Peoples' movements and protests
There have, of course, been revolts and opposition to unequal conditions, oppression and exploitation for as long as there have been unequal conditions, oppression and exploitation. Unfortunately, we do not know much about how this happened before our own time, because the people who participated were usually not literate, while those who were so had hardly any interest in portraying it in an objective way. Most of what we have heard is the government’s untruthful versions.
But at least some are known.
Here we have described four different traditions of popular resistance.
1. Rebellion against the ancient empires, with their deified imperial courts and hordes of tax collectors, from Christianity to Chinese peasant uprisings. All of these achieved some success – sometimes they created protective collectives, sometimes they succeeded in replacing particularly incompetent regimes, sometimes the empires simply collapsed and less oppressive systems were established.
2. European medieval democracy movements, which consisted of local peasant uprisings against landowners, local artisan uprisings against rich merchants, and unifying radical religious movements with human equality on the agenda. We would like to know how much of this is applicable outside Europe; we suspect it is quite universal.
3. Tax revolts against the so-called cannon monarchies or military dictatorships that emerged in Europe from about 1450 and in other continents against European emerging colonial empires. As the name suggests, they were mainly about refusing to pay taxes that in any case only went to war and luxury that was of no use to the majority of the people.
4. Bread seizures, which are a form of resistance to market prices for food which began in the 18th century and is still ongoing. Most often, they were local and consisted of confiscating food and distributing it fairly, but for example in France in 1789, Russia in 1917 and Argentina in 2001, they could have major effects nationally and even globally.