Peasant movement

Peasant movement is a social movement involved with the agricultural policy, which claims peasants rights.

Peasant movements have a long history that can be traced to the numerous peasant uprisings that occurred in various regions of the world throughout human history. Early peasant movements were usually the result of stresses in the feudal and semi-feudal societies, and resulted in violent uprisings. More recent movements, fitting the definitions of social movements, are usually much less violent, and their demands are centered on better prices for agricultural produce, better wages and working conditions for the agricultural laborers, and increasing the agricultural production.

The economic policies of the British adversely affected the Indian peasants under the British government, protecting the landlords and money lenders while they exploited the peasants. The peasants rose in revolt against this injustice on many occasions. The peasants in Bengal formed their union and revolted against the compulsion of cultivating indigo.

Anthony Pereira, a political scientist, has defined a peasant movement as a "social movement made up of peasants (small landholders or farm workers on large farms), usually inspired by the goal of improving the situation of peasants in a nation or territory".[1]

Peasant movements by country or regionEdit


Peasant movement in India arose during the British colonial period, when economic policies characterized in the ruin of traditional handicrafts leading to change of ownership, overcrowding of land, massive debt and impoverishment of peasantry. This led to peasant uprisings during the colonial period, and development of peasant movements in the post-colonial period.[2] The Kisan Sabha movement started in Bihar under the leadership of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, who formed the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha (BPKS) in 1929 to mobilise peasant grievances against the zamindari attacks on their occupancy rights.[3] In 1938,the crops in Eastern Khandesh were destroyed due to heavy rains.The peasants were ruined. In order to get the land revenue waived,Sane Guruji organized meetings and processions in many places and took out marches to the Collector's office. The peasants joined the revolutionary movement of 1942 in great numbers. [4] Gradually the peasant movement intensified and spread across the rest of India. All these radical developments on the peasant front culminated in the formation of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) at the Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress in April 1936 with Swami Sahajanand Saraswati elected as its first President.[5] In the subsequent years, the movement was increasingly dominated by Socialists and Communists as it moved away from the Congress, by 1938 Haripura session of the Congress, under the presidency of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the rift became evident, and by May 1942, the Communist Party of India, which was finally legalised by the then government in July 1942, had taken over AIKS, all across India including Bengal where its membership grew considerably. [6]

D. D. Kosambi and R.S. Sharma, together with Daniel Thorner, brought peasants into the study of Indian history for the first time.[7]



Polish peasant movement focused on improvements in the life of Polish peasants, and empowering them in politics. It was strong from mid-19th to mid-20th centuries.

United StatesEdit


The struggle for the Liberation of Zimbabwe is a theme that has been accorded fair autobiographical attention in Zimbabwe. Scholarly attention on the war was predicated on the need to understand how the "underdog" freedom fighters managed to paralyse the state-funded Rhodesian armed forces. In this light, the widely accepted view came to be that the "guerrillas" / freedom fighters established rapport with the peasants during the course of the war. Nevertheless, there is an anti-thesis between nationalist and revisionist scholarly interpretation on the matter. The nationalist historians advance a glorious interpretation of the role of peasants by arguing that there was a correlation between the guerrillas' Maoist ideology of relying on mass support to win a war and the peasants' grievances in the white colonial state.  They justify this claim by rationalizing that the peasants had long developed a spirit of resentment prior to guerrilla infiltration in their areas, thus, when the guerrillas came, their ideas fell on fertile ground. Contrary to the glorious interpretation, revisionist historians have reasoned that it is misleading to suggest that the peasants always supported the guerrillas out of will since such a position ignores other critical issues such as guerrilla indiscipline, local struggles in the communities and guerrilla coercion as a means for mobilizing the masses. It is a fact to argue that the guerrilla war thrived on the masses’ co-operation.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Pereira, Anthony W 1997. The End of the Peasantry. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
  2. ^ Social movements types at Sociology Guide
  3. ^ Bandyopādhyāya, Śekhara (2004). From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India. Orient Longman. p. 406. ISBN 978-81-250-2596-2.
  4. ^ Bandyopādhyāya, Śekhara (2004). From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India. Orient Longman. p. 406. ISBN 978-81-250-2596-2.
  5. ^ Bandyopādhyāya, Śekhara (2004). From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India. Orient Longman. p. 407. ISBN 978-81-250-2596-2.
  6. ^ States, Parties, and Social Movements, by Jack A. Goldstone. Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-521-01699-1. Page 192.
  7. ^ Habib, Irfan (2007). Essays in Indian History (Seventh reprint ed.). Tulika. p. 381 (at p 109). ISBN 81-85229-62-7.

Further readingEdit

  • Mark I. Lichbach, What makes Rational Peasants Revolutionary?: Dilemma, Paradox, and Irony in Peasant Collective Action, World Politics, Vol. 46, No. 3 (Apr., 1994), pp. 383–418
  • M. Edelman, Bringing the Moral Economy back in... to the Study of 21st-Century Transnational Peasant Movements, AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST, 2005, VOL 107; PART 3, pages 331-345
  • E. J. Hobsbawm, Peasants and politics, Journal of Peasant Studies, Volume 1, Issue 1 October 1973, pages 3 – 22
  • Marcus J. Kurtz, Understanding peasant revolution: From concept to theory and case, Theory and Society, Volume 29, Number 1 / February, 2000
  • Henry A Landsberger, Rural protest: peasant movements and social change, Barnes and Noble, 1973, ISBN 0-06-494029-2
  • P. McMichael, Reframing Development: Global Peasant Movements and the New Agrarian Question, CANADIAN JOURNAL OF DEVELOPMENT STUDIES, 2006, VOL 27; NUMB 4, pages 471-486
  • James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance, Yale University Press, 1985