Karl Marx did not accord the same significance to the peasantry as he did to the proletariat. The former he saw as essentially a doomed class that would be swept aside by capitalism, while the proletariat represented the agent of revolution that would usher in socialism. Nevertheless, Marx did pay attention to the role of the peasantry in his various historical analyses, most notably in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), where he described the small-holding peasants as the class that provided crucial support for Louis Bonaparte and in whose interests he largely ruled. He also saw at least some radical potential in the peasantry, potential realized in the support given to bourgeois revolutions and, under proletarian leadership, in possible participation in a socialist revolution. The persistence of the peasantry as a class in capitalism led Marx to advocate nationalism of the land as a final means of eliminating this outdated class.
   Subsequent Marxists such as Vladimir Ilich Lenin, Mao Zedong and Frantz Fanon gave greater attention and accorded more significance to the peasantry, which constituted the majority of the population in their respective countries. For Lenin the peasantry represented a truly revolutionary class, that hand in hand with the workers would overthrow the existing order allowing for a proletarian revolution to then take place. He saw the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 as having led to the creation of landless peasants working as wage laborers, akin to the proletariat in the urban areas. Ultimately, the leading role would still be fulfilled by the proletariat though. For Mao the peasantry was the leading revolutionary class in practice, and Fanon saw the peasantry as having the necessary qualities of collectivism, spontaneity and violent potential, along with a consciousness relatively untainted by the colonists’ ideological outlook to enable them to be the key revolutionary class in colonized Third World countries.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.


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