In a recent post about peasants’ revolts, I mentioned that they almost always ended with crushed peasants and tighter controls. Even in those apparent defeats, however, we should note that the things that the peasants wanted their descendants usually got!
What they wanted all comes under the broad heading of “justice:” the right to vote, freedom from serfdom, equal treatment under the law-the peasant’s demand were seldom what we would consider excessive.
Then why not just give justice to them and avoid all the bloodshed? Maybe Fredrick Douglas answered that: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
There were a few times in history when the peasants won; and they won against massive military force. The fact that blood and steel, no matter how powerful, cannot defeat united peasants must be very alarming for the Masters of Mankind, yet as of today, they are STILL using blood and steel and STILL failing.
(I’m supposed to say here that I don’t like Communism as practiced by Stalin and Mao and that I grieve for my friends killed in Vietnam. All of that is true, and there, I have said it.)
The secret to the peasants’ success is unity; not foolishly meeting force with greater force. If almost everyone in a given population is united, invaders invade in vain. In Vietnam, the complaint was that it was impossible to tell who the enemy was. That’s because practically everyone wanted the invaders out and used every possible means to accomplish this.
What the invaders could not comprehend, may not still comprehend, is that the people did not want to be “freed” BY the invader (US) they wanted to be freed FROM the invader. Seven million tons of bombs were dropped, plus napalm and herbicides-and yet the Vietnamese won.
In China, Mao moved among the peasants as “a fish moves through the sea.” The peasants had real, long-standing grievances and Mao treated them well and promised reforms. (By the way, he delivered on most of those reforms, with some catastrophic errors along the way) After many years of fighting first the Japanese invaders and then the western-favored Chiang Kai-Shek (privately known by his benefactors as Cash My Check) Mao won.
Fidel Castro did much the same in Cuba, but lots faster, not three decades but three years. He was down at one point to a few dozen revolutionaries, but they had the support of the peasants and then the rest of the Cuban people, who were sick of the Mafia whorehouse that Cuba had become under the Western-backed Batista. Yet the American idea that force would free the Cuban people from the grips of the despised Castro-never considered the possibility that the Cuban people liked Castro and liked having food and health care and education.
In Afghanistan, called the Graveyard of Empires, poor, tribal mountain people have managed to defeat-well, every military power that has invaded them.
It is not a particular ideology (communism, socialism, Islam) that empowers the peasants. It is a longing for justice, a universal human longing. These peasants thought colonialism, serfdom, Capitalist oppression and acculturation were unjust. They agreed that it was unjust and they were willing to fight that injustice until they prevailed, no matter what the cost. The cost was very high.
But they won. The Masters of Mankind have not yet figured out that justice is why they won and justice is why they will always win-in the end.