Peoples' movements and protests








The Grundtvigian peasant movement
Irish Land League
Bavarian Farmers’ Union
Farmer’s Alliance
The Zapatists of Morelos
Kisan Sabha
The Chinese peasant movement
The Vietnamese peasant movement
La Convención
KRRS and Shetkari Sanghatana
French peasant resistance
The Zapatists of Chiapas
Via Campesina
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Agrarian movements






Agrarian movements in the self-sufficient society originated from villages and parishes that protected their livelihoods against landowners and kings with the help of armed uprisings. The goal was everyone’s right to a subsistence minimum. Such peasant uprisings were at the heart of 20th century revolutions in countries such as Mexico, Russia, China, and Vietnam, and the goal was often expressed as land reform, or the land for those who cultivate it.

With the emergence of commercial food markets – in Western Europe implemented during the 19th century and in the Southern countries underway right now – the repertoire of agrarian movements changed. To protect themselves against food wholesalers and chemical companies, farmers organized cooperatives to strengthen themselves in the market and trade unions to strengthen themselves politically. Over time, conflicts arose between them, as cooperatives obeyed the same laws as other market players and favored the rich more than the poor.

In the Northern countries, farmers’ unions have been relatively successful in exploiting political pressure to safeguard economic survival. In the Southern countries, the space has been smaller. While the North has had South as a source of cheap raw materials, the South’s cities have had to plunder the countryside to get resources for their ”development projects”. The agrarian movements in the South have therefore been more squeezed.

Their focus has been to defend themselves against export agriculture and other large-scale agriculture. During the 20th century, the demand has been land reform, i.e distribution of big estates’ land to the cultivators. In this the movements have been quite successful; the large-scale agricultural estates has been phased out after 1945 in most countries, although only about half of the farmers have been able to benefit from it (slightly more in countries with strong peasant movements such as China and India, fewer where land reforms were government initiatives).

After the 1970s, the focus has increasingly been on defending the villages’ right against the state, and at the same time asserting themselves against the cities’ demands for cheap food. In recent times, the defense of the right to seed against socalled intellectual property rights of Northern businesses have become a major issue. The global movement against the neoliberal agenda is largely supported by small farmers’ movements that organize themselves globally in Via Campesina.


David Goodman & Michael Redclift: Refashioning nature, Routledge 1991
Jeffrey Paige: Agrarian Revolution, The Free Press 1975
Derek Urwin: From plowshare to ballotbox, Universitetsforlaget 1980
Solon Barraclough: An end to hunger, Zed 1991


The Nyeleni Declaration
The Ayala Plan


Philip McMichael: Rethinking globalization: the agrarian question revisited
Marc Edelman: Transnational Peasant and Farmer Movements and Networks

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