From ProleWiki, the proletarian encyclopedia
"Become the nation's first generation of cultured peasants"

The peasantry (individual is labelled as a peasant) are a social class created from the feudal mode of production. While the peasant performs labour on the land the same way a serf does, the peasant owns that land as well. As the peasantry are a creation of feudalism, the peasantry is decaying into either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat, as the productive forces advance on the specific countries. Their characteristic is petit bourgeois, but they usually do not have an antagonistic contradiction with the proletariat.

The peasantry are used in many revolutions in underdeveloped nations, the most famous ones being the October Revolution and the Chinese Civil War, as there is often more of a majority of peasants rather than proletarians.

Characteristics of the peasantry

Class character

Middle peasants are petit-bourgeois[1] as they work the land and perform the labour on that land as well. The land constitutes part of the means of production, especially because it is a relic of the feudal era.

Role in revolution

The proletariat are deemed to be the most revolutionary class, which can overthrow the bourgeoisie.[2] As the peasantry decay into either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat, the Communist Manifesto states that they are only fighting their own survival as a class.[3] This does not mean however, the peasantry are useless,[4] and revisionist ideologies such as Trotskyism state that the peasantry are indeed useless as they are not truly revolutionary. Some other revisionist ideologies such as "Neo-Marxism" outright state that Karl Marx is wrong in this regard, and that some classes can be revolutionary even if they are decaying.

Peasants in the imperial core are less revolutionary because bourgeois revolutions led by the liberal bourgeoisie overthrew feudalism in those countries instead of a revolution led by the proletariat.[4]

Types of peasants

Poor peasants

Poor peasants are the most revolutionary category of peasants. They do not own their own land and are exploited by landlords.[5]

Middle peasants

Middle peasants or owner-peasants own and cultivate their own land on a small scale.[5]

Collective farm peasants

Collective farm peasants or kolkhozniki are a category of peasant that exists in socialist countries and works on large farms shared by many people.[6]

Peasants and Farmers

Though both till land for food and crops. The former, in Marxist theory has very specific understanding by theorists such as Lenin and Mao.

Consider Mao's class analysis from Analysis of classes in Chinese society, particularly on the Chinese peasantry:

For the poor peasants own no land, and receive only half the harvest or even less for their year's toil, while the semi-owner` peasants, though receiving only half or less than half the harvest of land rented from others, can keep the entire crop from the land they own. The semi-owner peasants are therefore more revolutionary than the owner-peasants, but less revolutionary than the poor peasants. The poor peasants are tenant-peasants who are exploited by the landlords. They may again be divided into two categories according to their economic status. One category has comparatively adequate farm implements and some funds. Such peasants may retain half the product of their year's toil. To make up their deficit they cultivate side crops, catch fish or shrimps, raise poultry or pigs, or sell part of their labour power, and thus eke out a living, hoping in the midst of hardship and destitution to tide over the year.[5]

Mao Zedong, Analysis of the classes in Chinese society, 1926

Peasantry are not farmers in the global north sense of the word. And farmers in the global north are not peasants. In general, farmers, whether they own no land and are therefore proletarian, own small amounts of land and are therefore petty bourgeoisie, or own large industrial quantities of land and are therefore the bourgeoisie proper, all benefit from colonialism/imperialism. They have benefited as part of the general ongoing looting of the rest of the world by the west for the past 400 years beginning with Spanish colonialism.

Whereas peasants, from the global south are colonized subjects. Rigorous class analysis of the peasantry in China, Vietnam, Laos, and the DPRK are key components of the successful communist revolutions in those societies. A similar level of analysis regarding farmers in the global north by communists that adjust for local material conditions is needed if they are to wage a successful, progressive revolution.


  1. “The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class.”

    Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1848). The Manifesto of the Communist Party: 'Bourgeois and Proletarians'.
  2. “Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of Modern Industry; the proletariat is its special and essential product.”

    Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1848). The Manifesto of the Communist Party: 'Bourgeois and Proletarians'.
  3. “[T]he peasant[ry], [They] fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If by chance, they are revolutionary, they are only so in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat; they thus defend not their present, but their future interests, they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.”

    Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1848). The Manifesto of the Communist Party: 'Bourgeois and Proletarians'.
  4. 4.0 4.1
    “Hence the practical conclusion that the toiling masses of the peasantry must be supported in their struggle against bondage and exploitation, in their struggle for deliverance from oppression and poverty. This does not mean, of course, that the proletariat must support every peasant movement. What we have in mind here is support for a movement or struggle of the peasantry which, directly or indirectly, facilitates the emancipation movement of the proletariat, which, in one way or another, brings grist to the mill of the proletarian revolution, and which helps to transform the peasantry into a reserve and ally of the working class.”

    Josef Stalin (1924). Foundations of Leninism: 'The Peasant Question'.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Mao Zedong (1926). Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society. [MIA]
  6. Joseph Stalin (1939). History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): 'The Bolshevik Party in the Struggle for the Collectivization of Agriculture'. [MIA]