged instru
ments of government, that it had enjoyed in the opening decades
of the century. So at least many populists, after years of bitter dis
appointment in the cause of reform, were beginning to believe in
the 1890s. They did not underestimate the formidable character
of the foe they were pitted against, but now at last their own
forces seemed to be on the move. And indeed, if one studies the
momentum the protest movement gathered from about 1888 to
1894, it is quite impressive.
One finds, then, in populist rhetoric an inner tension between
the optimism, so indigenously American, engendered by the sense
that they stood for the great masses of the people, and the curiously
co-existent sense of near impotence in the face of a rich, unscrupu
lous, almost omnicompetent enemy. We are in the hands of a
merciless power, wrote Senator Peffer. Again: Money controls
our legislature, it colors our judicial decisions, it manipulates
parties, it controls policies. The American farmer had been the
victim of a gigantic scheme of spoliation. Never before was such a
vast aggregation of brains and money brought to bear to force
men into labor for the benefit of a few. Again: This dangerous
power which money gives is fast undermining the liberties of the
people. It now has control of nearly half their homes, and is reach
ing out its clutching hands for the rest.15 The modern world,
General Weaver thought, had become inoculated with the virus
which is now threatening the destruction of free government and
even civilization itself.16 And in his generally rather sober tract of
the election year 1892 he echoed the populist party platform - A
vast conspiracy against mankind has been organized on two conti
nents, and it is rapidly taking possession of the world. If not met
and overthrown at once, it forebodes terrible social convulsions,
the destruction of civilization, or the establishment of an absolute
despotism - with his own view of the apocalyptic struggle :
W e must expect to be confronted by a vast and splendidly equipped
army o f extortionists, usurers and oppressors marshalled from every
nation under heaven. Every instrumentality known to man - the state
with its civil authority, learning with its lighted torch, armies with their
commissions to take life, instruments of commerce essential to com
mercial intercourse, and the very soil upon which we live and move and
have our being - all these things and more, are being perverted and used
to enslave and impoverish the people.17

For all this high-pitched rhetoric, populist assertions of ultimate
victory are the dom inant note, although one populist leader, Ig
natius D onnelly, in a m om ent of deepest discouragement, wrote
one of the more frightening apocalyptic novels of the era, Caesar's
Colum n, in which civilization was indeed engulfed in a hideous war
between the Haves and the H ave-nots.
Am ong the devices used to enslave the people were the old
parties - and their corrupt state was the best grounds for starting
a new and independent party that would belong wholly to the
people. T h e people were convinced, wrote the Nebraska populist
paper, T h e A llia n ce-In d ep en d en t , that the old parties have both
passed beyond the control o f the people into the hands of designing
capitalists and corporations, w hose end and aim in life is to control
legislation in their own selfish interests.18 T h e party platform of
1892 accused the major parties o f engaging in a sham battle over
the tariff that only distracted the people from their real enemies:
capitalists, corporations, national banks, rings, trusts, watered
stock, the demonetization of silver, and the oppressions of usurers .
T hey would sacrifice the hom es of the m asses in order to continue
to get corruption funds* from the m illionaires. T h is them e of the
corruption of the old parties and the com plete failure o f the existing
party system was a note struck very often in populist literature, and
it made especially bitter for m any party followers the ultimate
capitulation of 1896 when after heated dispute a major-party
candidate was endorsed.19

T he optimists among the dissenters failed to reckon with certain
facts of the American political scene that it is easy for historians
to understand in retrospect. T h e first is the extrem ely limited
social base of the movem ent. T h e second is the inhibiting force
of the American party system upon insurgent third parties.
On the first count, the pattern of the votes in 1892 and 1896
made it painfully clear that the Populists - and after them Bryan
himself, even with a major-party endorsement - did not succeed,
despite their sympathetic gestures towards the labour movem ent,
in mobilizing very much of the working-class vote; neither, except
in a few states and regions, did they persuade very large segm ents
of the middle class. W hat is even more striking, their appeal to
farmers was distinctly limited, as to both region and type of crop.
Populism and Democratic free-silverism, with which it became
allied, appealed pre-eminently to those who wanted to raise the
prices of three commodities: cotton, wheat, and silver. Populist
strength was confined to the South, a very narrow range of wheat
growing states, and the mountain states in which silver mining
was a powerful interest. In 1892, their candidate General Weaver
had won only 8 .5 per cent of the vote. He had been strong in a
few plains and mountain states and a half-dozen states of the South.
But in the rest of the country, including decisive farm states of the
older Middle West, he had received a portion of the Vote ranging
from the negligible to only five per cent. There were only nine
states, several of them sparsely populated, in which he got the
vote of more than one-third of the voters. It seems clear that the
populists had enough strength to put effective pressure on the two
major parties in several states, or to form a little bloc in the Senate,
but that their party was not on the verge of becoming a contestant
for nation-wide power. And it was control of the monetary policies
of the nation that the populists wanted above all.
The failure of the populists to break out of the wheat-raising
states into the older Middle West is a fact of decisive significance
here. Before 1892, states like Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin had
passed out of the period of their most intense speculative develop
ment, had reckoned more successfully with the railroads, and had
developed a somewhat more diversified agriculture than the states
of the cotton South or the wheat-growing plains. They had also
developed their own cities and local markets. Moreover, their
specialties, dairying and the corn-hog complex, had not suffered a
price decline comparable to wheat or cotton, and were not so
dependent upon the conditions of the world market. Accordingly,
though the depression that began in 1893 affected these states too,
they were not so desperate, nor so rebellious as the farmers to the
West and South of them. Even Bryan, running under a major-
party label in 1896, lost the states of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and
Wisconsin, whose support he needed for victory.20
Plainly, resources of this order were not sufficient to enable a
realistic populist to hope that his party could take a place alongside
the major parties. In the American party system, third parties have
played a significant role in giving neglected interests a voice, in
bringing new ideas and issues to attention, and in putting pressure
for change upon the m ajor parties. B ut the single-member-district
system , and the d isp osition en bloc o f each states vote in the
electoral college load the scales against the prospect of a third
partys becom ing a m ajor party. M oreover, the tw o major parties
take care o f it in their ow n w ay. S in ce they are frequently very
closely com petitive for the big prize o f the presidency, they are
alert to the appeal o f any issue w ith w hich a third party movement
identifies itself, and th u s ready to strike a heavy blow at its chances
o f m aking further converts. T h is was precisely what the Demo
crats did in 1896 w hen, under pressure f r o m Bryan and the silver
forces, they com m itted th em selves to th e free coinage o f silver.
T h e nom ination o f Bryan put the populists in a quandary. To
fail to support him w ould split the free silver forces, presumably
w ith fatal consequences to th e cause. T o endorse him would be
alm ost certain to sacrifice their identity as a party and would surely
mean the abandonm ent o f their broad program m e for land, credits,
transportation, and currency in favour o f the sin gle issue of free
silver. T h e endorsem ent o f the D em ocratic candidate was a parti
cularly bitter pill for tw o elem ents o f th e party. T h e largest of
these consisted o f Southerners w ho had had to build their party
in the face o f im placable hostility and som etim es even cruel harass
m ent by the Southern D em ocrats. T h e other, less important in
numbers, consisted o f intellectuals and social idealists like the
writer H enry D em arest L loyd, w ho hoped to push the populists
towards social dem ocracy and w ho regarded the cry for free silver
as a delusion. H owever, hungry for victory on w hat they regarded
as the primary issue, after w andering so lon g in the wilderness,
the majority o f the party elected to go w ith Bryan. A lthough the
party continued to exist for another dozen years, it split over this
act, lost its im petus, and indeed lost its central issue (w ith Bryan
him self and the silver D em ocrats) w hen prosperity and high
prices returned after 1897.
Populism in the broad sense, as a part o f the stream o f American
thought, still exists, but the populist m ovem ent o f the late 1880s
and the 1890s, taken as an organized political force, was dissipated
with remarkable rapidity. W hat did it in was the return o f general
prosperity, in which commercial agriculture did not fail to share.
T he failure of silver inflation was, ironically, follow ed by the
wholly unexpected gold inflation o f the early tw entieth century
Agricultural prices, along w ith others, rebounded sm artly. A t the
same time a massive and continuing growth in American cities gave
the farmer a fast-growing domestic market that compensated (for
a time) for the loss of his overseas markets. It is hardly an exag
geration to say that in the twenty years after McKinley defeated
Bryan in 1896, American agriculture entered upon its golden age.
Later, when exponents of the agricultural interest tried to fix upon
a peacetime period which they regarded as optimal in defining a
proper parity between agricultural and industrial interests, they
settled upon the years 1909-14. Along with economic gains came
social gains that broke down much of the farmers isolation and
alleviated the raw and starved character of farm life: the develop
ment of the automobile and the truck, good roads, rural free deli
very, the telephone and the radio. It is true that not all of the dis
contents and grievances that were experienced in the 1890s evap
orated, and that conditions within the agricultural class varied
widely. But the remaining discontents were susceptible to being
contained and expressed within the existing party system.
Subsequent agrarian policies took a new tack. Commercial
farmers were much less interested than the populists in trying to
affect the general price level, much more interested in focusing on
the prices of their own products by organizing (at first voluntarily)
to control the volume of their production. They were also increas
ingly interested in the techniques of marketing and distribution,
in temporarily withholding surpluses from the market through
storage schemes, and in the development of co-operatives (in
which the producers of staples took their cues from dairy farmers).
Up to 1890 there were only about one hundred marketing and
purchasing organizations among American farmers; by 1925 there
were over ten thousand. Scientific farming, long spurned by the
American dirt farmer, now took on a new interest, as the facilities
for agricultural education improved. In politics, outside of certain
situations in a few states, farmers lost interest in third-party
action, and tended increasingly to rely for their political gains upon
their strong, cohesive minority bloc in the Senate and on their dis
proportionate strength in many state legislatures. During the
Progressive era, when the general tide of protest and reform con
verged with the residual demands of commercial farm groups,
farmers won protective legislation that had previously been denied
them. Notable here was the assistance they received from the
Federal Government in credit and marketing, embodied in the
Federal Farm L oan A ct o f 1916 and the W arehouse Act of 1916
(w hich was very sim ilar to an old p opulist schem e).
D esp ite certain credulous and delusive elem ents in populist
thought, th e popu list m ovem en t o f the 1890s seem s on balance to
have been som eth in g o f an educational force. I have spoken of its
place in the A m erican tradition o f entrepreneurial radicalism, and
I trust that I have m ade clear its entrepreneurial side: it aimed,
above all, to restore agrarian profits and to scale down agrarian
debts by inflation, and it assum ed that general prosperity could be
restored w ithout a thorou gh goin g reconstruction o f the economic
or constitutional order. It is im portant to say that in certain res
pects the populists w ere indeed radical also, both in their intellec
tual and ideological tone and in their program m e. For many long
years after the C ivil W ar the dom inant tone o f Am erican political
life had been one o f com placency, and the prevailing conception
o f governm ent required that (excep t at a few points where it
intervened on b ehalf o f currency deflation or protected industries)
it should follow a p olicy o f la is s e z -fa ir e . T h e populists restored a
capacity for effective popular indignation, insisted upon the respon
sibility o f governm ent for the com m on w elfare, and demanded an
experim ental attitude toward its active role. T h ey waged a con
certed criticism o f the vested interests w hich, despite its tendency
to stray into the dem onic and the conspiratorial, struck fairly at
m any targets and anticipated the work o f the muckrakers. In its
general dedication to the popular interest and to positive govern
m ent, populism left an im portant legacy to later reformers,
particularly to those of the Progressive era and the N ew Deal.

1 See Richard A . Lester,M onetary Experiments (Princeton, 1939), and
Bray Ham m ond, Banks and Politics in America from the Revolution to the
Civil War (Princeton, 1957), esp. C hapter 1 .
2 In his The Jacksonian Persuasion (Stanford, 1957). O n the entre
preneurial theme in Jacksonian dem ocracy, see m y ow n The American
Political Tradition(1948), Chapter I I I , H am m ond, op. cit., and Joseph
Dorfman, The Economic M ind in American Civilization, V o l. II ( 1 946),
3 A Call to Action (Des M oines, Iowa, 1892), pp. 767.
4 Ibid., p. 221.

5 See the John Harvard Library edition (1963), with my introduction
Coin's Financial School,
and the Mind of Coin Harvey which is also
available in my book, The Paranoid Style in American Politics (1965).
6 Weaver, A Call to Action, p. 345.
7 In herSeven Financial Conspiracies Which Have Enslaved the American
People (Lansing, Michigan, 1892), as quoted by Irwin Unger, Populism:
Nostalgic or Progressive? (Chicago, 1964), p. 13.
8The Farmers Side (New York, 1891), p. 196.
The Age of Reform
9 For this theme and these quotations, see my study,
(New York, 1955), pp. 64-5.
10 Ibid., p. 65.
11 Ibid., p. 66.
12 Unger, op. cit., pp. 13-23 passim.
13 W. A.Peffer, The Farmers Side (New York, 1891), p. 148.
14 A Minnesota farmer in 1891, as quoted in Norman Pollack, The
Populist Mind (Indianapolis, 1967), pp. 33-4.
15The Farmers Side, pp. 42, 54, 73, 123.
16A Call to Action, p. 229.
17 Ibid., p. 44.
18 Pollack,The Populist Mind, pp. 39-40.
19 For illustrations of this theme, see ibid., pp. 35, 40, 54, 61, 174, 179,
241, 266, 281-2, 285, 300, 363.
20 On regional differences see Benton H. Wilcox, An Historical
Definition of Northwestern Radicalism, Mississippi Valley Historical
Review, 26 (December, 1939), pp. 377-94, and on the problem of third-
party strength, The Age of Reform, Chapter III.


Alistair Hennessy

In any general discussion of populism, Latin America is the odd

man out. Whatever variations there may be between the socialistic
populism of nineteenth-century Russia, the land-value, money
conscious populism of the United States or the communitarian
tendencies of African populism, they share a common belief in
rural values, asserting the superior virtues of the country against
the town.

Although in Latin America there is no accepted definition of

populism, its present current usage refers to predominantly urban
movements. Indeed, one can go further by saying that these have
turned their backs on the peasantry: they draw no spiritual sus
tenance from visions of pastoral and rural innocence: they receive
no more than fringe support from peasant organizations: they are
rural only in so far as peasants exert pressure on towns by becom
ing migrants and thus ceasing to be peasants. Furthermore, they
are manipulative movements in which the genuine voice of the
people finds little chance for expression. After discussing this
particular type of populism, movements more akin to the usually
accepted concept will be considered.
Although on a broad level of generality there is some point in
classifying as populist those reformist parties which have risen
in opposition to the narrowly based oligarchical parties, the liberals
and conservatives (which, until the 1920s and until today in
Colombia have monopolized political power), the breadth of
definition, requiring a wide range of sub-populisms, reduces the
value of the original concept. Latin American intellectuals have
created semantic confusion by turning the accepted notion on its
head, although the phenomenon they are attempting to describe
is one which is becoming common in other parts of the Third
World. Their purpose is to escape from the tyranny of European
concepts by finding one which can contain the paradoxes of
Latin Americas history and social development, covering move
ments which try to look forward at the same time as they depend
on cultural patterns and social relationships which are a legacy
of the past, movements which share respect for the authenticity
of national tradition and a compulsive drive to modernity.
In its widest sense populism in Latin America can be defined
as an organizational weapon to synchronize divergent group inter
ests and is applied to any movement not based in a specific social
class. In the most sophisticated attempt at constructing a typology
of populism it is described as:
a political movement which enjoys the support of the mass of the
urban working class and/or peasantry but which does not result from
the autonomous organizational power of either of these two sectors. It
is also supported by non-working-class sectors upholding an anti-status
quo ideology.1
The leadership of these movements is drawn from a discontented,
deracin middle/upper-middle class and is often embodied in a
figure with charismatic elements as Pern in Argentina or Vargas
in Brazil. Their mass support consists of a disposable mass,
made up mostly of recently arrived rural migrants as well, perhaps,
as the organized urban working class. They tend to lack a clearly
definable or consistent ideology beyond a fervent nationalism,
the dynamic for which often comes from a violent anti-imperialist
(anti-U S) sentiment rather than from any more positive assess
ment or deep comprehension of national traditions and needs.
In general, they are neo-socialist but emphasizing redistribution of
wealth rather than increasing productive capacity. Salvation can
only come from the state, which must protect national industries
against foreign competition by protective tariffs, by national
izing strategic foreign-owned companies and by stringent profit-
remittance legislation. However, the states role as an employer
receives greater emphasis than its function as an agent for develop
ment - an attitude which reflects the desire of unenterprising middle
sectors for job-security in the bureaucracy.2 Their general ideology
postulates a united people in which class tensions are overcome
in the euphoria of heightened nationalism where hostility is directed
against the imperialist outside and their lackeys within - the ven
depatrias. In the Manichaean confrontation of the post-colonial
era, evil is represented by a homogeneous oligarchy financed by
Wall Street and informing to the CIA, whilst good is represented
by the undifferentiated but exploited people.
A variety of factors have contributed to the emergence of this
trans-class populism, and although at present we lack a detailed
social history which might enable us to make qualitative distinc
tions between different types of movement, the following
conditioning elements can be isolated :1
1 The inability of the middle classes to fulfil a historical role
as the carriers of a bourgeois revolution generating its own values
and stimulating economic development.
2 The ability of landowning elites to accommodate themselves
to change, to admit nouveaux riches into their ranks and to continue
to provide a model of behaviour for a mimetic middle class.
3 The inability of the urban working class to develop inde
pendent autonomous organizations and the delayed emergence of
an identifiable working-class culture.
4 An accelerating flow of migrants to the big cities and the
accumulation there of large unassimilated marginal groups.
5 The persistence in rural areas of a network of dependency
relationships which has hindered the rise of independent peasant
organizations, and which at the same time conditions the behaviour
of the ex-rural marginal urban groups. Delayed industrialization,
due to Latin America's peripheral position as an exporter of
primary products, meant that the industrial bourgeoisie looked to
the state for protection against foreign competition as well as
against those commercial interests which had become netted into
the import-export business. The general cosmopolitan orientation
of both landowners and middle classes had the corollary that
national traditions often remained unexplored whilst the pre
dominance of literary and legal studies, embalmed in an outworn
university system, produced graduates whose qualifications were
irrelevant for development needs. The failure of the fifty years old
university reform movement is the most striking evidence of the
inability of the middle classes to create institutions consonant with
the needs of modernization or those of a self-confident and
enterprising social group.
The entrenched power of a landowning elite not only blocked
the political advancement of the middle classes but helped to
dilute any sense of class solidarity by profferring the image of social
success and opportunities for nouveaux riches to enter its ranks.2
Where such entry was blocked (as in Argentina) these new groups,
enriched by import-substitution industrialization, were drawn into
the populist movement and became Peronist supporters. But the
outstanding success of the landowning elite has been its successful
resistance to agrarian reform. Except in the case of Mexico,
Bolivia and Cuba (and with some minor exceptions in Venezuela,
Peru and Chile), agrarian reform has been attenuated. Pre-empting
of the best land by a small land-owning elite combined with their
inability or reluctance to farm efficiently has created Latin
Americas rural crisis. Push factors of land hunger, inequitable
tenancies and demographic pressure combine with the pull of the
city offering excitement, educational and economic opportunity to
produce the phenomenon of a contracting frontier or what Profes
sor Morse, in the case of Lima, has described as colonization in
reverse importing rural values into the city.
Latin American urban populism has been conditioned by the
premature emergence of a mass society, caused by accelerating
immigration from the countryside into metropolitan centres where,
under conditions of capital-intensive industrialization, jobs can
not be created fast enough to absorb the increase.3 Thus it is a
bridge between town and country, providing a mechanism for
incorporating migrants into urban life. In nineteenth-century
Europe the slower processes of change enabled new migrants to be
assimilated into urban society, where the working classes gradually
built up their own organizations which could eventually intervene
in politics as an autonomous entity. In Latin America, the eco
nomic demonstration effect combined with the communications
revolution, feeding in the values of a consumer society, has created
wants and expectations demanding swift satisfaction.
New migrants are rarely absorbed into established working-class
organizations: these often presuppose a higher educational level,
literacy and political sophistication than is possessed by migrants.
Furthermore, by flooding the labour market, migrants threaten to
erode the gains made by the older working-class organizations.
There is thus a disposable mass which is available for manipula
tion by middle-class politicians. These politicians have, in fact,
been more successful in harnessing mass support than established
labour unions. Indeed, in Argentina, Pern organized rural mig
rants as a way of overcoming the opposition of the older labour
organizations. The populist politicians task is to run these
incompatible forces in harness.
While populism helps to narrow the gap between the atomiza
tion and anonymity of big-city life and traditional rural dependence,
it also limits the recruiting possibilities of other secondary
associations such as trade unions.
Latin Americas low-paced industrialization, comments Pro
fessor Morse4 contributes little to the consolidation of a working
class or a working-class culture. The scale of the migration in rela
tion to industrial opportunity means that the populist leader rather
than the labour union becomes the agent for political organization.
In so far as populist leaders have rivals among the marginal
groups, these are to be found in Salvationist Protestant sects such
as the Pentecostalists often staunchly apolitical and preaching a
doctrine of personal salvation, rather than in parties of the secular
revolutionary left.5 Orthodox communist parties have concen
trated their proselytizing effort on the organized working class,
especially in mining centres where there is often a highly developed
class-consciousness, and on the discontented lower middle/middle
classes. They have tended to regard the marginal sectors as an
unreliable lumpenproletariat.
Latin American cities are characterized by chronic under
employment. Almost everyone of working age earns something, how
ever small. This is achieved by overstaffing in private and public
enterprises, by a public investment policy by which surplus manual
labour is employed in construction (this is aided by the way in which
real estate is a favourite investment of the Latin American middle
class) or through various types of small meagrely productive indus
tries, petty trading, services and domestic service and casual
work, much of which is thinly disguised unemployment. Multiple
job-holding is a characteristic which these marginal groups share
with sections of the middle class (for example, university professors
holding two or more jobs). For the rural migrant underemploy
ment and multiple job-holding perpetuate the patronage rela
tionships of rural areas, and help to strengthen the institution of
compadrazgo or god parenthood by which the padrino is morally
obliged to further the interests of his ahijado or god-son, in return
for which he expects support.6 Social devices such as compadrazgo,
kinship and the extended family give a sense of security to the
newly arrived migrant and create a network of mutual aid arrange
ments which tends to make such groups impermeable to rational,
depersonalized political appeals. Politics remain personalist, as
in rural areas, with associations in shanty towns seeking to acquire
basic services like sewage, lighting, and transport via populist
leaders who, in an urban setting, fill the place of the rural patron.
The strength of personalist relationships, the persistence of
face-to-face contacts and the dislike of impersonalism are among
the most striking traits of contemporary Latin American society:
patterns of behaviour evolved during the last century are still
proving remarkably resilient - in particular the survival of the
caudillo ethos.7 Admiration for the strong man and an acceptance
of violence as a legitimate means of effecting political change are
features of any frontier society but many attitudes of rural caudil-
lismo have been carried over into an urban setting. For example,
corruption is not condemned when its proceeds are used to provide
for dependants to whom one is morally obligated. The intensity of
personalized loyalties which gave cohesion to rural caudillismo is
another surviving trait whilst in societies which are still largely
male-dominated the macho complex still flourishes.
The success of the populist leader depends on the skill with
which he can extend the patron relationship and build up a sense
of kinship between himself and his dependants; this may be done
either by manipulating communications media as in the case of
Peronism or by close personal contacts as with Castro. To some
extent the task has been facilitated by the predominant Catholic
ethos of Latin American societies, particularly through its popular
expression in folk Catholicism where the relationship between
believer and saint complements the patron-dependant relationship
in secular society.8
Some observers see populism as the only viable reforming move
ment in Latin America.9 Others are more critical and view it as
essentially opportunist, concerned only with securing short-term
social benefits and privileges for its supporters10 whilst in the
specific case of Brazil it has been seen as constituting a major
obstacle to any group wishing to engineer genuine structural
reforms: the populist leaders heterogeneous support and their
pressing demands for immediate social benefits force them into
compromises which vitiate any long-term planning.11
The fate of populist coalitions during the last few years and
their replacement by military-dominated regimes in Brazil, Argen
tina and Bolivia leads me to support the latter interpretation. These
failures can be attributed as much to their inadequacies in tackling
outstanding political and economic problems as to their threat to
established interests. The lack of a clear ideology and of a firm sup
port in any specific social group as well as the opportunism and cor
ruption of much of their leadership resulted in vacillating policies
once in power. Drawing much of their vigour from spontaneous
enthusiasm in opposition, their organizational weakness and cor
ruption, particularly in the middle ranks of the administration,
is glaringly apparent when the movement comes to power and
even more so once the leadership is overthrown. The failure to
become institutionalized means that continuity can often only be
preserved by the leader extending his term of office but in the
context of fierce personalist factions and where the populist leader
has enormous patronage in his gift, continuismo can be fatal as in
the case of Paz Estenssoro in Bolivia in 1964. The wider the base
of a populist coalition, especially in a poor country like Bolivia,
the more difficult it is to assuage the appetites of the coalitions
constituent groups. The poorer the country the more difficult also
it is to satisfy the military, which is always a potential threat and
even a rival to populist coalitions.
On the other hand, the more highly developed a society becomes,
the more likely it is that elements within the populist coalition will
develop their own autonomous organization, thus lessening its
dependence on the rest of the coalition. The Peronist unions had
become so strong by 1955 that they were reluctant to risk their
gains in defending Pern. The major legacy of Peronism has in
fact been an intransigent and highly articulate labour movement
under its own independent leadership, whereas in Brazil, where
unions had been organized by Vargas in 1937 under the Ministry
of Labour, unions have since been dependent on the government
and have thus lacked the autonomy of those in Argentina.
To sum up urban populism in Latin America: it may be viewed
as a manipulative mechanism for controlling marginal populations,
providing a means by which migrants can be integrated into urban
life. For the middle classes it is a way to cope with the consequences
of urbanization without the results of industrialization. As such,
populism does not challenge the status quo : work patterns are not
disturbed; a literary and legally trained intelligentsia does not have
to venture into new specialized fields; a premium is still put on the
manipulation of words and people rather than of things.12 Populism
is a transitional phenomenon; a balance of contradictory social
forces which is only concerned, in a very limited sense, with
changing the social structure by breaking the hold of import-
export businesses and of any group socially too inflexible to adapt
itself to the political elasticity of populist programmes. Provided
they scent the wind of change, oligarchs can weather the storm
by working within the framework of traditional dependency rela
tionships.13 So far from being a response to industrialization or the
need for it, it is a response to the absence of it. Selective indus
trialization of the import-substitution type might occur under the
auspices of a populist government - Peronism is a case in point -
but this should not deflect attention from the way in which urban
populism is primarily concerned with urbanization, not industrial
ization. It is a device to stave off the consequences of a constant
influx of rural migrants which reflects the failure of governments
to solve rural problems. The most that populist governments have
been able to do is to redistribute wealth; they have not created it
and, so far from removing the structural barriers impeding eco
nomic and social change, they have made substantial contributions
to them.
The most striking feature of the populist movements under dis
cussion has been their neglect of the peasantry and their failure to
change the structure of rural society, to implement agrarian reform
programmes or to increase substantially agricultural production.
It should not be thought, however, that there have been no popu
list movements more akin to the accepted usage of the term,
although with the exception of Perus A ccin Popular populism has
not been used to describe them. The revolutions in Mexico,
Bolivia and Cuba all contained strong elements of rural populism
and derive much of their dynamic from a view that peasants
enshrine, in a particular way, the authentic national virtues. These
phenomena, in contrast to those which have been discussed, are in
a real sense regenerative movements.
We might expect to find in Latin America a classic Russian
populist situation of an alienated intelligentsia drawn from the
upper middle and middle class seeking in a depressed rural popula
tion the key to political salvation and national regeneration and
yet, until the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and its repercussions in
the 1920s, there is a curious ambivalence among the alienated
lite towards rural society which betrays a fundamentally urban
orientation. Nevertheless, in common with most new nations,
there is the compulsive search for a unique identity. What has
to be explained is why this search has been so protracted.


For those who inhabit the ex-colonial world, the need to recapture
an imagined sense of community which malevolent history in
their view took away from them is an imperative difficult to evade.
The quest for roots, authenticity and the symbolic reassurance
which comes from an ideology of pristine origins provides psycho
logical satisfaction, in national terms, for the country on the peri
phery of international affairs. The pressures impelling such a
quest have been particularly strong in Latin America where the
time-scale of self-doubts and questionings has been longer than
in the rest of the Third World. Although Spanish rule was over
thrown 150 years ago Emancipation was the false light of the new
Dawn and in the first confused years of independence idealism
and self-confidence drained away. Even Bolvar despaired of the
continent he had tried to save - he who serves a Revolution ploughs
the sea. Political fragmentation and economic weakness ensured
that Latin America remained on the fringes, a frontier society
reproducing primary goods for the metropoli of the developed
world: the classic case of neo-colonialism, an example to be held
up by Frantz Fanon of what Africa must at all costs avoid.
The cultural history of Latin America since independence has
oscillated fitfully between self-disparagement and exaggerated self
esteem. In Arielism o, the best example of the latter, the ethereal
spirituality of Latin America is contrasted with the brash materialisms
of the Colossus of the North.14 T his intellectual overcom
pensation for political inferiority is not only confined to the intel
lectual elite but has its counterpart in popular culture, as in those
Mexican ballads which unfavourably contrast gringo sexual prowess
with that of the Mexicans. Once attitudes are stereotyped they
tend to become self-perpetuating, providing a model for future
behaviour, and finally end by being enshrined as virtues in order to
make living with them bearable. Thus backwardness becomes a
virtue and poverty an ennobling experience. Psychological com
pensations provided by ideologies of sublimation were adequate
so long as Latin America was in a backwater, enjoying a political
freedom denied to those still under colonial rule. But when these
achieved their freedom, the roles seemed reversed and Latin
America, enmeshed more deeply than any other part of the Third
World in the net of United States influence, now seemed more
than ever a prisoner in its own past.
The conspiracy theory of neo-colonialism, which has become an
integral part of Latin American radicalism has roots going back to ;
the nineteenth century. Latin American backwardness could only
be explained in terms of a sinister alliance between an entrenched
oligarchy and foreign interests. One of the clearest expressions of
this anti-imperialism is to be found in the writing of Jose Mart
the late nineteenth-century Cuban populist writer who has been
the most important influence on Castro's thinking. Mart was
primarily concerned with the war against Spain but he saw Cubas
struggle as part of a wider one for the economic independence of
Latin America. But Marts populism with its emphasis, rare in
the nineteenth century, on the rural masses, racial equality and the
need for class harmony, cut little ice with the cosmopolitan elite
steeped in a derivative culture. The stronger the insistence on the
threat from the United States, the stronger became the emphasis
on Latin Americas European roots. The current development
ideologies of Comtean and Spencerian positivism encouraged mas
sive foreign investment and widened the gap between rulers and
the masses by official scorn for the weak. The degradation of the
Indian was attributed to inherent racial deficiencies rather than to
structural shortcomings in the political and economic system.
Long, slow evolution through education was seen as the solution
to what was otherwise thought to be the insoluble problem of rural
The rising middle classes were scarcely aware of the political
potential of the rural masses and it was only under the influence
of the Mexican Revolution that this came to be recognized. It
was in the 1920s that the neo-colonialist critique of imperialism
was brought together with the cult of indigenismo and the myth of
pre-Columbian innocence. This mingling of nationalism and
populism can be traced in most subsequent radical and revolu
tionary ideologies. It is the long delay in the fusion of the consti
tuent parts of the populistic nationalism of the 1920s which needs
to be explained.
The linking of the newly independent republics in the early
nineteenth century with the centres of international trade rein
forced the urban legacy of the Spaniards by developing the towns
on the periphery - Rio, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Lima, Guaya
quil and Caracas - where financial, cultural and political institu
tions were concentrated. Inland, colonial trading routes collapsed
and provincial towns decayed and came under the control of rural
caudillos, one of whose aims was to prevent the extension of state
power although some, like the Argentinian Rosas, were strong
enough to capture the state. Unsettled political conditions in
Spanish America until after the 1870s, and slavery in Brazil until
the 1880s discouraged immigration on any scale. For the nine
teenth century, therefore, Latin America was a frontier society both
in relation to international trade and to the vast spaces of the
interior. Whereas in the United States the frontier expanded under
the impetus of massive immigration and elsewhere under the
umbrella of imperialism, the Latin American frontier remained
static, expanded patchily or even contracted.16 T he values of
pastoral despotism even came to dominate the metropoli. The
contrast, sharply drawn by the Argentinian writer and statesman
Sarmiento in the 1840s, between a civilized, European-oriented
Buenos Aires and a barbaric, anarchic interior can be multiplied
throughout the continent. Daunting geography, malevolent nature
and barbarous caudillos dispelled any illusions urban intellectuals
may have had about rural arcadia. The imagination and sensibility
of writers could not be nurtured on visions of pastoral life and of an
ordered rural civilization.
Nor is it easy to find examples of a conscience-stricken landed
1ite - most were absentee landlords, often living in Europe,
content to leave their estates to be managed by m estizo bailiffs.
The survival of the colonial hacienda effectively blocked the growth
of an independent yeomanry. In Argentina, where the hacienda
was not entrenched during the colonial period and where land was
abundant, constant government efforts to encourage agricultural
colonization by a system of emphyteutic tenure failed. A voracious
European market for hides and later for cattle and wheat argued
in favour of size. In the 1820s, twenty-one million acres of public
domain came into the hands of five hundred individuals.17 When the
pampas Indians were driven back in the 1870s, homesteading acts
remained a dead letter as speculative land companies moved in,
thus preventing the development of an agrarian populist movement
comparable to that of the United States. Migrants who did settle
on the pampas farmed on precarious tenures.18 Vast distances
and the isolation of farms were accentuated by a communications
network which connected the interior with the capital but ignored
lateral links and inhibited the development of a cohesive rural
society. It was from this atomized background that the migrants
to Buenos Aires in the 1930s and 1940s were to come to provide
the leaven for Peronism. Urban consciousness of the pampa took
the form of a wistful, nostalgic gauchismo, lamenting the passing of
the free ranging cowboy - a surrogate for action which might
have changed the structure of that rural society on which
Argentinas enormous wealth was based.19
At this stage it is worth noting that like Peronism in the 1940s '
and 50s Argentinas other main contribution to Latin American
radicalism - the University Reform movement - also had an urban
orientation. T he significance of this movement, which began in
1918, did not lie merely in the demand for university reform but in
the assertion of a new continental nationalism under the leader
ship of a regenerating student elite. It postulated the idea of a
political university which would become the revolutionary focus
from which student youth would regenerate decadent societies.
At the core of this student populism was the myth of the incor
ruptibility of youth which has become increasingly potent as Latin
Americas population becomes younger.20 But the significant feat
ure of the movement, which in the 1920s had repercussions in
nearly every Latin American country, was its divorce from the
rural masses. T he popular universities, for example, were con
fined to teaching the rudiments of reading, writing and politics to
urban workers and only in Mexico in the early 1920s (where
Reform influence was weak) did students go into rural areas in
any numbers. However, with the Cuban Revolution the emphasis
changed from urban-based students activity, demonstrations,
workers education, terrorism and the like, to the countryside.
Subsequently, the guerrilla mystique has put teeth into the verbal
rural populism which had sprung up as part of the nationalist
revival of the 1920s.
The most pronounced expression of the new nationalism of
the 1920s was to be found in those countries which had large
Indian populations and visible monuments of a flourishing pre-
Spanish past. The survival of pre-conquest methods of social
organization as in the ayllu of Andean Indians as well as pre-
Spanish modes of thought were used as a theoretical basis for
social reconstruction (thus providing authentic instead of borrowed
solutions to national problems), irrespective of whether these social
institutions had lost their functional usefulness or not. As Indians
were overwhelmingly peasants, Indianism and agrarianism were
inextricably linked. In Mexico particularly, but also in Peru and
to a lesser extent in Bolivia, this stimulated a wide range of
indigenista literature. Indians, uncorrupted by contact with W est
ernized urban culture, would be the instrument by which Latin
America could be released from spiritual serfdom to Europe. Indi
genism sometimes appeared to be racialism in reverse - the visions
of Indians sweeping down from the Sierra to purge the decadent
coastal cities of Peru reflects the Schadenfreude of a cultural elite
which under Spenglerian influence, was losing its social confidence.
Indigenismo was also an answer to the crisis of identity which has
plagued Latin American intellectuals. What was a Peruvian or a
Bolivian when perhaps sixty per cent of the population was out
side the national economy and probably did not even speak
Spanish? By upgrading the Indian and downgrading the Spanish
heritage, the shame which a mestizo might feel at his Indian blood
could be exorcized. This, of course, could be overdone. In Mexico,
Vasconceloss dislike of Indianism was due to his recognition of
the value of the Spanish contribution to Mexican culture as
well as to his mystical belief in the superiority of a fusion of
Ultimately, the sincerity of back-to-the-land movements is the
Tolstoyan test of actually participating in the life of the oppressed
and downtrodden, and very few indigenistas outside M exico did
this.22 Nevertheless it would be unfair to be too critical. How else
could the upper-class intellectual contribute but by writing and
making the problem one of public debate? How could a cultural
gap, widened by centuries of distrust and fear, be sparked? And in
any case the skills needed for raising the Indians standards were
not those acquired by a literary trained intelligentsia.23 The indi
genistas main contribution was therefore literary, and impressive
novels like Ciro A legras B ro a d an d A lie n is the W orld or Arguedass
Y aw ar F ie sta roused public awareness and concern.
In Peru, few parties took the Indian problem and that of rural
poverty seriously until the emergence of the Belandes Accion
P o p u la r Party. In the 1930s the communists adopted an Indianist
line under the influence of M ari teguis equation of agrarian
Indianism and socialism - but for this the author was damned by
the Russians as a populist.24 A contributory factor in this com
m unist influence, however, may well have been their failure to wean
the urban workers away from A P R A which in the 1920s and 1930s
was the leading urban radical party and not, as is so often assumed
a party with strong rural roots. It is true that A P R A had a follow
ing among peasants in the north of Peru and among the workers of
the big coastal plantations, but in spite of the fact that the partys
leader, Haya de la Torre, coined the phrase Indo-America,
A P R A s Indianism has always been luke-warm, rarely passing
beyond window dressing. A P R A s strength is based on the organ
ized unionism of the m estizo workers on the cotton and sugar
plantations and the lower m iddle/m iddle classes of the coastal
cities and is m inim al am ong Indians of the Sierra.25
T he academic dialectics of Peruvian indigenismo reflect the dil
emma of writers in the crises of a pre-revolutionary society. In
M exico, by contrast, intellectuals had had no choice after the over
throw of Porfirio D iaz in 1911; they were catapulted into a revolu
tionary situation in the making of which they had had little part.
We were like leaves swept on the winds of the Revolution, wrote
the novelist Azuela who served as a doctor in Villas army. Atti
tudes therefore were formed under very different conditions in
the two countries. In contrast too, the Bolivian Revolution of 1952
was preceded by a long gestation of proto-revolutionary regimes
in the 1930s and 1940s. Out of the experience of civil war and with
no foreign m odels to guide or confuse them, the Mexicans, like
the Turks at the same tim e had to find their own solution and
these were determined by pragmatic rather than ideological
Under the long and successful dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz from
1876 to 1911, M exico had been admired as a development model,
much as it is today, but then progress had been achieved at the
expense of the Indian peasant whose subjection had been sancti
fied by positivist ideology. Revolution against this system was
primarily a political revolt against continuism o , rigged elections
and a gerontocracy which blocked the circulation of elites. Revo
lution did not release the energies of a dynamic middle class,
because this was too small and divided. Instead, removal of the
je fe mxim o released a violent conflict between rival caudillos,
each operating from a regional base to seize control of the central
In view of the later concern of M exican intellectuals with the
land and the redemption of the Indians it is curious to find so few
antecedents before 1910 - one looks in vain for a back-to-the-land
movement. It was only after the breakdown of the social controls
of Porfirianism that agrarian revolt could find active expression
and force itself on the attention of revolutionary leaders. It is not
surprising therefore that there was very little ideological content
in the first agrarian legislation in 1915 - this was primarily a
political move by Carranza to drain off Zapatas and Villas peasant
support.26 However, radical intellectuals, influenced by zapatism o,
succeeded in getting agrarian reform written into the 1917 consti
tution; agrarianism thus became an integral part of the revolutions
ideology although it was not until Cardenas in the 1930s that it
was given priority.
Under the patronage of the Minister of Education, Vasconcelos,
there was a genuine back-to-the-people m ovem ent partly by those
whom the war had brought into contact, for the first tim e, with the
actual condition of the countryside. Students went into remote
regions to set up rural schools, Indian protection centres, and
agricultural schools, and they conducted illiteracy campaigns.
There can be no doubt of the sincerity of much of this ruralism
although the impetus was soon to flag until briefly revived by
Cardenas. But even if Vasconceloss own messianic visions about
the new race to emerge in the N ew W orld under M exican leader
ship lost touch with reality and rationality, those he patronized
gave to the Revolution an utopian content which not even the most
savage political in-fighting could totally obscure.
The ejido was of course the main practical expression of Mexican
rural populism. Although at first the revolutionary leaders reluc
tantly accepted it as a transitional solution, the radicals saw it as
something more - a return to the pre-Spanish calp ulli with its
communal organization. As a Mexican solution it has since ac
quired a sanctity which defies the criticism of economic rationality.
By returning land to villages and vesting control in the community
both were to be given a source of sustenance and independence.
This aspect of the revolutions ideology is well summed up in
Tannenbaums phrase a philosophy of little things and he recalls
a conversation with Calles in the 1920s in which he questioned the
president about the future27 - We will make a village out of the
hacienda; And what about the city? It does not count - an odd
reply perhaps from the caudillo whose power base was the corrupt
unionism of urban labour but, sincere or not, it expresses the
vision of numberless small communities each with its own school,
owning its own land enjoyed in usufruct by the villagers, and
freed from hacienda domination. But the Revolution did not create
a nation of self-governing villages as this vision would imply.
There was no wholesale redistribution of land; not even Zapata
envisaged this - he wanted the return of village lands and the
distribution of unexploited hacienda land. Much of what was dis
tributed went to private owners to form the basis of a capitalist
agricultural sector. Although by the ejidal law of 1927 every village
was eligible to receive an ejido, these were only created in response
to pressure from below. Land distribution therefore becomes sub
ject to the demands of the economy, of population pressure, of
rural disturbance and countless other interests working through
an increasingly complex web of pressure groups. Ostensibly the
state did not participate directly in ejido affairs but in practice it is
omnipresent both in the decision to create new ejidos and in the
control of the vital Ejidal Bank which, by channelling or
withholding credit, can determine an ejidos success or failure.
The ejido has become the touchstone for judgements on the
Revolution. The Lefts major criticism is that opportunities to
create a collectivized agriculture have been lost and that, by creat
ing ejidos worked individually, governments have played into the
hands of peasantism or, as it has been put, In the absence of
energetic outside intervention, peasants in the ejidos often resemble
the individual small landowners who live for their land rather than
by their land.28 The few collective ejidos, largely established under
communist influence in the 1930s, are an isolated exception. There
is truth in the assertion that opportunities have been missed for
co-operative development and that the poor showing of ejidos in
agricultural production is due to the governm ent deliberately
channelling funds for overheads - roads, electricity, irrigation,
etc. - to benefit the large-scale capitalist sector which has been
responsible for M exicos spectacular growth o f agricultural pro
duction.29 But m uch o f the am bivalence about agrarian policy
stem s from its being the product o f an institutionalizing revolu
tion and so subject to com prom ises. Contrast this with, for example,
the Bolivian case w here in 1953, as a result o f pressure from below,
the governm ent was stam peded into a m ore com plete but less
controlled and m ore chaotic agrarian reform . T h e very complete
ness o f the Bolivian reform becam e a handicap as land hunger,
once satisfied, reduces the social m obility necessary for economic
Although agrarianism has been th e m ost striking feature of the
M exican Revolution, its com pulsive attraction as a source for
nationalist doctrine has tended to obscure other aspects. Revolu
tionary ideology was a synthesis betw een an idealized rural past
and a boundless industrial future w ell sym bolized in Riveras
murals. Since Cardenas nationalized oil in the late 1930s, a greater
emphasis on industrialization has led to a fall in the am ount of
land distributed. A s urban opportunities expanded and dem o
graphic pressures increased, the im petus o f agrarianism has proved
impossible to sustain. D uring the process o f industrialization the
function of the ejido has been to satisfy the telluric urges of the
less efficient peasants w hilst a dynam ic agriculture, capable of
feeding one of the fastest grow ing populations in th e world, has
been favoured. T h u s both pressures on scarce good land have
increased and governm ent assistance to ejid o s has been reduced
on the assumption that only the less enterprising w ill stay in the
ejidos. So acute is land pressure that m any ejid a ta rio s are able to
take jobs in factories and let out their plots on a share-cropping
b asis: even ejido peasants can becom e exploiters.
However imperfect the ejido m ay be, it provides som e m easure
of protection for the peasant during both the industrial and
agricultural revolution through which M exico is passing and, by
reducing social tensions, has been a crucial factor in m aking this
politically the m ost stable country in Latin Am erica. It w ould
nevertheless be wrong to assume that because o f the overtly urban
emphasis of P R I politics, M exico shares the characteristics o f the
urban populism discussed earlier. M exican peasants have
powerful organizations, both in the C N C and in the peasant
sector of the PR I, and are thus able to exert a certain pressure
on the government.
Nevertheless where there are high concentrations of landless
labourers or blatant examples of administrative corruption, rural
discontent can be exploited by the Left to attack the governments
betrayal of its revolutionary ideals31 or, alternatively, rural protest
may take the form of an actual counter-revolutionary movement,
as in the cristeros of the 1920s or the sinarquistas of the later 1930s,
in which the Revolution was identified with a corrupt urban poli
tical class. The cristero rising was a blind peasant reaction backed
by the higher clergy against the violent anti-clerical policies of
Calles. Sinarquismo began as a more coherent, non-violent move
ment overlapping some of the old cristero areas but led by secular
intellectuals who were nevertheless trying to build up a rural
Catholic movement - a quasi-populist phenomenon with a Catholic
counter-revolutionary base. The leadership was provided by pro
fessional men and students who gave up their jobs to live with
peasants. The support came from areas which had been scarcely
touched by the agrarian reform.32 Rapid expansion of the move
ment, which claimed 900,000 followers in the 1940s, can be ex
plained by the way in which its middle-class leaders physically
identified themselves with peasants, canalizing resentment against
the corrupt godless politicians of the big cities:
You will not find in sinarchism, my friend, the go-between lawyer,
the professional politician, the pedantic intellectual, the ideologist; you
will find the warmth of the people, the sap of the people, the spirit of
the popular mind. The peasants, the best men of my country, live in
contact with the sweet, rough, fertile land of Mexico: those who live
in contact with the rain, under the clear skies, these give impulse and
life to sinarchism.33
As the area of sinarquista support was not predominantly Indian
the cultural barriers were comparatively easy for the sinarquista
leaders to overcome - the more so as they were themselves Catholics,
working within the same cultural ethos, even as they were prepared
to share the poverty of their followers. Not that sinarquista leaders
were prepared to share power with their followers; it was the
unquestioning discipline expected of the latter which prevented
sinarquismo from being a genuine populist movement.
It m ay be that the secularist, anti-clerical, socialistic ideology of
the R evolution has been counter-productive in terms of winning
the confidence o f the rural population by raising up yet another
barrier betw een tow n and country in addition to those already ex
isting betw een Indians and m estizo s. W here Indian and mestizo
are culturally defined term s (as in M exico and Latin America
generally), an Indian w ho is educated in the city and then returns
to his village, perhaps as a schoolm aster, is often isolated and this
makes him reluctant to do so (thus defeating one o f the purposes
of training them as schoolteachers). A lthough the cultural barriers
may now be lessening as the consciou sn ess o f M exico as a mestizo
nation gains wider acceptance, the econom ic pull o f the city is an
additional barrier. It is a cliche, too often expressed by alienated
intellectuals, that village life is em otionally m ore satisfying than
life in the city and these intellectuals are often the least psycho
logically suitable to act as cultural brokers, m ediating between
com m unity-oriented and nation-oriented groups. In considering
the M exican R evolution the im m ense com plexity o f social rela
tionships m ust never be underestim ated and it is this complexity
which has restricted the active expression o f that populism which
is an integral part o f the R evolutions id eology.34
A s Latin Am ericas three successful social revolutions in M exico,
Bolivia and Cuba have been largely rural in character and in view
o f the failures o f urban populism it m igh t appear that the key to
future change m ust be sought in th e countryside and w ill come
from an awakened peasantry. T h is, o f course, is the Cuban
thesis. Latin Am erican rural revolts take m any form s - m essianic
m ovem ents, social banditry, land invasions and anom ic violence -
but it has proved difficult to direct these into coherent revolutionary
m ovem ents.35 For a peasant m ovem ent to influence th e course of
political developm ent there m ust first b e a revolution at the political
centre such as the M adero revolt against Porfirio D iaz or the suc
cessful p u tsch of the M N R in L a Paz in 1952, or a m assive aliena
tion of the urban population as in Cuba in th e 1950s. Secondly,
there m ust be a predisposition am ong peasants to revolt w hich,
even in spite of extrem ely poor conditions, is not so endem ic as
one would expect.
T he rle o f folk m em ory in Latin A m erican rural m ovem ents
has not been adequately explored and yet this w ould seem to
provide one clue. A fundam ental contrast can perhaps be drawn
between folk memories of societies where communal lands have
been pillaged by expanded haciendas, as happened among the
Andean Indians and in Mexico, and of ex-slave plantation societies
such as Brazil and Cuba.39 In the latter, manual labour carries a
stigma and the telluric bond is tenuous, whereas in the former
land is seen as an extension of personality and there is secret
virtue in tilling the age-old tnilpa : without land a peasant is
maimed.37 Movements based on revindication of ancient rights as
in Mexico and Bolivia have a self-sustaining momentum. Else
where, the dynamic must be sustained by an outside agent - in
Cuba the guerrillas fulfilled this role although the weakness of the
rural drive had to be compensated by an active urban revolution
ary movement.38 In Brazil the difficulty of organizing the Peasant
Leagues may be partially explained by the density of the rural
dependency relationship which was not offset by any sense of
specific as distinct from generalized feelings of injustice.39 In addi
tion, where the telluric bond is weak, there is a greater likelihood
of migration to the towns especially by the younger generation
(increasingly, even in Mexico). Thus in Latin America it is the
city which acts as a safety valve for rural discontent and not the
frontier as a safety valve for the city.


The difficulties faced by peasant movements in achieving a self

generating momentum, the failures of urban populism to mobilize
the peasantry and the political quiescence of the urban working
class underlines the importance of the Cuban Revolution and the
guerrilla mystique, as well as those forms of populism associated
with radical Catholicism in Chile and Brazil and Perus indigenist
A ccion Popular.
Although Cuba is highly urbanized, Castro has succeeded in
giving the Revolution a rural imprint, exemplified in the National
Institute of Agrarian Reform (I N R A) which was the strongest
institution and a virtual state within the state during the early
sixties. What Cuba lacked in the way of indigenous communal
traditions with pre-Spanish roots, telluric myths and a sense of
specific grievance comparable to the case of Mexico, was compen
sated for by a revolutionary tradition stretching back to the out
break of the war against Spain in 1868 and by the writings of Jose
M arti from w hich stem the moral im peratives of Castros thinking,
the m essianic notion o f C ubas role as the liberator of Latin
America from the yoke of U S econom ic dom ination and the rural-
ism im plicit in his populist assum ptions o f a united, racially har
m onious nation deriving its strength from those who live close to
the soil.40
T h e breaking dow n o f psychological barriers dividing town
from country has been a constant threat running through official
policy. T h e illiteracy cam paign o f 1961 both identified the young
with the R evolution and brought them into contact with rural
conditions, and the educational system has been reorientated to
m eet rural needs. T h e criticism s o f econom ic inefficiency brought
against the annual m igration o f students, office workers and bureau
crats to cut cane during the sugar harvest, m iss the point that it
contributes towards breaking dow n the stigm a attached to manual
labour in an ex-slave plantation society.
T h e contrast betw een an uncorrupted peasantry and a corrupted
m etropolis w hich is im plicit in m any o f Castros early speeches
and which is still reflected in his constant attacks on bureaucratism,
served to distinguish the 26th July M ovem ent from the old
com m unists w hose strength had been drawn from organized urban
labour. A rural follow ing gave him support w hich the com m unists
could not challenge. It underlined the break w ith the discredited
urban populism of Batista in the 1930s (from w hich the Com
m unists had benefited) and from Grau San M artin and Prio
Socorras in the 1940s, all of w hich regim es shared som e of the
characteristics of the urban populism previously described.
In Castros early activities there is little awareness o f the revo
lutionary potential of a suppressed peasantry, but once involved
in guerrilla activity and dependent on peasants for survival he
experienced a conversion the essence o f w hich is caught in a letter
written after eight m onths in the Sierra M aestra.41
. . . the renovating spirit, the longing for collective excellence, the
awareness of the higher destiny are in full flower and can develop con
siderably further. We had heard of these things, which had a flavour of
verbal abstraction, and we accepted their beautiful meaning, but now
we are living it, we are experimenting in every sense, and it is truly
unique. We have seen its incredible development in this Sierra, which
is our small universe. Here the word people which is so often utilized
in a vague and confused sense, becomes a living wonderful and dazzling
reality. Now I know who the people are: I see them in that invincible
force that surrounds us everywhere . . . who has organized them so
wonderfully? Where did they acquire so much ability, astuteness, cour
age, self-sacrifice? No one knows! it is almost a mystery. They organize
themselves alone spontaneously.
Living among them this sense of discovery and awareness of the
peasants as an almost mystical force is markedly different from the
verbal populism of the 1920s as well as from the attitudes of ortho
dox communists who regarded him at the time as a bourgeois
putschist. Castro constantly reiterates how revolutionaries can only
be formed by experience, not by theoretical works or by mechani
cally applying dogmas which have no relevance to Cuban and Latin
American conditions. Part of the attack on traditional Latin Ameri
can communist parties, which reaches its most sophisticated ex
pression in Regis Debray, lies in the assumption that they have
been corrupted by the urban milieu. In this view guerrilla activity
is the forge of revolutionary consciousness. The deracine intellec
tual who must be the link between the formless protest of rural
revolt and the organized workers of the cities can only become
fully proletarianized by living with and being dependent on the
peasantry. The peasants, for their part, cannot be won over with
out a programme of practical measures - agrarian reform, educa
tion, medical help, etc. - in the revolutionary foci of guerrilla acti
vity. Political salvation can only be attained by working with and
through peasants. But behind the facade of this grass-roots popu
lism there is the more compelling rationale that peasants are most
easily organized under war conditions. Guerrilla activity is thus a
method of political mobilization. As in Fanons African populism,
Sorels myth of violence is transmuted from the urban proletariat
and the general strike to a neglected peasantry and guerrilla
The contrast which is often drawn between the early, anarchical,
humanist or populist phase of the Revolution and the post-1961
totalitarian phase tends to overlook the continuities underlying the
two. Undoubtedly, social controls have become more all-embrac
ing; a siege mentality and the demands of a large military establish
ment have brought organizational rigidity, but Castros reluctance
to institutionalize the Revolution, as revealed in the slow building
up of the official party (begun in 1961 but it still has not held a
national congress), reflects the tension between the need to have an
efficient politico-adm inistrative system and Castros own liking for
a personalist style of politics in w hich the people are constantly
invoked against the bureaucracy.
T he m ethod too of constructing t he party with emphasis on
election from below was an attem pt to give it a legitimacy rooted
in the peoples will, and so crush the sectarianism of the PSP
which the Escalante affair o f 1962 had brought out into the open.42
T he nature o f Castros relationship to his supporters may appear
similar in kind to that o f the urban populist leaders - he works
within the highly personalist framework o f Latin American radical
politics but there is an im portant difference o f degree. Perhaps this
is most vividly seen in his appeal to, and the sustenance he derives
from, the younger generation.43
One consequence o f the Cuban Revolution has been the
debilitation of the dem ocratic L eft throughout Latin America.
Parties such as A c tio n D em o crd tica in Venezuela, A P R A in
Peru and the P R D in the D om inican R epublic have been
forced into com petition w ith the heady doctrines of Castroism.
Under this challenge the youth m ovem ents o f these parties
have moved left whilst the old guard leadership (hangovers from
the militant years of the dem ocratic L eft in the 1930s) became
more conservative. O nce this bifurcation occurred in 1961 after
the brief honeym oon period with Cuba ended, these parties have
been increasingly forced to rely on m anipulative politics to keep
in power or, if in opposition, to prevent further losses. T hus in
Venezuela, the governing A D party is increasingly dependent on
its control of government patronage and the m anipulation of its
peasant syndicates on which its voting support now rests,44 whilst
A P R A resorts to strong-arm m ethods to hold its own in the
unions and in the universities where inroads have been m ade into
their traditional preserve.45
T he decline of these parties is paralleled by the rise of radical
Catholicism, partly in response to the challenge of the Cuban
Revolution, partly as a consequence of developm ents w ithin the
Catholic Church. Chile, the only country where a Christian D em o
crat government is in power, is the m ost striking case; in Venezuela
the Christian Democrats are the main opposition party; in Peru
they were in alliance with the ruling A c tio n P o p u la r and in Brazil
there is a small but active radical Catholic student m ovem ent
which has now been forced underground. T hese new radical
Catholic groups are distinguished by their strong populist strains,
particularly among their younger supporters who are in rebellion
against many of the paternalist presuppositions of their party
leaders, and whose concept of revolution is one of change brought
about by the people on behalf of themselves. This concept is
much closer to what I understand as the spirit of populism than
those movements described at the beginning of this chapter.
In Chile populist ideas find expression in Promocidn Popular
which is designed to incorporate marginal sectors of the popula
tion, particularly urban slum dwellers, into national life, both in
the physical and social sense. A government agency is responsible
for providing the physical means - lighting, water, transport,
whilst the promotion of self-awareness, and of increasing social
and political consciousness is the role of small groups whose
relationship to the government is more tenuous. The dilemma
between the paternalistic pretensions of a development-conscious
government and a populist ideology concerned with promoting a
self-awareness among the masses, so that they can then formulate
their demands, is particularly acute once a populist party gets into
power.46 Ultimately, this is an insoluble dilemma.
It is doubtful if the populistic impulse which might be sustained
in a particular slum district or in a highland community or even
in a co-operative can be transferred to the national level. As the
area of conflicting interests widens so the populist dream fades as
manipulative techniques become necessary to mobilize the masses
in countering opposition. Governments then hide the loss of their
populist motivation by a faade of a general will theory of politics.
Marxist methods come to be used by those who condemn them.
Any party with populist overtones must face this dilemma once it
comes to power. It is a problem common to Castroism in Cuba
and Perus A ccion Popular as well as to Chiles Christian Demo
crats. Perhaps all a populist party can do once in power is to provide
the conditions within which a whole range of intermediate
communitarian organizations can flourish.
In Peru, the populism of Accion Popular had a different empha
sis. Although Peru too has the problem of marginal slum dwellers
these are not so much the governments main concern as the
Indians of the Sierra. Between 1963 and 1968, when he was over
thrown by the military, Belaunde tried to apply populist ideas
which were inspired by the Inca forms of social organization. He
believes that through C o o p e r a tio n P o p u la r the creative energy
(w hich built the great m on um ents o f Inca civilization), dormant
since the Spanish conq uest can be released. By developing the
tradition o f free collective work and com m unal form s of organiza
tion existing in the five thousand or so Indian com m unities in the
Sierra, A c tio n P o p u la r believes th e Indians can be given a new
sense o f purpose. T h is type o f work is seen to have a moral and
social value apart from its econ om ic im plications. Belaundes belief
in state planning is also Inca-inspired but he contends that real,
as distinct from artificial, d evelopm ent com es from self-help and
mutual aid. T h u s the state does not com pel com m unities to action
but provides technicians and m aterial w hen the initiative comes
from the com m unities th em selves. M any o f the decisions and
planning at grass-roots level should com e from the communities
in w hich all adults, m en and w om en, participate. T here is also a
strong anti-bank current in B elaundes th ought w hich ties in with
his em phasis on decentralization, for th e L im a banks have drained
the provinces o f w ealth m uch as the capital has drained them of
W herever patron-dependent relationships have been firmly en
trenched there is a likelihood that p op u list activity m ay be self-
defeating. D eprived o f a patron, m arginal groups tend to seek a
patron substitute and until the d epend en cy syndrom e is broken
it may be necessary to continue patrim onial or authoritarian m ethods
o f control, albeit in a m odified form , u n til self-con sciousn ess has
been aroused.48 In this process, Peru m ay be m ore fortunate than
Chile in that although there is perhaps little to choose between
the strength o f the dependency relationship in the tw o countries,
in Peru Indian com m unities still have a cohesion and a folk m em ory
which makes them receptive to popu list appeals. In C hile, where
there is no comparable com m unal structure, th e dilem m a betw een
paternalism and populism w ould seem to be m ore pronounced.
W here one may question the prem ises o f C o o p e ra tio n P o p u la r is
when it is applied to m estizos or an Indian com m unity w here this
cohesion has been lost. Social m obility and th e drive for self
advancement, as exem plified in m igration to the tow ns, m ust tend
to destroy the traditional patterns o f an essentially static rural
Only when populists are in opposition and are not com prom ised
by the support of a governm ental apparatus can they retain the
essence of their beliefs. The purest example is perhaps to be found
in Brazils A f a o Popular, a largely student radical Catholic organi
zation, which flourished between 1962 and 1964 and which was
then driven underground. Most of their activity was with peasants
in rural areas where they tried to conduct literacy campaigns, to
make peasants aware of their own capabilities and to organize
them in rural syndicates.
In the context of the paternal society bequeathed by the
Spaniards, populist ideas have found a barren soil. The dense
network of personalist relationships, the interlocking of private
interests with public, and the resilience of Hispanic behaviour
patterns, have strengthened those structural barriers which im
pede modernization, rationalization and the integration of unas
similated groups into the national life. A cosmopolitan elite and
retarded industrialization through economic dependence on the
industrial powers, have heightened the frustrations of countries
whose independence, now some hundred years old, still seems
fictitious. In the search for authentic instead of derivative solutions
to the problems of development and national identity, there is a
revival of interest in the people. This now has a reality which was
absent in the past: the frontiers of imaginative comprehension are
expanding. Both in Cuba and among the new radical Catholic
groups throughout Latin America the dynamic comes from the
younger generation. What might be termed student populism is
perhaps the most significant factor in the continents uneven de
velopment. In a world, increasingly younger, Latin America is
no longer out of step. It may even be in the vanguard.

N o te s

1 T . d i T e lia , P o p u lis m a n d R e fo r m in L a t i n A m e r i c a , p . 4 7 in Ob
stacles to Change in Latin America, ed. C .V e liz , O U P 19 6 5. T h e fiv e
groups in di T e l l a s t y p o l o g y o f p o p u lis m are: m u lti-c la s s in t e g r a t i v e
p a r tie s ( M e x i c a n P R I , B r a z ilia n P S D and P T B ) ; Aprista p a r t ie s ( P e r u s
A P R A ,, V e n e z u e la n Accion Democratica, th e D o m in ic a n P R D an d C o s ta
R ic a n P L N ) ; N a s s e r is t, o r m ilita r y r e fo r m in g p a r t ie s (n o t fo u n d in a
pure fo r m in L a tin A m e r ic a a lth o u g h th e r e g im e s o f R o ja s P i n i ll a in
C o l o m b i a a n d O d r i a i n P e r u h a d N a s s e r i s t f e a t u r e s ) ; s o c ia l r e v o l u t i o n a r y
p a r tie s ( C a s tr o is t p a r tie s ) ; P e r o n is t p a r tie s . V e r y little w o r k h as b e e n d o n e
o n in d iv id u a l L a t i n A m e r ic a n p o litic a l p a r tie s ; ty p o lo g ie s are th e r e fo r e

suspect. Nevertheless, there is a compulsion to produce them if only in
an attempt to try to bring some order out of chaotic diversity. But both
the comparative and aggregative methods in Latin America are full of
snares, particularly if historical conditioning factors and the crucial
qualitative aspects (e.g. varying types o f personalist leadership) are
ignored as they tend to be in such all-em bracing typologies. T h e concept
o f the 'disposable mass is discussed in G . Germ ani, Hacia unademo-
cracia de masas in Argentina sociedad de masas,
, Buenos Aires, 1965. T he
concept of urban populism is most w idely used for B razil; see the articles
by F .C .W effort, Estado y masas en el Brasil in Revista Latinoamericana
de Sociologia, Les Temps Modernes,
I, 1965, and L e populism e in October
1967 and also T . E. Skidmore, Politics in Brazil, 1930-64, N ew York, 1967.
2 For Brazil this is well brought out in Sugiyam a Iutaka, Social
mobility and differential occupational opportunity in Brazil, in Human
Organization, Vol. 25, N o. 2, 1966, and in A . Leeds, Brazilian careers and
social structure: an evolutionary model and case history in American
Anthropologist, 66, 1964.
3 Between 1947 and 1954 the population o f Buenos Aires increased
from 4 6 to 5-6 million, an increase caused b y massive migration from
the interior J.R .Scobie, Argentina: a city and a nation, O xford (New
York), p. 226. Urban growth rates in Brazil are even more spectacular.
Between 1950 and i960, the population of the ten largest cities increased
by seventy per cent, that o f Rio b y 57^5 per cent (from 2,208,361 to
3,815,062), R .E . Chardon, Changes in the geographic distribution of
population in Brazil in New Perspectives of Brazil, ed. E. N . Baklanoff,
Vanderbilt University Press, 1966, p. 166. See also P .M . Hauser, Urbani
zation in Latin America, Unesco, 1961, for detailed analyses.
4 R .M .M o rse , Recent Research in Latin Am erican Urbanization: a
selective survey with commentary in Latin American Research Review I,
No. 1, Fall, 1965. There are stimulating insights in two other articles b y
the same author - Some characteristics o f Latin Am erican U rban H ist
ory in American Historical Review, L X V I I , January 1962, and Latin
American Cities, aspects of function and structure in Comparative
Studies in Society and History, 1961, N o. 4. D i T elia discusses the
influence of rural migration on Argentinian working class politics in El
sistema politico argentina y la close obrera, Buenos Aires, 1964. A useful
discussion o f various models o f the working class in Latin Am erica is
I.D avies and Shakuntala de Miranda, T h e W orking Class in Latin
America: some theoretical problems in The Socialist Register, London,
1967. See also E. J.Hobsbawm , Peasants and Rural M igrants in Politics
in The Politics of Conformity in Latin America, ed. C . Veliz, Oxford, 1967.
5 T h e extraordinary expansion o f Protestant sects, particularly among
poorer urban groups in Brazil and Chile, is one o f the most interesting
sociological phenomena o f contemporary Latin America. O ne has the
suspicion that the Catholic Church m ay be worried more about this
development than about the threat from communism. It is certainly
curious how in Cuba the Catholics seem to have come to a modus vivendi
with the regime (the priests expelled in early days o f the revolution were

expelled as much for nationalist as for religious reasons - by far the
majority were Spaniards) whereas Baptists and especially Jehovahs Wit
nesses are actively persecuted largely because Protestant individualism is
still seen as one of the United States major exports to Latin America.
For Brazil see E. Willems, Religious mass movements and social change
inNew Perspectives of Brazil op. cit., and for Chile, C. Lalive dEpinay,
Changements sociaux et developpement dune secte: Le Pentecotisme
au Chili in Archives de Sociologie des Religions, 23, January-June 1967.
Developments within Catholicism are analysed in I.Vallier, Religious
elites: differentiations and developments in Roman Catholicism in Elites
in Latin America, ed. S.Lipset and A. Solari, O U P , New York, 1967.
6 See E. W olf and S.M intz, An analysis of ritual co-parenthood (Com-
padrazgo) in South Western Journal of Anthropology, V I, No. 4, Winter,

7 T h e concept of caudillismo has not received the attention its crucial
importance deserves. The most suggestive analysis is E.W olf and E .C .
Hanson, Caudillo politics: a structural analysis in Comparative Studies
in Society and History, IX , 2, January 1967. See also F. Chevalier,
Caudillos et caciques en Amerique: contribution a letude des liens
personnels in Melanges offerts a Marcel Bataillon par les hispanistes
franpais, Bordeaux. An interesting, historical analysis is the article by
R .M .H aigh, T h e creation and control of a caudillo Hispanic American
Historical Review, X L I V , 1964, on the Argentinian caudillo Giiemes,
1815-21. T h e complex has encouraged a number of rather fanciful
psychological analyses. There is a large Mexican literature on it, as indeed
there needs to be.
8 See Kadt, Religion, the Church and Social Change in Brazil,
The Politics of Conformity, op. cit. Cf. C. M . Kenny, Patterns of patronage
in Spain in Anthropological Quarterly, January i960. Perhaps the most
interesting example of this type of relationship in an urban setting is
that of Eva Peron and the quasi-religious cult which grew up round her.
Surprisingly no detailed analysis of this has yet been attempted.
9 di Telia in Obstacles, op. cit., p. 74.
10 O.Sunkel, op. cit., pp. 131-2.
11 C. Furtado, op. cit., pp. 156-7, and his Diagnosis of the Brazilian
Crisis, California U P , 1965, chap. 6, and H.Jaguaribe, Problemas do
Desenvolvimento Latino Americano, Rio, 1967, pp. 167-72.
12 Military dominated regimes, such as those in Brazil or Argentina,
place great emphasis on technocracy and try to inculcate new attitudes
towards it but, as so often with military politics, the means betray the end.
13 Alan Angell discusses the Colombian case in Populism and Political
change: the Colombian case in Sociological Review Monograph No. 11,
February 1967, University of Keele. See also his discussion of populism
inPolitical Quarterly, 37, 1966.
14 After the book by the Uruguyan writer Rodo, Ariel, published in
15 M .S.Stabb, Indigenism and Racism in Mexican thought, 1857-
1911, Journal of Inter-American Studies, I, 1959. The Mexican writer

Bulnes attributed Indian inferiority to a maize diet, contrasting it with
the wheat diet o f superior races. T h e re is perhaps more in this view than
a crude materialism w ould seem to im p ly if maize is placed in its total
cultural context - see note 29 below.
16 T h e Am azonian rubber boom o f the early years o f the century is
the most striking m odem exam ple o f a frontier collapsing. Earlier, the
decline o f Potosi from over 100,000 inhabitants in 1600 to a bare 15,000
in the early nineteenth century reflects the contraction o f the mining
frontier. A t present the major frontiers o f settlem ent are in eastern Bolivia,
the trans-Andean region o f Peru and the states o f G oias and Matto
Grosso in Brazil.
Revolution on the
17 J .R .S co b ie , op. cit., p. 79, 1 2 1 -2 . See also his
Pampas: a social history of Argentine wheat, 1860-1910, University of
Texas, 1964.
18 T here were revolts, taking the form o f strikes, particularly among
Italian colonists in Santa F e, b u t no autonom ous political emerged from
them; see P. Grela, E l Grito de A lcorta: historia de la rebelion campesina
de 1912, Rosario, 1958.
19 There were two aspects o f the gaucho m yth. O n e was its appeal to
urban intellectuals, reacting against the cosm opolitanism o f Buenos Aires
in order to emphasize Argentinidad', hence thegaucho becomes a national
ist sym bol; second, its appeal to m igrants who, b y identifying with
gaucho values, could feel themselves to be Argentinian thus the popu
larity, among Italian immigrants, o f the gaucho societies and clubs in
Buenos Aires early in this century.
20 M ore than fifty per cent o f the populations o f fourteen out o f the
twenty Latin American republics are nineteen or under. T h e highest
percentages are in Central Am erica (Honduras and N icaragua fifty-eight
per cent, Costa Rica fifty-seven per cent, M e x ico fifty-fou r per cent). The
two countries which have appreciably the smallest percentages under
nineteen are Argentina and U ru gu ay w ith 39-1 per cent and 36-2 per cent.
See J .M .S ty c o s and J. Arias, ed.Population Dilemma in Latin America,
Washington 1966, T ab le 10, p. 19.
21 N o t all the great muralists (who probably did m ore than anyone
else to create impelling images o f a great Indian past) were Indianists.
Orozco, for example, disliked the w ay in w hich Indianism was exploited
for nationalistic reasons. Perhaps the m ost genuine case o f identification
with the masses b y a painter was Francisco G oitia, a landowner who
renounced his wealth to be nearer the people. T o ta lly self-effacing, he
lived an ascetic life painting in a one-roomed Indian hut. T h e classic
statement o f Indianism as a cardinal element in the new M exican nation
alism was the anthropologist M .G a m io 's Forjando Patria, first published
in 1916. Vasconceloss curious m ystical racialist ideas are in his R aza
Cdsmica, published in 1925; see also his autobiography, A Mexican
Ulysses, Indiana, 1963.
22 T h e only case I can find o f a conscious T o lsto yan experim ent was
in Chile where two writers started an agricultural settlem ent although
totally ignorant o f agriculture. Some o f the m ost successful colonies have

b e e n t h o s e o f r e lig io u s c o m m u n itie s s u c h a s t h e M e n n o n it e s in P a r a g u a y ,
o r J a p a n e s e c o lo n is t s in t h e A m a z o n r e g io n .
23 Lawyers could, and some did, defend Indians in the interminable
law suits they brought against landowners who had seized community
24 A. Posadas, A proposito del articulo El populismo en el Peru de V.
Mirochevsky Dialectica,
in 1946, No. 17. Mari&teguis, Siete ensayos de
interpretacion de la realidad peruana, first published in 1928, is the most
impressive Latin American example of intellectual populism.
25 T w o recent works, F. Bourricaud, Pouvoir et societe dans le Perou
contemporain, Paris, 1967, and F.B.Pike, The Modern History of Peru,
London, 1967, provide a useful antidote to H.Kantor, Ideology and Pro
gramme of the Peruvian Aprista party, University of California Press, 1953.
A P R A s strength lies in its organization (which owes more to German
inspiration than its founder would care to admit). The partys ideology,
which is superficial and pretentious, nevertheless is functional in the sense
that it gives its followers the feeling that they are participating in a wider
intellectual world than that of Peru. For an unsure lower-middle class,
in a peripheral political situation, this can help to provide a sense of
solidarity. Whether the dominating position of Haya de la Torre is a
source of strength or of weakness is one of the many puzzling questions
of this, the most successful unsuccessful party in Latin American
26 T he social base of the two movements differed widely. Zapatas
followers were largely Indians from the state of Morelos, where village
lands had been absorbed by the sugar estates which had expanded in
response to market demands when Cuban sugar was in short supply
during the war against Spain in the 1890s. Villas support came from the
peons of the big cattle ranches of the state of Chihuahua in the north.
T h ey were rootless and lacked the zapatistas
attachment to the soil of
their forefathers. Zapatas agrarian programme in the Plan of Ayala
became the inspiration for subsequent agrarian policies while Zapata
himself became an official hero in a way which Villa with his macho
ways and bandit ethics never did - although recent attempts to rehabili
tate him have led to lively polemics. The most accessible accounts of
zapatismo are F. Chevalier, Le soulevement de Zapata
in Janu- Annales,
ary-February 1961, and an interesting article by J.H.McNeely, The
origins of the Zapata revolt in Morelos in Hispanic American Historical
Review, M ay 1967. The social roots of Villas support have not been ade
quately analysed. A useful introductory paper is F. Chevalier, Survi-
vances seigneuriales et presages de la Revolution agraire dans le nord du
Mexique, Revue historique, July-September 1959. M .L . Guzman, The
Memoirs of Pancho Villa, University of Texas, 1965, are of limited value.
27 F.Tannenbaum, Spontaneity and adaption in the Mexican Revo
lution, Journal of World History, IX, i, 1965.
28 F. Chevalier, The ejido and political stability in Mexico in The
politics of Conformity, op. cit., p. 186. This is an excellent short treatment.
See also T . Schwarz, L usage de la terre dans un village a du Ejido
M ex iq u e in Etudes Rurales, io , 1963. T h e classic work, now outdated,
is E. Sim pson The Ejido: Mexico's way out, N e w York, 1937. Collective
ejidosdeclined from 6 6 per cent o f the total num ber o f ejidos
in 1940 to
3 3 per cent in 1950 (M . Gonz&Iez Navarro, M e x ico : the lop-sided revolu
tion in Obstacles,
op. cit., p. 218).
29 O ne difficulty facing any reformer is the extraordinary traditionalism
o f the M exican peasant and this is nowhere more clearly seen than in the
maize blockage . Edm undo Flores, one o f M e x ic o s leading agronomists,
writes, M aize is the m ost im portant single item in M e x ico s diet, cuisine,
m ythology and politics. It is a basic need, a m other image, a phallic symbol,
a dietary obsession and a nightm are for the minister o f agriculture . . .
wherever possible subm arginal lands are cultivated w ith maize in con
tinuation o f the same archaic m ilp a system that upsets conservation
ists and intrigues social anthropologists (T h e significance of land-use
changes in the econom ic developm ent o f M e x ic o in Land Economics,
M ay, 1957, X X X V , N o . 2).
30 It is too early, and not enough work has been done on the results
of the Bolivian agrarian reform, to m ake any firm judgem ents but it does
seem that hopes that co-operatives could be form ed on the basis o f older
communal types o f social organization have not been fulfilled. T h e multi
plication o f very small subsistence plots ( minifundios ) has nevertheless had
one salutary effect in that it has helped to stim ulate m igration down into
the rich valleys and savannah o f eastern Bolivia where the countrys future
lies. See J.Vellard, Civilizations des Andes, Paris, 1963.
31 T h e Movimiento de Liber acion Nacional ( M L N ) founded in 1961,
which continually contrasts the C u b a n w ith the M exican Revolution to
the detriment o f the latter, provides the best exam ple o f this type of
criticism. It is a m ovem ent largely o f intellectuals, schoolteachers and
students, and regards Cdrdenas, the hero o f the revolutionary agrarian
Left, as its patron. Its weakness is shown b y its inability to make any but
the most superficial contact w ith the C C I {Confederacion de Campesinos
Independientes), the independent peasant organization w hich sprang up
to represent the interests o f landless peasants whose condition had
worsened with the slowing down o f the flow o f braceros, m igratory labour
to the Californian fruit farms. T h e governm ent has recently been forced
to speed up land distribution. For the M L N see D .T .G a r z a , Faction
alism on the M exican L e ft: the frustration o f the M L N in The Western
Political Quarterly , 17 (3) Sept. 1964.
32 Whetten, Rural Mexico, Chicago U niversity Press, 1964, p. 488. T h e
states in which the sinarquistas were strong were Guanajuato, Queretaro,
Michoacdn, Jalisco and Guerrero w hich had 21-6 per cent o f the nations
ejidatarios in 1941 but had received only 11-9 per cent o f ejidoloans.
T h e illiteracy rate o f these states was ten-fifteen per cent higher than the
national average o f sixty-one per cent. Sinarquismo was a revolt against
betrayed revolutionary ideals, anti-Church legislation, socialistic ideologies
and the Anglo-Am erican subversion o f traditional Hispanic values. Its
leaders were influenced b y the Spanish fascist doctrine o f Hispanidad.
See also A .L .M ich a e ls, Fascism and Sinarquismo: popular nationalisms

a g a in s t t h e M e x i c a n r e v o lu t io n in A Journal of Church and State, V I I I ,
N o . 2, 19 6 6 .
33 El Sinarquista, 2 6 O c t o b e r 1 9 3 9 , q u o t e d in W h e t t e n , o p . c it ., p . 4 9 1 .
3 4 T h e r e is a l a r g e l i t e r a t u r e o n t h e f o l k - u r b a n c o n t i n u u m c o n t r o v e r s y .
A u se fu l d is c u s s io n o f L e w i s s c r itiq u e o f R e d fie ld is H o w a r d C l i n e s
r e v ie w a r tic le M e x i c a n c o m m u n it y s t u d ie s in Hispanic American Histori
cal Review, 3 2 , 1 9 5 2 . T h e s c h o o l p r o b l e m is b r i e f l y d i s c u s s e d in M a n n i n g
N a s h , T h e r o le o f v illa g e s c h o o ls in th e p r o c e s s o f c u ltu r a l a n d e c o n o m ic
m o d e r n iz a t io n in Social and Economic Studies, 14 , 1, M a r c h 19 6 5. T h e
c o m p l e x i t y o f t h e l o c a l p o l i t i c a l s t r u c t u r e is b r o u g h t o u t in P . F r i e d r i c h ,
A M e x ic a n C a c ic a z g o , Ethnology, I V , A p r il 1 9 6 5 , a n d t h e p r o b le m of
c u l t u r a l b r o k e r s is d i s c u s s e d i n E . W o l f , G r o u p r e la t io n s in a c o m p l e x
s o c i e t y : M e x i c o in American Anthropologist, 5 8 , 19 5 6 .
35 B r a z i l is t h e m o s t fe r tile ground fo r m e s s ia n ic m o v e m e n ts - see
M .I .P .Q u e ir o z , M e s s ia h s in B r a z il , Past and Present, 3 1 , J u ly 19 6 5.
T h ere is no L a tin A m e r ic a n e q u iv a le n t to th e a g r a r ia n a n a r c h is m of
A n d a l u s i a o r t o p e a s a n t m i g r a n t s c a r r y i n g o v e r t h e i r c h i li a s t i c e x p e c t a
t io n s in to a n u r b a n s e t t in g a s in B a r c e lo n a fr o m th e 18 9 0 s o n w a r d s .
3 6 I n M e x i c o t h e L i b e r a l s b ia s a g a in s t c o m m u n a l p r o p e r ty le d to th e
s a le o f C h u r c h c o m m u n a l l a n d s i n t h e 1 8 6 0 s . D u r i n g t h e P o r f ir ia n p e r io d
t h e C h u r c h m a n a g e d t o r e c o u p s o m e o f t h e s e lo s s e s w h e r e a s t h e I n d ia n s
c o n t in u e d t o s u ffe r a t th e e x p e n s e o f e x p a n s io n is t haciendas. I n B o liv ia
a f t e r 1 8 6 8 l a n d s u p p o r t i n g s o m e 7 5 ,0 0 0 In d ia n s w a s d is tr ib u te d b y th e
d i c t a t o r M e l g a r e j o t o s o m e 6 0 0 t o 7 0 0 o f h is f o l l o w e r s . I n P e r u , s p o lia t io n
o f t h e I n d i a n s c a m e la t e r , w h e n haciendas s t a r t e d t o e x p a n d in r e s p o n s e
t o r i s i n g d e m a n d f o r w o o l . I n t h e c a s e o f t h e d e p a r t m e n t o f P u n o , fo r
e x a m p le , s o m e 2 ,5 1 6 n e w h a c ie n d a s w e r e e s ta b lis h e d b e tw e e n 18 76 an d
1 9 1 5 in t h e w a k e o f w h ic h c a m e ru ra l r e v o lt a n d b a n d itr y . ( F . C h e v a lie r
L e x p a n s i o n d e la g r a n d e p r o p r i e t e d a n s le H a u t - P e r o u a u X X s i e c l e in
Annales, 21, 19 6 6 . I n B r a z i l , t h e p la n t a t i o n r a t h e r t h a n t h e v i l l a g e w a s
t h e b a s i c s o c i a l u n i t d u r i n g t h e c o l o n i a l p e r i o d a n d w e l l in t o t h e n i n e
t e e n t h c e n t u r y . P r o f e s s o r M o r s e a r g u e s t h a t t h e n u c le u s o f t o d a y s r u r a l
c o m m u n ity is th e n e ig h b o u r h o o d ra th e r th a n th e v i l la g e , w h ic h is
a ttr ib u te d to th e c e n tr ifu g a l te n d e n c ie s o f s e t t le r s d u r in g th e c o lo n ia l
p e r io d . O f c o u r s e , th e in flu e n c e e x e r te d b y p e a s a n ts in n a t io n a l p o l i t i c s
is a ls o r e l a t e d t o t h e s i t i n g o f t h e p o w e r c e n t r e . T h u s Z a p a t a s in flu e n c e
in M e x i c o is l a r g e l y a t t r i b u t a b l e t o M e x i c o C ity b e in g w ith in a d a y s
r id e o f th e c e n tr e o f h is s u p p o r t - s i m i l a r l y L a P a z w a s a n is la n d in a n
I n d i a n s e a . T h e h i s t o r y o f P e r u m i g h t h a v e b e e n v e r y d if f e r e n t h a d t h e
S p a n ia r d s c h o s e n C u zco a s t h e i r c a p i t a l. T h e im p o r ta n c e o f th e c o m
m u n i t y h a s b e e n w e l l d o c u m e n t e d in H . K l e i n , P e a s a n t c o m m u n i t i e s in
r e v o lt: th e T z e l t a l R e p u b l i c o f 1 7 1 2 in Pacific Historical Review, A u g u s t
19 6 6 .
3 7 I n t h e P e r u v i a n s ie r r a t h e Q uechua w ord w a k c h a w h ic h m eans
p o o r o r p h a n is u s e d t o d e s c r i b e p e o p l e w h o h a v e n o l a n d - h a v in g n o
l a n d is e q u i v a l e n t t o p h y s i c a l m u t i l i a t i o n .
3 8 I n te r m s o f t h e in v o lv e m e n t o f th e p e a s a n tr y , th e C u b a n R e v o lu tio n
c a n n o t c o m p a r e w i t h t h e M e x i c a n R e v o l u t i o n a n d i t is p o s s i b le t h a t t h e

urban resistance against B atista p layed a m ore important part than the
official v iew adm its. L a n d h u n ger m a y have been a spur for the squatters
o f the Sierra M a estra b u t ab o u t tw o -th ird s o f rural dwellers before the
R evo lu tio n w ere n o t str ic tly peasants at all b u t landless labourers on the
b ig sugar estates. W ith o u t a m assive dem and for land from below, Castro
w as able to keep the plantation eco n o m y intact (in comparison, for ex
am ple, w ith H a iti w here, after indepen dence at the beginning of the
nineteenth cen tu ry, a sm a ll-h o ld in g peasantry was created out of the
sugar plantations w ith the disastrous consequences o f land subdivision
and soil erosion). Peasants w h o received land titles from the first agrarian
reform in C u b a in 1959 w ere organized in A N A P (Asociacion Nacional
de A gricu lto res P equ enos) w h ic h m ig h t have developed into a focus of
opposition had it n o t been for the second agrarian reform o f 1 9 6 3 which
effectively d estroyed a n ascen t kulak class. T h e few peasants in the new
official p arty - o n ly fou r per cen t w ere classified as such in m id - 1 9 6 4 (I
do n o t have later figures) are e vid en ce o f the difficulty in politicizing
them . T h e co in cid in g o f the in trodu ction o f conscription w ith the second
agrarian reform in 1963 w as n o t fortuitous, as arm y service is one of the
m ost effective w ays o f in d o ctrin atin g peasants. O n e o f the most revealing
official accounts o f the peasantry in C u b a is C . R . R odriguez, L a Revolu
tio n C u b an a y el cam pesinado in Cuba Socialista, 53, January 1 9 6 6 .
39 A n th o n y L e e d s has expressed the v ie w th at the Peasant Leagues are
m erely another exam ple o f m an ipu lation o f the rural peasants for the
benefit o f the o ligarch y th e u se o f th e m asses . . . against the great
coastal sugar interests an d th e o lder class o f coroneis (local political
caudillos), B razil and the m y th o f F ra n cisco Ju liao , p. 199 in Politics of
Change in Latin America, N e w Y o r k , 1964. L e s s strident and more con
vincing, b u t also critical o f Juliao, is B en n o G a lja r t C lass and Follow
in g in Rural B razil , America L atina , 7/3, 1964.
40 T h e relationship b etw een M a r ti and C astro is discussed briefly in
m y article T h e R o o ts o f C u b a n N a tio n a lism in International Affairs,
July 1963. Castro, m ore like M a r ti than M a r x , thinks in m oral rather than
econom ic categories; thus in the debate over m oral versus material incen
tives Castro and G u evara w ere in favou r o f the form er against the orthodox
com m unists favouring th e latter.
41 From a letter to F rank Pais, 21 J u ly 19 5 7, q u o ted in R . Debray,
Revolution in the R evolu tion? M onthly Review, J u ly -A u g u s t 1967, pp.
42 T h e m ain source for the party w as the official theoretical journal
Cuba Socialista until it ceased publication, b u t see also A . A n g ell, Castro
and the C u b an C om m unist party in Government and Opposition, II, N o.
2, 1967. and A . Suarez, Cuba: Castroism and Communism, 19 5 9 -6 6 , M I T
43 Cubans, like Spaniards and under O rtega y G a sse ts influence, often
interpret their history in generational terms. O n e o f the m ost significant
points o f the C u b an Revolution seems to m e that it was the first
example where the post-w ar generational conflict took a politically
revolutionary form. T h e concept o f generations has been applied b y M *

Zeitlin in Political generations and the Cuban working class, The
American Jo u rn al of Sociology, Vol. 71, 1965-6.
44 Neither A D nor A P R A have been able to recruit much support
from the disposable mass in Caracas or Lima. This is a qualitative dif
ference from Brazil and Argentina which makes it unsatisfactory to try
to subsume them all under the urban populist label as di Telia does.
A D s peasant support as with the M N R s came after the political revo
lutions. In Venezuela this support is now being challenged by Christian
Democrat peasant unions.
45 I discuss the problem of students and youth affiliates in University
Students in National Politics in The Politics of Conformity in Latin
America, op. cit.
46 This dilemma is discussed in a very illuminating paper by E. de Kadt,
Paternalists and Populists: views on Catholicism in Latin America in
The Jo u rn al of Contemporary History, 2, No. 4, 1967.
47 Belaundes ideas are expressed in LaconquistadelPeruporlosperuanos
(1958). Considerable scepticism has been expressed about the viability of
communal traditions as a basis for social reconstruction and moral regen
eration, e.g. H. F.Dobyns, The Social M atrix of Peruvian Indigenous Com
munities, Cornell University Press, 1964. An interesting account of a pilot
scheme of social change at Vicos in Peru is A.R.Holmberg, Changing
community attitudes and values in Peru: a case study in guided change
in Social Change in Latin America to-day, ed. L. Bryson, New York, i960.
There are undoubtedly strong paternalistic elements in Accion Popular
and whatever Belaunde may feel himself to be, to many Indians he is
Viracocha- the patron.
48 This seems to have been the case in Bolivia where the M N R was
often able to control peasant syndicates and the militia by party members
acting as patron substitutes. I suspect that the degree of autonomy of the
peasant militia attributed to it by Anibal Quijano Obregon (Contem
porary Peasant Movements in Elites in Latin America, O U P , New York,
1967, p. 321) is exaggerated. Certainly in the Cliza valley the manipula
tive element exercised by the M N R (and various factions within it) was
very strong and Barrientos since 1964 has been able to get peasants sup
port by an old style caudillo appeal. However, we need more evidence.



A n d r z e j W a lic k i

I do not attem pt to give in this paper a com prehensive study of

Russian populism , its historical genesis, developm ent and decay.
I coniine m yself to the cla ssica l narodnichestvo and even within
these lim its I shall not approach it from the strictly historical
point o f view . Instead, in accordance w ith the general aim of the
conference, I shall try to present those ideological aspects of the
classical Russian populism w hich seem to m e to be of particular
importance for finding a proper definition o f it and for placing it
in an appropriate com parative setting.1


T h e term narodnichestvo has becom e associated w ith so many

different and, som etim es, conflicting m eanings that it seem s neces
sary to begin w ith the sem antic question. T h e need for a semantic
inquiry into the history of the term has been realized both in the
Soviet U nion and in the W est. It is significant that K ozm in - the
scholar whose works have played the leading part in the recent
revival of the studies of populism in the U S S R - thought it
necessary to dwell upon the sem antic problem (although he had
confined his inquiry to the word populism as used in the works
of Lenin.I2 In the W est this problem has been tackled by R. Pipes
who has given a systematic and useful study o f the history of the
word narodnichestvo and who has derived from it an interesting,
though disputable, conclusion concerning the proper usage of this
term.3 T his conclusion says, in short, that the concept of populism,
as presented, among others, by K ozmin, is in fact a polem ical
device created and popularized by Marxist publicists in the early
nineties and, as such, has no historical justification.
It is Pipess merit that he called in question the current con
ception which defines narodnichestvo as Russian agrarian social
ism of the second half of the nineteenth century, sees its zenith
in the terror of the Peoples Will, and implies that soon after it
quickly lost ground to Marxism.4 He has established that the word
narodnichestvo has had two distinct and to some extent contra
dictory meanings - the narrow historical meaning and the broad
M a rxist one. The first of them he accepts, the second he, appar
ently, wants to eliminate as having been historically unjustified
and rejected by those on whom it was pinned.5 I disagree with
this conclusion but I accept the distinction and I think that a con
scious choice between the two meanings of the word is a precondi
tion of a consistent conception of populism. In the first sense the
term populism denotes a theory advocating the hegemony of the
masses over the educated elite,6 in the second sense it denotes a
theory of the non-capitalist development of Russia. In the first
case it was opposed to the abstract intellectualism of those revo
lutionaries who tried to teach the peasants, to impose on them the
ideals of Western socialism, instead of learning what were their
real needs and acting in the name of such interests and ideals of
which the peasants had already become aware; in the second case
it was opposed to sociological and economic theories which claimed
that capitalism was an unavoidable stage of development and that
Russia was no exception to this general law of evolution.
In the first sense, populism, strictly speaking, was only a short
episode in the Russian revolutionary movement: it emerged in the
middle of the seventies and soon either gave way to new attitudes,
represented by the revolutionary terrorists, or, having undergone
an appropriate transformation, adopted the theoretical standpoint
of Marxism. We may add to this that later, in the eighties and nine
ties, the view that the ideas of the intelligentsia should give way to
the opinions of the people was upheld, and brought to dangerous
extremes, by the followers of J. Kablits (Juzov) who, in his fervent
anti-intellectualism, came very close to reactionary obscurantism.
We may also - abandoning the strictly historical point of view -
look for the populist attitude towards the peasant masses in the
earlier years and find it among the Bakuninists of the beginning
of the seventies. It would be wholly unjustified, however, to apply
the nam e populists (in its first sense) to the followers of Lavrov, to
the Russian Jacobins or to the m em bers o f the W ill of the People;
if w e w ish to use the word p opulism in its narrow, historical sense!
w e m ust agree w ith Plekhanov that W ill of the People was a
'com plete and universal rejection o f Populism .7 It is evident,
therefore, that the current conception o f populism , as described
by Pipes and as presented in V enturis otherw ise excellent book
is, from this point o f view , too broad, since it comprises all the
currents o f the R ussian revolutionary m ovem ent of the sixties
and seventies, including the W ill o f the P eople in which, quite
rightly, it sees the culm ination o f the populist revolutionary
m ovem ent.
In the second sense, populism was not an organized movement
but an ideology, a broad current o f thought, differentiated within
itself, having its representatives not only am ong revolutionaries but
also am ong non-revolutionary publicists w ho advocated legal re
form s in the interests o f the peasantry. A ll the Russian revolution
aries o f the seventies, irrespective o f the differences in their views
on revolutionary strategy and on the proper relation between the
intelligentsia and the people, represented, in this sense, different
variants o f populism . In this respect the current conception of
populism is more justified, but otherw ise it is too narrow. It shifts
the emphasis from populist ideology to the populist revolutionary
m ovem ent and especially tends to neglect non-revolutionary popu
list thinkers, w hose contribution to the populist ideology was often
greater than that of the revolutionaries; M ikhailovsky, for instance,
who was in m any respects the m ost representative and influential
theoretician of populism , is hardly m entioned in V enturis book
and his theories are not discussed in it at all.8 In a w o rd : the con
ception of populism w hich assum es that populism reached its
zenith with the terror of the Peoples W ill makes no clear distinc
tion between populism as such (i.e. populism as a current of
thought) and the populist revolutionary m ovem ent - a distinction
which should be made if w e wish to avoid confusion.
T he argument, put forward by Pipes against the second concept
of populism, consists in indicating that it was a relatively new
usage of the word, introduced and popularized by M arxist publi
cists in the early nineties; its main creator, w e are told, was Struve
who, obviously disregarding the differences am ong the various
adversaries of capitalist developm ent in Russia, arbitrarily put
them together under one label and modelled their controversies
with Russian Marxists on the disputes between the Slavophiles
and the Westernizers of the forties. This argument, however, is
not convincing. Firstly, even in Struves usage, the new concept
of populism was not so abstract and arbitrary as to be applied to
anyone who believed in the ability of Russia to by-pass capitalism;9
it was never applied, for instance, to Constantine Leontyev, al
though he was certainly a most resolute adversary of the bourgeois
development of Russia. People to whom the label was applied
represented different, sometimes mutually exclusive, variants of a
really existing, though unnamed, broad current of thought; most
of them were, at least partially, aware of it, and the name narod-
nichestvo was not badly chosen since the belief in the principles
of the people (narodnye nachala) as opposed to capitalism was
bound up with almost all historically registered meanings of this
word, even the most loose and imprecise ones. Secondly, though the
role of Struve should not be overlooked, the new concept of
populism owes incomparably more to Lenin. It was Lenin who
gave it a more concrete historical and sociological connotation by
pointing out that populism was a protest against capitalism from
the point of view of the small immediate producers who, being
ruined by capitalist development, saw in it only a regression but,
at the same time, demanded the abolition of the older, feudal forms
of exploitation. It was Lenin, and not Struve, who laid the founda
tion of the Soviet scholarly achievements in this field; the preju
diced, unfair treatment of populism and the scarcity, if not virtual
absence, of works on it, so characteristic, unfortunately, of a long
period in the development of social sciences in the U S S R , was
connected with an obvious deviation from the position of Lenin.10
Kozmin, therefore, was quite right in calling for a return to
Lenin in order to eliminate these prejudices and to undo the harm
which had been brought about by them.
This does not mean, of course, that it is either possible or
desirable to look at Russian populism from the perspective of the
1890s. Too many things have changed since that time. Plekhanovs
schema of the development of Russia has been invalidated by the
fact that the Russian socialist revolution almost coincided in
time with the overthrow of absolutism and that socialist production
has been organized there despite the relative backwardness and
isolation of the country. The very applicability of universal
patterns o f developm ent m ust have been called in question in view
o f the new problem s w hich have been posed by the new, ex-colonial
nations; the idea o f the non-capitalist developm ent of backward
peasant countries has becom e a reality - although a hard and dif
ficult reality - in m any parts o f our w orld. A ll these factors seriously
underm ined the position o f classical evolutionism in the social
sciences against w hich R ussian populists had so strongly protested
already at the tim e o f its indisputable dom ination o f sociology. Its
theory o f unilinear social developm ent has been attacked from
m any quarters: by the functionalists, by the diffusionists who
advanced the thesis that a civilization m ight skip a stage of develop
m ent because o f the borrow ing and diffusion o f cultural items, and,
finally and m ost radically, by the cultural relativists. T h e Marxist
theory o f econom ic developm ent has also undergone a considerable
change, and different schools have em erged w ithin it. I am con
vinced that these new historical data and corresponding shifts in
theoretical thinking should be taken into account and utilized as a
new vantage point for the study o f R ussian populism . Nevertheless
L enins conception of populism seem s to m e to be still the best
point of departure. H is position in relation to populism recalls in
som e respects the position o f M arx in relation to the Left-H egelians.
And although M arx was often too severe, or even unjust, in his
criticism of the Germ an ideology, there can be little doubt that
he knew it perfectly and that his view o f it should not be
disregarded by the students o f the G erm an thought.
K ozm in has rightly noticed that L enin, like everybody in his
tim e, used the word narodnichestvo in m any senses, including the
narrow historical sense. But the m ost characteristic and the m ost
important of these different usages o f the term was certainly the
broadest o n e| In this sense populism was, as L enin put it, a whole
vision of the world whose history begins w ith H erzen and ends with
Danielson j11 it was a theoretical doctrine that gives a particular
solution to highly important sociological and econom ic problem s,12
a major trend in Russian social thought,13 an im m ense area of
social thinking^14 It was the com m on term for all dem ocratic
ideologies in Russia - both revolutionary and non-revolutionary -
which expressed the standpoint of small producers (particularly
peasants) and looked for ways of non-capitalist econom ic develop
ment; a term which could be applied not only to the revolution
aries of the seventies and to the so-called liberal populists o f the
eighties-nineties, but also to Chernyshevsky and, to some extent,
to the peasant parties of the beginning of the twentieth century.
We agree with Kozmin that this broad meaning of the word
populism is of crucial importance for the correct understanding
of Lenins views on the subject. It seems worthwhile to notice
that in some of Lenins articles the term populism is applied - as
a certain typological category - to some non-Russian ideologies:
thus, for instance, in the article Democracy and Populism in
China (1912) the ideology of Sun Yat-sen has been classified as
populist: the Chinese democrat - writes Lenin - argues exactly
like a Russian. His similarity to a Russian populist is so great that
it goes as far as a complete identity of fundamental ideas and of
many individual expressions.15 This broad comparative perspec
tive seems to me very attractive and valuable. It enables us to see
Russian populism as a particular variant of an ideological pattern
which emerges in different backward societies in periods of transi
tion and reflects the characteristic class position of the peasantry.
It does not mean, of course, that populism can be regarded as a
direct expression of peasant ideology; it is an ideology formulated
by a democratic intelligentsia who in backward countries, lacking
a strong bourgeois class structure, enjoy as a rule greater social
authority and play a more important part in national life than
intellectuals in the economically more developed states.
In the Soviet Union Kozmins reconstruction of Lenin's con
ception of populism amounted to a revision and rejection of the
prevailing canon of interpretation: a canon which artificially op
posed the revolutionary democrats of the sixties to the populists
of the seventies, separated Chernyshevsky from the later ideolo
gists of populism, in whom only a lowering of thought* was seen,
and depreciated the historical significance of both populist thought
and the populist revolutionary movement. To reject this canon
meant to remove a great obstacle which had for a long time stood
in the way of an unprejudiced and sympathetic approach to the
The recognition that Herzen and Chernyshevsky must not be
separated from, let alone opposed to, populism, should not lead,
however, to the obliteration of differences which distinguished
these thinkers from the full-fledged populism of the seventies. I
think that Kozmin went too far in his attempt to put the emphasis
on Chernyshevskys populism, and that he was wrong in rejecting
the long-established view that populism in its classical form had
emerged only at the end o f the sixties.16 H is reconstruction of
L enins conception o f populism is one-sided, since it obviously
tends to neglect L en in s distinction betw een the heritage of the
sixties (i.e. the heritage o f C hernyshevsky) and the populist
addition to it.
L et us dwell first on the p opu lism o f H erzen. There is no doubt
that populist socialism can and should be traced back to the
Russian socialism o f H erzen, but, nevertheless, it would be an
oversimplification to call H erzen sim p ly a p opulist : he belonged
to a different generation, was the product o f a different intellectual
formation and deserves a separate chapter in the history of Russian
social thought. Certainly, he opposed the bourgeois development
o f Russia and, like the populists, hoped for a direct transition to
socialism through the present com m une. It is striking, however,
how different was his im age o f capitalism , h ow different was the
whole framework o f his thinking. H e did not think o f capitalism
in terms of political econom y; the view point o f the sm all producer,
being divorced from his m eans o f production by the developm ent
of the large-scale capitalist industry, was com pletely absent in his
criticism of capitalist Europe. For the populists, w ho, as w e shall
see, were in this respect disciples o f M arx, capitalism was tanta
m ount to the expropriation, proletarianization and utter m isery of
the masses, with the growing divorce betw een national w ealth and
the welfare of the people. For H erzen capitalism was not a stage
of permanent crisis but a stage o f final stabilization and equilibrium ;
he did not hesitate to state that even the problem o f proletariat
had subsided, that the worker in all European countries is a future
bourgeois. In contrast with the populists (and M arxs) concern
about the growing pauperization o f the people, he saw capitalism
as an epoch of the social advance o f the m asses, and attributed this
advance to the bourgeoisie: W ith the com ing o f bourgeoisie indi
vidual characters are effaced, but these effaced persons are better
fe d ... the beauty o f the race is effaced, but its prosperity
increases . . . It is for this reason that bourgeoisie is trium phing and
is bound to triumph. It is useless to tell a hungry m an: It suits
you better to be hungry, dont look for food . (B eginnings and
T his is, certainly, the opposite o f the populist view o f capitalism .
Herzen criticized capitalism not from the populist but rather from
the aristocratic standpoint. He looked at it not from the point of
view of the high price of industrialization (the atrocities of the
primitive accumulation) but from the point of view of its major
positive result: the cheap and standardized consumption. And in
this respect some of his views (like the views of Tocqueville) were
sometimes very far-sighted, anticipating the criticism of what we
call now mass society and mass culture. ( C f : Everything - the
theatre, holiday-making, books, pictures, clothes - everything has
gone down in quality and gone up terribly in numbers. The crowd
of which I was speaking is the best proof of success, of strength, of
growth; it is bursting through all the dams, overflowing and
flooding everything; it is content with anything and can never have
enough.) But there is nothing, absolutely nothing, populist in this
kind of criticism of the bourgeois society.
To sum up. I think that, in contrast with populists, Herzen did
not reflect in his ideology the standpoint of the small producer.
He has formulated the main tenet of populist doctrine - the idea of
a direct transition to socialism through the peasant commune -
and in this sense can be called the father of populism. This does
not mean, however, that he himself was a populist, let alone a
classic of populism. He was a gentry revolutionary and a gentry
socialist; a disappointed aristocratic liberal, a disillusioned West-
ernizer, who, having despaired about the West, looked for consola
tion in the thought that his own country has not yet reached its
final form. There is nothing accidental in the fact that he had
great difficulties in finding a common language with the democratic
raznochintsy of the sixties; that he sharply polemicized with
Chernyshevsky and Dubroliubov, defending the spiritual heritage
of the superflous men from the gentry; that the revolutionaries
from the so-called young emigration saw in him a representative
of a bygone generation, accused him of lordliness and liberalism
and finally, broke off even their personal relations with him.
Chernyshevskys case is different from Herzens, but he too
cannot be called a full-fledged populist. In many respects he was
a populist but his significance in Russian intellectual history should
not be reduced to his populism: among his disciples are found not
only populists but also Pisarev, whose ideology was decidedly
anti-populist. In terms of Lenins conception of populism he was
first of all an enlightener, and his populism was, as it were,
a populism in statu nascendi, emerging with the ideological
framework o f the Russian Enlightenm ent' ( prosvetitelstvo) of the
T he category o f Enlightenm ent (in its specific Russian
meaning) was defined by Lenin in his article T he Heritage We
Renounce. H e enumerated the follow ing characteristic features of
Russian enlighteners : (i) violent hostility to serfdom and all its
economic, social and legal products; (2) ardent advocacy of edu
cation, liberty, Europeanization of Russia generally; (3) defence
of the interests of the m asses, chiefly of the peasants [who, in the
days of the enlighteners, were not yet fully emancipated or only
in the process of being em ancipated], the sincere belief that
abolition of serfdom and its survivals would be followed by uni
versal well-being, and a sincere desire to help bring this about.17
T hese three features, concluded Lenin, constitute the essence
of what in our country is called the heritage of the sixties, and
it is important to em phasize that there is nothing whatsoever o f
Populism, in this h e r ita g e '1* For an exam ple o f what he meant by
Russian enlightener Lenin chose Skaldin, who had been a rather
mediocre and second-class writer. O ne of the reasons for this de
cision was sim ply Russian censorship, w hich w ould not permit an
open reference to the heritage o f Chernyshevsky. T here can be
no doubt, however, that according to L enin not Skaldin but
Chernyshevsky was the central figure am ong the enlighteners of
the sixties. T he article T h e Heritage W e R enounce is thus a
serious argument for the thesis that in L enins conception Cherny
shevsky and the populists represented two different currents of
K ozmin, who was, of course, aware of it, set against this argu
ment a thesis that in L enins conception the opposition between
enlighteners' and populists was not absolute: an enlightener
could be at the same tim e a populist. T h is is perfectly true, and
there is no doubt that it was so in the case of Chernyshevsky.
K ozmin had rightly noticed that L enins characterization of
Skaldin as a typical enlightener could be applied to Chernyshev
sky only partially. Let us try to develop this thought. Like Skaldin,
Chernyshevsky was an ardent W esternizer, a propagator of the
all-round Europeanization of Russia; at the same tim e, however,
in contrast with Skaldin, he defended with great energy the peasant
commune in which the liberal econom ists saw the greatest drag
on the European development of Russia. Skaldin sharply criticized
Russian serfdom but (in contradistinction to the populists) was
not aware of the painful contradictions of capitalist progress; this
could not be said about Chernyshevsky, who wanted to protect the
Russian peasantry from the sufferings bound up with the classical
English type of capitalist development. Skaldin propagated the
ideas of Adam Smith and of the liberal political economy; Cherny
shevsky criticized these ideas from the point of view of aneconomy
of the working masses (although - it should be stressed - he did
not share the view that capitalism as such was but a deterioration,
a retrogression). It is justifiable to conclude from this that Russian
censorship was not the only reason for Lenins decision to choose
Skaldin, and not Chernyshevsky, as an example of a typical en
lightener : he wished to present an enlightener who had not been
a populist, who could exemplify the pure form of the anti-feudal
ideology of the radical bourgeois democracy. The democratism
of Skaldin could not stand the comparison with the democratism
of Chernyshevsky, but it had, from this point of view, the impor
tant advantage of being free from any populist addition. Lenin
himself wrote: We have taken Skaldin as an example precisely
because, while he was undoubtedly a representative of the heri
tage, he was at the same time a confirmed enemy of those ancient
institutions which the populists have taken under their
The difference between the heritage and classical populism
will be even clearer if we confront the category of Enlightenment
with the category of economic romanticism - a category which
has been applied by Lenin in his analyses of the economic and
social content of populism.20 It will not be a great simplification to
say that the representatives of the heritage were seen by Lenin
predominantly as enlighteners, whereas the populists were seen
by him predominantly as romanticists. Romanticism means in
this context a criticism of capitalism from the point of view of a
backward-looking petty-bourgeois utopia, an idealization of a
pre-capitalist type of economic and social relations. The en
lighteners, in Lenins view, were the ideologists of radical
bourgeois democracy, fighting against the remnants of feudalism,
with confidence in capitalist progress but not seeing or under
estimating its negative sides (Chernyshevsky, who saw them
clearly, was in this respect not a typical enlightener). The popu
lists, as opposed to the enlighteners, were the ideologists of
democracy who, having realized the tragic contradictions inherent
in capitalist development, made a step forward in com parison with
the enlighteners': Populism - wrote L enin - m ade a big step
forw ard compared with the heritage by posing for the attention of
society problems which the guardians of the heritage were partly
(in their time) not yet able to pose, or partly did not, and do not,
pose because of their inherent narrowness o f outlook.21 A t the
same time, however, it was a step backward since the populists,
having lost all confidence in the bourgeois, European, progress,
adopted the standpoint of econom ic rom anticism . T h e ideology
of Enlightenment was dom inant in the R ussian democratic
movement in the sixties, i.e. when the attention o f all progressive
Russians was focused on the struggle for the abolition o f serfdom ;
Populism was an ideological reflection of the new problem s which
emerged in Russia after the reform. Both the enlighteners and
the populists defended the interests of the people (i.e, first of all,
the interests of peasantry); the populists, however, in contra
distinction to the enlighteners, com bined in their id eology an
anti-feudal bourgeois democratism w ith a petty-bourgeois con
servative reaction against bourgeois progress. T hat is w hy the
heritage of the sixties was unequivocally progressive w hile the
heritage of populism was in this respect rather am biguous. In
Lenins words: That is why the populist, in matters o f theory, is
just as much a Janus, looking with one face to the past and the
other to the future.22
The reactionary* face of the populist Janus was seen by L enin
in populist socialism. In the general democratic points of their
programmes the populists were progressive, but their socialist
theories were - according to Lenin - petty-bourgeois, utopian
and bound up with reactionary economic rom anticism .
T o many of us this judgem ent may appear too severe. But w e
must not forget the sense in which Lenin applied to populism the
term reactionary*. T his term, he explained, is em ployed in its
historico-philosophical sense, describing only the error o f the
theoreticians who take m odels for their theories from obsolete
forms of society. It does not apply at all to the personal qualities of
these theoreticians or to their programmes. Everybody knows that
neither Sismondi nor Proudhon were reactionaries in the ordinary
sense of the term .23
I think that two other qualifications should be added to this.
Firstly, it seems to me that in approaching populist socialism from
the perspective of our times, it is difficult to deny that not only
the backward-looking but also the forward-looking face of Janus
can be discovered in it. Secondly, I think that some reactionary*
ideologies should not be easily dismissed, that a reactionary
standpoint in social theory (reactionary in the historico-philo-
sophical sense) can sometimes be not only an obstacle but a vantage
point. It was the reactionary character of their social ideals which
enabled the Western petty-bourgeois socialists to discover aspects
of capitalism which remained unnoticed by the liberal apologists
of bourgeois progress. Russian populists had the same vantage
point in comparison with the Russian apologists of the classical
West-European pattern of development.
T o sum up. I agree with Pipes that the broad and objective
definition of narodnichestvo was introduced by Marxists. I think,
however, that it is by no means as broad as to be applied to
anyone who believed in the ability of Russia to by-pass capitalism.24
It is in fact - in any case in Lenins usage - much more precise,
and cannot be dismissed as a mere polemical device. It was
rather a methodological device, and a very good one: it has enabled
us to select an important set of problems, to ask right questions
and to establish their mutual relationship. This does not mean that
one can find in Lenins works a ready-made and final solution of
these problems. I think, however, that as a definition of narod
nichestvo, as an attempt at classification, Lenins conception of
Russian populism is still the best and, certainly, the most
elaborated and precise one.
It remains to delineate the chronological frame of the classical
Russian populism. As a conventional date marking the end of the
formative years and the beginning of classical populism, I propose
the year 1869. Three classical documents of populist ideology were
published then: Lavrovs H istorical Letters, Mikhailovskys treatise
W hat is Progress? and Flerovskys book The Situation o f the Work
ing Class in Russia. The first two called into question the optimistic
belief in progress, so characteristic of the enlighteners, emphasized
the painful contradictoriness of historical processes and, finally,
undermined and rejected naturalistic evolutionism with its con
ception of a unilinear developmental path; by the same token they
removed the theoretical foundation for the view that Russia had
to follow the general pattern of the capitalist development of the
West. Flerovsky, in his turn, made these historico-philosophical
questions cruelly concrete and down-to-earth. H is vivid descrip
tion of the growing destitution o f the Russian peasantry and of the
new capitalist forms of exploitation em erging in Russian villages
was followed by the conclusion that everything should be done
to prevent further travelling along capitalist paths and to utilize,
instead, the possibilities o f developm ent inherent in the peasant
In the same years when Lavrov, M ikhailovsky and Tkachev
disputed over progress, the distinctively populist revolutionary
movement was born. T he distinction between the pre-populist
revolutionary movement of the sixties and the fully-fledged revo
lutionary populism of the seventies consisted in a characteristic
shift of emphasis - in the shift from anti-feudal democratic radical
ism to anti-capitalist agrarian socialism. T h e continuity of the
revolutionary tradition could be preserved, since som e elements of
agrarian socialism were part and parcel of the revolutionary ideology
already in the sixties. Nevertheless, the shift was clear and signi
ficant. In contradistinction to the revolutionaries of the first Land
and Freedom, whose aims were democratic rather than socialist,
the revolutionaries of the seventies thought it necessary to cut
themselves off from bourgeois democratism in order to emphasize
the socialist character of the m ovem ent and to make sure that
it would not pave the way for capitalist developm ent. T his new
attitude found expression in the theory of the top priority of
social revolution over a merely political one - a theory
which became a hallmark of classical revolutionary populism.
The social revolution - a revolutionary transformation o f the
economic basis of society - was identified with the socialist
revolution; the political revolution, i.e. a revolutionary trans
formation of the existing political structure, was conceived as
being merely a bourgeois revolution from which true socialists
should keep themselves away. In a word, Russian revolutionaries,
having realized that political democracy could not solve the most
painful social problems, took care to ensure that they were not
bourgeois revolutionaries, that their revolution, in contrast with
political revolutions in the West, would not further the interests
of the bourgeoisie. Their preoccupation with manifesting the anti
bourgeois character of their movement became for them a real
obsession. This is what accounts for the curious fact that the
revolutionaries in Russia - a country which had suffered so much
from its autocratic political structure - became so intransigent and
stubborn in depreciating the bourgeois, fraudulent political
freedom of the West.
It is widely believed that for Russian populism the eighties were
a period of crisis and that in the nineties only the ^epigones of
populism existed. T his is a misunderstanding, stemming from the
identification of classical populism with the revolutionary populism.
In fact, however, there existed also a social-reformist current of
classical populism, and for this current the eighties and nineties
were not a period of crisis but, on the contrary, the period of its
fullest bloom. T he Russian students of populism used, and still
use, to call this current the liberal populism. This name, however,
is inappropriate both from the political and the economic point of
view; it seems much better to define it as a legal populism.25
Equally inappropriate and unjustified is to treat its representatives
as epigones. In fact legal populism of the eighties and nineties
represented the most ambitious populist attempt to analyse the
specific features of Russian capitalism and the most elaborated
and original theoretical argumentation for the possibility and
necessity of a non-capitalist development of Russia; at the same
time the ideological standpoint of the small producers was reflected
in it most clearly and distinctly. A Soviet scholar wrote about it:
Nowhere, in no other country, has the ideology of petty-bour
geois democracy found such a broad popularity and such an acute
theoretical expression as it was in the case of Russian liberal
populism of the nineties.26 If so, and if the Marxist analysis of the
social content of populism is to be taken seriously, we must con
cede that Vorontsov and Danielson should be placed among the
most classical representatives of Russian populism. Thus, the
classical period in the history of Russian populism lasted in fact
from the late sixties till the end of the century - since the comple
tion of the liberal reforms, which had marked the beginning of
the capitalist development in the Russian countryside, until Wittes
rapid industrialization of the nineties.
In order to avoid misunderstanding it is necessary to stress that
different representatives of the classical populism were classical
in a different way. Populism was an ideological structure within
which many positions were possible, sometimes complementary
and sometimes symmetrically opposed to each other. It is clear,
therefore, that it is hardly possible to find in an individual thinker all
the aspects and all the constitutive elem ents o f such a structure-
in each individual case the proportions are different and in some
cases the com plete lack o f an im portant elem ent can even be
established. Thus, for instance, Lavrov was hardly an economic
romanticist'; economic rom anticism was undoubtedly an impor
tant feature of populism ; Lavrov, however, represented within
the populist ideology the rationalistic and individualistic tradition
of the enlighteners, and this tradition was also a constituent part
of populism. Tkachev, taken separately, was a quite unique and
atypical figure but, nevertheless, it is justifiable to interpret his
ideas as the most extreme expression o f a particular aspect of
classical populism. Both Lavrov and Tkachev thus gave a classical
expression of some aspects o f populism , and not a faithful reflec
tion of the whole structure of populism . T h e difference between
them and Chemyshevsky, whose ideology, after all, also contained
some important elements o f populism , consisted in the fact that
they opposed each other within the classical p o p u list fram ew o rk o f
thought. And it is this general framework, together with the
characteristic pattern o f possible standpoints w ithin it, that con
stitutes the distinctiveness and the unity - the structure - of
populist thought.


I have tried to show that the first, and still the best, definition of
Russian populism was provided by Marxists; now I shall try to
show that populism as an ideology was, in fact, not only defined
but, in a sense, called into being by Marxism, that without Marx
it would have been different from what it was. M arxism should be
recognized as the main frame of reference for the proper under
standing of the social philosophy of classical Russian populism ;
classical populism, in its turn, should be recognized as one o f the
most important chapters in the history of a broadly conceived
reception of marxism.
This, however, points to a certain limitation of the marxist defi
nition of Russian populism. It defined populism in terms of its
relation to the development of capitalism in Russia , but it failed to
define it as a reaction of Russian intellectuals to the capitalist
economy and socialist thought of the West. T he ideology of Russian
populism reflected not only the problems of small producers in
confrontation with large-scale capitalist production; it reflected
also specific problems of a backward peasant country in confronta
tion with the highly developed capitalist states. From this point of
view it becomes highly important to establish what was the
populist image of Western capitalism, of its history and its present
state. And it is no exaggeration to say that this image was formed
under the overwhelming influence of Marx. It is by no means an
accident that the beginning of classical populism almost coincided
in time with the publication of the first volume of Capital (the
Russian translation of it - the first translation of it into any
language - came out in 1872, i.e. a short five years after the publica
tion of the German original. It was translated by a populist,
Nicolai Danielson). The ideas of C ap ita l acted as a catalyst in the
emergence and development of populist thought, and it was the
populists who started the propagation of Marxism in Russia.27 Of
course, the rank-and-file populists possessed but a second-hand
knowledge of C apital. I think, however, that the influence of
Marx reached even those populists who never read any of his
books; that Marx's description of the atrocities of the primitive
accumulation and of the industrial revolution in England, his
theory of surplus-value and his criticism of the formal character
of bourgeois political democracy were immediately adapted to
populist thought and made part and parcel of it.
An instructive example of the influence of C apital upon populist
thinking was provided by two articles of the early seventies (both
published in 1872). One of them - Eliseevs paper entitled
Plutocracy and its Social Base28 - shows us that the populist
image of capitalist development was shaped entirely and wholly
by Marx. Eliseev quoted widely from Marx and, moreover, many
pages in his article were simply and solely paraphrases or sum
maries of the respective pages in Capital. The general conclusion
was, of course, that everything should have been done to prevent
the capitalist development of Russia. Strangely enough, Eliseev
seemed to have thought that this conclusion was in accordance with
M arxs saying that in the process of begetting a new social order
the function of midwife is performed by force and that force itself
is also an economic power. If force is the midwife, reasoned
Eliseev, it means that the role of the state is active, that the state
can interfere with the process of social transformation in order to
prevent undesirable results. In this manner M arxs C ap ita l was
used by the populist publicist to persuade the Tsarist government
that it was its duty to prevent capitalist developm ent in Russia.
The second article, entitled On the Occasion of the Russian
Translation of Capital ,29 was written by N . Mikhailovsky.
Marxs C a p ita l was used in it as a powerful argument for the popu
list conception of the absolute primacy of social over merely
political questions. T he populist grudge against political liberals
was justified by reference to the very foundations of historical
materialism - by indicating that political system s are mere reflec
tions of economic relations and, therefore, that the changes in
the economic (i.e. social) sphere are the only things which really
matter. Moreover, the Marxian criticism of the illusory and formal
character of bourgeois democracy supported the populist convic
tion that political freedom was bound up w ith capitalism and
devoid of any autonomous value of its ow n; that, therefore, a
constitutional government in Russia could only serve the interests
of the bourgeoisie and make the situation of the people even worse.
We may safely say that in the seventies such an interpretation of
marxism was very widespread, even prevalent am ong the Russian
populists. The fact that Marx him self never neglected the so-called
political struggle was considered as a sheer inconsistency deriving
from his political opportunism; such was the view o f Balkunin,
and he undoubtedly succeeded in diffusing am ong the Russian
revolutionaries the opinion that Marx, as the leader o f the Inter
national, was an advocate of moderation and a spokesm an of the
semi-bourgeois workers aristocracy.30 But it should be rem em
bered that Balkunin also highly appreciated the scholarly produc
tion of his great adversary, subscribed in a sense to historical
materialism and offered even to translate M arxs C a p ita l into
As we see, the populists reception of marxism was a very
peculiar one: their image of capitalism was on the w hole non-
marxist, since they saw capitalist development as an essentially
retrogressive process, but, none the less, this image would have
been impossible without the mesmerizing influence of M arx; their
practical conclusions were often incompatible with marxism, but,
none the less, they were supported by theoretical argumentation
which had been either borrowed from Marx or derived from a
particular interpretation of his views.
A particularly striking example of the hidden influence of
Marx may be found even in Mikhailovskys theory of progress,
that is in the most articulate expression of the populist economic
(sociological) romanticism. Progress, wrote Mikhailovsky, is the
gradual approach to the integral individual, to the fullest possible
and the most diversified division of labour among mans organs and
the least possible division of labour among men.31 This formula
of progress expressed the very essence of the backward-looking
populist utopia, a utopia which idealized the primitive peasant
economy by setting a high value on its autarky, on its independence
from the capitalist market. Mikhailovsky constantly repeated that
the interests of individuality coincided with the interests of undi
vided, non-specialized labour, i.e. with the interests of the
Russian peasantry. The Russian peasant, like primitive man, lives
a life which is poor but full; being economically self-sufficient he
is, therefore, an independent, all-round and total man. He satis
fies all his needs by his own work, making use of all his capacities -
he is a tiller and an artisan, a shepherd and an artist in one person.
The peasant community is egalitarian, homogeneous, but its
members have differentiated, many-sided individualities. The lack
of development of the division of labour (complex co-opera
tion) enables them to preserve their independence and simple
co-operation (i.e. co-operation not involving the social division of
labour), unites them in mutual sympathy and understanding.
(Similar features were seen by Mikhailovsky in the medieval handi
craft trades and guilds.) Social (organic) progress, consisting in
the development of the division of labour, is being achieved at
the cost of the individual, whose freedom and wholeness is being
sacrificed for the benefit of a supra-human social organism. Capi
talism - the culmination of the division of labour - is the fullest
victory of the supra-individual society over the individual man.
Society, however, is but an abstract phantom, the Spuk of
Stirner;32 for the true progressive the only thing which matters
is the freedom and welfare of really existing individual men, and
from this point of view capitalist development (and social progress
as such) is a retrogressive process. True progressives, therefore,
should look to the past, to the Middle Ages or to the archaic
Golden Age.
The non-Marxian, even anti-Marxian, character of this conclu
sion is obvious. I think, however, that it is worth while to point
out the unnoticed fact that even this part of Mikhailovskys views -
the very core of his thought - was deeply permeated by the in
fluence of Marx. Already in 1869, in his article The Theory of
Darwin and the Social Sciences, M ikhailovsky referred to Marxs
views on the division of labour, putting the emphasis, naturally,
on its negative effects which, as he admitted, had been fully under
stood and theoretically explained by the author of C a p ita l; he
referred also to the views of A. Sm ith, Ferguson and others, whom
Marx had quoted in this connection. And, indeed, it is not difficult
to find in C a p ita l many passages which M ikhailovsky could have
quoted in support of his views, such a s:
The one-sidedness and the deficiencies of the detail labourer become
perfections when he is a part of collective labour. The habit of doing
only one thing converts him into a never-failing instrument, while his
connection with the whole mechanism compels him to work with the
regularity of the parts of a machine. . . . In manufacture, in order to
make the collective labourer and, through him, capital, rich in social
productive power, each labourer must be made poor in individual pro
ductive powers. . . . S o ie crippling of body and mind is inseparable
even from division of labour in society as a whole. Since, however,
manufacture carries this social separation of branches of labour much
further, and also, by its peculiar division, attacks the individual at the
very roots of his life, it is the first to afford materials for, and to give a
start to, industrial pathology.
After this Marx quoted with approval from the Familiar W ords' of
D . Urquhart: T o subdivide a man is to execute him , if he deserves
the sentence, to assassinate him if he does n o t. . . T h e subdivision
of labour is the assassination of a people.33
It seems to m e that Mikhailovsky not only found in these
utterances of Marx strong support for his own, already established,
views; it is much more probable that they were the real starting
point for his own conceptions, that he not only took from Marx
what fitted his own theory but, in fact, that the general framework
of his views was formed under the strong influence o f C a p ita l. It
seems certain that he first read Marx, and only afterwards found
the problem of the division of labour and its destructive effect
on individual wholeness in earlier writers, such as Rousseau and
Schiller. It seems very likely that his fundamental conception - the
assertion of the incompatibility between the progress of society
and the progress of individuals - was derived from M arxs
conception of the perfection of the collective labourer as being
achieved at the cost of, and in inverse ratio to, the development of
the individual labourer. It is really amazing how deeply Mik
hailovsky had assimilated this aspect of Marxs thought and how
little attention was paid to it by his marxist opponents in Russia,
such as Plekhanov and, especially, the legal Marxists who almost
completely overlooked the painful contradictions and the tragic
aspect of industrial progress.
The conclusions of Mikhailovsky and Marx were, of course,
quite different. For the author of C a p ita l the division of labour,
culminating in modern capitalism, was a tremendous progress,
since it had enabled the labourer to strip off the fetters of his
individuality and to develop the capacities of his species.34 From
Mikhailovskys point of view the reverse was true. Having found
in Marx the corroboration of Chernyshevskys view that national
wealth is identical with the poverty of the people,35 he proclaimed
that only the welfare of the people, i.e. the welfare of individual
labourers, should have been treated as a measure of progress.
Having learned from Marx about the high price of capitalist
development, he refused to pay this price, and set his hopes on the
alleged possibility of restoring the archaic forms of social life and
adapting them to fit the new conditions. Thus, from the marxist
point of view, he became a sociological romanticist, i.e. a
reactionary in the historico-philosophical sense of the word.
Mikhailovsky, of course, would have protested against such a
classification of his views. At the beginning of the seventies he
seemed even to have thought that his views were, essentially, in
accordance with the views of Marx. In C apital he found a dramatic
story of the forcible driving of the peasantry from the land, of
divorcing the producer from the means of production, of depriv
ing him of his economic self-sufficiency and, by the same token,
of his individual wholeness. According to Marxs scheme, capi
talism has for its fundamental condition the annihilation of
self-earned private property, i.e. the expropriation of the labourer;
socialism, in turn, being the negation of a negation, will expro
priate the expropriators, making the means of production the
property of producers (although it will not be a restoration of their
private property). Mikhailovsky, like other populists, deduced from
this that Russia, in order to avoid the atrocities of primitive accu
mulation, should do everything possible to skip the capitalist
phase*, to prevent industrialization on the English model. More
over, Marxs scheme was used by him as the main argument for
the view that socialism and the medieval forms of production,
especially the common ownership of the land as preserved in the
Russian peasant commune, were but different levels of the same
type, and, therefore, that the shortest way to socialism in Russia
was to develop the labour and property relations which already
existed, although in a crude form, in the Russian villages and in
the artels of the Russian artisans.36
, No wonder that the economic romanticism of the populists
! fitted so well the Marxist categories in which it was interpreted by
i Lenin. It reflected, certainly, the petty-bourgeois reaction to
capitalist progress, but it expressed also the reaction of the Russian
intellectuals to the marxian description of the tragic contradictori
ness of capitalist development. It was based upon an absolutization
of the negative side of this development, as described by Marx.
It was non-marxist in its conclusions but, nevertheless, bound up
with the classical marxist description of the developm ent of capital
ism. Very often it was even formulated in marxist language: in
the nineties not only Lenin but also the populists themselves
(Vorontsov, Danielson) defined their view as an ideological ex
pression of the interests o fimmediate producers being endangered
by the development of capitalism and trying to avoid proletarization.
Nevertheless, it was very difficult for the populists to call them
selves marxists - the case of Danielson was rather exceptional.
The main obstacle, the hardest nut to crack, was for them marxian
determinism and naturalistic evolutionism, as expressed in the
preface to the first German edition of C apital. According to Marx,
the evolution of every economic formation is a process of natural
history, objective and independent of human will: a society can
neither clear by bold leaps, nor remove by legal enactments, the
obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal develop
ment. The laws of social development are pushing their way with
iron necessity, and the underdeveloped countries have to pass
through the same phases of economic development which the
developed ones have already completed: T he country that is
more developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the
image of its own future.37
The incompatibility between these generalizations of Marx and
the hopes of socialists in a backward country was pointed out and
dramatized in Mikhailovskys article Karl Marx before the tri
bunal of Mr Zhukovsky (1877).38 As for himself, Mikhailovsky
opposed to marxian determinism his so-called subjective socio
logy, denying the possibility of the objective approach in the
social sciences, claiming that ideals and values can be neither eli
minated nor derived from facts and emphasizing that the sub
jective factor - human thought and will - can effectively oppose
the impersonal, objective laws of development. Marxism, how
ever, was interpreted by him as a variant of objectivism, demand
ing from man to bow before the inevitable. At the beginning of
the seventies he did not pay much attention to this feature of marx
ism ; in the nineties, however, the whole meaning of marxism was
reduced in his eyes to an inverted Hegelianism, cruelly subordi
nating the individual to the allegedly objective and unalterable
laws of history. This significant change in his attitude towards
marxism is intelligible as a reaction to Plekhanovs interpretation
of marxism, with its characteristic Hegelian and necessitarian
flavour, and, above all, to the legal marxism of Struve, with its
almost openly apologetic view of the capitalist industrialization of
The full story of the changing attitudes towards marxism in the
populist milieu is long and truly fascinating. However, for the
sake of conciseness, I shall confine myself to a brief discussion of
those populist reinterpretations of the marxian theory of social
development which seem to me to be most relevant to the specific
problems of economic backwardness, as seen from the vantage
point of our times. All of them centred round the problem of the
so-called privilege of backwardness.40 A classic formula of this
peculiar privilege was given by Vorontsov:
The countries which are latecomers to the arena of history have a
great privilege in comparison with older countries, a privilege consisting
in the fact that the accumulated historical experience of their countries
enables them to work out a relatively true image of their own next
step and to strive for what the others have already achieved not instinc
tively but consciously, not groping in the dark but knowing what should
be avoided on the way.41
T he idea that backwardness can be a kind of privilege was pro
claimed in Russia already by Herzen, himself inspired by Chaada-
yev, and, also, by Chernyshevsky who expressed it in the aphoristic
saying about history resembling an old grandmother who loves
the most her youngest grandchildren.42 It was given an extreme
formulation in the proclamation T o the young generation (1861),
written by Shelgunov and M ikhailov and being one of the earliest
documents of revolutionary populism : W e are a belated nation
and precisely in this consists our salvation.43 From among the
classical populists it was taken up by Tkachev, Lavrov and young
Plekhanov, who (especially the latter)44 tried to combine it with
the Marxian theory of social and econom ic development. Each of
them gave his own interpretation of it, but all of them agreed that
the social development of the latecomers could be different from
the classical pattern. This possibility, they argued, was created
by the fact that the knowledge of what should have been avoided
and the technological means enabling a telescoping of industrial
development were available to the latecomers at the time when
their old feudal economy was in the process of dissolution and the
new capitalist relations were not, as yet, firmly established. Special
emphasis was put on the fact that Russian primitive communism
(i.e. peasant communes) had survived until the tim e when the
economic, technical and intellectual preconditions of modern social
ism appeared in the West. Similar argumentation, although with
out reference to marxism, was evolved by Chernyshevsky in his
Criticism of Philosophical Prejudices against the Communal
Ownership of the Land. It should be added that Marx himself,
under the impact of Russian populism, reproduced this line of
reasoning in the famous drafts of his letter to Zasulich. These
drafts, sharply contrasting with the preface to the first edition of
C a p ita l and utterly incompatible with Plekhanovs interpretation
of marxism, contained an interesting formulation of a set of impor
tant problems, such as the problem of an asynchronic develop
ment, the peculiar advantages of backwardness, the role of cultural
contact and diffusion of cultural items in a telescoped, shortened
evolution, in a word, the problem of the non-capitalist way of
overcoming economic and social backwardness. T he fact that the
Russian populists raised these problems and brought them to the
attention of the author of C a p ita l is, I think, a sufficient justifica
tion for recognizing their ideas as one of the most interesting
chapters in the history of nineteenth-century social thought.
The most ambitious populist theories of a non-capitalist indus
trial development of Russia were worked out in the eighties, by
the main representatives of legal populism - V. Vorontsov and
N. Danielson. Vorontsov, the author of The Fortunes o f Capitalism
in Russia (1882), was the first populist thinker who claimed that
non-capitalist development in Russia was not only possible, but
even necessary, and who tried to ground this conviction on an
entirely objective general theory of economic backwardness. He
wrote: The more belated the process of industrialization, the more
difficult it is to carry it on along the capitalist lines.45
Capitalism in Russia, argued Vorontsov, is an artificial capital
ism, a parody of capitalism. It cannot develop without being
heavily subsidized by the government. Its productive potentialities
are very limited because it cannot successfully compete with the
capital of the more advanced industrialized countries; foreign
markets are already divided up, the home market cannot be exten
ded because of the growing poverty of the masses, which is an
unavoidable concomitant of the early stage of capitalist develop
ment. In the West capitalism has performed a great progressive
mission (consisting in the socialization of labour); in Russia,
however, and in all countries which are latecomers to the arena
of history, it is only a form of exploitation of the masses for the
benefit of a small group of the population. The successful indus
trialization of Russia can be achieved only by means of socialist
planning through the agencies of the government. It was expected
of course, that socialist industrialization would be less painful,
more humane than the capitalist variety, that it would save the
Russian peasants and artisans from the atrocities o fprimitive accu
mulation. It would be erroneous, however, to conclude from this
that he wished to eternalize the existence of the small independent
producers as such - he wished only to give them the possibility of
a smooth and painless transition to the socialized form of labour.
He was only partially a disciple of Mikhailovsky - he could not
espouse the ideal of non-divided, non-socialized labour since he
had learned a great deal from Marx, whom he often quoted in his
book. The socialization of labour was for him - in contrast with
Mikhailovsky - a mark of progress and a necessity of economic
development. In the historical development of economic relation
ships he saw the following three stages: (1) the pre-industrial
popular production; (2) the socialization of labour in the process
of industrialization, and, finally, (3) the socialized popular produc
tion, i.e. socialism (the word socialism was avoided for the sake
of Tsarist censorship). Non-capitalist industrialization under the
auspices of the state was presented in this conception as the only
means of overcoming economic backwardness and, at the same
time, as the shortest and, in a sense, privileged, way to the
highest stage of economic development.
Similar conclusions were drawn by N . Danielson, the translator
of C ap ital, who since 1868 had corresponded with Marx and
Engels, providing them with first-hand information about econo
mic development in Russia. He considered him self a Marxist,
although he stoutly opposed the views of the Russian disciples of
Marx. His main book - Outlines o f our S o c ia l Economy after the
Enfranchisement o f the Peasants (1893) - was written at the sug
gestion of Marx; it should be added that Marx had read and
highly appreciated its first and most important chapter (published
in 1880).46
Marxs appreciation of Danielsons analyses should not surprise
us. Danielsons image of capitalism was m oulded under the decisive
influence of Marx; the author of C a p ita l , for his part, was delighted
to see that the growth of Russian capitalism, as described by
Danielson, gave the lie to petty-bourgeois illusions of a smooth
and mild economic development. N ot without a certain satisfac
tion did he predict that things would go from bad to worse, that
the economic processes, analysed by his Russian correspondent,
were paving the way for a fam ine year in Russia.47
Danielson, who was, of course, deeply impressed by this diag
nosis, used it as an argument against the flat optim ism of Russian
liberals who saw capitalist progress as a panacea for all the social
maladies of their country. In the nineties he felt him self confirmed
in his views by the fact that Marxs gloomy prediction had
materialized in Russia in 1891. T he legal marxists interpreted
the great famine of this year as a result of Russian econom ic back
wardness, against which the only remedy was seen by them to be
rapid capitalist progress; Danielson saw it as a result of Russias
embarking on the capitalist road and believed that all the thinking
Russians should have learned from this was that it was necessary
to combat capitalism and to find for their country another way o f
economic development.
Feeling himself a marxist, Danielson tried to cut him self off
from the publicists who represented in their economic views a
narrowly-peasant point of view. He deliberately avoided quoting
Vorontsov (although in fact he had borrowed a great deal from
him), trying instead to utilize every occasion to support his views
by reference to the authority of Marx and Engels; his Outlines. . .
are full of quotations not only from C apital (on such topics as the
destruction of peasant industries, proletarianization, centraliza
tion of capital, the role of public credit and of the development of
railways, and so on), but also from his private correspondence with
his teachers. In spite of this, however, there can be no possible
doubt that he belonged to the legal populists. On basic issues he
was in agreement with Vorontsov. What distinguished them from
each other could be reduced to the difference in emphasis: the
translator of C a p ita l was sceptical about such half-measures as
reductions in peasant taxation, cheap credit, promoting associa
tions of artisans and so on, and put more emphasis on the necessity
of a global economic reform, initiated and carried into effect by
the state. Like Vorontsov, however, he was a spokesman of the
small producers, trying to save them from paying the cost of indus
trialization and believing that the socialization of labour could
be accomplished in Russia without passing through the capitalist
stage. He w rote:
I t fe ll t o o u r lo t to s o lv e a ta s k w h ic h c o u ld b e fo r m u la te d as f o llo w s :

h o w t o r a is e o u r in d u s t r y t o t h e le v e l o f t h e w e s te r n in d u s tr y , in o r d e r to

p r e v e n t R u s s ia fr o m b e c o m i n g a t r i b u t a r y o f m o r e a d v a n c e d c o u n tr ie s ,

a n d , a t t h e s a m e t im e ,t o in c r e a s e t h e w e lfa r e o f t h e w h o le p e o p le . B u t,

h a v i n g id e n t if ie d la r g e - s c a l e m o d e r n in d u s t r y w i t h its c a p ita lis tic fo r m ,

w e r e d u c e d th is p r o b le m t o t h e f o l l o w in g d i l e m m a : to w h a t s h o u ld w e

s a c r ific e o u r p o p u la r in d u s tr ie s - to our ow n c a p ita lis t in d u s t r y o r to

E n g l i s h i n d u s t r y ? W h e n t h e p r o b le m w a s s e t in s u c h a w a y - a n d it w a s

s e t p r e c is e ly in th is m a n n e r - o u r p o p u la r in d u s tr ie s g o t a s e n te n c e o f
d e a t h a n d w e b e g a n t o s p r e a d o u r o w n l a r g e - s c a l e c a p i t a l i s t i n d u s t r y . 48

The readers of Danielsons Outlines . . . did not know that this

dilemma, presented by him as false and deserving only ironical
treatment, was formulated in fact by Engels. In the letter to
Danielson of 22 September 1892, Engels wrote:
A n o t h e r t h i n g is c e r t a i n : i f R u s s i a r e q u ir e d a f t e r t h e C r im e a n W a r a
grande Industrie o f h er o w n , sh e c o u ld have it in o n e fo r m o n ly : th e
capitalistic form . A n d a lo n g w ith th a t fo r m , sh e w a s o b lig e d to ta k e o v e r
a ll t h e c o n se q u e n c e s w h ic h accom pan y c a p ita lis tic grande Industrie in
a ll o t h e r c o u n t r i e s . . . . A s fa r a s th is s id e o f t h e q u e s t io n : th e d e s tr u c tio n
f h o m e i n d u s t r y a n d t h e b r a n c h e s o f a g r i c u l t u r e s u b s e r v ie n t to it, a s

far as this is concerned, the real question for you seems to me this: that
the Russians had to decide whether their own grande industrie was to
destroy their domestic manufacture, or whether the import o f English
goods was to accomplish this. With protection, the Russians effected it
without protection, the English * 9

As we see, the above quotation from Danielson contained in

fact a direct, although hidden, polem ic with Engels. T his was not
a unique case: although Danielson considered him self to be a
marxist, he was by no means inclined to give up his own, long
established, views of the econom ic developm ent of his country;
he did everything possible to convince Engels of the validity of
his ideas but, having failed to achieve this, he stuck even more
resolutely to his own opinions. And he was never shaken in his
allegiance to Marx. He knew that the author of C a p ita l had
planned to devote more attention to the specific problems of the
economic development of Russia and he always suspected, and
believed, that Marxs conclusions concerning these problems would
have been different from the harsh judgem ents o f Engels.
It is obvious that the views of Vorontsov and D anielson were
hardly consistent, both theoretically and ideologically. T hey were
in fact a curious blend of heterogeneous elem ents: the idealization
of the peasant commune and of the archaic popular industry was
combined in their ideology with a programme for industrializa
tion; a high appreciation of the independence* o f small producers
went along with the postulate o f socialization o f labour. This
heterogeneity and incongruity of constituent elem ents was noted
by Engels, who in a letter to Plekhanov made the following
comment on Danielsons view s:
. . . in a country like yours, where modern large-scale industry has
been grafted on to the primitive peasant commune and where, at the
same time, all the intermediate stages of civilization coexist with each
other, in a country which, in addition to this, has been enclosed by
despotism with an intellectual Chinese wall, in the case of such a
country one should not wonder at the emergence of the most incredible
and bizarre combinations of ideas.60
This observation seems very much to the point; I should add
only that we are more conscious today of the relativity o f such
notions as bizarreness in the domain of econom ic and, respec
tively, ideological development. What was bizarre from the point
of view of the classical, Western, model of economic development,
is seen today as a typical feature of the development of backward
countries in conditions of a rapid but uneven growth of the economy
of the world. The historical heterogeneity of the constitutive ele
ments of Vorontsovs and Danielsons ideology was in fact a faithful
reflection of the peculiar coexistence of asynchronisms, typifying
all the backward countries in the process of modernization. And
in this sense, legal populism was a really representative ideology
not in spite o f the heterogeneity of its elements but because of it.
The conceptions of the populist economists are, perhaps, the
best exemplification of it. Flerovsky, Vorontsov and Danielson
pointed out a double capitalist threat: the internal danger threaten
ing the Russian people, and the external danger threatening the
Russian nation as a whole. They were concerned not only with the
problem of how to prevent the proletarianization of Russian peas
ants, but also with the problem of how to avoid the proletarianiza
tion of Russia as a nation, how to prevent her from being exploited
by more advanced countries and how to secure her an honourable
place among the nations of the world. The idea that backward
countries in general were closer to socialism than the developed
ones could be traced back at least to Bakunin, and the problem of
external factors (diffusion of modern ideas and technology, neces
sity of keeping pace with more advanced neighbours, etc.) was
given a thorough treatment already in the works of Chernyshevsky.
Nevertheless, only the legal populists of the eighties and nineties
brought matters to a head by posing the problem of non-capitalist
industrialization as a means of outstripping and overtaking
economically more advanced nations. From the perspective of our
times we see in the theories of Vorontsov and Danielson not only
their economic romanticism but also the first attempt to pose and
to solve some problems of economic backwardness which are still
topical in the backward or unevenly developed countries of the
To avoid misunderstanding, I must make it quite clear that this
thesis is by no means bound up with a conviction that their strictly
economic views were essentially right - 1 claim only that they asked
the right questions and posed for the first time some new and
important problems. There is no doubt that they were interested
first of all in the fate of the small producers; it seems without doubt
that they grossly underestimated the possibilities of Russias
capitalist development, that they were too optimistic about non
capitalist industrialization, and at the same tim e too uncritical in
their belief that under the auspices of the state it would be easy to
combine industrialization with a steady increase of the welfare of
the people; there is little doubt that they also committed many
errors, misinterpreting facts and tendentiously interpreting stati
stical data, presenting false pictures of trends in the Russian
economy, and so on. In the present context, however, more impor
tant is the consideration that they were painfully conscious of the
fact that economic backwardness creates its own specific problems,
and that the backward countries not only should not but also
cannot repeat in their development the classical English pattern.
Vorontsovs assertion that Russian capitalist industry would never
be able to win foreign markets might have been erroneous, but the
very problem of the influence of international conditions on the
industrialization of the backward countries was, certainly, not a
pseudo-problem; his hope that the Tsarist government would carry
out a non-capitalist industrialization in the interests of the people
was, undoubtedly, a reactionary illusion, but this illusion stemmed
from correctly grasping the connection between economic back
wardness and the role of the state in initiating and planning
economic development. Today, nobody is shocked by the thesis
that backward countries cannot develop along the lines of classical
Western capitalism; no marxist claims today, as Plekhanov did,
that socialism is possible only in those countries which have passed
through the whole cycle of capitalist development. And there is
nothing surprising in the fact that it was the Russian populists who
were the first to postulate the non-capitalist industrialization of
the backward countries - after all, Russia had embarked on indus
trialization much later and was more backward than any other of the
great European countries and, thus, had to carry it out in
conditions strikingly different from the classical pattern.


' There is no definition of Russian populism as a movement (except

the narrow historical definition of it). When we say: the populist
revolutionary movement, we mean the revolutionary movement
which has espoused the populist ideology; the word populist
therefore, defines not the movement but only some aspects of the
ideology of the movement. This is, I think, an important distinc
tion, and we must realize that it would be very difficult, if not im
possible, to define Russian populism (in the accepted broad usage
of this term) as a type of social, let alone political, movement. The
movement to the people and revolutionary terrorism represented
very different, if not opposite, types of revolutionary movements:
Tkachev and Vorontsov had nothing in common in terms of
political attitudes. What united these very different movements
and very different men was a certain body of ideas, certain attitudes
towards capitalism, as opposed to the archaic structures of Russian
social life.
The definition of this body of ideas and of their social content
was given by Lenin. This definition, as I have tried to show, is by
no means an artificial one; it delineates an important set of prob
lems; it enables us to prescind from mere political or doctrinal
divisions and to see the essential unity of a socially determined
Weltanschauung ; it is precise enough as a means of classification
and it can be made even more precise, since it gives reasons for
making a useful distinction between classical populism of the
post-reform period and early populism, or pre-populism, of the
There are, of course, some aspects of Russian populism which
were not seen, or not sufficiently taken into account, by Lenin.
Three of them seem to be of particular importance.
First, Russian populism was not only a reaction to the develop
ment of capitalism inside Russia - it was also a reaction to capital
ism outside Russia, and in this sense it fell within the framework
of the old problem of Russia and the West. It was not only an
ideology of small producers, but also the first ideological reflection
of the specific features of the economic and social development of
the latecomers, of the backward agrarian countries, carrying out
the process of modernization in conditions created by coexistence
with highly industrialized capitalist states. Moreover, it was also
one of the first attempts at a theoretical explanation of the specific
features of economic backwardness.
Second, Russian populism was by no means an immediate ideo
logical expression of the class standpoint of the small producers -
it was, strictly speaking, an expression of this standpoint in the
ideology of the Russian intelligentsia. This was perfectly clear to
Lenin but he did not put an emphasis on it. However, in order to
place Russian populism am ong the other populism s in the dif
ferent backward countries, w e m ust place this aspect of it in the
foreground and thus make clear that in spite o f some archaic
features in the populist ideology the social and political movements
inspired by it were not prim itive m ovem ents in Hobsbawms
sense of these words.51 T h e peasant quality o f Russian populism
cannot be interpreted in term s o f nativism (or traditionalism)
as opposed to innovationism ,52 since populism was never a
primitive, indigenous ideology o f the Russian peasantry.
T his brings us to the third point: Russian populism was not
only a Russian reaction to W estern capitalism, but also, and per
haps first of all, a Russian response to W estern socialism. It was a
reaction to W estern socialism by dem ocratic intelligentsia in a
backward peasant country at an early stage of capitalist develop
ment. And it is quite understandable that it m ust have been, first
of all, a reaction to marxism - after all, M arx was by then the
leading figure of European socialism and, at the same time, the
author of the m ost authoritative book on the developm ent of
| capitalism. T he emergence o f the full-fledged, classical populism
| coincided in time with the first wave of the diffusion of marxist
1ideas in Russia. Russian populists were, of course, not marxists,
and it was very easy for Plekhanov to accuse them o f clinging to an
unscientific and utopian kind o f socialism . W e can see, however,
that the populist response to marxism was original and creative,
and that Plekhanovs belief in the existence o f a universal and uni
linear pattern of social development - a com bination of naturalistic
evolutionism with Hegelian necessitarianism - was, after all, a
particular, historically determined, interpretation of marxism.
Like Russian populism, Plekhanovs marxism was an attem pt to
give a socialist solution to the specific problem s o f a backward
country, and history has shown that his solution was no less
utopian than that of the populists.53
There can be no doubt, I think, that studies of Russian popu
lism can help us to understand some ideological patterns which
emerge today in the backward areas of the contemporary world.
There are certain similarities between Russian populism and the
populist attitudes towards the problems of industrialization, to
wards the West and towards the relics of the indigenous archaic
past in many countries of the so-called third world. Perhaps
some parallels in the interpretation of marxism, or in the responses
to Marxism, could also be found. But there are also essential dif
ferences which confirm the view that nothing can be repeated in
history. The populists of our times are living in a world where
classical capitalism - capitalism as described by Marx - no longer
exists; in a world where nobody claims that the European pattern
of development has a universal significance; in a world which has
gone through the historical experience of the socialist states.
I do not feel myself competent to declare whether it is possible
to construct a definition of populism which would comprise all
ideologies and movements in all parts of the world which for some
reason have been given this name. I am rather sceptical about it,
but if such a definition were found, if it pointed to some really
existing common traits of so many different ideological and social
phenomena, I would welcome it - it is always good to see problems
in a wider comparative setting. But even in this case I would insist
that Russian nineteenth-century populism has some unrepeatable
features, and that these features must not be neglected for the sake
of broad generalizations. If the word populism were accepted as
a common name for such disparate phenomena as, for instance,
North American populism and Maoism, I would prefer to stress
the distinctive, historically concrete features of classical Russian
populism by calling it 'narodnichestvo'.

N o te s

1 T h e text of this paper is a shortened and modified version of some

parts of m y book The Controversy over Capitalism. Studies in the Social
Philosophy of the Russian Populists , which is to be published by The
Clarendon Press.
2 C f. B. P. Kuz'min, Narodnichestvo na burzhuazno-demokraticheskom
etape osvoboditelnogo dvizheniya v Rossii, Istoricheskiye Zapiski,
Vol. 65,
1959. Reprinted in B.P. K ozmin, Iz istorii revolutsionnoy mysli v Rossii,
Moscow, 1961.
3 R.Pipes, Narodnichestvo: A semantic inquiry, Slavic Review,Vol.
X X I I I , No. 3, September 1964.
4 Ibid., pp. 441-2.
5 Ibid., p. 458.
6 Ibid.
7 G .V . Plekhanov, Izbrannye filosofskiye proizvedeniya,
Moscow, 1956.
Vol. I, p. 66 (quoted by Pipes, p. 453).
8 It should be noted, however, that the English edition of Venturis
book appeared under the title: Roots of Revolution. A History of the
Populist and Socialist Movements in Nineteenth-Century Russia (London,

i960). This title is much better than Populismo russo, since it clearly
indicates that the book deals not with Populism as a current of thought
but with the populist period in the Russian revolutionary movement.
9 R. Pipes, op cit., p. 458.
10 K o zmin wrote about this: O n ly Len in s criticism o f Populism was
reproduced and Lenins recognition o f the great historical significance
of this current o f revolutionary thought was passed over in silence. This
practice amounted sometimes to an open falsification. (B .P. K o z min, Iz
istorii revolutsionnoy mysli v Rossii, p. 640.)
11 Leninskiy sbornik, X IX , p. 237 (quoted b y K o z min, op. cit., pp.
12 V . I.Lenin, Collected W orks, M o scow -L on d on (since i960), Vol. I,
P- 337
13 Ibid., p. 338.
14 Leninskiy sbornik, X I X , p. 237.
15 V .I.L e n in , Collected W orks, Vol. X V I I I , p. 163. In this edition of
Lenins works the word narodnichestvo is rendered narodism ; I think,
however, that it is appropriate to replace this awkward neologism with the
generally accepted term populism .
16 As to Venturi, he has acknowledged that, strictly speaking, before
1870 there was only pre-populism in Russia but he gave up this discrimi
nation in order to avoid being a pedant (Cf. Roots of R evolution, preface,
p. xxxiii).
17 V. I.Lenin, Collected W orks, V ol. II, p. 504.
18 Ibid., p. 504. Populism, as opposed to the heritage , was charac
terized by Lenin as a system of views which comprises the following
three features: (1) Belief that capitalism in Russia represents a deteriora
tion, a retrogression; (2) Belief in the exceptional character o f the Russian
economic system in general, and o f the peasantry, w ith its village com
munity, artel, etc., in particular; (3) Disregard o f the connection between
the intelligentsia and the countrys legal and political institutions, on
the one hand, and the material interests o f definite social classes on the
other. (Ibid., pp. 513 -4 . T h e last point referred to the so-called subjec
tive sociology .) In a later article (Dem ocracy and Populism in C hin a)
Lenin took the view that populism in the specific sense o f that term, i.e.
as distinct from democracy, as a supplement to democracy , consisted in a
combination o f advocacy o f radical agrarian reform with socialist dreams,
with hopes o f avoiding the capitalist path . (Ibid., Vol. X V I I I , pp. 165-6.)
19 Ibid., Vol. II, p. 505.
20 C f. especially A Characterisation of Economic Romanticism , ibid.,
Vol. II.
21 Ibid., pp. 515-6.
22. Ibid., Vol. I, p. 503.
23 Ibid., Vol. II, p. 217.
24 R.Pipes, op. cit., p. 458.
25 T h e representatives o f this current, being apolitical in a much
more literal sense than the revolutionaries, were b y no means advocates
of the liberal parliamentary system; liberalism in political economy was

for them a real bugbear, a synonym of the most ruthless capitalist exploit
ation. They were liberals only in the very broad and specifically Russian
sense of this word - in the sense of hoping for non-revolutionary progress
by means of social reforms from above.
26 A. Pashkov, Ekonomicheskie rabotdy . Lenina
V. 1 kh godov,
90. Mos
cow, i960, pp. 68-9.
27 It was due to the populists that the ideas of Capital began to spread
among Russian peasants and workers: an activist of Land and Freedom,
Y .M . Tishchenko, never parted with Marxs book during his participa
tion in the Go to the people movement; another member of Land and
Freedom, the eminent revolutionary S. Kravchinsky, wrote a tale, Mud-
ritsa Naumovna, in which he tried to illustrate and popularize among the
workers the marxian theory of surplus value. Almost all populist thinkers -
both revolutionaries and reformists, from Tkachev to Vorontsov - used to
refer to Marx and to draw largely from him in their criticism of liberal
political economy.
28 Reprinted in N. K . Karataev, Navodnicheskyaya ekonomicheskaya lit-
eratura, Moscow, 1958, pp. 125-59.
29 Cf. ibidem, pp. 160-9.
30 The combination of a rather negative attitude towards Marx as a
politician with a deep reverence for him as a theorist was, indeed, very
typical of the Russian populists. Stefanovich, one of the most representa
tive populist followers of Bakunin, expressed this dual attitude as follows:
Marxism, as a theory - not as membership in the Western socialist party
and espousal of its practical policy - does not exclude Populism. (Quoted
in, S. M. Levin, Obshchestvennoe dvizhenie v Rossii v 60-70 gody X IX veka,
Moscow, 1958, p. 334.)
31 N.K.Mikhailovsky, W hat is Progress? (1869).
32 Idem The Struggle fo r Individuality (1875).
33 K.M arx, C apital, Moscow, 1954 (in English), pp. 349, 361, 363
(Chapter X IV - Division of Labour and Manufacture).
34 Ibidem, p. 329.
35 Cf. ibidem, p. 725: The 18th century, however, did not yet recog
nize as fully as the 19th, the identity between national wealth and the
poverty of the people.
36 It should be noted that the same line of reasoning was repeated later
by Marx in the drafts of his letter to Zasulich of 8 March 1881. Com
munism, argues Marx, is the revival in a higher form of the archaic
property relationship, represented by the Russian peasant commune and,
therefore, it might be possible for Russia - provided that the external
conditions were favourable - to pass directly from rural communes to
modern, large-scale communist production (cf. Marx and Engels,
Sochinenija, Vol. 27, Moscow, 1935, pp. 671-97).
37 Cf. Marx, op. cit., pp. 9-10.
38 Cf. Mikhailovskys formulation of the tragic dilemma facing the
Russian disciple of Marx : this ideal, if he is really a disciple of Marx,
consists, among other things, in making property inseparable from labour
so that the land, tools and all the means of production belong to the

workers. O n the other hand, if he really shares M a rx s historico-philoso-
phical views, he should be pleased to see the producers being divorced
from the means of production, he should treat this divorce as the first
phase o f the inevitable and, in the final result, beneficial process.
39 C f. M ikhailovskys article on Struve, Russkoe bogatstvo, 1894
(reprinted in: Poln. sobr. sochinenij, V ol. V I I).
40 C f. A . Gerschenkron, Economic Backwardness in Historical Per
spective , Frederick A . Praeger, N e w Y ork and London, 1965.
41 V . Vorontsov, Sud'by Kapitalizm a v Rossii, S P C , 1882.
42 Chem yshevsky, K ritika filosofskich predubezhdenij protiv obshchin-
nogo zemlevladenija (1859).
43 C f. Karataev, op. cit., pp. 83-98.
44 C f. Plekhanovs article T h e L a w o f the Econom ic Developm ent of
Society and the Tasks o f Socialism in Russia, 1879 ( Sochinenija , Vol. I).
45 Vorontsov, op. cit.
46 C f. M arxs letter to Danielson o f 19 February 1881. (M arx and
Engels,Selected Correspondence, London, 1936, p. 383.)
47 C f. p. 386.
48 Danielson, Ocherki nashego porieformiennogo obshchestvennogo
Khozyajstva, S P B , 1893.
Selected Correspondence,
49 C f. M arx and Engels, pp. 499-500.
Perepiska Marksa i Engelsa s russkimi politicheskimi dejatelami,
50 C f.
M oscow, 1951, p. 341. Letter o f 26 February 1895.
51 C f. E. J.H obsbawm , Primitive Rebels. Studies in archaic forms of
social movements in the th and th centuries,
19 20 M anchester, 1963.
52 C f. Bryan A . Wilson, Millennialism in Com parative Perspective,
Comparative Studies in Society and History, V ol. V I , O ctober 1963;
Yonina Talm on, Pursuit o f the M illennium T h e Relation between
Religious and Social Change , European Journal of Sociology, 3, 1962. It
seems worthwhile to note, b y the way, that millenarian m otifs in Russian
populism are insignificant, if not totally absent. A millenarian and mes
sianic tinge was incomparably stronger in the Polish romantic populism
of the first half o f the nineteenth century. O f the Russian populists the
most millenarian was, o f course, T kachev. It is not accidental that he
was greatly interested in Thom as M iintzer.
53 Populist utopianism consisted in the belief that socialism - in
Russia, either socialist revolution or socialist evolution o f the Tsarist
state would automatically save the Russian peasants from paying the
heavy cost o f industrialization. T h e utopianism o f Plekhanov consisted
in his ideal o f a socialism being built in Russia after the final accom plish
ment o f the process o f Westernization, on the firm basis o f a highly
developed and democratic capitalist society. H e was convinced that his
recognition o f historical necessity would once and for all save him from
utopianism. In fact, however, his concept o f rational necessity turned out
to be the very essence of his own utopia. It was, indeed, the utopia o f a
Russian W estemizer who wished for his country a normal , European
development, following the rational sequence o f phases and always
perfectly harmonized with the inner, economic and cultural, growth.


G hita Ionescu

Much has been written on the subject of the agrarian or peasantist

movements of Eastern Europe. They are inseparable from the
history and particularly the social history of the following countries
which emerged or re-emerged after the First World War as full
sovereign states: Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary
and Czechoslovakia. The peoples of these countries differed in
many respects. They had different ethnic origins: the Hungarians
and the Rumanians are not of Slav origin. They had different
religious backgrounds; the Rumanians, Bulgars and Serbs are pre
dominantly Orthodox as against the majority of Catholics in
Poland and Hungary. They had different social, administrative and
political mentalities, according to whether they had been ruled by
the Tsarist, Ottoman or Austro-Hungarian empires; and as a
point of special interest to the subject of this essay their attitudes
towards the solution of the main agricultural problems - that of
the emancipation of the peasants and the distribution of land
ownership - had been different, according to the attitude of the
imperial government. Their main common denominator, how
ever, was their social structure. In Czechoslovakia only one-third
of the population was engaged in agriculture, but in the other
countries the proportion was between two-thirds and three-
quarters. This massive presence of a rural population was the
main social and economic problem of these new states, and its
solution their main aim. The abundant literature produced on the
subject since the dawn of the twentieth century reflects this
The literature thus produced can be divided into two categories.
First comes the body of literature written by the doctrinaires of
these m ovements them selves during the tw o main phases of their
history. In the first phase it is characterized by an optimistic tone,
following the prophecies of the com ing of the peasant era. This
phase stretches from the beginning o f the century to the late
twenties when it m ight well have seem ed that governments of the
peasant parties were firmly installed in several East European
countries. In the last phase the tone is more sombre, with dramatic
accents. T he outraged denunciation o f the royal dictatorships
which had dislodged the peasant parties from power in many
East European countries, then the fight put up by the weakened
peasant parties against the fascist regim es which had banned them
and finally, after the war, the despair o f the peasantist leaders
who had fled the new com m unist dictatorships, are successively
reflected in these writings.
T he other category is form ed by the m ore analytical works
produced in the W est: a general econom ic exam ination is that of
the Frenchman F. Delaisi, L e s d eu x E uropes. A particularly pro
found ideological and political study on one o f the m ovem ents1 is
that of the American Henry L. Roberts, R u m a n ia , P o litic a l Prob
lems o f an A gra ria n S ta te ? Finally there are tw o works which
discuss the conflict between com m unism and peasantism ; at the
theoretical level there is David M itranys M a r x versus th e Peasan t3
and at the organizational level George D . Jackson Jrs C om in tern and
Peasant in Eastern E urope , 1 9 1 9 - 1 9 3 0 ?
In these two latter works the filiation of peasantism w ith popu
lism is particularly stressed - the object of the analysis being to
show the fundamental difference between all branches o f agrarian
ism and all branches of marxism. For the purpose of this essay, of
which a great part must necessarily be recapitulative, one should
start with an outline of the differences between populism and
T he three most relevant characteristics, from this point of view,
of narodnichestvo or populism, born in Russia in the nineteenth
century, in great part as a reaction to western socialism are that it
claimed to implement the inevitable laws of history by providing
short cuts, as for instance the transformation of archaic collectivi-
stic institutions into advanced socialist ones, and thus by-passing
one historical stage, capitalism ; that especially in its later phases it
argued that the destiny of the people (which was im plicitly but not
explicitly formed by the peasant masses) could not be fulfilled
without a resolute political leadership, to be supplied presumably
by the intelligentsia whose historical mission was to help the people;
and that also in its later stages, it believed that only by smashing
the old state could the new, communitarian, society emerge.
By comparison peasantism, born in Eastern Europe in the
twentieth century, in part as a reaction to both Russian populism and
Western socialism, shows the following three characteristics: it
takes the individual peasant explicitly as its social prototype and
proposes to mould the society and its state on the peasants con
ception of work, property and administration; it blends its social-
economic doctrines with a strong nationalistic concern for the
emancipation of the respective people from under foreign domi
nation ; and it claims that the peasantry is entitled as a class to the
leadership of the political society, not only on account of its elec
toral preponderance but also because of its innate spiritual and
national values.
These distinctions (inevitably much simplified) help to disen
tangle the trends in the ideological populist-peasantist amalgam
which belong more specifically to the earlier Russian populism
and those which belong more specifically to its East European
heir. They also help to outline three larger historical periods in the
history of these ideas: that in Russia of pure populism; that in
Eastern Europe of the transition between populism and peasantism;
and that of pure peasantism in Eastern Europe (during which some
of the abandoned populist attitudes were taken up by communist
and fascist movements).


Narodnichestvo , populism, spread into Eastern Europe from Russia.

As in Russia the evolution of this movement followed in the dif
ferent territories of Eastern Europe, each with different historical
background and attitude towards the problems of serfdom and of
landownership, the changes in the condition of the peasantry or at
least in this class's consciousness of its own condition. The appear
ance in Eastern Europe of the populist movement at the end of the
nineteenth century coincided with or followed, with some regional
time lags, the peasant unrest in Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bulgaria
and, especially, Rumania; and the full peasantist movement fol
lowed in the wake of the agrarian reforms of the early twentieth
century in Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia and
the rather abortive ones o f Poland and especially of Hungary
(where the populist-peasantist m ovem ent gathered strength only
in the thirties when the pressure o f public opinion in favour of
further agrarian reform was again felt very strongly). Thus, where
as the populist and peasantist ideologies in Eastern Europe were
in part the result o f the efforts o f the respective national intelli
gentsias to find intellectual solutions to the problem s of the evolu
tion o f their societies, like socialism for the W est and narodnichestvo
for Russia, it was the real im pact on the various societies of the
overwhelm ing agricultural problem w hich m ade them directly
T h e Russian intelligentsia attem pted to solve this overwhelming
and pressing problem by adapting W estern socialism to Russias
conditions and circum stances. T h e East European intelligentsia
sought to solve it by studying the relevance o f both Western
socialism and Russian populism to their ow n peoples conditions.
T he reaction to W estern socialism was thus a double one - one
indirect, through Russian populism , and one a d ir e c t o n e . But it
was Russian populism w hich the early East European intelligentsia
absorbed more avidly. T h e Polish populist m ovem ent o f the nine
teenth and early twentieth centuries was part and parcel of two
distinct but interm ingled m ovem ents. O n the one hand its founders,
like W yslouch, were involved with the Russian N a r o d n ik m ovem ent
in Poland;5 on the other hand they contributed their own brand
of patriotism to the irresistibly strong Polish nationalist m ovem ent
and their power of drawing the Polish peasantry into the com m on
national fight through their own arguments. In Serbia, Svetoslav
Markovic, the founder o f both the socialist and the agrarian
Serbian movements, was a direct disciple o f N . S. Chernyshevsky
whose works he read when a student in Vienna. Chernyshevsky was
also the dominant influence on the young C. Stere, a Bessarabian
student, deported to Siberia for nationalist activities; afterwards
Stere fled to Rumania where he settled a good tw enty years before
his own Bessarabia could join Rumania.
In Steres work one can discern more clearly a double distinc
tion : that, generally speaking, between populism and peasantism,
and that between the specifically Russian populism , and East
European populism, in this case Rumanian populism or poporanism
Indeed it so happens that in early East European populism Steres
work stands out as the most articulate and the most lucid. (On the
other hand, Stere was to prove more successful as an intellectual
than as a politician, whereas his Serbian, Bulgarian, Polish or
Slovak opposite numbers were already showing their remarkable
political talents in the direct political fight.) Steres series of articles,
Social Democracy and Populism, published in 1908 in his Jassy
monthly, V ia ta Rom aneasca , is justifiably considered the most
representative work of Eastern European populism-peasantism.
Stere benefited from two circumstances. First, Rumania was then,
unlike Poland, for instance, a fully independent state with a consti
tutional political regime, where serfdom had been abolished since
1864. Moreover, in 1907 a peasant revolution had shaken Ruma
nian society and aroused it to awareness of the importance and the
imminence of the agrarian problem.6 Then Stere benefited from
the presence of a worthy ideological opponent in C. Dobrogeanu
Gherea, who, while Stere was engaged in defining Rumanian
populism, was doing the same for Rumanian socialism. Both
crystallized their doctrines by opposition and contrast to the
doctrine of the other.
Like Stere, Gherea too had come to Rumania from Russia.
The difference in social origin told on their doctrinal leanings:
Dobrogeanu Gherea was of Russian Jewish stock: his real name was
Katz. H is inclinations were towards international socialism. Steres
stock was of Rumanian yeomanry in Bessarabia.7 His leanings were
agrarian and nationalist. Thus they reproduced in the peculiar
Rumanian setting, where the main political dialogue at that time
was between conservatives and liberals, the confrontation between
the Russian socialists and the Russian populists.
But if this was a Russian style dialogue pursued in a different
context, it differed from the by then intensely radicalized Russian
left-wing movements in its attitude towards the political methods
for solving the peasant problem. Both the former Russian socialist
and the former Russian populist believed in a gradual social and
economic change, reminiscent of the left-wing political movements
in Russia before they took a decisive turn towards radicalism. In
the milder, national and political, conditions of Rumania the
doctrine of gradual evolution seemed more plausible. Gherea was
to all intents and purposes a Plekhanovist. His major work N eo-
iobagia , Neo-Serfdom , which influenced both the Socialist and
the Communist Parties of Rumania, the latter at least until 1935,
P O P U L I S M - IT S N A T I O N A L C H A R A C T E R I S T I C S
was based on the idea of the necessary phase of economic and social
transition for Rumania. Stere was a constitutionalist populist,
even before he distilled both these attitudes into a coherent doctrine
of Rumanian peasantism, for which he provided the basic inspira
tion. Neither of them was pro-capitalist, but both of them believed
that Rumania would have to go through som e capitalist evolution,
Gherea advocating it for the sake of the industrialization on which
depended the formation o f the conditions leading to socialism,
and Stere accepting the fact of life o f the growth of capital in
privately-owned agriculture.
The more cogent arguments of Stere and the Rumanian Popor-
anist school were political, social and national. T h ey all derived
from the massive affirmation of the plain, com m on-sensical and
statistically irrefutable fact that the overwhelm ing majority of
Rumanias population was of peasant stock, lived in the country
side and was engaged in agricultural occupations. T his led to
social, economic and above all political conclusions. Indeed the
stress was laid by the poporanists on the political aspect. For
Rumania, a state of peasants, the fulfilm ent of the tasks started by
the generation of 1848 makes it imperative for its successors to
fight for the realization of a true, powerful and healthy rural
democracy, wrote Stere. Agrarian reform and electoral franchise
went hand-in-hand and in Steres conception the latter could be
even more important in its effects than the former. T h is political,
even electoral, prerequisite compares strikingly w ith the primacy
of the social plane asserted by the Russian populists o f Z e m lia y
Volta in the seventies.

If we carry out a peasant policy, freedom will not be a fundamental

aim but an inevitable result. In fact it will be like some natural subsidiary
product in a chemical or technical process just as coke is formed during
the making of gas or smoke when one lights the stove. Political liberty,
the right of the human being to full invulnerability, will come not from
demands and petitions on the freedom of the press or the inviolability
of the individual. . . but from laws of God written in the hearts of the
The political-electoral preponderance of the peasantry was for
the poporanists the determining factor. Only through the political
action of the peasants, and of the peasants alone, could the neces
sary reforms be carried through in Rumania. Can these tasks be
assumed in contemporary Rumania, asked Stere in 1908 in the
same work, by a social-democratic party, or even so could this
party put such tasks on the shoulders of the scores of wretched
proletarians created somewhat artificially in our country by the
deliberate advantage and subsidies granted to our industry? Yet
unlike his Serbian or Bulgarian or Croat colleagues, Stere did not
then openly advocate the creation of a peasant party - which in
Rumania was formed spontaneously, some ten years later, by
several groups, not all of which acknowledged their ideological
filiation with his poporanism. This was due in part to Steres
belief that in the wake of the 1907 revolt a new class-party might
be carried irresistibly, in the tense situation prevailing then, to
take extremist positions. But it was also due to the fact that in the
eyes of the poporanists the numbers of peasant-citizens and voters
were so overwhelming that, once their electoral rights were fully
established and guaranteed within the constitutional framework,
they could, and perhaps should not be expected to remain a mono
lithic electoral bloc. Different economic, regional, cultural or
simply ideological backgrounds and a rapid rhythm of social
mobility could lead to national cleavage within this large mass.
These sub-groups might be attracted by the programmes and
ideologies of other parties, might even form their own splinter-
parties. Whereas it was predictable that a large class-party of the
peasantry would come into being and continue to survive, the
poporanists did not believe, as did for instance later Stamboliskys
Agrarianists, that in conditions of constitutional pluralism it would
be possible and indeed advisable for all rural voters to be com
mitted to support one single party. The experiences recorded in
Rumania or Poland, where the peasants divided their votes among
several parties, although the majority voted for the peasant party,
proved them right. (In a different context this was confirmed later
also in India, although there the Congress Party, which was also
the party of liberation', had even stronger claims to the loyalty of
the voters, who, in India too, were overwhelmingly rural.)
Another argument was the national one. The poporanists re
proached the socialists with making the foreseeable national evolu
tion depend on the slow and uncertain growth of industry in
Rumania. The Rumanian industrial workers class would make its
influence felt in the political process only when and if it became a
sufficiently sizeable social force. They also reproached the socialists
with accepting that Rumania, and for that matter any under
developed country, should always follow in the wake of the more
industrialized countries. W ho can lim it from now , exclaimed
Stere, the role which the Rumanian nation can play in the history
o f the culture o f the world? W ho has the right to deprive us of the
possibility of an active national life, o f the endeavour to make our
contribution to the com m on texture o f mankind through the
creations o f our own national genius?
T his, o f course, sounds very m uch like the narodnichestvo
historical messianism. But how then can it be reconciled with
the non-revolutionary attitudes o f the poporanists and with their
rejection of the idea o f adapting the past agricultural communi
tarian institutions to the needs o f the future society, thus reaching
com m unism before the W est, w ithout passing through the capi
talist phase? It should o f course be rem em bered here that the
original comm unal form o f property was not a characteristic
feature o f the early agricultural custom s o f the Rumanians. The
answer lies in the vision o f the poporanists o f an organic develop
ment of the entire society, econom ic, political and cultural, in
which the creative forces o f the country could progress freely
within the specific context o f a sm all European country with a
dominant agricultural population. Denm ark was and remained
the model of such a civilization for the poporanists, as well as for
most East European peasantists.
Indeed the fact that Rumania was a small country was a deter
mining factor in the poporanists nationalist policy. T h ey showed
great concern that such a revolt as the peasants rising of I97
should not occur again. Their urgent advice to the governm ent to
speed up the carrying out of agrarian reforms was accompanied by
equally pressing advice to the opposition to practise restraint so as
not to incite the peasants into unpremeditated action. For, it was
argued, Rumania was a small country surrounded by hostile
empires, from under the domination of which it was just emerging,
and it still had to achieve final reunion with the Rumanian pro
vinces still occupied by those empires. Revolts, social upheavals
and revolution would only offer these empires fresh opportunities
to intervene in the affairs of the newly independent country.
Stere shared this concern not only with the Liberal and Conserva
tive Parties, but also with the socialist Dobrogeanu Gherea. T he
latter too was deeply concerned with the problem of the national
integrity of the country. It might be added that Rumanian national
ism in both men was fanned by their fear of the Russian Tsarist
From the economic and social point of view the poporanists
believed that the distribution of the land among the peasants would
almost automatically lead to active peasant participation in national
production and to the expansion of the domestic market. A normal
cycle of internal economic circulation between towns and villages,
and a broad social basis, would thus be established. But the
principle that each peasant should be the owner of his land was
circumscribed in two respects. T he first was that the plot of land
should ideally be of a size sufficient to produce enough food for
the family of the cultivator. T he second was that widespread co
operatives should be established so as to enable the peasant owners
to share the means of production, instruments, funds and
production work.
But in order to achieve these economic, social and political
reforms, the handicapped peasants needed the help of other, more
advanced, social elements, and, above all, of the intelligentsia.
T h e following passage from Steres work is a shrewd summary of
the advantages the intelligentsia might obtain, if the peasantry were
to achieve its goals.
The economic progress of the peasantry will open a vast field of
action for the intellectuals because it will create a demand for specialists
of all kinds in the peasant economy: agronomists, technicians, leaders
and managers of cooperatives; it increases considerably the openings
for doctors, lawyers, engineers, veterinary surgeons, etc.; it will lead
of necessity to a considerable increase in the number of schools of all
kinds thus creating an immense opening for teachers and professors of
all categories. Above all it will lead to an extraordinary intensification of
the general culture [italics in the text] higher degree schools, scientific
laboratories and institutions, as well as to an inevitable blossoming of
pure science, literature and arts.
T h is deliberately practical, and slightly cynical, description of the
reasons why the intelligentsia would find it in its own interest to
go to the people is a characteristic twentieth-century and East
European replica of the much more romantic and self-deceiving
reasons with which the early Russian populists had justified the
sam e impulse. Thus the Russian populist Klements, when he
asked himself why was he going to the country? answered that it
was because I wanted to live the life o f the people and suffer for
them . Yet, on the other hand, there is also a great difference be
tween the image of a peasantry trying to persuade the intelligentsia
to help it in its fight for social and econom ic emancipation, and that
of a dictatorial peasantry-class of som e of the peasantist regimes in
power after the First W orld War (and especially that of Stambolisky
in Bulgaria) ordering the intelligentsia to provide it with the kind of
culture which would be convenient only to the peasants. Here
again, the poporanists were a transitional phenom enon.


T he First W orld War brought agrarian reform and electoral suf

frage in its wake in m ost o f the East European countries. This was
enough to bring fully-fledged peasant parties into existence in
each of these countries, with the exception o f Hungary. Some of
them, as for instance the Serbian Agrarian Party, the Croat Peas
ant Party and the Bulgarian Agrarian U nion, had been formed
before the war and had already had the opportunity to show their
political vitality and strength. But now w ith this double enfran
chisement of the peasant m asses there was no doubt left that those
political organizations which received their votes would also be in
control of the politics of the country.
That there was a direct filiation between them and the pre-war
populist movements there was no question. But, on the one hand,
their leaders themsi Ives were not so eager to overstress this filia
tion: a Rumanian peasant leader went so far as to deny the links
between the Rumanian peasant party and the poporanist movement
which, he said, was an entirely different thing. And, on the other,
hand, they were different, for reasons which becam e gradually
more apparent. Apart from anything else, whereas the populists,
both in Russia and in East Europe, always showed som e reluct
ance, or even hesitation, to turn into class parties with their
accompanying programmes, cadres and political clientele, and to
engage in the game of politics in order to obtain power for a par
ticular class, the new peasant parties made of this their raison
d'etre. They claimed to be class parties and presented them selves
as the political instrument with which the peasant class would or
had conquered the leadership of society. T o be sure there were
differences in the accent they placed on these claims, with
probably the Bulgarian at one extreme and the Czechoslovak at
the other.
Their leaderships were for instance divided in opinions like all
political parties, when faced with the alternative of conquering
power immediately, or presenting themselves as revolutionary
parties or constitutionalist parties. In fact this depended more
than anything else on the passage to power they were going to have
in each country and on the different political backgrounds of each
of these countries. Thus whereas Stamboliskys Agrarian Union in
Bulgaria always remained a party with a revolutionary outlook
and methods, the Czechoslovak Party of Farmers and Small
Peasants was totally dedicated to the observance of the strictest
constitutionalism and The (Polish) partys programme was by
no means revolutionary. Its main object was to gain political
equality for the peasants within the framework of a parliamentary
regime.9 (This split mind was also reflected in the composition of
the leadership of all these parties, which was a mixture of young
intellectuals and genuine peasant personalities. More often than
not the leader was recruited from among the latter - and Mihalache
of Rumania or Witos of Poland preferred to dress in their peasant
clothes.) The other great difference in the attitude of the peasant
parties concerned the question of which classes in their societies
were the natural allies of the peasantry: the middle classes or the
workers. But of this more will be said later on.
The general philosophy of the peasant party doctrine was still
based on the belief in the natural superiority of the peasants way
of life and of the rural society over the urban life of both bourgeois
and industrial workers. There was nothing mystical in this belief
and the initial impulse of the early Russian populists to go to the
people so as to share its martyrdom was here replaced by the
belief that one went to the people so as to be in direct contact with
the ultimate power-holders in the society and also nearer to the
sources of physical well-being and of moral regeneration. Two
doctrinaires who otherwise had little in common like the Yugoslav
Rudolf Herceg and the Russian, now American, sociologist Pitirim
Sorokin (whose early works in exile had a strong influence on the
Czechoslovak peasant movement) shared this fundamental belief
in the natural advantages of that class of society which had not
become alienated from the normal condition of mankind. For both
the towns were parasitical excrescences in which exploiters and
exploited (and in them the condition of the industrial workers
was described as the m ost unnatural and unhappy), once torn
away from their natural community, fell prey to the unhealthy
instincts of greed and revolt. T he setting and the rhythm of the
peasants life alone could ensure the reconciliation with human
fate, regardless of whether this was part of a pantheistic or of a
straightforward religious conception. Finally the peasants were the
producers of the goods without which towns and their populations
would perish. W hile the villages were self-contained the towns,
in all their splendour, were dependent on the products of the
The following quotation from F. M ilan H odzas book on Federa
tion in C en tra l Europe is a particularly restrained description of
this idyllic conception:
In Central Europe democracy had to be extremely anxious to con
solidate and to defend the results of its struggle for freedom. It had to
find the consolidating idea in spiritual and political discipline and it
succeeded in finding the main consolidating social element in the
peasantry. Rural men constructed their ideas on three possible bases.
One may have been a religious tradition. The second emanated from
the peasants family life. Thirdly, orderly regularity was the lesson taught
by the soil and its function. What the rural masses finally offered the
universal democracy of Central Europe was therefore the extensive sup
port of the idea of ordered freedom. Longing for freedom, individual
and social freedom, had been embedded in the depths of the peasants
souls. A two-fold aspiration grew in him, for Liberty and for Order.
They did not cancel each other. The peasants mind was not destructive;
it was an outspokenly constructive and synthetic one.
Most peasant parties were also adamant in their belief that the
right of private ownership of the land and of other goods was one
of the foundations of the good society. T o encourage the small
peasant owner to make a success of his enterprise was one of the
tenets of their programme. These peasant parties thought that
they found their natural social allies in the lower m iddle classes
which, like them, had to form their own capital and like them
should have had a genuine interest in ensuring that the state would
encourage the small producers and would not concentrate its
investments on and direct its subsidies towards industry. The new
middle class which was slowly forming in the towns of under
capitalized Eastern Europe would be the natural partners of the
new rural middle class of peasant owners. Thus the specific hiatus
in the structure of the East European societies, the absence of the
middle classes and of the natural bridge which they should form
between capital and labour, would be gradually filled. But, as
will be seen later, the radicalization of politics in the shadow of
the growth of fascism made the younger generation of peasantist
leaders incline rather towards an active alliance of the peasants
and the workers.
Most peasant parties were also, specially in the early phases,
opposed to industrialization. But here an evolution of the initial
attitude can be followed in three different stages, each illustrated
by a period of peasantist government in three different countries.
The first phase can be found in the conceptions of absolutist
government of Stambolisky in Bulgaria (October 1919-June 1923).
Here the positions were exclusive and reactionary, and the methods
drastic and revolutionary. No peasant leader hated the towns and
both its categories of inhabitants, bourgeois and industrial workers
alike, more than Stambolisky; and no other peasant leader was
more deeply convinced that the mission of the government of the
will of the (peasant) people was to perpetuate forever and to extend
everywhere the rural conception of life. (Indeed Stambolisky was
also the most active organizer of the Agrarian International and
the promoter of a European Peasant Union.)10 Applied to a country
in which the ownership of the land was more evenly distributed
than anywhere else, and in which the agricultural overpopulation
was not so staggering as in neighbouring Yugoslavia or Rumania,
the symbol of the peasant owner-voter made more sense. But even
here it had been necessary to limit land-ownership by legislation
to a maximum of seventy-five acres and to enact that any physically
fit male between twenty and forty years of age should do some
regular manual labour in public works. And even here the Com
munist Party made remarkable inroads in the massive peasant
electoral majorities. The new generation of Bulgarian agrarian
leaders advocated an active social collaboration with the industrial
workers (contrary to Stambolisky, who favoured contact between
peasants and industrial craftsmen) for the final purpose of building
socialism. As for industrialization, Stambolisky would admit that
only the secondary industries which were of use to the countryside
should be encouraged and allowed to grow. He also believed that
industrial workers should be kept under the strict political control of
his party and especially of its para-military organization the Orange
G u a rd , which was the terroristic arm of his power-apparatus.
When faced with a general strike o f the railwaymen in 1920 he did
not hesitate to send in the troops and to deal with the leaders of the
workers in the harsh way more usual to right-wing governments.
For the Rumanian econom ist Virgil Madgearu, whose theoretical
works were published during and after the thirties when he
was in power and responsible for the econom ic policy of the peasant
party, industrialization was already necessary (even if perhaps a
necessary evil). T he peasantry was the main consumer towards
which industrialization should be orientated, both for the con
sumer goods which its mass production could throw on to the
market and for the agricultural machines and tools which would
raise the low level of mechanization of agriculture. But industriali
zation, although thus encouraged in principle, had to submit to
two limitations: generally speaking it should be kept at the level
of a small under-capitalized country with som e obvious resources
in raw materials; and it should not be sheltered behind a dense
shield of anarchic protectionism which would conceal the unsuit
ability of some of the industries proposed both with regard to
the countrys resources and w ith regard to its inferiorities in open
competition, in the European international market. Indeed, Mad
gearu was the advocate of free trade and saw no future for the
East European economies without strong econom ic and trade
exchanges with the industrial W est. (Madgearu was much less
enthusiastic than either his Bulgarian or his Czechoslovak opposite
numbers about the Agrarian International which he suspected of
an inevitable Slavophile tendency.) As for the private ownership
of land, the Rumanian economist insisted that the peasantist
government should do their utmost, by law and by economic
measures, to establish a country-wide system of co-operatives.
He, too, forecast the era when a more modern organization of the
division of labour in agriculture would replace the old one.
InthedoctrineoftheCzechoslovakPeasant Party, as it crystallized
during its long stay in power, during which it also benefited from
the open democratic consultations which were a characteristic feature
of the Czechoslovak regime, the concepts of industrialization
and co-operativization were the two, intertwined, basic principles.
As far as industrialization was concerned, although Czecho
slovakia was highly industrialized, Milan Hodza clearly defined
his partys views on this point. Central European countries neither
will nor can even renounce industrialization. But, as in Madgearus
theories: It must not however be an anachronism. Haphazard or
incidentally profiteering industrialization may be forbidden by
common sense. If however common sense does not do so, then it
has to be prevented by planning. As far as co-operativization was
concerned, here again Czechoslovakia benefited from the ad
vanced stage of her development. T he fact that the mechanization
of agriculture was highly advanced, that as a whole Czechoslovak
agriculture was not under-capitalized, or at any rate not in com
parison with the state of under-capitalization of the other East
European countries, and that agricultural overpopulation was an
unknown factor, all these helped towards substantial achievements
by the co-operatives. They secured a greater concentration of
resources and a better articulated divison of labour, and estab
lished a more direct economic communication between towns and
villages. (Indeed, one of the notable Czechoslavak experiments
was the scheme of direct exchanges between the agricultural co
operatives from the countryside and the urban socialist consumer
co-operatives.) Agrarian autocracy was bound up with profiteering
capitalism, Agrarian democracy was not, wrote Hodza, and this
fact enabled it to fight and to conquer by marketing populations
based firmly upon regulated co-operation. Any marketing regula
tion implies a sort of economie dirigee. I would call it an Ordered
Economy. At the same time however it maintains and institution
ally intensifies individual property. A combination of these prin
ciples reinforcing individual property and inducing all those in
terested to co-operate marks a new system of democratic economy!
Indeed Hodza hoped that this would slowly alter the very concept
of private property in the Czechoslovak and East European country
side. As a matter of fact this functional conception of the ownership
of the land (which David Mitrany describes as the chief tool of
the farmer: His chief tool is the soil itself, or rather it is partly
tool, partly raw material, a unique combination in the whole
scheme of production) did not disappear completely with the col
lapse of the peasantist regime. On the contrary, it reappeared
from underneath in those communist countries, like Poland and
Yugoslavia, where the land was not collectivized - and formed for
instance the main theory of the Yugoslav League (Kardelj)
h i


The passage through power of the peasant parties in Eastern

Europe was frustrated, short and dramatic. With the exception of
Stamboliskys absolute reign for two years over Bulgaria, in the
other countries the peasantists rule had been achieved more often
than not through difficult coalitions - had met with hostility from
both Right and Left, and had been checked and harassed during
its exercise by concentric oppositions. This was partly due to the
fact that these parties were newcomers in a struggle in which
conservatives and liberals (and later socialists) had believed that
they had the ring all to themselves and that they would continue,
as in the Western democracies, to be the main competitors for
political power and for the peoples favours. But now the people
had, as it were, materialized and the appearance of the massive
peasant class with its strong political representation made the
classic parties look rather like marginal political groups. There
were, to be sure, serious reasons to think that in each of these
countries the peasant parties would gradually transform themselves
into a catch-all party (and here again the comparison with the
Indian Congress Party could be enlightening). Indeed the perma
nent electoral majority of these parties, itself a result of the initial
aggregation of regional and local interests on which the parties
had been founded, had the effect of drawing other political and
electoral groups into coalition or cartel with them. T his reformed
even more the social and especially the ideological homogeneity
of the peasant parties; but it did, on the other hand, make their
electoral majorities look even more unassailable. T his sort of dic
tatorship by electoral immobility gave to the adversaries of the
peasant parties a sense of impatience and led to the feeling that it
should be changed by anti-constitutional means once the consti
tutional system had been seized-up from within. W hen King Boris
in Bulgaria in 1923, Pilsudski in Poland in 1926, King Alexander II
in Yugoslavia in 1929 and King Carol II in Rumania in 1931 acted
from without the constitution to stop or upset its routine functioning
the peasant parties had more to lose than any other political force.
There were two main reasons for the downfall of the peasant
parties. One was the great economic depression which affected
the economies of the small East European countries more deeply
than those of any other national economies (in so far as they were
dependent on the world agricultural market and on the amount
of capital which the W est European countries could invest in
their modernization programmes). T he other was the virulence of
the attack of the dictators against them. The fact that they were
dislodged from power by what is described now as seedy Balkan
dictatorships (royal or military) and which of course cannot com
pare with the technique and purposefulness of the fascist or com
munist dictatorships, seemed to surprise political historians, who
could not understand why parties with such deep social roots
could be so easily put down by such old-fashioned dictatorships
(while regarding the fight against either the pro-nazi regimes or
the Soviet-controlled communist dictatorships as an entirely dif
ferent matter). T h e answer probably lies in the fact that, on the
one hand, the blows that even such seedy dictatorships* can deliver
to constitutional regimes are too strong and disconcerting for the
latter (more than thirty years later a group of generals was able to
upset, in a Europe in which Right-wing dictatorships were waning,
the foundations of the Greek constitutional regime); and, on the
other, that, like the Greek democratic parties of the sixties, the
peasant parties of the thirties had not done enough to activate
political participation and to build their social defences in depth.
The peasant parties were the victims of the fragility of the demo
cratic institutions in the East European countries. This is proved
per a contrario by the fact that in Czechoslovakia, where these
institutions were built on firmer ground, the peasant party and
other democratic parties continued in existence until the national
state collapsed under the blows of an external dictatorship. The
peasant regimes had helped to bring into being or at any rate to
consolidate parliamentary institutions. They expected them to last
and they expected to be sheltered by them. When these institu
tions were swept aside or emptied of their content, the intrinsic
political organization of the democratic parties collapsed with
them. W ith the exception of the Bulgarian Agrarian League, which
under Stambolisky had, as already mentioned, set up the extra-
parliamentary organization known as the Orange Guards, the other
peasant parties had no means of defence against organized violence
and terrorism. What is worse, during their years of control of the
state they had not completed the political education of the masses
which alone could have increased the participation of these masses
in the political process. The millions of placid rural voters had
not been transformed in these short years into active citizens and
resolute defenders o f the existing political institutions. With the
exception of Czechoslovakia, the electoral procedures were, even
under peasantist governm ents, still subject to governmental pres
sures, corruption and som etim es even frauds, and the executive,
both at the central and local levels, could easily overpower the
judiciary and the legislative. T h e institutions were there; but they
had not gathered enough strength from w ithin to becom e autono
mous and to serve as organs o f m ediation between the rulers and
the ruled.
Another cause of this sudden collapse was the lack of interior
articulation of the peasant class as a social unit. W hereas it is true
to say that even such a powerfully organized class as the German
working class, with its particularly developed network of trade
unions, built in depth, did not resist the attack o f the nazi dictator
ship any better, and that therefore it would have m ade no difference
if the peasant class had possessed a comparable internal organiza
tion, it is also true to say that the co-operative network of the East
European countries never came near to representing something
comparable with a system o f agricultural trade unions. In parts of
the region, and especially in Czechoslovakia and in Croatia,
where the entire operation o f co-operativization had been led and
effected by the Croat peasant party, the results show ed what the
co-operatives could mean if they were given enough importance
and impetus.11 But they had not tim e enough to coagulate; and
they reflected in their conflicting com position the division within
the class itself between haves and have-nots. On the other
hand, like their political counterparts, the peasant parties, they
had not achieved, not even irreversibly started, the m odernization
of their societies. Yet only this could have put these countries on
the right track of developm ent. And only this could have broken
from within, and in favour of the peasant class, the social and
economic ill-adjustment of these societies.
This of course leads to a much vaster question, whether the
peasantry as a dominant class is historically able to effect the
revolution of modernization. Or, on the contrary, should the
process of modernization be carried out against the peasants -
against the people for the people? In his reflections on the Social
Origins of Dictatorship and Dem ocracy, Barrington M oore Jr
By themselves, the peasants have never been able to accomplish a
revolution. On this point the Marxists are absolutely correct, wide of
the mark though they are on other crucial aspects. The peasants have
to have leaders from other classes. But leadership alone is not enough.
Medieval and late-medieval peasant revolts were led by aristocrats or
townsmen and still were crushed. This point should serve as a salutary
reminder to those modern determinists, by no means all Marxists, who
feel that once the peasants have become stirred up, big changes are
necessarily on the way. Actually peasant revolts have been repressed
far more often than they have succeeded. For them to succeed requires
a somewhat unusual combination of circumstances that may have
occurred only in modern times. Success itself has been of a strictly
negative sort. The peasants have provided the dynamite to bring down
the old building. To the subsequent work of reconstruction they have
brought nothing; instead they have been its first victims.12
Would populism have been better equipped for the task of
modernization than its chronological heir, peasantism? This is a
second question which can be put from the more circumscribed
point of view of this essay. T he question could be prompted by the
observation that the parties which had carried on, before the
Second W orld War, operations of modernization, communist or
fascist, and specially the three communist parties which succeeded
after the Second World War in making genuine revolution, in
Yugoslavia, China and Cuba, had undeniable populist overtones
in their ideology and policies. The question can also lead to a com
parison of the inherent advantages of populism, in contest with
peasantism, when looked at from the angle of the fitness and suit
ability for the leading role in modernization of either of these
doctrines. T he very ethical, and logical, basis of peasantism, its
claim to be, as proved by electoral verdicts, the mandatory of the
peasant class (which is also the majority of the people), proved a
double brake on the drive to modernization. A substantial part of
the peasant class, at least all the peasant landowners, felt almost
instinctive apprehensions against the possibility, or rather proba
bility, that a forcible modernization would amount to the use of
agricultural production as the basis for the badly needed accumu
lation of national capital. The conservatism of the peasants was
not only of a psychological nature; it had a strong social and
economic foundation, even if in the early thirties the dreary reali
ties of Stalins collectivization were not widely known. On the
other hand, there loomed the question - increasingly asked by the
fascist and communist anti-parliamentary doctrinaires - whether
the procedures of electoral consultation and of political bargaining
between the plural social and political groups could ever give to
the operation of modernization the ruthless energy and trenchant
speed without which it could not be carried out. T he East Euro
pean agrarian regimes collapsed before a considered answer could
be given to this question. Students of the problem of moderniza
tion in an agrarian country with a pluralistic-constitutional regime
have now transported their inquiry and investigation to India
where, in an undeniably different context, the political society is
ultimately faced with the same problem.
In contrast with peasantism, populism, unencumbered by class
associations and by constitutional principles, could lend some of
its basic attitudes to the new, authoritarian methods of moderniza
tion. It called for direct action under the resolute leadership of
those who go to the people instead of waiting for the people to
call them. T his went together with its quest for the short cuts
leading to the great universal avenues, the rejection of set itiner
aries, allegedly compulsory, the somersault in the relations between
backward and advanced societies by using archaic ethnic insti
tutions for the new social and economic purposes. Finally it could
profit from the use of the cloudy notion of the people which could
mean the peasantry, or could mean the peasantry and the workers,
or could mean the national community in itself, or the society as
a whole, according to whether this neo-populism leaned towards
communist or towards fascist attitudes.

F A S C I S T A N D C O M M U N I S T N E O - P O P U L I S M

Already in the thirties, while the majority peasant parties were

bogged down in insoluble economic problems and were losing their
initial impetus, extremist political movements tried to agitate the
peasantry. They were reckoning with the disenchantment of the
country as a whole, and with the particular impatience of the poor
peasants, who were legion. This was not, either for the commu
nists or for the fascists, mere political and electoral tactics (although
there was no political movement in an East European country
which could justify its existence unless and until it won some sup
port from the massive reservoir of the peasant majorities). For
the communists it was the application of the Leninist revolutionary
strategy of the alliance between the working class and the peasantry,
and the acceptance of the rule that no revolutionary situation could
be obtained in an agrarian country without the background of the
discontent of the peasantry. For the fascists it was the continuation
of the basic tradition of all Right-wing movements in agrarian
societies of idealizing the native peasant so as to oppose him as a
prototype to the corrupt urban dweller and to the foreigner,
especially to the Jew.13
Indeed both these extremist parties, neither of which had a
positive doctrine, or solution, for the peasant class (in Russia
collectivization only started with its dramatic and doubtful initial
phases, and in any case it was not a policy to be advertised among the
peasants), concentrated exclusively on ways of stirring up the dark
instincts of hatred in the peasant. Both parties succeeded in show
ing that even with enfranchised and progressively educated elec
torates sheer hatred continued to be a powerful motive of mass
politics. T h e com m unists fanned the social hatred, preaching
further expropriation (although in Bulgaria and Rumania the land
had been distributed already) and also tried to drive a wedge be
tween the various strata of the peasant class itself, becoming the
champions of the poor peasants. In Bulgaria, the campaign
achieved some success. T he party made some inroads in the Bul
garian peasant electorate. It also succeeded, while in opposition,
in improving its relations with the Bulgarian Agrarian Party, this
led in the late thirties to close electoral and political associations.
T he fascists projected successfully the hateful image of the foreign
(Jewish) middleman, squeezing the national wealth from inter
mediary positions of economic control. In Rumania, the Iron
Guard had no great difficulty in rekindling widespread feelings
among the under-capitalized peasantry against Jewish urban
usurers and against the towns and the Capital, subjugated by
foreign capital and by its agents, mostly Jewish, in control of the
resources of the country. In the elections of 1937 (in which it is
true to say they had benefited from an electoral pact, with the
national-peasants in opposition against King Carols dictatorship)
they obtained sixteen per cent of the votes, while other anti-semitic
parties obtained nine per cent - as against the twenty-one per cent
of the National Peasant Party. Thus the old reflex of populist
elementary political psychology - hatred - which the peasantists

had toned down after their long stay in power and after the upper
layer of their electorate had m ade obvious econom ic and social
progress, was now benefiting the extrem ist parties.
T h e other main them e o f the populists which was now taken
over was that o f revolution. O f all the East European peasant
parties only the Bulgarian still defined itself in the thirties as
revolutionary; but even the Bulgarian and the Croat peasant
parties, which received the harshest treatm ent at the hands of the
dictators, were naturally pledged to parliamentary institutions,
both as the means o f com ing to power and o f exercising it. As for
the Rumanian and Czechoslovak parties, which had no revolu
tionary past or tradition and w hich form ed an internal coalition
with other political groups representing the urban lower middle
classes, they relied exclusively on constitutional m eans of political
warfare and of government. T he them e o f revolution both as the
efficient and satisfactory means o f ascending to power by taking a
direct revenge on the persecutors, and as the direct means of
leading society towards prescribed goals, was necessary to both
fascist and communist ideologies. It was necessary because indeed,
like the radicalized Russian populists, these ideologies preached
that the old state-machine had to be sm ashed and replaced by an
entirely different one. It was necessary also because of their com
mitment, with different and indeed contradictory m eans and goals,
to extricate their countries from their status o f inferiority and to
find means for their rapid passage through the stages of economic
development. Like the populists they claimed that it was possible
for these societies, if properly harnessed, to find in them selves
the forces and means for this developm ent. Like the populists
they conjured up the image o f a strong helpful state which would
ban and eliminate from the healthy body of society the exploiters
and obstructers (landowners and bourgeois, in one perspective,
Jews and foreigners in the other) and then pool all resources and
forces together for the building up of the modern but autochthonous
By the mid-thirties, this, of course, made more sense and had a
stronger appeal for the masses. The proposed revolution had been
successfully effected in other countries. T he m odels of these new
states were already in being. T he Russian and the Italian and
German, and to a certain extent the Japanese, revolutions rivalled
in showing the results of the modernization which they had
obtained by different means, but which had in common the fact
that they had been achieved without and against the principles of
bourgeois parliamentary democracy. T o be sure the adepts of the
fascist, nazi or communist doctrines were attracted first by the
principles of these doctrines. But they found in the practical
results of the modernization which they were achieving practical
proof or confirmation of their superiority over the doctrines of
peaceful change. Cutting across social links, exalting the industrial
might of the state and subordinating in theory all particular acti
vities to the public interest - they were able after a short time to
show results which made the activities of the pluralistic-constitu
tional state look like endemic contradictions and procrastinations.
Thus the manifold attractions of revolution, revolution as insur
rection, revolution as the historical vehicle, and revolution as the
means of giving a new and unilitary shape to ill-adjusted societies in
the feverish atmosphere of the new race for historical advance. This
legacy of populism, abandoned by peasantism, was fighting it back.
Although this would go far beyond the domain of the present
essay, it is however natural to remark that, after the Second World
War, a new series of revolutionary states, born all three of them
from military actions carried out with the help of the peasants of
the countries concerned, Yugoslavia, China and Cuba, afterwards
led to a new conception of revolution with at least two obvious
populist overtones. One, especially stressed in the Maoist doctrine,
is the already mentioned recognition of the importance of the
peasantry for the success of the revolution and in the structure of
the new society. The other is the projection on a world scale of a
rural world-revolution against all urban centres, regardless of
whether capitalist or communist. The green rising of Chesterton
and the Agrarian (or Green) International of the peasantists
acquired a different substance and quite different dimensions when
projected on to the background of the fight against the urban
civilization proclaimed by the new revolutionaries. From Asia,
from Africa, from Latin America the neo-populists of the guer
rillas visualized a world-encirclement of all the haves sheltered
in the towns or basing on them their enterprises of exploitation of
the countryside, by all the have-nots, all the dispossessed and
damned of the earth - an image as unlikely but as apocalyptic as
the initial image of the people of the narodnichestvo, characterized
by the depth and irremediability of its misery.

1 Three articles b y Peter Brock published in the Slavonic and East
European Review, Boleslaw W yslouch, founder o f the Polish peasant
party (Decem ber 1957), T h e early years o f the Polish peasant party
(October 1954), and Politics o f the Polish Peasant (October 1955), form
a substantial contribution to the history o f the Polish agrarian movement.
Y et, the author chooses not to distinguish ideologically or historically in
Poland between populism and peasantism, and uses both terms as inter
changeable. Indeed, he says in his article on W yslouch (loc. cit., p. 139),
in the early years o f the movement, peasantry and people ( lud ) were
considered as synonymous terms. O n the other hand populist and peoples
parties outside Poland have often had little or nothing in common with
the peasant m ovement.
2 Yale University Press, 1957.
3 London, 1951.
4 Colum bia University Press, 1966.
5 A t St Petersburg he was in contact with the semi-conspiratorial student
circles which advocated narodnichestvo (Brock,Boleslaw Wyslouch , loc.
cit., p. 140).
6 T h e course and the dimensions o f the events o f 1907 in Rumania
justify their description as a peasant revolution. W hat started in the
spring o f 1907 as one o f the frequent local revolts, inspired b y anti-
semitic parties against Jewish money-lenders in the countryside, ended a
few weeks later as a nation-wide m ovem ent w ith peaks o f violence in
districts where there were no Jewish inhabitants in the countryside. It
was an all-out revolt o f all peasants against landowners and the govern
ment which b y its laws had helped the landowners to exploit the peasantry
and bring it to a state o f hopeless misery. It was spontaneous and spread
like a bush-fire. There was no party or political organization behind the
infuriated peasants. B ut so general did the m ovem ent become and so
obvious was its tendency to converge against the towns, and especially
the capital, that the government decided to use full m ilitary means against
it. According to the most often quoted statistics almost ten thousand
peasants were shot. It was also admitted that the Rumanian A rm y was
given this terrible mission because both the Austro-H ungarian and the
Tsarist Empires threatened to send their own troops into Rumania to
quell the revolt.
7 T h e Polish populist-peasantist leader Boleslaw W yslouch, who also
came from the upper ranks o f the Polish gentry, advocated strong nation
alistic views. T h e very existence, he wrote, o f a Polish ethnographic
group, numbering some twelve millions, forms a permanent guarantee of
our national existence . . . it is just on this point that we discern common
ground where our national ideals can come to terms with the universal
democratic ideals. (Quoted in Brock, Boleslaw Wyslouch, p.
loc. cit., 143.)
8 From the collection o f the journal Zemlia y Volia as quoted b y F.
Venturi: Roots of Revolution, London, 1965, p. 623.

9 Brock, The politics of the Polish peasant party,
loc. cit., p. 211.
10 The Agrarian, or Green International, was the popular name given
to the International Agrarian Bureau set up in 1927, in Prague, by the
Czechoslovak Party of Small Farmers and Peasants, the Serbian Peasants
Union, the Polish Peasant Party Piast and the Bulgarian National
Agrarian Union. Although the main initiator was the last party, the
Czechoslovak party succeeded in acquiring the organizational upper-hand
and in giving to its ideology a definite 'democratic pan-slavistic flavour.
It held yearly congresses and published a bilingual Mezinarodni Agrarni
Bureau Bulletin. In November 1927 a conference was held in Paris and
all peasant parties were asked by the organizers to join in an international
organization aiming at strengthening the peasant political movement.
The fundamental principles of the international movement were: the pre
servation of the private property of the land, the need for organized
international trade, the intensification of co-operative organization, the
fostering of technical education and the fight against under-capitalization
of agriculture. In May 1929 the first general assembly was held with, by
then, seventeen European (national or regional) parties attending as its
members. The growth and success of the Green International consider
ably worried the leaders of the Third (Communist) International, which
had its own Agrarian Section. But after the economic crisis of 1930-2
and the fall from power of several peasant parties, the International
Agrarian Bureau slowly dissolved in inactivity.
11 In one county (Samobor near Zagreb) ninety-two per cent of all
households were included and in a number of other counties well over
fifty per cent of all peasant households were members of the Croatian
Peasant Party co-operative organization, the Gospodarska Sloga. Gradu
ally the Gospodarska Sloga spread its activity into practically every aspect
of economic life of the Croatian peasants or producers and sellers, as
consumers, and also as workers when they were working for wages in
agriculture and in forestry. Jozo Tomasevich: Peasants, Politics and
Economic Change in Yugoslavia, Stanford, 1955, p. 616.
12 Barrington Moore Jr,Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy,
Allen Lane, London, 1967, pp. 479-80.
13 Until he changed it for the green fascist shirt, Cornelius Zelea
Codreanu, the leader of the Rumanian Iron Guard, a foreigner by origin
and a university student, wore peasant costume. He also rode a white
horse when visiting the villages.


John S . S a u l


We enter here upon treacherous and uncharted waters. Those few

authors who do make use of the notion of populism in their
analyses of things African rarely bother to define it; furthermore
they seldom deign to grace the use of the concept in the body
of their text with so much as a citation in the index! W e shall
look at some of this literature in an attempt to gain initial purchase
on our subject, but our critical function m ust transcend its limita
tions. Even then we can only hope, at this stage, to lay down cer
tain distinctions and guidelines of use for further discussion; as
we shall see, any definitive evaluation of the m eaning o f populism
in an African context must await the genesis of more nuanced
observation and theorizing as to the nature o f the overall process
of change in Africa, a programme of work only now beginning to
yield its first fruits.1
Two initial distinctions m ust be made, for a failure to make
them has, in the past, led to a measure of confusion. Firstly, in
the literature and in our thinking about populism there are two
different definitions of the phenom enon rattling around. T hese
will be seen to be related in certain important ways; none the less
the choice of one definition rather than the other, whether m ade
explicitly or implicitly, carries discussion in divergent directions
and they must therefore be spelled out. T hus, on the one hand,
we find Fallers considering populism to be an ideology which
postulates that legitimacy resides in the peoples w ill - populism
as radical democracy, as it were.2 On the other, W orsley sees it as
a response generated wherever capitalism has penetrated into
traditionalistic peasant society, an ideology of small rural people
threatened by encroaching industrial and financial capital. Arrighi
has made a similar point rather more sharply: Populist ideologies
are unorthodox precisely because they uphold the resistance against
the spreading of capitalist relations.3
In contrasting these two notions, the stress of our examples has
been on matters of ideology, but this is premature; a second im
portant distinction must be introduced. For populism, in both
the above senses, has been used in each of two different ways
(though these two overlap). It may be used as an analytical cate
gory, thought to be descriptive of aspects of reality. To take an
example, a movement may be described as populist because it is
felt by the observer to be an actual movement of the people in
some important sense, a movement distinctive because it is popu
lar as regards participation in a way that other movements are not.
It may also be used as a term which characterizes a body of ideas
or an ideology. T o return to the example of the so-called populist
movement: here one might wish merely to characterize the ideo
logy of such a movement as populist (in either or both of the
senses suggested in the preceding paragraph). The actual truth
of that ideology in relationship to the composition or interests
of the movement or the society as a whole could well be another
matter. W e shall see that the uses to which men, particularly
leaders, can put those ideas thought to be best described as popu
list are most varied. These sets of rather abstract distinctions by
way of introduction, then; they will be fleshed out as the paper

2 P O P U L I S M A S T H E W I L L O F T H E P E O P L E

We may begin by working out from Fallers definition. A closely

related note is echoed by a number of observers of Third World
developments: that this is an era characterized by the real or
potential involvement of the masses in politics in a way unknown
before this century. Populism for Apter is a word which sums up
this novel surge forward: Today, however, most governments
operate in a climate of populism and mass participation. How
much populism is controlled and shaped, as well as the degree of
responsiveness by government to the demands of the public,
constitutes the characteristic problem of government, especially
in modernizing societies.4 Halpern uses the word in order to
characterize the ideologies sum m oned forth by this fact; the dis
tinction in emphasis is not unimportant. Every politician every
where in the modern age prefers to speak in the name of the
people . . . populism can be a mask for almost any programme, or
else a nostalgic emotionalism for no programme but immediate satis
faction.5 Furthermore, in the Third W orld, and especially Africa,
the term mass tends im m ediately to take on a predominantly rural
referent; it is in the countryside that the people are to be found
in their hundreds and thousands.
T he reality of growing popular participation and awakened
popular consciousness in recent African history has been most
explicitly identified in the literature as the quintessential populism
by Apter him self and by D .A . Low in their respective works on
Buganda. In particular an important article by Low 6 may serve,
all too briefly here, as a locus classicus for docum enting certain
strengths and weaknesses o f populism , so used, as an analytical
category. Low summarizes with admirable precision the process
by which, around the turn of the century, the then current genera
tion of administrative chiefs, with British assistance (especially
within the terms of the 1900 agreement) consolidated a position
of power both politically and economically as a landed oligarchy.
In so doing they aggrandized them selves at the expense of the
hitherto extremely powerful Kabaka (or K ing) but also of the
people (in Luganda, the bakopi), the mass of the peasantry, whose
significant measure of bargaining capability vis-a-vis the chiefs
was now seriously undermined. Low then traces the manner in
which the People gradually asserted them selves over the next
sixty years after the agreement, occasionally with the important
assistance of the colonial government; this is the phenom enon
which he terms populism.
In particular he notes the recurring importance of the network of
clans (the Bataka pattern) within the society, closer to the people
than the chiefly administrative hierarchy and more egalitarian, as
a rallying point for resistance to overweening chiefs. H e also
mentions the impact of the gradual transformation of the landed-
estate system of the Agreement into a primarily small-scale, peas
ant, cash-cropping system, thus making possible a new bargaining
position for an independent yeomanry. Importantly, as Apter
also stressed, this populism has tended to take on a neo-traditional
cast, defensive about many traditional ideas and practices and
fiercely nationalistic, but its general thrust against an elite of
chiefs within Buganda tended to remain undampened. He con
cludes that it was this thrusting populism, suspicious of the chiefs
and whetted by complementary economic grievances against Pro
tectorate and Asian control of marketing, that led to riots in
Buganda in 1945 an<^ J949 an^> after the incident of the Kabakas
deportation, to a real curtailment of the chiefs position in the name
of the People.
Low thus builds his model of social and political change quite
squarely on the triad of kabaka, Chiefs and People and the inter
action of the three, concluding that there have been changes not
of the structure itself but of the distribution of political power
within it and between, that is to say, its three monolithic com
ponents.7 Yet one suspects that Buganda society was, quite simply,
rather more complex than this; so used populism can become a
dangerous metaphor. Compare Wrigley:
. . . the rise of an active, broad-based economic middle class is acting as
a ferment which is steadily dissolving the fabric of traditional society.. . .
The uniform mass of rustic commoners has begun to split up into
groups which are notably well-to-do and others which are notably poor;
and the economic structure has been further complicated and diversi
fied by the rise of a professional class, by the influx of migrant labourers
and by the growth of commerce and urban wage-employment of every
kind. As a result society has become fluid and amorphous; there is great
economic differentiation but hardly any clear-cut stratification.8
As early as 1952, Wrigley noted in a village the following division
of farmers: nineteen per cent well-to-do; twenty-seven per cent
middling peasants; thirty-three per cent poor peasants; twenty per
cent landless labourers.9 T o be sure, most of those at the very
bottom were immigrants, but Bugandans were to be found at every
level. One must suspect that such divisions among the people found
some expression, if only in variable degrees of consciousness and
And such was, of course, the case. Apter mentions from time
to time a number of sub-groups of importance as, for example,
chiefs who had been removed: With inherited land, a sense of
their own worth, and considerable education, such farmers
attempted to engage in economic enterprise to restore their social
status. . . . In most cases they could not compete successfully
with Asians and European business groups, or else they came up
against government restrictions.10 T hese men, clan leaders, busi
nessmen, mission employees, are m entioned as activists; Low him
self cites the important role of African rural shop-keepers and
African taxi-drivers, in com petition against Asians. What of the
possibly differential role of the varying strata of cultivators them
selves? Unfortunately no one has thought to check. In any event
Low is forced to conclude his apotheosis of populism with the
observation that changes, such as the important redressing of the
balance of chiefs power in the late fiftieshave been effected, not by
determined mass movements (either of the chiefs on the first occa
sion, or of the People on the second) but of aroused minorities -
the Christian Chiefs in the 1880s and 1890s, the political malcon
tents (as Professor Pratt has called them ) in the 1950s. In many
respects these minorities may not have been typical of their order:
but in a Burkean sense they were representative of it.11
One is justified in feeling uneasy with this last formulation.
Like the term populism as used so broadly and inclusively through
out the article it explains, or rather explains away, too much. The
term itself threatens to stand in the way of more comprehensive
data-collection and theory-building by prematurely closing ques
tions that should remain open; throughout our discussion we
must face the distinct possibility that such a concept only seems
useful because of the relative superficiality of our analysis of the
modernization process and the relative poverty of our present
vocabulary for dealing with mass phenomena. In the present
instance, three important areas of inquiry are threatened with
being blurred. First, the term encourages an overestimation of the
spread o f p opular involvem ent. In social analysis it is all to easy to
exaggerate the degree to which a population can be or has been
aroused to action; our metaphors tend to impose hyperbole upon
us. A warning against this seems particularly apt in an African
setting where the pull upon individuals of the m ost localized of
social units and of subsistence agriculture is strong.
Secondly, and closely related, it is tem pting to overestimate the
level o f consciousness of the mass of the population; this encourages
a failure to perceive differences in social situation (as, for example,
class) among the people which can fundamentally determine vari
able degrees of involvement and complementary retardations of
consciousness. Thus despite Lows final bow to a more complex
reality, the centrality for his analysis of a monolithic, primarily
peasant, block has hampered his systematic pursuit of this line of
inquiry. Finally, one fears that even when dealing with those peas
ants who are more conscious and aroused to action, the concept
'populism* encourages the assumption of a unity o f view which may
pass over the wide range of local variation of causes often charac
teristic of activity in a period of upheaval and tend to lump all
such activity under an inadequate covering rubric. In this context
it becomes particularly tempting to take the claims of leaders for
a clear reflection of realities at the base, though evidence suggests
that the interaction of such men with 'grass-roots* protest may be
most ambiguous.
These points m ust be underscored for in fact the term, in the
sense currently under review, is a tempting one, catching as it
does the mood of a novel and valuable emphasis articulated by
some recent students of African affairs. Complementing the ten
dency of a first generation of Africanists to place almost exclusive
emphasis upon the emergence of town-based, Western-educated
Elites as the progenitors of nationalism,12 there has been a tendency
to bring the masses back into the picture as a vital force. John
Lonsdale w rites: In short, there would seem to be some justifica
tion, in Western Kenya at least, for regarding the development of
national consciousness as being stimulated to a large extent by
local rural grievances and aspirations, directed and co-ordinated
by men with local roots.13 Cliffe has made a similar point for
Tanzania, stressing that the proto-nationalist associations which
' provided the cells around which a nation-wide political organi
zation could be constructed were essentially rurally based, ex
pressing the resentment of country people against outside inter
ference in the things closest to them, their land and its use, their
cattle and their way of life*.14 Popular grievances, then, played a
vital role in the articulation of a successful nationalist movement.
Was this populism*?
There are familiar ambiguities and complexities. Certainly in
Tanganyika rural protest was important but its character varied
greatly from area to area. In some it was a force with a rather
clear and sophisticated perception of economic matters and beyond
them of political implications; in other areas it was much more
conservative, instinctive, backward-looking, narrow in focus-
responding, for example, to immediate threats from programmes of

agricultural change, with no broader view on questions of authority

and legitimacy that might seem logical corollaries. Only a leader
ship cadre could generalize this protest for political ends and con
trol at the centre, yet that leaderships ties to the actual eruption of
individual cases of rural protest were often largely peripheral and
opportunistic. In addition, in areas where protest was more sophi
sticated, as in Sukumaland with the rise of the co-operative
movement which soon became a bulwark of T A N U activity in the
Lake Province in the 1950s, differentiation among the mass was
important. Even today this co-operative cannot claim membership
of over fifty per cent of the growers in som e areas and members
tend to be the most economically advanced growers there. More
information on the realities o f involvem ent would clearly be most
helpful. Similarly Lonsdales work reveals a rather more complex
model of a popular m ovem ent, suggesting the interaction of,
among others, local clan leaders, African traders and Nairobi
politicians and the mass; there was thus, in his words, merely a
coincidence of rural fears and national aim s.
Perhaps Martin Kilson, among recent writers, has reflected in
the most rewarding manner on these and other aspects of Africa s
nationalist phase; interestingly enough, in so doing he has articu
lated a usage of the concept populism which avoids at least some
of the limitations we have mentioned above. Im plicitly he attempts
to situate populism* as merely one elem ent o f broader movements
and processes of change, not as a global characterization of rela
tively more complex phenomena. In describing local political
pressures as populist, I do not suggest that they were part of a
systematic egalitarian ideology. I sim ply mean that they represent
the lower reaches of provincial society, they came nearest to re
flecting the political feelings of what we call the masses - the little
people.*16 For Sierra Leone he compiles an impressive catalogue
of examples of rural outbursts which, generally, have taken a
violent, riotous form. These outbursts have tended to be directed
against the chiefs who have aggrandized themselves as the agents
of colonialism, but they are often confused and visceral.
Populist demands for local political change were not precise about
the institutional form the desired change should take. This, of course,
was not surprising in so far as the rural masses lacked both the know
ledge and the experience necessary to formulate details of institutional
change. Nor was it always clear that populist political pressures were
directed against the traditional authority structure as such, seeking its
destruction as a legitimate political institution. Given the ambivalence
of most rural Africans toward the chiefly groups, they were unable to
push their grievances to the point of outright revolution. . . . The
groups who spearheaded popular protest not infrequently asserted
their demands within a traditional framework.16

While admitting the seemingly chaotic, aimless and undefined

nature of much of this protest he none the less insists that on
closer observation, the violent populist responses may themselves
reveal something about the goals of their perpetrators. More speci
fically, by considering the objects of populist violence one may gain
insight into both the goals of the populist groups and the causes
of their violent behaviour.17 He is thus at pains to note that impli
cit in the attack on the chiefs, especially in their role in local tax
administration and novel exploitation of customary rights, is some
demand for reform of the structure of authority, if only at the local
In some sense, then, populism becomes more than just an
expression of mass feelings of any sort; even for Kilson the impli
cation is that these protests are populist because in one way or
another they do challenge authority from a democratic perspec
tive. As he points out, it was only when colonial government
rectified these features of local administration, mainly through the
extension of democratic reforms to the rural masses, that a more
orderly mode of local political change was possible.18 Despite his
earlier definition it therefore remains unclear whether he con
siders that any rural outburst can be considered populist in a useful
sense or whether its use must be restricted to outbursts which
contain elements of this latter dimension. It is, of course, true
that any rural protest will tend to have implications for the existent
structure of authority. But protest in Africa has taken many
forms, from anti-witchcraft movements, independent churches,
riots through to participation in articulate political movements.
We are back to the same conundrum: how conscious does a move
ment have to be of the legitimacy question and of related implica
tions for action in order to be usefully described as populist.
Certainly there are some aspects of this conscious sort to the
politics of colonial Kenya, Tanganyika and Sierra Leone, whether
or not populism can be sufficiently differentiated as a term to
serve in filtering them out.
K ilsons empirical work is useful in another respect for he en
riches our perspective on the am biguous relationship between
elite and m ass within contemporary African society in suggestive
directions; w e again take up the fact o f his having situated popu
lism , as he defines it, as m erely one aspect of the broader
decolonization process. In this case study, he counterpoints mass
frustration and the violent populist forms of its release, against
the politics of the new, educated elite o f the capital; differences of
interest emerge most starkly. In fact the elite are shown to have
rather more in com m on with the colonial governm ent than with
their rioting fellow-countrym en. T hese [governmental and social
systems] are after all the system the new elite aspires to control
once colonial authorities transfer power to them . Populist be
havior, in their reckoning, could hardly be perm itted to threaten
the transfer of this power.19 T h e advanced elem ents of the society
use the contrast between their reasonableness and the lawlessness
of revolutionists (to quote Sir M ilton Margai) as a cats-paw to
force the colonial powers hand; the latter willingly strikes a
In other areas circumstances dictate a m ore positive elite identi
fication with such protests than seem s to have been the case in
Sierra Leone, though even there the language o f democracy was
imposed by the colonial electoral system . In fact, as w e have seen,
it has often been a leadership cadre itself w hich has generalized
protest and given it any coherent dem and for popular control of
authority which it may have, particularly, though not exclusively,
at the national level. Once again more dilem m as are raised than
answers given. Is such dlite consciousness of questions of legiti
macy within a movement enough to earn for that m ovem ent the
populist sobriquet; if not, how m uch m ass awareness is neces
sary and of what kind?20 And even where such consciousness
apparently has moved the leadership cadres one m ust continue to
ask questions concerning the sincerity of their protestations and
the real degree of solidarity with the masses which is involved.21
Evidence from the post-independence period, as for example that
suggesting the growing gap between the leaders and the led,
may be brought to bear in order to cast retrospective light on such
questions concerning the late colonial period. It also leads to some
related considerations about the place of populism in
contemporary Africa.
It is a closely related theme that Frantz Fanon has seized upon
in his important writings and any student of populism in Africa
must consider the relevance of the term to his work. For he sees
the whole of the movement of anti-colonial nationalism through
radically disabused eyes. The 61ite, presumptive leaders of the
mass, have compromised with the values and institutional struc
tures, economic and governmental, of the metropole, ignoring,
in any real way, the potential of the countryside. Even in the
case of rural risings we see that . . . when such an occasion
offers, the nationalist parties make no use at all of the opportunity
which is offered to them to integrate the people of the countryside,
to educate them politically and to raise the level of their struggle;
the old attitude of mistrust towards the countryside is criminally
evident. This despite the fact that in their spontaneous move
ments the country people as a whole remain disciplined and altru
istic. The individual stands aside in favour of the community.
Fanon is equally certain about the pattern that this can be said to
have imposed upon present-day Africa: National consciousness,
instead of being the all-embracing crystallization of the innermost
hopes of the whole people, instead of being the immediate and
most obvious result of the mobilization of the people, will be in
any case only an empty shell, a crude and tragic travesty of what
might h ave been.22 Elsewhere, more prosaically and explicitly,
he argues that the elite will govern the ex-colonial machine for
its own ends as a new class, and the mass will remain as it
In this crisis period he calls for a new kind of political party that
can in fact identify with the peasantry in ways that the nationalist
movements have failed to find and rouse them to an active partici
pation in the building of the new nation. The other corollary, of
course, is that failing such changes and given the continuance of
this state of false decolonization, rural radicalism, of one kind
or another, must again assert itself. There is much truth in this
characterization, however much Fanon may overestimate the unity
of the populace or fudge certain ambiguities as to the quality of
their consciousness. It is also true that for many revolutionary
students and others, both in and outside Africa, this has been
read as a call to arms for a new generation in the name of the
people - whatever its merits as description, it is providing the
basis for an archetypal populist ideology.
Experience in post-colonial Africa bears out many of Fanons
observations, though rivalries am ong the new class* (especially the
marked assertion o f claims to power by the military) have hitherto
been more important than any spontaneous assertion of mass
desires. However, there are already exam ples of the eruption of
rural radicalism and if this should prove a continuing pattern the
descriptive vocabulary of populism w ill again be temptingly near
at hand. W e m ight conclude this section by looking very briefly
at M ulelism and the K w ilu rebellion o f 1964 in the Congo; it is
an example which suggests both the im portance of the focus a
continued preoccupation w ith populism* m ight bring as well as
the familiar ambiguities. Crawford Y oung and Herbert W eiss have
noted the role of rural radicalism in earlier periods of Congolese
development; Young, G erard-Libois and others have traced the
emergence of the new class to power there, the extent of false
decolonization.23 W hat is striking to note is the degree of explicit
reaction to this latter phenom enon in K w ilu. A s three recent
writers have n oted :
O ur understanding o f the K w ilu rebellion takes its clue from the way
in w hich it was described and heralded b y m an y persons o f this province.
L a Deuxiem e Independance , the Second In d ep en d en ce - th ey called
it. T h is suggests, as do the materials w e have exam ined, that the K w ilu
rebellion was a revolutionary attem pt to correct som e o f the abuses and
injustices b y which large segm ents o f the population felt oppressed four
years after official Independence, and an effort to try once again to
express and concretely realize the goals and dream s prom ised b y the
First Independence o f i960.

In this pursuit of the Second Independence there are clearly

actual and important elem ents o f popular assertion as well as an
ideology, articulated by a m ost active and vocal leadership cadre,
calling to the oppressed class engaged in such [agricultural, manual]
work to unite in brotherhood and in the revolutionary intention
to overthrow the existing regim e. On the other hand, like most
other mass m ovem ents its character is not easily capsulized in a
In sum the social distribution and the m otivation o f th e followers and
adherents o f M ulelism in the K w ilu suggest far more than a banding
together o f oppressed classes versus exploitative classes o f privilege*.
T ribal, political, economic, religious and m agical influences o f various

kinds have attracted persons of many different social groups in the
Kwilu to the movement (and detracted still others). In later stages of
the Kwilu rebellion, when the partisans began to make wholesale use of
methods of terror and violence, many other people supported the rebels
primarily because they were afraid.24

3 P O P U L I S M A N D T H E D E F E N C E A G A I N S T


We must complement the preceding analysis by turning to the

other strand of populist debate identified in our introductory
paragraphs, thus talcing up the hints offered by Worsley and
Arrighi. Worsley has made populism* the crux of his analysis of
the Third World (but particularly of Africa), and has in fact
found it useful as a category both to describe African realities and
to codify the ideological themes currently being articulated there.
Within this framework the highlighting of preoccupations with
authority as the defining characteristic of populism yields pride of
place to a focus upon the substantive or policy considerations that
stimulate political action. And, as mentioned above, this is seen
to involve a critique of the capitalist mode of production and way
of life felt to be encroaching upon more traditional methods of
ordering society. In Worsleys view this was also the distinguishing
feature of Russian Narodnikism and North American rural radical
ism, both of which have been assigned the label populist; to this
roster he would add the total experiences of existent African states.
We will want to investigate further Worsleys theses for they
provide one of the few relatively systematic formulations of an
explicitly populist analytical framework being brought to bear
upon African realities. But initially it is useful to expand upon the
whole question of the incursion of capitalism into Africa and some
of the more obvious results of that process. Once again Kilson has
advanced a suggestive point of view :
T h e term modernization refers to those social relationships and
economic and technological activities that move a social system away
from the traditional state o f affairs in which there is little or no social
mobilization among its members. More specifically, the term modern
ization refers essentially to those peculiar socio-economic institutions
and political processes necessary to establish a cash-nexus, in the place
of a feudal or socially obligatory system, as the primary link relating

people to each other, and to the social system , in the production of
goods and services and in their exchange.26

One may quarrel over shades o f em phasis here but it remains

difficult to overestimate the disruption caused by such an insertion,
as the solidarities o f clan, kinship and tribe falter.
It is perhaps this added dim ension o f change in Africa that helps
explain the seem ing irrationalities o f m uch rural radicalism and
its apparent lack of consistent focus, as, for example, upon centres
of authority. W ith tradition no longer a w holly stable guide a
variety of reactions and frameworks for protest (again ranging from
witchcraft eradication m ovem ents to m ore overtly political groups)
becom e possible. T h is is one o f the reasons for the unreliability of
populist or radical response under such conditions when one
attempts to conceptualize them in term s o f the dichotom y of Left
and Right.
U nlike the em ergent A frican bourgeoisie, th e masses are generally
not them selves m odernized and thus th eir relationship to colonial mod
ernizers is different. B u t th e y do desire to b e m odernized, or at least to
rationalize and clarify the com plicated and d istu rb in g situation of
partial or peripheral m odernization in th e m id st o f traditional life and

A partial vacuum is created for leadership, armed w ith even per

functory organizational techniques and an ideology, to play a
politically creative role as regards this protest (if such leadership
should become available). T h e often random im pact o f the cash
economy also provides som e key to the uneven developm ent of
consciousness which has been noted earlier; in a great many
instances and in different areas o f a given country traditional
forms and attachments linger on in im portant ways, cutting across,
in a far from uniform manner, the logic o f m odernization which
Kilson has defined.
Capitalist relations, the cash-nexus - unfortunately many
necessary subtleties of vocabulary for dealing fully w ith such im
portant aspects of modernization are not available; this becom es
particularly obvious when ones focus is upon the responses elicited
by such developments. It is clear, however, that if w e are to use
the term populism to cover these responses w e m ust see them as
varying in conjunction with various epochs or phases in capitalist
development. Thus it may seem useful to lum p together Russian
Narodnikism and North American Populism under the analytical
rubric of populism because both represent largely rural responses
to the onward march of capitalism or modernization or indus
trialization, but it is just as important to distinguish them. The
first may be schematized as a communalistic response, defending
the traditional unit of solidarity, at the first impact of capitalism,
against breakdown and the emergence of new and unwelcome forms
of inter-personal relationships; the second is individualistic and
essentially market-oriented, defending itself against the further
rationalizations of an expansive capitalism (embodied, for ex
ample, in the threat of large-scale agriculture) and the power of
centralized urban financial and marketing institutions (both
national and international) that have tended to emerge over time.
Worsley, as seen in our initial two linked quotations and in the
rest of his book, and others tend to lump these together for too
many purposes, but the mere existence of what Worsley calls
communitarian aspects in the individualistic phase (involving,
say, the tendency to form co-operatives) is not sufficient
justification for this.
T his is especially true for the African setting where some tradi
tional, unrevolutionized communities are just now being markedly
subjected to the pressures of the cash nexus at the same time that
elements within individual countries, especially leadership cadres
and certain economically advanced geographical areas, are facing
the full implications of involvement in a complex national and
international economy. Responses are scarcely likely to be uniform,
even if in some sense populist, and once again the label may
merely work to obscure these differences and the full implications
of uneven development.27 Indeed four potential elements of the
rural sector might be very roughly factored out at this stage:
traditional, more communal modes of agriculture; small-scale
peasant farming; growing differentiation with some farmers break
ing through to rather large, more capitalistic modes of production;
attempts to transcend individualistic agriculture by creating novel
communal modes of production, possibly on the basis of the
original traditional units. The exact mix of these elements in any
given instance will be a factor of some importance.
T he sense of phasing may be suggestive in another way as well,
for it further illumines the substance and character of much rural
protest. It reminds us that, historically, such protests have arisen
as m uch out o f the rearguard actions o f declining groups at major
turning-points o f developm ent as from the positive thrust of pro
gressive elem ents. A s M oore has put it, brilliantly and with a
characteristically elegaic note,
. . . th e c h ie f social basis o f radicalism has been the peasants and the
sm aller artisans o f the tow n s. F ro m th ese facts one m ay conclude that
the w ellsprings o f h u m an freed o m lie n o t o n ly w here M arx saw them,
in the aspirations o f classes a b o u t to take p ow er, b u t perhaps even more
in the d y in g w ail o f a class o v er w h o m th e w a v e o f progress is about to
roll. Industrialism , as it co n tin u es to spread, m a y in som e distant future
still those voices forever and m ake revo lu tio n a ry radicalism as ana
chronistic as cu nieform w ritin g.28

Be that as it may, our attention is at least directed once again to

the probability o f a m ost variegated m em bership in any so-called
populist movement*, and the possibility o f its having rather
Janus-like characteristics.
W e m ust now grapple, m ore directly, w ith one o f the main
premisses o f this w hole approach: this concerns the position to be
assigned in analysis to the im pact of capitalism*. T o som e extent
capitalism becom es coterm inous here w ith m odernization - we
have seen that for K ilson the latter term is virtually indistinguish
able from the process o f establishing the cash-nexus as the central
human relationship. In an African setting it has been suggested
that the overriding logic o f the colonial system is ju st this as well;
though m issions, for exam ple, m ay educate w ith rather different
reasons in m ind their main im pact, like that o f other colonial
institutions, will be to hasten the replacem ent o f traditional ties
with capitalist* ones. W e have m entioned already the great im
portance of this force in breaking dow n the pre-existing rural
systems of A frica; if this point is pushed to the extrem e, o f course,
most radicalism of the colonial period becom es populist alm ost by
definition. T hus even when peasants attack the chiefs for abuses of
power it is because they are part of the colonial system . A nd the
colonial system is in turn a part of the world market system into
which the colonialists are, without doubt, plunging African culti
vators. Opinions will differ over this breadth o f definition and its
actual utility for analysis; however, this does indicate som e o f the
broader questions which m ust be asked as to the range o f possible
supporting premises underwriting a particular usage o f the term
populism in the literature. T h us the data which is relevant will
vary with such decisions as to how wide to cast ones net; to this
end more thinking is obviously necessary on the real meaning and
import of colonialism and neo-colonialism. But there is in any
case much evidence of direct and immediate reaction of a
seemingly populist sort to capitalist economic forces.
Any studies of the colonial period will reveal some examples.
Kilsons work on Sierra Leone is rich with data concerning resis
tance to hut-taxes and other devices designed to pitch-fork the
African into a monetary relationship with the wider environment,
whether as cash-cropper or migrant labourer.29 A rather different
phase of response is evidenced by the manner in which economic
grievance against price manipulation and the like by the protec
torate governm ent (in the form of money held back for stabiliza
tion funds and British exchange reserves) and Asian buyers
supplemented Buganda protest against the chiefs. Crawford Young,
writing on the Congo, has linked the genesis of widespread rural
radicalism there directly to this process:
T h e totality o f policies pursued in the rural areas - land alienation,
national parks, creation o f paysannats , obligatory cultivation, other
forced labour, relocation o f villages along the roadways - imposed
m odernity upon the countryside. I f w e follow Martin Kilson in suggest
ing that integration into a cash-nexus is the key factor in distinguishing
the political transition from traditional to modern, then we may con
clude that there is no parallel in Tropical Africa for the degree of pene
tration o f a m odern econom ic-social system throughout the entire ter
ritory. I f w e add to this the impact, first o f evangelization, then educa
tion, w e find th e simultaneous infusion o f new norms, of new cosmo
logies. . . . T h e colonial system had in part succeeded in eliminating the
subsistence econom y, in methodically reconstructing an entire society
b y its o w n blueprint. . . . B ut at the same time, the colonial system had
engendered a profound frustration at the level of the mass. This is
perhaps th e key to understanding the astounding politicization o f a large
part o f the countryside in so brief a period o f time.30

A nd in Tanganyika the sort of rural resistance that underwrote

T A N U s success in the 1950s was largely in response to the
attem pts by the colonial government to rationalize peasant agri
culture and make it a more successful financial enterprise.
T h e range of responses found in the Tanganyikan case (which
w e discussed in Section 1) is illuminating in this context as well.
For in some areas the essential thrust of resistance was against a
disruption of traditional ways even if it would mean a real benefit
in market terms; in others the desire was for extended control of the
market by peasant growers and one result was the genesis of co
operatives. Narodniks and populists perhaps, but certainly not
exactly the same. As might be expected a similarly mixed pattern
is widespread throughout Africa. Here too we might mention an
additional analytical problem: that of sorting out and classifying
the content of various rural outbursts. W ere attacks on the chiefs
in Sierra Leone launched because of abuses of authority and
consequent sentiments as to legitimacy or because of the content
of chiefly policies and consequent fears of proletarianization? Or
if, as is likely, both were in some vague way involved, what sort
of blend of the two defines their populism ; logic-chopping again,
yet unless the question is asked the term remains a m ost open-
ended one.
Uneven development, such as that suggested by the Tanganyikan
example above, will be present after independence, though indivi
dualistic patterns of economy will obviously continue to increase
in importance; it seems likely, too, that the most articulate political
actors will tend to rise from the ranks of the individualists. O f
necessity they will be more conscious of broader horizons, less
traditional in their bias. In so far as they are moved to protest and
not absorbed into the existing system, their focus is more on the
national level; their outbursts will once again involve som e m ix
ture of distaste for abuses of authority per se and m istrust of
certain policy implications. For example, Fanon, m entioned in
Section 7, stresses both these aspects in his populist polem ic,
finding the policy dimension of his critique to lie in an anti
capitalist stance. However, this component of his populism is a
direct response to a capitalism of a very advanced type indeed, a
response to international capitalism in its neo-colonial phase and
to the continuing role of the ex-colonial states themselves. H is
characterization of African leadership is crisp: T he national
middle-class discovers its heroic m ission: that of intermediary . . .
it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission line between the
nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which today
puts on the masque of neo-colonialism.31 And this can indeed
become a dimension of popular revolt against the new class*.
To return to K wilu:
Since January 1964, the ideology of Mulelism preached in the Kwilu
seems to have changed in at least one significant respect. Greater empha
sis has been placed on the extent to which the Congo and its workers
and peasants have been exploited by the foreigners (who, to be sure,
the doctrine continues to assert, have been aided and abetted by the
present Congolese government).. . . Belgians, Americans, Portuguese,
Dutch and Germans are accused of stealing the wealth of the Congo,
our peanuts, the fruits of our palms, our corn and our cotton . . . and
the earth on which these are planted, and of sending this wealth back
to their own countries.32
Even when such a leadership cadre assumes power and genuinely
seeks to guide the country along lines considered to be populist
in the present sense, the ambiguities already mentioned make it
difficult to assess their activities. For such a leadership could be
defending an image of a traditionally communal society and attempt
ing to build an indigenous socialism on that basis; some African
leaders have made this claim. Or it could be rallying growers against
the threats and controls of the international economic system. But
the latter preoccupation does not necessarily involve concern
about decaying traditional modes of social order or even about the
degree of internal class formation possibly attendant upon the
articulation of an individualistic pattern of development. Thus a
leader in pursuit of development might find himself the grave
digger of the traditional system, subject to attacks by what we might
call phase one populism, even while articulating an ideology which
would earn him the title of a phase two populist and the support,
presumably, of people further removed, psychologically and socially,
from traditional ways. The spectre of varying levels of consciousness
again haunts any ready application of the term populism.
Similarly the efficacy of the elite-mass distinction central to
Fanons populist perspective becomes subject to further re-evalua-
tion from a related vantage-point. It may well be useful to see the
present leadership elite in many African countries as the inter
mediaries for neo-colonial economic pressures and to seek for some
of the roots of popular revolt in the reaction to that fact. But one
must not lose sight of the realization, already suggested by our
Buganda data, that the social transformation from traditional com-
munalists to peasant individualists does not stop there. For indi
vidualism has in turn tended to lead to rural differentiation,
especially in the more advanced areas of African countries. A
third level of popular consciousness is thus a likelihood as well-
to-do farmers so motivated may increasingly find themselves in
alliance with a new class of administrators and politicians, inter
penetrating with them as beneficiaries o f the existing system. The
character of the populace m ust therefore be viewed dynamically.
With time many of the more articulate potential protestors against
various stages of capitalist developm ent may be absorbed through
their own success (with others, needless to say, being totally dis
placed) ; the nature and intensity of rural protest will be subject to
great flux, dependent upon lags and spurts in the development
This invocation of a third phase* o f developm ent is a further
useful warning against any underestimation of the complexity of
contemporary African societies, merely because they seem at least
marginally less complex than many societies elsewhere. Even in
pre-colonial Africa the decay of a village com m unity remotely
resembling primitive com m unism was far advanced throughout
much of the continent. For example, the formation of castes and
the reinforcement of the power o f the old m en which derived
from this evolution . . . constitute the genesis of antagonistic social
classes.33 And where state system s and sophisticated pre-colonial
markets had emerged this was even more the case. Similarly the
impact of capitalism in conjunction with the colonial period has
been rather more sweeping in this connection than m any observers
care to admit.
. . . Modem exploitation occurs behind and through traditional
tenurial and legal forms . . . the village is situated at the end (or beginn
ing) of a long line of increasingly commercialized relationships. Accu
mulation of productive resources (land, cattle, exploitation of hired and
family labour, usury, manipulation of credit, exercise of political power
to economic ends, the deepening network of internal trade and trans
portation - all bear witness to the growing pressures of the market on
the primitive community.34
The various elements of the rural landscape referred to earlier can
in this way be further concretized, though, as P. J. Harding cogently
observes, a fully adequate rural sociology for Africa remains an
urgent priority.
One final ambiguity must be introduced relating to the nature
of the demands of participants in particular instances of protest; it
becomes important to ask how conscious they are of the implica
tions of their expressed discontent. It is legitimate to argue, as we
have seen, that much protest has been stimulated by the impact
of the cash economy at the heart of the colonial experience. It was
observed that Young traces frustration at the level of the mass in
the Congo to this process, for example. But he also notes the
quality of initial reactions: Symptoms of the frustration broke
in the widespread outcropping of syncretic religious movements.
These . . . in their millenial, apocalyptic vision of change reflect the
conviction that the colonial system was impregnable, a permanent
source of humiliation.35 We alluded to this at the start of this
section; here it serves to underscore a familiar problem. There is
often little overt awareness of the reasons underlying disruption or
much sophistication in the reaction to them; the cash-nexus or
the international economy looming behind the immediate griev
ances impinging upon farmers may well be lost to their view. Are
such examples therefore populist, and if not, at what point would
they become such? And at what level should this minimal
awareness express itself - that of the leadership, the mass, or both?
With this and other queries in mind we may finally turn to
Worsleys work, but we shall find that he himself is rather loathe
to confront them. As mentioned earlier, he not only identifies a
populist ideology as a key dimension in contemporary Africa, but
he takes that ideology to be an accurate rendering of the character
of African social reality. Thus he cites at length the various state
ments of African leaders as to the classlessness and peculiar soli
darity of African society. Of these leaders Julius Nyerere has been
perhaps the most eloquent and may be quoted as an example: We,
in Africa, have no more need of being converted to socialism than
we have of being taught democracy. Both are rooted in our own
past - in the traditional society which produced us. Modern African
Socialism can draw from its traditional heritage the recognition of
a society as an extension of the basic family unit.36 But the
echoing of similar sentiments, of greater and lesser degrees of
sophistication, relating to a broad range of socialist issues is an
easy phenomenon to document. Worsley himself concludes:
Africa is its peasantry, subsistence producers or cash-crop pro
ducers, but independent peasants. This is the basic fact about the
social structure of the new African states . . .37
This latter fact is felt to militate against relevant differentiation;
those few slight differences are non-antagonistic, as Sekou Toure
and others have argued. F or W orsley the logic is that, in addition
to the fortunate fact that classes are only slightly developed, the
major antagonism s arise betw een the indigenous population and
foreign capitalist and trading classes. . . . A nd even where there are
class divisions am ongst the indigenes , these are, in reality and not just
as a matter o f illusion, overridden by com m on solidarity vis-a-vis
the alien exploiter.38 P opulism in Africa, a rural idiom in a
modern w orld, is thus an ideology w hich springs from these facts
and reflects the desire o f such a populace for both continued
classlessness and opposition to international capitalism.
M any difficulties w ith such a form ulation w ill be readily appar
ent on the basis o f our earlier discussion; the first premise as to
lack of internal differentiation is especially suspect. By adopting it
W orsley m isses tw o im portant phenom ena. Firstly, he under
estimates the drama, w hich is in fact often the tragedy and pain,
of the transformation from subsistence producers with a wealth
of traditional involvem ents to cash-crop producers o f increasingly
individualist bent. T h is is a process still going on, and very much
a dimension o f certain sorts o f populist* outburst. A nd he misses
much of the potential conflict am ongst the interests of those
already transformed; m ore accurately, this is a conflict between
the transformed individuals, the nascent agricultural entrepre
neurs, and the sem i-transform ed, or marginal cash-croppers. In
other words, the representatives of three different levels of develop
ment in the agrarian com m unity find expression in both local and
national arenas. H is apotheosis o f the co-operative as the ideal
expression of the natural G em einschaft o f the indigenous
society is, in such a setting, som ewhat suspect.39 M y ow n research
on co-operatives in Tanzania, a relatively unrevolutionized society
in economic terms, hints at the extent to which the m ore econom i
cally liberated farmers can turn these institutions to their advan
tage at the expense of their less awakened associates.40 In addition
as regards many sorts of growing differentiation th e co-operative
form of marketing and credit distribution is obviously at best a
neutral agency. T he danger for socialist aspirations o f certain o f
these aspects of the populist perspective is therefore that it diverts
attention from the question of the m ode of production* best suited
to realizing socialist goals, in favour o f pursuing a w ill-of-the-w isp
of presumptive solidarity which, even in Africa, has all too likely fled
Similarly, Worsleys invocation of the spectre of international
capitalism is excessively schematic. Certainly he vastly overesti
mates the degree of awareness and the uniformity of response of
the mass of the African populace, even among those most plugged
into the international economy. And he provides no conceptual
tools with which to differentiate the activities of leadership cadres
throughout Africa in their responses, though the range of possible
bargains that can be struck between such leaders and the external
economic and political forces impinging upon them has in fact
been vast. There is no need to extend the discussion, for such fail
ures are of a piece with the general inadequacy of an approach
pitched on too high a level of generality and thus seemingly
incapable of fully spanning the realities of uneven development in
Africa and the many ambiguities in the relationships between
leaders and led which we have cited. The difficulties experienced
by so interesting a scholar as Worsley in working with the concept
of populism should again serve to sensitize the reader to the amount
of pre-theorizing necessary if so potentially woolly a frame of
reference as the populist one is to prove of any utility.

4 P O P U L I S M A N D T H E A S P I R A T I O N F O R


This paper in its attempt to provide basic data, a survey of the

literature, and some critical apparatus is already overlong. A final
dimension growing out of the preceding discussion must therefore
be mentioned rather more briefly. Yet it is important to note
that whatever the weaknesses of the populist framework as a
description of reality, ideas that may be called populist serve
wide-ranging purposes as political rallying-cries, both for those
in power and for those in pursuit of power. The major aspect of
such populisms, whatever amalgam of emphases upon the will
of the people and the defence against capitalism any given
example may represent, is the stress upon solidarity and the unity
of vast sections of the populace that it provides: a populism is
thus a creed most attractive to leaders. In very many cases the
stress upon solidarity will represent neither the real situation of the
mass of the people, nor their views of that situation, as we have
seen. Rather it will represent an aspiration to make a particular
view as to the characteristics that unite people prevail over any
continuing awareness o f the elem ents that divide. Instead of
assuming solidarity to be the actual norm, therefore, it is wiser
to look to the tensions between various elem ents and various per
spectives as defining the dynamic of any so-called populist
m ovem ent.
In so far as a populist ideology may thus represent the aspira
tions of people leading a particular African movement or state, it
can be put to a num ber of uses. H ere w e m ove into the difficult
region of intent and as m entioned previously one of the most
tortured questions w ill be to assess the sincerity of key actors when
they advance such ideas. In the African case w e can perceive, in
the first instance, a real measure o f self-deception among the
leadership in their use o f these notions. T his was, to som e extent, a
legacy of the anti-colonial struggle. It was then as easy for the
leaders, as for subsequent scholars, to overlook the diversity of
elem ents constituting their m ovem ents and to subsum e them
within the analytical frame of m isleading rhetoric. Nyerere him
self has pointed this out succinctly: U h u ru provided a lowest
common denominator for people w ith a w ide variety of views as to
what the future independent state should look like.41 It seems
probable too that much of the rhetoric of African socialism - with
its emphasis upon the automatic carry-over o f traditional com-
munalities to a modern Africa and the undifferentiated front to be
presented to a rather hostile international econom ic environment -
came rather easily to the lips of a leadership fresh to power and hot
in pursuit of neutralism and a distinctive ideology.
It was only subsequently that the rather grimmer realities of
induced internal differentiation and continued econom ic pressure
from the outside began to demonstrate that choices would be
rather more complex. Nyerere, for example, has m oved from a
reliance upon socialism as an attitude of m ind to be underwritten
automatically by the continuing impact of the traditional environ
ment, to a clearer statement in the recent Arusha Declaration
on socialism and self-reliance that it is also an ideology* to be
learned and sustained.42 And this has led in Tanzania to a growing
emphasis upon the role of the educational system as an instrument
for socialist education and to certain structural reforms. T his sort
of populist mode of thought exemplified by the creed of African
Socialism* in a good many of its specific em bodim ents does have
a continuing legacy for those in power, however, and tends to
bring with it the same limitations that we saw in our discussion of
Worsley: choices concerning the internal economic structure, as
for example those relating to the modes of production to be
fostered and encouraged, are blurred and subtle questions as to
the costs and benefits for future social structure and national self-
determination of various forms of possible compromise with the
international market-system are set aside. Solidarity is socialism,
and real social trends which may be working against meaningful
solidarity are lost to view.
Other leaders are rather more conscious of the loss of focus
encouraged by the high-level of generalization of the populist
framework. However, as Halperns earlier statement suggested, it
can then be transformed into an aspiration for solidarity useful to
the interests of post-colonial elites - this is interested, manipulative
populism. For it has been mentioned that a populist vision can
divert attention from internal contradictions; used consciously, it
may thus become a most conservative force, even a cynical cover
for continuing privilege. Growing differentiation either between
the elite and mass or within the rural community itself, as well as
subtle compromises with international capital, can be masked
behind a rhetoric of homogeneity and national interest. This has
in fact become the underpinning for a number of self-indulgent
one-party regimes; the manner in which emergent military elites,
now so prominent a force in many African states, have found this
appeal to the solidarities of the countryside attractive is also strik
ing, in spite of their absence of interest in socialist aspirations, their
most compromised position vis-a-vis external capitalism,43 and
their seeming reluctance to indulge in democratic experiments.
Colonel Afrifa, prominent in the Ghanaian military leadership,
captures something of this note in his recent book in commenting
upon pre-coup days:
. . . perhaps people who lived in Accra or visited Accra would not have
felt the suffering of the people who lived in the rural areas. Accra is
organized in such a way as to give an impression of happiness and
affluence; there were new streets and new lights, while vast areas of this
country were planted with misery and suffering. I spent all my leaves
at home on our farm, seeing and thinking about the helpless condition
to which our people had been reduced. I became convinced that
Nkrumah had failed the nation.44

And the extrapolation o f similar them es and rationalizations for
post-liberation society has followed apace. Where populism
becomes the official ideology o f states, more nuanced tests than
ever are necessary to assess the degree o f correspondence between
its pretensions and the actual state o f the rural masses.
There is one final possible use o f populism which must be
mentioned all too briefly here. For populist arguments and vocabu
lary that stress solidarity can be m anipulated for ends beyond mere
maintenance o f power by ensconced elites. T h ey can also be used
as part of a developm ent strategy designed to m axim ize the chances
of economic break-through in a poor country and, therefore, even
be intended to work for the w ell-being o f the masses themselves.
There is much scepticism about the capacities o f a capitalist route
to development, a decision in favour o f betting on the strong, to
ensure sweeping econom ic success in the rural sector of backward
societies; where so m any need awakening to the potentialities
inherent in a new way o f life, premature differentiation may merely
confront the vast mass w ith a local political environm ent mani
pulated by kulaks and thus sap their interest and initiative. This
is already a factor be reckoned w ith in Africa. On the other hand,
forced march m ethods seem equally unattractive. T h e alternative,
as Wertheim suggests, may lie in betting on the m any, rallying
the people through organization and intensive education toward
efficiency and self-reliance.45 T h is is not an approach that assumes
solidarity, but one that aspires to it and works to attain it. There are,
in fact increasingly fewer African regim es that seem willing to
choose to implement such an option, for it m ust involve some
attempt to exemplify equality and independence in a convincing
manner; in addition, like m ost populism s, such an aspiration
carries its share of familiar am biguities w hen brought up against
complexities of the African context which w e have seen. If im ple
mented aggressively by a sincere elite it is just possible, however,
that it carries a promise of progressive results beyond that o f more
romanticized versions postulated upon pre-existent harm ony and
presumed egalitarianism.


1 A c k n o w le d g e m e n t: I w o u ld lik e t o t h a n k a n u m b e r o f fr ie n d s a n d
c o lle a g u e s in D ar es S a la a m f o r a s s is ta n c e , b o t h c o n s c io u s a n d u n c o n
s c io u s , in t h e w r i t i n g o f t h i s p a p e r , b u t p a r t i c u la r ly R o g e r M u r r a y , J o h n
Iliffe a n d G i o v a n n i A r r i g h i . N e e d l e s s t o s a y , a ll e r r o r s o f f a c t o r j u d g e
m e n t are m y o w n .
2 L l o y d F a l l e r s , P o p u l i s m a n d N a t i o n a l i s m , I V , Comparative Studies
in Society and History, N o . 4 , 4 4 7 ( J u l y 1 9 6 4 ) .
3 P e t e r W o r s l e y , The Third World ( L o n d o n , 1 9 6 4 ) ; G i o v a n n i A r r i g h i ,
B la c k and W h ite P o p u lis m in R h o d e s ia , u n p u b lis h e d s e m in a r paper
p r e s e n te d to t h e P o li t i c a l S c i e n c e s e m in a r , D a r e s S a la a m , M a r c h 19 6 7.
4 D a v id A p te r, The Politics of Modernization (C h ic a g o , 19 6 6 ), pp.
2 2 3 -4 .
5 M a n fr e d H a lp e m , The Politics of Social Change in the Middle East
and North Africa (P r in c e to n , 19 6 3 ), p p . 2 9 0 - 1 .
6 D . A . L o w , T h e A d v e n t o f P o p u lis m in B u g a n d a , I V , Comparative
Studies in Society and History N o . 4 , 4 2 4 ( J u l y 1 9 6 4 ) . S e e a ls o D a v i d
A p t e r , The Political Kingdom in Uganda ( P r i n c e t o n , 1 9 6 1 ) .
7 In a s im ila r v e in A p te r s p e a k s o f p o p u l i s m , t h a t is t h e P e o p l e in
a c t io n , in t h e f o l l o w i n g t e r m s : T h u s t h w a r t e d , p o p u li s m w h ic h h a d le d
to c o n flic t a n d b itt e r n e s s in t h e p a s t w a s s im p ly p r o v id e d w ith fr e s h fu e l
a n d a n e w q u o t a o f g r i e v a n c e s . T h e c r it ic is m o f L o w w h i c h f o llo w s in th e
t e x t m u s t a p p ly e q u a lly to s u c h a r e g r e tta b le e x a m p le , as it se em s to m e,
o f r e ific a tio n .
8 C .C .W r ig le y , T h e C h a n g in g E c o n o m ic S tr u c tu r e o f B u g a n d a , in
L . F a lle r s ( e d .) , The King's Men ( L o n d o n , 19 6 4 ), p p . 5 9 -6 0 .
9 C . C . W r i g l e y , A f r ic a n F a r m e r s in B u g a n d a , E a s t A fr ic a n I n s titu te
o f S o c ia l R e s e a r c h , Conference Papers, 19 53.
10 A p t e r , o p . c it., p . 19 3 .
ix L o w , o p . c it., p . 4 4 3 .
12 T h e c la s s i c t e x t h e r e is , o f c o u r s e , T h o m a s H o d g k i n s Nationalism
in Colonial Africa-, w h a te v e r r e v is io n s o f e m p h a s is m ay p rove u s e fu l,
h o w e v e r , t h i s w i l l c e r t a i n l y s t a n d t h e t e s t o f t i m e a s a n e x c e p t i o n a l l y fin e
c o n tr ib u tio n .
13 J o h n L o n s d a le , R u r a l R e s is t a n c e a n d M a s s P o litic a l M o b iliz a tio n
A m o n g s t t h e L u o o f W e s te r n K e n y a , p a p e r d e liv e r e d a t th e C o n fe r e n c e
o f th e E a s t A fr ic a n A c a d e m y , S e p te m b e r 1 9 6 5 ; s e e a ls o h i s A Political
History of Western Kenya (fo r th c o m in g ).
14 L io n e l C liffe , N a tio n a lis m a n d th e R e a c tio n to E n fo r c e d A g r ic u l
tu r a l Im p ro vem en t in T a n g a n y ik a D u r in g th e C o lo n ia l P e r io d , p a p e r
d e liv e r e d at th e E a s t A fr ic a n In s titu te o f S o c ia l R e s e a r c h C o n fe r e n c e ,
M a k e r e r e , D e c e m b e r 19 6 4.
15 M a r tin K ils o n , Political Change in a West African State ( C a m b r i d g e ,
M a s s ., 19 6 6 ), p . 1 7 9 .
16 I b id ., p . 18 3 .
1 7 I b id ., p . 18 6 .

18 Ibid., p. 189.
19 Ibid., p. 192.
20 There is, o f course, reason to be uneasy with this dichotomy between
elite and mass itself; though suggestive, it is probably not nuanced
enough, particularly as regards the category o f mass , to catch gradations
among the populace which can be important for many purposes. The
distinction is central to the term populism as used b y Kilson. Yet one
m ight have liked from him some rather more detailed evidence about
involvement and participation, especially in the local instances he cites,
before being altogether satisfied w ith his use o f it.
21 Richard Sklar, in his book Nigerian Political Parties (Princeton,
1963) is another scholar who has specifically used the term populism,
though w ithout definition. T h u s he describes the Northern Elements
Progressive U nion in northern Nigeria, a party o f marginal economic
groups (mainly small traders and craftsmen), as populist on the basis of
its ideology, which presents a radical demand for extended democracy and
social reform. Its opponents, the ruling Northern People's Congress, is
an elitist party, dominated b y chiefs and w ealthy bourgeois interests.
Unfortunately the former group presents the paradox o f being a relatively
unpopular populist m ovem ent. T h e N P C , b y manipulating both tradi
tional and populist values, has retained a considerable grip on the rural
masses loyalties, even eliciting their quite active support. A dded to this
there is the attendant difficulty o f measuring the sincerity o f protestations
o f N E P U leaders so long as they, unlike their rivals, remain out of power.
Despite the valuable nature o f his account, one wishes D r Sklar had con
fronted some o f these possible am biguities in his discussion (and his
definitions) more explicitly.
22 Frantz Fanon, The Damned (Paris, 1963), pp. 90, 94, 123.
23 Crawford Young, Politics in the Congo (Princeton, 1965); Herbert
Weiss, as reported in I V African Studies Bulletin , N o . IV , pp. 8-9
(December 1961); J. G erard-Libois, T h e N e w Class and Rebellion in the
Congo, Socialist Register , 1966 (London).
24 Ren6eC. Fox, W illy de Craemer, and Jean-M arie Ribeaucourt, T h e
Second Independence : a Case Study o f the K w ilu Rebellion in the
Congo , V I I IComparative Studies in Society and History, N o. x, 78
(October 1965), pp. 78, 96, 103. It is also true, as these same authors
observe, that the ideology and organization present in the K w ilu was
rather more explicit and refined than elsewhere in the Congo. T h e domi
nant characteristic o f much rural radicalism is often am biguous indeed.
Crawford Young, also speaking o f the C ongo (op. cit., p. 231), captures
an important note: But the oppressive, omnipresent system had to go.
N o more taxes, no more cotton, no more census-takers, no more vaccina
tions, no more identity cards, no more army recruiters. W hether such a
happy world could exist was, o f course, beside the point. Another impor
tant example of something very like an out-cropping o f post-independence
populism may well be, paradoxically, D r Bandas M alawi. A ccording to
Rev. Andrew Ross in an unpublished paper (Tribalism or Counter-
Revolution in M alawi), Banda has been able to rally the masses (though

particularly the often ill-educated local political leadership groups and
the once-displaced traditional chiefs and headmen) against the more
educated and well-to-do new class represented by his ex-Ministers now
in exile, and has consolidated his position on that basis.
25 Martin Kilson, African Political Change and the Modernization
Process , I Journal of Modern African Studies, No. 4, p. 426.
26 Ibid., p. 435.
27 Arrighi (op. cit.) cites one excellent example with a ring familiar to
students of North American populism but certainly to be differentiated
from many other forms of rural radicalism in Africa. From the Rhodesia
Fronts news bulletin Newsfront, 20 March 1964, The Smell of Treach
ery : T h e world we live in is in a pretty mess. And at the root of it all
are pressure groups in high finance big dealings in big money. It is no
secret that when Southern Rhodesia was first opened up, the big financiers
were there, always on the alert for a good investment. Today the names
of the individual financiers have changed. The smell of money has not.
The financiers are all there in the ring . . . and it seems unlikely to worry
the contestants if the referee, in the person of the common man, gets hit
on the head in the course of the struggle. . . . The traitor is the man who
safeguards investment at the expense of his countrys economy.
Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy:
28 Barrington Moore, Jr,
Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World (Boston, 1966),
P- S.
29 Kilson, Political Change in a West African State, lists a number of
interesting examples of rural outbreaks across Africa taking place at
various periods (pp. 60-61, 110 -11); in general this remains a relatively
uncharted area of research.
30 Young, op. cit., p. 230.
31 Fanon, op. cit., p. 124.
32 Fox et al., op. cit., p. 108.
33 X X X , T h e Class Struggle in Africa, I Revolution No. 9, p. 30.
See also Claude Meillassoux, Essai dinterpretation du phenomene econo-
mique dans les societes traditionalles dautosubsistance, Cahiers d'Etudes
Africaines (December i960). For an excellent bibliographic introduction
to the problems of class in Africa, B. Verhaegen, Bibliographic sur les
Classes Sociales en Afrique (Brussels 1965).
34 P. J. Harding, review of Worsleys The Third World, in Views
(Summer 1965)
35 Young, op. cit., p. 230.
36 Julius K.Nyerere, Ujamaa: the Social Basis of African Socialism,
in W .H .Friedland and C .G .R osberg, African Socialism (Stanford, 1964),
p. 246.
37 Worsley, op. cit., pp. 162-3.
38 Ibid., p. 165.
39 Ibid., p. 165.
40 John S. Saul, Agricultural Politics in Tanzania, in Brett and Bel-
shaw, Politics and Agricultural Development (tentative title; forthcoming).
41 See Julius K.Nyerere, Freedom and Unity (Dar es Salaam 1966).

42 The Arusha Declaration and T A N U ' s Policy on Socialism and S e l f -
Reliance (Government Printer, Dar es Salaam, 1967).
43 For a useful perspective on this phenomenon, see Roger Murray,
Militarism in Africa, 39, N ew L e ft Review (July-August 1966).
44 A.A.Afrifa, The Ghana Coup (London, 1966), p. 95.
45 W. F. Wertheim, Betting on the Strong* in his collection of essays
East-W est Parallels (The Hague, 1964), pp. 276-7.

Donald M acRae

When one is involved with ideology one is at once beset with perils,
particularly the danger of being misunderstood. For over a century
ideologies have been regarded as epiphenomena by sociologists
and political scientists. As such Marxists have unmasked them,
Paretans treated them as the verbal derivations of non-logical
sentiments, Durkheimians used them as clues to the social struc
ture and specific social solidarity of given societies, Freudians
psycho-analysed them, and so on. Anyone, like myself, who
takes ideologies seriously and in their own right is thought of as
an unworldly idealist, or someone so crazy as to believe in the
Allm acht der Gedanken - though in society and politics there are
many crazier things in which serious men can and do believe.
Nevertheless I do not accept the omnipotence of thought; nor do
I accept its insignificance.
Here I must confess to puzzlement. As a sociologist I have fairly
clear, articulated and operational ideas about social structure. I
have a much less clear understanding of culture, though I hold
that one can establish certain propositions about it and its relations
to social structure - for example, that culture is usually strong and
continuous, massively dense, at points of disjunction or weakness
in social structure. But I have no ontology of ideology. Indeed the
phenomena that we call ideological seems to me diverse not only
in their origins - which one would expect - but in their functions
and their species. Only when we command a much better theory of
culture and a more rigorous sociology of politics and religion can
we hope fully to understand and assess ideologies. But to argue that
until this consummation has been achieved nothing should be said
is clearly false. If w e are to make sense of populism we must treat
it as, though not only as, an ideology. It is to do violence to all
experience and the data o f research to deny ideology a role of its
own in the political and social action of men.
People who criticize those who take ideology seriously often
object that any given ideology is not unitary, not logically consis
tent, not clearly defined, and is plastic in its interpretation or am
biguous in the guidance it gives to action. O f course; what else?
Nor is it fatal to the existence and importance of, say, populism
as an ideology that it is com posed of more primitive ideological
themes, any more than it is an objection that it can constitute a
complex element in the structural analysis of som e yet more com
plex system. It seems to m e that, for example, while Maoism is not
populism, yet populism is an important elem ent in Maoism - a far
more important element, too, than it ever was in Stalinism.

When we talk of populism w e think in the first place of imperial

Russia and the late-nineteenth-century U nited States. W e may in
W est European history discern a kind o f proto-populism in the
English Peasants Revolt and the Jacqueries1 of the fourteenth
century, or in the Bundschuh and the peasant wars of the Refor
mation. Nevertheless, and although before w e have done we shall
go back beyond the European m iddle ages, populism is typically
exemplified in modern Russia and America. That is to say it is
not primarily a phenomenon of the main stem o f European history.
It is, however, compounded from elem ents o f thought and modes
of apprehending the world which are quite essentially part of the
development of classical and W estern Europe, and which have
been transformed in their new homes. H ow far what we call
populism is ideologically similar or even identical in the America
of Cleveland and M cKinley and the Russia of Alexander II and III
we will consider later, just as w e shall look at som e of its most
recent manifestations and expectations.
Let us begin, where one might expect, with Rousseau. Whatever
Rousseau may have intended, and he intended very different
things at different times and places, the world for long understood
him as a primitivist - one who found virtue in the m ost distant,
the most socially elementary past. Primitivism is a recurrent
theme in many cultures. There is ancient Greek primitivism,
Chinese primitivism in Taoism, etc. Now scholars have argued
that to read Rousseau as a primitivist is to be mistaken2 and that
the original argument of the Discours sur Vorigine de Vinegalite . . .
(1:755) is a double one which we shall meet in a more elaborate
form in Mikhailovsky. On the one hand, the theme is developed,
men are capable of an indefinite progress of knowledge, under
standing and institutional power, but on the other this is accom
panied by an increasing estrangement of man from his fellow men
and from his true nature. We are not to return to the age When
wild in moods the noble savage ran. (Certainly Dry den would not
have expected us to do so, however touching civilization found the
pathos of the noble savage!) What we have to do with is a kind of
modified primitivism, a healing of the breach between men and
their nature by simplicity, spontaneity, and elementary, ascetic, and
largely agrarian virtue.
In all this we draw near to very ancient and profound intima
tions of human thought. There is the idea that once there was a
good, a sacred time - and I use the word sacred deliberately.3 It
was a time of simple, spontaneous order. It was close to, intimate
with, the sacred, life-renewing soil. It was the first world, redolent
of Eden and of the garden of the world, the virgin American West.4
Aureus hanc vitam in terris Saturnus agebat - it is impossible to
talk of this vision of the farmers lost paradise without Virgilian
echoes. But it is necessary to remember what is implied in the
word sacred. Populism is endowed by the idea of the sacred farm
with a religious intensity and fervour, but the sacred is also the
other. The idealized farm involves a possible hierophany; on it
one is in touch with the underworld of dead ancestors, the actual
maternal earth, and all is under the divine sky. There one lives in
a holy, ritual, cyclical time, immune in its revolutions from the
corruptions of real historical time, change and decay. But such
feelings and aspirations are bought at the price of unreality. The
embattled farmer gains strength, perhaps, from intimations of this
kind, however little he articulates them. But the facts of his life
are the facts of labor improbus lived in general under the threat of
the vagaries of the seasons and disease, and more specifically by
the movements of his markets, of armies, of the growth of cities.
Populism, then, is primitivist, but it is a special primitivism.
T he good tim e which is to be restored is that of the peasant com
munity or the village o f sturdy yeom en. It is not tribal society that
is longed for, but an agrarian gem einschaft. T his component of
populism may be eroded or transformed in the third world and
replaced by ideas of the good tim e before colonialism - for example
the ideals of a perfect tribalism or village democracy in West Africa
and India. T hese are natural developm ents: the rural myths may
have begun in forms specific to Europe and it is their virtue rather
than their exact content that is transferred to the alien histories and
politics of new societies in Asia, Africa and, no doubt, Latin
W ith all this goes a related ideological item . Professor I. Berlin
defined populism sim ply as the belief in the value of belonging to a
group or culture.5 For the discussion of Herder on which he was
engaged, Berlins definition is sufficient. T h e key word is belong
ing. Populism is against rootlessness. In Russia it values frater
nity based on locality; in America it values both fraternity based
on locality and m a n ly independence. T h e ideal peasant is, of
course, not the ideal yeoman, and in this lies a real ideological
divergence in the developm ent o f the tw o m ost typical and impor
tant populisms. But before w e consider the im plications of this we
might well turn back to Herder.
In my terms, although he contributes at least one essential item
to populism, Herder was not a populist if only because he was not
a primitivist. T his may sound surprising, but Herder believed in
the unique virtues of each and every specific society, not only arch
aic ones. Innovation as such is good in Herders analysis, what is
bad - cf. Rousseau - is only the social exploitation of the manual
or intellectual labour of others. But he does stress belonging,
participation in some folk-spirit or culture; if there is no F a v o rit-
volk yet everyone needs to be implicated in a society, bound to all
its members, directly speaking to them , in order to be fully human.
And whatever is true of Herder, all populism does value this
fraternity far above liberty. From this fraternity and this primiti
vism it is an easy step to intolerance, suspicion, fear of betrayal,
and xenophobia.
More important still is Herders belief that society is older,
better and ultimately stronger than the state. Populism produces
social and political movements rather than continuing highly-struc
tured parties - a theme separate from m y subject, for it involves
historical and structural analysis beyond the reach of ideology-and
one reason for this is that populism is so social, so convinced that
the political does not really, fundamentally matter as compared
with the community. Being a-political in ideology, it sees politics
as bound up in a single apocalyptic and restorative need; not as
an ongoing fallible and necessary activity. Populist ideology is
after all, yet another attempt to escape from the burden of history.
Hence comes the conspiratorial element so strong in the Ameri
can tradition and much post-colonial populist ideology. If I may
paraphrase Professor Hofstadter, one is bound to be disillusioned
if, like the Americans, one founds a nation on a claim to perfection
and yet aspires to progress. The fact that more people in propor
tion have lived better in the U .S. A. since 1783 than elsewhere is
not enough. Nothing can fully come up to such claims and such
hopes. There never was a republic of yeoman farmers, living hap
pily. Indeed as Hofstadter puts it, The characteristic product of
American rural society was not a yeoman or a villager, but a har
assed little businessman who worked very hard, moved all too
often, gambled with his land, and made his way alone.9 This
disjunction between image and reality proved hard to bear.
And not dissimilarly the Russian peasant after emancipation in
1861 found harsh - or had it found for him - the disjunction be
tween his circumstances and either the idealized mir or the pro
mised progressive Russian future. (I think it an error either to
underestimate the communication, however odd, of some items of
general European ideology to the emptiness of Russian peasant
communities under the old regime, or to forget the richness of the
cultural sub-soil in which these ideological elements took root.)
Taxation demanded a command of cash, the zemstvo required a
command of politics and administration, and for both he was
unprepared. Russia had a special, a sacred destiny. What more
natural than that the dissatisfactions of both lands should be ex
plained in terms of usurpation and conspiracy - forces which are
essentially a-historical?
And all the time towns were growing, machine industry and
bankers money becoming more dominant. Whether or not there
was an absolute loss of power there was a loss of actual or anticipated
status. The mobile townsman, the unpredictable, untraditional,
impermanent stranger - the Jew, the European, the banker, the
heretic: these provided the usurpers, the conspirators, the enemies
of the true republic. T hey controlled the markets. They were the
restrictive masters of gold and credit. (H ence the association of
populism with currency reform, inflation, and all kinds of monetary
gadgeteering.) If they were swept away all would be restored.
But they could not be swept away. T hus arose the apocalyptic
fantasy world, full of sadistic elements, holocausts, and retributive
punishments on a cosmic scale of the kind to be found in the
novels of Ignatius Donnelly. A conspiracy against the aboriginal
and integral virtue of the farmer which can be remedied by a
miraculous reform of currency or credits and/or which will be
overcome by condign wrath and cosm ic punishm ent; these too are
items in the ideology of populism. T hey are easily associable with
racialism and an equal hatred of the foreign poor and the foreign
rich. T he foreigner, too, may be the Easterner (in America) or the
Westerner (in R ussia): i.e. he can be an internal foreigner. Or he
may be a genuine foreigner, beyond the political boundaries of the
state. Isolationism suits the conspiracy theory as well as the a-
political ideology of populism. Untutored agrarian virtue
can only fail through subversion or the sinister magic of the
incomprehensible alien.
From this we can derive two further item s in the constellation
of themes making up the populist ideology. T h e first of these is
that the populist is justified in what I have called an asymmetry of
civic principles. By this I mean that, faced with conspiracy and
usurpation the populist can demand the highest principles in the
behaviour, moral and political, of others w hile being absolved him
self (until the conspiracy is destroyed) from such standards. T his is,
firstly, because the threat is so great and so ev il; secondly, because
what is attacked is sacred and em bodied in the perfect, aboriginal
virtue of the farmer. M eans, then, as in m any ideologies, need to
be adjusted neither morally nor proportionally to ends.
T his is common enough. W hat is not so com m on is the anti-
Darwinism o f both Russian and American populism . Both predi
cate that the best are not the fittest to survive unless enabled to do
so. by som e apocalyptic act of restoration. T h e victors in society
will otherwise be those who are inferior to the truly virtuous and
admirable. T he town will tread down the wheat. Populist econo
mics, with which I am not here concerned, are essentially physio-
cratic. T o defend them the struggle for existence m ust be abated
and transformed. Social Darwinism , Spencerianism - so influential
in Russia - justifying the existing order, the triumph of the trium
phant, the worth of the ruthless fittest. The timeless farmers and
peasants republic is and must be anti-Darwinian. If progress is
interpreted in Darwinian terms, then populism has to be in favour
of change as restoration of a ruined order of society, but otherwise
anti-progressive. It is radical and, in its fashion, also reactionary.

The thing that seems to me most typical of populism in a way is its
theory of personality. This is a social theory, powerful, consistent,
and with deep historical roots. It is a genuine theory, not just an
ideological item. Of course most populists could not articulate it,
yet without it populism is not comprehensible, and to impute it to
those who could not express it seems to me quite consistent with
the evidence and representative enough of a situation that we
encounter, mutatis mutandis, in all ideologically based movements.
Indeed, one can most easily be possessed by an ideology if one is
unaware of it.
This theory of personality incorporates elements we have as
cribed to Rousseau and Herder. The social analysis which under
lies it derives certainly from Adam Smiths Wealth o f Nations and
possibly also from Fergusons C iv il Society of 1767. It can be
summed up in a phrase of the latter - the division of labour in
society fragments the human character. Now neither Smith nor
Ferguson was a populist, but if we turn to N. K. Mikhailovsky
(1842-1904) we can see a path that could lead to a representatively
populist conclusion. Mikhailovsky, as it happens, is a serious figure
in the history of sociology. The ten volumes of his writings contain
a great deal of real interest, much that is outdated, and some non
sense. His study of the role of the intelligentsia, for example, excel
lently anticipates Mannheims sociology of knowledge. His discus
sion of love is mawkish and intolerable. His capacity for verbal
system-making is unsurpassed even in more recent sociology.7
The theory that concerns us runs as follows: in simple societies
there is a paucity and a uniformity of institutions. Individuals in
such societies are competent to fill many roles: they are many-
faceted, and therefore various, realized and integral personalities.
In complex societies individuals are fitted to an advanced and
complex division of labour. Their personalities are dominated by
their dominant occupational role. Each individual is dependent on
a web-work of specializations equivalent to his own. People are
therefore unrealized, fragmentary and one-sided personalities. This
is bad. T o remedy this situation true progress - not Spencerian
social evolution - is m ovem ent to a society of social uniformity
with a rigorously lim ited division of labour. T his will result in the
development of m ulti-faceted personalities, at once integral and
various, and m en will no longer be unavoidably estranged from
each other. (T he m odified prim itivism of this is clear.)
T o a sociologist this sounds like a rather odd, even perverse,
gloss on Durkheim s D ivisio n o f L a b o u r in Society. In fact both
Mikhailovsky and Durkheim were thinking about classical prob
lems of social thought in the form in which these problems had
been given them by Herbert Spencer. But despite the difference in
inodes of expression this is what all populists believe. Populism is
not about economics, politics or even, in the last resort, society. It
is about personality, and about personality in a moral sense. Popu
lism claims that the individual should be a com plete man. Com
plete men, living ideally in independent agrarian virtue, would
agree one with one another. Their insights would be sound, healthy,
bound to appropriate pieties. Their judgem ents would be free but
would coincide. Their society would be essentially consensual and
uniform. T he paradigmatic man of populism is free of any burden
of alienation: like his relative, man under com m unism , he has
evaded all the consequences of Adam s fall. U nlike his communist
cousin, however, he is fixed, static, engaged on no Faustian quest
to conquer all nature. Because he is perfect he is free - and
populism uses the word freedom as one of its referents - but
because he is perfect this freedom is realized in uniform ity and
identity of character with his fellows. H is freedom, then, is not to
be different or to change. Each individual will is the righteous will,
and the sum of these righteous wills is the general will of the com
munity. Moral consensus rules, or, in different language, society
is and should be a self-righteous moral tyranny.
T o attain the goal of the yeoman republic American populism
called on the aid of governmental intervention, and not just on such
issues as free silver. Usually this intervention was envisaged as
temporary and directed to what I have called the restoration - but
then nothing is more permanent in politics than the temporary.
Both in America and Russia it was understood that the restoration
could not take place without allies, and there was more than
lip-service in the reach of American populism towards the Ameri
can working men (though not towards the new, alien, cheaply
labouring immigrant). And Russian intellectuals believed in the
desirability of a similar kind of alliance. But the urban industrial
worker is seen as subordinate to the virtues of the soil, of the yeo
man and the peasant. These are the veridical personalities, and
spontaneous, simple, and good. From them all others should
learn; on them all others should be modelled. As Mao puts it, The
masses are the real heroes, while we ourselves are often childish
and ignorant, and without this understanding it is impossible to
acquire even the most rudimentary knowledge.8

Populism, although it combines items in its ideology from many
European intellectuals, has itself not been intellectual. It is salu
tary sometimes to see things from an unfamiliar perspective. In
populism we have, in Hugos phrase, L'arbre vu du cote des rarities.
The ideology coalesces in periods of absolute deprivation - after
the general economic crisis of 1873, for example - or of the relative
deprivation of rural populations. What could the farmer do in a
new world of railways, large banking, urbanization and industriali
zation? What could the peasant do with his emancipation in the
face of taxation, the cash-nexus, and the gigantic technological
and economic transformations of late imperial Russia?
Agrarianism is always prone to a conservative utopianism, and
this is as true of the Gracchi as of John Ball, as of populism. I do
not suppose that there has ever been a genuine English populism,
but from William Cobbett to G. K. Chesterton there have been
odd, sporadic English and Irish populists. Cobbett is a very com
plete case, and his early experience of the young American republic
should not be forgotten. His utopia was in the past, it was a yeo
man ideal, it harked back to Catholic, medieval England - and for
Cobbett to have idealized Catholicism is in itself surprising. He
was a currency crank. He was a xenophobe of sorts - bankers were
bad to Cobbett; foreign bankers worse. But his influence was not
as a populist, but as agitator, democrat, and journalist. Daniel
OConnell after the success of Catholic emancipation turned to
land schemes for Ireland of a populistic kind. Feargus OConnor,9
who quarelled with O Connell as he did with everyone, tried (and
in part succeeded) in producing populistic land schemes for the
Chartists before 1848, and so on. Indeed that Ireland did not pro
duce a full-fledged populism - as distinct from populistic themes
that continue through D e Valera to the present - is a paradox of
European history. But industrial England after the mid-nineteenth
century could hardly be expected to demonstrate a real populism -
the sort of thing that gave the Peoples Party of the United States
over one million votes in 1892 and led directly to the cross of gold.
T he populisms o f W illiam M orris or Chesterton are intellectual,
aesthetic, the ideological dram-drinking of the m iddle class.
There is no paradox in a utopia being conservative: utopia must
be elsewhere, and that elsewhere can be a restored, ideal past as
well as a new future. Indeed it can easily be both. In populism
were combined a rebellion against the alienated human condition,
the idea that integral personality was m aim ed by the social division
of labour, a belief in the sacredness o f the soil and those who tilled it,
a belief in quality of status o f all cultivators, a faith in belonging to
a local, fixed, virtuous and consensual com m unity, and a belief
that this virtue could only perish by usurpation, conspiracy and
the working of active, alien, urban vice. Its essence is romantic
primitivism. It is therefore profoundly a-political, and no basis
for a sustained political party as distinct from a congerie of social
movements. Its programme is a programme o f restoration (often
the rough revenge on the alien and/or sophisticated) of the verities
of the soil. It goes beyond democracy to consensus, and it sacrifices
the freedom it proclaims in the interest of a moral uniformity. It
calls on the state10 to inaugurate the restoration, but it distrusts the
state and its bureaucracy and would m inim ize them before the
rights and virtues of local com m unities and the populist individual.
Primitivism must be in some measure anti-intellectual.
It would be idle for m e to pretend that I do not find agrarian
utopias repulsive. Let me therefore turn to a recent distinguished
student and defender of American populism. Professor Norman
Pollack argues the case that populism was an interaction of the
Agrarian with the social criticism of industrial labour and urban
intellectuals, accepting industrialism. T he threat was not only sub
sistence living, but the destruction of human faculties . . . the
machine was being made to exploit rather than serve man
Clearly, Populism was a progressive social force.11 Professor
Pollack in his book makes a good case. Puzzlement, dismay, need,
generous sentiments are illuminated in his pages. To me the ideo
logy of populism remains a poor, if significant, thing. What is more
populism is alive in the modern world, very often in company
with nationalism, sometimes in amalgam with both nationalism
and marxism. In fact a final judgement on populism is as yet
We can, however, usefully approach populism through the gate
of ideology. It at first seemed to me a lackwit idea to think of
defining populism and populist movements primarily in terms of an
ideological identification. But surely we will automatically and
correctly use the term populist when, under the threat of some
kind of modernization, industrialism, call it what you will, a pre
dominantly agricultural segment of society asserts as its charter of
political action a belief in a community and (usually) a Volk as
uniquely virtuous, is egalitarian and against all and any elite, looks
to a mythical past to regenerate the present and confound usurpa
tion and alien conspiracy, refuses to accept any doctrine of social,
political or historical inevitability and, in consequence, turns to a
belief in an instant, imminent apocalypse mediated by the charisma
of heroic leaders and legislators - a kind of new Lycurgus. If with
all this we find a movement or a short-term association for political
ends to be achived by state intervention but no real, continuing
serious political party, then populism is present in its most typical
The populism of the late twentieth century has not, I think,
to any very important degree been communicated from either
Russia or America. Rather have items of the European thought
world been independently spread and re-combined to form various
indigenous populisms. In these certain of the ambiguities of the
older populisms have been compounded with both primitivist and
progressivist elements. Race (cf. Negritude) and religion (especially
Islam, but also Buddhism, millenarian Christianity and Hinduism)
have been added to the mix of archaic virtue and exemplary per
sonality. Agrarian primitivism is a diminished force - though in
India it appears to flourish.12 Conspiracy and usurpation are con
flated in the various theories about neo-colonialism and the actions
of the CIA. The asymmetry of civic principles has become the
norm of populist direct action. Spontaneity and integrity are
praised, but now they are particularly identified with the young,
so that the ideal youth (a familiar figure in m yth) has largely
replaced the yeoman and the untutored peasant as a cult personal
ity. Modern marxism in its lurch towards the young Marx has
become populistic. There is populism in the consensual concerns
and the diffuse a-politicism o f the N ew L eft.
Ideological item s separate and re-com bine. Those involved in
populism are old and powerful. Certainly, as President McKinley
or Tsar Alexander II will not return, neither will the aboriginal
populist ideology. But populism continues, and so do its consti
tuents. They represent ancient failures, hopes and fears. They are
not without a genuine poetry. T hey are largely devoid of a prin
ciple of reality, but then their purpose was to console m en in their
real discontents and act as a charter for undefined but grandiose
projects. In ideology reality can be singularly irrelevant.13

1 But the Jacquerie - that o f 1358 - is certainly less populist, for all its
ferocious anti-elitism, than the English revolt. A ll populists, one might
note here, hate and distrust lawyers whether the guardians and inter
preters of feudal charters or o f loans, mortgages and the documents of
2 On this point see A .O .L o v e jo y ,Essays in the History of Ideas,
reprinted N ew York 1962: Essay II.
3 T h e concept of the sacred I employ derives in part from R. O tto, but
mainly from M .Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane, N ew York 1959, and
his The M yth of the Eternal Return, London 1954.
4 See Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land, reprinted N ew York 1957, and
consider also J.D .H icks, The Populist Revolt , N ew York 1931,
5 I.Berlin, J.G .H erder, Encounter, Vol. X X V , July and A ugust 1965.
I f I understand Professor Berlin correctly, he said in conversation that
while m y account of Herder in these pages is accurate as to the letter, yet
in spirit Herder must be accounted a populist.
6 Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform, N ew York, reprinted i960,
p. 46.
7 There are accounts o f Mikhailovsky in English in J.F .H ecker,
Russian Sociology, London 1934, Pt 2, Ch. V I I I ; J.H .B illington, M ik-
halovsky and Russian Populism, London 1958; S .V .U te ch in , Russian
Political Thought, London 1964, Pt V II.
8Quotations from Chairman M ao Tse-Tung, London 1967, p. 65.
The Chartist Challenge,
9 See A .R .Sch oyen, London 1958.
10 N o t merely in financial matters or in connection with land: the

American populist platform involved inter alia, nationalization of rail,
telephone and telegraph services.
n N.Pollack, The Populist Response to Industrial America: Midwestern
Populist Thought, Cambridge, Mass., 1962, p. 12.
12 Race is not so new, of course: there was a strong Anglo-Saxon*
racist strain in American, and Slavonic racism in Russian populism. In
religion it is perhaps worth remarking that cargo cults in the South
Pacific are a kind of proto-populism - the cargo being an ideological
equivalent of currency or credit gadgeteering.
13 The writer must apologize that the exigencies of his personal life have
prevented him from any consideration here of agrarian populism in the
Balkans and East Europe, from an analysis of agrarian primitivism in
Ireland and India, and from an account of the quite erroneous but very
important imputation of a national populism to the French peasantry by
republicans - including Gambetta - in the latter stages of the Franco-
Prussian war. This last is instructive in that it raises questions of the com
munication of ideology and its penetration below the levels of an lite.

P e te r W iles

Rumania? My countrys contribution to philosophy is the immemorial

wisdom of the Rumanian peasant.
Rumanian philosopher at international congress

T o each his own definition o f populism , according to the academic
axe he grinds. T hus the specialist in Russia wants an intellectual,
left wing definition, while the specialist in N orth America wants
to keep it unintellectual and com paratively right-w ing, etc. My
own axes, so far as I can identify them , are that of an interested
party without special knowledge of any of the particular populism s
discussed in this book, and that o f the only contributor who is an
economist. I am also by specialization a Sovietologist. Certainly it
is the lack of special knowledge that em boldens m e to generalize.
T o me, populism is any creed or m ovem ent based on the follow
ing major prem iss: virtue resides in the sim ple p eo p le , w ho are the
overwhelming m ajority , a n d in their collective traditions. I hold that
this premiss causes a political syndrom e o f surprising constancy,
albeit with now more, now fewer, socialist overtones. T h is syn
drome is listed in section 2. Naturally no actual case is pure, i.e.
contains every item in the list. In section 3 I discuss the principal
exceptions and problems, especially Russia.

The following things, then, tend to follow from the major premiss.
1 Populism is moralistic rather than programmatic. Ends are
not held to justify means, the actual measures asked for may be
varied very much. Logic and effectiveness are less valued than
correct attitude and spiritual make-up.
2 This means that unusually much is demanded of leaders in
respect of their dress, manner and way of life. Many wear peasant
dress (Witosz, Tolstoy). Belaunde wears Inca dress. W.J. Bryan
was to a degree exceptional even in the USA, a regular guy.
3 Populism tends to throw up great leaders in mystical contact
with the masses:1 Belaunde, Cardenas, Bryan, Maniu, Nyerere.
Without such leadership it is peculiarly hamstrung, in comparison
with other movements.
4 Populism is in each case loosely organized and ill-disciplined:
a movement rather than a party.
5 Its ideology is loose, and attempts to define it exactly arouse
derision and hostility.2
6 Populism is anti-intellectual. Even its intellectuals try to be
anti-intellectual. It should not surprise us that, thus declasses, they
crop up as leaders; for in the same way many communist leaders
are bourgeois. When quite isolated from the masses, populist intel
lectuals form a self-denying ideology of vicarious populism (3/B),
which differs in many ways from a movement with a large following.
7 Populism is strongly opposed to the Establishment, and to
any counter-elite as well. It arises precisely when a large group,
becoming self-conscious, feels alienated from the centres of power.
This alienation may be racial (2/22) or geographical (Canada,
U SA ); it is always social. Populism is thus prone to conspiracy
theories (nous sommes trahis\ we were outsmarted), and is capable
of violence.
8 But this violence is inefficient and short-winded. It would be
difficult to imagine its continuance after the main populist demands
were satisfied. It is not glorified or erected into a principle
(Cf. 3/D).
9 In particular populism avoids class war in the Marxist sense.
Though certainly class-conscious, it is basically conciliatory and
hopes to convert the Establishment. It is very seldom revolutionary.
Perhaps the medieval peasant revolts were the last instance of that:
these w ere undoubtedly proto-populist movements. The last of
such revolts in Russia cam e in 1905. It is from then on that proper
populism becom es a m ass-m ovem ent in Russia.
10 Populism is, like all other m ovem ents, corrupted and bour-
geoisified by success. N o t only power, also responsibility corrupts.
M ovem ent is easier than governm ent. But since it is so unsophi
sticated and lacking in ideological stability, this degeneration comes
w ith unusual and tragic speed. T h is is especially true of pre-war
Balkan populism ; perhaps less so o f the contemporary Canadian
and Peruvian versions.
11 Econom ically, the Id e a lty p u s is a small co-operative. What
does this word precisely mean? T h e essence o f co-operation is that
the owners are private people, not the state; each owns a share to
which there is an upper lim it; and each contributes something
besides capital. T h is contribution m ight be purchasing the product
(consumers* co-ops), supplying the raw material (farmers* co-ops)
or labour (producers* co-ops). T h e co-op necessarily functions in a
market; it is incom patible w ith a com m unal econom y, since it is
by definition owner-m anaged.
Co-operation is neither capitalist or socialist, although we might
call a very small, voluntary, one-fam ily co-op the one and a very
large, legally obligatory co-op the other. T h u s a Chinese people s
com m une is clearly socialism , w hile in the U S S R and eastern
Europe the various perm itted form s o f sm all co-op (notably in agri
culture and dom estic housing) are constantly being perverted for
private profit. But w e m ust expect boundary lines to be unclear.
Co-operation is a third social form , valid alongside the other two that
have hogged so m uch o f the lim elight. Its essential relation to
populism is obvious in Eire and Scandinavia; it gives the m ove
m ent its very title in Saskatchewan (C o-operative Comm onwealth
Federation), and its cult-object in Russia (the m ir). Even in the
U S A and Alberta co-operation was still very strong.3
12 T he co-op is likely to be a marginal enterprise, consisting
of people with little capital. It is also likely to be in debt. If co
operation is still merely an ideal, and the individual still operates
alone as an independent peasant or craftsman, these likelihoods
become virtual certainties. So deflation threatens the profits of
the enterprise, and simultaneously increases the real cost of its
debt service. Populism has therefore almost always dem anded an
expansionary monetary policy. Another factor inclining it this
way is the populist attitude to government: vigorous government,
helping the people, is an excellent thing, but it must not be too
detailed or powerful vis-a-vis the individual. Monetary policy fits
this bill perfectly. For right-wing populists (Alberta, USA) infla
tion is all in all; for the left wing (Russia) of course it is only one
item among many. Thus the Narodniki did oppose Count Wittes
clamber on to the gold standard (1896), but this was not the centre
of their interest.
13 Financiers, then, especially foreign financiers (2/22), in
variably figure in the populist demonology. Not only are they rich,
members of the Establishment and somewhat aristocratic of man
ner; they stand for deflation. Their reasoning is drawn from a
world completely foreign to the populist mental make-up; it seems
like so much mumbo-jumbo.4
14 Large capitalists, engaged in productive enterprise, come
off better. But large enterprises are complicated and depersonal
ized; they presuppose a proletariat (see 3/C below). Small capi
talists, then, are still better, being only unacceptable to left-wing
populism, e.g. the Narodniki, the CCF before 1936.
15 Populism can be urban. Bound as it is to tradition and small
enterprise, it will be unlikely to support urbanization. But just for
this reason it may well make very many recruits in cities, especially
from recent migrants. Also, with its respect for the common man,
it will not reject or lightly think ill of the urban masses. Artisans
as well as peasants make excellent populist material. There are
plenty of very small masters, and of opportunities for co-operation
even in modern cities. Traditional thinking is also extremely com
mon. Urban populism is characteristic of Britain. Richard Hoggart
(The Uses o f Literacy) presents us with the whole syndrome;
Moral Force Chartism and the general society of nineteenth-
century Birmingham were also fairly pure examples. Physical
Force Chartism was populism urbanized-, it was a creed for recent
migrants. But in the former cases populism originated from within
cities, and had its roots elsewhere than in rural nostalgia. The
Labour Party (note that it is not called socialist) counted among its
origins trends that can only be called urban populism. These
trends are now winning out over the state socialism contributed by
the Webbs, who were profoundly anti-populist. Leasehold en
franchisement, an anti-creditor, pro-small-man measure, is a per
fect example of urban populism. The Lloyd Georges, father and
daughter, fit so ill into the British party system because they are
singularly pure populists, like so m any in the rural Celtic fringes.
16 Where it affects them selves, populists want the state to be
helpful rather than strong; notably in agriculture (2/12). But they
are pragmatic about the use o f the state elsewhere, and would not
object to its being very strong. T hus the nationalization of banks
is an almost universal demand, and North American populists have
supported all sorts of state-owned developmental measures that an
unprejudiced European would call socialist, and indeed all sorts
of nationalizations other than that of the land.
17 Populism opposes social and econom ic inequality produced
by the institutions it does not like. But it accepts the traditional
inequalities due to the way of life of its own constituency. Complete
equality among peasants is not one of its aims. However, populist
intellectuals are often motivated by sym pathy for the very poor;
e.g. the Narodniki, the Hungarian village searchers (3/B).
18 Being opposed to the Establishm ent and to taxation by a
government it does not trust, populism in opposition opposes the
military Establishment in particular. Foreign policy is always iso
lationist. But this is not the same as pacifism : being simple-minded
and traditional populists can be very chauvinistic if pushed. But
as strategists and as diplomats they are short-sighted and short-
19 Being traditional, populism is religious, but it opposes the
religious Establishment. It tends strongly to sectarianism (Alberta,
Russia).6 Populist intellectuals, however, may be atheistic. After
all, most intellectuals are.
20 Populism abhors science and technocracy. T hus W. J. Bryan
prosecuted in the Scopes Trial, Tolstoy hated science, etc.
21 Populism is therefore fundamentally nostalgic. Disliking
the present and the immediate future, it seeks to m ould the further
future in accordance with its vision of the past. But this by no
means prevents given populist measures from being humane and
effective: U S bimetallism would have been, Scandinavian and
Irish agricultural co-operation is.
22 Populism shows a strong tendency to mild racialism: the
good common people are of different ancestry from the bad Estab
lishment. Sometimes this belief is mythical or nearly so. Thus the
Levellers and Diggers propounded the theory of the Norman
yoke: the seventeenth-century Englishman, whose traditions were
democratic, was being exploited by a Norman aristocracy with
a feudal ideology. Sometimes the racial distinction emphasized
is perfectly correct at least as a fact, though this must not
condone its use in politics. Sinn Fein attacked the English garri
son; Cardenas, Haya de la Torre, Belaunde were all spokesmen
of the Aztecs or Incas vis-a-vis the Creoles; the Iron Guard was
anti-semitic; many Narodniki were anti-Jew and anti-German
(cf. 2/13). In each case wealth was indeed in the hands of the group
attacked. With less justification of even a purely factual kind, North
American populism has been anti-semitic (Father Coughlin,
William Aberhart, Ezra Pound); this was the fashionable fascism
of the 1930s (cf. 3/D).
23 There is a range of populisms, from the pre-industrial,
anti-industrial peasant strain to the affluent industry-tolerating,
farmer strain. The former was stronger in Russia (even after
1905) and in India under Gandhi. To such populists affluence is
unthinkable and the advantages of industrialization are imper
ceptible. Nor are they wrong: in both countries half a century of
industrialization was or is required before a significant number of
peasants benefit. No wonder they are closely connected (3/A).
The latter, farmer strain is best exemplified in North America.
One is tempted to call it less socialistic, and certainly it is so as
regards the land and the nature of the farmers co-operative. But
in relation to the towns, Saskatchewan and North Dakota in the
1930s were very socialist (3/A, B). What it certainly is is less
mystical, and less moralistic.
24 Populism is not to be thought of as bad.7 So widespread a
human phenomenon is bound to contain its quota of evil, and
certainly this particular one has more than its fair share of the
absurd. But particular populist measures are very sound (1/21);
Tolstoy, Belinski and Cobbett were good people: Bryan, Chernov
and Belaunde were democratic politicians in undemocratic periods.
Only, perhaps, social democrats can show so comparatively clean
a moral record.
All descriptively useful definitions are frayed at the edges. Framed
so as to coincide with the natural divisions of the real world, rather
than with logical constructs, they will and should fail to cope with
existing exceptions.
A The overwhelming apparent exception is Russian populism.
The Narodniki were not the first populists in point of time. They
came hardly any earlier than the U S populists, and long after the
Chartists, who themselves came two centuries after the Levellers
and Diggers.8 Nor are their ideas, for all their originality and bril
liance, in the longer run of very great historical importance. The
Narodniki no doubt prepared the peasants morally for collectiviza
tion, but they did not influence the Soviet governments methods
or motivation in this matter, let alone any other aspect of Soviet
life. Their anti-industrial philosophy has been rejected by the
under-developed world. Their one great legacy, Mahatma Gandhi,9
has been rejected even in his own country.The Russians are thus
neither a prototype nor an archetype. If the concept of populism
is to have general meaning and application it is the Russians, and
not everyone else, who must be fitted upon the Procrustes bed of
The nineteenth-century Narodnik intellectuals were particularly
peculiar. With the twentieth-century Socialist-Revolutionary Party
there was a partial reversion to populist norms. T he fundamental
difference is that the Narodniki were the only populists in world
history to operate in a quasi-totalitarian state. T hey could not form
a loose, democratic, public, mass movement. T hey even advocated
revolution - like so many Russian contemporaries. For the same
reason the bolsheviks departed from the socialist norm.
One result was that both parties consisted largely of intellectual
elites, practising a hermetic creed. T his is not absurd for socialism,
but for populism it is almost a contradiction in terms. For
intellectual populism see 3/B.
Although they called themselves Socialist-Revolutionaries, and
were affiliated to the Second International, the Russian populists
were hardly socialist in the twentieth-century definition of that
word. In the nineteenth century Proudhon and Rodbertus called
themselves socialist, and were accepted as such by many, though
today nearly every educated person would accept M arxs defini
tion of them as petty-bourgeois. T he word Socialism did not
necessarily imply state ownership, let alone central administra
tion. The Narodniki had no clear picture at all of the economic
forms to be aimed at. But the single institution on which they
insisted, the traditional mir that they wanted to preserve until
socialism, was blatantly co-operative, and loosely co-operative at
that. The mir was far less tight than the kolkhoz, and gave far more
scope for private initiative. Repartitioning was uncommon. As to
nakidki and skidki, the adjustments of family holdings within the
village to changes in the size of particular families and to townward
migration, they were indeed universal, but in no way socialist.
They were egalitarian, their object was to keep capital per head
constant - which we have seen to be the quintessence of co-opera
tion. It is utterly wrong to call socialist a farm organization that
leaves the cropping plan and the whole cost and revenue of the
crop to individual management, and permits the purest peasant
capitalism (no repartition, no nakidki or skidki) in all questions of
livestock. A socialist might well support the mir (Marx did) ;10 but
such support would not be evidence of his socialism. Anti
capitalism is by no means enough.
It is not even right to call Russian populism a stage of socialism, a
path whereby a large rural society gradually approached socialism.
For while the Narodniki were definitely left-wing, and would have
preferred, after much distaste, pure socialism to pure capitalism,
Narodnichestvo was not the last stage of Russian populism. Of
the Socialist-Revolutionaries one would have said a priori that
such people, with either co-operative ideas or none, would face a
truly socialist revolution by splitting. And so they did11 - with an
anti-socialist majority. Co-operation, to repeat, is a third way.
North America presents the closest relation between socialism
and populism, but it is of quite another kind. This area has never
had a class-conscious proletariat. For the proletariat for the time
being has always largely consisted of the latest distinct wave of
immigrants. Bound by racial or national ties to each other, and
correctly perceiving that by hard work and abstinence many of
them could become capitalists, politicians or professional men,
the immigrants have always refused to see themselves as a class. Nor
of course is any particular wave of immigrants for long a class. It
spreads into all classes, but largely retains its cultural and racial
cohesion. Of course there has always been a large proletariat, but it
has consisted of the least successful of each previous national group
plus most of the latest. Class solidarity does not grow in such a
congeries. But without class consciousness there is no serious
socialism. Fantasies of individual enrichment, after the example of
the culture-heroes of ones own race, continue to bedazzle the
individual proletarian in defiance of all statistical probability.
Only today has the latest proletariat, the poor Negro, rejected
racial solidarity and the hope o f advancement. Hating successful
Negroes and integration, this group has rejected Americanization
and begun to feel both as a race (towards whites) and as a class
(towards the N egro bourgeoisie). It is the first true proletariat on
the North American continent - and it is socialistic.
T his explanation of the absence of a N orth American proletariat
is the m erest cliche. I repeat it here m erely in order to show the
contrast with the farmer. For it should not now surprise us that
the fa rm e r has been the largest mass base f o r N o r th A m erica n social
ism.12 First, the farmer is racially hom ogeneous (or, to include
the Old South, the farmer w ith political power is racially homo
geneous), i.e. he is o f Germ anic origin and Protestant religion. Also
he is not a recent immigrant. H e is an Ur-Amerikaner, in no need
of national solidarity. H is enem y is the banker and urban Congress
man, also Germanic and Protestant. So the farmer is, and has
been ever since Shays Rebellion, a truly class-conscious man. Of
course he is also a racist if need b e : he slaps down the Negro and
smells out the Jew. But m ost often he does not need to be.
Being a capitalist, the farmer is not a revolutionary. But he is
not prejudiced either: he sim ply wants society arranged for his
own benefit. Capitalism or co-operation for m e, he says, accord
ing to m y taste, and socialism if need be for you - under my con
trol. T o the North American farmer, socialism has often been a
viable and respectable alternative to m onetary reform - provided
it did not touch himself. In the 1930s socialist governm ents in this
sense of the word took power in Saskatchewan (cf. 3/B) and North
Dakota. Only historical chance kept them out in Alberta13 and
South Dakota.
B N arodnichestvo was unusual, w e have seen, in being a m ove
ment of populist intellectuals alone. There have been other isolated
intellectuals: Richard Hoggart (2/14); the Hungarian village sear
chers; Jean-Fran5ois M illet, the French painter (T h e A ngelus,
The Gleaners). T hey all differ from each other, as intellectuals
will, but all may be described as vicarious populists.14
Since Narodnichestvo was the only all-intellectual m ovem ent it
would be foolish to generalize from it. But there is obviously very
little room for its ideas in ordinary populism. T he Narodniki were
an elite, they tried to systematize, they rejected religion, they
accepted science (thus violating rules 2/5, 6, 19, 20). In accepting
the major premise they implicitly proclaimed their own worth
lessness; and this became schizophrenically explicit in the utili
tarian philistinism of Belinski and Tolstoy, the suicidal innocence
o f the Going to the People (1874).
There is a curiously exact parallel to the Narodniki in the early
history of the C C F. The founders of the C C F were convinced and
open socialists. Some of their early propaganda had Marxist over
tones, some of them came from quite extremist groups in the U K
and the U S A.15 Unlike the Narodniki they did not have to invent
their movement or call their social base into being: the price of
grain and the populist traditions of Saskatchewan did that for
them. But as people with a capacity to organize (though hardly
intellectuals), the founders of the C C F imposed their socialism on
their farmer followers. They openly demanded the nationalization
of everything, including the land.
It will be no surprise to the reader that with success came
moderation. The word socialist never did get into the partys
title. Social Credit next door in Alberta seemed to show a more
electorally successful and yet more capitalist way, etc. The nation
alization of the land was quickly abandoned, and that of most
other things followed.
But this is not at all to say that there is no place for intellectuals
in an ordinary populist movement, or that its ideas, slightly dif
ferent from those of Narodnichestvo, are not also worked out by
intellectuals. It follows that there is no difficulty for populism as an
ideology in the new African states, which indeed are elitist in their
structure, but whose ideology need not make this clear and may
indeed be designed to obscure it. In its vagueness, it leaves an ad
mirable amount of room for diplomatic manoeuvre, and of course
provides a good logical basis for excluding opposition and pluralism.
The two roles of the intellectual may be illustrated by a compari
son with fascism. Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the lonely crank,
was the founder-forerunner. Joseph Goebbels, the service intellec
tual, was the technician of an established ideology. In just this
way the Narodniki, for all their personal fascination and originality,
had to be only precursors. It is merely their bad historical luck
that they were precursors of something that failed.
This vicarious intellectual populism is much more noble and
left-wing than ordinary populism, which expresses the actual
sentim ents o f the people. T h ere is m ore nationalism, capitalism
and general prejudice in the latter; it is theoretically based on the
goodness o f the people, but actually on the people. The former is
also theoretically based on the goodness o f the people, but actually
on goodness. Com pare Poujade w ith Tolstoy.
C It is also difficult for populism to be proletarian. Traditional
thinking is less com m on am ong proletarians than artisans. Their
work is subject to large-scale discipline, w hich effectively contra
dicts the major prem iss. A lso they are prone to technocracy (2/19),
and m ore indifferent to m onetary policy. N on e the less it is fair to
call the m odern, de-socialized British Labour Party semi-populist;
and it is certainly based on a factory proletariat. The U S
D em ocrats (3/G ) are also largely proletarian, and semi-populist.
D T here is very m uch populism in fascism . T h e most perfect
exam ple is the Rum anian Iron G uard, w hich was in essence a
populist m ovem ent that w ent fascist because o f the large number
o f Jews in Rumania, and because it was the fashionable thing to be
in Europe at the tim e. T h e reference to fashion is no joke. Fascism
in its day was the in thing, the w ave o f the future. It was widely
and clum sily im itated by m ovem ents that lacked its preconditions,
just like parliamentary dem ocracy. T h e m ain things that dif
ferentiate it from true populism are elitism , the cult o f violence,
the rejection o f religion and the dem and for obedience to the
leader. Contem poraneously w ith the Iron G uard, fascist elements
appeared in N orth A m erican populism . W illiam Aberhart was a
thoroughly authoritarian personality, but too deeply steeped in
parliamentarism, non-violence and above all religion to be called
even a proto-fascist. But the sam e cannot be said o f his followers
in the 1935 election: the F iih re r p r in zip , the closed m ind and the
violence were frighteningly present am ong them .16 On the anti-
semitic element in N orth Am erican populism cf. 2/21.
Prisoners of a moderate doctrine, the m any totalitarian populists
have found it im possible to proceed from attitude to action. For
in between m ust com e b elief - in som ething strong and im possible.
Communists and fascists have such beliefs, but even the w ildest
populist only wants a state grain elevator, a low rate o f interest, a
high price of wheat, a land reform or a dead Tsar. T h ese are finite
aims; moreover human freedom would survive their attainm ent.
In particular we must guard against a school of U S historio
graphy that traces McCarthyism back to nineteenth-century North
American populism. That of the 1930s, as we have seen, was highly
prone to conspiracy theories and anti-intellectual hatreds, and
akin to fascism. From Jews and bankers it is but a step to Harvard
men and communists, and the connection with McCarthyism is
plain - though that movement had also deep roots among the
South Boston Irish. But in the less civilized and less educated
North America of the nineteenth-century populists, especially the
Populist Party proprement dit, did not stand out. Rather the con
trary, where everyone was intolerant and social anti-semitism was
the norm the populists cut a rather creditable figure, at least in
E In this context we must consider one very special case of popu
list racism: that of the Southern United States (peak period around
1892). The people, as we have seen, are a good race, and their
exploiters are naturally thought of as a bad one. But what of an
inferior race, even more oppressed than the populists own con
stituency? There is nothing in the logic of populism to compel a
uniform reaction to such a situation, except that since the people
are good their prejudices must surely prevail. At first Southern
populism treated the Negro as a political, if not a social, equal. It
is altogether probable, writes C. Vann Woodward,18that during the
brief Populist upheaval of the nineties Negroes and native whites
achieved a greater comity of mind and harmony of political pur
pose than ever before or since in the South. But it did not last
long. The hero of Woodwards thesis - that Jim Crow did not
immediately follow the Redemption (of 1876) or suggest itself to
the Southern white mind as inevitable - is the Georgia populist
Tom Watson, who protected a Negro supporter from a lynch mob
in 1892. But the same man, when later the Negro vote turned against
him, supported a constitutional amendment excluding the Negro
from the Georgian franchise, and went on to make racist propa
ganda in his own publications. His opposite number in South
Carolina, Ben Tillman, went through no pro-Negro phase. It is
my impression that Woodward overplays his hand at this point:
the Southern aristocracy has a very slightly better record of oppo
sition to Jim Crow, and of experimentation with other approaches
to the free Negro.
F Socialism is much more distant than fascism; as can be seen
from those quintessential socialists Marx, the Webbs and Stalin.
But Lenin admitted a large influx of Narodnik and indeed populist
ideas and manners. He has been followed by other communists,
notably Aldo Gramsci and M ao Tse-tung.
G We should be very hesitant to apply the term populist to the
new regimes in Africa and Asia. Their leaders are extremely
elitist, and use only the rhetoric (cf. 3/B). But there undoubtedly
exist pockets of pure populism in Asia and Africa, much as in
Canada and Britain.
H Affluent populism is at least not a contradiction in term s: the
unalienated folk society m oves on ever upwards, avoiding gross
inequalities of hereditary fortune. Lyndon Johnson, by origin a
Southern populist, is in no sense hypocritical in wishing to be
the President of all the People, and in promising the Great
Society.20 He does, however, rather detract from his populist
image by being a multi-millionaire - although he did make the
money himself.
These people and movements, then, are populist, and have much
in common: the Levellers; the Diggers; the Chartists (Moral and
Physical Force); the Narodniki; the U S populists; the Socialist-
Revolutionaries; Gandhi; Sinn Fein; the Iron Guard; Social
Credit in Alberta; Cardenas; Haya de la Torre; the C C F in
Saskatchewan; Poujade; Belaunde; Nyerere.
The list is already long but still very incomplete. N o historian
can neglect the concept as a tool of understanding.

N o te s

1 This is not the same as the fascist Fiihrerprinzip; see 3/D.

2 A n exception is the obsessive school-teacher William Aberhart of
Alberta, who formed Social Credit study groups everywhere. A funda
mentalist preacher, Aberhart was, at least, very far from being an
3 T h e most left-wing type o f co-operation is communitarian, where the
means .of consumption are also collectivized: thekibbutz , the Russian and

C h i n e s e c o m m u n e . P o p u l i s m h a s o n l y h is t o r ic a l c o n n e c t io n s w i t h t h e s e
( n o t a b l y w i t h t h e f ir s t t w o ) .
4 C o n fu s io n a r is e s , how ever, in p o p u lis t m in d s s in c e th e id e a of
m a n a g e d m o n e y is g o o d b u t it s a c t u a l m a n a g e r s a re b a d . W i t h o u t b a n k s
a n d p a p e r m o n e y , in f l a t i o n is e x t r e m e l y d iffic u lt , b u t b a n k e r s a re a n e c e s
s a r y a c c o m p a n i m e n t o f b a n k s . S o t h e id e a l p o p u l i s t in fla tio n is b r o u g h t
a b o u t t h r o u g h a n a b u n d a n c e o f p r e c io u s m e t a l ( b im e t a llis m , B r y a n ) . T h e
in tr o d u c tio n o f paper m oney w as a c tu a lly r e s is te d by t h a t o th e r w is e
p e r fe c t p o p u lis t, W illia m C o b b e t t ( U K , e a r ly n i n e t e e n t h c e n t u r y ) , w h o
w a n t e d b o t h a l o w e r r e a l c o s t o f d e b t s e r v ic e a n d a g o ld c u r r e n c y . M o n e y
is n o t a n e a s y s u b j e c t , a n d s u c h c o n f u s i o n s a r e n a tu r a l.
5 S o c i a l C r e d i t a s a m a s s m o v e m e n t o r ig in a t e d in A b e r h a r t s C a lg a r y
P r o p h e tic B ib le I n s titu te . The Narodniki had t h e ir g r e a te s t p o p u la r
s u c c e s s a m o n g th e s e cts .
6 T h o u g h t h e m o n e t i z a t i o n o f s i l v e r b y o n e c o u n t r y a lo n e w o u l d h a v e
d r i v e n m o s t o f t h e g o l d o u t o f t h a t c o u n t r y , a s t h e R e p u b l i c a n s tir e le s s ly
r e p e a t e d , i t w o u l d s t ill h a v e r a is e d t h e w o r l d s s t o c k o f b a n k a n d in te r
n a t i o n a l r e s e r v e s . I t w o u l d a ls o h a v e p r o m p t e d o t h e r c o u n t r ie s to fo llo w
s u i t . T h i s w o u l d h a v e a l l e v i a t e d t h e g r e a t d e p r e s s io n . I t is m e r e in t e lle c
tu a l sn obbery th a t h as p r e v e n te d a fa ir a s s e s s m e n t o f b im e t a llis m by
e c o n o m ic h is to r ia n s .
7 I o w e t h i s a n d s e c t i o n 2 3 t o P r o f . F r a n k R a n d a ll o f S a r a h L a w r e n c e
C o l l e g e . C f . a ls o W a l t e r T . K . N u g e n t , The Tolerant Populists, C h ic a g o
19 6 3 .
8 The Chartists consciously imitated these groups, even reprinting their
9 Who learned his populism from Tolstoy.
10 C f . h is le tte r s to V e r a Z a s u lic h , 18 8 1 .
1 1 T o b e p r e c i s e , f ir s t o v e r t h e w a r a n d t h e n o v e r t h e b o ls h e v i k s .
1 2 W it h a c k n o w le d g e m e n ts to S . M . L i p s e t , Agrarian Socialism, B er
k e le y , 19 5 9 .
1 3 F o r t h e o p e n c o n t r o v e r s y o n m o n e t a r y r e f o r m v e r s u s s o c ia lis m in
A lb e r ta , c f. J. A . Ir v in g , The Social Credit Movement in Alberta, T o r o n t o
1959- F o r t h e w h o l e a r e a o f t h e s e f o u r c o n t i g u o u s te r r it o r ie s c f . L i p s e t ,
o p . c it., C h . 1.
1 4 I o w e t h i s p h r a s e a n d m a n y o f t h e id e a s h e r e t o P r o f . G e ll n e r .
1 5 L i p s e t , o p . c it., p p . 2 5 , 10 4 .
1 6 I r v in g , o p . c it.
1 7 N u g e n t , o p . c it.
18 The Strange Career of Jim Crow, New York 1957, p. 46.
1 9 M a o a c q u i r e d h i s p o p u l i s m f r o m L i T a - c h a o , w h o m t h e B o ls h e v ik
R e v o l u t i o n i n s p i r e d t o t h e s t u d y o f Navodnichestvo. C f . M a u r i c e M e is h e r ,
Li Ta-chao and the Origins of Chinese Marxism, H a r v a r d , 1 9 6 7 , c h . 4 .
20 A m u c h m o r e d e m o c r a t i c s l o g a n t h a n t h e e li t i s t N e w F r o n t i e r o f
h is p r e d e c e s s o r , w h o w a s p e r h a p s th e s e c o n d U S p r e s id e n t (th e o th e r
b e i n g W i l s o n ) in 1 5 0 y e a r s w i t h o u t a t r a c e o f p o p u l i s m in h is m a k e - u p .



A n gus Stew art

Three major strategies present themselves in the study of popu

lism. We can view it (i) as a system of ideas; or (2) as a number of
discrete historical phenomena; or (3) as the product of a certain
type or types of social situation. Each of these approaches is
relevant but it is the third which is the m ost illuminating.
The unity of populism does not lie in a unity of content of the
programmes of the variety of populist m ovem ent, historical and
contemporary; quite the reverse. T h e unity lies in a unity of situa
tions. T he analysis of populism requires that those situations in
which it appears be broken down into a number of relevant dimen
sions. The unity that is populism may then be demonstrated to lie
not in the particular details of a series of specific situations but in
the recurrent pattern of an ideal type of social relationship.
This method is particularly necessary in the case of populism
since the situation in which it arises means that populism lacks
originality of ideological content. A certain shapelessness in
ideas and organization is inherent in populism . Recruiting as it
does from people who reject formal intellectual doctrine and for
mal organization, it is not surprising that doctrine and organization
should lack delimitation and discipline. T he consequent amor
phousness makes generalization difficult, but itself provides the
basis for another generalization.
Populism emerges as a response to the problems posed by
modernization and its consequences. T hese problems are m ost
importantly those of economic development and o f political auth
ority. In this context, Edward Shils has pointed out that it is pos
sible to view populism as *a phenomenon of the tension between
metropolis and province . . .1. T his tension is the product fo
differential development, the retarded state of the provinces, both
objectively (in terms of power, cultural influence, etc.) and sub
jectively (in terms of perceived threat to interest, status, values,
etc.). Populism derives its particular character from two such
tensions. It springs both from the tension between backward
countries and more advanced ones, and from the tension between
developed and backward parts of the same country. In the real
world, these two tensions of course overlap and interact.
In the following analysis, the external aspect of the populist
response refers to the fact that a necessary condition for the
emergence of populism, both as an ideology and as a movement,
in any society has been contact with forces and ideas associated
with higher levels of development than those to be found in the
society producing the response. The internal aspect of the analysis
is in terms of the different positions and reactions of different
social groups within a country in and to the process of moderniza
tion. One must of course recognize that the whole notion of what
is one country is not at all clear or determinate at the starting point
of the process of tension between the developed and the under
developed. It crystallizes in the course of this tension and is
connected with it.


Populist movements appear in societies and social groups which are

and have become aware of being peripheral to centres of power. In
the external perspective, the social action that forms the basis of
the populist movement may be viewed as motivated by an indirect
confrontation with problems of economic development. It is the
fact that this confrontation has been indirect which makes populist
movements distinct from other types of social movement. Popu
lism has emerged when ideologies and movements which more
directly confront industrialization and its consequences have come
to be regarded as alien or inappropriate or both. Thus, in its
external aspect, Russian populism is the response to a variety of
West European socialist doctrines; in Peronism the pattern is
extremely complicated, with susceptibility to populistic nationalism
following upon a rejection of socialism, syndicalism, and anarchism
on the part of the mass base while the elite of the movement was
influenced by Italian fascism.
In the nineteenth century Western Europe provided the major
ultimate point of reference, in particular for the Russian populist
movement. Professor Venturi has emphasized the degree to which
the Russian populists viewed their proposed reforms as a response
to the problems of economic development as these emerge in
Western Europe.2 Similarly, a number of writers, notably Professor
Hofstadter, have drawn attention to the Anglophobe and isolation
ist elements to be found in North American populism, although
the external* referent is clearly of less importance in this case.3
In this century, both Western Europe and the United States
have been the source of the demonstration effect.4 T o those
indigenous elites upon whom this effect has its greater impact, it
has the dual form of an exposure to the analyses and controversies
about the pattern of economic development in the W est and the
experience of the practical consequences of econom ic backward
ness for their society, in terms of its involvement in an increasingly
world-wide economy dominated by the interests of the industrially
advanced societies. Associated with these problems of economic
development are problems of eroded legitimacy. Populistic mobi
lization represents attempts to revitalize integration on the basis
of traditional values. Initially it is those who compose the move
ment who are to be so integrated; hence the stress on moral and
social regeneration which one universally finds in populist pro
grammes. But in the long run it is a technique of national integra
tion. This attempt may come from those who wish to change the
structure of society or from those who wish to preserve it and their
position in it which they see as threatened.
For a very large group of countries in Asia and Africa mobilized
by Western European intervention, this involvement meant colonial
status (this means that by Western Europe in this context one
denotes, with few exceptions, Britain and France). W here the
United States was the focus, notably in the case of Latin American
societies, this was not necessarily the case. But the situation is
complicated here by the fact that Latin American societies have
typically had separate foci for the two elements of their demonstra
tion effect. While economically and therefore frequently politically
their exposure has been to the United States, culturally many of
them have long and intimate links with European, particularly
Iberian, thought. This complication is paralleled in the case of
the West European group by the very different experiences
subsumed under involvement in the case of the British and
French colonies respectively.


The single exception to the pattern of populism inheriting the

legacy of other ideologies and movements is that of nationalism.
In spite of the internationalism which has been and is part of the
ideology of a number of populist movements, populism is a kind of
nationalism, the distinguishing feature of populistic.nationalism
being its equation of the nation and the people. In a populistic
phase of the drive for national independence, great emphasis is
laid upon mobilizing the people as an essential part of the
struggle. In the imagery of populistic nationalism the people are
the simple folk. In practice, the people will frequently be those
social groups which form the mass base of the movement (the
descamisado, etc.). They are the vanguard and the weapon of popu
listic nationalism. In such nationalism, there is a proliferation of
organizations embracing all aspects of social activity (trade unions,
womens associations, youth groups, etc.). This organizational net
work may be extended and intensified when the populistic nation
alist movement comes to power. It is equally characteristic of
governmentally directed populistic nationalism (Peronism). By its
orientation towards the people at least in theory, and its involvement
of the people at least in aspiration (activation is more important
than participation in this context), populistic nationalism may be
distinguished from other nationalisms chiefly characterized by
economic policy and/or cultural ethos.
Whether or not nationalism assumes a populistic form depends
upon a variety of factors. Of particular importance is the level of
economic and political development in the society which is subject
to the colonial or tutelary status; the consequences of that status
for the social structure (which are inextricably interwoven with the
intensity of the colonial involvement); the manner and agents of
the initial movement for independence or for some alteration in the
colonial status quo, and the response of the colonial power to this
movement; the absence of an integrated elite; changes in mobility,
upward or downward, of key strata who provide the core as
against the mass support for populist movements. (The direction
of mobility is an important determinant of the different varieties
of populistic nationalism in term s o f attitudes towards the state
in its present form, etc.)
T he first stage o f nationalist m ovem ents in colonial territories,
for example, has frequently taken the form of limited demands on
the part of professionals recruited from the upper and upper-
middle classes for access to certain higher status jobs within their
society, particularly in the adm inistrative structure. In the second
stage such accommodatory dem ands are rejected and the nation
alist m ovement assum es a m ore m ilitant form, in the later stages
of which attempts are m ade to m obilize the people as a political
force. O f particular historical im portance in stim ulating this popu
listic consciousness were the Russian R evolution and the example
of Gandhism.5
T he degree to which this populistic consciousness is institu
tionalized or is merely an ephem eral or subsidiary part of any par
ticular movement is dependent upon the particular configuration
and dynamism of the variables already listed. In the case of Indian
nationalism, for example, in spite o f the im portance of Gandhism
as an example for other colonial and im perial territories, the pres
ence of large elem ents from the upper and upper-m iddle strata in
the nationalist elite resulted in the institutionalization of the move
ment into what di Telia term s a m ulti-class integrative party.
As he points out, this is the m ost m oderate o f all possible populist
varieties, so much so that it is even doubtful whether the term
populism can be adequately applied to [it]. T h e danger of
creating a spurious category o f populist m ovem ent is avoided if
one recognizes that populist nationalism is not uniform . A parti
cular combination of historical and structural factors w ill set the
parameters for its developm ent in particular types o f situation. In
certain circumstances, for example, populism m ay be m erely a
crucial phase in the struggle for national independence. That inde
pendence having been achieved, consciousness of marginality to
centres of economic power declines and m eans o f integrating the
newly independent society, other than populistic m obilization, are
attempted. T his pattern is particularly typical o f anti-colonial
movements where the aim is above all the withdrawal o f the
metropolitan power.
In a second type, populistic nationalism characterizes regim es
rather than movements. In som e cases this characteristic may
represent continuity in that the regimes concerned represent the
institutionalization of movements of populistic nationalism. In
other cases, however, there will be no such continuity in that
regimes will themselves initiate movements by the manipulation
of the symbols of populistic nationalism. In the context of im
perialism in the contemporary world, emancipation from economic
and political domination is increasingly the potent external cata
lyst for the political activity of a variety of social groups. In particu
lar, native bourgeoisie seek to replace foreign by domestic control
and development of the economy and by the same process to in
crease their power vis-a-vis other groups in the society (e.g.
agrarian interests, the army, the Church). In these circumstances,
such bourgeoisie will frequently attempt to win support by an
ideology of populistic nationalism.7



As noted above, the internal aspect of the analysis of populism is

in terms of the different positions and reactions of different social
groups in and to the process of modernization. Subsumed in the
process of modernization are the beliefs of various social groups
as to how development might best be achieved and their views as
to the likely effects of alternative patterns of development. There
is no single criterion of best achievement operating within these
Populist movements may therefore be viewed as responses to a
variety of crises of development. Important among these crises
are (a) the decision to industrialize and how, and (b) the current
or anticipated consequences of industrialization.
(a) The decision to industrialize or that industrialization/
modernization is a desirable goal to be reached as rapidly as a
variety of obstacles and competing criteria permit, may itself be
sufficient to produce a populist response. Either of these decisions
may be made by particular social groups, either as a result of the
frustrations produced by the backwardness of their society (the
demonstration effect) or of those produced by the lack of oppor
tunities for their particular groups within their own society. Al
though these decisions are stimulated by contact with more eco
nomically advanced societies, it in no way follows that they involve
a further decision to imitate the pattern of development and current
situation of these societies. More frequently the reverse position
has arisen in which populism as both ideology and movement has
focused upon a desire to avoid just such an eventuality. Russian
populism is an example of a populist movement arising from the
Western European demonstration effect, leading to the desire to
industrialize but not at the cost of creating those social conditions
which had been the result of industrialization in the West. The
populists saw the traditional peasant institutions - the obschina and
the mir - as providing the organizational forms by means of which
Russia might pass from semi-feudalism to industrial socialism,
while by-passing the horrors of capitalistic industrialization.
(b) Populist movements as a response to the current or antici
pated consequences of industrialization: once the process of in
dustrialization is under way, the differential development of the
industrial and non-industrial sectors of the economy may create
conditions conducive to the emergence of a populist movement.
These conditions may arise at widely different points on the con
tinuum leading to the fully industrialized society. A number of
Latin American societies, for example, fit a pattern of social de
velopment in which there is an established industrial sector but in
which modernization is largely blocked by powerful social forces
desiring to maintain the status q u o* (The division between these
forces, linked to foreign interests, and the new industrial-entre
preneurial bourgeoisie (burguesia nacional) is a key factor in the
development of Latin American populism - outstandingly in
Argentina.) Much further along the industrialization continuum
are those movements which are a protest not against backwardness
but against the pace and pattern of the modernization process.
Typical of such movements are the populist movement in the
United States of the 1880s and 1890s and the prairie movements of

T H E J A N U S Q U A L I T Y * O F


It is their character as responses to development crises which gives

populist movements their particular Janus quality. The exposure
to modernization of the societies in which these movements arise
may be direct or indirect; that is, they may possess an industrial
sector or they may experience colonial/imperial status and the
demonstration effect; or both. Populist movements are based upon
a belief in the possibility of controlling the modernization process
and they share a common characteristic of a search for a synthesis
between the basic values of the traditional culture of the society
[in which they occur] and the need for modernization.10 However
violent the changes achieved or envisaged, the populist ideology
will be continuous with important elements in the traditional
culture. The synthesis will therefore be a particularistic one in the
case of each movement. At the time of the emergence of the
populist movement the traditional culture will frequently have
been exposed to considerable disruption and the framers of the
populistic ideology will often be arbitrary and opportunistic in
their selection from this traditional* culture. It is the fact that the
synthesis seeks to integrate around traditional values a society
exposed to but not necessarily part o f social change that makes it a
common characteristic of the populism of Guinea and Senegal
and of that of Poujade. The exposed-to/part-of distinction refers
to the fact that potential recruits to populism are mobilized by but
do not yet participate in social change, since in their pre-populist
state they lack an ideological map to direct their actions.
It is the encounter between traditional cultures and structures
already affected by social change and non-traditional cultures and
structures which produces the variants of populism. Typically, the
traditional society producing a populist movement has been an
agrarian society. But populist movements are not simply peasant
movements. In those cases where they have been largely agrarian
protest movements, they are distinguished from peasant move
ments by the fact that, unlike the latter, the elite of the populist
movement is recruited from a different social group than the mass
following. A populist movement may move in the direction of
peasantism in those cases where the elite of the movement, having
attained its immediate goals (national independence, status recog
nition, etc.), dissociates itself from core populist support and
becomes increasingly conservative.
But populist movements may equally find their early vital sup
port in urban contexts, recruiting their mass following from a
large number of recent migrants from the countryside (the out
standing example here is Peronism). In these cases, where such
an urban element is important, it will not however be the sole
basis of the movement. Populist movements originating on an
urban base will seek to channel rural protest, fusing urban and
rural in the coalitional character typical of populist movements.
In underdeveloped societies the need for reformist groups to
find a potent political base produces the developmental pattern to
which Hugh Seton-Watson has drawn attention.11 In the first stage
the movement is composed solely of small groups of intellectuals
lacking any mass support and in many cases seeking to convert
the whole of the educated class to their point of view. In the
second stage the movement grows in size with the recruitment of
supporters among the urban workers. But in an underdeveloped
society the latter are too few in number to provide an adequate
power base. In the third stage, therefore, the movement seeks a
large-scale mass following by attempting to channel the discon
tents of the rural society. This drive to mobilize the peasants may
or may not be successful, depending upon a variety of factors.
Important among these are the policies and stability of the govern
ment and the degree of instability in the rural society. An example
of this pattern of development is Russian populism.
In relatively more developed countries, the urban base of recent
rural migrants may predominate in the populist coalition. The
cohesiveness of such a coalition may be eroded in a variety of ways.
The differentiation of social structure may provide one or other,
or both, of the major bases of the mass support for the movement
with alternative and more effective mechanisms for advancing their
political demands. Alternatively, the dynamics of the movement
rather than changing structural conditions may be viewed as the
eroding factor. In the process of institutionalization, for example,
the elite may come to rely increasingly heavily upon one rather
than another of the wings of mass support; or having attained its
political goals, the elite may dissociate itself from the populist
movement and shift the major focus of its activities into other
spheres, usually economic. The urban wing of the movement is
likely to become self-contained and autonomous. Thus, following
the fall of Peron and the further development of the Argentinian
economy, Peronismo was modified into a quasi-labour movement.
This modification resulted in the loss of part of the partys rural
and typically populist following,12 making it difficult for the party
to win elections. (The Indian Congress Party and the Mexican
PR I are major examples of a pattern of conservatism increasingly
characterizing parties which have come to power partly as a result
of their basis in a populist movement.)
In developed societies, the urban wing of the typical populist
coalition will normally have achieved an independent organization
and ideology as an industrial working class, and the bourgeoisie
will cease to provide anti-status quo groups seeking the formerly
desired coalitional mass base. In these circumstances, there will be
a growing tendency for populist movements to be farmers move
ments and for coalitionary moves to come from them. The over
tures made by the mid-western populists to the nascent labour
movements in the U S A of the 1890s was probably the first example
of this pattern13 Populist movements arising in developed societies
will normally only attract support from other marginal groups
(e.g. the support given to Poujadism by small independent busi
ness). Crisis situations may on occasion increase the importance
of such movements. The major example here is the rural support
given to the nazi movement.14 But here also the political impotence
of populism in a developed society was illustrated by the failure of
the populistic element of nazism to achieve its aims. When the
nazis came to power, those ideological elements which were an
expression of populist grievances were rapidly eliminated.16
Certain structural conditions for and precipitants of other types
of social movement are equally useful in the analysis of populist
movements.16 Like other movements, populist movements seek to
re-form the existing social structure. The level of reconstruction
they envisage - that is, whether they are ultimately reformist or
revolutionary movements - is dependent upon a variety of factors.
Important among these is the degree to which it is possible for any
group to modify social norms without calling into question the
values of the society. In Tsarist Russia, for example, this was not
the case and the inflexibility of the government and its failure to
mobilize the peasantry led Russian populism in a terroristic direc
tion. In the colonial societies of Africa, the inflexibility of the auth
orities led to disillusion with moderate demands within the status
quo. There followed an intensely politicized nationalism which
found expression in populistic consciousness.
The structural and particularly the ideological features of any
given populist movement are noticeably affected by its relation to
earlier movements of social protest. As noted above, populism is
frequently a characteristic of the second stage of social protest
movements in traditional societies. But in both underdeveloped
and relatively advanced societies, populist movements find a mass
following among those who have engaged in earlier forms of
protest. In Russia, for example, the populists sought unsuccess
fully to recruit a following among the sects of the Raskol,17 and a
number of writers have depicted religious/millenarian movements
as precursors of nationalist movements, many of which have a
populistic form.18 The ideology of many populist movements con
tains a rejection of European institutions and culture (particularly
parliamentary democracy) as structural and cultural characteristics
alien to the indigenous society. This is analogous to the reversal
prophecies to be found in cargo cults.
The availability of means to express grievances is an important
determinant not only of the reformist or revolutionary character of
any given populist movement but also of the pattern of develop
ment of the movement. American populism, for example, was the
inheritor of a series of earlier protest movements, the emergence of
which was made possible by the political and social structure of the
United States in the nineteenth century. But the same structure
made the creation and maintenance of a third party very difficult.
If the frustrations arising at various points in the development
process, together with the responses of governments to expressions
of these frustrations, are important general determinants of the
emergence of populist movements, a variety of factors may preci
pitate that emergence or accelerate the development of an already
existing movement. In the case of both Tsarist Russia in the nine
teenth century and the imperial powers in this century, defeat in
war was of major importance in the emergence and acceleration of
particular populist movements. In the case of American populism,
economic depression was the main precipitant. In Latin America,
very rapid urbanization and a revolution of aspirations create a
disposable mass which can be mobilized in a populist movement.19
The above is a statement of conducive but not sufficient condi
tions for populist movements. Why are movements populist rather
than communist, purely nationalist or social-democratic? Reinhard
Bendix has pointed out the degree to which local conditions, his
torical antecedents, acuteness o f .. . crisis, and . . . intensity o f . . .
organizational drive are determinants of the direction of radicaliza-
tion.20 Recognizing the importance of this specific-configuration
caveat , certain social relations do appear basic to the emergence
of populist movements.21 In particular, there exists a social rela
tionship between two groups, one of which is peripheral to the
economic power of the other (metropolis and province). Two
such relationships are superimposed upon one another. Within the
society in which the movement occurs, the social group or groups
which provide the elite of the movement are mobilized by exposure
to a more developed society. But of equal importance is the
mobilizing effect of powerful groups within the host society to
which the members of the movement feel peripheral. To close and
reverse the gap, the populist movement desires modernization or,
in the case of developed societies, a restructuring of the economic
and political system. It seeks to achieve this by integrating the
society around traditional values, and a resolution of the tension
inherent in this situation is sought through the ideology of the


In an excellent paper on Ideology as a Cultural System, Clifford

Geertz has argued that we can and should regard ideology as a
map of problematic social reality, which has the possibility of
making an otherwise incomprehensible situation both under
standable and significant.22 The individuals who believe in the
ideology may do so from a variety of motivations, subsumed under
the categories interest or strain. Whichever the case, the ideology
derives its power from a powerful symbolism. . . . [The] head-on
clash of literal meanings in ideology - the irony, the hyperbole, the
overdrawn antithesis - provides novel symbolic frames against
which to match the myriad unfamiliar somethings that, like a
journey to a strange country, are produced by a transformation in
political life.23
The Janus quality of the populist situation is reflected in the
populistic ideological synthesis of traditionalism and modernism.
The beliefs contained in populist ideology have the dual function
of solutions to critical dilemmas and mobilizing agents. The
nature of the synthesis reached in any particular case will depend
in part upon the level of development of the society. The variant
of populist ideology to be found in many of the new states of
Africa and Asia stresses modernization but sees it occurring on the
basis of indigenous forms which will prevent the disruptive
consequences of modernization in the West.
In societies having little or no industrial sector, the peasant prob
lem will be at the forefront of the populist programme. In theory if
not always in practice, populism seeks to organize social reconstruc
tion around traditional institutions of the people. The Russian
obschina, the Mexican ejtdo, the Peruvian allyu and the African
village, all such variants of peasant communal ownership and
activity have figured prominently in the ideologies of their parti
cular populist movements. The stress on these forms is both prac
tical and polemical. It facilitates integration by emphasizing
continuity (much more alleged than real) with traditional forms
while the stress upon communitarian forms also serves to differen
tiate the indigenous institutions from those of the external alien
Parallel to this stress is an emphasis upon the special quality,
the uniqueness, of the identity, culture or current situation of the
society which has produced the movement. Unlike the Slavophils,
the Russian populists did not emphasize the uniqueness of the
Russian character. But they did argue that the institutions of
Russian rural society gave Russia the possibility of a special path
to industrialization. Similarly, an emphasis upon uniqueness of
identity is found in the concept of negritude and the Aprista
Indo-American personality.
The solutions offered by populism frequently depict the stress
situations in which the movements followers find themselves as
arising from conspiracies of one sort or another. In underdeveloped
societies, the conspiratorial agent is commonly a colonial, ex-colo-
nial or imperialist power, although the indigenous representatives
of the status quo will also be included. In some cases, the argu
ments presented do amount to a very accurate analysis of the
structural determinants of the situation in which the group or
society finds itself. In other cases, there is a stress upon calculated
maleficence and xenophobia, containing fascist elements.
Both Left and Right variants of populist ideology extol the
virtues of rural society and its inhabitants and attack the vices
of urban life, espeially the corrupt, acquisitive nature of its in
habitants. The egoistic individualism of urban society is contrasted
with the rural combination of independence and recognized com
munal obligation.
Populist movements are not anti-state either in ideology or in
practice. What they do oppose is the state in its present form, in
particular parliamentary politics. The techniques devised by
many populist movements to circumvent the need for political
talking shops, combined with the charismatic or quasi-charis-
matic leadership which frequently characterizes such movements,
clearly create a fruitful ground for increased statism at a later stage.
The opposition to parliamentary politics may rest upon a variety
of grounds. In underdeveloped societies it may be argued that
the homogeneity of the social structure precludes this type of
government.24 In both underdeveloped and developed societies the
argument is also frequently found that existing parliamentary-
style* regimes merely create artificial division in the community
and perpetuate the domination of the politicians which they
The functions of populist ideology as solutions and mobilizing
agents underlie the widely remarked eclecticism of its varieties.
An extremely important influence upon the character of these
varieties is the task of mobilizing and organizing individuals who
because of their econom ic situation and/or novel social situation
are politically marginal. The principal examples here are peasants,
small farmers and rapidly urbanized masses. To recognize this
mobilizing function is not to suggest that populist ideology is
totally devoid of content and meaning. It must and will correspond
to the critical situations in which the movements followers find
themselves and will do so the more specifically where the mass
base of the movement is genuinely homogeneous.


The crises of development noted above are expressed in the

frustrations not only of peasants and urban masses who com
pose the mass following of populist movements but also in those
of a variety of groups wishing to initiate modernization and/or
industrialization or, at a later stage, to control its form and direction.
Di Telia has suggested that the elites of populist movements are
characterized by some sort of status incongruence, that is, their
status level varies markedly according to the values with which it
is measured (economic strength, traditional prestige, ethnicity,
education, political influence, foreign originated values, etc.).25
Among the sources of incongruence he suggests are classically the
situation in which education outstrips economic growth. As pre
viously noted, this situation has been an extremely frequent source
of populist elites, producing as it does those groups of intellectuals
and/or students who are frustrated and humiliated by the back
wardness of their society. Examples of this situation are nineteenth-
century Russia, twentieth-century Peru and a substantial number
of the new states of Africa and Asia.
Other situations suggested by di Telia are those in which there
occurs a war-induced growth of industries. An anticipated return
to peace-time conditions threatens the position of a new industrial
group leading it to provide the personnel and financial support vital
to the emergence and success of the subsequent populist movement.
The major example of this pattern is Peronism. Alternatively, the
growing economic insecurity of traditionalist groups (small farmers,
for example) will create the potential source of populism, as in
Poujadism. Finally the undermining of the relatively high status
of traditional white collar groups by economic development and
particularly by the creation of new strata of highly paid semi-skilled
workers is conducive to the emergence of an anti-status quo elite.


The particularistic determinants suggested by Bendix, to which

reference has been made above, preclude generalizations about the
pattern of development of populist movements but the following
possibilities appear of particular importance. Populist movements
constantly face the threat of erosion, either by losing their impetus
or by being transformed (or assimilated) into movements of a dif
ferent type. Populist movements which are basically protest move
ments are threatened by the anti-institutional, voluntaristic char
acter of grass-roots populism. Government-initiated movements
may decline with changes in these governments (either of direction
or personnel). In those underdeveloped societies where the popu
list-movement regime, represented by the single party, is the
expression of substantial social homogeneity, two major develop
mental alternatives arise. If and when development occurs the
party may move in an increasingly monolithic direction to control
those forces created by social differentiation. The anti-politicking
attitudes and the ideological stress on homogeneity which
characterize populist movements are obviously possible sources of
various forms of authoritarianism. Peter Worsley has drawn atten
tion to the totalitarian potential inherent in some underdeveloped
societies, while recognizing the counter-variable of traditional
social structure and the unpredictable role of political will.29
However, in the course of institutionalization and/or response
to economic development, populist-movement parties may not
move in any increasingly dirigiste direction. They may become
increasingly conservative, raising the possibility of a new populist
movement arising. The coalitional basis of the movement may be
undermined when the elite or one of the wings of the mass follow
ing finds that economic development has provided it with the goals
it sought (in the case of middle-strata elites, for example) or,
alternatively, demands policies and organizational forms divergent
from those formerly believed to be appropriate (the case of a
working class growing out of an urban mass, for example).27
In developed societies, the marginal nature of populisms poten
tial following makes the coming to power of such movements much
more unlikely. In such a case as that of Alberta, particular historical
factors - here the depression and the Second World War - may
enable a populist movement to achieve and retain power. But in
developed societies, generally, it is much more probable that when
conditions occur which do favour the coming to power of a
populist movement, it will face stronger competition and/or the
threat of absorption into a wider movement.

N o te s

1 Edward Shils, The Intellectuals in the Political Development of the

New States, World Politics,
XII, No. 3 (April i960), pp. 329-68.
2 F. Venturi,The Roots of Revolution, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, i960.
3 R. Hofstadter,The Age of Reform, Vintage Books, 1955.
4 See e.g. the discussion by T . S. di Telia, Populism and Reform in
Latin America, in C.Veliz (ed.), Obstacles to Change in Latin America,
Oxford 1965.
5 Cf. Shils, op. cit.
6 op. cit. p. 57 seq.
7 See R. Debray, Problems of Revolutionary Strategy in Latin
America, New Left Review, No. 45, September-October 1967, for a
discussion of the phenomenon in some Latin American countries.

Debray emphasizes the degree to which such regimes are in reality pre
cluded from pursuing their goal of national independence by the fact
that to do so involves measures directly contrary to the interest of those
without whose acquiescence the regime cannot persist.
8 See e.g. S.Andreski, Parasitism and Subversion, Weidenfeld and
Nicolson, 1966,passim ; also A .P . Whitaker and D. C. Jordan, Nationalism
in Contemporary Latin America, The Free Press, 1966.
9 See e.g. R.Hofstadter, op. cit., pp. 23-130; J.R.H icks, The Populist
Revolt, C. B. McPherson, Democracy in Alberta,University of Toronto
Press, 1953.
10 R. Lowenthal, The Points of the Compass, in J.H .K autsky (ed.)
Political Change in Underdeveloped Countries, John Wiley, 1962.
11 H. Seton-Watson, Nationalism and Communism, Methuen 1964, pp.
74 - 5 -
12 T .S .d i Telia, op. cit.
13 See N. Pollack, The Populist Response to Industrial America, Norton
Library, 1966, especially Chapter 3.
14 See R.Heberle, From Democracy to Nazism, Louisiana State
University Press, 1945.
15 See R. Schweitzer, Big Business in the Third Reich, Eyre and
16 See e.g. the discussion in N.Smelser, Theory of Collective
Behaviour, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962.
17 F. Venturi, op. cit., Chapter 4.
18 P.Worsley, The Trumpet Shall Sound, M acGibbon and Kee, 1957,
and E.Hobsbawn, Primitive Rebels, Manchester University Press, 1959.
19 See T . S . d i Telia, Monolithic Ideologies in Competitive Party
Systems, Trans, of the Fifth Congress of Sociology, 1962, Vol. III.
20 See R.Bendix, Social Stratification and Political Power, in
Bendix and Lipset (eds.), Class, Status and Power, Free Press, 1956.
21 Worsley has advanced some interesting propositions regarding the
nature and development of competing isms in creating conditions con
ducive for populism. The late and limited development of socialist
parties and the depassement of orthodox nationalism favoured communism
and a populistic nationalism. Orthodox Western communism with its
stress on the role of an industrial proletariat had little or no relevance to
the situation of underdeveloped societies. See The Third World,
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1964, Chapter 3.
22 Clifford Geertz, Ideology as a Cultural System, in David E.
Apter, Ideology and Discontent, The Free Press, 1964.
23 op. cit. p. 64.
24 Cf. Worsley, op. cit., pp. 130-64.
25 op. cit., p. 182.
26 op. cit., p. 204.
27 See di Telia, op. cit., for a short discussion of the transformation of
nacionalista popular movements into labour movements.



Kenneth Minogue

T o talk of Ghanaian or Chinese populism looks at first like talking

of Spanish champagne; its plausible, but there ought to be a law
against it. T he champagne in this case consists of two brief
historical episodes in Russia and America. They were almost
contemporaneous; they presented themselves as movements against
established power by or on behalf of little men living on the land;
and both placed great emphasis upon the people as the oppressed
agents of future changes. As everybody realizes perfectly well, they
were radically different experiences, but they did have in common
a name {narodnik being translated as populist) and one or two sug
gestive analogies on which an edifice of theory might be constructed.
What has followed parallels the wine industry: new products have
crowded in under the established name. Contemporary usage,
without much in the way of theory, seems bent on developing the
term. Our business is in a sense a juridical one: should we legi
timize a general concept of populism? The consequences of making
a mistake on this issue would be to create one more incoherent
field of academic inquiry.I


We may begin with a hypothetical proposition: if populism is a

movement, it is a certain structure of feelings which convinces
people that they are part of something greater than themselves,
and which generates both ideological thought and political institu
tions. To understand the movement, then, is to discover the feel
ings which moved people. The only way we can do this is to look
at what they said and did.
But here arises the first difficulty. What people do may be inter
preted in a variety of ways, and what they say they are doing is
necessarily little more than a part of the story, specially presented
with an eye to putting the best face on things. A danger almost
intrinsic to intellectual history, writes Norman Pollack, is that
ideas will become divorced from their setting and be viewed in
isolation.1 Our primary materials are historical; our aim is to build
up some kind of general theory of populism. But if we are not
historically aware, the moral and political assertions of populists
will allow us to draw any conclusions we like - for the assertions
of men in a movement are commonly no more than convenient
justifications snatched out of the air. They cannot be generalized
at all. To avoid this mistake, we must distinguish carefully
between the rhetoric used by members of a movement - which
may be randomly plagiarized from anywhere according to the
needs of the moment, and the ideology which expresses the
deeper currents of the movement. This is easier said than done.
But we need this distinction to understand why, for example,
American populism has been taken as, on the one hand, an ancestor
of the current radical Right2 and, on the other, as the conscience
of the social order and its chief protagonist.3
The American populists may be found using the language of
self-realization, of class struggle, of the rights of man - all current
vocabularies in American politics. But if we take all of this rhetoric
at its face value we shall begin to draw some odd conclusions. It
is, I would judge, by attending merely to the rhetoric of populism
that Professor Pollack arrives at the conclusion that marxism and
populism were totally independent systems of thought which
arrived at the same understanding of a capitalist system which was
fundamentally the same on both sides of the Atlantic. This is too
intricate an argument to examine in detail; but I can indicate what
I mean by citing a populist passage which Pollack uses as an in
stance of populism rising above conspiracy theory: We are often
asked why we are continually fighting the bankers, to which we
reply that we are not fighting the bankers but the system and the
political manipulators who have inaugurated and who are per
petuating the system.4 This is not merely rhetorical in style;
nothing in it rises beyond rhetoric. To describe the enemy as both
the system and the political manipulators who have inaugurated
and who are perpetuating the system is to back every horse in the
race - and certainly a world away from the dogged theorizing of
Indeed, the thesis stated in the very title of Professor Pollacks
book - The Populist Response to Industrial America - is an illicit
abstraction of populist experience. The American populists seem
to have been responding, most immediately, to the concrete situa
tion of rural poverty and low prices for what they produced. The
actual causes which they set up as explanations of their unhappy
circumstances varied widely: the gold standard, city manipulation,
manipulation by foreign bankers, and so on. The point is that any
movement will select its enemies with an eye to the acquisition of
allies; and to proclaim that they were reacting to industrial
America gave populists the possibility of alliance with other
non-populist groups in American society such as city liberals
and urban socialists and anarchists. If we seek candidates which
can be covered by the abstract formula that to which the American
Populists were reacting then we shall find many possibilities in
different fields and at different levels of abstraction. The student
of an ideology must keep the fact that there are a plurality of
causes in the forefront of his mind; if he does not, he will un
wittingly turn from a student of ideology into an ideologist. This
is a danger to which even the most experienced writer is likely to
succumb. Professor Pollack exemplifies it when he falls to writing:
The issue at stake was nothing less than human dignity Indeed,
Populism was more than a protest movement; it was a glorious
chapter in the eternal struggle for human rights.5
These two difficulties of studying a movement - generalizing its
rhetoric and surrendering to its ideology - are much less funda
mental than a third, whose character we may illustrate from the
history of nationalism. Nationalism is a self-characterization
which will give a certain grandeur to any kind of self-assertion by
a large group. As a concept, it is convenient both to politicians
(for it makes their actions respectable) and to journalists (for it
provides a facile explanation of complicated events). But the cur
rent confusion of nationalist studies in political science suggests
that the academic inquirer should be wary of accepting the term,
at least at its face value. For in the course of two centuries, a
great variety of radically different movements have come to
shelter under the broad conceptual umbrella of nationalism.
Students of nationalism have consequently spent a good deal of
energy in the business of trying to carve up the field so that some
essential idea of nationalism might emerge. They have discovered
a variety of types and dimensions of the subject, but their failure
is evidenced by the way in which these classificatory systems come
apart at the seams in banal and uninformative generalizations. In
spite of distinguishing between liberal, integral, occidental, oriental,
authoritarian, democratic, etc., nationalism, political scientists are
still reduced to remarks like, In some cases, nationalism seems
especially vigorous in an environment directly associated with
economic progress, in others, by contrast, it has its greatest
support among social groups menaced by economic development.8
Now it seems to me that, if unwarily generalized, the concept
of populism will end up in no better condition. It is, to adapt
Thurber, a naive little concept, but we ought not to be too amused
at its presumption. For, if we allow it to run away with us, we
may soon be asking ourselves whether populism is essentially
left- or right-wing, fascist or egalitarian, forward-looking and pro
gressive or backward-looking and nostalgic.7 And the attractions of
this road will be clear to us if we remember that we are already
equipped with such ramifications as liberal populism, neo-popu
lism, legal and revolutionary populism.
What then can we do? I can see three possible levels of develop
(a) We might dissolve the phenomena which nominate them
selves as populism into a general world of movements and ideolo
gies. A good deal of what historically is found as populism would
then be re-allocated elsewhere. We might observe, for example,
that the intellectual leaders and followers of Russian populism
were about as rural as a transistor radio. They were a set of urban
people with a romantic belief in the authenticity of peasant feeling,
and in the destiny of the unique Russian collectivist customs
(especially the mir) to bring forth a new kind of progressive society.
These populists are largely to be explained as middle-class roman
tics with political inclinations - those who chose (what then seemed
the only possibility) the peasantry as the historical agent of their
reformist aspirations. Once a new theory (sc. marxism) and a new
candidate for historical destiny (sc. the proletariat) emerged, they
were off on another tack. These people would give a very curious
weighting to any generalizations we might make about an essential
populism*. But as creatures of an ideological world, we may well
make very good sense of them - for just so long as they are not
irredeemably pinned down as populists. I propose to discuss this
theme further in section 3.
(b) Secondly, we might take populism, on its own level, as a
widespread phenomenon. T his might be done by generalizing
some of the problems which agitated the populists and seeking
their analogues in other areas of the modern world. Sir Isaiah
Berlin has argued that the central preoccupation of the Russian
populists is not without acute contemporary relevance. Referring
to the slower tempo of industrialization in variousunderdeveloped*
countries, he remarks that it is Populist ideas which lie at the base
of much of the socialist economic policy pursued by these and
other countries today.2*8 And we have seen Professor Pollack casting
the American populists in the role of critics of capitalism and
industrialism in general. I have already argued that I believe that
any simple attempt in this direction would leave us with an
interesting but untidy field of studies, similar to the academic
condition of nationalism. Alternatively, however, we might attempt
to draw out the logical implications of the contrast between the
country and the city - the contrast to which populism owes its
claim to be distinguished from democracy and socialism. I propose
to explore this possibility in the next section.
(1c) Thirdly, in descending order of generality, there is an
indisputable place for historical studies of particular movements
which seem in some way - no rigorous general idea is involved - to
be populist. Intellectually, this is the most respectable kind of acti
vity; but I take it that our bias is to treat historical studies as raw


What kind of ideology would we expect the countryman as such to

produce? Ideologies resolve themselves into an account of the
struggle between two moral forces. The situation of the country
man immediately suggests that these two forces must be that of
city and country. For the countryman belongs to a complicated
social system, the most powerful part of which is invisible to him -
hidden behind the walls of the city. What he produces has the
immediate and visible character of food; what he gets - protection
and organization - is mediate and invisible. There is no difficulty
in understanding that countrymen have commonly regarded the
city as an alien and hostile force.
How may we characterize the countryside? It is generally poor
and in debt.. This may not be always so, but the conviction that it
is so will be a part of the equipment of any agrarian ideology. Such
an ideology might be expected to indulge in overheated fantasies
of the luxury (and sinfulness) of city life. The produce of the coun
try is the basis of civilization (for everyone must eat) and yet it
does not obtain the standard of living to which the country producer
is entitled. By contrast, the city (which rapidly merges in the
mind with the state) exploits the peasant and overcharges for
the services - protective and bureaucratic - which it supplies.
As with any ideology, so here the contrast must be made in
moral terms. The countryman works hard and his way of life is
'natural* because it is close to the soil; by contrast, the city is a
consumer, almost a parasite, and lives by a sub-section of the
brain called cunning'.9
Further, all ideologies have grown up into a modern world of
historical awareness; the contrast must therefore involve processes.
The city now comes to 'stand for the process of industrialization
and the capitalist system, which dehumanizes man; and the coun
try may be taken to stand for* the old humane values whose
resistance to the current evil will save mankind from corruption.
This much we may say without bothering in the least with his
torical examples. It is not very much, but logic alone will not take
us very much further in this direction. We may develop the rural-
urban contrast by adding an important historical point: that the
countryside has largely been dumb throughout its history. It is
dumb in the same sort of way as the proletariat is dumb - for the
simple reason that articulateness is monopolized by the opposition;
a speaking farmer is half way to the city, just as an intellectual pro
letarian is no longer a pure spokesman of his class. This is one
important reason why populism is, even among ideologies, a
notable plagiarist, making do with scraps of doctrine and images
largely acquired from other, better established attitudes.
But what other questions will the logic of the peasant situation
answer for us? One important distinction between ideologies is
the issue of voluntarism and determinism. Is the present (bad)
situation the result of wilful policies of bad men, or of the unwilled
workings of a bad system? If agriculture is taken as the custodian
of all human values, then we might expect a determinist answer;
but in fact we find voluntarist strains in both American and
Russian populism.
Again, any attempt to turn the urban-rural dichotomy into an
ideology immediately involves us in abstraction, primarily the
moral abstraction of exploiters and exploited. Such abstraction
destroys the original contrast, for the city itself contains many
who must be included in the class of the exploited; as a result,
populism will tend to become assimilated to other socialist ideo
logy. The American populists saw this perfectly well, and pursued
the logic of their beliefs far enough to claim that they stood for
the exploited worker as well as for the impoverished countryman.
Such faithful consistency allows Pollack to interpret the American
populists as critics of capitalism in general; but the realities of the
populist movement prevented any real alliance with labour organi
zations. It is at points like this that the ideology becomes a distorting
guide to the character of the movement.
It is characteristic of ideologies to be bewitched by the notion of
power. T hey alternate between dreams of appropriating the
supreme power of the state for their own good purposes, and
anarchist fantasies of banishing power from the world altogether.
Both these attitudes are found among populists, and there seems
to be no general reason why either should be considered essential
populism. Nor are the means employed by the politicians of the
movement dictated by logic. Perhaps the most instinctive reflex of
the peasant in politics is a kind of jacquerie, a violent but short
lived revulsion against intolerable conditions; but as a historical
theatre, the countryside has mounted the most diverse and spec
tacular of productions, quite unrelated to ideological regularities.
The Russian raskol after 1654, although a religious phenomenon,
has been taken as a peasant reaction to urban culture.10 And the
huge convulsion of the T aiping rebellion against the Manchus
included (in its rhetoric) a highly progressive-sounding programme
of industrialization.
One interesting but misleading hint as to how we might gener
alize populism is contained in a letter Engels wrote to the American
populist Henry D . Lloyd in 1893. It is only in industrially young
countries like America and Russia, Engels wrote, that Capital
gives full fling to the recklessness of its greed.u In the economic
ally maturer countries of Western Europe, Engels is arguing,
capitalism had already mellowed, and in mellowing, had drawn
some of the revolutionary potential out of radical movements. Can
we see populism, then, as a late type of response to the most
naked kind of capitalist exploitation? I do not believe so. For one
thing, this view ignores the capitalist element of the American
populists themselves. Professor Hofstadter has pointed to the
central paradox in the American position: What developed in
America was an agricultural society whose real attachment was
not to the land but to land values.12 And in the Russian case,
populism was conditioned, not by capitalism, but by Western
influences on the one hand, and Tsarist autocracy on the other.
The moment capitalism began to develop strongly in Russia,
many populists began moving into the marxist camp.

3 P O P U L I S M AS A M O V E M E N T
This brief exploration of the contrast between country and city - on
which populism bases its prima fa cie case to be distinguished from
other ideologies - appears to show that the fact of an agrarian
environment cannot lead us to any fruitful general idea. Let us now
look at populism in the general context of movements and mass
politics. First, a word on my use of term s: I assume that modern
politics is a matter of movements and associations, the distinction
between them being the individuality of the behaviour they involve.
A movement demands that its members should surrender their
individuality and become vehicles of a cause; an association, by
contrast, should be understood primarily as an alliance between
individualities. This is easy to define, but difficult to use in histori
cal situations, since people exhibit both individualistic and vehicu
lar behaviour. I am also making the common assumption - though
we shall see that it may have to be dropped in the case of populism -
that every movement creates an ideology, which is the thought of
the movement. Further, I am taking the common view that the
modern world was created by the growth of individualist behaviour,
which eroded custom and tradition. So long as peasants regard
social relations as being natural and beyond human control, like
the weather, movements will not arise. If despair does lead to con
vulsions, they will be short and violent, like rainstorms. But in
modern times, the replacement of traditional relations by com
mercial ones has created a new situation: opportunities for
enterprising individuals, dangers and despairs for the majority,
who are too slow or too generous to take advantage of the decline of
customary restraints.
It has happened that the spread of commerce has been accom
panied by the belief that any man may engage in politics to improve
his situation. Hence the breakdown of tradition has been imme
diately followed by the development of political movements. In
many countries, politics is the obvious field in which an enterpris
ing individual may make his fortune. But for most of the followers,
a movement is an attempt to compensate by solidarity for indivi
dual disadvantage. It is consequently natural that almost all move
ments unite in a moral criticism of individualist ethics; selfishness
and opportunism are high on the list of movement sins. Hence
movements are apt to be regarded (as Pollack regards populism) as
a kind of conscience produced by an (individualist) industrial
Within such movements, an ideology is an engine for converting
burdensome individual anxieties into the exhilaration of belonging
to a marching army. It is, of course, common for men to behave
individualistically on some occasions, and to become part of a
movement at others. This seems to have been the case with the
American populists: W hen times were persistently bad, writes
Professor Hofstadter, the farmer tended to reject his business role
and its failures to withdraw into the role of the injured little yeo
man.*13 Ideology is the thought of a movement, and it outlines the
radical changes which the movement seeks to bring about. Conse
quently, it has the look of a loosely jointed - and not particularly
coherent - philosophy, suitable for dismemberment into slogans
to be used in politics.
What I have said implies that ideologies are commonly held by
the politically inexperienced, and that they are more prone to
irrational fantasy even than other kinds of politics. Ideologists are,
as we have seen, peculiarly given to power-fantasies. We have but
to expand the powers of government to solve the enigma of the
world, remarks Ignatius Donnellys spokesman in his Utopia,
Caesar's Column. Man separated is man savage; man gregarious
is man civilized. A higher development in society requires that this
instrumentality of co-operation shall be heightened in its powers.14
This concern with power is, of course, moralized: government
must do that for the individual which he can not successfully do
for himself, and which other individuals will not do for him upon
just and equitable terms, wrote Frank Doster. And Governor
Lewelling in a speech in Kansas City remarked: It is the business
of the Government to make it possible for me to live and sustain
the life of my family . . . It is the duty of government to protect
the weak, because the strong are able to protect themselves.16
The actual ideology of populism has few features which dis
tinguish it from the products of any other movement. Professor
Hofstadter singles out five main themes, with an appropriate caution
that such a treatment accords to the ideology more coherence and
formality than it actually had.16 The first is the idea of a golden
age, which appeals to popular nostalgia. In this case, the golden
age was located in the Jacksonian era, but the emotion of nostalgia
and the idea of a golden age have a long non-populist history. The
second theme is the concept of natural harmonies - that harmony
will reign among the producers once the exploiters have been
removed. This, we may observe, was a common Enlightenment
notion. Tom Paines well-circulated writings are largely a set of
variations on this theme. The third element of populist ideology is
the dualist version of the social struggle. This, as I have suggested,
is fundamental to the logical structure of any ideology. The fourth
is the conspiracy theory of history, to which all ideologies are
prone. Marxism is the best example of an ideology which treats
the evils of the world as necessary, but the temptation of volun
tarism is revealed in the fact that even Marx falls at times to
blaming the bourgeoisie, and his followers have been much given
to sniffing out conspiracies. The fifth theme is the primacy of
money, a notion almost monopolized by the American populists,
but unlikely to become a feature of populism in other environments.
The emotions which constitute the American populist movement
are no more distinctive than the thought. A dogmatic insistence
upon simple explanations and easy panaceas would seem to be
evidence for a widespread sense of bafflement experienced by people
caught up in political and economic conditions they did not under
stand. One mans economic problems are merely baffling; they
appear to be trivial so long as they cannot be fitted into a larger
scheme. Once they become instances of the crucial moral struggle
of the time, they elevate the spirit. The simple panacea evolved by
many populists (not without help from men who had a good solid
interest in the matter) was bimetallism, which (it was hoped)
would overcome the deflationary effects of the gold standard. One
appropriate version of the reason for the dominance of gold was
given by Mrs Sarah Emery. She attributed the Act of 1873 which
demonetized silver to the corrupt influence of an agent of British
capitalism called Ernest Seyd. Her prose demonstrates that special
calling which some women populists had for embellishing the
details of the conspiracy: God of our Fathers! A British capitalist
sent here to make laws for the American people. England failed
to subjugate us by the bullet, but she stole into our Congressional
halls and by the crafty use of gold, obtained possession of the ballot,
and today American industry pays tribute to England, despite our
blood-bought seal of independence.17
A conspiracy theory is to politics what animism is to science - a
belief in determination by spirits. It is a primitive form of explana
tion, and arises from anxiety. People in movements are particularly
anxious about the course of contemporary events. The American
populists saw a steady decline from the sturdy rural values domi
nant in Jacksons day through the growing impoverishment of the
masses in their own time - and even, in Caesar's Column, down to a
vision of mass misery in 1988. They were typical of members of a
movement in experiencing a constant alternation between feelings
of powerlessness when they contemplated the cunning resourceful
ness of millionaires and monopolists, and feelings of invincibility
instilled by a sense of their own growing strength. The enemy
was something huge, and strong, and cunning; but in other moods,
they cut him down in size to a few isolated millionaires and their
hirelings. Their parallels and their vocabulary were often Biblical,
and they looked forward to the decisive struggle. They were too
much Americans to find salvation in terrorism; besides, they faced
a quite different political situation from that of the narodniks. Their
hope was the ballot box, and they fought so that man should not
be crucified upon a cross of gold.
Such a crucifixion was a real threat because Commerce in a free
market is risky; and populist egalitarianism is largely a hostility
to the experience of risk. Interest on money, says Gabriel, is the
root and ground of the worlds troubles. It puts one man in a posi
tion of safety, while another is in a condition of insecurity, and
thereby it at once creates a radical distinction in human society . . .
Given a million of men and a hundred years of time, and the
slightest advantage possessed by any one class among the million
must result, in the long run, in the most startling discrepancies of
It is hard to escape the conviction that these discrepancies were
only resented because the populists were on the wrong end of them.
Times had been bad, and the momentum of the movement carried
it into the election of 1896, after which, as conditions improved
and the risking got better, the American populists melted away
very rapidly indeed. Here then, we have a movement with two
significant characteristics: it disappeared very fast once conditions
changed, and its ideology was a patchwork quilt of borrowed ele
ments; indeed, to press hard on the terminology used in section 1,
it didnt have an ideology in any serious sense, merely a rhetoric.
It did not put down deep roots, because there was little to grow at
all - merely a hastily constructed rationalization of difficult times,
which could be abandoned once things improved.


If this understanding of populism is correct, then the distinction

between the country and the city has been a red herring. Populism
would appear to be the result of a collective awareness of dis
advantage in relation to wealth; and in a modern context, wealth
happens to mean industrial power. The point about the location
of populist movements is not that they are rural but that they are
peripheral to economic power. It will be remembered that Chair
man Mao has used the image of city and country to make just this
kind of point on a global scale: that the world is divided into the
industrial powers (U SA , U S S R , Western Europe, and Japan)
and those who live on a village scale, which is the rest of the
world. Similarly, it was the awareness of poverty whilst having
to live by the rules of the rich city which oppressed the American
populists. If we take this as our main premiss, what kind of picture
of populism will result?
The main characteristic of this kind of movement will be its
ambivalence towards wealth and power. It will evidently be fasci
nated by the glitter of industrialism; indeed it may have no alter
native given such hard facts as a rapid population increase. On
the other hand, the moral posture suggested by its explicit state
ments will be critical of industrialism and all its consequences. If
these statements are taken at their face value, then populism will
appear to be a penetrating critique of industrial society, and any
populist ideology m ight seem on all fours with highly complex
positions such as liberalism and socialism. In fact, however, the
criticism of industrialism will be little more than an expression of
regret at the poverty of those involved; and the ideology will be too
inhibited by its m ixed feelings towards industrial wealth ever to
develop the coherence of the ideologies from which it has borrowed
its ammunition. T h is kind of m ovem ent is like a river, and its
primary function is to keep people m oving along the stream until
they reach a bit o f countryside that appeals to them; at which
point, they w ill take off either into individualism, or into a
movement of another kind.
It seems to m e that the beliefs w hich have appealed to most anti
colonialist m ovem ents have been of this kind. Throughout the so-
called Third W orld, the slogans w e m ost commonly find betray
an odd ancestry of liberalism, nationalism, socialism, anarchism,
along with a few indigenous elem ents, but lacking the coherence
which would make them worthy o f study alongside marxism or
liberalism. By contrast with established European ideologies, these
beliefs have the look o f umbrellas hoisted according to the exi
gencies of the m om ent but disposable without regret as circum
stances change. And this seem s entirely sensible as a reaction to
the alternations of despair and hope which the peripheral poor of
an industrialized world m ust experience. T hey cannot afford to be
doctrinaire; pragmatism m ust be the single guiding thread of their
behaviour. Nationalism has supplied them with a vocabulary suit
able to their self-assertion expressing their claim to be unique and
valuable, rather than sim ply indistinguishable pritna materia fit
for the inevitable process of industrialization. Liberalism has sup
plied them with many moral devices for coping with European
overlords. And socialism provides them with guidance to the col
lectivist institutions which they instinctively feel are most suitable
to their early experiments with industrial life.
I think, then, that we may legitim ately rationalize the growing
tendency to use the term populism to cover these many and various
movements as a recognition of this particular character of political
ideas in the modern world. Populism is a type of movement found
among those aware of belonging to the poor periphery of an indus
trial system ; in this sense, it may be taken as a reaction to indust
rialism. But it is a reaction by those whose profoundest impulse
may often be to industrialize: it is only if you cannot join them
(and until you can) that you attack them. And it is this ambivalence
which accounts for the intellectual emptiness of populist move
There is one incidental advantage to developing the ideal of
populism: It would take over much of the unrewarding work with
which the idea of nationalism has been saddled in recent times.
The ex-colonial states have made extensive use of nationalist slogans
and consequently been thought nationalists in something like the
tradition of nationalism developed in Europe. But no one has been
very happy about this classification, since it is clear that the tribes
of Africa and the ethnic skeins of Asia do not amount to nations
in the European sense. To extend populism to cover these many
diverse situations would leave nationalism with a relatively more
coherent field, largely limited to European political experience,
and obviously with much to tell us about the inner experience of
populism. For what have most nationalist movements been, if not
reactions to an awareness of being on the periphery?

1 Norman Pollack, The Populist Response to Industrial America, Cam
bridge, Mass., 1962, p. 10.
2 Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform, London 1962.
3 Pollack, op. cit., p. 2.
4 Pollack, op. cit., Ch. IV, esp. p. 77.
5 Pollack, op. cit., p. 143.
6 Raoul Girardet, Autour de Ideologic Nationaliste in Revue Fran-
faise de Science Politique, Vol. X V , No. 3, June 1965: Special Number:
Nationalisme et Nationalismes Contemporarains. T h e literature o f nation
alism is replete with this kind of generalization.
7 Pollack, op. cit., Introduction.
8 See the Introduction by Isaiah Berlin to Franco Venturi, The Roots
of Revolution, London (English translation) i960, p. xxix.
9 Ignatius Donnelly, Caesar's Column, Chicago, 1891. Quoted in
George Brown Tindall, A Populist Reader, N ew York 1966, p. 112.
10 Nicholas Vaker, The Taproot of Soviet Society, N ew York 1961, p. 24.
11 Quoted Pollack, op. cit., pp. 83-4.
12 Hofstadter, op. cit., pp. 41-2.
13 Hofstadter, op. cit., p. 47.

14 Tindall, op. cit., p. 114.
15 Pollack, op. cit., pp. 17-88.
16 Hofstadter, op. cit., p. 6a.
17 Sarah E .V . Emery, Seven Financial Conspiracies which Have En
slaved the American People , Lansing 1888. Quoted Tindall, op. cit., p. 54.
18 Donnelly, quoted Tindall, op. cit., pp. 104-5.



Peter Worsley

Political science, for many decades, operated contentedly with a

conceptual schema which contained only two major categories:
political ideas and political institutions. To this pair there has
been more recently added, under the ill-absorbed influence of
sociology, a third category: political behaviour. I consider this
triple compartmentalization of the elements of political action as
inadequate, both as regards the theoretical status of these elements
as adequate categories taken singly, and as an overall conceptual
The conventional history of ideas is even less helpful when we
attempt to bring its conceptual resources to bear on a problem
such as the present one: the delineation of what we mean by popu
lism. The historian of ideas is interested primarily in the intellec
tual pedigree of his chosen idea. All too often, he fails to make it
clear whether the pedigree traced is one explicitly visible to the
bearers of ideas themselves, or a line of descent imputed to them
by historians, a perceived pedigree as against an attributed one.
The integument of social action - whether in terms of the social
niche occupied by the producer of ideas, the varying channels
through which ideas are communicated, or the varying contexts
in which they become adopted - is a matter of subsidiary impor
tance. The history of ideas, that is, is commonly quite
Our concern, here, is quite the opposite: the relationship between
ideology and social (especially political) action. We must, there
fore, concern ourselves with the milieux, agencies and channels of
communication within which ideas are communicated. But we must
inevitably - and much more importantly - reject the assumption
that the idea remains unchanged throughout these successive
contextual vicissitudes. Yet Platonism is not dead. It is commonly
assumed that ideas can be isolated in some pure, original, embry
onic, or archetypal form (though it is not always clear which of
these possibilities is being asserted, and on what grounds); there
after, they are seen as being taken up, translated into action,
etc. It is suggested here, per contra, that ideas, in the process of
becoming absorbed into successive cultural contexts, different
from those in which they were engendered or have hitherto flou
rished, not only assume a different sociological significance in so far
as they will be differently used by being incorporated within new
frameworks of action, but will also become modified qua ideas,
since they must necessarily be articulated with other psychic
furniture: pre-existing interests, cognitive elements and struc
tures, affectual dispositions, etc., which are all part of the receiving
milieu. The original ideas must intrinsically, therefore, be
modified in the process and become different ideas.
Simply to isolate a similar body of doctrinal propositions, then,
or even to compare those organizations which use the same label
to describe their political ideology or to claim kinship with other
movements, does not imply any necessary sociological similarity
between the sets of beliefs when viewed within the context of action,
or between such organizations.1 Thus subscription to a common
value system, that famous functionalist concept, leaves unques
tioned just what needs to be demonstrated: whether there is
necessarily any connection between theologically identical profes
sions of faith and what different sets of men professing the same
beliefs actually do, and, furthermore, what interpretation, empiri
cally, is placed upon these common beliefs by the actors.
To take the major ideology of our time, communism, as an ex
ample, reference to the writings of Marx and Engels is universal
in all communist organizations. But these texts are only one source
of theory, and constitute only one element in the cluster of factors
influencing policy. Not only do national considerations, raison
d'etat, etc. constitute other sources of ideological variation, but
there is always the intrinsic need to interpret the original texts.
Experience, life itself, the increasing remoteness of the world for
which the original writings were created, reflect themselves in the
elaboration of later bodies of ideological writing which are added,
variously, to the original texts. These diacritical additions, whether
they be the writings of Stalin, M ao, Trotsky, Guevara/Castro,
etc., in fact mark off different kinds of communism. One can no
longer seriously write of Com m unism with a capital C; only of
communisms, now as numerous as Christianities. W hen looked at
from the point of view o f internal organization, the structural
and cultural differences are so profound and various - as, say,
between Cuban society and Soviet - that we begin to see that to
speak of Communism is to idealize and universalize, to standardize
under sloppy com m on-sense labels what often, sociologically,
needs to be distinguished. (N ow that Chinese communism and
Soviet communism are locked in conflict, the point is becoming
clearer.) Indeed, the period when we could write of a unitary
Communism - the high Stalin era - was sim ply a phase when one
variety, temporarily though effectively became institutionalized as
prevailing orthodoxy. Today, by contrast, com m unism may even
be only an addition to a m uch wider body of revolutionary/radical
thought, as when Marx is added to M arti. T he various meanings
given to communist doctrine by underground guerrilla move
ments; by respectable mass parties in France and Italy; by the
apparatchiks of the second most powerful nation on earth; by
China; by microscopic legal minority m ovem ents com m itted to
parliamentary change (as in Britain) - m ust all necessarily mean
that the ideas these organizations profess to share are not the same
ideas by any means. Extraordinarily different things are done in the
name of the same' ideals. Thus, the same God is com m only invoked
to bless the protagonists of both sides in war. A t their most
tenuous, such common values are merely ideological legitimation,
rather than serious guides to action - as we shall find for much
invocation of the people below. T hey may be quite unconnected
with day-to-day action at all, but may merely have lip-service paid
to them, since they are unchallengeable theological dogmas, whose
real significance is that of the Malinowskian m ythological charter,
legitimizing and validating the social order. But no one seriously
expects such myths to be closely connected with everyday social
action; their place is almost in the transcendental.
In any complex body of doctrine - such as a modern major ideo
logy is, or becomes over the years - there is inherently, too, ample
inconsistency, ambiguity, incoherence, contradiction, to enable the
reader to read what he wants to read into those doctrines in the
light of his social and psychological predispositions.
Even where orthodoxy is institutionally established, and clear
principles or authoritative definitions are available or insisted
upon, this by no means precludes vigorous dispute as to what the
real meaning of these fundamental beliefs is. General principles,
such as from each according to his means . . are what Selznick
has called unanalysed abstractions: they have still to be turned
into day-to-day policies (assuming that such principles do in
fluence policy at all). The relevance for action of such delphic
and manipulable bodies of thought is thus highly problematic,
always open to interpretation, and therefore liable to become a
source not only of political argument but also of organized factional
To this degree, even the most closed of ideologies contains with
in it potential sources of heresy and deviation, and it is not difficult
for interest-aggregates to form and mobilize around these rival
The more strongly organized the political authority, the more,
however, these potential latitudes will be reduced. Indeed, in most
modern societies, the reader or receiver of an ideology is unlikely
to be a free, untrammelled scholar, reflecting over the merits of
rival doctrines, and making his intellectual, individual choice
between them. Life is not like an ideal nineteenth-century market,
or a traditional scholars study. The ideology-receiver is likely to
have the message purveyed to him, and interpreted for him, so
that some interpretations are available, de rigueur, or required,
and others nipped in the bud. Party propaganda machines are one
crucial and normal type of channel through which this purveying
and interpreting is commonly done; the mass-circulation newspaper
and television, the typical and principal media of communication
in modern literate societies. The extent to which such co-ordina
tion of messages occurs varies empirically: there may be even more
controlled and systematic presentation of messages (e.g. by party
instructors, agitators, public speakers, etc.). But to whatever
degree peoples public minds are manipulated, certainly some form
of information-filtering, and some degree of regular and systematic
conditioning, are to be found. There is even, immanently, an
irreducible inevitability that some degree and kind of selection will
occur. But messages must also speak to unmet wants, dispositions,
and interests in the psyches of the hearers.2 Thus the effective
impact of a message by no means simply depends upon the internal
logic o f its intellectual structure or the coherence of its argument.
It depends quite as crucially upon the skill and force with which
it is com m unicated, the authority o f the communicating agent, its
relevance to the wants o f what Selznick calls constituencies, etc.:
in brief, the pow er o f an ideology has as m uch to do with its social
context as it has to the pure appeal o f a set o f ideas. Indeed,
our argum ent w ould suggest that such pure appeals can only
occur where w ertra tio n a lita t (com m itm ent to som e over-riding
dom inant value) exists. But only fanatics, saints, total ideologists,
behave like this. N orm ally, m ost m en operate with reference
to what W eber called substantive*, as against purely formal
In the process o f com prehending, then, the reader thus actively
apprehends the m essages aim ed at him . H e interacts with them,
perceiving, selecting, evaluating, consciously and/or unconsciously,
filtering the m essage through com plex cultural screens in the pro
cess of internalizing it. Even in physical isolation, he is never
socially isolated, for his perception o f the m essages he reads in the
newspapers or takes in from television, and his responses to them,
are socio-culturally conditioned. M ore norm ally, in addition, he
has much more active agents acting as filters betw een him and the
Even the m ost system atic, logically closed ideologies, then,
are, to this degree, perm issive or open-ended. T h e degree of clo
sure* that exists is by no m eans solely the internal logic that is in
the ideas themselves, but is also a social ordering through which
ideas are used instrumentally (e.g. brain-washing, teaching, shoot
ing deviants, majority verdicts, etc.). T o speak o f the ideas of a
movement, then, as if there were som e authentic Platonic ideal and
unchanging form of them , is a distraction. Different receivers
receive differentially, and these differences are socially engendered
and fostered, suppressed or discouraged. A ny com plex body of
thought can therefore give rise true, not to any conclusions-for-
action - but to an enormous range. But if perfect system and control
are never achievable, specific interpretations can be institutionalized,
can last for a long time, and be so backed by sanctions as to effec
tively submerge rival interpretations. So we have that form of
Christianity Nietzsche described as the religion of slaves and
the sardonic description of Anglicanism as T he Tory Party at
prayer; the rigid, necessitarian marxism of Plekhanov or pre-1914
German social democracy; the opportunist marxism of Lenin
or the institutionalized revolutionism of Cuba or China; the
libertarian marxism of the young Marx, and the despotism of
Producing and consuming a message may take place without
any direct physical contact with others or physical social controls.
Yet changes in psychic disposition are themselves intrinsically of
consequence for ones orientation to others. One is no longer the
same person after having been persuaded of a certain proposition:
ones actions are henceforth likely to differ. Implications for subse
quent action and interaction have been established. Changing
ones thinking, that is, is changing ones behaviour. One behaves,
as sociology and social psychology insist, with reference to norms,
values, ends, goals, and other ideal elements of social action.
These, indeed, are part of behaviour, not something outside it.
Indeed, to emphasize his rejection of the concept of mindless
behaviour, Weber insisted on using a distinctive label: not be
haviour, but social action.
Men ransack the past to find legitimations for the present: they
discover precursors, trace intellectual pedigrees, re-write history.
The past, therefore, is constantly changing. To search for the pure
original systematic form of an ideology is therefore a labour of
Sisyphus. The hunt for distinctive, authentic continuities is
equally illusory, since all complex thought is built of components
which can be combined and re-combined (and further broken
down) in an infinity of ways, so that no sharp boundaries (as
assumed in talk of systems of thought) exist. If the search for
origins involves us in infinite regress, backwards in time, the search
for pedigrees involves infinite seepage as we are led to follow Mans
ingenuity in fitting his stock of ideas the one to another. In any
case, since new bodies of thought are built out of earlier materials
re-combined in different ways, only rarely is any entirely new com
ponent being added (though the re-combination may produce,
in the whole, a new Gestalt which is not simply the sum of its
parts, and not to be found in any lower-level combination of such
The borders of such a complex body of thought as an ideology
can never be sharply marked off from its neighbouring ideologies,
since the systems do not -p a c e modern systems theory in political
science - possess distinctive boundaries which mark them off
clearly from other systems*. If no ideology is ever so distinctive or
original, then, we m ust expect to find that a large part of the
elem ents we find in populism will also be found to occur in other
ism s, both in those which preceded modern populism and those
which have co-existed with it chronologically.
One crucial initial distinction needs to be made. The presence
of common elem ents may be perceived by the actors, as when
socialists and com m unists have com m only defined themselves as
variants of one general political tradition. Alternatively, the pres
ence of com m on elem ents m ay be quite unperceived by the actors,
but solely im puted by analysts. T h is latter situation directs our
attention to one crucial difference between populism and commu
nism, for example, since the latter is a subjective designation by
communists (as well as their opponents), and not merely an analy
tical attribution. W hen actors see them selves as part of a shared
tradition or organized m ovem ent, or trace their ideological descent
to a distinct source, e.g. a person or a book, or along defined
lines of descent - as com m unists do - we are plainly dealing with a
quite different kind of typologizing, based upon self-identification
and relationship to perceived reference-groups, from that which
occurs when social scientists class together, under the rubric
populist, m ovem ents which have no conception whatsoever of
their m ovement as being one of a fam ily of such movements, or as
being descended from som e ancestral pioneer or prototype. Typi
cally, there has never been a Populist International, and many
movements which others have labelled populist have never them
selves used any such label to describe them selves. T hey have not
even been aware that other - to us - analogous movements even
existed; even less did they have any organizational contact with
them. Populism, then, is not part of a shared, more inclusive
tradition, as far as the subjective orientation of the actors is con
cerned. Its typological status is solely an analytical one, and popu
list movements are no more self-consciously part of a shared
tradition than are, say, unilineal descent-groups or stateless
societies. North American populist m ovem ents, for example, had
not the faintest awareness that there were other m ovem ents already
long in existence thousands of miles away in Europe which would
come to have that word attached to them, nor would M id-W est
farmers have recognized any similarities between their own move
ments and the Russian ones. Communist parties, p er contra , do
see themselves as part of a well-known international tradition with
institutionalized interconnections: Cubans, Chinese, and Russians,
and millions of others, are told that the polities they live in
belong to a world-wide and historic community of thought and
True, the word populist was actually used, historically, by one
of the most important North American movements as its title; other
North American movements which we designate as populist, how
ever, used no such term. The translation of the Russian narod-
nichestvo has been rendered as populist, but this.very act of
translation is itself an imputation, not a neutral simple equiva
lence (which translation can never be, since it has to use categories
available in language).3 It may well be, then, that to speak of popu
lism as a genus is to assume what needs to be demonstrated: that
movements with very different features, separate in time, space,
and culture, do possess certain crucial attributes which justify our
subsuming them consciously and analytically under the same
rubric, populist, despite variations in their other characteristics.
If such a term is to be used, we need to specify just what these
crucial attributes are, and not simply assume that the arbitrary
bandying about of a word implies any resemblances at all, sociolo
gically speaking, between the activities to which it has become
attached. Such resemblances may not exist. But since the word
has been used, the existence of the verbal smoke might well indicate
a fire somewhere. Let us look, then, at the major historic specimens
of those movements which have been designated populist, to see
what, if any, common features there may be. If not, we may need
to discontinue using the label.
For the most part, scholars hitherto have not even regarded the
question of the generalizability of the term populist as constitut
ing a problem at all, for most of them have been specialists who
have used the term discretely simply to refer to those particular
movements occurring within their special area and time-period.
The main sets of movements in different areas for which the term
has most commonly - perhaps arbitrarily - been used are (a) the
Russian narodnik movement of the second half of the nineteenth
century (and some other Eastern European movements); (6) late
nineteenth-century North American movements in the rural South
and West; and (c) certain contemporary movements, and even
kinds of states, in non-communist Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
A yet wider usage (d) extends the term not simply to whole organ
ized movements, but to certain elements in organizations, move
ments and ideologies of all kinds in which the notion of the will
of the people, and the notion of direct popular contact with
political leaderships are stressed.


I will not rehearse here the general characteristics of Russian

populism which have been described earlier in this book by Pro
fessor Hofstadter and Dr Walicki. As far as Russian Narodnichestvo
is concerned, let us merely note these principal features: it was a
movement primarily of intellectuals; it dreamed of a new society
based on the reinvigorated mir (village community); it was anti-
Tsarist, anti-capitalist, and revolutionary. Organizationally, apart
from going to the peasants in the mad summer of 1874, its main
manifestations were the Zemlya i Volya movement and the sub
sequent terroristic Narodnaya Volya, whose greatest success was
the assassination of Tsar Alexander iv in 1881.
North American populism was characterized b y :
1 a hostility to all those large-scale agencies which the farmer
saw as inimical to his interests as a producer and consumer;
2 a more diffuse intellectual and moral hostility to what the
populists saw as un-natural interference with a competitive and
fair market-system on the part of trusts, monopolies, etc.;
3 a strong emphasis on monetary remedies;
4 a belief in state action to right these wrongs;
5 a primary social base among the small, independent, but highly
vulnerable, rural producers of the South and W est;
6 allies among the frontier miners, on the basis of monetary
rather than agrarian planks of policy;
7 early engagement in politics, first, as an agrarian pressure-
group vis-i-vis the established parties, then as an independent
political entity, first at state/provincial level, then at national
(third-party) level;
8 extensions of the ideology of mobilizing the common people
to include the labouring poor of the cities (with no response to this
hand of friendship from organized or unorganized labour).
9 It was primarily to be found in the frontier regions of the
Mid- and Far-West, particularly among wheat-farmers in Kansas,
Nebraska, Minnesota and the Dakotas; in the South, especially
among the poor white cotton-farmers of Alabama, Georgia and
North Carolina; and in the mountain states, notably among the
miners of Colorado and Nevada.4
If significant parallels can be found in the ideas of the two
major historical types of populism, then, there are also massive
divergences. In organizational terms, Russian populism could
scarcely be more different from North American. It was outstand
ingly a movement of intellectuals, who idolized the people (par
ticularly the peasantry), and their institutions (particularly the
mir), and were prepared to sacrifice their lives and their freedom
in the cause of the people. But Russian populism was pre-emin
ently an ideology about the peasantry, not one created by them, nor
one rooted in the peasantry. It preached learning from, being guided
by, the people, when everything in it was created by a segment of
the urban intelligentsia.
North American populism, in contrast, was a mass popular
movement o f the farmers, par excellence. Unlike Russian populism,
its spokesmen and theorists were not a very highly-educated intel
ligentsia (for Russian populism includes amongst its progenitors
such distinguished names as Herzen, Chernyshevsky, Plekhanov,
and Bakunin, as well as the flower of a whole generation of the
universities). The ideologists of the North American movements
were drawn from the farming community itself. They were a
local, not a national or cosmopolitan, intelligentsia, and included
neither Herzens nor products of Ivy League universities. Rather
were they, typically, editors of farmers newspapers, or, as com
monly, preachers or sons of preachers, with fundamentalist non
conformist backgrounds. They did not have to go to the people,
for if they were not of the people - as many were - they were living
in their midst.
The enemy identified by the two sets of populists - and the pro
posed strategy for dealing with that enemy - also differed. Of
course, it can be held that both sets of movements, at a higher
level of abstraction, were saying similar things. Both spoke of
the common man, the small producer - but they were very dif
ferent small producers. Both saw monopoly, finance-capitalist
industrialism, and irresponsible government, as the chief ob
stacles to progress. The cultural inheritance from the past was the
chief source of the major differences. These generated very
different orientations to time. In Russia, the past was everything;
the future, for the revolutionaries, an apocalyptic vision. In the
United States, there was no past: the future was simply to be the
present humanized, rationalized, and made more just. The fashion
able dichotomy between traditionalism* and modernism, useful
enough but so over-stretched in modern theories of development,
is as unhelpful here as it is in studies of contemporary developing
societies, for archaic Tsarist despotism might be traditional, but
was rejected, along with modern capitalism. Yet the pure society,
it was held, would only come into being when the traditional com
mune asserted itself at the expense of the rejected - but equally
traditional - state.
Russian populism thus looked to some of the elements of the
traditional culture, but eschewed other levels and forms of
traditionalism fiercely, particularly Tsarist autocracy. Populism
here was anarchist in its denial of the state, but also communi
tarian in its reliance upon the imr, and looked to an intermediate
level of social organization - the mir - as the corner-stone upon
which the new social order could be built. It was, in consequence,
much more communitarian than those individualistic forms of
anarchism which celebrated the autonomy and self-expression of
the individual, But variants of anarchism in which community was
celebrated - e.g. the anarchism of the Spanish pueblos5 - seem to
constitute a conceptual frontier region which can equally meaning
fully be labelled populism or anarchism. American populism
mistrusted the personnel staffing the state, and the way the state was
used instrumentally, but needed the machinery itself, and pro
posed only to bring it under popular control; to make it respon
sible rather than to eliminate it. Indeed, the whole system -
political machinery, banks, industry, railroads, corporations - was
to be reformed, not abolished or replaced.
For the Russian populists, on the other hand, capitalism was an
innovation which, they feared, would dissolve the traditional soli
darity of the village, and, in the end, introduce inequality and
class war to the countryside. But the activities of trusts, banks, and
corporations, which so preoccupied the North American populists,
were not important in the Russian countryside. Where the Ameri
can farmer faced large-scale, corporate urban capitalism as an
octopus extending its tentacles into the countryside from its urban
base, the narodniks were more concerned with petty capitalism in
its intra-village manifestations: the threat that differentiation, if
unchecked, would create a class of kulaks at one end of the social
hierarchy, dominating what had hitherto been an egalitarian com
munity, and a class of landless proletarians at the other, the latter
being faced with starvation if they stayed in the village, or with
exodus from village society altogether, to the towns and to the new
servitude of wage-labour.
There are thus significant resemblances, and yet other dif
ferences, between the attitudes of the intellectual Narodnik theor
ists towards the non-village world, and those of the peasantry.
The latter wished indeed to preserve their traditional autonomy,
but there is little evidence of hostility towards the kulak. Nor did
they conceptualize anything as sophisticated as capitalism*. To
them, the real enemy was the outside world, and its most patent
and significant manifestations were the servants of the state, and
not simply the big landowners or the newer farming entrepreneurs.
Both sets of movements, certainly, concentrated on the rural scene,
where the majority of the population lived, and a singularly vul
nerable part of it - the rural small producers. Both sets of move
ments were also concerned with the challenge of industrialism,
urbanism, bigness, centralization, and hierarchy; both tried to
resist these tendencies, to decentralize socially, and (paradoxically)
built up increasingly more centralized political organizations to
carry forward the campaign. Both tried to establish a social base
in the cities. But whereas American populism had a rural mass
base, Russian movements had nothing of the kind. In the event,
the American movements failed in the cities; the Narodniks and
their immediate successors had their only successes there. The
American populists success in the countryside brought them to
the point of trying to construct a nation-wide movement that
would link farmers and Labour; the Russian populists failure in
the villages led them to fall back on the city.
North American populism, as we have seen, was not against
capitalism, though there were powerful voices within the move
ments which went beyond agrarian and financial reform. For the
most part, however, it was classically laissez faire to the extent
that its members were petty farmers (petty by American standards,
that is, where a section of 640 acres was the standard unit of
measurement of farm-size), who wanted a freer, more competitive,
less trustified, market economy in which the producer, not those
different orientations to time. In Russia, the past was everything;
the future, for the revolutionaries, an apocalyptic vision. In the
U nited States, there was no past: the future was simply to be the
present humanized, rationalized, and m ade m ore just. T he fashion
able dichotomy between traditionalism and m odernism , useful
enough but so over-stretched in m odern theories of development,
is as unhelpful here as it is in studies of contem porary developing
societies, for archaic Tsarist despotism m ight be traditional, but
was rejected, along with m odern capitalism. Yet the pure society,
it was held, would only come into being when the traditional com
m une asserted itself at the expense of the rejected - but equally
traditional - state.
Russian populism thus looked to some of the elements of the
traditional culture, but eschewed other levels and forms of
traditionalism fiercely, particularly Tsarist autocracy. Populism
here was anarchist in its denial of the state, but also communi
tarian in its reliance upon the mir> and looked to an intermediate
level of social organization - the mir - as the corner-stone upon
which the new social order could be built. It was, in consequence,
m uch more communitarian than those individualistic forms of
anarchism which celebrated the autonomy and self-expression of
the individual. But variants of anarchism in which community was
celebrated - e.g. the anarchism of the Spanish pueblos 5 - seem to
constitute a conceptual frontier region which can equally meaning
fully be labelled populism or anarchism. American populism
m istrusted the personnel staffing the state, and the way the state was
used instrumentally, but needed the machinery itself, and pro
posed only to bring it under popular control; to make it respon
sible rather than to eliminate it. Indeed, the whole system -
political machinery, banks, industry, railroads, corporations - was
to be reformed, not abolished or replaced.
For the Russian populists, on the other hand, capitalism was an
innovation which, they feared, would dissolve the traditional soli
darity of the village, and, in the end, introduce inequality and
class war to the countryside. But the activities of trusts, banks, and
corporations, which so preoccupied the N orth American populists,
were not im portant in the Russian countryside. W here the Ameri
can farmer faced large-scale, corporate urban capitalism as an
octopus extending its tentacles into the countryside from its urban
base, the narodniks were more concerned with petty capitalism in
its intra-village manifestations: the threat that differentiation, if
unchecked, would create a class of kulaks at one end of the social
hierarchy, dominating what had hitherto been an egalitarian com
munity, and a class of landless proletarians at the other, the latter
being faced with starvation if they stayed in the village, or with
exodus from village society altogether, to the towns and to the new
servitude of wage-labour.
There are thus significant resemblances, and yet other dif
ferences, between the attitudes of the intellectual Narodnik theor
ists towards the non-village world, and those of the peasantry.
The latter wished indeed to preserve their traditional autonomy,
but there is little evidence of hostility towards the kulak. Nor did
they conceptualize anything as sophisticated as capitalism. To
them, the real enemy was the outside world, and its most patent
and significant manifestations were the servants of the state, and
not simply the big landowners or the newer farming entrepreneurs.
Both sets of movements, certainly, concentrated on the rural scene,
where the majority of the population lived, and a singularly vul
nerable part of it - the rural small producers. Both sets of move
ments were also concerned with the challenge of industrialism,
urbanism, bigness, centralization, and hierarchy; both tried to
resist these tendencies, to decentralize socially, and (paradoxically)
built up increasingly more centralized political organizations to
carry forward the campaign. Both tried to establish a social base
in the cities. But whereas American populism had a rural mass
base, Russian movements had nothing of the kind. In the event,
the American movements failed in the cities; the Narodniks and
their immediate successors had their only successes there. The
American populists success in the countryside brought them to
the point of trying to construct a nation-wide movement that
would link farmers and Labour; the Russian populists failure in
the villages led them to fall back on the city.
North American populism, as we have seen, was not against
capitalism, though there were powerful voices within the move
ments which went beyond agrarian and financial reform. For the
most part, however, it was classically laissez faire to the extent
that its members were petty farmers (petty by American standards,
that is, where a section of 640 acres was the standard unit of
measurement of farm-size), who wanted a freer, more competitive,
less trustified, market economy in which the producer, not those
who battened on him, would be sovereign; in which credit would be
readily available; and in which control over the crucial political
centres of decision-making would lie also in their hands. They
had no conception of a return to any Adamic natural, pre-capital
ist economy. Apart from the very initial colonization phase of
establishing their farms, they had known nothing but advanced,
large-scale, extensive, capitalist production for remote markets;
those who had succeeded had been very good at it : they created
the most effective modern agriculture the world has yet known.
Yet to use the label laissez fa ir e is misleading, for these are
second generation laissez fa ire notions: they are reflexes stimu
lated by the basic fact of the domination of the market by the big
economic enterprises. Their demand for economic liberation from
the control of those inhibiting the free development of the factors
of production (and thereby constricting the small mans room for
manoeuvre) was directed not against a traditional land-owning
nobility, but against the modern trusts, finance-houses, etc. of
the cities: against the institutions of modern capitalism. Moreover,
these independent commodity-producers who survived, to experi
ence both success and the even worse rigours of periodic depression,
were not simply petty-bourgeois individualists, as the whole
history of their community life and institutions, and their solidarist
political associations, demonstrate. Living on the frontier, tens of
miles at least away from the next community, they had, in the first
place, to practise mutual aid at some level simply in order to sur
vive, in the early days especially. This is part of the nostalgia
that seeps through the Western film into the consciousness of the
city movie-goer.
Social cooperation of this kind was therefore by no means
foreign to them, even if their mode of production was quite
private-enterprise. Strictly collective forms of organization, on the
other hand, were virtually unknown.6
But frontier settlement was not always settlement by atomized
families and individuals. The ties generated by a common life-
situation were often underlaid by pre-existing cultural ties
imported into the frontier-situation, and thus deriving from a pre-
situational cultural community (this is also why Cooperstock
writes of prior socialization in discussing the Hutterites and
kibbutzim). Whole districts were settled by people of similar ethnic
origin, for whom the common culture of their countries of origin,
particularly the transportable elements of language and religion,7
provided ready-made ties around which new associations could
be built. The older, ethnic culture provided a reference-point
defining social identity and distinctiveness. Such powerful com
munal bonds were particularly strong where such communities
had experienced religious or political persecution in the Old
World. These latter settled together, and were sustained by com
pulsive ideologies which already contained a ready-made, prescrip
tive social ethic.8
Moreover, the classic mythology of the heroic individual West
ern entrepreneur-pioneer needs to be put into perspective, by
examining what other agencies were involved in the extension of
the frontier. One of the crucial ones was the state. True, men did
shape their farms out of the wilderness with axe and plough,
and some died in doing so; more failed. But the great settlement
of the West, and the breakthrough subsequently to modern mech
anized agriculture, particularly wheat-farming, was, overall, no
affair of axe and plough. These pioneers went out with not incon
siderable social support - infrastructural, political, and military -
direct and indirect, from the state. First, they were virtually given
the land itself, usually at some nominal price, via state action (e.g.
the Homestead Act). The existing occupants of the land, the
Indians, again, were removed for them, and herded into reserva
tions by the State (in the form of the United States Cavalry, the
RCM P, etc.). Nor was agricultural adaptation and innovation
simply a matter of trial-and-error or some Social-Darwinist selec
tion of those who adapted and innovated most effectively, for
publicly-supported scientific organization, notably the land-grant
college - focussed upon agricultural sciences and the problems of
the frontier farmer, sciences adapted to the physical conditions of
the frontier and the socio-economic demands of market and pro
duction constraints - were the mechanisms through which new and
advanced suitable crops were selected and new agricultural tech
niques devised, in a way in which no small farmer - or even any
successful larger farmer - could have done for himself. Through
these colleges, too, modern farming practice was fed into the educa
tion of a whole rising new generation; they were training institu
tions, socializing the young people, and not simply applied
research institutions producing seed-strains and rotation-schemes.
The allocation of land to these colleges by the state thus constituted
a powerful intervention by the state, which was thus able to
mobilize capital with little cost or risk to itself, just as it awarded land
as a means of underwriting the drive of the railroads westwards.
Quite early, then, the normality of the involvement of the state
as an agency of development was a feature of the Mid-W est/
prairie scene. True, there were many variations and vicissitudes,
but the pioneer process, to put it baldly, was not simply one of
the steady nibbling forward of self-regulating frontiersmen. The
final rush to the west coast of what is today Canada, for example,
took place following the thrusting through of the railroads as a
part of macroscopic international Canadian governmental policy9 -
to keep the United States out of what are now the prairie provinces
and British Columbia. The fundamental decision-making here was
highly centralized, not the result of innumerable decisions by
small pioneers.
Farmers, then, were quite habituated to state action, which,
moreover, was by no means necessarily read as inimical to their
interests, as other small men have believed profoundly, in other
times and places. The social situation, that is, generated attitudes
which the mere examination of class composition or size of
holding* tells us nothing about. Sociological schematism of this
kind is simply single-stranded, de-cultured analysis.
Farmers, also, in consequence, were quite predisposed to use
the state, and to organize politically - whether at state/provincial or
national/federal level - from the earliest days. Given the social and
cultural composition of the frontier and other backward farming
regions, the small farmer could, with some justification, talk of
the people* or the citizenry, and mean the small farmer*. A
common market-situation, common pre-existing cultural ties, often,
and common enemies, all contributed to engendering a peculiarly
strong sense of identity and solidarity, a communal* class-con
sciousness that was not the sectional class-consciousness of those
who feel themselves to be an embattled part only, a slice or seg
ment of a wider society made up of other numerous and powerful
interest-aggregates. For very few of those who lived on the frontier
or in other marginal regions were not farmers; most of those who
were not, were, at one remove, highly dependent upon the farmers
who were their clients, neighbours, and customers. More than this,
most of the farmers were small farmers, even if processes of dif
ferentiation began early and went on inexorably, as they are still
going on. All those who lived and worked on farms were, objec
tively, and also felt themselves to be, set apart from those others
who neither worked land nor lived in the farming community, but
who lived down East on the profits they exacted from the farmers
labour. These latter, almost entirely, were physically distanced
from the farmer, and therefore never interacted directly with him.
They did not live in the frontier regions at all, but outside it: in
the towns and cities, the state/provincial capitals, in Washington,
Ottawa, and Wall Street. Hence class-solidarity did not divide the
local community; class-consciousness was communal rather than
sectional, and united the farmers. It was classically expressed, not
in the sectional terminology of class at all, but in the more inclusive
and reverberating name of the people.
To the extent that this solidarity was rhetorical (for any social
collectivity or category can be further broken down into sub-
classes, and Western farmers were no exception), their solidarity
was cut across by many of the ties which we have already mentioned
as binding together more limited communities; solidarity at the
lower level representing separation at a more inclusive level. Thus
communities were divided insofar as some men had larger farms
than others, were wealthier or more successful, employed more
labour, had machines, access to credit, etc. Other differences were
cultural, rather than class differences: the ethnic mosaic of the
settlement pattern, even within as well as between settlement areas.
Differential allegiance to established political parties again divided
them, to name no other divisive elements.
At first, in order to avoid highlighting such divisions, the attempt
was made to segregate different areas of social life, notably to keep
the new farmers organizations non-political. They were, of course,
analytically, political organizations. What this meant was that
members of farmers organizations would be allowed to retain their
affiliations to political parties, and thus avoid any clash of loyalties
as between party and farmers organization. The common interests
of the people as farmers were claimed to be separable from their
other, more general and more private, interests as political animals.
As long as the farmers demands were not very radical or extensive;
as long as they were confined to particular, largely economic,
demands, and did not cohere to form an overall programme; as
long as, negatively, they involved no rejection of the policies and
philosophies of the major parties or of the constitutional order,
farmers and politicans could follow in classic lobbying procedure,
buying and selling support and favours. But economic issues, and
political and social issues, cannot be kept apart in neat com
partments as easily in political life as they can be in some kinds of
(bad) social theory.
For the reasons outlined above, third-party political irruptions
were built-in to a relatively homogeneous social structure with
interests very different from the rest of the country, as an endemic,
recurrent, chronic political phenomenon. When third-party agrarian
movements did take root, they were inevitably, also, mass move
ments that cut across conventional political orthodoxies, both of
ideas and of constitutional and organizational forms such as the
oscillation of in-party and out-party. With overwhelming maj
orities, for instance, the extreme situation was to be reached in
which formal opposition was condemned to permanent minority
impotence, and parliamentary government-and-opposition became
inoperable and meaningless. Professor Brough Macpherson has
described for us one classic right-wing form of prairie populism,
the United Farmers of Alberta, which had two-thirds of all seats
in the Alberta legislature from 1921 to 1934, and its successor,
Social Credit, which won eighty-nine per cent of the seats in 1935,
and still reigns today. Though Social Credit successfully monopo
lized the political life of that province, it was nevertheless obliged
by Federal constitutional obligations to operate within the formal
framework of parliamentary government-and-opposition. Mac
pherson therefore labels this a quasi-party* system: not non-
party, because institutionalized opposition and other (albeit
vestigial) manifestations of party-ness still persisted (and were
not spontaneously abolished through the total evaporation of sup
port); and not one party, where legal opposition is abolished by
political fiat, because the party in power was so pre-eminent that
it had no need to proscribe other parties (and further, could not,
because it was not an autonomous state, but part of Federal


This degree of pre-eminence, based on overwhelming popular sup

port, or, as often, the result of entirely ineffective and fragmented
opposition on the part of minor parties, effectively eliminates
all rivals without necessarily resorting to force or repression.
It bears close resemblance to a much more recent phenomenon,
the dominant nationalist mass-party inheritor party-state in con
temporary Africa and Asia, and to certain Latin American analogues.
These are the third major cluster of movements to which the label
populist has commonly been applied. In my book The Third
W orld 11 I described the principal features of this variant of
populism as follow s:
1 he proposition that socio-economic classes are not the crucial
social entities that they are in developed countries. They are held
not to exist, or to be vestigial remnants of colonialism or feudal
ism, or to be merely incipient (and with social engineering, can
be prevented from emerging). The class struggle is therefore an
irrelevant conception.
2 The major antagonisms are those between the society as a
whole (the nation) and the outside world, particularly the
ex-colonial Powers, but also any Power or bloc which seeks
to directly control or decisively influence developments in Afro-
Asia/Latin America, in accordance with the claims from such
outside Powers that their ideologies have universal validity,
relevance, and applicability. These Powers are particularly
suspected of applying their erroneous views in a way that holds
back Third World liberation and development, consciously or
unconsciously. T he Cold War, therefore, is also taboo. But pure
individualistic nationalism is cross-cut by the appeal to common
identity as the proletarian nations, and by the requirements of
racial sovereignty and/or continental identity. The experience of
past colonialism and present neo-colonialism thus generates
loyalties to entities and groupings wider than the nation.
3 The Party is the agency of liberation, and the Party-State the
agency of development (unlike early Russian populism), but the
Party-State is not seen as the direct controller and initiator of all
economic and other social activity. Great stress is placed upon
cooperative and communitarian forms of modernization, and upon
self-help, with the village as the key social unit for development
purposes in the rural areas (i.e. the bulk of the country). A mixed
economy is accepted, including the persistence of private foreign
investment, but with the main future growth planned to hinge
upon some kind of planned villageization in the countryside, and
with a good deal of State intervention and control in industry and
commerce. The strategy of modernization primarily via heavy
industry or even secondary industry, however, is discounted, not
solely because it is impractical, but because it is held to be
inapplicable to agrarian societies, or, in extreme, unnatural in a
physiocratic sense, a repugnant aspect of urban life which is
marginal to the general life of the country.
4 The unity of the nation is expressed in the single-party, and
sometimes elaborated into a philosophy which links Party, nation,
village-life, and self-activity into an ideological complex.
In some countries, it is true, spontaneous mass support was
never decisive enough to ensure unchallenged supremacy for the
majority party. Here, other methods were used to demobilize
opposition, ranging from persuasion to force, from patronage to
bribery. In this struggle for power, the liberal parliamentary insti
tutions for the most part merely constituted a formal framework
within which the results of the battle fought outside Parliament
were ratified. Parliamentary support and control was thus merely
one element, a resource in a complex political field of forces, at
one level, and a final legitimizing agency at another level. Coun
tries like Tanzania, more secure because of overwhelming mass
support, and because there has been no very effective opposition
(though force has been used against trade unions and students),
have experimented with allowing a distinct measure of choice and
free expression within the framework of a single-party state. The
substantive content of this kind of political programme might well
call for no such new term as populism at all, and might as well be
designated by that old-fashioned term nationalism, had these
regimes not, in one way and another, commonly developed, over
and above the programme of national consolidation and centraliza
tion, social programmes in which the small peasant and the virtues
of village society were enshrined as the kernel of national identity.
Added to this, there has been an emphasis, in some countries,
upon the development of small-scale farming, whether small
holder or communitarian, as an alternative to both the large-scale
capitalist estate or plantation and the collective State Farm.
Communitarian or co-operative models were also frequently
represented both as more truly consonant with traditional rural
culture-patterns and as more viable modern bases for a rejuvenated
agriculture than private capitalist development.
It has been this small-farmer emphasis, and the emphasis on
communitarianism, which have caused analysts to characterize
such programmes as populist rather than simply nationalist. Since
family-farming units and communitarian village life are perfectly
compatible, forms resembling the moshav, or the Saskatchewan
Group Farm, have been the favoured models, intermediate between
the independent petty-farmer at one end of the ideal-typical con
tinuum and the collective farm at the other.12
Planned settlement of this kind, however, is usually only an
insignificant part of the agrarian scene, with some exceptions (e.g.
Kenya). Normally, then, populist theorists are discussing more
than planned experimental communities. They assume that the
rural population generally is homogeneous, that the archetypal
citizen is the peasant, and that the phenomenon of mass identifica
tion with the parti unique is simply the registration in the political
sphere of this underlying community of life-situation. Yet differen
tiation in land-holding, and in the degree of involvement in the
international and domestic cash-economies, are both marked in
these countries (with great variations from country to country, and
region to region). Such differences are very significant axes of social
division. There are many other such divisions in the life-situation
of the small farmers: some (ever fewer) are primarily subsistence
farmers; others feed themselves and grow crops for the market;
some are fully-fledged and specialized cash-crop producers; all
are involved, in different degrees, in the market-economy as con
sumers, or, sometimes, through their, or their relatives, connec
tions with the labour-market, whether as buyers or sellers of labour.
Some are primarily dependent upon family labour; others employ
hired labour seasonally, yet others throughout the year hire labour
on farms of sizes located at different points along that continuum
at the far end of which lies capitalist agriculture. But the vast
majority are still only very small producers, often only seasonal
employers of labour, or employers mainly of their kin. Similarly,
one needs to distinguish the varieties of farming enterprise, and
the structure and content of the units, along many other dimen
sions : the relations entailed in growing different kinds of crop, for
instance, the degree of involvement in different types of marketing
arrangements, and so on (individual producers being commonly
organized into marketing co-operatives, for example). All these
differentia constitute important bases upon which more structured
aggregations of political interest can, and often do, emerge. More-
over, many people shift from one category to another at different
times, blurring sharp occupational boundaries between, say, mig
rant labour and peasantry. Yet despite all these micro variations
of structure, and the ensuing differences in income level, style of
life, and interest which accompany them, the very small farmers
(peasants) preponderate, and constitute not only the majority in
the countryside, but the majority in the nation.
Conversely, other social classes are microscopic in size, are often
external to the polity altogether (as in the case of the overseas
firms which control the commanding heights of the economy), or
are culturally external to the indigenous ethnic majority (e.g. the
enclave foreign entrepreneurial communities: Indians in East
Africa, Chinese in Indonesia, etc.). Such enclave classes, however
have dissonant status positions within the different institutional
spheres of society: powerful as they may be in the market-place,
others monopolize the political resources, whether through control
of the ballot-box or the army. Their physical isolation in ghettoes
(e.g. coastal towns) mirrors their social encapsulation. Their pres-
sence, moreover, preserves the unity of ethnic majorities that might
otherwise splinter along numerous other subsidiary potential lines
of cleavage, for, apart from the horizontal economic ones we have
mentioned, ethnic, religious and other vertical lines of cleavage
have been much more important than horizontal stratification in
much of Africa and Asia. This kind of ethnic enemy, then, is a
guarantee of this kind of relative and qualified unity.
Such movements differ from the Russian movements in several
ways: in particular, they command a mass following amongst the
peasantry. But they are closer to the Russian movements, and dis
tanced from the American ones, to the extent that they emphasize
traditional and modern communitarianism (the moshavim of Israel
being a favoured model for development, and the pattern of village
life being redefined as African socialism). Yet, for the most part,
the communitarian element is small, certainly in practice, and the
smallholder predominates even in the centrally-sponsored and
planned schemes. Where actual experimental communitarian
schemes have been introduced - normally only in the form of
extremely modest pilot experiments which leave the main rural
economy quite unaffected - they have been singular failures, the
large plans (Tanzania, Mali) proving abortive. Of course, the
emergence of viable economic units historically, in countries such
as Great Britain and the U S A , both in capitalist agriculture
and in industry, was accompanied by a massive decimation of
the unsuccessful. But when it is governments which are paying
villageization schemes they do not so easily shrug off failure,
as they can when failure is paid for solely by the small
entrepreneur who goes broke, for it is now their failure. These
governments, today, are indeed particularly eager for results in a
world economy in which the economic dice are loaded against the
primary producer in any case. They rarely continue, therefore, to
pour public capital into ineffective and costly experiments. Instead
they turn back to the classic forms which they inherited from
capitalist colonial times, e.g. they invest in success and invite the
rich farmer to enrich him self further, as the Bolsheviks did for a
short period. Nom inally co-operative organizations, too, tend to
come under the control of the larger farmers, since the material
resources and social skills which give men advantage in farming are
transferable to, or constitute springboards for, success in other,
non-farming, organizational contexts. The other major form of
agricultural production - plantation agriculture - is also encour
aged, though now refashioned as state farming (though it is not
very common, since the managerial skills required are normally
quite absent). Thus, in capitalist agriculture, the small farmer
celebrated in populist rhetoric gradually loses out in competition
with larger, more efficient, more mechanized and more highly-
capitalized units, and communitarian and co-operative forms are
displaced by more centralized, large-scale, and collectivistic models
or organization (State Farms, communes, etc.) in the communist
In the initial period of nationalist development, however, the
smallholding remains the farming unit, though the smallholder is
usually supported by the state, or involved in state-initiated and
-controlled smallholder development. This drive to smallholder,
high-density resettlement is a function, not simply of ideology, or
economic rationality, but primarily of political necessity. If land
is not redistributed, the landless will seize it or squat on it - and
bring down governments in the process. Land reform is even more
politically necessary in countries where the bulk of choice land is
in the hands of foreigners (Algeria formerly; Kenya). Ethnic
nationalism, then, rather than ideology, fuels the drive to land
reform. Kenyas very large resettlement schemes, powered by land
hunger, and by nationalist rather than social-communitarian motiv
ations, have created a large mass of individual farm-holdings, under
general, sometimes quite strict, control, supervision, guidance,
and support from the state, particularly its agricultural arm: ex
tension officers, settlement managers, development officers, etc.
But the communitarian-co-operative element is slight in these
In many underdeveloped societies, the populist celebration of
the peasant, particularly celebration of the communitarian* aspect
of village society, remains simply part of the ideological armoury
of rhetoric, what Selznick has called an unanalysed abstraction,
lodged in party programmes and national mythology, but unim
portant in practice. This does not mean that, being myths, and not
operational economic guides to action, they are without social
significance. Unanalysed abstractions, unrealized or unrealizable
myths, are both major sources of powerful springs of action and
major sources of legitimation, identity, and meaning. But where
populism is primarily myth, it is clearly at a distinct remove from
those populisms directly connected with the life of the small rural
The connection between paper political programmes and actual
performance is often highly exiguous, for all parties, of course, and
not simply populist-flavoured parties. The reasons for this gap
are so many and varied that they cannot be discussed here :14 they
range from cynical trickery of the populace to self-delusion. One
important structural factor is that parties which are actually in
power soon find the limits within which innovation can be made
without risking disintegration or stimulating radical new kinds of
opposition. The conditions of action are such that ideal programmes
cannot be implemented. Yet everybody in daily practice applies
classificatory labels to movements which fail to realize their
expressed programmes. If we were to be so rigorous, we would
award them to no regime that has yet flourished. Even the cynical
manipulation of an ideology may not debar parties from being
dubbed populist or communist, in so far as their supporters
perceive them as such. Thus, we do not eschew applying the label
communist to societies that have not yet created anything like an
egalitarian culture of abundance and liberty (the second stage of
socialism) after decades, even generations, of power. Similarly, we
do not hesitate to apply the label Conservative to a government
and party which presided over the liquidation of the British
Empire in less than the lifetime of a parliament.
The formulation and operationalization of policy in general,
and of agricultural policy in particular, is thus a function of many
other things than simply adhesion to some kind of ideology,
populist or otherwise. Ideology is merely an element in the field
of forces. All regimes, at the least - except when suffering from
failure of nerve - are interested in staying in power, whether from
motivations of self-interest or idealism; and large-scale land
reform in Africa at least has been as much a function of what
Professor Mazrui has called racial sovereignty - whether in
Rhodesias 1951 Native Land Husbandry Act or Kenyas resettle
ment programmes - and of the basic economic necessity of solving
problems of food supply, underemployment, town/country rela
tionships, etc., much more than it has been the outcome of purely
agrarian considerations.
There is one particular difference in the orientations of the
new states which marks them off from both Russian and North
American traditional populisms: the new states, or their ruling
parties, welcome and ardently desire industrialization. The Russian
populists, with minor exceptions, vilified the factory system and
exalted the mir (the artel, the small-scale association of craftsmen,
living and working together, however, received their approval).
The American populists had no idea or notion whatever of undo
ing the city, merely of altering the balance of power so that the
industrial East could no longer dictate to the impotent farmer.
But the Third World populists positively desire industrialization,
though they recognize, ruefully, that for the visible future they
will continue to be agrarian societies.
Development, in a small-producer agricultural economy, how
ever, carries with it the spectre of class-differentiation in the
countryside. In North America, during the era of classical populism,
the problem of the polarization of the farming community into
larger and smaller units - and thus the destruction of the com
munity by cross-cutting horizontal class-stratification - was a sub
sidiary, even remote, question. Survival, rather, was the immediate
question for most farmers racked with debts and worried about
prices. The big interests they were worried about were the really
big corporations and banks of the East, not their marginally more
successful neighbours in the locality. They had no objection in
23 5
principle to success; it was, indeed, a goal for all of them, though
for most an abstract and unlikely possibility. The gross and patent
discrepancy, then, was between the lives of the vast majority of
farmer-producers and the power of the (external) institutions that
exploited all of them.
Those who failed, moreover, moved out of the farming com
munity, to become migrant rural workers or recruits to the lower
depths of the cities. They did not stay in the countryside com
munities as a permanent local class of landless workers with inter
ests opposed to those of their employers. Increasingly, they were
displaced by machinery. Social homogeneity, therefore, was in
various ways surprisingly maintained despite the rate of failure of
farms, emigration being a permanent safety-valve which carried
the potentially discontented outside the farming zones.
This kind of solidarity was societal, to use Webers terminology,
insofar as it involved 'a rationally motivated adjustment of
interests (common market-situation, need for mutual aid, etc.);
but it was also communal in so far as men had existing ethnic
ties or felt themselves to be pioneers together. The duality Weber
established is thus not a dichotomy. Mutuality was both expres
sive and instrumental, to use Parsons further pair of categories.
A common life-situation generated sentiments of identity derived
from an instrumental calculus of parallel interest in co-operation
and reciprocity between independent units. O f course, these com
munal sentiments lacked the traditionalism and collectivism which
common membership of the long-established mir gave to the
Russian peasantry.
The Russian peasants, similarly, obstinately continued to treat
local class differences as less important than their relations with the
state. Lenin was able to demonstrate, in his polemics against the
Narodniks,15 that the peasantry was markedly differentiated into
rich, middle and poor peasants. Yet he assumed, less happily,
that this was a one-way process, whereas in fact, those households
which were rich this year were quite likely to be poor* not so
many years later. This is why, despite the separation out of a
landless-labourer agricultural proletariat, a class of landless ten
ants (often share-croppers), a class of petty independent small
holders (and allotment-holders working for landlords), and a class
of new, capitalist larger farmers employing wage-labour, the
peasantry continued to exhibit solidarities which cut across these
lines of cleavage. The main edge of peasant discontent was turned,
not against the rich peasant, but against the State.16
The sociological reasons for this continued by-passing of the
class struggle are various. First, as Shanin shows, there was an
oscillatory or cyclical process in the movement of the peasant
household, through a phase of expansion into a large compound
unit, back into disintegration once more into small household/
economic farm units. This was because the peasant household was
not just a purely economic entity, but a household, with multiple
patterns of rights and obligations which worked in ways inimical
to any pure economic, let alone, market, rationality. Thus the
system of land-tenure was affected by its being embedded in a
familistic integument: marriage and kinship, size of family, ordinal
position within the family, and many other factors, affected the
way land was held and used, the life-chances individuals had, the
way labour and capital might be or might not be mobilized.
Continuous polarization was therefore inhibited. The inexorable
build-up of a landless proletariat in the countryside was counter
balanced, for the least fortunate, by the not inconsiderable scale of
physical extinction (infant and adult mortality) through disease
and famine primarily, and the social extinction of others who quit
rural society by emigrating to the towns and cities, where they
became the raw material of the new urban masses (whether as
semi-employed occupants of all kinds of precarious interstitial
niches in urban society or as part of a new industrial working force
which would nevertheless take a long time to develop a conscious
ness of themselves as members of the industrial working class).
For these and other reasons, the peasantry failed to produce
sharply marked-off and conflicting classes-for-themselves in the
countryside. Indeed, paradoxically, Lenin himself adopted a termi
nology which obscured the very distinctions he was making.Rich,
middle, poor, Alavi has noted, placed these separate classes
within a wider array - peasantry - with the different strata
arranged, one over the other, in a single order. This is misleading:
the middle peasants, for instance, do not stand between the rich
peasants and the poor peasants; they belong to a different sector of
the rural economy.17 To make the point sharply, a rich peasant
is not just a producer who owns a bit more land or is richer
according to some simple index of size (by virtue of which some
are bigger and some smaller, but all are on the same continuum).
Landless agricultual labourers, tenant-farmers, share-croppers,
pocket-horticulturists owning their own land, and rich capitalist
farmers employing labour are different animals, sociologically,
different structural types of agricultural economic actor. Lenin did
indeed make these differences abundantly clear. Yet he then adopted
a terminology which blurred these boundary lines. Unconsciously,
probably, he was right, insofar as, though the classes at any one
point in time could be distinguished, the rate and volume of mobility
was such that these classes were like Schumpeters famous hotels
and omnibuses: always full, but always of different people'.18
The statistics Lenin used, drawn largely from official sources,
created analytical classes into which the data was slotted - so that
a peasant could be allocated to different classes according to area of
land sown, or numbers of working animals. But these did not
necessarily correspond to social divisions in the form of self-con
sciously and sharply-opposed classes splitting the countryside, any
more than the mass of immigrants to the town became instant
proletarians even if many of them did work in factories. As num
erous studies of contemporary Afro-Asian urbanization show,
migrants to the towns remain attached to rural society and rural
values even after decades of living and working in the urban areas.19
One should be extremely cautious, then, in assuming that
apparently objective measures of class-differentiation necessarily
indicate even the potential consolidation of class-divisions and the
concomitant dissolution of older ties. Lenins vigorous polemics to
the contrary, his prognostications were not substantiated by later
events. Despite the miseries of the landless and the horticulturist
pocket-peasantry, the Russian countryside was ultimately to be
racked, not by class war between rich and poor peasants, but by
massive confrontation between the mass of the peasantry and the
state constructed by Lenins party. Moreover, it is the middle
peasant who has proved to be the most revolutionary stratum
initially (a generalization that is relevant for the analysis of urban
revolutionism also). Even in North America, militant farmers
movements have principally been led by the more successful, often
quite large, farmers, who give leadership to the mass of smaller
men, and, thus, paradoxically, speak in the name of the small
Solidarity in the countryside, then, is by no means simply a
myth swiftly dispelled by the cold dawn of class-struggle. The
Narodnik analysis, for all its romanticism, approximates more closely
to an adequate sociological analysis than Lenins economistic diag
nosis, since the latter ignored the wider institutionalized cultural
context within which the peasants economic life is lived out; that,
in fact, no one lives purely economic lives, and that poverty and
subordination, in any case, as often generate despondency as they
do militancy, breed servility, generate a trained incapacity to
innovate, and encapsulate the peasant from the experience of
modern-style organizations.
The twentieth century has only become the century of peasant
revolutions since new agencies have broken down the barriers
between peasant life and the knowledge of the cities. The revolu
tionary party Lenin pioneered, led by city-based intellectuals,
workers, or, by and large, almost anyone other than peasants, has
been the crucial mediating and leadership agency. (The one auth
entic peasant revolution, that of Mexico, remains, significantly,
unfinished.) Pure peasant protest, without such external media
tion, is generally a story of blind and sporadic violence, of betrayal,
inability to organize, susceptibility to political counter-attack and
treachery, and is ultimately a record of disaster, repression, and
counter-butchery, of jacqueries and la violencia rather than of
successful revolution.
There remain to be considered two particular ways in which the
term populism has been used vis-a-vis the Third World.
The first of these is the application of the term to such move
ments as Peronism, Getulism, etc., in Latin America. The basic
characteristic of these radical movements is their mass political
support among an urban population swollen by the immigration of
people from the countryside. These people are unaffected by the
traditional influence of those orthodox and staid varieties of
socialism and communism which have considerable followings
amongst the older, more privileged city population of skilled
workers, who received these creeds from Europe, whence they or
their fathers had come. The populist movements, by contrast,
were right-wing radical responses to, first, depression, and then to
the situation of rapid, protected industrial expansion made possible
by the Second World War in Europe, in which the new industrial
ists, in order to break the traditional dominance of the traditional
export interests (coffee, meat) were prepared, for a time, to com
bine with the masses newly-organized in authoritarian, centralized,
personalist mass organizations, notably the trade unions.20
Peronism, for example, via Evita Peron, constantly celebrated the
simple poor, the descamisado, and intermingled classical patronage
with social welfare programmes (and circuses). It further pioneered
techniques of institutionalized direct access to the leader via the
pseudo-participation of mass meetings, which, like all such face-
to-face meetings with the people, are spurious consultations in so
far as the traffic is one-way only. In fact, these are only technical
additions to a traditional style of political relationship between
leader and mass that has commonly been called Bonapartism,
Caesarism, or Boulangism. The only really novel addition is not
the techniques of mass-communication, but the organization of the
workers into controlled trade unionism instead of leaving them as
a disposable city mob.21 Like their precursors, the Latin American
Caesars preached an ideology of national solidarity, above party
and sectional interest, and emphasized the peculiar mystical bond
between themselves and the masses, linking them in opposition
to the established and privileged high and mighty.
Finally, there remains a use of populism, more analogical than
analytical, which converts it from its original function as a frame
work for conceptualizing the internal order of societies by project
ing it on to a quite different plane: that of contemporary relation
ships between nation-states. In this model, the mass of poor prim
aryproducers becomes the mass of poor primary-producing countries.
The classic populist attempt to develop ideas and movements which
steer clear of the Scylla of developed capitalism no less than the
Charybdis of collectivism (in particular, marxism), is thus paral
leled by the attempts of many Third World countries to steer a
midway course between Moscow (and Peking) and Washington,
to establish an identity, and some institutionalized expression of
that identity, in the form of Bandung, Belgrade, positive neutral
ism, and, more recently, the 77 underdeveloped nations at
U N C T A D . A number of these countries, too, have made some
attempt to develop a place in their ideological armouries, and in
their development planning, for some form of internal populist
agrarian experiments such as we have described above. For these
countries, populism manifests itself in both internal and external
relationships, however rhetorical the former and however
metaphorical the latter.



We have so far examined populism in its best-known specific

forms and contexts. These may be subsumed under a more limited
general rubric: the encounter between a small-rural-producer
social order and the superior power of large-scale (usually capitalist)
industry and commerce. These organized populist movements, as
we have seen, have taken both left-wing and right-wing forms
(more commonly, left).
But the presence of populist movements in agrarian societies
approaching the development threshold* is, however, only one
context in which such movements have emerged. Many writers
have also used the term to describe those movements which have
occurred amongst the despairing legions of petty officialdom,
among small shopkeepers and micro-entrepreneurs, among respec
table people (e.g. retired middle class) on fixed pensions and other
inflexible sources of income: all of these being markedly hostile to
organized Labour. They are, under normal conditions, orthodoxly
middle-class conservative until disaster radicalizes them. Then
experience of sudden downturn in their fortunes generates extreme
right-wing reactions. This has been called extremism of the centre,
a phrase which confuses two different axes: location in a set of
superimposed horizontal classes, and location along a continuum
between Right and Left. They can only be called, clumsily,
'middleclass right-wing radicalism*.
It was these lower middle-class elements which, classically,
constituted, disproportionately to their numbers in the total
population, one major source of support for the early Nazi move
ment,22 for example, or for Poujadism (on the other hand, Mc-
Carthyism, often dubbed populist, is a much more many-sided
phenomenon than this kind of petty-bourgeois panic-stricken
resentment, as the analysis of the variety of its social sources of
support suggests,23 though populist appeals to direct involvement
in government and, particularly, the by-passing of orthodox
institutional channels, were certainly important elements).
These movements appealed, not to the working man, or even
to the middle classes, but, more commonly, more evocatively and
more indefinitely, to the small man, in all his vague and various,
individualistic and communal, emotionally-explosive manifesta
tions and self-definitions, upon which virtual popular fronts of
the Right have been built. At its very loosest, the term populist*
has been used to describe any movement invoking the name of the
people: the simple, ordinary untutored folk, the common man, the
mass, the descamisado, the sans-culotte\ an appeal wide enough to
embrace, and to wean from existing attachments, workers, peasant/
farmers, micro-entrepreneurs, tribesmen: anyone small, threat
ened, xenophobic, lacking the framework of orientation provided
by organized Labour: trade unionism, socialism, communism, co-
operativism: but offering to all these a new communal trans
sectional identity, usually easily yoked to national images - the
Volk. Even traditional solidarities, e.g. left-wing themes, could
easily be redefined by radical right-wing leaderships for whom the
detachment of solidarity from particular left-wing programmatics
did not prove insuperably difficult, as in the displacement of
socialist and communist sentiments and appeals manifested in
Hitlers attacks on (Jewish) capitalist exploiters and moneybags, in
verbal allusions to five-year plans, and even the very title of the
National Socialist German Workers' Party
Ideological radicalism of the Right, with its mass roots in the
menu peuple, as we have seen, is no new phenomenon. Over the
centuries, it has taken such forms as the traditional alliance between
king, church, and city mob. The twentieth century has similarly
converted large segments of the lower orders into the organized
mass base of totalitarian parties and has not hesitated to use
appeals to popular sentiment - as well as force, blandishment,
patronage, etc. - to recruit them.
But these movements were anything but populist overall: not
for nothing are labels like authoritarian, fascist, or totalitarian
used normally to describe them. Populism is only an element, not
the dominant feature of this kind of movement. Nazism, for
example, had many other crucial social sources of political support:
among the military and the ex-military, in big business, among all
who feared social revolution more than they feared the strong-arm
radicalism of right-wing parvenu extremists. And the demobiliza
tion of opposition, and the inducement of conformity by the use
of systematic violence - the S A, the S S and the Gestapo - were
quite as important as any appeals of a populist kind.
We have already spread the populist net wide enough to include
right-wing as well as left-wing variants, as far as organized agrarian
populist movements were concerned. We have now found populist
elements in developed societies as well as in those standing on the
threshold of modernization, in the towns as well as in the country
side, amongst workers and the middle classes as well as among
Since there are obviously innumerable differentials between all
of these social locations, any features common to them all can
only be very general indeed. A systematic concatenation of struc
tural properties (e.g. in terms of social composition, leadership,
particular policies, etc.) is impossible to delineate. Any elements
that they may possess in common, then, will be of a high order of
generality. Most observers assume these elements to exist when
they use the term populism but, for the most part, they do so
implicitly and intuitively rather than explicitly and analytically.
Yet such assumptions are by no means self-evidently justifiable.
As we have seen, any low-level attempt to match structural
properties (e.g. in terms of social composition, leadership, etc.), or
ideological emphases (communitarianism, attitude to capitalism,
etc.) are likely to yield entirely distinct profiles, as a listing of only
three key variables, for the two best-known populisms, reveals:
Variable North America Russia

mass membership n/ X
Leadership by
intelligentsia X
system of land-tenure X s/
At this level, these movements, patently, have very dissimilar
The boldest attempt to specify these more general and funda
mental characteristics of populism which are held to be common
to the generally-recognized populisms, despite lower-level speci
fic differences, has been made by Edward Shils, though he was
writing particularly about North American variants. Populism, for
him, involves subscription to two cardinal principles: (a) the sup
remacy of the will of the people over every other standard, over
the standards of traditional institutions and over the will of other
strata. Populism identifies the will of the people with justice and
morality; (b) the desirability of a direct relationship between
people and leadership, unmediated by institutions.24 Such styles
of popular participation, it is commonly observed, are generally
accompanied by a quasi-religious belief in the virtues of the uncor
rupted, simple, common folk, and a converse distrust of the smart,
effete, supercilious, aristocratic, idle, wealthy, functionally unnec
essary and basically degenerate or corrupt: an ideology of resent
ment against the order imposed on society by a long-established
ruling class, which is believed to have a monopoly of power,
property, breeding and culture. Populism, in this view, involves
distrust of the over-educated and denies any degree of autonomy
to the legislative branch of government, just as it denies autonomy
to any institution. It hates the civil service and is hostile to the
politician; it is urban as well as rural, right-wing as well as left. It
'seeks substantive justice, and cares not at all for traditional rules
or legal systems. Shils condenses all these particular dimensions of
populism under two principal heads: the notion of the supremacy
of the will of the people, and the notion of the direct relationship
between people and government. At this point, we begin to see the
substantive implications of differences in initial methodological
procedures, for our attempt to tease out the special, and common,
characteristics of those movements to which the label populist
happens to have been applied, historically, by different people
with different things in mind, has proved singularly unrewarding.
All that the movements appeared to share in common was a
It was only when we moved to a much higher level of abstrac
tion, specifying in advance what we meant by populism, that we
were able to see why, despite profound variations in specific detail
and form, a pair of broad principles seemed to permeate all this
variety. What we arrived at, in fact, in adopting Shilss definition,
was an ideal type (populism in its specific historical forms being
an instance of the species, Shils, pp. 102-3). If we had followed
Webers methodological prescriptions, we might have started with
such an ideal type.
This twofold ideal-type of populism is, therefore, much more
widely applicable than simply to those conventionally labelled
populist movements, for the celebration of the will of the people,
and experiment with forms of direct contact between people and
leadership occur in a wide variety of political cultures and forms.
The former, for example, appears in fascist mystique, in demo
cratic theorizing, or in regimes in which, as the wit has it, the
general will is embodied in the General'. Even the most inhumane
and authoritarian regimes, in modern times, have, at least verbally,
rationalized their authority in terms of some reference to the will
of the people26 (since supernatural legitimation is now archaic,
and frank elitism disgraced since Nazism). The populist syndrome,
then, is much wider than its particular manifestation in the form
or context of any particular policy, or of any particular class of
polity: democracy, totalitarianism, etc. This suggests that popu
lism is better regarded as an emphasis, a dimension of political
culture in general, not simply as a particular kind of overall ideolo
gical system or type of organization. Of course, as with all ideal types,
it may be very closely approximated to by some political cultures
and structures, such as those hitherto labelled populist.
The search for direct people-leadership contact is one point
along a continuum stretching from total non-involvement of the
mass of the people at one end to the ideal anarchist self-regulating
commune at the other. In my view, these two extremes are a very
large part of what I mean when I use the terms Right and Left
(parliamentary institutions, nationalized industry, etc., etc. having
no absolute sociological significance, but deriving their signifi
cance insofar as they relate to the involvement of people in the
running of their own society). From this point of view, whilst we
can recognize clearly mass participation and involvement in, say,
Nuremberg rallies and street-demonstrations, it is important to
distinguish serious, effective and independent popular interven
tion from manipulated, purely illusory or symbolic, pseudo-*inter
vention. The distinction between illusion and reality, that is,
remains sociologically valid and important, even if we know that
illusions have real consequences. And, as we noted earlier for
communism, we can distinguish legitimatory functions from
operational social programmes.
It would seem desirable, then, to alter part of Shilss definition
of populism so that - without eliminating pseudo-participation
(demagogy, government by television, etc.) - we could also
include, and distinguish, genuine and effective popular participa
tion. Populism, then, would refer not only to direct relationships
between people and leadership (which must, inevitably, in any
complex, large-scale society, be predominantly sheer mystification
or symbolism), but, more widely, to popular participation in
general (including spurious pseudo-participation).
It seems particularly important to distinguish the participatory
element in political action since it is an intrinsic part of the demo
cratic process, in particular, and one that has been quite under
valued in some recent sociological writing. Lipset, for example,
has written that
democracy in a complex society may be defined as a political system
which supplies regular constitutional opportunities for changing the
governing officials, and a social mechanism which permits the largest
possible part of the population to influence major decisions b y choosing
among contenders for political office . . .

and that democracy, so conceived, is the good society itself in

This seems to me an arbitrary assertion that one element in that
complex concept, democracy, the institutionalization of legiti
mate modes of opposition and of change of government, is some
how the most important or quintessential element. Yet, histori
cally - not solely in rhetoric, but in the reality of innumerable
political mechanisms and devices ranging from the referendum
and the election, the mandate, the initiative and the recall, through
town meetings, plebiscites (including plebiscites de tous les jours)
to forms of delegation and representation - attempts to put into
practice the concept of the supremacy of the will of the people
have been an intrinsic, central part of democracy, which has
always involved a great deal more than the ins-and-outs of parlia
mentarism. It has involved the conception and the praxis of the
involvement of people in the governing of their own lives, however
ineffective the achievement. As a recurrent part of the communist,
anarchist, socialist and democratic traditions alone (manifest in
such recent developments as Yugoslav and Polish experiments in
workers control, experiments with Ombudsmen and consumer
associations) it would have been worth dignifying by a special
label - populism. Populism as direct* participation is thus a
dimension of the democratic and socialist traditions. It is not the
whole of these traditions, but it is quite as important a component
of them as Lipsets notion of legitimized opposition and change
of government, or Schumpeters notion of participation of a
more oblique kind: choosing amongst contenders for office.
T he populist dimension, however, is neither democratic nor
anti-democratic: it is an aspect of a variety of political cultures
and structures. Populism is certainly compatible with democracy,
though this is often denied. In so far as it ignores the need for
institutions and pluralism; in so far as it dislikes factionalism;
insofar as it distorts social mechanisms which seem to it specialized
and bureaucratic, it appears to undervalue the importance, and
even the rights, of minorities, and to depart from rule of law.
But there is always a tension in our conception of a just society
between the rights of minorities and the rights of the majority.
Insofar as populism plumps for the rights of majorities to make
sure - by intervening - that they are not ignored (as they com
monly are) populism is profoundly compatible with democracy.
T he penumbra of meanings surrounding this term need not
frighten us into fearing that we have here some peculiarly spongy
concept. W e can always qualify it by Right-wing, Left-wing,
pseudo-* or any other qualifiers. There is nothing strange or
regrettable in the fact that the attempt to capture, in a single word,
complexes of thought and behaviour which have developed and
changed over time, have become institutionalized, diversified, and
embedded in successive and varied niches, milieux, and contexts,
necessarily invests that term with Empson-like ambiguities.27 Thus
capitalism is used to refer to classic laissez faire free-enterprise
and to monopoly capitalism; to petty shop-keeping, to micro
workshop enterprise, and to peasant agriculture; to both industrial
and agrarian economic activity; to (though we usually use the
word bourgeois) values, ideas, beliefs, etc. believed to be appro
priate to, or inherent in, capitalist economic relationships; to
forms of enterprise located within mixed economies; to booty
capitalism, imperialist or neo-colonial capitalism, state capi
talism, etc., etc. Populism, then, is no looser a term than such
labels as capitalism or communism. Yet we have been singu
larly slow to adopt it, possibly because it has usually been used
mainly to refer to distinct movements which have been pheno
mena of transition, or revolutions manquees, transitional moments
P O P U L I S M - I T S M E A N IN G S
in processes o f political change, w hilst the wider concept of
populism as an elem ent or dim ension o f political action in general
has been obscured by the use o f com m onsense but quite inadequate
terms like dem ocracy, Caesarism, etc.
T h e populist m ovem ents, normally, have failed. History ignores
the defeated, but from the Narodniks and the American populists
onwards, through to the contem porary manifestations of organized
populism , the them es w e have traced seem persistent enough,
however great the variations upon them , and their recrudescence
so continual, that it would seem that w e need this label to describe
this constantly-recurring style of politics - the eternal attempt of
people to claim politics as som ething o f theirs - and that the one
people have used - populism - is as good as any terminological
neophilism . W hat w e have tried to do in this essay is to spell out
the main meanings inform ing the diversity o f usages to which the
term has been put, rather than leave them im plicit and unexamined.

1 A pioneering distinction o f this kind was M a x W eb ers separation of
'social ethic from theology . T o d a y , however, w e should scarcely assume
that either Protestantism or Catholicism carry w ith them any universal
im plications-for-action at all.
2 See the discussion o f the concept o f charisma in the Introduction to
m y T h e T ru m p et S h a ll S o u n d (revised edition, Schocken Books, N ew
York, 1968).
3 H ow this came about would be w orth studying. I suspect that who
ever made the initial translation was not im plying any resemblance between
Russian movements and Am erican ones (themselves, reciprocally, little
known to the outside world). It is probably a verbal coincidence (n a ro d :
people, nation, etc.), but one w hich m ay (as w e m ust consider to be a
distinct possibility at this stage) have generated a com plete pseudo
problem for comparative analysis.
4 John D .H ic k s classic study, T h e P o p u list R e v o lt : a history o f the
Farm ers A llia n ce a n d the P e o p le s P a r ty (U niversity o f M innesota Press,
Minneapolis, 1931) describes the m ost important o f these various m ove
5 See E. J.H obsbawm , P r im itiv e R e b e ls: studies in arch aic fo r m s o f social
movements in the nineteenth a n d tw entieth centuries , M anchester U niversity
Press, 1959 (Millenarianism I I : T h e Andalusian Anarchists, pp. 74 -92).
6 Nineteenth-century populist farmers did experiment, often spectacu
larly, with co-operative marketing o f their products and bulk purchase of
other farm requirements (see H ickss discussion o f the T e x a s and G eorgia

E x c h a n g e s , o p . c i t . , p p . 1 3 2 - 4 0 ) . T h e c o l le c t i v e o r g a n iz a t io n o f fa r m in g
i t s e l f is v e r y a t y p i c a l : t h e o n l y c a s e s I k n o w o f a r e t h o s e d e s c r ib e d b y
H en ry C o o p e r s t o c k f o r S a s k a t c h e w a n , p o s t - S e c o n d W o r l d W a r ( P r io r
Canadian Society: Sociological
S o c i a l i s a t i o n a n d C o o p e r a t i v e F a r m i n g , in
Perspectives, e d s . B . B li s h e n , F r a n k E . J o n e s , K a s p a r D . N a e g e l e , J o h n P o r te r ,
M a c M illa n , T o r o n to 1 9 6 4 , p p . 2 2 7 - 4 2 ) . T h e s e g r o u p fa r m s a r e c o l le c -
t i v i s t i c , s t r i c t l y , r a t h e r t h a n c o - o p e r a t i v e , a t e r m t h a t is o f t e n u s e d fo r
t h e m , in t h a t p r o d u c tio n is j o i n t l y u n d e r t a k e n , w i t h r e w a r d s a llo c a t e d
a c c o r d i n g t o w o r k - d a y s p u t i n : m u c h lik e t h e S o v i e t kolkhoz (not t h e
S t a t e F a r m ) . H o w e v e r , o u t s i d e p r o d u c t i o n , l i f e is q u i t e o r t h o d o x l y N o r t h
A m e r i c a n , u n l i k e t h e m o s t t o t a l c o n t e m p o r a r y c o l le c t i v e s k n o w n : t h e
kibbutzim. I n d i v i d u a l f a m i li e s o f s p o u s e s a n d c h i ld r e n liV e in s e p a r a te
h o u s e h o l d s , o w n p r o p e r t y , e t c . , a n d t h e r e is n o c o l le c t i v i s t i d e o lo g y .
7 R e l i g i o n , u n l i k e p o l i t i c s , is e a s i l y t r a n s p o r t a b le , s in c e i t c a n b e m o r e
r e a d i l y d e t a c h e d f r o m lo c a l , i n d e e d e a r t h ly , in s t it u t io n s . O n t h e r o le o f
r e lig io n in t h e m e lt in g - p o t , se e W ill H e r b e r g , Protestant, Catholic, Jew :
an essay in American religious sociology, A n c h o r B o o k s , N e w Y o r k , i9 6 0 ,
C h a p s . 2 a n d 3.
8 I b e l i e v e t h a t f u t u r e r e s e a r c h , f o r C a n a d a a t le a s t, w i l l p la c e m u c h
g r e a te r e m p h a s is u p o n e t h n ic it y a s a b in d in g fa c to r in c o lo n iz a tio n th a n
h a s h it h e r t o b e e n t h e c a s e .T h e c o m m u n ita r ia n r e g im e s o f th e M e n n o n it e s ,
H u t t e r i t e s , D o u k h o b o r s , e t c . , a r e , o f c o u r s e , e x t r e m e c a s e s o n ly . I n m o s t
h i s t o r i c a l c a s e s , c o m m u n i t a r i a n i s m , c o l l e c t i v i s m , e t c . , a r e o n l y e le m e n t s
t o b e f o u n d in v a r y in g c o m b in a tio n s a n d d e g r e e s o f s tr e n g th : th e n ea r
p u r e case, s u c h as th e kibbutzim, s e r v e s a s a n id e a l ( a n d v e r y u n u s u a l)
t y p e o n ly .
9 P lu s th e pow er of th e r a ilr o a d in te r e s ts to i n flu e n c e C a n a d ia n
g o v e r n m e n t p o l i c y t o f in d t h e m a n e w s o u r c e o f p r o fit . S e e H a r o ld A . I n n is ,
The Fur Trade in Canada: an introduction to Canadian economic history
( U n i v e r s i t y o f T o r o n t o P r e s s , 1 9 5 6 , p p . 3 9 6 - 4 0 2 ) fo r a d is c u s s io n o f t h e
in te r -r e la tio n s h ip s b e tw e e n th e G ran d T run k R a ilw a y Com pany, th e
H u d s o n B a y C o m p a n y , th e C a n a d ia n P a c ific R a ilw a y , a n d th e D o m in io n
G o v e rn m e n t.
1 0 O n e s h o u ld n o t e a n e w e r c a t e g o r y , t h e n o - p a r t y s t a te , u s e d b y s o m e
c o n t e m p o r a r y A f r i c a n i s t s ( s e e , f o r e x a m p le , H e n r y B ie n e n , T h e P a r ty
a n d t h e N o - P a r t y S ta te : T a n g a n y ik a a n d th e S o v ie t U n i o n Transition,
1 3 , M a r c h - A p r i l 1 9 6 4 , K a m p a l a , p p . 2 5 - 3 2 ) t o r e fe r t o t h o s e p o lit ie s in
w h ic h s e c t io n a l p a r t ie s a r e h e ld ( b y t h e v ic t o r io u s p o li t i c i a n s ) to h a v e
b e c o m e r e d u n d a n t o n c e in d e p e n d e n c e is a c h i e v e d , b e c a u s e a ll a r e s a id to
be agreed upon com m on o b je c tiv e s : n a tio n -b u ild in g , e tc . S e c tio n a l
p a r tie s th e re fo re e it h e r w i t h e r a w a y o r a r e a b o li s h e d . The r e s u ltin g
p o l i t y is o n e t h a t I h a v e la b e ll e d t h e A d m i n i s t r a t i v e S t a t e , t h e C r o w n
C o l o n y b e i n g a n o t h e r v a r ia n t {The Third World, W e i d e n f e l d a n d N i c o l s o n ,
L o n d o n , 19 6 7, p p . 2 5 -3 2 ).
1 1 W e id e n fe ld a n d N ic o ls o n , r e v is e d e d itio n , 1 9 6 7 .
1 2 I n d e p e n d e n t s m a ll f a r m e r s a ls o r e c e i v e c o n s i d e r a b l e s u p p o r t f r o m
t h e s t a t e v i a e x t e n s i o n s e r v ic e s , r e s e a r c h i n s t i t u t e s , c r e d i t a g e n c i e s , e t c . ,
a n d a r e o f t e n q u i t e s t r i c t l y c o n t r o ll e d i n t h e i r f a r m i n g p r a c t i c e .

13 See Hans Ruthenberg, A frica n A gricultural Production Development
Policy in K enya 1952-1965, Springer, Berlin, 1966.
14 See Philip Selznick, T V A and the Grass R o o ts: a study in the
sociology o f form al organisation, Harper, N ew York, 1966, Chap. II, The
Functions and Dilemmas of Official Doctrine.
15 Notably in his Development o f Capitalism in R u ssia (see also Selected
Works, Vol. X I I : T h e Theory of the Agrarian Question, Lawrence and
Wishart, London, 1943).
16 In 1906, for example, eighty per cent of peasant disturbances were
anti-state; two per cent anti-rich peasant (see T . Shanins *C yclica l D i f
ferentiation among the Russian Peasantry, 1910-25 (Ph.D. thesis, University
of Birmingham, 1967).
17 Hamza Alavi, Peasants and Revolution, Socialist Register 1965,
Merlin Press, London, pp. 241-75.
18 Social Classes/Imperialism: two essays by Joseph Schumpeter,
Meridian Books, New York, i960, p. 126.
19 T o cite only one outstanding study, see Philip M ayers Tribesmen
o f Townsmen: conservatism and the process o f urbanisation in a S ou th A frica n
city, Oxford University Press, London 1961.
20 See Torcuato, S. di Telia, E l Sistem a P olitico Argentino y la Close
Obrera, Buenos Aires 1964, pp. 55-6, and Francisco C . Weffort, Estado e
Massas no Brasil, Revista C iviliza cao Brasileira, N o. 7, 1967, pp. 137-44.
21 See E.J.Hobsbawm, Ch. V II, T h e C ity M o b , in P rim itive Rebels,
and George Rudes related studies, notably T h e C row d in the French
Revolution, Clarendon, Oxford, 1959, and W ilkes an d L ib erty : a social
study o f 1 7 6 3 to 17 7 4 , Clarendon, Oxford, 1962.
22 See Hans H .Gerth, T h e Nazi Party: its leadership and compos-
tion, in Reader in Bureaucracy, eds. Robert K . Merton, Ailsa P .G ray,
Barbara Hockey, Hanah C.Selvin, Free Press, i960, pp. 100-13.
23 See Martin Trow, Small Businessmen, Political Tolerance, and
Support for M cCarthy, Am erican Jou rn al o f Sociology, 1958, Vol. 64, No.
3, pp. 270-81.
24 Edward Shils, T h e Torment o f Secrecy : the background an d conse
quences o f American security policies, Heinemann, London, 1956, pp. 98-
25 Usually using the word democracy . T hu s Finer notes the following:
presidential democracy, basic democracy, guided democracy, organic
democracy, selective democracy, neo-democracy. T h e one style mis
sing here, he notes sardonically, is democracy , without qualification'.
(S.E.Finer, Th e M a n on Horseback: the role o f the military in politics,
Pall Mall, London 1962, p. 242.)
26 S.M .L ip set, Political M a n , Mercury Books, London, 1964, pp. 21,
27 L Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Blackwell, Oxford,
1963, p. 32; * . . . W e are a complicated network of similarities overlapping
and criss-crossing; sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of
detail. . . I can think of no better expression to characterize these similari
ties than family resemblances .'


A b e r h a r t, W illia m (tw e n tie th -c e n tu r y A le x a n d e r n , K in g o f Y ugoslavia, 112

N o rth A m e r ic a n p o p u lis t ) , 1 7 1, A lg e r ia , 232
176 allyu (P eru v ian form o f com m unal
a b s o lu t is m , 6 5 ow n ersh ip ), 192

A 9 a o P o p u la r ( B r a z ilia n s t u d e n t c a t h o an arch ism , 4 9 ,1 8 1 ,1 9 9 ,2 0 3 , 2 0 9 ,2 2 2 ,
l i c o r g a n iz a t io n ) , 5 3 , 245
Action Democratic ( V e n e z u e la n dem o A n g lo p h o b e , 182
c r a tic p a r ty ), 50 anti-Semitism, 6, 1 7 1 , 17 4 , 1 7 7
Action Popular (P e r u v ia n p o p u lis t in E a stern E u ro p e, 1 1 6 -1 8 , 176
p a rty ), 3 5 , 4 1 , 4 7 , 5 1 , 52 A P R A (P eru v ian political party), 4 1,
A c c r a , 14 5 50
a d m in is t r a t io n , 1 2 4 , 1 2 9 , 1 3 7 , 14 0 A p t e r , D . , 12 3 , 124 , 125
A fr ic a , 6, 2 8 , 3 6 , 4 9 , 156 , 175, 178 , A r g e n tin a , 13 , 29, 3 1 , 32, 34, 38, 39,
18 2 , 18 9 , 19 4 , 2 10 , 2 19 , 229, 2 3 1, 18 6, 188
2 34 237
p o p u l i s m in , 1 1 9 - 4 6
Arielismo (L a tin -A m e r ic a n
self-esteem ), 36, s s n

a n d p e a s a n ts , 1 9 1 - 2 a risto cra cy, 9, 1 1 , 69, 169, 17 7 , 224

A f r i c a n tr a d e r s , 1 2 6 , 1 2 8 A r r i g h i . G . , 12 3 , 133, I4 7 n

A fr ifa , C o lo n e l (G h a n a ia n m ilit a r y A r u s h a D ecla ra tio n , the, 144
le a d e r ) , 1 4 5 A s ia , 6, 1 1 9 , i 6 *78 , 182, 19 1, 194,
a g r a r ia n is m , 6 3 , 7 4 , 9 7 , 1 7 0 , 1 8 5 , 202 2 10 , 2 19 , 229, 2 3 1, 2 37
in M e x i c o , 4 2 - 4 au th o rita rian ism , 19 5, 241, 244
in C u b a , 4 7 - 8 a u to c r a c y , 7 5 , 204, 222
in E a s t e r n E u r o p e , 1 0 1 - 1 6 A z u e la . M . (M ex ica n novelist), 41
as a n i d e o lo g y , 1 5 6 , 1 6 1
in C a n a d a , 2 2 8 B a k u n in , N ik h a il (nineteenth-century
A g r a r ia n I n t e r n a t io n a l ( 1 9 2 7 - 3 8 ) , 10 9, R u ssia n anarchist), 63, 89, 221
12 m b a n k in g , bankers, 6, 1 1 , 12, 15, 18, 22,
a g r a r ia n r e f o r m s , in E a s t e r n E u r o p e , 15 7 , 1 6 1, 170, 174 , 177. 198, 199.
99, 10 2 , 10 4 2 2 2 ,2 3 4
A g r e e m e n t , t h e 19 0 0 ( A fr ic a n ) , 12 4 B a ta k a pattern , the (A frican pattern of
a g r ic u ltu r e d a n s ), 124
in N o r t h A m e r i c a , 10 , 1 3 , 1 7 , 2 3 - 5 , B e la u n d e , F ern an d o (founder o f Perus
2 2 4 -5 Accidn Popular), 5 1 - 2 , 167, 1 7 1 ,
in L a tin A m e r ic a , 3 1, 35, 3 8 -9 , 178

4 2 -4 , 4 7 , 49 B e n d ix , R ein h ard , 190, 194
in E a ste rn E u rope, > 1 0 2 -4 , B e n to n , S en ator, 12
111-14 B e r lin , Isaiah, 156 , 201
in A f r i c a , 1 2 6 , 1 3 2 , 14 2 B essarab ia, 100, 101
c o - o p e r a t iv e s , 2 0 2 b im eta llism (n in eteen th -cen tu ry finan
im p a c t o f i n p o l i t i c s , 2 2 9 - 3 2 cial doctrin e), 206
A le g r f a , C i r o , 4 1 B o lfva r, S im o n , 36

B o liv ia , 3 1 , 3 4 , 3 5 , 4 0 , 4 1 , 4 4 , 4 6 , 4 7 c a s h -n e x u s , th e , see c a p ita lis m in
Bolsheviks, 17 2 , 232 A fr ic a
B o r is , K i n g o f B u lg a r i a , 1 1 2 C a s tr o , D r F id e l, 3 3, 3 7 , 2 14
b o u r g e o is ie , 3 0 , 1 3 4 , 1 6 7 , 1 6 8 , 1 7 2 , 1 7 4 , a n d t h e C u b a n r e v o lu t io n , 4 7 - 5 1
18 9 , 206, 2 2 4 , 240 C a t h o l i c i s m , 3 3 , 4 5 , 5 0 , 5 3 , 9 7 , 16 1
in R u s s ia , 6 5 , 6 7 - 9 , 7 1 - 5 , 7 7 " 8 , 8 2 , C C F (C o -o p e r a tiv e C o m m o n w e a lt h
86 F e d e r a tio n , in C a n a d a ), 16 9 , 17 5 ,
in E a s t e r n E u r o p e , 10 7, 10 9 , 118 , 178
119 C h a m b e r la in , H . S . , 1 7 5
a n d in d u s t r ia liz a t io n , 1 8 5 - 6 C h a r tis m ( n i n e t e e n t h - c e n t u r y B r itis h
B r a z il, 2 9 , 3 3 , 3 4 , 3 8 , 4 7 , 5 0 , 5 3 r a d ic a l m o v e m e n t ) , 1 6 2 , 1 6 9 , 1 7 2 ,
B r y a n , W i l l i a m J e n n in g s ( U S D e m o 178
c r a t ic le a d e r , 1 8 6 0 - 1 9 2 5 ) , 1 6 , 1 8 , C h e m y s h e v s k y , N . S ., ( n in e te e n t h -
20, 22, 23, 24, 2 5, 16 7 , 170 , 1 7 1 c e n t u r y R u s s i a n p o p u l i s t d o c tr in
B u e n o s A ir e s , 38, 39 a ir e ) , 5 , 6 7 - 7 1 , 7 6 , 8 1 , 8 3 - 4 , 89

B u g a n d a , 12 4 , 12 5 , 1 3 7 , 13 9 h is in flu e n c e in E a ste rn E u rop e,

B u lg a r ia , 9 7 , 9 9 , 10 0 , 1 0 1 , 10 3, 10 6 , 10 0 , 2 2 1

10 7 , 10 9 , n o , 1 1 2 , 1 1 7 , 1 1 8 C h ile , 3 1 , 4 7 , 5 , S 1 , 52
b u reau cracy, 29, 16 2 , 202, 246 C h in a , 67, 115, 119 , i . 16 8 , 19 7,

in C u b a , 4 8 -5 0 2 14 , 2 17 , 2 19 , 231
C h r is tia n D e m o c r a t P a r ty , 50, 51

Caesars Column, see D o n n e lly , I g n a C I A , th e , 30, 16 3

t iu s C i v i l W a r , t h e A m e r i c a n , 1 2 , 1 5 , 19 ,
C a lle s , P lu ta r c h o E lia s (M e x ic a n 26, 41
P r e s id e n t ) , 4 3 , 4 5 c la n s , 1 2 4 , 1 2 8 , 1 3 4
C a n a d a , 6, 13 , 1 6 7 , 1 6 8 ,1 7 8 , 18 6 c la s s s t r u c t u r e , 1 8 , 3 7 , 6 7 , 9 1 , 9 9 , 10 3 ,

p o p u li s m in , 2 2 6 - 8 10 7 , 1 3 1 , 13 6 , 13 9
caudillo and caudillismo ( d o c t r in e of in L a t in A m e r ic a , 2 9 , 34
p o lit ic a l le a d e r s h ip ) , 3 3 , 3 8 , 4 2 , 4 3 a n d c o m m u n is m in B u lg a r ia , 1 1 6 - 1 7

73 4
c a p it a l, 1 0 , 1 3 , 1 8 , 3 1 , 1 0 2 , 1 1 7 , 1 2 3 , in A fr ic a , 1 4 0 - 2 , 1 4 5 , 2 3 0 -1
14 5 , 16 8 , 1 7 3 , 203, 2 2 6 , 2 3 2 , 2 3 6 in R u s s ia a n d U S A , i ~ 18 8 -9 ,
and in d u s t r ia liz a t io n in E a ste rn 2 2 2 -3 , 2 2 6 -7 , 234, 237
c la s s , m i d d l e , 1 2 5 , 1 6 2 , 1 8 4 , 1 9 5 , 20 0 ,
E u r o p e , 10 8 , 1 1 5
c a p ita lis m , , 9 , 18 , 2 2 , 4 3 , 4 4 ,8 5 ,9 0 , 240, 242
98 in U S A , 2 2 -3
in n in e te e n th -c e n tu r y R u s s ia , 63, in L a t in A m e r ic a , 2 9 - 3 7
64, 66, 68, 7 1 - 9 , 2 2 0 -4 in E a s t e r n E u r o p e , 1 0 8 - 9 , 1 1 7 - 1 8
in E a s t e r n E u r o p e , 1 0 8 - 1 5 c la s s , w o r k i n g , 1 9 5 , 2 1 3 , 2 2 0 , 2 3 8 , 24 0 ,
in A f r i c a , 1 3 4 -8 1 14 0 . 1 4 2 - 3 , 1 4 5 - 6 , 242
2 3 0 -1 a n d p o p u l i s m in t h e U S A , 1 9 , 2 2
a n d c o - o p e r a t io n , 1 6 8 - 9 in L a t in A m e r ic a , 2 9 - 3 1 , 39
a n d c r is e s o f d e v e l o p m e n t , 2 0 1 , 2 0 4 , a n d R u s s ia n p o p u lis m , 7 6 - 9 0
207 in E a ste rn E u rope, 10 7 -10 , 114 ,
in N o r t h A m e r i c a , 2 2 0 , 2 2 4 , 2 2 9 ,
1 1 6 - 1 7 , 1 6 1 , *6 9 , 17 6
a n d in d u s t r ia liz a t io n , 1 8 5 - 6 , 1 8 8 - 9
C a r a c a s , 38 C liffe , L io n e l, 12 7
C ir d e n a s , L azaro (M e x ica n G en eral C o b b e tt, W illia m ( B r it is h r a d ic a l
a n d P r e s id e n t ) , 4 2 , 4 4 , 1 6 7 , 1 7 1 , p o lit ic ia n ) , 1 6 1 , 1 7 1

Coins Financial School, 14 , 16 , 2 7 n
C a r o l 11, K i n g o f R u m a n ia , 1 1 2 , 1 1 7 c o lle c t iv is m , 9 8 , 10 4 , 1 7 2 , 200, 209,
C a r r a n z a , V e n u s t ia n o ( M e x i c a n P r e s i 239, 242
d e n t) , 4 2 in A f r i c a , 2 2 9 - 3 2

c o lo n ia lis m , 6 , i o , 30, 3 7 - 8 , 12 4 , 128 ,
134 143 4
D a n ie lso n , N ic o la i (n in eteen th -cen
12 9 , 13 0 . , 3 6 -7 , H i . - , tu r y R u ssian p op u list d o ctrin
15 6 , 18 2 , 1 8 3 -4 , 18 6 , 18 9, 19 2, aire), 66, 7 5 , 7 7 , 82, 85, 86, 87,
208, 232 88, 89
d e c o lo n iz a tio n , 13 0 , 1 3 2 , 14 4 D a r w in , C h a rles, 80, 158 , 15 9 , 225
e x -c o lo n ia l, 36 , 6 6 , 1 3 2 , 13 8 , 145 D e b r a y , R lg i s (con tem porary F ren ch
p h ilo so p h er o f gu erilla warfare),
C o lu m b ia , 28
c o m m u n ita r ia n is m , 2 8 , 68 , 1 3 5 , 168,
deflation , 18
19 2
p o p u lis t attitu d e tow ards, 16 8 -9 ,
in M e x i c o , 4 1 - 3 , 4 8 -9
in R u s s ia , 6 8 -7 0 , 7 8 -8 3
D e la is i.F . (tw en tieth cen tu ry Fren ch
in A fr ic a , 1 4 2 - 4
econ om ist), 98
in th e T h i r d W o r ld , 2 2 9 -3 0
d em o cra cy
c o m m u n ic a tio n s , 13 , 14 , 25, 33, 39,
in th e U n ite d S tates, an d Jackson,
2 1 2 , 2 1 5 , 2 2 2 , 239
12 -1 3
c o m m u n is m , 3, 32, 4 3 , 48
an d B ryan , 2 4 -5
in L a t in A m e r ic a , 49
in R u ssian n in eteen th -cen tu ry
in E a ste r n E u r o p e , 1 1 6 - 1 9
id eo lo gies, 6 6 - 7 , 7 1 - 2 , 7 7 - 8
and p o p u lis m , 2 13 -14 , 2 18 -19 ,
in peasan tist doctrin es, 102, 103,
2 3 2 -3 108, 1 1 0 - 1 4 , 1 1 8 - 1 9
compadrazgo, see p atro n a ge in A fr ic a n p o p u lism , 12 2 , 12 9 , 130,
C o n g o , th e , 1 3 2 , 1 3 7 , 13 9 , 14 1 1 4 1 , 14 5 , 1 7 1 , 1 7 2 , 17 6 , 190, 201
C o n g r e s s P a r ty , In d ia n , 10 3, 1 1 2 , 188 an d p articip ation , 246
c o n se r v a tis m , 28, 1 0 1 , 10 4, 1 1 2 , 1 1 5 , v illa g e d em o cracy, 156
1 6 1 , 16 2 , 188, 19 5 , 240 D e m o cr a ts , th e (U n ite d S ta tes party),
c o n s p ir a c y th e o r y 2 3 -4 . 17 6
in L a t in A m e r ic a , 3 7 d em on stration effect, the, 182, 185,
as c h a ra cteristic o f p o p u lism , 1 5 7 - 8 , 186, 18 7 ; see also frustration
16 3 , 1 6 7 , 1 7 7 , 19 2 , 198 D e n m a rk , 104
in th e U n ite d S tates, 2 0 6 -7 d esp otism , 2 1 , 38, 2 1 7 , 222
C o n s titu tio n , 10 1, 102, 10 7, 1 1 2 , 11 8 d eterm in ism , p o p u list attitu d es to
co n su m e rs, n o , h i w ards, 2 0 2 -3
continuismo, 34, 42 De V alera, E am on n (con tem porary
Cooperaclon Popular (P eru v ian social Irish statesm an), 162
o rgan ization ), 52 D ia z , Porfirio (M ex ica n president),
co -o p e r a tiv es , 25 4 1 - 2 , 46
in E a stern E u ro p e, 105, n o , in , dictatorsh ip , in Eastern E u rop e,
114 -15 11 2 -14 , 11 8 -1 9
in A fr ic a , 128, 13 5 , 138, 142 D o m in ic a n R ep u b lic, 50
d efin itio n of, 1 6 8 -9 , 224. 229, 230, D o n n e lly , Ign atiu s (n in eteen th -cen
232, 241 tu r y US novelist, au th or of
co rru p tio n , 22, 34, 4 2 - 5 , 48, 1 1 4 , 1 1 7 , Caesars Column), 22, 128, 205,
13 6 , 138, 168, 192 207
D u r k h e im , E m ile, 160

37 53 5 9
C ro atia, 99, 103, 106, 11 4 , 11 8
C u b a , 3 1, 35, . 4 6 -5 1 , , , .
2 14 , 2 1 7 , 2 19 ed u catio n , 2 2 1, 225, 243
currency, 158, 161 in L a tin A m erica, 3 0 -1 , 37, 39, 42,
p o p u list attitu d e tow ards, 1 6 8 -9 , 46, 4 8 -9 , 53
17 4 , 17 6 , 206, 220 an d Elites in A frica , 1 2 6 -7 , 1 3 0 -1
C zech o slo vak ia, 97, 100, 10 7, no, p olitical effect o f, in u n d erd ev elo p ed
h i , 1 1 3 , 11 4 , 11 8 cou n tries, 1 8 7 -8 , 1 9 3 -4

e g a lita r ia n is m , i o , 1 4 6 , 1 6 3 , 1 7 3 , 2 0 7 , f e u d a lis m , 6 5 , 7 1 , 7 2 , 7 4 , 8 4 , 9 9 , 1 0 1 ,
2 2 3 . 233 13 3 , 1 7 1 , 18 6
Egypt. 13 fin a n c e , 2 6 , 2 8 , 5 2 , 1 5 8 , 1 6 9 , 1 9 9 , 2 0 7 ,
ejido, th e ( M e x i c a n a g r ic u ltu r a l c o m 220, 2 2 1, 223, 224

m u n a l o r g a n iz a tio n ), 4 2 - 4 , 1 9 2 and US p o p u lis m , 10 , n , 12 , 13 ,

th e E jid a l B a n k , 4 3 1 4 , 1 5 , 1 6 , 18 , 1 9 , 2 0 , 23

e le c to r a l s y s t e m , 10 3 , 10 6 , 10 9 , 113 , in A f r i c a , s e e c a s h - n e x u s
F le r o v s k y ( n i n e t e e n t h - c e n t u r y R u s s ia n
1 1 4 , 1 1 7 , 13 0 , 1 7 7 , 207
p o p u lis t ) , 7 3 , 7 4 , 89
ilit e , ilitis m
f o lk - m e m o r y , 4 6 , 4 7 , 5 2 , 1 5 6 , 16 3
in L a t i n A m e r ic a , 3 0 , 3 1
fo o d , 9, 13 , 18 , 20 , 2 3 , 4 4 , 2 0 1, 220,
la n d o w n in g , 3 6 , 3 7 , 4 2 , 53
in te lle c tu a l, in R u s s ia , 63, 9 1 -2 ,
F ra n ce , 17 4 , 18 2 , 18 3 , 2 1 4
174-5 fr e e t r a d e , 1 1 0 , 2 0 7
in A f r ic a , 1 3 0 - 2 , 1 3 9 , 1 4 3 , 1 4 6
F r e u d , S ig m u n d , 15 3

a n d fa s c is m , 1 7 5 - 6 f r u s t r a t io n , 1 3 0 , 1 4 1 , 1 8 5 ; s e e d e m o n
a n d m o d e r n iz a tio n , 1 8 7 - 8 , I s t r a t io n e f f e c t
e m a n c ip a tio n , 9 7 , 10 6 , 1 5 7 , 1 6 1
E m e r y , M r s S a r a h E . V , ( n in e t e e n t h -
G a n d h i, M a h a t m a , 1 7 1 , 1 7 2 , 1 7 8 , 18 4
c e n t u r y U S p o p u lis t) , 1 7 , 1 9 , 2 0 7 Gauchismo, 39
E n g e ls , F r ie d r ic h , 86, 87, 88, 203,
G e e r tz , C liffo r d , 19 0

204, 2 13 G e r a r d -L ib o is , 13 2 , 14 8 0
E n g la n d , 7 1 , 7 7 , 8 2 , 8 7 , 8 8 , 9 0 . I 2 .
G e rm a n y , 2 7 , 82, 1 1 4 , 1 1 8 , 13 9 , 17 1
137. 16 9 , 175, 17 8 , 18 2 , 2 0 7, 2 14 , G e s ta p o , 2 4 1
2 3 1 ,2 3 4 G h a n a , 14 5, 19 7
E n lig h te n m e n t, th e R u s s if ,, 7 0 - 3 , 7 6 ,
G herea, C. D obrogean u (tw e n tie th -
c e n t u r y R u m a n i a n s o c ia lis t ) , 1 0 1 ,
e n tr e p r e n e u r s , 2 2 3 , 2 2 5 , 2 3 1 , 2 3 2 1 0 2 , 10 4
in th e U S A , 9 , 26 G o e b b e ls ,J ., 17 5
E u r o p e , 29 , 19 0 , 20 3 , 2 0 8 , 2 1 0 , 2 1 8 , g o ld s ta n d a rd , 2 0 , 2 4 , 16 9 , 19 9 , 20 7
238 g o v e r n m e n t , 3 , 2 1 , 2 6 , 2 9 , 3 0 , 3 5 , 38,
ro o ts in L a t i n A m e r ic a , 3 7 , 3 8 , 39
44. 52, 7 7 . 85, 86, 87, 118 , 119 ,
c a p ita lis m in , 6 8 -9 , 9 2 - 3 1 2 3 , 1 2 9 , 1 3 0 , 1 3 9 , 1 6 0 , 1 6 2 , 16 9 ,
E a ste r n E u r o p e , 9 7 - 1 2 1 1 7 0 , 1 8 3 , 1 8 8 , 1 8 9 , 1 9 4 , 2 0 5 , 22 0 ,
E u r o p e a n p o p u lis m , 1 5 7 , 1 6 1 - 2 , 1 9 6
2 2 1 , 2 2 2 , 2 2 5 , 2 2 6 , 2 2 8 , 2 3 2 , 236,
a n d A fr ic a , 1 8 1 - 2 237
E u r o p e a n b u s in e s s m e n , 1 2 4 , 14 2 G r a m s c i , A l d o ( t w e n t i e t h c e n t u r y I t a l
e x p lo ita tio n , 18 , 30, 4 1 , 4 2 , 6 5 , 2 0 2 ia n C o m m u n i s t p h ilo s o p h e r ) , 17 8
e x p r o p r ia tio n , 6 8 , 1 1 7 G ran ger m ovem ent ( in n in e te e n th -
c e n tu r y U S A ) , 16

F a l le r s . L . , 1 2 2 , 1 2 3 , i 4 7 n G r a u S a n M a r tin , 48

F a n o n , F r a n tz , 5, 3 6 , 4 9 , 1 3 1 , 1 3 8 , 1 3 9 G reece, 113, 155

fa r m e r s , fa r m in g , 1 7 1 , 1 8 8 - 9 G r e e n b a c k m o v e m e n t ( in n i n e t e e n t h -

in t h e U S A , 12 , 14 -15 , 17 , 2 0 -3 , c e n tu ry U S A ) , 16

2 5 -6 , 2 2 1 -3 , 2 2 6 -8 G u a y a q u il, 38

in A f r ic a , 1 2 4 - 5 , I 3 6 - 7 , 1 4 0 - 2 g u e r illa m o v e m e n t , 3 9 - 4 0

fa s c is m , in C u b a , 4 7 - 9

in E a s te r n E u rop e, 98, 10 9 , 113 , a n d c o m m u n is t d o c tr in e , 2 1 4

115 -19 G u evara, C h i, 2 14

G u in e a , 18 7

a n d p o p u lis m , 1 7 6 - 7 , 1 7 8 , 1 8 1 , 1 9 2 ,
L 244
F erguson, A d a m ( e ig h t e e n t h c e n t u r y hacienda ( L a t i n - A m e r i c a n r u r a l t y p e
S c o t t is h p h ilo s o p h e r ) , 8 0 , 1 5 9 o f p ro p e rty ), 38, 4 3 , 4 7

Halpem, Manfred, 124, 145 individualism, 80, 81, 135, 138, 139,
Harding, P.J., 140 142, 159, 160, 161,162,169,192,
hard-money, 11, 15 204, 205, 209
Harvey, W.H. (Coin), 14, 16 Indonesia, 231
hatred, 117, 158, 177 industrialization, 135, 161, 181, 209,
Heath, B.S., 18
Hegel, Friedrich, 66, 83, 92
and the Russian populists, 69, 75,
Herceg, Rudolf (contemporary Yugo 82-3,85-9
slav peasantist author), 107 in Eastern Europe, 102,104,109-11
Herder, J.G. von (eighteenth-century and populist movements, 185-6,
German philosopher and critic), 192-3, 201-2
156, 159 industrial revolution in England, 77
Herzen, Alexander (nineteenth-cen industry, in nineteenth-century USA,
tury Russian political writer), 66, 10, 13, 18-19, 25-6
67, 68, 69, 83, 221 in Latin-America, 29-32, 35,44, 53
Hitler, Adolf, 241 in Russia, 68, 81, 82, 84 91,171-2
Hobsbawm,E. J., 92
In Eastern Europe, 107-10, 119
Hodza, F. Milan (twentieth-century
in Africa, 123, 136, 157, 161, 162,
Slovak statesman), 108, no, h i
Hoggart, Richard, 169, 174
inflation, 13, 24, 26, 158
Holland, 139
institutionalization, 159-60, 184, 185
humanism, 49
integration, 131, 182
Hungary, 97
populism in, 100, 106 intellectuals, intelligentsia, 24, 161,
the Hungarian village searching, 162, 167, 170, 174-5, 177. 180,
170, 174 188, 194, 198, 202, 210, 212, 220,
221, 238
in Latin-America, 28-9, 35-6, 38,
identity crisis, 36, 37, 38, 40 40-2, 45-6, 49
ideology, 5, 6, 90 in Russia, 63-4, 67-9, 76, 84, 88,
problems of, in Latin America, 34, 91-2, 172-3, 223
36-7, 42, 44, 46 in Eastern Europe, 99-101, 105-6
populist, in Russia, 64, 66-9, 72
International, the (1864), 76, 172
populist and peasantist, 91, 100,
international socialism, 101
103, 115, 118
internationalism, 183, 218, 219
in Africa, 197-212
and populism, 153-65, 175, 180, international trade, 38, 39
181, 213-18, 232-4, 241-2 Ireland, 161, 162, 168, 170, 177
and nationalism, 183-6 Iron Guard, the (Rumanian fascist
functions of, 191, 193 organization), 117, 171, 176, 178
and politics, 197-212
isolationism, 158, 170, 182
immigration, 38
Italy, 118, 181, 214
imperialism, impact of in Latin
America, 29-30, 37-8 Jackson, Andrew (General, seventh
and industrialization, 185-6, 190, President of the USA), 11-12,98,
192 206, 207
Inca forms of social organization, 51-2 Japan, 118, 208
independence, national, 184, 187 Jefferson, Thomas (third President of
India, 13, 103, 112,116,156,163, 171, the USA), 10, 12, 14
184 Jews, 101, 117, 118, 157, 171, 176,
Indians, in Latin America, 37, 39, 40, i77, 241
41, 42, 45, 46, 47, 51, 52, 225 Jim Crow, 177
indigenismo (Latin-American belief in Johnson, Lyndon, 178
domestic values), 37, 38, 40, 41 July 26th Movement, the (in Cuba), 48
Kabaka, 124, 125 liberalism, 3, 5, 28, 66, 69, 71, 75, 78,
Kansas, 177, 206 101, 104, 112, 199, 209
Kapital, Das, 77, 78, 81, 84, 86, 88 libertarianism, 217
Katz, see Gherea Lima, 31, 38, 52
Kenya, 127, 129, 230, 232, 234 Lincoln, Abraham, 19
Kilson, Martin, 128, 129, 130, 133, Lipset.S. M., 245, 246
134. 139 literature, 22, 40, 41, 73, 97, 98, 213,
kinship, 33, 134
Kozmin.B.P. (contemporary Soviet
Lloyd, Henry Demarest (US populist
historian), 62, 65, 66, 67, 70
writer), 24, 203
Lloyd George, 169, 170
Kwilu rebellion, the (of 1964 in
Lombard Street, 12
Congo), 132, 133, 138, 139
London School of Economics, 4
Lonsdale, John, 127, 128
labour, 10, 13, 14, 17, 18, 47, 48, 80,
Low, D.A., 124, 125, 126
81, 85, 109, 125, 132, 137, 139,
156, 161, 162, 168, 220, 223, 230,
machinery, 10, 13, 15, n o , h i, 157,
231. 2 3 5 -7
labour, division of 235
Macpherson, Professor Brough, 228
in Mikhailovs theory, 79-81, 85
Madero revolt, the (in Mexico), 46
in Durkheims theory, 159-60, 162
Madgearu, Virgil (twentieth-century
in Czechoslovakia, n o , i n
laissez-faire (economic liberalism),
Rumanian economist), n o , i n
Mali, 231
223-4 Mannheim, K., 159
markets, 25, 135, 136, 138, 145, 158,
in nineteenth-century USA, 10,
15-16, 18, 21, 24, 28
domestic, 9, 15, 23, 25, 85, 105, 230
in Latin America, 38, 39, 42-4
foreign, 85, 90, 224
in Eastern Europe, 105, 108
world, 9, 12, 13, 15, 23, 25, n o , 113
in Africa, 124-5, 232-4, 236
Maniu, Juliu (twentieth-century Ru
landowners, 9, 30, 31, 38, 97, 99, 108,
manian statesman), 167
109, n o , i n , 115, 118, 223, 224,
Mabism, 5, 93, 119, 154, 161
Mao Tse-tung, 178, 205, 214
La Paz, 46
Marcuse, Herbert, 5
Latin America, 6, 28-61, 119, 156,
Mari&tegui, 41, 57n
182, 186, 190, 219, 229, 238, 239
Margai, Sir Milton, 130
economic independence, 37
Markovlc, Svetoslav (twentieth-cen
emancipation, 36
tury Serbian political leader), 100
definition of populism in, 29, 34, 35
Marti, Jose (nineteenth-century Cuban
rural populism, 36-53
populist writer), 37, 47, 48, 214
urban populism, 28-36, 46, 47, 48,
50 Marx, Karl, 68, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81,
82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 92, 93,
Lavrov, P. (nineteenth-century Russ
98, 136, 164, 172, 173, 178, 199.
ian populist), 64, 73, 74, 76, 84
206, 213, 217
leadership, 107, 134 Marxism
leadership cadre, 130, 135, 139, 143 and populism in Russia, 18, 51, 63,
Lenin,V. I., and populism, 62, 65-73, 65. 66, 73, 75-8, 81-6, 88
82, 91, 117, 178, 217, 235, 237, and peasantism, 90, 92, 93, 98, 115,
238 153, 163, 164, 167, 175, 198, 200,
Leontyev, Constantine, 65 204, 206, 209
Lewelling, Governor, 206 different kinds of, 216-17, 239

masses, the, 29, 30, 31, 3*. 37. 39, 63. Mulelism (Congolese doctrine), 132,
68, 71, 85, 98, 106, 112, 113, 8, 139
124, 126, 128, 129, 130, 134, 139.
141, 145, 146, 161, 167, 181, 188, Nairobi, 128
190, 195, 229, 236, 239 narodnichestvo (Russian expression for
mass production, 69, n o populism narod: people), 5,
materialism, 11, 36 62-90, 98, 99,100,104,119,133,
Mazrui, Professor A., 234 135, 138, 169,170,171,172,173,
mestizo (Mexicans of mixed descent), 174 175
, 197 207 2 9
,1 7 8 , , , * , 220,
38, 40, 41, 46, 52 222, 223, 235, 238, 247
Mexico, 31, 35, 36, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, nationalization, 29, 44, 170, 172, 244
44, 46, 47, 188, 192, 238 nationalism, 6
Revolution, 35, 36, 37, 41, 42, . 43 in Latin America, 29, 30, 36,38-40,
45 46
, 44 99
Meyers, Marvin, 11 in Eastern Europe, 100,101,104-5,
McCarthyism, 177, 240 176
in Africa, 125, 127, 128, 131, 163,
McKinley, William, 25
migration, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 181
35 39 47 52 125 137
. , , , . , 161, 169,
and populism, 183-5, 199, 200
in the Third World, 209, 210, 229,
173, 183, 187, 188, 231, 235, 236,
237 230, 232
naturalistic evolutionism, 73
Mihalache, Jon (Rumanian peasantist
leader), 107 nazism, 5, 114, 119,187, 240,241,244
Mikhailovsky, N. K., (nineteenth-cen Negroes, 174, 177
tury Russian populist), 64, 73, neo-colonialism, 36, 37, 137, 138, 139,
74. 78, 79, 81, 83, 84, 85, 155, 159
theory of progress, 79, 80 neo-populism in Eastern Europe,
military, the, 34, 132, 145, 17, 185
Millet, Jean-Frantois, 174 neutralism, 144, 239
mir (traditional Russian assembly of New Deal,
the, 26
Friedrich, 216
heads of households administer
ing the Commune), 157, 168, nostalgia, 206
172-3, 200, 220, 222, 234-5 nouveaux riches, 30, 31
Mitrany, David, 98, i n Nyerere, Julius (contemporary Tan
mobility, 103, 182, 193 zanian statesman), 141, 144, 167,
modernization, 91, 113, 114, 115, 116, 178
118, 119, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137,
163, 180, 181, 185, 187, 191, 192, O Connell, Daniel (nineteenth-cen
193, 222, 242 tury Irish political leader), 161,
money power, the, 18, 19, 20, 21 162
monopoly, 10, n , 12, 18, 207 O Connor, Feargus (Irish Social
Montevideo, 38 thinker), 161
Moore, Barrington, Jr., 114, 135 oligarchy, 28, 35, 37, 124
moralism, 167, 171, 201, 205, 206, 208, one-party system, 103, 145
209 Orange Guard, the (paramilitary
Morris, William, 161, 162 organization of Bulgarian agrarian
Morse, Professor, 31, 32 party), 109, 113
movements, 6, 126, 130, 132, 133, 156, Orthodox Church, 97
162, 167, 168, 172, 181, 186, 190, orthodoxy, 214, 215
193 194
populism as a, 197-211, 219, 220, pacifism, 170, 176
223 Paine, Tom, 206
MNR, the, 46 Parsons, Talcot, 235

parliament, 107, 113, 116, 1x8, 119, Populist Party in America, 12, 16, 17,
176, 190, 193, 214, 228, 229, 244 21-4, 177
participation, popular, 123, 124, 126, Portugal, 139
244, 245, 246 positivism, 37, 42
patronage, 30, 32, 33, 35, 38, 47, 50, Poujade, Pierre (twentieth-century
S*. 52 3
, S , 239 French political agitator), 176,
peasantism, 6, 98, 99, 100-4, 106-16, 178, 187, 194, 240
117-19 poverty, 9, 10, 16-17, 37, 41, 68, 74,
peasantry, 6, 9-10 81, 85-6, 145-6, 161, 199, 202,
in Latin America, 28, 30-1, 35-7, 208, 209, 220, 238
40 50 53
- ,
power, 9. 15. 28, 31, 208
pressure group, 43, 45, 220
in Russia, 63-7, 69-72, 74, 77, 79,
82, 87, 167-8, 172-3 PRD, the (Dominican political party),
in Eastern Europe, 88, 92, 97-8,
PRI, the (Partido Revolucionario
100-10, 112-17, 119
in Africa, 124-42, 145
Institutional of Mexico), 44-5,
and primitivism, 154-6, 159-61,
prices, 13, 15, 23-5, 199, 234
164-73 primitivism as a basic populist theme,
as the base of populist movements,
154-5, 160, 162-3
186-7, 188-90, 192-3, 200-4,
profit, 9, 11, 15, 26, 29, 168, 227
220-3, 229-31, 233, 235-8, 242
Progressive movement and era in the
Peasant Leagues, the (in Brazil), 47 United States, 16, 25-6
peasant syndicates, 50, 53 proletariat, 49
Peoples Will, the 63, 64 in nineteenth-century Russia, 68-
Perdn, Juan (contemporary Argentin 70, 82-3, 85-6
ian political leader), Peronism, in Eastern Europe, 103-4, 138
29, 3i-5, 39, 181, 183, 187, 188, and class-consciousness in the
194, 238, 239 United States, 173-4, 176, 200,
personalism, 32-4, 50 202
personality, theory of, 159-62 agricultural, 223, 236
Peru, 31,35,40,41,47,50, 51,52,168, Promocidn Popular (Chilean populist
192, 194 programme), 51
Peffer, WilliamA., 17, 18, 20, 21 Proudhon, Pierre Joseph (nineteenth-
Pilsudski, Joseph (twentieth-century century French social philoso
Polish Nationalist leader and pher), 72, 172
statesman), 112 psychology, 5, 37, 48, 115, 117, 217
Pipes,R., 62, 63, 64, 73
Pisarev, 1. (nineteenth-century Russian
racial equality, 37, 40-2
writer), 69
planned settlement (agricultural com
racialism and populism, 157 8
- , 163,
167, 170-1, 174, 177
munal scheme of organization), radicalism, 9, 10, 14, 26, 37-9, 41-2,
229-30, 232, 234, 239
Plekhanov, G. U. (nineteenth-century
47, 50,53 7 74
, i, , 101, 109, 122
African rural, 1314, 136
Russian socialist), 65, 81, 83, 84, in the Third World, 238, 240-1
88, 90, 92, 101, 216, 221 railroads, 13-16, 18, 23, 26
plutocracy, 71 Raskol, the (seventeenth-century
Poland, 97, 100-1, 103, 107, 111-12, Russian heretical movement),
245 190, 203
Pollack, Professor Norman, 162-3, religion, 190, 216
198-9, 201, 203, 205 in Latin America, 32-3, 45
poporanism (Rumanian agrarian doc in Africa, 141, 163
trine), 100, 102-6 and populism, 170, 174, 176

revolution, revolutionary thought, Seton-Watson, H., 188
in Latin America, 35-6, 38-9, 41-2, Seyd,E., 207
44 47 49
, , , Si Shanin.T., 236
in Russia, 63-4, 67, 69, 74, 78, Shils,E., 180, 242-4
90-1, 172-4, 203 Sierra Leone, 128-30, 137-8
in Eastern Europe, 101, 104, 107, Sierra Maestra, 48
115, 117 -19
silver, 13-14, 16, 23-4, 160, 207
in Africa, 130, 139
demonetization, 13, 16, 19, 22
and populism, 167, 189-90, 204,
Simpson, J. (nineteenth-century US
214, 222,238
populist), 18
rhetoric, 21, 22, 198, 199, 208, 233
Rhodesia, 234
Sinarquismo (Mexican politico-religi
ous movement), 45
Rio de Janeiro, 38
Sismondi.S. de (French nineteenth-
Rivera, Diego (Mexican painter), 44
century sociologist), 72
Roberts, Henry, 98
slavery, 9, 19, 38, 47-8
Rodbertus, Johann Karl, 172
Slavophiles, 65, n o , 192
romanticism, economic, 7 1-2 , 76, 79,
Slavs, 97
81-2, 89, 170, 200, 238
Slovenia, 99, 101
Rothschild, House of, 12
small producers in Russia, 66, 68, 69,
Rousseau, J.-J ., 80, 154-6, 159
75, 77, 87-9, 91, 223, 233, 240
royal dictatorships in Eastern Europe,
Smith, Adam (eighteenth-century
98, 112 -13 , 117 English economist), 71, 80, 159
Rumania, 97, 99-100, 166
social democrats, 190, 217
and populism, 10 1-4
socialism, 5, 6, 19
peasantism in, 107, 109-12
in Latin America, 28, 41, 46
fascism in, 117 -18 , 176
in Russia, 63, 65, 68-9, 72, 73, 74,
ruralism, 40, 42, 127
76, 81-2, 84, 85, 89, 92, 93
rural (and urban) logic, 201-8
in Eastern Europe, 98, 99, 100-4,
rural population, see peasantry,
109, 111-12
farmers in Africa, 139, 141, 144, 145, 231
rural unrest, see peasantry, farmers
and populism, 168-75, 178, 181,
rural values 186, 190, 199, 201, 209, 218, 233,
in Latin America, 28, 36-52
238, 241, 245-6
in Eastern Europe, 98-9, 102-3,
socialization of labour, 85, 86, 87, 88
105, 107-9
social roots of populism, 6, 22, 180-96
and populism, 158-60, 192, 202-3,
social units, localized, 126, 136
sociology, 5, 63, 65-6, 80-1, 83, 107,
rural world revolution, 119
140, I ,53 159 , 212-14, 217, 219,
Russia, 5, 6, 28, 35, 41, 62-96, 154,
156-9, 160-1, 163, 166, 168-75,
237 , 244
Socorrds, Prio, 48
186, 188-90, 192, 200, 203-4,
popular solidarity, 143-6
214, 220, 231, 234-6, 257
Sorel, G. (twentieth-century French
and Eastern Europe, 98-101, 105-7,
political philosopher), 49
113, 117 -18
Sorokin, Pitirim, 107
Revolution, 184
Spain, 182, 222
and Latin America, 36-8, 40, 47,
SA, the(Sturm Abteilung), 241 5 2 -3
Sarmiento, D. Faustino (nineteenth- Spencer, H. (nineteenth-century En
century Argentine writer), 38 glish sociologist), 158, 160
Scandinavia, 168, 170 Spengler, O. (twentieth-century Ger
Selznick, Philip, 215, 216, 233 man philosopher), 10
Senegal, 187 SS, the (Schutz Staffeln, Nazi para
Serbia, 97, 99-101, 103, 106 military organization), 241

Stalin, J.V., 115, 154, 178, 214, 217 populism in, 9-27, 173-4, 198-9,
Stambolisky, Alexander (twentieth- 218-28
century Bulgarian agrarian poli party system, 21-5
tical leader), 103, 106-7, io 9> university, 30, 39, 50
112-13 urbanization, 9, 23, 25, 30-3, 35-6,
Stere, C. (twentieth-century Rumanian 38, 47 49
. . 52,157 , 161, 169, 190,
political thinker), 100-5 223, 237
students, 39, 42, 48, 50, 53, 194, 229 urban logic, see rural logic
Struve, P. B. (nineteenth-century Russ urban population, 3, 10, 28-33, 43.45,
ian political thinker), 64-5, 83 51-2, 107-9, i n , 117-18, 125,
Sukumaland, 128 127, 135-6, 157-8, 161, 180, 188,
Sun Yat-sen, 67 191. 193. 195, 202, 221-2, 235-6,
surplus value, Marxs theory of, 71 238
Syndicalism, 181 urban populism, 28, 34, 41, 44, 169,
187, 188, 189
Tannenbaum.F., 43 Urquhart.D., 80
TAN U , the (Tanzanian political
party), 128, 137 Vann Woodward, C., 177
Tanganyika, 127, 129, 137-8 Vargas, Getulio (twentieth-century
Tanzania, 127, 142, 144, 299, 231 Brazilian political leader), 29, 34
Taoism, 155 Vasconcelos (twentieth-century Mexi
tariffs, 12, 13, 18, 22, 29 can political leader), 40, 42
taxation, n -1 2 , 14, 16, 18, 87, 157, Venezuela, 31, 50
161, 170 Venturi, F., 64, 182
technology, 84, 89, 133, 161, 225 vested interests, 10, 17-18, 20, 26
Telia,T.S.di, 53n, 54n, 184, 193, 194 Vienna, 100
Third World, the, 29, 36, 37, 92, Villa, Pancho (twentieth-century Mex
122,123,124,156,208,228,239 ican leader), 41-2
Tillman, Ben, 177 voluntarism, 202, 203, 206
Titoism, 5 Vorontsov, V., (nineteenth-century
Tkachev, P.N. (nineteenth century Russian populist), 75, 82, 85,
Russian political thinker), 74, 76, 87-91
84, 91
Tocqueville, A. de (French nineteenth- Wall Street, 12, 19, 30
century political writer), 69 War, 19, 87-8, 190, 194
Tolstoy, L. (Russian nineteenth-cen First World, 6, 97, 106
tury novelist and philosopher), 3, Second World, 115, 119, 195, 238
170, 171, 175, 176 Watson, T ., 177
Torre, Haya de la (twentieth-century wealth, 24, 29, 35, 39, 68, 81, 117,
Peruvian political leader), 41,171, 157, 171, 208, 209
178 Weaver, General, 12, 18, 21
totalitarianism, 49, 172, 176, 195, 241 Webb, Sydney and Beatrice (twenti
Touraine, Alain, 5 eth-century British social theor
traditionalism, 92, 182, 187, 191-2, ists), 169, 178
194 205
. . 222. 229 Weber, Max (twentieth-century Ger
transport, 14-15, 18, 24, 25, 161 man sociologist), 216-17, 235, 243
Trotsky,L., 5, 214 Weiss,H., 132
Tsarist government, 78, 86, 90, 97, welfare, 28, 68, 81, 90, 239
105, 189-90, 204, 220, 222 Weltanschauung, 91
Turkey, 41, 97 Wertheim, W. F., 146
West, the, 75-7, 84-5, 89-92, 98-100,
United States, 3, 6,48,157-8, 168-72, 104, n o , 112-13,154,157.181-2,
175-8, 186, 190, 243, 247 186,192,203-4, 208

Westernizers in Russia, 65, 69, 70 youth, 48, 50-1, S3, 163, 164
Witos, Wincenty (twentieth-century Yugoslavia, 97, 100, 107, 109, m -12 ,
Polish agrarian leader), 107
US, 119, 245
working class organizations, labour
Yugoslav League (Kardelj) doctrine,
movement, 22, 30-2, 34, 41, 43,
47 , SO, 114, 183, 188-9,229 ,239,
Wrigley, C .C ., 125 Zapata, E. (twentieth-century Mexi
Wyslouch, B. (nineteenth-century Pol can political leader), 42, 43
ish populist leader), 100 Zasulich, Vera (nineteenth-century
Russian revolutionary writer),
Young, Crawford, 132, 137, 141 84