Peasant Political Movements in Eastern Europe
The first victim of industrialisation is the peasant. At least that is the conventional view. The peasant, it is said, is wrenched out of his parochial village life by the intrusion of the market and the money economy. His family swells in numbers out of all proportion to his income because of improved standards of health care and improved diet, and he is pushed off his land by some of his more efficient brethren, by non-peasant cultivators, and by landlords who have abandoned their noblesse oblige for the ethics of the market place. As taxes and money costs rise, some peasants are seduced into the production of cash crops or rural cottage production as a way of supplementing their meagre farm incomes. The former are in the end betrayed by the whims of the market and left stranded without either an adequate money income or a kitchen garden to fall back on. The latter become accustomed to their additional income, and then it is removed from them as industry shifts from the putting out system to the factory system. In the end almost all peasants must seek a place in the burgeoning cities and abandon farm work altogether, and with it the warm and intimate personal ties and satisfactions of village life. There are none to mourn the peasant’s passing, for that is progress and the ‘normal’ pattern of modernisation. In Eastern Europe, however, before World War I a peasant political movement arose that claimed that this was not progress, that it was not inevitable, and that peasant society possessed some distinctive virtues that should be preserved at all costs.1
KeywordsLand Reform Direct Democracy Political Movement Formal Politics Eastern EUROPE
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