A new class alliance in the Indian countryside? From new farmers’ movements to the 2020 protest wave

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Processes of socio-economic differentiation alter balances of power. This article explores the possibility that the current wave of farmers’ protests partly reflects a re-setting of class alliances in the Indian countryside centred on small farmers and farmer-labourers who now account for over 85% of farming households. It does so by returning to the New Farmers Movement mobilisations of the 1980s and 1990s, and comparing three key relations between then and now: relations between farmers and the state, between farmers and large capital, and relations within the countryside between larger and smaller farmers and landless labourers. Smaller farmers, it is argued, are now more likely to ally with farmer-labourers and the landless, who are in turn less dependent on larger farmers than they used to be because of the growth of non-agricultural wage-labour. The neo-liberal Indian state’s pro-corporate Farm Bills mean that contradictions within the countryside are for now over-shadowed by external contradictions. And if implemented they will accelerate processes of socio-economic differentiation in ways that make a new centre of political gravity in the Indian countryside more likely.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEconomic and Political Weekly
Issue number26-27
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2021


  • Farmers’ Movements
  • Class
  • Caste
  • Agribusiness;
  • Punjab
  • Karnataka

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