Chris Harman

Zombie Capitalism

Part Four: The Runaway System

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Who Can Overcome?

The decisive question

We live in a system which is unstable, which breeds economic crises and wars, and which is eating up the very environmental basis it stands on. This is going to lead its component national sectors into repeated social and political crises in the course of the 21st century. Just as the 20th century was a century of wars, civil wars and revolutions, so too is the 21st century. But this leaves open a decisive – the decisive – question. What forces exist that are capable of taking on the system and transforming the world?

For classical Marxism, the answer was simple. The growth of capitalism was necessarily accompanied by the growth of the class it exploited, the working class, and this would be at the centre of the revolt against the system. It was not the first exploited and oppressed class in history. But it differed from the 200 or so generations of peasants and slaves that preceded it in very important respects. Capitalist exploitation was concentrated in huge workplaces in giant industrial conurbations, giving the working class power at decisive points in the society in which it found itself. Such exploitation tended to produce homogeneity in the conditions of its members as capital repeatedly reduced different forms of concrete labour to abstract labour. And capital required an exploited class that has a level of culture – of literacy, numeracy and knowledge of the world at large – greater not merely than preceding exploited classes, but also than most preceding ruling classes. These factors combined to create the potentiality for it to take control of society as a whole into its own hands in a way that was not true of its predecessors.

But potentiality was not actuality. The development of capitalism was not a simple smooth upward process that had its impact on the exploited class it created. There was unevenness over time, with the concentration of workers into centres of exploitation during booms and the expulsion of some from those centres during slump. There was geographic unevenness, with some centres arising in connection with national states before others, and then sometimes declining as new centres supplanted them. These forms of capitalist unevenness led to unevenness within the working class, with different levels of skill and payment arising, with competition for jobs and security of employment between different groups of workers, with sections of workers identifying with the particular state that controlled them because it seemed like a locus for achieving reforms of the system. Nevertheless, for classical Marxism, this was a class which would be driven to unite periodically by the very pressures of the system upon it. Skill differentials which had arisen at one point would be eroded at another. Competition between workers would fade as they fought together to achieve overriding common goals. National ideologies would lose their hold in the face of the horrors of imperialist wars.

This notion, that the working class provides the agency that can change society, has been challenged even more than Marx’s account of the economic dynamic of the system. Marx was a brilliant economist and a pioneering sociologist, the argument goes, but fell into an apocalyptic vision of the future which ascribed a metaphysical role to the working class. The spread of modern capitalism, the argument continues, has not been accompanied by the growth of the working class, the conditions of those workers that do exist have not been homogenised, and they do not develop a consciousness in opposition to the system.

Such contentions were already very widespread during the long post-war boom. As a notable sociological study of British workers told:

A major and recurrent theme – and most notably in liberal quarters – [was] that of the incipient decline and decomposition of the working class. As the development of industrial societies continued, it was suggested, the working class, understood as a social stratum with its own distinctive ways of life, values and goals, would become increasingly eroded by the main currents of change. The very idea of a working class had been formed in, and in fact belonged to, the infancy of industrial society: in the era to come it would steadily lose its empirical referent. Social inequalities would no doubt persist; but these would be modified and structured in such a way that the society of the future would be an overwhelmingly “middle-class” society, within which the divisions of the past would no longer be recognisable. [1]

So pervasive were these arguments that they influenced the thinking of radicals such as the American sociologist C. Wright Mills [2] and revolutionaries like Herbert Marcuse [3], while fashionable sociologists generalised the argument about “post-industrial society” to the advanced countries as a whole. They all looked rather foolish when French workers undertook the biggest general strike in history so far in May 1968 and waves of industrial struggle swept through Italy, Britain, Argentina, Spain and Portugal in the years 1969–75. Yet the argument revived in the 1980s and 1990s as the restructuring of capitalism through crisis decimated many old established sectors of the working class and industrial defeat led to a waning of class combativity.

Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe were swimming with the tide of intellectual opinion when they asserted in an influential work in the mid-1980s, “It is impossible today to talk about the homogeneity of the working class and to trace it to a mechanism inscribed in the logic of capital accumulation.” [4] So too were Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri when they claimed in 2000 that “the industrial working class” had “all but disappeared from view. It has not ceased to exist, but it has been displaced from its privileged position in the capitalist economy.” [5]

Yet, not for the first time, the common sense among philosophers has departed from empirical reality. A detailed study of the world’s workforce in the mid-1990s by Deon Filmer calculated that of 2,474 million people who participated in the global non-domestic labour force, 889 million worked for wages or salaries, 1,000 million people mainly for their own account on the land, and 480 million for their own account in industry and services. [6] Probably about 10 percent of those employed will have been members of the new middle class who receive more value than they create in return for helping to control the mass of workers. [7] This means there were around 700 million workers, with about a third in “industry” and the rest in “services”. The total size of the working class including their dependants and those who have retired must have been between 1.5 and 2 billion. More recent figures from the United Nations Development Programme suggest a global total for those in industry substantially higher than Filmer’s. [8] Anyone who believes we have said “farewell” to this class is not living in the real world.

Marx made a distinction between a class which exists in itself, as an objective element in the social structure, shaped by the relations of people to the means of making a livelihood, and a class for itself with a consciousness of its position and of its interests in opposition to those of another class. The key conclusion to draw from all the figures is that the working class exists as never before as a class in itself with a core of perhaps 2 billion people, or a third of the global population. On top of this there are very large numbers of peasants, up to 50 percent, who do some wage labour and so are subject to much of the same logic of the system as the workers. The global proletariat and semi-proletariat combined are the majority of the population for the first time in history.

But we need to go beyond these general figures if we are to grasp the potential for the world’s workers to challenge the system. It is necessary first to look how changes in the system are changing different sectors of workers.

The “advanced” countries: the effects of restructuring

The repeated restructuring of production means that the working class in the advanced countries today is different in many respects to that 40 or 50 years ago. But this does not justify the claim that the working class has disappeared as a result of “deindustrialisation”, the “post-industrial society”, or the “weightless economy”.

Take, for instance, the world’s biggest single economy, that of the US. There was much panic about “deindustrialisation” in the 1980s in the face of challenges to US industrial pre-eminence in fields like car production and computers. But in 1998 the number of workers in industry was nearly 20 percent higher than in 1971, roughly 50 percent higher than in 1950 and nearly three times the level of 1900. Baldoz, Koeber and Kraft noted at the beginning of this century, “More Americans are now employed in making cars, buses and parts of them than at any time since the Vietnam War.” [9]

Even after the recession of 2001–2 had led to a massive rationalisation of industry, with the loss of about one in six manufacturing jobs, the industrial working class had far from disappeared. Industrial production in 2007 was 8 percent higher than in 2000 and 30 percent higher than in 1996 [10], and the US remained the world’s biggest single centre of manufacturing, with a fifth of world output (the combined old European Union of 15 states was ahead with a quarter) [11], despite much talk of manufacturing moving to the Third World in its entirety.

The Japanese figures were even more astounding. The industrial workforce more than doubled between 1950 and 1971 and was another 13 percent higher in 1998. The fall in industrial employment in a number of countries over the last three decades does not signify deindustrialisation of the whole of the old advanced industrial world. It had 112 million industrial jobs in 1998 [12] – 25 million more than in 1951 and only 7.4 million less than in 1971. Toni Negri’s Italy may not have been in the same league as the US or Japan, but industrial workers had certainly not disappeared. There were 6.5 million in 1998, down only one sixth since 1971. [13]

These figures for industrial employment, it should be added, underestimate the economic importance of industry in general and manufacturing in particular. As Bob Rowthorn has rightly noted:

Almost every conceivable economic activity in modern society makes use of manufactured goods ... Many of the expanding service industries make use of large amounts of equipment. [14]

The small decline in the total industrial workforce is not because industry has become less important, but because productivity per employee in industry has risen more quickly than in “services”. Slightly fewer manufacturing workers are producing many more goods than three decades ago. [15] The industrial workers are as important for the capitalist economy today as in the early 1970s. Glib statements like those of Hardt and Negri about their declining significance could not be more wrong.

The usual distinction between “industry” and “services” obscures more than it reveals. “Services” is a catch-all residual category of everything that does not fit into the sectors of industry and agriculture. So some of the shift from “industry” to the “service sector” amounts to no more than a change in the name given to essentially similar jobs. Someone (usually a man) who worked a typesetting machine for a newspaper publisher 30 years ago would have been classified as a particular sort of industrial worker (a “print worker”); someone (usually a woman) working a word processing terminal for a newspaper publisher today will be classified as a “service worker”. But the work performed remains essentially the same, and the final product more or less identical. Rowthorn undertook a statistical breakdown of the total “service” category for the OECD as a whole. There was a small fall in “total goods and goods-related services” – from 76 percent of all employment in 1970 to 69 percent in 1990. [16] But this was certainly not a revolutionary transformation in the world of work.

There are many other jobs characterised as “services” that are essential to accumulation in the modern world – especially, as we saw in Chapters Five and Seven, health provision and the education service. Today there are over 10 million employed in health and educational services in the US (around one in 13 of the workforce), and US capitalism could not function without them. And the long-term trend is for most of them to be forced increasingly into conditions comparable to those of industrial and routine office workers, with payment by results, assessment and appraisal systems, increased concern with timekeeping, and enhanced discipline codes.

There is the myth that the “service” sector workforce is made up of well paid people with control over their own working situation who never need to get their hands dirty. So Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee writes:

We have seen the most rapid change in social class in recorded history: the 1977 mass working class, with two thirds of people in manual jobs, shrunk to one third, while the rest migrated upwards into a 70 percent home-owning, white collar middle class. [17]

If Toynbee had looked at the Office for National Statistics’ Living in Britain 2000 she would have found 51 percent of men and 38 percent of women in its various “manual” occupational categories. [18] This is because the “service industries” include refuse workers, hospital ancillary workers, dockers, lorry drivers, bus and train drivers, and postal workers. Alongside them are a huge number of women – 50 percent – in the “intermediate and junior non-manual” categories, where wages are typically lower than in most manual occupations and working conditions often at least as hard. In the US in 2001, 50 percent of the 103 million employees in service related occupations had manual or routine clerical or similar jobs. [19] Together with the 33 million workers in traditional manual industries they made up three quarters of the country’s workforce.

Two related processes are taking place in all “advanced” economies (and many “non-advanced” ones). The traditional manual working class is put under more and more pressure as capital tries to squeeze its directly productive labour so as to get more profits from it. At the same time, the new “non-goods-producing service” working class is subject to proletarianisation as capital sets out to reduce the costs to it of non-productive and indirectly productive functions.

Each crisis in the last four decades has involved sudden increases in unemployment – in some cases permanent – and the wiping out of old established centres of production (factories, docks, mines, etc). Capital and its apologists have then tried to take advantage of workers’ feelings of insecurity to remould their lives around its own continually changing requirements. Its slogans have become “flexibility” in labouring time, methods of work and labour markets, all justified by the claim that “lifetime employment belongs to a past age”. Much academic research has accepted its message, and “Third Way” social democrats and those on the “autonomist” left have taken it for an unquestionable truth. Typical – and excessively influential – is the sociologist Manuel Castells who argues there is:

Structural unstability [sic] in the labour markets everywhere, and the requirement for flexibility of employment, mobility of labour, and constant reskilling of the workforce. The notion of the stable, predictable, professional career is eroded, as relationships between capital and labour are individualised and contractual labour conditions escape collective bargaining. [20]

The claim about the ability of capitalism to destroy industrial jobs instantaneously is a vast exaggeration of what is happening with restructuring. As we have seen in Chapter Ten it takes time and effort for capital to liquidate industrial investment in one part of the world and shift it to another – and new investment is still predominantly within the triad of the advanced countries, although the emergence of China as a manufacturing centre is adding a new twist to that pattern. Even in the electronics industry, in which components and most final products are very light and cheap to move, there was not an unambiguous move from centralised production in the advanced countries to contracting out in the Global South in the 1990s and early 2000s:

Although the proportion of production beyond the Triad of Europe, North America and Japan was high, and was indeed associated with international rather than local markets, it was confined to a few East Asian countries. At the same time, the “domestic” production workforce in the US continued to grow. [21]

In general, capital still finds it more profitable to locate itself in the regions which had industrialised by the mid-20th century. Workers may usually be better paid there, but a combination of established skill levels and existing investments in plant and infrastructure means they are also more productive, providing much more surplus value for the system than most of their poorer brothers and sisters in the Third World. This explains why the picture for most of Latin America in the 1990s was one of very slow average growth or stagnation, and for most of Africa of absolute decline.

The most important impact of offshoring and rising imports has not been their role in destroying jobs, but in helping employers to destroy workers’ confidence in their capacity to defend conditions, wages and working hours.

A study by Kate Bronfenbrenner found that during the economic upturn of the 1990s American workers felt more insecure about their economic future than during the depths of the 1990–1 recession. “More than half of all employers made threats to close all or part of the plant” during union organising drives. But afterwards “employers followed through on the threat and shut down all or part of their facilities in fewer than 3 percent” of cases. [22] In other words, it is in the interests of employers to overemphasise how precarious jobs are in order to demoralise workers and lower the level of resistance. Those voices on the left who exaggerate that insecurity can add to that demoralisation, rather than countering it with a recognition of the counter-factors that provide workers with continued strength if they have the confidence to deploy it.

The evidence does not justify a picture of a uniform, relentless spread of precarious jobs. The crisis of the early 1990s did cause a substantial increase in “precarious” jobs in Western Europe. But that still left 82 percent in permanent jobs, as against only 18 percent in non-permanent jobs – a proportion that remained almost unchanged between 1995 and 2000. There has been a huge variation between countries [23], but a 2001 ILO study of Western Europe as a whole concluded that:

The evidence simply does not sustain the view that we are witnessing the emergence of a “new” kind of employment relations, seen in the “end of the career” and the “death of the permanent job for life”. [24]

One survey in 2000 showed only 5 percent of British employees on temporary contracts [25], while the number of people who had worked at the same workplace for more than ten years had risen from 29 to 31 percent. [26] Even in Spain, which has the highest level of “precariety” in Europe, 65 percent of workers have permanent jobs.

Capital cannot manage without workers who have certain skills and it prefers workers who have some sense of responsibility for the job. It takes employers time to train people and they are rarely keen to lose them if they can avoid it. They therefore do not always treat workers as “disposable”, even when it comes to semi-skilled and unskilled labour. They can benefit from a generalised insecurity making the majority of workers with relatively secure jobs fear that they may lose them. But that does not mean that capital can really dispense with such workers. And that means they have the potential to put up resistance to its demands, even if they are often not aware of it.

The new working classes of the “Third World”

Around 60 percent of the world’s industrial workers are outside the “advanced” countries of the OECD, with perhaps 25 percent in China, about 7 percent in India and around 7 percent in Latin America. [27] Such statistics do no more than provide a snapshot of the enormous change brought about by the sweep of capitalism’s self-expansion across the world.

Sixty years ago 80 percent of the world’s population lived in the countryside; and 30, 40, or even 50 percent worked on the land even in countries thought of as “advanced” like France, Italy or Japan. Today close to half the world’s population live in towns and cities, and the urban population is a majority even in countries people often think of as rural – 84 percent in Brazil, 76 percent in Mexico, 63 percent in Ecuador and 63 percent in Algeria. [28]

Urbanisation and the spread of market relations are not necessarily the same as the growth of wage labour. [29] People worldwide have been leaving the countryside at a much greater rate than the growth of stable livelihoods for them in modern sectors of the economy. This is especially true in countries where economic growth is slow or negative. Thus wage employment fell in absolute terms in several African countries during the 1980s [30], and half the non-agriculture workforce of Africa is self-employed. [31] Even in China, with its rapid rate of accumulation, the employed working class has expanded more slowly than economic growth. [32] But in general, the slowness of job growth should not be identified with “deindustrialisation”. [33]

There has been growth of wage labour in much of the Global South but it has been spasmodic, a product of the chaotic ups and down of capitalist industrial growth. And in very many cases, any growth in modern industry with “formal” employment has been overshadowed by what has been happening in the “informal” sector of very small businesses. The joint share of informal and small business activities of non-agricultural employment in Latin America as a whole rose from 40 percent in 1980 to 53 percent in 1990 [34], while in Brazil half the occupied urban population were not “formal employees”, although more than half of the informal workforce were wage workers. [35]

In India growth has been even more concentrated in the informal “unorganised” sector, without workplace rights, while 40 percent of the urban population is self-employed – working in family businesses, usually without their own premises, or as vendors, rickshaw drivers, cart pullers and the like. [36] In China too the informal sector has mushroomed – with the number of urban workers not officially classified and doing things “in the informal sector (such as street vending, construction, and household services)” growing by 79 million between 1995 and 2002. By 2002 they amounted to 40 percent of urban employment. [37] In addition to – and often merging into – those in the informal sector, there are everywhere those denied any opportunities for employment by modern capitalism: the unemployed who typically make up 10 percent or more of the workforce in Third World cities. [38]

The failure of regular employment in the cities to absorb the vast influx of labour from the countryside follows from the logic of capitalism. Competition on a global scale has caused capitalists to turn to “capital intensive” forms of production which do not require massive numbers of new workers.

Marx described very well the process by which the informal sector grows, looking at British society 150 years ago:

... The additional capital formed in the course of accumulation attracts fewer and fewer labourers in proportion to its magnitude. The old capital ... repels more and more of the labourers formerly employed by it. [39]

This dynamic produces a “stagnant” component of “the active labour army” with “extremely irregular employment”:

Its conditions of life sink below the average normal level of the working class; this makes it at once the basis of special branches of capitalist exploitation ... characterised by maximum of working time, and minimum of wages ... Its extent grows, as with the extent and energy of accumulation the creation of surplus-population advances. [40]

In general, the suffering of a very large chunk of the urban masses in Third World countries comes not from being super-exploited by large capital, but from the fact that large capital does not see a way of making sufficient profits out of exploiting them at all. This is most clearly the case in much of sub-Saharan Africa. After squeezing wealth out of the continent during the period from the onset of the slave trade to the end of empire in the 1950s, those who run the world system (including local rulers who move their own money to Europe and North America) are now prepared to write off most of its people as “marginal” to their requirements – except in the all-important local enclaves where raw materials, especially oil, are to be found.

The relation of the formal and informal sectors

The unevenness of industrial expansion and the mushrooming of the informal sector can lead to conclusions about the incapacity of workers to organise and fight that very much parallel the orthodoxies about “precariousness” in the old industrial countries. It is assumed on the one hand that those workers with stable jobs in the formal sector are privileged labour aristocrats – as one report on north east Brazil puts it, to “be formally employed is almost a privilege, since less than half of those who want such a situation are in fact ‘enjoying’ it”. [41] At the same time it is assumed that those in informal sectors suffer from “social exclusion” and are not capable of self-organisation.

Working in the formal sector certainly has advantages over working in the informal sector. In India workers in the “organised sector” get paid a good deal more (30, 40 or even 100 percent) than those in the “unorganised sector”. [42] In China, workers in large-scale industry were provided until the late 1990s with the “iron rice bowl” of a guaranteed income plus certain housing, sickness and pension benefits – all things denied to people migrating from the countryside to seek jobs.

Employers have not, however, provided such things out of the goodness of their heart. They need a certain stability in their labour force, particularly when it comes to skilled workers who they do not want to be poached by rivals during times of boom. [43] In many industries, the more stable and experienced a workforce, the more productive it is. Capital is prepared to concede higher wages to certain of the workers in those industries because by doing so it is able to make more profits out of them. Hence the apparent contradiction – some sections of the world’s workers are both better paid than others, and more exploited. But by the same token, workers in the formal sector have the capacity to fight back against capital in a way which it fears.

The growth of the informal sector rarely means the destruction of the formal one. The informal workforce in Brazil’s most important industrial city, Sao Paulo, grew by nearly 70 percent in the 1990s, but the number of “formal” workers employed in the private sector still remained more than four times higher than the number of “informal” workers. [44] It is wrong, as people like Paulo Singer did, to write of “deproletarianisation”. [45] Rather what is happening is a restructuring of the workforce, with the hiving off by big firms of some tasks (usually relatively unskilled and therefore easily performed by a floating workforce) to small firms, labour-only contractors and the supposedly self-employed.

Far from the growth of the informal workforce benefiting the workforce in the formal sector, it has been accompanied by an increased exploitation of workers in this sector – and in many cases by a deterioration in wages and conditions. This has been most marked in Africa, where the scale of the decline in real wages for those with jobs in the 1980s was so great as to beggar belief. A report in 1991 told of:

a sharp fall in real wages ... an average 30 percent decline between 1980 and 1986 ... In several countries the average rate has dropped 10 percent every year since 1980 ... On average the minimum wage fell 20 percent over that period. [46]

In Latin America real industrial wages fell by more than 10 percent in the 1980s, while they did so in the formal sector in India in the late 1990s. [47]

The use of the informal sector to batter workers in the formal sector has led to the widespread assumption that informal sector workers are powerless. But capital faces a problem here too. The more it relies on them, the greater their potential capacity to resist its demands. In India those parts of the informal sector that have been taking on work from the formal sector – “intermediate goods producing activities in the unorganised sector, e.g. basic chemicals, non-metallic mineral products, metal products, and equipment sectors, have witnessed rises in wages as well as productivity” – indicating that “workers’ bargaining power in these segments is not as bad as it is made out to be”. [48]

The phenomenon of casual employment is by no means new in the history of capitalism. Casual employment has often played an important role in certain industries. And forms of contract labour are very old – it was common in the textile factories of the industrial revolution. In the mines in both the US and Britain in the 19th century overseers or foremen (“buttymen”) would recruit workers and pay them out of a sum given to them by the mine owners. Such casual workers may not always have felt themselves to be part of the working class. They were often detached from the struggles of other sections of that class for years, even decades, at a time. Yet the potential for struggling within those sections was always there, and when it turned into reality the struggle could be very bitter, with an almost insurrectionary tinge.

Frederick Engels observed precisely this development in 1889 when London’s dockers struck for the first time. He wrote:

Hitherto the East End had been in a state of poverty-stricken stagnation, its hallmark being the apathy of men whose spirit had been broken by hunger, and who had abandoned all hope ...

And now, this gigantic strike of the most demoralised elements of the lot, the dock labourers, not the regular strong, experienced, relatively well-paid men in steady employment, but those who have happened to land up in dockland, the Jonahs who have suffered shipwreck in all other spheres, starvelings by trade, a welter of broken lives heading straight for utter ruin ... And this dully despairing mass of humanity who, every morning when the dock gates are opened, literally fight pitched battles to be first to reach the chap who signs them on, that mass haphazardly thrown together and changing every day, has successfully combined to form a band 40,000 strong, maintain discipline and inspire fear in the powerful dock companies ... [49]

Engels’ point is very important in the 21st century. Internationally there have been three decades of defeat and demoralisation for workers right across the world. This bred a fatalism about the possibility of fighting, which was reflected in a mass of studies which depicted the suffering of the poor and the oppressed, showing them always as victims, rarely as fighters. Thus there are masses of materials sponsored by the International Labour Organisation on “social exclusion” – a theme which suits the bureaucrats who run such bodies. Themes like the “casualisation” and “feminisation” of the workforce become stereotyped, academic ways of dismissing possibilities of struggle – even if some of those carrying through the studies try to escape from the paradigm in which they are trapped. This tendency to see the urban poor and the permanent workers as two separate groups hermetically sealed off from each other is particularly prevalent among NGO activists.

The reality is more complex. Slum districts themselves are rarely homogenous in their social make up. Permanent workers live in them alongside casual workers, the poorest sectors of the self-employed, the unemployed and even some sections of the petty bourgeoisie. Mike Davis tells how:

The traditional stereotype of the Indian pavement-dweller is a destitute peasant, newly arrived from the countryside, who survives by parasitic begging, but as research in Mumbai has revealed, almost all (97 percent) have at least one breadwinner, 70 percent have been in the city at least six years ... Indeed, many pavement-dwellers are simply workers – rickshaw men, construction labourers, and market porters – who are compelled by their jobs to live in the otherwise unaffordable heart of the metropolis. [50]

Leo Zeilig and Claire Ceruti point out that recent research on Soweto in South Africa shows that “in 78.3 percent of households there was a mix of adults who were employed, self-employed and unemployed”. They conclude that:

the South African township and slum might be viewed as a meeting point for trade unionists, university students, graduates, the unemployed and informal traders. Though the spectre of unemployment affects all layers of society, these groups are not permanently cut off from each other and can be found in the same household supporting each other. [51]

The picture is similar for El Alto, the satellite city of the Bolivian capital, La Paz. It contains hundreds of thousands of mainly indigenous Ayama people who have moved to the city from the countryside or closed down tin mines, and whose efforts to somehow make a living for themselves are characteristic of the informal sector in such cities everywhere in the Third World. Yet El Alto is also “the principal industrial zone of the La Paz region” [52], with 54 percent of the region’s industrial workforce and an increase of 80 percent in the numbers employed in industry in the last ten years. What is significant is “the combination between ‘informality’ and/or small businesses based on family labour on the one hand and the degree of incorporation of the labour force in wage labour in productive tasks on the other”, so that neighbourhood forms of organisation have a class (as well as an indigenous) content. [53]

Under these circumstances, struggles by workers have the capacity to act as a focus for all discontents of the great majority of those living in the slums. So in South Africa a series of protests and riots over the delivery of basic services created an atmosphere in which:

the public sector general strike in June 2007 was the largest strike since the end of apartheid, pulling many people into trade union action for the first time. The potential cross-fertilisation of these struggles – of community and workplace – does not live only in the mind of activists, but, as the survey suggests, expresses the real household economy of contemporary South Africa. [54]

In Bolivia, El Alto was at the centre of the near uprisings that drew together miners, teachers, peasants and indigenous organisations to overthrow two governments in 18 months. In Egypt late in 2006 a strike of 24,000 workers in the Misr Spinning factory in Mahalla al-Kubra:

triggered a wave of workers’ protests across Egypt, crossing different sectors of the economy and industries, from Mahalla to Kafr al-Dawwar to Shibin al-Kum, from spinning and weaving to cement to the railways and underground and public transport workers. The strike wave went from the public sector to the private, to the civil service, from the old industrial areas to the new towns, in all provinces. It went from the textile sector to engineering, to chemicals, to building and construction, to transport to services. The strikes had a wide impact also, reaching sectors which do not have a culture of protest, such as teachers, doctors, and civil servants, and even to slum-dwellers such as those from Qala’at al-Kabsh and the villagers from Al-Atsh. [55]

Such examples show that the working class in the Third World is not condemned to the divisions and passivity emphasised by social exclusion and NGO accounts. The incessant tearing apart of old patterns of economic and social by capitalism as it restructures itself on a world scale does not simply cause suffering. It also creates the potentiality for resistance that can find sudden expression when people least expect it.

There is, in fact, a pattern of such struggles going back to the first impact of capitalist industrialisation in such countries, recorded, for instance, in the collection Peasants and Proletarians edited by Cohen, Gutkind and Brazier 30 years ago. [56] There are innumerable examples from recent decades to bear out that picture. We must expect many more as economic crisis interacts with climate change and crises of food security throughout the rest of this century.

Fragmentation, bitterness and revolt

But it is also important to recognise that people’s bitterness against poverty and oppression can burst out in other ways. The fragmentation of people’s life experiences in the world’s slums all too often leads to different groups turning on each other, as Mike Davis says:

Those engaged in informal-sector competition under conditions of infinite labour supply usually stop short of a total war of all against all; conflict, instead, is usually transmuted into ethnic, religious or racial violence. The godfathers and landlords of the informal sector (invisible in most of the literature) intelligently use coercion, even chronic violence to regulate competition and protect their investments ...

The reality of such developments cannot be denied by anyone who has read accounts of the interethnic and Sunni-Shia riots that periodically paralyse the Pakistan city of Karachi, of the history of attacks on the Chinese populations of Malaysia and Indonesia, or of the wave of attacks on Zimbabwean refugees in the very South African cities described by Leo Zeilig and Claire Ceruti.

The city of Mumbai provides a graphic example of how the mood can shift. A semi-spontaneous upsurge from below by the workers in the city’s textile mills in 1982 developed into one of the biggest prolonged strikes in world history, lasting a year, involving hundreds of thousands of workers and dominating the political life of India’s commercial and industrial capital as it built networks of support going right back into the villages from which many of the workers had originally come. [57] During the strike there was unity between the different religious and caste groups that make up the mass of Bombay’s lower classes. But the strike was defeated. In the aftermath Shiv Sena, a political organisation built by turning the local Marathi speakers against other groups and then Hindus against Muslims, rose to a dominant position in wide areas of the city. This culminated in murderous riots against the Muslim population in 1992–3.

Unity in struggle had created a sense of solidarity which then exerted a pull on the vast mass of the informal workers, self-employed, the unemployed poor and the impoverished sections of the petty bourgeoisie. The defeat led to the sectional attitudes and communal conflicts of the petty bourgeoisie influencing the self-employed, the unemployed and wide layers of workers.

This was a vivid example of how there are two different directions in which the despair and bitterness that exist among the “multitudes” in the great cities of the Third World can go. One direction involves workers struggling collectively and pulling millions of other impoverished people behind them. The other involves demagogues exploiting the sense of hopelessness, demoralisation and fragmentation to direct the bitterness of one section of the impoverished mass against other sections. That is why the working class cannot simply be seen as just another grouping within “the multitude” or “the people”, and of no intrinsic importance for the struggle against the system. Nor can workers’ struggles be seen by those who organise them as important simply because of their economic content. Their struggles are important precisely because they have the capacity to provide a direction for all the bitterness among the mass of people otherwise without hope as they try to survive in the slums of the world’s megacities.

The peasantry

The development of the capitalist form of production has cut the life-strings of small production in agriculture; small production is irretrievably going to rack and ruin ... We foresee the inevitable doom of the small peasant ... [58]

So wrote Engels in the mid-1890s. The massive growth of the world’s cities over the last half century has vindicated much of the reasoning behind Engel’s statement. The peasantry is as absent today from North West continental Europe as it was from England in Engels’ day. But the shrinkage globally has been much slower than Marx and Engels expected. Peasants still amount to about a third of the world’s population. The reality, across much of Latin America, as in nearly all of Africa and South and East Asia, is that hundreds of millions of individual small farmers are clinging on to the land which they own or rent. They find themselves caught again and again in a vice, as rising prices for energy and fertiliser inputs squeeze them from one side and competition from capitalist farms with modern equipment presses them on the other. And the discontent bred by this can still make the peasantry an important political fact in major countries in the Global South. Even in Latin America, where the peasantry shrank by half between the 1960s and the 1980s [59], it has been peasant-based rebellions against capitalism that have caught the imaginations of people around the world, with the Zapatistas in southern Mexico, the MST landless workers’ movement in Brazil and a big section of the movement which swept Evo Morales to the presidency of Bolivia in 2006.

These movements have led many activists to adopt what are sometimes called “neo-populist” views. [60] These see the peasants as the agent of social change, or at least a component in the agency of the “multitude”. And sometimes the future of world food production is also seen as lying with them, since food production per hectare is often greater on small peasant plots than on larger holdings. [61]

But missing from this recognition of the persistence of the peasantry as a force, even if a declining one, is the way in which it has been changed profoundly by capitalism, although not necessarily in the way which Marx and Engels expected. Hamza Alavi and Teodor Shanin pointed out in the late 1980s that “two alternative forms of agricultural production” had developed within capitalism – on the one hand “farming based on wage labour”, and on the other “a form of organisation of production based on the family farm which is incorporated into the capitalist mode of production”. In this second form, “The peasant economy is structurally integrated within the capitalist mode of production” and “surplus value is extracted from the peasant through the agency of commercial capital and credit institutions” and “contributes to capital accumulation – but outside the peasant economy from which it is drawn”. [62]

The peasantry that has been drawn into the circuits of capitalism in this way is not a homogenous group, but differentiated internally on the basis of size of landholding, ownership of equipment and levels of debt. At one extreme are those who have managed, by one means or another, to transform themselves into petty agricultural capitalists, at the other the landless labourers. Between them lies a bigger or smaller layer of those who rely on family labour, perhaps employing wage labour occasionally, perhaps supplementing their household incomes by agricultural labour for others.

Labour outside agriculture can be important for the poor and middle peasants. Figures from 15 developing countries in the 1980s showed non-agricultural income amounted 30 to 40 percent of total rural household income; in China it increased from 10 percent in 1980 to 35 percent in 1995 [63] and “acquiring non- agricultural jobs has become crucial to avoiding the fate of peasant life and escaping rural poverty” [64]; in Egypt 25 percent of rural household income came from “wages outside the village” in the 1980s. [65]

Not all peasant households are integrated into the wider economy in the same way. For many there are only the most menial forms of wage labour. But a minority may establish links with those in privileged positions – delivering support for politicians, doing favours for big landowners or moneylenders, manipulating supposedly traditional family, clan or tribal networks. A differentiation arises between peasant households as struggles over land are tied into the conflicts in the wider economy, at a local, a national or even a global level. [66]

Such differentiation means that what are conventionally described as “peasant movements” do not have a single automatic trajectory of opposition to capitalism and the ruling classes. The leadership in peasant movements often comes from those who have been most successful in enlarging their holdings and accumulating enough capital to employ labour power rather than sell it. They have sufficient freedom from daily toil and sufficient connections to wider society to take the initiative when it comes to mobilising others. Hamza Alavi noted long ago that peasant revolts tend to be led by middle peasants, not poor peasants or landless labourers. [67] The penetration by capitalism of the countryside means that it can, in fact, be the petty agricultural capitalists who head peasant movements, putting forward demands like lower prices for fertilisers that benefit themselves disproportionately.

That is not the only direction in which revolts from the countryside can go. The differentiation of the peasantry often means that the middle and poor peasants are under pressure from those who will use political connections to drive them from the land – caste Hindu landowners in India, local party cadres in China, chiefs connected to state apparatuses in Africa, soya barons in Brazil. The result can be uprisings directed against the petty agrarian capitalists and not led by them. But such uprisings then have to confront the forces of the state, which try to isolate them in particular localities, relying upon the very way in which the peasant household gets a livelihood – by labouring to produce a harvest from its own plot of land – to disperse the protests. So the Zapatista insurgency rocked the Mexican state, but that did not prevent the state effectively sealing the movement off in the Lacandon jungle where it remains isolated a decade and half later. The various Maoist movements of dalits (the former “untouchables”), tribal peoples, the landless labourers and poor peasants in India are annoying to Indian capitalism, but so long as they are restricted to remote country areas no more annoying than a gnat bite is to a healthy adult.

Yet the very penetration of the countryside by capitalism makes it more possible than ever before for links between the poorer sections of the peasantry and the urban workers. For it means that the poor peasant households have, through migration, family members in the cities. Just as workers’ struggles can provide a focus for the bitterness felt by all the groups who live in the slums of the cities, so too they can do so for the hundreds of millions who still toil on remote patches of land. But whether that possibility becomes an actuality depends on workers fighting to win with demands that reach out to the poorer layers in the towns and countryside alike.

Who can overcome?

It is the very development of capitalism that shapes and reshapes the lives of those it exploits, creating the objective circumstances that can turn a disparate mass of people who sell their labour power into an increasingly self-conscious class “for itself”. This class is the potential agent for challenging the chaotic and destructive dynamic of capitalism because capitalism cannot do without it. The mistake of Mouffe and Laclau – and thousands of other sociologists, philosophers and economists who write that the working class has lost its central place within the system – is that they do not grasp the elementary point made by Marx. The system is a system of alienated labour that has taken on a life of its own, and capital cannot survive without more labour to feed it, just as the vampire cannot survive without fresh supplies of blood.

There have been phases in the history of the system when it has had the means to bind the mass of people to it, either by repression or by keeping them relatively content. Hitler on the one hand and Stalin on the other did seem to rule on the basis of mass repression during what the Belgian-Russian revolutionary Victor Serge called the “midnight in the century”. [68] It was possible for a British prime minister, Harold Macmillan, to tell people they had “never had it so good”, and for most workers to concur, even if grudgingly, during the 1950s. I have tried to show that the dynamic of the system is going to make it difficult for capitalism to cement its control permanently over the mass of people by either means.

Its very restlessness means that it cannot allow those it exploits to remain in any degree of contentment for any great length of time. As the runaway system lurches from boom to slump and tries to boost profits and write off debts in a wild attempt to lurch back again it dashes the very hopes of a secure life that it has encouraged in the past. It insists the mass of the people have to work longer for less, to accept they must lose their jobs because bankers lost their heads, to resign themselves to hardship in old age, to give up their homes to the repo men, to go hungry on peasant plots so as to pay the moneylender and the fertiliser supplier.

People will react against this. Some were already doing so as I wrote these words. The last spurt of the mid-1990s onwards finance-fuelled boom saw spontaneous riots against rising food and energy prices in a score of countries. The first months of its new recession saw protests, riots and strikes against its effects. It could not be otherwise. All such movements can provide people with the conditions for learning for themselves about the potentialities of class struggle against the system. And the interaction of recurrent crises – economic, military, ecological – is repeatedly going to create conditions that breed further discontent even if capitalism does somehow finally emerge from the present crisis intact.

It bears repeating again and again that the wealthiest society in human history, the United States, operated over the last three decades before the current crisis broke by pushing down the living standards of those who labour within it. That too was the pattern of Japan from the early 1990s on. They are examples which those who rule over Western Europe have set out to emulate, and any success they have will create similar pressures on those presiding over capital accumulation in the newly industrialising societies of East and South East Asia. That does not necessarily mean there might not be spells in which some parts of the system might seem better than in the recent past to many who live within them. Such was the case in the mid to late 1980s and the mid to late 1990s, and it may well happen again. But in the “runaway world” of capitalism in the 21st century they cannot last long, and the crises that bring their sudden end can raise discontent to massive levels.

Lenin laid out conditions that he saw as necessary for society to enter a “pre-revolutionary crisis”. Two are going to be fulfilled again and again in this century. The ruling class will not be able continue with things in the old way. And the mass of people will not feel able to put up with things in the old way. These two elements have produced very important social upheavals in the decades since the demise of the long boom – from Iran in 1979 and Poland in 1980–81, through to Russia in 1989–91, to Indonesia in 1998, to Argentina and then Venezuela and Bolivia in the years after 2001. The escalation of crisis in October 2008 led President Sarkozy of France to warn fellow rulers of the danger of “a European 1968”. Whether his warning was right or wrong in the short term, we will see massive social upheaval repeatedly in the decades ahead. But what has so far been lacking has been a third element Lenin focused on, the subjective one: a political current able to win people in their masses to the notion of a reorganisation of society and prepared to take decisive action at key moments in leading people to fight for it.

The absence of such a current is itself a product of objective processes, some of which are described in this book. The last great wave of insurgency against the system in the late 1960s and early 1970s failed to break through. [69] Restructuring of the system through crises disorganised many of the forces involved in that insurgency just as defeat demoralised the left. The demoralisation was made more profound by the way the great majority of those on the left worldwide identified with the societies of the old Eastern bloc, societies which had, in fact, been absorbed into the system’s dynamic of competitive accumulation and which suffered more than most from the crisis of the state capitalist phase of the system.

It was as if much of the left had to be born afresh when the latest phase of insurgency began to take off with the Chiapas rebellion in Mexico and a wave of public sector strikes in France in 1995, the demonstrations against capitalist globalisation of 1999–2001 and the movement against the Iraq war in 2002–3. But being born afresh also meant having to learn afresh. Typically, activists talked about fighting globalisation or neoliberalism, not capitalism. But the runaway system has itself created the objective conditions for yet another shift.

As I write this, the sheer scale of the crisis facing the world system is forcing even those who run the system to talk about capitalism, and having to recognise that Marx had something to say about it long before Keynes. Many of the new generation of activists have begun to study his writings and many of the older generation suddenly find they have an audience to pass what they have learnt on to.

That in itself does not guarantee that the subjective element will arise to make sure that the next great revolts against the system are not contained by it. For that to happen, those who study capitalism have to become an integral part of a movement of those who suffer from it. What we can say with certainty is that without such a movement the world by the end of this century is going to be intolerable for the majority of those who live in it. As the young Marx put it, “Philosophers have interpreted the world in many ways. The point is to change it.”

* * *


1. John H. Goldthorpe, David Lockwood, Frank Bechhofer and Jennifer Platt, The Affluent Worker in the Class Structure (Cambridge, 1971), p. 6.

2. C. Wright Mills, The Causes of World War Three (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1958).

3. Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964),

4. Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (London, Verso, 1985), p. 82.

5. M. Hardt and A. Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Harvard, 2001), p. 53.

6. D. Filmer, Estimating the World at Work, Background Report for World Bank, World Development Report 1995 (Washington DC, 1995), available at

7. See, for example, my calculation for the size of the new middle class in Britain, in my article, The Working Class After the Recession, International Socialism, 33 (1986).

8. UNDP World Development Report 2009, Table 21. Similar figures to those of the UNDP are provided in the CIA Year Books. The figures provide a similar geographic distribution of industrial work to Filmer, with over 300 million industrial workers in the old industrial economies and a similar total in the BRIC countries.

9. Introduction, in R. Baldoz and others, The Critical Study of Work: Labor, Technology and Global Production (Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 2001), p. 7.

10. US Federal Reserve figures, available at

11. US Department of Labour provides UN figures for 2006 available at According to World Bank figures the United States accounted for 23.8 percent of the world’s manufacturing output in 2004, and over two decades the US share had barely dipped. The annual average since 1982 was 24.6 percent, while China’s share for 2004 was 9 percent and South Korea’s 4 percent. Quoted in the International Herald Tribune, 6 September 2005.

12. The CIA Year Book provides a figure nearly twice that for the old industrial countries alone, no doubt because of a wider definition of what constitutes the industrial sector.

13. Figures given by C.H. Feinstein, Structural Change in the Developed Countries in the 20th Century, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 15:4 (1999), table A1.

14. R.E. Rowthorn, Where Are the Advanced Economies Going?, in G.M. Hodgson and others, Capitalism in Evolution (Edward Elgar, 2001), p. 127.

15. As above, p. 127.

16. As above, p. 127.

17. Guardian, 5 June 2002.

18. Office for National Statistics, Living in Britain 2000, Table 3.14, available at

19. All the figures are from Employed Persons by Occupation, Sex and Age, available at [unable to locate on BLS website].

20. Manuel Castells, The Network Society: From Knowledge to Policy, in Manuel Castells and Gustavo Cardoso (eds.), The Network Society (Baltimore, Center for Transatlantic Relations, 2006), p. 9.

21. Bill Dunn, Global Restructuring and the Power of Labour (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), p. 118.

22. Kate Bronfenbrenner, Uneasy Terrain: The Impact of Capital Mobility on Workers, Wages, and Union Organising, The ILR Collection, 2001, available at

23. Raymond-Pierre Bodin, Wide ranging Forms of Work and Employment in Europe, International Labour Office report 2001.

24. As above.

25. Robert Taylor, Britain’s World of Work: Myths and Realities, ESRC Future of Work Programme Seminar Series, 2002, available at [at present unavailable online].

26. These figures are from the Office for National Statistics’ Social Trends 2001, p. 88. Kevin Doogan, New Capitalism? The Transformation of Work (Cambridge UK, Polity, 2008) provides a similar picture to these figures.

27. These are very rough calculations, given the problems of counting the number of workers in the often massive sectors of national economies. But Filmer’s figures, those of UNDP and those of the CIA all suggest a pattern similar to this.

28. All figures are for 2005, from UNDP, Human Development Report 2009, Table 5.

29. A failure to see this leads some to vastly exaggerate the growth of the working class that has resulted from globalisation and urbanisation. So in a much quoted paper, Richard Freeman has written of an “effective doubling of the global labour force (that is workers producing for international markets) over the past decade and a half, through the entry of Chinese, Indian, Russian and other workers into the global economy”. This has supposedly changed the “global capital/labour ratio by just 55 percent to 60 percent of what it otherwise would have been”. There is a triple error here. It assumes that those labouring in the former USSR, China and India were not doing so as part of the world system until the early 1990s, and that their whole workforces are now workers employed by capital. There is, however, a big difference between the workforce in its totality and those who are wage workers. In 2001 the non-agricultural workforce of the developing and transition economies was 1,135 million (figures from Summary of Food and Agricultural Statistics, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Rome 2003, p. 12). But by no means all the non-agricultural workforce [are] workers. Self-employment as a proportion of the non-agricultural workforce is 32 percent in Asia, 44 percent in Latin America and 48 percent in Africa (Women and Men in the Informal Economy, International Labour Organization, 2002). And only a proportion of those who seek work as wage workers succeed in getting employed in the formal sector in modern industry. Most are in very low productivity jobs, often working for firms with only a couple of workers.

30. International Labour Office, African Employment Report 1990 (Addis Ababa 1991), p. 3.

31. International Labour Office, Women and Men in the Informal Economy, 2002.

32. See Chapter Nine for details; see also Ray Brooks, Labour Market Performance and Prospects, in Eswar Prasad (ed.), China’s Growth and Integration in the World Economy (IMF, 2004), p. 58, Table 8.5.

33. A mistake made, for instance, by Mike Davis in Planet of Slums (London, Verso, 2006).

34. Figures from PRELAC Newsletter (Santiago, Chile), April 1992, diagram 3.

35. Paolo Singer, Social Exclusion in Brazil (International Labour Office, 1997), Chapter 2, Table 7, available at [at present unavailable online].

36. Figures in J Unni, Gender and Informality in Labour Markets in South Asia, Economic and Political Weekly (Bombay), 30 June 2001, p. 2367.

37. Ray Brooks, Labour Market Performance and Prospects, Eswar Prasad (ed.), China’s Growth and Integration into the World Economy; for further analysis of the Chinese urban workforce, see Martin Hart-Landsberg and Paul Burkett, China, Capitalist Accumulation, and Labor, Monthly Review, 59:1 (2007).

38. UNDP, World Development Report 2009, Table 21.

39. Marx, Capital, Volume One, p. 628.

40. As above, p. 643.

41. P. Singer, Social Exclusion in Brazil, International Labour Office, 1997, Chapter 2, p. 14.

42. See, for instance, the figures given in J. Unni, Gender and Informality in Labour Markets in South Asia, Economic and Political Weekly (Bombay), 30 June 2001, Tables 19, 20 and 22, pp. 2375–2376. There are, of course, situations in which a sudden demand for labour can only be met from the informal sector, leading to wage rates temporarily above those in the formal sector. The same phenomenon occurs, for instance, with “lump” labour in the building industry in Britain.

43. For an account by employers of why they employ permanent workers, see H. Steefkerk, Thirty Years of Industrial Labour in South Gujarat: Trends and Significance, Economic and Political Weekly (Bombay), 30 June 2001, p. 2402.

44. Paulo Singer, Social Exclusion in Brazil, Chapter 2, table 10.

45. As above, p. 17.

46. International Labour Organisation, African Employment Report 1990, p. 34.

47. Rajar Majumder, Wages and Employment in the Liberalised Regime: A Study of Indian Manufacturing Sector, 2006, available at

48. As above.

49. F. Engels, Letter to Bernstein, 22 August 1889, in Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 48 (London, 2001).

50. Mike Davis, Planet of Slums, p. 36.

51. Leo Zeilig and Claire Ceruti, Slums, Resistance and the African Working Class, International Socialism 117 (2008), available at

52. Informo de Desarrollo Humano in la Region del Altiplano, La Paz y Oruro, PNUD Bolvia, 2003, quoted in Roberto Saenz, Bolivia: Critica del Romanticismo Anti-Capitalista, in Socialismo o Barbarie, 16 (2004). My translation.

53. As above.

54. Leo Zeilig and Claire Ceruti, Slums, Resistance and the African Working Class.

55. From a pamphlet on the strike by two Egyptian activists, Mustafa Bassiouny and Omar Said, translated by Anne Alexander in International Socialism, 118 (2008).

56. Robin Cohen, Peter C.W. Gutkind and Phyllis Brazier, Peasants and Proletarians: the struggles of Third World workers (New York, Monthly Review Press, 1979).

57. H. van Wersch, The Bombay Textile Strike 1982–1983 (OUP, 1992), pp. 45–46; Meena Menon and Neera Adarkar, One Hundred Years One Hundred Voices (Kolkata, Seagull Books, 2004).

58. F. Engels, The Peasant Question in France and Germany [1894], in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Vol. 27, pp. 486 and 496.

59. Adam David Morton, Global Capitalism and the Peasantry in Mexico, Journal of Peasant Studies, 34:3–4 (2007), pp. 441–473.

60. For criticism of “neo-populism” see, for instance, Terence J. Byres, Neo-Classical Neo-Populism 25 Years On Déjà Vu and Déjà Passé, Towards a Critique, Journal of Agrarian Change, 4:1–2 (2004).

61. See, for instance, Keith Griffin, Azizur Rahman Khan and Amy Ickowitz, Poverty and the Distribution of Land, Journal of Agrarian Change, 2:3 (July 2002).

62. Hamza Alavi and Teodor Shanin, Introduction to Karl Kautsky, The Agrarian Question, Vol. 1 (Zwan, 1988), pp. xxxi–xxxii.

63. Danyu Wang, Stepping on Two Boats: Urban Strategies of Chinese Peasants and Their Children, in International Review of Social History, 45 (2000), p. 170.

64. As above.

65. S. Rodwan and F. Lee, Agrarian Change in Egypt (Routledge, 1986).

66. For an account of recent research on these questions, see Pauline E. Peters, Inequality and Social Conflict Over Land in Africa, Journal of Agrarian Change, 4:3 (2004).

67. Hamza Alavi, Peasants and Revolution, Socialist Register 1965, pp. 241–277, available at

68. Although even then a degree of consent from quite wide layers of the population was obtained as a result of economic growth.

69. For an account of the insurgency and an explanation for its failure, see Chris Harman, The Fire Last Time (London, Bookmarks, 1998).

Last updated on 7 May 2021