Peoples' movements and protests




The repertoires of peoples’ movements



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By Jan Wiklund



Through the centuries, the forms of action of popular movements have changed, depending on what their goals have been and depending on what their opponents have looked like. Movement researcher Charles Tilly has called what currently applies a repertoire and described how this has historically developed.

From the beginning of the 16th century until approximately 1800, the tax revolt applied. It was provoked by the fact that the states expanded greatly and raised taxes, but used this money mostly for war and luxury. The repertoire of the tax revolt was to kill or drive away the tax collector, often after holding a trial, and perhaps demolish his house. The time period applies to Western Europe, in e.g. In Russia, the period extends almost to the 1800s and in Southeast Asia right up to the 1930s. In two cases -- in Holland and in England -- tax revolts led to revolution.

From 1700 to 1850, the bread rebellion applied. It was provoked by bread prices starting to follow market laws after previously being fixed, and of course occurred when prices were raised. The technique was that the citizens of a town went to the mill or the baker and confiscated bread and/or flour and sold it in the square at the old fixed price. Then the miller or baker got the money. Often it was the women who carried out the rebellion. Also in the case of the bread riots, the time scale indicates Western Europe; in the Nordic countries and in Russia there were bread uprisings until 1917 and in Africa they are still going on. Even bread revolts have provoked two revolutions, in France in 1789 and in Russia in 1917.

From about 1850 (in Western Europe), the bread revolts began to be replaced by strikes. This was because in a market economy it is easier to raise the wage than to lower the price. The strike was aided by the demonstration (invented in London in the 1760s), the mass meeting (which imitated the religious revivalist meetings and invented in the 1810s), the occupation (which had been tried by peasants whose land was stolen by landlords in the 16th-17th centuries but which began to be used by industrial workers only at the beginning of the 20th century), as well as the boycott, an American method from the 1770s, and (when one is strong enough) participation in elections.

Each of these can be combined – a strike with occupation of the workplace, or anything with a demonstration and a mass meeting.

And it should not be forgot that any repertoire should be combined with a peoples’ movement culture, in texts, songs, parties, and whatever. Strength come from bodily contact, being alone only breeds weakness.


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