The peasantry has always been a perplexing "class" for Marxists. Let's face it, most of us have always considered them somewhat reactionary, hardworking, but most assuredly not part of the working class. There are many reasons for this, none of which I am going to bother getting into now. I will just say that Marx considered the peasantry to be disorganized, dispersed, and incapable of carrying out change. Marx also expected that this class would tend to disappear, with most becoming displaced from the land and joining the proletariat. The more successful might become landowners or capitalist farmers. It has not exactly yet turned out that way, though the peasantry has certainly diminished in size, just take a gander at China. It is also that when Marx wrote of the peasantry he saw them as a feudal remnant that stood in the way of the progressive development of capitalism.
Later communists such as Lenin and Mao took different and often contradictory positions on the role of the peasantry...mostly to suit the needs of how they viewed the revolutionary situation within their respective countries.
The question now is for some is with Empire, with global capital, with social production, where is the peasantry in relations to the working class, and, perhaps, more importantly, in relation to the multitude.
Antonio Negri writes:
I think that after ’68 and with the beginning of the neo-liberal counterrevolution the structure of organising labour and in consequence the organization, the making of class composition has changed profoundly.
The factory stays no longer in the centre of value production. The value is created by putting to work the whole of society. We call multitude all the workers who are put to work inside society to create profit. We consider all the workers in the whole of society to be exploited, men, women, people who work in services, people who work in nursing, people who work in linguistic relations, people who work in the cultural field, in all of the social relations, and in so far as they are exploited we consider them part of the multitude, inasmuch as they are singularities. We see the multitude as a multiplicity of exploited singularities. The singularities are singularities of labour; anyone is working in different ways, and the singularity is the singularity of exploited labour....
When we take for example the peasantry. Peasants have always been considered to be outside the working class, to be something that should become working class. This always has been complete rubbish because the peasants always worked, worked hard, worked on things, worked as singularities. Nowadays we find ourselves facing a peasant class in the countries that are becoming increasingly irrelevant for capitalist development, and inside this peasant class we find on one side to a great extend the organisation of industrial labour, on the other side we find the specificity of peasant labour, which is singular, which means a specific contact with nature, the making of good cheese, of good vine. It means finding this unique quality of labour, finding inside the diversity, inside the difference the common elements, that are, of course, joint elements of exploitation, but on the other side the specificity of the peasant’s capacity to relate oneself to the earth and to transform it, transform it into good cheese and good vine. Only in this way we can think of relations with the industrial working class, and not with workers’ aristocracy, that wouldn’t be mechanical.
In a review of the book Empire by Negri and Hardt, Eric Mason writes:
One problem caused by giving immaterial labor a central role in the project of the multitude is the question of the participation of those who labor on the land and do not trade primarily in immaterial labor-namely, peasants. Hardt and Negri admit as much when they state that the “figure of the peasant may pose the greatest challenge for the project of the multitude.” The disappearance of the peasant from struggles over democracy (like the disappearance of the “figure of the industrial worker, the service industry worker, and all other separate categories”) is welcomed by Hardt and Negri, who see this as part of the “more general trend of the socialization of all figures of labor.” In other words, the multitude depends on the becoming common of multiplicity, while each form of labor is assumed to be able to retain its singularity.
Of course, there are "multitudes" who disagree totally with Negri and Hardt and others who make a mountain out of the multitudes. They say they are totally muddling class and class struggle...and worse.
The truth is I am not getting into that debate here, today.
The post below is simply an example of the fact that not everyone is all that concerned with how anyone defines class or the peasantry. They just are...
The following is from Red Pepper.