[Please note that this is a rough draft and not intended for quotation or citation
without permission of the author, Ron Herring]

Ron Herring DRAFT
"Fanaticism," Jacquerie, Movement, Party: Ratchet Politics and Peasant Mobililization in South India, 1836-1956
Ron Herring

Cornell University
E-mail: rjh5@cornell.edu
Peasant Symposium: May 1997

Contents - Sections
[Abstract] [Stealing Congress Thunder: Agrarian Tactics on the Left] [The Great Transformation in Malabar: overview] [Inchoate Radicalism: The Mappila Uprisings] [From Jacquerie to Sustained Militance] [Beyond Tenure: Expansion of Peasant Struggles] [Broader Social Ecology and Political Structure] [Left and Right on the Agrarian Question] [Radical Strategy, Ratchet Tactics] [Collective Action of "the Peasantry"] [Endnotes] [References]

The anomalous peasant mobilization of Kerala is rooted in especially extensive structural transformations congruent with Polanyi's notion of a "great transformation" and organizational development centered on ratcheted episodes of reforms in landed and other social relations in response. The culmination was appropriation of rentier property (almost half the land in the state) and the end of agrestic slavery and serfdom. Pre-political responses to structural dislocation expressed moral outrage resulting in self-consciously suicidal confrontations with the colonial state. Inheritors of the agrarian radicalism tradition introduced organizational and tactical innovations which more effectively confronted a state traumatized by "fanatical outrages." Activists on the left understood, as academics often do not, that there is no such thing as a peasantry; creating an effective political aggregation of individuals from agrarian classes with objectively opposed interests and multiple identities requires political theory which integrates structure and agency. As a group, the "peasantry" had divergent interests which had to be submerged to effect collective action; the integrating goal evolved into the abolition of landlordism, playing on the most important structural feature of landlordism - the rent fund. Presentation of landlordism as a social system permitted a tactical integration of grievances across the spectrum of lived experience in the villages. Disappearance of the rent fund through appropriation by former tenants in the 1970s ruptured the agrarian coalition, underlining the importance of this particular structural fact to the historical aggregation process. Analytical unities across these quite different episodes of social action suggest the utility, and limits, of a collective action frame based on methodological individualism.

DRAFT Ron Herring

"Fanaticism," Jacquerie, Movement, Party: Ratchet Politics and Peasant Mobililization in South India, 1836-1956"

Fanaticism of this violent type flourishes only upon sterile soil. When the people are poor and discontented, it flourishes apace like other crimes of violence. The grievous insecurity to which the working ryots [peasants] are exposed by the existing system of landed tenures is undoubtedly largely to blame for the impoverished and discontented state of the peasantry, and a measure to protect the ryot, of whatever class, is the means which seems to commend itself the most for amelioration of their condition. With settled homesteads and an assured income to all who are thrifty and industrious... it is certain that fanaticism would die a natural death."

William Logan (1887:1,667)
Collector and Magistrate of Malabar District

Stealing Congress Thunder: Agrarian Tactics on the Left

Wolf Ladejinsky wrote in 1951 that the American-induced land reforms in Japan (in which he played a major role) "stole communist thunder" and produced conditions of rural social stability and political conservatism.(1) Like Barrington Moore, Jr., Doreen Warriner, Gunnar Myrdal, and Samuel Huntington, Ladejinsky concluded that the possibilities for radical land reform in India had passed; such policies became a structural impossibility given the distribution of political power in rural areas in independent India. Official proclamations from Delhi have elaborately documented 2 the failure of land reforms nationwide since the 1950s. (2)

An obvious puzzle is why radical reforms in the South Indian state of Kerala not only remained on the agenda for generations, but were effectively implemented in the teeth of powerful opposition in the 1970s. The answer to that puzzle -- anomalous peasant mobilization and political power -- poses another: how do we explain Kerala's agrarian political exceptionalism? Though it is beyond the scope of this paper, it seems clear as well that extraordinary social mobilization is partly responsible for the extraordinary development of Kerala in terms of human welfare -as measured by the Physical Quality of Life index (literacy, life expectancy and infant mortality) and comparable constructs -which places Kerala well above the mean for India despite lower than average wealth per capita.

William Logan's views, quoted at the head of this essay, represent one of the antinomies of the colonial logic of understanding and managing agrarian discontent: "thrifty and [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 3] industrious" peasants with security have no inclination to organized violence. Ladejinsky's cold-war perspective on "stealing thunder" from the left via land reform explains the seemingly paradoxical support for land reform from conservative positions -- during the cold war, both the United States and the Soviet Union supported land reform in their foreign policies, the United States more effectively. Ladejinsky's self-consciously cold-war position coincides with William Logan's world-view as a colonial official beset by organized violence and crime in the nineteenth century.

William Logan's interpretations and prescriptions lost out in politics within the colonial state to an alternative model of causation ("religious fanaticism"), obviating his solution (land reform) in the short run. Organized violence erupted on a larger scale in Malabar decades later; eventually the colonial state began a dialogue of reform which was carried by the communists to mobilizational strength and electoral power as the first freely elected communist government of any size in the world.

If the conservative logic of land reform (which dates from antiquity) is well understood (Herring 1983), reformism from radical political forces poses a puzzle. Resolution of the land question has a strategic and tactical component. Since Lenin, there has been explicit recognition in leftist agrarian theory of a contradiction between the tactical imperative of promising land to the agrarian underclasses and the strategic threat that successful land reform will conservatize precisely those classes which form the tactical roots of mobilizational success. (3) In landlord-tenant systems of importance in the areas of greatest communist electoral success in India (Kerala and West Bengal), the issue presents the classic dilemma for a radical party: the tactical means of organizing political power carry the strategic potential of conservatizing, via "embourgeoisement," radical social forces if implemented. (4)

The logic of embourgeoisement is not restricted to a leftist project; the same embourgeoisement which is feared by the left is promoted by the right. Samuel Huntington summarized a distinguished lineage of social scientific lore in explicating the logic underpinning conservative use of land reform promulgated by domestic elites in crisis and by international elites concerned with "containing communism:" "No social group is more conservative than a land-owning peasantry, and none is more revolutionary than a peasantry which owns too little land or pays too high a rental" (1968: 375). This Janus-faced character of the peasantry is widely recognized in social theory and realpolitik. Land reform as conservatizing force was explicitly promoted not only by an isolated colonial official facing insurrection, as in the case of William Logan, by also by that strand of United States foreign policy which sought to apply lessons from the "loss of China" to eradication of "breeding [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 4] grounds" of communism in poor societies from Vietnam to El Salvador (Prosterman and Riedinger 1987: Chapters 5, 6; McCoy 1971).

Land reform thus presents the agrarian left with a double-edged sword: a mobilizing platform but simultaneously a threat to destroy the social-structural niche which presents mobilizational potential. Agrarian communism in India has diverged along exactly these lines of analysis and opportunity. In Kerala, the left recognized the potential threat of embourgeoisement but pressed for two decades to abolish the landlord-tenant nexus with a land-to-the-tiller reform. Rejecting land to the tiller, Bengal's communist movement has settled for the land policy of conservative regimes: tenancy reform (Herring 1983:Chapter 2). The crucial difference politically is that tenants in West Bengal remain dependent on political-administrative means to retain quasi-proprietary claims (security of tenure) and administratively rigged rents, whereas former tenants in Kerala after a vigorously contested process, now hold titles to their land. Leftists in Kerala took the risk and lost electorally; Bengali communists implemented conservative tenure reforms that kept their rural clientele dependent on the party and prospered at the polls.

This essay is centrally concerned with the puzzle of how agrarian collective action is sustained. But agrarian structure, movements and state responses, but the agrarian issue stands as an important illustration of a broader theme: the communists outflanked the Congress party from which they split and with which they contested for power on rural redistributive policy, and in the process mobilized a powerful political force from radical agrarian classes (Herring 1988). The communists could credibly make and eventually deliver on those promises precisely because they lacked the ideological and class-based constraints which rendered the Congress -- in Kerala and elsewhere in India - incapable of overturning the rural social structure as so often promised in official discourse. The theoretical implication is that not all is choice, even for political entrepreneurs (contrary to Lichbach 1994; Popkin 1079: Ch 6). Simultaneously, the mode of mobilization in Kerala put significant constraints on the forms of public law that could result from mobilization; the "middle-peasant" tenants who earned the condemnation of agricultural laborers in the post-reform era were the leaders and object of leftist organization in the 1920s and 1930s, in which the shock troops were the landless laborers.

Communist leaders themselves attribute a great deal of their electoral success to mobilization of a radical peasant movement, but there are other crucial issues on which the Communist Party may be said to have stolen Congress thunder in the political process, including what is frequently called "nationalism." (5) As on agrarian-reform issues, the communists took a consistently [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 5] more militant and uncompromising stance on the ending of European occupation. Likewise, the communists proved more militant and effective in carrying out the Congress pledge to improve the condition of "untouchable" groups, to implement policies providing local-level input into the administrative system, to decentralize political power and even to uphold high standards of personal integrity and austerity in public life. on all of these issues, as in agrarian reform, the willingness of Congress politicians to compromise with powerful interests generated by the existing social structure contrasted markedly with communist efforts to transform that structure.

The departure of this essay from much of the literature is its insistence that the political theory of activists matters -- and that this organic, practical theory of mobilization is consistent with strands of its-academic shadow. It assumes that the structure-agency dichotomy is infructuous: there can be no account of choice without systematic attention to structure, nor do structures have causal power absent the choices of individuals. These choices in turn cannot be understood absent attention to ideational structures, both normative and empirical, which matter fundamentally. Leftist leaders in Kerala understood these points even if academics often do not.

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The Great Transformation in Malabar: overview

The idea of a great transformation as a cause of peasant radicalism derives from Karl Polanyi's (1957) notion of the disruptive effects of the emergence of the market from social relations in which the market was previously "embedded." Though unequal and often degrading, pre-market society was characterized by understandings of the normative basis of allocative mechanisms. The fundamental insight of Polanyi should not be to romanticize pre-market society, but to underline the enormity of the normative transformation necessary to accommodate the market as a disembedded allocative device. The "moral economy" model of peasant radicalism took off from this insight (Booth 1994). Yet obviously not all instances of market transformation give rise to peasant radicalism. Some disaggregation is necessary.

The present state of Kerala was formed in 1956 from three distinct regions; differences in regional social structure and history are important in explaining the growth and uneven development of a radical agrarian movement. Of particular importance is the history of agrarian relations in Malabar, the northern-most region. First, the communist party struck its deepest organizational roots in Malabar, and the more radical factions of the undivided (pre-1964) party originated there. Secondly, Malabar was under direct colonial rule as part of the Madras Presidency; the other two regions, Travancore and Cochin, were under indirect rule through maharajahs until Independence. Malabar thus evidenced long direct competition within the anti- [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 6] colonial movement between those who became leaders of the Indian National Congress and those who eventually split from the Congress to found the Communist Party in the state.

Malabar offers an historical example of a theoretically expected outcome: development of a radical mass-based political party within a structural niche for a party with the social theory and organizational capacity to convert those objective conditions into political power. Yet this outcome was in no sense preordained.

Malabar under colonial rule became in many ways the archetypal disintegrating agrarian system, earning, as one colonial officer said, "the unenviable reputation of being the most rack-rented place on the face of the earth" (Varghese, 1970:78). With the introduction of colonial law, particularly the imposition of a legal system based on the absolute notion of land as private property, traditional overlords were able to evict tenants and raise rents according to the familiar rule of "what the market would bear," enforced by the police powers of a colonial state . Clearly the great transformation from above was one in which property claims were disentangled from their broader social moorings, and thus functions. As courts and administrative law protected the property claims of landlords, the necessity of good patron-client relations diminished; control of economic assets was guaranteed by higher authority. (6)

Property institutions were central not only to William Logan's view of the Mappila uprisings, but also to participants. Though there is considerable dispute on the issue of whether or not private property in land existed in precolonial Kerala, there is no dispute that land control was hedged by social institutions to a marked degree -- "embedded in social relations," in Polanyi's (1957) formulation. Prior to the 9th Century, one-third of the gross produce of landholders was due the king as what may be conceptualized as either a rent or tax. Central authority dissolved in the 9th Century, giving way to a decentralized prebendial feudalism. (7) From 825 AD until the Mysorean invasions (1766-1792), the King's share (rajabhogam, more generally conceptualized as pattam) (8) came to be shared equally by the ultimate landholder, or janmakkaran (janmi), and a subordinate known as kanakkaran, whose control of the land intertwined elements of usufructuary mortgage and tenancy.

These titles came to connote "landlord" and "superior tenant" after the reorganization of land rights under colonial rule, but the original meanings clearly connote "embeddedness" in Polanyi's sense. The hierarchy of rights in land replicated the hierarchy of social standing (Dhanagare 1977:112-114). Janmakkaran is usually held to have derived from janmam ("birth right"), kanakkaran from kan ( "the eye," related to the Dravidian root kanuku "to see") connoting oversight functions. [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 7] Holders of kanam rights were so clearly associated with specific caste status in some parts of Kerala that the Keralolpatti explicitly identifies the Nair caste as people of "the eye," the "hand" and "the order," whose duty it was to "prevent the rights from being curtailed or suffered to fall into disuse" (Logan 1887: 1, 670). So clearly were the Nairs identified with supervisory functions in the feudal system that Logan rightly observes: "they had as a guild higher functions in the body politic than merely ploughing the rice-fields and controlling the irrigated lands (ibid.).11

Since the Nair guild had "higher functions" than cultivation, other social strata were necessarily defined by the lower functions of labor on the land. In the traditional tenurial structure, the net produce was shared out in thirds: one-third to the janmi (a share the British perceived as rent proper), one- third to the kanakkaran (the supervising intermediary, often a mortgagee, whom the British interpreted as the "tenant"), and one-third to those who actually worked the land -- laborers (koolikar) known as tiyyas or cherumar after their caste (actually jati) identification. Much of this labor was performed by individuals understood to be slaves by colonial authorities, but it was a form of slavery quite unlike that of the transatlantic chattel business. Baden-Powell described South Indian slaves as glebae adscripti, whose position was both circumscribed and secure. "Brahmans and moneylenders" may be "swept away before the fury of a Muhammadan invasion... 11 but "no one molests or moves the slave: whoever may be the nominal owner, or whatever the circumstances of the time, they are safe in their insignificance, and continue, and will ever continue, to till the ground their ancestors have tilled before them "(Baden-Powell 1892 Vol 111:121).

The result of new forms of property and new claims of taxing authority was a series of quite serious agrarian uprisings, beginning in Malabar in 1836, initially peaking in 1841, and continuing sporadically throughout the nineteenth century (Radhakrishnan 1989:42-82). Simmering agrarian tensions exploded in 1921 in a series of encounters known as the Moplah (Mappila) Rebellion, one of the most intense uprisings in Indian colonial history. Scholarly and official interpretations isolated three causes for the uprising, emphasis varying by account. The revolt was simultaneously a revolt with "communal" overtones--Muslims (moplahs) rising against Hindu overlords-- and a class revolt by unusually exploited tenants against landlords, and simultaneously a political revolt against severe repression by a colonial state.(9)

The first discussion of land reform was generated within the colonial administration in (contested) recognition of the tenurial base of peasant violence. Colonial discourse was acrimoniously divided on the issue of causation; an orientalist [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 8] focus on "religious fanaticism," associated with the views of T.L. Strange, was contested by a countervailing theme of tenure- induced immiserization associated with William Logan. The latter worldview promoted agrarian reform; fear of rural instability preceded concerns for production and social equity in discussions of land reform which were to continue intermittently for a century.

The Mappila uprisings did not spawn continuing organization or lasting political projects, but were more in the character of jacqueries. (10) Defeat of the final uprising in 1921 led to conservatism and political withdrawal among Muslim peasants (Panikkar 1989:190). The legacy of the uprisings was an opening for tenure reform in elite discourse, conditioned by fear of agrarian rebellion. That opening provided the focal point for continually escalating peasant demands in dialectical relation to state intransigence, resulting in an overturning of the agrarian system through public law in the 1970s.

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Inchoate Radicalism: The Mappila Uprisings

Invasions from Islamic Mysore in the 18th century caused a mass exodus of the Hindu superordinates from Malabar. Muslim tenants (primarily verumpattakar) (11) then ceased paying rent, and there was general upward mobility of Muslims into positions occupied previously by Hindus. Because of the preceding centuries of decentralized political structure, it was widely held that actual cultivators in Kerala had not experienced any land revenue claim from the state (Logan 1887:1,672). Consequently, the experientially novel claims of British taxation joined the novel forms of property entailed in British misreading of property relations as a source of moral outrage.

British control of Malabar was established in 1792 following a costly war with Mysore. The immediate problem for the state was establishing a social base for their authority and recovering the war costs via tax collections. Land taxation requires identifiable property rights; in recognizing the Nair and Namboodiri claimants as "lords of the soil," the British effectively restored "the landed aristocracy of Nambudiri jenmis and Nayars" (Dhanagare 1977:118). Land taxes were over the course of the century recognized by subordinate colonial officials as excessive. Not only was the tax burden heavy, but its incidence was unequal; less well-connected villagers were over-assessed, the well-connected lightly assessed (Panikkar 1989:7). Within the landlord-tenant dyad, land revenue ultimately became the tenant's burden, concentrating the social pain of taxation both on weaker owners and on tenants in particular (ibid:11). As a consequence of the settlement, holdings in Malabar were far more concentrated than in the rest of Madras Presidency and the extent of landlessness much greater (Karat 1973; Dhanagare 1977:118-119). [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 9]

Revenue imperatives were not limited to solutions through land taxation, but included taxation of numerous items of importance to the poor and to the establishment of official monopolies and fixed-price procurement of commodities. Monopolies on salt, timber and tobacco increased unemployment in those sectors, thus increasing agrarian pressure . (12) By 1849, salt and tobacco monopolies yielded half the value of land revenue, compared to less than 10 percent in the period 1809-1813. (13) Among the fifty or so specific taxes collected, particularly abhorrent were those on items necessary for livelihoods: shops, cattle, looms, tapping knives, fishing nets, ferries, etc. Panikkar notes that "nothing" fell outside the colonial state's taxation net (1989: 17). Colonial officials recognized that these taxes, though essential for fiscal reasons, were particularly "obnoxious." Sullivan reported in 1843:

The ferry tax is more obnoxious than the tobacco tax. The poor woman whose livelihood depends upon the bundle of sticks which she is carrying cannot pass until she has paid. So hardly does this tax press upon the lower orders that lives have been lost in attempting to swim the river for the purpose of avoiding it. (14)

The unequal incidence of taxation, and the proliferations of non-landed assessments undermine Menon's (1994) revisionist claim that land revenues declined as a percentage of produce in Malabar. Taxes and administered price monopolies combined with land revenue assessments (and indeed increased because of reluctance to raise the land tax further) to create considerable misery. H.S. Graeme observed in 1822 that, in contrast to earlier reports on the relative absence of poverty in Malabar,

"the province swarms with beggars, and it may not unreasonably be ascribed to their comforts having seriously encroached upon by the salt and tobacco monopolies, and to the trade of the weavers having been nearly exterminated... and to the trade in timber also abolished by the monopoly of that article." (15)

Resulting agrarian violence was expressed in the idiom of Islamic community and identity; the "Mappila (sometimes "Moplah" [indigenous Muslim]) outrages" which broke out during the nineteenth century were couched in oppositional terms of a Muslim community against a European state and Hindu landlords (Dale 1980; Arnold 1982). uprisings began in 1836 and continued sporadically until the final dramatic outburst in 1921. The 1921 uprising was denounced by Gandhi as a perversion of the nationalist Khilafat cause he championed, but was nevertheless characterized in the District Gazetteer as "a gigantic popular upheaval the like of which has not been seen in Kerala before or since." (16) [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 10]

The original colonial diagnosis of the uprisings was "religious fanaticism"(17) because of the modes of organization, symbolism and ethnicity of participants and victims. Mappilas believed that to kill a landlord was not only no sin, but a source of religious merit; to die fighting the colonial state in jihad ensured the benefits of martyrdom. Conrad Wood (1978:133) goes so far as to argue that "the defining characteristic of the Moplah outbreak was devotion to death."

The countervailing line within the colonial state was that of District Collector and Magistrate William Logan (1887:692):

The real fact seems to have been that the janmis, influenced partly by the rise in prices of produce and partly by the novel views of the courts as their real position, had at last begun to feel their power as Lords of the Soil and to exercise it through the courts. The Mappillas, who had been peacefully in possession of the lands since the time of Hyder Ali's conquest, felt it no doubt as a bitter grievance that the janmis should have obtained the power to evict them -- a power which did not intrinsically belong to them -- and the influential men among them, looking about for means to protect themselves, set fanaticism in motion..."

The original controversy, between T.L. Strange and William Logan, persisted beyond their active involvement. The Malabar District Superintendent of Police reaffirmed the religious-fanaticism view in his confidential report on the 1921 rebellion:

"These outbreaks, being in the name of religion, proved infectious and had an unsettling effect on the neighborhood, requiring little to induce any poverty-stricken Mappilla to seek a glorious death as an entrance to such a paradise as his ignorant religious teachers pictured for him... (Hitchcock 1925:10)."

Though debate among modern scholars has reproduced the colonial discourse opposing religious fanaticism to tenurial grievances, (18) it seems clear that the two explanations are inextricably intertwined. The purely religious interpretation as ideational motivation fails because Muslims elsewhere were not prone to the sorts of "fanaticism" represented continuously in Malabar over almost a century. The responsive critique that not all tenants were Muslims in Malabar, nor were all martyrs tenants, is not persuasive because it fails to consider alternative methods of protest (individualized "weapons of the weak" and organized banditry) and the effect of tenancy disasters on both larger families(19) and the community in general. Tenant evictions, whether or not directly experienced, symbolized new and subjectively illegitimate power relations; generalized destitution symbolized the novel powers of taxation, punitive fines and restriction of economic opportunity of an alien state. [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 11]

Where Islam provides a more persuasive explanation is in providing solutions to the collective action problem that frequently prevents agrarian rebellion. David Arnold correctly argues, following Logan in part, that not only did the mosque provide "a focus of loyalty and a centre for collective action" but the Islamic expression of outrage manifested "a new collective, almost familial, solidarity and mutual supportiveness... Islam offered a language of redemption, a crude egalitarianism, an antipathy to landlords and foreigners, a kind of institutionalized inversion, or the everyday world of the peasants (1982:262-263)." That the great transformation occurred under British rule following the restoration of a landed aristocracy previously defeated at the hands of co-religionists reinforced messianic tendencies so familiar in peasant rebellion (e.g. Little 1989:15off).

Martyrdom as motivation may have facilitated collective confrontation, but simultaneously undermined prospects for effectiveness. As a leader of a Mappila unit in 1849 awaited the arrival of more troops, he stated that he was ready to die in "fair fight with the Cirkar (state]" (Wood 1978:151). This was a common theme of 19th Century rebels. Meeting soldiers of the raj as equals in the deadly game of combat symbolically inverted the subordination and humiliation felt by destitute Muslims.

Oligopsonistic land markets and powers to impoverish or evict tenants spilled over into denial of life chances symbolized by constriction of even religious practice. A spokesman for the gang involved in the 1851 outbreak commented on the difficulty experienced by local Muslims in purchasing a piece of land for a mosque: "what is the loss to the Nairs and Namboodris if a piece of ground capable of sowing five Parrahs of seed be allotted for construction of a Mosque? Let those hogs [the British soldiers] come here, we are resolved to die." (20)

The tenurial decay noted by Logan and the Mappilas was not a discrete event, but rather signified multiplex and gradual changes in power relations -- changes which were resisted by violence on both sides of the tenurial dyad in Malabar (Menon 1994:14, passim). Evictions were symptomatic of these new power relations and of the state's support of some rights over others. Eviction is an economic problem only in those situations in which superior or equal alternatives are not available. Given the economic changes of Malabar in the 19th century, mobilization on tenurial issues was inescapably symbolic of economic desperation, and, more importantly, of broader power relations centrally involving the state. That landlords were the targets of looting, violence and coerced "gifts" or protection money indicates not only that they alone had the resources to loot in a declining agrarian system, but also stood symbolically for unacceptable market powers and the state which guaranteed them. [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 12]

As the "religious" interpretation correctly stresses, Islam provided a mode of organization and a sense of community buttressed by historical relative deprivation. The "itinerate preachers" of colonial discourse were central to mobilization and the mosque as regular gathering place of a community facilitated communication and organization. Lacking these means of collective action, the Hindu population in the 19th century largely turned to more individualistic "weapons of the weak" (Scott 1985), including theft and dacoity. That Muslims were prominent in organized violence indicates that their solidarity as a community and ideology of martyrdom provided means of responding to social distress different from those of other communities. Moreover, the ritual and social differentiation within the Hindu community created additional obstacles to collective protest, obstacles which were overcome only through strategic innovations of the leftists in the 1920s and 1930s (Herring 1988 and below).

Conditions in the 1921 rebellion were considerably different. Support from the Congress for the Khilafat agitation and for self-rule provided both external allies (putatively) and new leadership. That rising lasted six months and extended over two thousand square miles until superior military resources of the state effected a brutal suppression. (21)

Strangely enough, we have a fairly accurate interpretation implicitly recognizing the synthesis between competing material and ideational interpretations of the Mappila jacqueries by the Malabar Superintendent of Police in his report on the 1921 rebellion. R.H. Hitchcock noted:

... many of them (Mappila activists] neither were nor ever would be tenants but were quite ready to fall in with any suggestions which promised a chance of looting the rich and for the same reason to support the Khilafat agitation as meaning Mappilla Raj in Ernad... (Hitchcock 1925:20)."
[Herring - Mobilization ++Page 13]

Hitchcock understood the rebellion primarily in religious terms, and yet understood the significance of its anti-state ("Mappilla Raj" means Muslim rule) and anti-elite character. "Looting the rich" captures the social banditry strand of the Mappila uprisings. (22) His account stresses the transmission of radicalism through organic religious intellectuals (though he rails against their "ignorance") and the activities of the Congress through its Khilafat mobilization and national conferences -- linking poor Muslims in a backward district to international movement of historic significance. He also recognized the role of official repression of widespread banditry (which had accompanied all Mappila outbursts) in triggering rebellion.(23)

The Superintendent of Police also understood the role of martyrdom and general destitution in generating radicalism:

"It was the poorest who kept moving inland in search of a livelihood and their mosques could not afford to pay for proper instructors and they had to rely for instruction on self-styled Thangals and Mussaliars, often as ignorant as themselves, who preached and taught fanaticism and sometimes even practised it (Hitchcock 1925:17)."

Hitchcock emphasized that rebels tended to be poor and young and often without a livelihood; periods of "fanaticism" were preceded and accompanied by a "general spirit of lawlessness" and increased crime, from "petty house-breakings" to dacoity (ibid 15). From the earliest injunctions that to kill a landlord was not only free from sin but a religious obligation, the Mappilas had made clear that they perceived tenurial oppression to be a legitimate trigger for violence, having repeatedly attempted remedy through the state and failed.

The literature on the Mappila uprisings is so vast that the account above can only scratch the surface. Conrad Wood concludes that "as a challenge to British rule the Moplah outbreak was mere ritual" (1978:151). Both Mappilas and colonial officials knew that the insurgents would die. Though the desperate confrontations of the Mappilas in the 19th century were rooted in a cognitive frame in which martyrdom figured prominently, their 1921 rebellion was of a more political character. It might have succeeded against a weaker state or wrung concessions from a less repressive state. Moreover, deadly confrontations against long odds continued in Kerala throughout the struggle for independence and land. Radicalism in Kerala changed forms in the twentieth century, but the themes of commemoration of martyrs (24) and struggle against immediately awesome odds continued to constitute a distinctive mode of social challenge. Moral outrage congruent with the Mappila charges sustained the movement even as tactical wisdom and organization replaced suicide with mere danger. [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 12]

The nineteenth century uprisings were far more extensive and bloody than the more familiar Deccan Riots. They were, as suggested by the title of K.N. Panikkar's superb book, "against lord and state:" against lords whose novel powers of eviction and wrack-renting were a product of the state just as agrarian distress resulting from the state's policies undermined bargaining power and made violence a last resort. They were, as Logan perceived, defensive in character, as stressed in Polanyi's view of reaction to the novel property forms of market society. Whatever the ethnic composition of the tenantry, the notion that land rights should be subject to market dynamics -- and the subsequent dislocations of evictions and enhanced rents and renewal fees (michivaram) -- was clearly at variance with the existing moral economy of Malabar. (25)

The Mappila risings illustrate two points about the origins of mobilization of agrarian underclasses for redress. First, in line with social theory on the causes of agrarian protest, an agrarian structure characterized by high levels of insecure tenancy, extreme inequalities in land ownership, and the resulting miserable terms of exchange between landed and landless generated the structural potential for agrarian radicalism (cp Zagoria 1971). Secondly, "defensive reactions" of elements of society to dislocations engendered by a market acting on new property rights drove extreme responses aimed at re-establishing traditional security.

But as importantly, the Mappilla revolts illustrate the importance of overlays of social oppression which may accompany economic exploitation. The self-definition of Muslims as Muslims provided the symbols and forms of organization without which collective action is extremely difficult. Similar issues of ethnic identification and mobilization were later to play an important role in the growth of a radical and redistributive coalition centered around the communists (Herring 1988). As importantly, the futile jacqueries of the Muslim population, and the proto-political rebellion of 1921, sensitized the state to the necessity of responding to agrarian distress. To ignore that threat was to risk rural authority and tax revenues, as explicitly recognized in the 1940s.

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From Jacquerie to Sustained Militance

The Moplah Rebellion illuminated and attacked the structural unity of landlordism and colonial rule. The colonial government was quite explicit in its recognition of dependence on the landed elite for continued hegemony (Sen 1955:55), and the landlords reciprocally depended on the colonial state's machinery to quash challenges to their local authority. Understanding this structural unity is crucial for understanding the divergence in support bases for Congress and communist programs: conservative groups within the Congress came to oppose, with varying resolve [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 15] and militancy, one leg of the agrarian power structure -- colonial rule -- but were unwilling to attack the other -- landlordism as a social institution, much less the landed gentry as individuals. Radicals within the nationalist movement, on the other hand, came to oppose with increasing militancy both landlordism and the colonial state; they perceived this linkage to be crucial for the success on the independence struggle. A member of the Congress left, and later communist leader, noted:

"Not only was the peasantry the most numerous section of the Indian people, but it was in the villages that imperialism had its most reliable ally -- the feudal landlords. The police thana functioning in close collaboration with the big landlords was the center of imperialism's oppressive machinery (Namboodiripad 1976:183)."

The Moplah Rebellion, and later outbursts of peasant militance, were denounced and abandoned by Gandhi and Congress conservatives; the radicals supported, nurtured and organized around these social impulses, with incrementally increasing, though uneven, organizational development and tactical success. The basis of organization was both caste and class. Though caste and class correlated highly in this period, specific caste indignities and privileges constituted grounds for collective action. Importantly, whereas a class identity lacks any primordial organic reality or organizational expression, castes existed as functioning social organizations, and thus provided nuclei for de facto multi-class mobilization of the poor.

Organized peasant movements in Malabar began with the interests of superior tenants -- in a structural sense a middle- peasantry. Agitations for the rights of kanam, tenants were clearly intertwined with the struggles of Nairs as a caste (though the extreme form of this argument, as made by Robin Jeffrey, overstates the case (26)). Unlike the elite Namboodiri Brahmins, Nairs took to English education and government service early on and formed a caste association to knit together various ritually distinct sub-castes to form a political force to demand privileged treatment. As Nairs colonized lower levels of the imperial machinery, they experienced acute status inconsistency. E.M.S. Namboodiripad (1943:4) wrote depreciatingly about his own caste (and indeed his own family) in describing the conflict within the "new class of educated young men and officers" (eg tehsildars, police inspectors, "sub-judges"):

"The very same state which made them politically independent of the Jenmis [landlords -- connoting Brahmins here] made them much more dependent economically on those same Jenmis... The educated and professional man with a wide outlook and sturdy sense of self-respect has to humiliate himself before the narrow-minded and conceited ignoramus who is his landlord."

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Similar issues of social humiliation -- of outcaste communities -- were employed in a movement which in economic terms served the interests almost exclusively of the superior tenants. Though recognizing the necessity of eventual abolition of the "feudal" landlord-dominated agrarian system, leftists in the Congress were careful in mobilizing to attack the injustices explicitly felt by the peasantry, while linking these to social indignities on which consciousness was well developed. on strict economic issues, consciousness moved more slowly. For example, in many villages, the legitimacy of rent and taxes was too deeply imbedded to be attacked frontally; landlords were then attacked for the social humiliation or abuse of "their" tenants or for illegal exactions which denoted traditional obeisance. One jatha (protest march) against a single landlord for such illegal exactions attracted 7,000 peasants in Malabar in the mid-1930s (Krishnan 1971:32). There were hundreds of similar protests on a smaller scale (Gopalan 1973: Chapters 8, 9; Karat 1976). These protests, held against almost all important jenmis of Malabar, simultaneously raised the consciousness of similar objective class position, generated self-confidence and helped overcome traditional communal (religious), class and caste cleavages among peasants, in the same manner that Jeffrey (1984) observes among the working class in Kerala.

The Malabar Kudiyan Sangham (tenants' association) was formed at Pattambi in 1920; the leadership was predominantly of the Nair caste [and kanakkar class]. Clandestine activities predominated in the early years ("because of the fear of the tenants... 11), but over eight years of operation, the MKS formed about one-hundred local units throughout Malabar (Radhakrishnan 1989: 78,79). Organization of landlords, which had begun with the consideration of land reforms by the colonial administration in the 1880s, was furthered by activities of the MKS and elections to the Madras Legislative Council in 1923 (ibid. 79-81). Public debates and memorials, letter-writing campaigns and agitations were organized around the formulation of the Malabar Tenancy Bill. One representative of the Mappila tenants explicitly threatened another uprising if the government continued its anti(tenant policy (ibid. 85). Though Radhakrishnan (1989:86) argues that "the attitude of the government had undergone a favorable change because ... the agitation was championed by the educated middle class consisting of lawyers and government servants ....," reverberations of the Mappila uprisings clearly influenced policy as well.

The Malabar Tenancy Act (XIV of 1930) was a victory for tenants and the MKS, but mainly for the superior tenants who spearheaded it. Radhakrishnan gives the best summary of colonial politics surrounding the law:

"Malabar is one of the few places in India where land relations were intensively and effectively articulated by an [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 17] educated middle class as early as in the first quarter of this century. Though the British administration stood stolidly by the Janmis throughout nearly a century of agitations by the illiterate, impoverished, and inarticulate Mappilas, when the educated, affluent, and articulate Nayars appeared on the scene, in less than a decade it conceded to their demands as a matter of political expediency (1989:87-88)."

Though true, this prospective needs qualification. First, the colonial state was itself divided on the issue of tenancy reform in response to the "Mappila outrages." Tenure reform first emerged as an agenda for political management -- for rooting out the social base of rebellion. Discussion of tenure reform in turn prompted organization of landlords where none had existed before and joined contesting classes in competition before the colonial state through such fora as the colonial state allowed (both political, as in the Madras Legislative Council, and public, through memorials, newspaper debates and public meetings). Finally, the articulateness of Nairs is perhaps less important than success in capturing the support of the Congress organizational wing (Jeffrey 1978), their instantiation in crucial rungs of the state's machinery and official fears of resurgence of agrarian rebellion. The colonial state really rested on two pillars, the janmis whose control through landlordism made them a necessary political ally, and the educated middle class, largely overlapping with the Nair community and kanakkar class, who carried the brunt of administrative control to the villages.

Victory for the superior tenants in 1930 created new marketable rights called "almost liquid gold" by Namboodiripad (1943:12). Rent and renewal fees became predictable and security of tenure largely assured, at least for the stronger of the class. Nevertheless, the subinfeudation of Malabar ensured that those below the kanakkar (about half the tenantry as well as the "serf/slave" classes) would have to fight new struggles to receive comparable benefits. The politics of ratchets gave these classes a model and political niche to pursue those struggles.

The organizational culmination of well-organized local protests was the formation of the Kerala Karshaka Sangham (peasant association), beginning in Malabar at the sub-district level in 1935. The district-level Malabar Sangham was formed the following year (Paulini 1978:160). organizationally, the All Malabar Karshaka Sangham (peasant association) consisted of three tiers, with a village sangham at the bottom, an intermediary taluk association and district-level association at the top. The activists of the Congress patiently organized, village by village, building in each one a volunteer defense committee, and establishing study groups and reading rooms. Leading Congress socialists wrote plays with radical content; dramatic presentations were important in mobilization. (27) [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 18]

These organizational efforts were aided by the enormous respect for learning, and relatively high literacy rate, of Kerala. The newspaper Kudiyan (Tenant) was founded in Malabar in 1922 (Radhakrishnan 1989:78). School teachers and students were important as local leaders and activists. The great peasant leader, A.K. Gopalan, began his professional life as a village teacher. (28) Communist Party elder E.M.S. Namboodiripad (1968:156) gives perhaps the best summary of the fusion of mobilizing agents and issues:

"It is the combination in one person of the office bearer of the Village Congress Committee, the leader of the Teachers' Union, and the organizer of the Kisan Sangham. [peasant association] that made the anti-imperialist movement strike deep roots in the countryside."

Mobilization of the peasantry was, however, a major source of cleavage within the Congress. Radhakrishnan dates the first organized efforts to protect kanam tenants from 1912; competition within the Malabar Congress shifted the balance of power from janmis to tenant leaders between 1916 and 1920 (1989:77). The open split occurred in 1920 when a group of landlords and professionals led by Annie Besant, representing conservatives in the Malabar Congress, walked out when outvoted on both tenancy reform and organizational militance (cf. Hart and Herring 1977: 200). The conservative Congress leadership, locally and nationally, had deep reservations about militant peasant movements under the aegis of the Congress. Leftists had no such reservations, and built a powerful peasant movement around issues of economic exploitation and social indignities, linked organizationally to the nationalist movement and to the burgeoning trade union movement. Their success contrasts sharply with efforts in many other parts of the subcontinent and provided a solid political base for the eventual emergence of the Communist Party.

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Beyond Tenure: Expansion of Peasant Struggles

Leadership on the left has attributed organizational success to intertwined factors of generalized rural misery (exacerbated in the 1930s by the great Depression, magnified by Kerala's extensive integration into international markets) and imperialism, which were structurally linked. Ramifications of the Depression illustrated concretely the linkages; revenue assessments rose in 1929 just as the effects of the depression were hitting rural Kerala. (29) Tax protests joined demonstrations against general economic conditions, for which both raj and janmi were held responsible. Massive hunger marches linked disparate areas together, creating for the first time organizational links across the entire area within which Malayalam is spoken -- including both jurisdictions directly-ruled by the British and princely states. Hunger songs of K.P.R. Gopalan and K.A. [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 19] Keraleeyan became popular in the villages. (30) Dramatic presentations carried the theme of evils of landlordism (Pattabakki [Arrears of Rent] and Raktapanam [Drinking Blood]), but also alternative visions of a new organization of agriculture (Koottukrishi or "Collective Farming"). (31)

The dual mobilizing targets remained state and landlords, but social conditions in general were linked to these two institutions. Social oppression was attacked symbolically through large inter-caste dinners and programmatically through demands for temple entry and access to government jobs and education. Social oppression and decadence were presented as symptomatic of the decaying social system of oppressive landlordism.

Leaders of the peasant mobilization are quite clear on the issue of consciousness. The Mappila rebels had lacked a clear consciousness of class; landlords were perceived in more individual than class terms in local assaults. Activist propaganda and tactics built on this tradition even while linking general misery to systemic causes. Specific Janmis were attacked as "the embodiment of all evils," especially when associated with a "reprehensible life style" (Oommen 1985:46), increasingly associated with the class as a whole. Landlords were portrayed in propaganda and popular theater generically as decadent and rapacious parasites, a perception buttressed by the presence of caste reformers from the janmi station among Congress radicals.

If the Mappila rebellions were clearly "against lord and state," so too were the subsequent mobilizations buttressed by the concrete fusions between colonial state and property claims. Both government and landlord land lying fallow was forcibly occupied and tilled. The failure of official channels to cope with famine in 1942-43 led to confiscation of grain at locally determined fair prices and distribution through peoples' committees. Black market sales of rice were collectively opposed. Government sales of forest land in Malabar to capitalists (often from Travancore) were militantly opposed because of the restrictions subsequently placed on traditional rights to gather green manure and wood. More important for future politics, responsibility for agricultural development was placed squarely on the state; failure to dewater or irrigate potentially cultivable land, distribute fertilizers, provide credit for land clearing and cultivation or assure food distribution were the occasions for mass meetings, protest marches and direct action, often leading to official violence, death and imprisonment. (32)

Repression creates martyrs. Opposition to landlords evoked retaliation in the form of evictions, harassment through the police and courts (through false cases supported by the landlord's loyal dependents), social boycott and physical coercion (Oommen 1985:48). Just as the Mappilas were memorialized by the naming of mosques after martyrs (eg Logan 1887:648), [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 20] martyrs in the later struggles against lord and state were memorialized in song and care for their families. Young E.K. Nayanar (recently Chief Minister of Kerala) recalls that one of his early exposures to leftist discussions and literature was in a reading room organized by the Congress left and named for Sri Harshan, a Harijan who died in the Cannanore jail (Nayanar 1982:8). The Kayoor martyrs (1943) were memorialized not only in legend and song (eg Niranjana 1977), but through celebration of March 29, the date of their death, as All-India Kisan [peasant] Day. The All-India Kisan Sabha organized relief for their families; British trade unionists raised the then princely sum of Rs 61600 for the effort as well. (33)

The movement's moral economy in this period of mobilization had moved beyond security of tenure, which was partly met in the 1930 legislation. As early as 1935, the slogan of "death to landlordism" had joined demands for representative rule and extension of security of tenure downwards in the class structure. Clearly the party needed to retain the interests of kanam tenants as it extended the movement down the social and tenurial structure. At the Chirakkal Taluk Peasants' Conference in November of 1936, it was resolved that landlords were entitled not to rent, but to the residual: that portion of gross produce (if any) left after the subsistence needs of peasants had been met. As interim measures, the conference demanded rental limits at one-fourth of the gross produce, abolition of extra-rental payment obligations (kazhcha, kankani, seelakkasu, etc), cancellation of arrears of rent, security of tenure, price supports for agricultural commodities and fixation of wages for agricultural laborers. (34)

The open split which created the communist party was presaged by failure of the Congress to move on these measures. The Congress Party, which was then the umbrella under which radical rural organizations operated, won the elections of 1937 and formed a ministry in Madras. When the government failed to take even the limited remedial measures within its power, peasant organizations launched a movement against both landlords and the pro-landlord government. As usual the tactics included social boycott and jathas to the homes of prominent and especially obnoxious landlords (Radhakrishnan 1989:96). British concern with the social boycott (eg by barbers, washermen, etc.) was two-fold: that a "law and order situation" could result and that the withholding of rent could jeopardize the fiscal imperative which was the center of colonial rule. A dispatch from a confidential report to the Home Ministry in Madras noted in 1938:

"The District Magistrate of Malabar reports that a no-rent campaign ... which has been carried on for some time... is achieving considerable success, and that in the absence of any organized opposition is in some parts undermining the authority of Government. He fears that, if the jenmies are [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 21] unable to collect their rents, it will have a serious effect on the land revenue collections... (ibid)."

The alliance between superior and inferior tenants began to show strains during the debates on amendments to the Malabar Tenancy Act (Radhakrishnan 1989:99). Maintenance of the coalition was aided by agreement to focus agitations on the refusal of the Congress Government of Madras to reduce statutory rents and to waive the advance deposit of one year's rent in the case of verumpattakar (inferior tenants).

Communist theoretician E.M.S. Namboodiripad raised in his dissenting opinion to the report of the committee the question of whether or not landlordism serves "any useful social function" or is rather "parasitic." Namboodiripad later (1954:19-20) explained his conclusion that landlordism was parasitic under modern conditions because of the withering of traditional landlord functions: "In mediaeval days, landlordism was a social, political and cultural institution, as well as economic. But shorn of all these functions, the Malabar janmis today are only dead corpses of their own forefathers." The vast sum collected by landlords was calculated by E.M.S. Namboodiripad (1943:19-20). He argued in social contractual terms that if vast payment were matched by performance of services (specifically analogous to the entrepreneur of industry, including advancing of working capital, construction of irrigation works, research into scientific agriculture, etc.), it would be justified. Since dead corpses "as a class" had ceased to perform traditional functions, and had taken up no modern ones, the institution of landlordism could not withstand scrutiny.

Focus on the aggregate rent collected by landlords created the coalition-building notion of a "rent fund" (cf Wolf 1966) concretely. The move to abolish landlords as a class, whether decadent or not, was a tactical ratchet which permitted the party to promise that distribution of a rent fund would satisfy the disparate claimants (whose class positions were objectively opposed to one another) in the coalition. (35)

Independence did not change a great deal for those at the bottom of the agrarian structure. Demonstrations on the issue of food availability and pricing, as well as militant intervention in food distribution continued. Slogans escalated to reflect the Calcutta thesis of the communist party ("land to the tiller and power to the people"), given overtones of genuine revolution by reflections of the armed struggle with the Government of India in Telengana ("Telengana way, our way") . (36) Unemployment and near- famine conditions continued to produce militant confrontations, deaths and martyrs. The Munayan Kunnu incident in north Malabar in April of 1948 was held by Malabar activists to have the "same place in Kerala politics as that of Vayalar [in Travancore]" (Nayanar 1982:80), though with much less loss of life. [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 22]

After a period under ban during the "left adventurist" (armed insurrectionary) period of early Independence, the Communist party emerged again in a constitutional role in the early 1950s; the peasant movement "rose up from its own ashes" (Nayanar 1982:81). Unity with peasant organizations of the Congress and the Indian Socialist Party (Kisan Congress and Kisan Panchayat respectively) were attempted but failed. (37) The party's Malabar wing gained great prestige in hosting the Eleventh All-India Kisan Sammelan in Malabar in 1953. The conference site was significantly named "Kayyoor Nagar (city)" in memory of the Kayoor martyrs (ibid:82).

Until its final amendment in 1954, the Malabar Tenancy Act remained the centerpiece of struggles specifically focused on land. The 1951 amendment prompted more of the agitations and petitions which had begun around the turn of the century. Significantly, the 1954 Amendment granted most of the minimalist claims of the tenantry (falling short of "death to landlordism"), including new fair rent provisions, strengthening protections from evictions, and abolishing the payment-in-advance provisions for verumpattakar. (38) The rent fund remained in the hands of landlords, though reduced in size (de jure) and with fewer levers available to ensure control of tenants. What remained was the final abolition of landlordism altogether.

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Ron Herring Broader Social Ecology and Political Structure

Features of the broader societal structure proved as important as narrowly agrarian structure in generating a leftist coalition. Political structure divided space in ways which permitted both learning across sub-political systems and mobilization of the left on issues of linguistic nationalism after independence. Economic structure facilitated both the emergence of a genuine worker-peasant alliance under communist leadership and intensification of commercialization forces which were present throughout the subcontinent in variable force.

Kerala was integrated into international trading networks at a very early date. Indeed, the Roman Empire worried about its terms of trade with the region. Trade wars among Arab forces and European companies extended commercial penetration from the sixteenth century. The extensive connection to international trade (coir, rubber, cardamom, pepper, ginger, etc.) was especially apparent in the depression of the 1930's, which produced severe dislocations and furthered leftist mobilization in Kerala (e.g. Paulini 1978:195; Kannan 1988:81-87; Menon 1994: 25-26, passim). From 1931 onwards, landless or virtually landless agricultural laborers increased dramatically both in absolute terms and as a percentage of agriculturalists (Raj and Tharakan 1983:35), concretely linking the non-agricultural distress to pressure on the agrarian structure. [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 23]

Early and penetrating commercialization was coupled with a settlement pattern which differentiates Kerala from much of India; rather than discrete villages of the modal sort, Kerala presents a continuous gradient of urban to peri-urban to rural communities. The agrarian poor often had one foot in economic activities associated with trade, simple agro-industrial processing (coir (coconut fiber] is archetypal), and small-scale industrial activities. The familiar leftist exhortation to form a "worker-peasant alliance" was achieved in part by the very structure of settlement patterns, physical ecology, economic activity and occupations (Herring 1996: Ch 2).

In contrast to Malabar, organized peasant revolts were largely absent in the princely states of Travancore and Cochin; T.K. Oommen correctly characterizes the major uprisings (the Kundara Declaration of Velu Thampi [1810-1819] and the Malayalee Memorial of 1891) as anti-imperialist struggles in which peasants participated, though their specific demands as peasants were not primary (1985:54). Travancore led the way in tenurial reforms, essentially as a part of the struggle to establish royal authority over local chiefs and stimulate commercial development. New regulations beginning in 1818 promoted recovery of "waste" lands for commercial crops. Pro-tenant regulations began in 1829 and were strengthened (de jure) in episodes of reforms which ratcheted down the tenurial ladder, beginning of course with the relatively powerful kanakkar. Land was concentrated under royal control and tenants in effect became tenants of the state, with permanent occupancy rights and low rents. Ownership of these lands was conferred on tenants of state lands in 1865, laying the base for what is usually considered a "peasant-proprietor" system, in stark contrast to that of Malabar. (39) In line with academic theory of the productivity consequences of tenurial systems, the government hoped through this arrangement to promote commercial agriculture, and did so effectively (Varghese 1970).

The land reforms of nineteenth-century Travancore were top- down, not a response to peasantist pressures, but rather an exercise in state formation and creation of property rights conducive to commercial development. Likewise, slavery was abolished in 1855 in Travancore, though most agricultural laborers continued to be attached to landowners in a "semi-slave status" (Oommen 1985:55). As the site of intensive commercialization and early capitalist development, Travancore witnessed extraordinary social mobility (both up and down) which disrupted the traditional caste occupational structure and intensified the process of proletarianization (Kannan 1988: 38-88).

Like Travancore, regulations in Cochin (Kochi) offered nominal protection for the upper stratum of tenants in the nineteenth century, though with minimal implementation. T.K. Oommen (1985:58) argues that these minimal protections help explain the [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 24] relatively quiescent state of agrarian relations in Cochin (as in Travancore). To this explanation must be added one of relative economic opportunity, particularly in Travancore, as new commercial development of lands claimed by the state provided outlets for surplus mercantile capital and some employment for labor. Moreover, the extraordinary outbreak of evictions noted in Malabar was muted in the southern regions. Certainly landlordism as a social system was neither so dominant nor oppressive as in Malabar.

Reforms in indirectly ruled Travancore and Cochin gave impetus to popular opposition to the lagging response of the colonial state in Malabar. This spread effect was fortified by the activities of the Congress, which connected Malabar activists not only with their counterparts in other Malayalam speaking areas, but with those of all-Indian perspective and experience. Finally, and most important for mobilization on the left, protections in the southern regions were poorly enforced, creating the need for popular militance to enforce nominal benefits. Such protections also did not reach down the tenurial and social ladder; land to the tiller remained an attractive mobilizing force. Finally, limited reforms did not prevent increased proletarianization over time, nor general immiserization during periodic crises (most notably the depression of the 1930s). Rural radicalism in Travancore and Cochin was in any event more integrated with working class militance and anti-authoritarian demands for popular rule (Herring 1996: Ch 2).

Political structure mattered fundamentally after Independence. Many of the dynamics described above -- leftist success in an exploitative agrarian structure -- were present in Thanjavur (Tanjore) district as well (Bouton 1985). Under colonial rule, Malabar was but one district of the Madras Presidency, distant from the capital in Madras, and from Thanjavur. Malabar was easy for the Presidency to ignore. After Independence, Malabar was joined to Kerala State, uniting left movements over the entire area in which Malayalam is spoken and adding a more militant agrarian base to Kerala's populace. Thanjavur remained an isolated outpost of agrarian radicalism in the State of Tamilnadu. This conjunctural reorganization of political space explains much of the success of radical mobilization in Kerala and its failure in neighboring Tamilnadu.

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Left and Right on the Agrarian Question

Differences in ability to address expressed grievances and organize around radical programs are rooted in both the social theories and social bases of the contending groups which later became the Congress Party and the Communist Party which emerged from its umbrella. In Kerala, the split between radicals and conservatives in the Congress movement began early and was expressed in continuing struggles for control of the organization [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 25] and its tactics. The Moplah rebels were branded indelibly with the mark of violence and class conflict, tactics repeatedly disavowed by All-India Congress leadership and by Mahatma Gandhi in particular. Moreover, the Congress connection with local notables rendered an alliance with peasant radicalism impossible practically. Gandhi's theory of exploitation was palatable, if not universally acceptable, to landed elites: landlordism as usually practiced was indeed exploitative, Gandhi argued, not from any "inherent necessity," but rather because of the moral defects of certain landlords (defects which were corrigible through suasion and enlightenment). Gandhi's theory of "trusteeship" explicitly allowed for maintenance of traditional class divisions and privileges, though optimally with reforms in the moral economy of the overlords. (40)

Gandhi himself recognized that the Congress represented "no immediate menace" to wealthy merchants, landlords, and industrialists (Thorner 1980:47). Indeed, given the colonial state's periodic attempts to reform agrarian relations, some landlords found it advantageous to keep a hand in politically through the Congress (McLane 1978:211).

Tactically and philosophically, the Indian National Congress was not a revolutionary movement, but rather a reformist and anti-colonial one. In the developing leftist analysis, the abuses of landlordism were not simply manifestations of aberrant, morally-deficient landowners. Rather, landlordism was perceived in structural, systemic terms: a social system sustained by colonial rule and ultimately guaranteed by force. In this analysis, landlordism was a multi-faceted institution inextricably intertwined with caste indignities (which were more severe and extreme in Kerala than elsewhere), economic exploitation, political inequality and imperialism: a social system which tenure reform alone could not dissolve. (41)

The leftists did use land-tenure reform (security of use- rights and rental controls) as a mobilizing issue, but not as end in itself; rather, they employed a continuous ratchet-effect strategy. As the colonial government made minimal concessions (such as the Malabar Tenancy Act of 1930), leftists mobilized for extension of the concessions to lower layers of the peasantry and simultaneously organized both for effective implementation of the limited relief provisions and against the multifaceted social manifestations of landlordism (Radhakrishnan 1980; Koshy 1976:110-16).

The combination of economic exploitation and social oppressionof the agrarian underclasses arguably produced unique conditions for the revolutionary force born of what Barrington Moore, Jr. has termed "moral outrage." The outrage was generated not only by the continuing presence of debt-bondage, slavery, and serfdom at the very bottom and by deterioration of traditional [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 26] security and economic rights of middle sectors, exacerbated by the world depression of the 1930s, but also by the extreme manifestations of non-economic inequality. Peasants of the lower orders were degraded and humiliated by such practices as "untouchability," which prevented certain groups from using public roads, entering temples, approaching "clean caste" members, covering certain parts of their bodies with clothing, using certain water supplies, etc. The rural poor were subjected to severe oppression such as sexual exploitation of women and brutal beatings, as well as to petty significations of inferior status, such as not being allowed to wear shoes or long wraps (lungis). (42)

Solutions proposed by the Congress to the social indignities of the depressed castes/classes did not address the experience of multi-faceted exploitation and sometimes boomeranged. Communist leader E.K. Nayanar recounted a formative experience from his youth active in the Congress movement. Congress workers promoting the liquor-prohibition movement asked an elderly peasant not to take a drink. He responded:

"You sons of rich landlords need no liquor. Those like me who work hard from morning to evening do need it. Only then can we prepare ourselves for work the next day. What we earn by such hard work, you drain from us as rent and other payments... Even after this perpetual hard work we are poor. our only enjoyment is toddy. Won't you let us enjoy this humble refreshment? We don't want your Congress. Will you let us draw drinking water from your wells. No... You will not let us live on this earth (Nayanar 1982:7)."

Nayanar's experience with the Congress prohibition campaign is symptomatic of the confrontations of leftists with the Congress in several ways. Reformist agitations not only brought him into contact with peasants as individuals, but exposed hypocrisy within the reformist movement: "Many who joined us to picket the [toddy] shops would have liquor brought to them in the evening and drink. This nauseated me. I hated these hypocrites (Nayanar 1982:8)." Even those who hated the communists acknowledged their sincerity, self-denial and personal integrity -- all values central to the Congress movement ideologically. Leftist leaders acknowledge the extraordinary impact of Gandhi and the Gandhians in introducing new forms of public protest and legitimating idealism, generating enthusiasm and nurturing activism in Malabar. What limited their support for the Gandhian position was the limits placed on the scope of organization, tactics and substantive issues important to the people with whom they were encouraged to work.

Linkages to a national anti-colonial movement thus aided enormously in the leftist mobilization-The umbrella Congress provided organizational structures and mass energy. Yet its [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 27] refusal to allow those energies to develop independently of movement elites and their particular ideology provided a mobilizational niche for a party to its left, analogous to the structural niche opened by colonial land policy effecting the "great transformation."

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Radical Strategy, Ratchet Tactics

Sustaining the agrarian coalition -- divided by community, class, individual interests and objectives (e.g. Menon 1994) -- necessitated tactical wisdom. Land reform was central to the solution of collective action problems among "the peasantry" of Kerala historically.

Jawaharlal Nehru termed the land question the central issue in building a democratic and progressive republic capable of economic growth. Because the Indian Constitution is federal, and allocates to the states responsibility for land reform, the directives of the Congress-dominated Centre (Delhi) during its flirtation with land reform have been only imperfectly, if at all, translated into law by Congress-dominated State governments. For at least three decades after Independence, there was persistent hand-wringing in Delhi over the failure of conservative State-level elites affiliated with the Congress to translate proclaimed policy into results on the ground; part of this concern, explicitly articulated by Indira Gandhi, is that the failure of land reforms, and the consequent increasing disparities in life chances in rural India, produces political instability and the opportunity for radical parties to mobilize the rural poor (Herring 1983:4-8;125-152). In Kerala, Indira Gandhi's fears are born out by history, reaching back to the early concerns of William Logan as a colonial officer on the periphery.

Bhabani Sen Gupta has argued that "land relationships happen to be the strongest determinant in political alignments at the state level" (1972:290). Though controversial, this statement captures the core of the historical development of a powerful communist movement in Kerala. Clearly there were other issues (see Nossiter 1981 for an encyclopedic cataloging), but questions of forms of landed property and its relation to market forces generated the organizational base without which communist electoral power would have been impossible. That the land issue was central is buttressed by the astounding electoral performance of the communists after their first ministry was dismissed by Delhi, when issues of colonialism were long passed (Herring 1983: Chapter 6).

But promising and delivering land reform are no mean tasks. There are always too many claimants, rooted in powerful claims of moral economy. "Peasants" have both other interests and competitive relations to one another. [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 28]

Tactics on the left thus necessitated a combination of ratchet and inclusionary elements; for those protected by popular struggles won (eg the kanakkar), the movement then offered the means to benefit from mere legislative victories. T.K. Oommen (1985:56-57) notes that the legal victories of tenants in Travancore and Cochin were frequently rendered infructuous by "the class character of the State bureaucracy -- particularly the revenue administration and judiciary..." which remained elitist and could subvert implementation in the absence of "any militant and conscious peasant movement." Subversion of minimal legislative remedy was even more evident in Malabar. Ratchet tactics recognize that full protection of de jure gains, even limited gains, required continuous mobilization to expand the weight of society against the local state and elites to create secure rights. In a capitalist society, such rights come with ownership. Hence the escalation to "land to the tiller" -- the final affirmation of rights of tenants via transformation through complex intermediary stages to fee simple property. An interest in politics of the left was thus created for tenants regardless of the despotic benevolence of Travancore and (to a lesser extent) Cochin. The failure of markets to provide meaningful subsistence alternatives for the bottom of those societies provided impetus for a radicalization over time similar to that of Malabar. (43)

Limited rights thus continued the identification of objective interests of tenants with the left so long as the coalition did not address redistribution of the profits of agriculturalists. This potential cleavage was covered by the movement from redistributive issues against landlords to redistributive issues defined in opposition to the state. But if ratchets gave additional security and retained incentives for the tenantry to stay with the left, expansion gave incentives for lower social classes to join the struggle: the unemployed, the socially despised, the landless. Their interests in objective economic restructuring were paralleled by a cultural interest in abolishing the disabilities and indignities imposed by economic and social superiors.

Ratchet and inclusionary/expansionary politics focused on the disentangling of land as a "bundle of rights" (Baden-Powell 1892). Colonial land policy had collapsed the bundle and concentrated rights in a simple commodity called land, which could be owned and subjected to market principles like any other factor of production. Yet the specific strands of that bundle -- to evict tenants, to prevent collection of forest materials, to hoard the land's product, to brutalize labor -- were disputed in the traditional moral economy and hence provided grounds for mobilization through interpretation as exploitation.

Uncultivated land stands as a metaphor for ratchet politics in general; both government and landlord fallows were militantly [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 29] encroached by the landless. State and landlord were not only structurally and functionally interdependent, as the Mappilas recognized, but the moral economy of both coincided to delegitimize the claims of the landless. There was not a great deal of difference between colonial and independent state on this score. The left gained from this issue by preventing a rupture in their coalition; rather than facing the divisive issue of who would benefit from track one reforms (targeted, legalistic, electoral), the left instead linked general economic disaster to visible symbols (after all, the Namboodiris named themselves "gods on earth") and restitution to distributive issues outside the coalition. Without lord and (colonial) state there would be land and wages to go around, as in the mythic times of the rule of Mahabeli.

Agrarian rejection of the great transformation wrought by British policy in Malabar varied in form, but contributed to creation of a broad social movement characterized by radicalism. The Mappila uprisings -- "not mere riots or affrays, but murderous outrages, such as have no parallel in any other parts of Her Majesty's dominions" (Wood 1987:132) -- were ultimately suicidal, but taught both the colonial state and peasant leaders lessons. Though tenurial grievances figured in the Mappila's outrage (as the state rejected petitions for redress and landlords joined the state as targets of attack), the participants were a collection of flotsam and jetsam cast off by a society undergoing profound change, reflecting neither a coherent class position nor a political program. Yet subsequent movements built on the core of outrage and tactics established by the Mappilas -- from targeting of the most reprehensible landlords to memorialization of martyrs.

The subsequent progression of the Malabar peasantry's organizational and programmatic struggle from jacquerie to electoral power is encapsulated in the transition of titles of the first newspaper of the movement founded in the 1920s: Kudiyan, meaning "tenant," gave way to Krishikaran, meaning "farmer" or "agriculturalist," launched in 1952. The specifically "tenant" origins of the movement had expanded to debt relief, government aid to agriculture, traditional commons rights for gathering fuel and timber, rural unemployment, control of food prices and black marketeering and a host of subsidiary issues. The radical content of "land to the tiller and power to the people" was paralleled by a more conservative ratchet politics, in which concessions wrung from the government are expanded both to make meaningful the previous concessions granted and to extend the agitation to a broader base. Expansion of the social base and retention of those for whom the ratchet had worked necessitated expansion of issues.

Thus the Malabar Tenancy Act of 1930 was a measure for "superior tenants" (kannakar), but realization of its benefits [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 30] required measures of debt relief, taxation limits, and social curbs on the real power of landlords on the ground. Simultaneously, agitations for amendments to the Act created new collective interests (those of verumpattakar) while retaining a core of previous beneficiaries -- whose de facto benefits depended on continued mobilization of local countervailing power. As slogans radicalized, most clearly in the very first years of Independence, the promise to strata below the tenants was more implied and general than specific: abolition of landlordism or landlord fallow would provide new lands even as attacks on hoarders and black marketeers promised that a moral economy other than the market would govern distribution. The bloody uprising at Punnapra-Vayalar was neither tenant-led nor based, but rather a broad attack on colonial state and market-driven determinations of want and privilege.

By the 1950's, revolution had receded to a rhetorical flourish superimposed on electoral politics rooted in tactical support from the agrarian poor, working class and radical intelligentsia (Sathyamurthy 1985). The legacies of agrarian mobilization prior to and immediately following the first communist electoral victory in 1957 are both social and ideological. To an extent unmatched in the rest of the subcontinent, political elites learned that agrarian grievances must be answered; the rural poor would not accept inaction or retrenchment of hard-won rights. Parties of the right learned the value of rural mobilization and of at least symbolic commitment to redistribution. Perhaps the most extraordinary feature of debates on land reform in the Legislative Assembly in the 1960s and 1970s was the consensus that appearing to be on the side of reform was a political asset, not a liability (Herring 1983: Chapter 7). Political parties across the ideological spectrum followed the communists in establishing first peasant associations and then agricultural workers unions (Herring 1989).

The material consequences were primarily organizational; the left in rural Kerala became a real social force in the political morphology. The cultural effects of this force were that the very bottom of society began to believe that in combination, and with sufficient militancy, they could exercise power, both defensively and progressively. Later generations of politicians attempted to answer the rural underclasses with a shift from the agrarian question to agricultural development, from redistribution to distribution, from moral economy to growth, but understood that they could not be ignored.

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Collective Action of "the Peasantry"

Agrarian mobilization of such duration and persistent strength presents a nested problem of collective action. There is no such thing as the "peasantry" of organicist social theory. (44) The peasantry is not only class-stratified, but composed of [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 31] individuals with multiple identifications, all of which are potentially (and empirically) important for political action. For mobilization to succeed, individuals must determine in large numbers that identification of interests as "peasants" overrides, at least temporarily, class interests which are contradictory; that these aggregate identifications of interest will be primary in regard to political action; that sufficient others will so identify; that some specific presentation of collective interests is consonant with identified interests; and that the extraordinary risks of confrontation should be born.

Failure to win periodic victories threatens disintegration of the collective project; winning victories threatens withdrawal of winners. A structural feature of landlordism the massive "rent fund" collected by landlords as a class -- provided a mechanism to facilitate collective action in face-to-face communities. First, abolition and redistribution of the rent fund offered selective incentives to inferior tenants and laborers whose objective interests were in conflict with those of the superior tenants. Secondly, the rent fund presupposed and symbolically stood for landlordism as a social system; targeting of multidimensionally egregious behavior of landlords knit together stratified layers of the unprivileged. These efforts at collective action cannot be understood absent the historical conjunctures which drove them -- the great depression and colonial rule in particular -- or the political project of the insurgent Congress leftists who turned communists (Herring 1996: Ch 2).

Solution of the collective action problem for the peasantry thus required both long-standing structural fact -- the "rent fund" -- and the conjunctural evolution of a political party rooted organically in the villages with both appropriate theory and tactical space. Consider the contrast to villagers of Malaysia as described by James Scott (1985). One important reason for resort to "weapons of the weak" is the absence of a political party which put land reform forward as a credible political project (1985: 81, passim). Tenants and landless workers in Sedaka desired land reform, but would have been foolish to believe either of the two political parties would pursue it even if they promised it. (45)

Redistribution of land rights is one prominent strand of the argument that peasant mobilization depends on selective incentives in the rational-choice tradition (Lichbach 1994). But that perspective naively assumes that political entrepreneurs are free to choose maximizing strategies with no reference to their social base or (consequent) credibility. Here Popkin's view of political entrepreneurs is decidedly superior (1979: Chapter 6): credible proposals that have some probability of solving the assurance problem derive from demonstrated political wisdom, derived from practice and bolstered by resonance with cultural [Herring - Mobilization ++Page 32] norms of integrity.

The ratchet and inclusionary tactics of the left came undone with the final abolition of landlordism in the 1970s; it became apparent that future redistribution of land was tactically impossible and that the landless could be answered only at the cost of alienation of their former (and dominant) allies -holders of landed rights. The agrarian culmination of these alliances came in the form of separate legislative enactments for tenants (abolition of landlordism) and for the numerically dominant class of laborers (the remarkable Agricultural Workers Act granting permanency of employment and other anomalous benefits). (46) The land reforms thus created a new structure of interests and thus a new form of agrarian politics: Marshallian dilemmas for the left and a stalemated class conflict on the ground (cf Herring 1989). Whether cr not new solutions to the collective action problem in the form of pie-expansion social democracy will determine the future of the left and the fate of the economy (cf Heller 1995).

If there is a lesson here for theories of collective action, it is that parsimony may not be an unalloyed good. The long experience of peasant mobilization in Kerala depended not only on central facets of agrarian structure -- which is historically given and not easily reducible to choice in any endogenous way -- but on broader social ecology and political structure as well. Solution to the collective action problem could not rely on selective incentives, but did depend on organic political theory derived from praxis. "Moral outrage" was as important as material interest in motivating powerless people to face a repressive social order in rational expectation of deprivation or worse. Choice presupposes structure; structure in turn depends for its effect on a double cognitive filter -- what is right, what will work -- which has an irreducibly contextual element. The nomothetic quest of social science is best leavened by a language of conjuncture and context.

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1. Ladejinsky's article was picaresquely entitled: "The Plow Outbids the Sword in Asia: How General MacArthur Stole Communist Thunder with Democratic Land Reforms, Our Most Potent Weapon for Peace," Country Gentleman (now Farm Journal , June 1951. A year later came a companion piece, "Too Late to Save Asia?" For more on the theme, see McCoy (1971). [BACK]

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2. For sources and discussion, see Hart and Herring (1977:233-41). On the failure of reforms after the partially successful abolition of "intermediaries," cf Herring (1983: Chapter 5). A crucial distinction between "zamindari abolition" and the Kerala reforms is the elimination of the institution of tenancy in the latter. [BACK]

3. This simple fact undermines the logic of "selective incentives" as a solution to the collective action problem in peasant mobilization -- as proposed, for example, by Mark I. Lichbach, "What Makes Rational Peasants Revolutionary? Dilemma, Paradox, and Irony in Peasant Collective Action," World Politics [BACK]

4. For a broader discussion, see Herring (1983: Chapters 3 and 6); Herring (1989a). The empirical results of field work on the political effects of embourgeoisement are presented in Herring 1991, Chapter 2. Despite current disinterest in Land reform, the empirical case remains strong; see Michael Lipton, "Land Reform as Commenced Business: The Evidence Against Stopping," World Development vol 21 no 4 1993 pp 641-658. For critical views of West Bengal in this regard, see Ross Mallick, Development Policy of a Communist Government: West Bengal Since 1977 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). [BACK]

5. As will become apparent in the text, "nationalism" was in effect anti-imperialism, or more specifically, a complex of moral outrage against specific connections between the colonial state and individual life-chances. Agitations against the colonial state continued in form after independence, precisely because the local experience of state intrusion, repression and intransigence continued to generate anger and niches for organization. Subnationalism was a source of communist success, potentiated by the niche provided by the peculiar organization of political space which was a residue of colonial rule. [BACK]

6. On the process in Kerala, Varghese (1970: 29, 41, passim): for an argument that the process is more generic, based on evidence from an adjoining region, Scott (1976). See on Malabar Koshy 1976:51-69; Kurup 1981; Paulini 1978: Chapter 1. [BACK]

7. Use of the European concept of feudalism is always problematic in the Indic context. "Feudalism" in political rhetoric, planning documents of the first two decades of independence, and many academic treatments simply means the existence of sharecropping or traditional landlord-tenant relations. Much mischief has thus been done by imprecise application. There is nothing to be gained from rehearsal of the "mode-of-production" debate which energized subcontinental scholarship for a time. In the context of Kerala, feudalism clearly contained the core elements of political decay and decentralization implied by the usage of Marc Bloc, as well as the "unfreedom" and "personal dependence" stressed by Marx as resulting from "the attachment of men as an adjunct to the land." As Hobsbawm (1965:42 ff) notes, Marx was more concerned with what feudalism spawned than with precise analysis of its defining features. Variations within European feudalism (eg Anderson, 1974: Part II) in any case prevent any strict derivation of necessary components to define the concept. That individuals were "attached" as "an adjunct to the land" and experienced "personal unfreedom" dissimilar to that of commoditized markets in labor characteristic of capitalism seems clear. [BACK]

8. Logan (1887:67 1) argues that the derivation of pattam , which has come to mean "rent, " lies in the combination of padu (authority's) and varam (share). In any event, what is clearly true is that the kanakkar's appropriation of pattam as rent was tantamount to expropriation of public revenue, only a part of which was traditionally due the Nairs as payment for their supervisory and executive functions under feudal arrangements. [BACK]

9. Hardgrave 1977; Panikkar 1979; Radhakrishnan 1980; Panikkar 1989:139-190 and discussion below. [BACK]

10. Jacquerie connotes spontaneous combustion of peasant anger, derived from the uprisings which began in Beauvais, north of Paris, in 1358. The name itself originally meant a collection of Jacques, which is, like Jacques Bonhomme, patois for a French peasant. [BACK]

[Herring - Mobilization ++Page 39]

11. 11. Literally, "holders of a naked lease." Verumpattakar were closer in the traditional system to "inferior tenants" or share tenants than were kanakkar, who resembled mortgagees as much as tenants and had traditional expectations about heritability and assured renewal (at 12-year intervals) of their lease. The British recognized kanakkar as tenants rather than as holders of usufructuary mortgages. [BACK]

12. Panikkar (1989:12-16). The common demon in increased agrarian pressure is population increase; it is important to note that destruction of non-agricultural jobs creates the same effects, but engenders a greater sense of deprivation. [BACK]

13. Calculations from Table 1.2 in Panikkar (1989:16). The absolute level of land revenue collections was fairly constant over this period (despite fluctuations in yields) and was even somewhat lower than in the 1809-1813 period. [BACK]

14. In Panikkar (1989:17). By mid-nineteenth century, the taxes which aroused so much anger amounted to a fourth of the land revenue and 15 percent of district revenue. [BACK]

15. In Panikkar (1989:16). It should not be assumed that the "lower orders" which concerned Graeme were well off in the pre-colonial period, as agrestic slavery clearly kept a good fraction of the population at bare subsistence. The destruction of jobs and survival niches such as handicrafts certainly made poverty more open and observable, and probably more extensive. [BACK]

16. 16. The literature on the uprisings is extensive; a brief summary is available in Hart and Herring (1977:256- 59). Panikkar's 1989 treatment is the best available to my knowledge. [BACK]

17. "Frenzy" (hal illakkam in Malayalam) was the frequently used official prose. [BACK]

18. An excellent summary is available in Hardgrave (1977). Contrast the treatments of Dale (1980) and Arnold (1982). [BACK]

19. Conrad Wood gives an example which illustrates this point nicely. Three participants in the 1852 outbreak were officially classified as "day labourers," but their father was a vermupattakkaran who had been evicted "from a plot he had held for many years (1978:146). Wood (ibid 133) summarizes the status of participants as"wage-workers [field laborers, porters, timber-floaters], poor tenants, ... mullas of barely-distinguishable economic standing, criminals on the point of having their careers cut short by authority, the chronically diseased, and men who were rather more comfortably-off but who, often, had experienced economic decline." Official accounts add "mendicants and others of the lowest class, living from hand to mouth." [BACK]

20. Cited in Wood (1978:140). A "parrah" (para) is a unit of volume (about 2000 cc.) of paddy weighing about 7.5 kilograms. The area of rice fields is frequently measured by the volume of seed necessary to plant it; the area referred to in the text is probably about one-half an acre, though actual sizes of paras and planting ratios varied locally. [BACK]

21. On the 1921 rebellion, see Hardgrave (1977); Hitchcock (1925); Panikkar (1989:131-190). [BACK]

22. The term is Hobsbawm's. Conrad Wood uses the example of Athan Gurikal to illustrate the social banditry component of the movement. His "gang" supported itself by levies on rich landlords and Gurikal "set himself up as champion of the oppressed Moplahs, among whom he enjoyed great prestige" (1978:143-144). Social banditry is redistributive and hostile to property relations established by the state (and thus to the state), but is "pre-political" in the sense that no positive political project is entailed. [BACK]

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23. For example, "the outcome of early efforts to restore law and order in Ernad resulted in fanatical outbursts among the ignorant Mappillas (Hitchcock 1925:16). Government policy from the mid-nineteenth century had been to fine whole areas for disorder, spreading discontent from activists to the general population, to disarm and deport activists and to impose stiff jail sentences. [BACK]

24. 24. Contemporary accounts of Palestinian martyrs exhibit exactly the same dynamics as those in the text. Suicide assures community support of the family of the martyr, who enjoys extra-terrestrial benefits after death. [BACK]

25. This account does not deny Menon's (1994) emphasis on expansion of opportunities in Malabar in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries until the bust of the Depression. The moral economy of winners is always more plastic than that of losers -- a major conclusion of Jim Scott's study of the "green revolution" in Malaysia. [BACK]

26. Jeffrey (eg 1978) argues that the success of communism in Kerala is a Nair phenomenon, driven by the dissolution of the Nair joint family. The problem is that it takes more than disaffected elites to accomplish mobilization and that much of the discontent of Nairs had precisely to do with land relations, with or without dissolution of joint families. [BACK]

27. See Paulini (1978:168); Fic (1970: Chapter 2); Gopalan (1973: Chapter 8); Radhakrishnan (1989: 75-94); Karat (1976). [BACK]

28. Gopalan (1973); compare the position of "Master" in the incident of the Kayoor martyrs (Niranjana 1977). [BACK]

29. Karat (1976); Kannan (1988:82-87); Radhakrishnan (1989:89). [BACK]

30. The account of later Chief Minister E.K. Nayanar (1982:8-9) illustrates how he as a youth was drawn into the radical wing of the Congress through the youth association, hunger marches and reading rooms. On hunger marches, see the work of one of the major organizers, A.K. Gopalan (1973). Also, Radhakrishnan (1989:9495). [BACK]

31. The first two were written by K. Damodaran, the latter by Edasseri. [BACK]

32. Cf Namboodiripad (1943); Kannan (1988:117,121); Oommen (1985:50-53). [BACK]

33. Rasul (1974:97). The incident involved the death of a policeman who was believed to have molested a peasant woman. Though identification of culprits was virtually impossible, as admitted by the trial judge, four young karshaka sangham activists were accused and executed. Reflecting a theme of the Mappila uprisings, the authorities of the Cannanore jail refused to release the bodies of the martyrs despite the demands of 3,000 peasants assembled to demand the corpses, which were "disposed of" on jail grounds. In terms of contemporary wage rates for agricultural laborers, the British trade unionist contribution would exceed Rs one lakh (100,000). [BACK]

34. Gopalan (1973); Radhakrishnan (1989:94). [BACK]

35. See Herring 1989 for field evidence of the bitterness of landless laborers when the promised distribution of the rent fund was prevented by the superior power of former tenants (now landowners) in the party. [BACK]

36.. See the discussion in Radhakrishnan (1989:102-105); Nayanar (1982: 77-84). [BACK]

37. Nayanar (1982: 81). Note that the competing organizations retained their symbolic attachment to Congress symbolism by employing the Hindi word kisan rather than the Malayalam karshaka used by the communists. [BACK]

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38. On the history of the Malabar Tenancy Act, see Varghese (1970); M.A. Oommen (1971;1975); Radhakrishnan (1989:75-105). [BACK]

39. This perception is not altogether accurate, at least by the 1950s; see Herring (1983:Chapter 6). [BACK]

40. On Gandhi's conservative position on peasant movements, Dhanagare (1975); on landlords, Gandhi (1966:233-40, 248-50); on "trusteeship," Gandhi (1970). Bhabani Sen Gupta (1972:289) also notes the importance of Gandhi's retreats from peasant militancy, and treats the weakness of the peasant movement on the All-India level (Chapter 8). [BACK]

41. For an expanded view of this perception, and its concrete implications, see the following works of early communist activists and party leaders: Gopalan (1973: Chapters 8, 9); Krishnan (1971:44 et passim); Namboodiripad (1968:97 et passim; 1981); Nayanar (1982). On social disabilities and indignities imposed on the lower orders, Saradamoni (1980); Aiyappan (1965). [BACK]

42. Cf. Saradamoni (1980); Aiyappan (1965); George (1975:16 et passim); Pillai (1967); Rajendran (1978:829); Thomas (1984); Menon (1994: 2, 18-19, passim). Accounts by activists in the labor movement in Padoor provide more concrete local examples (see Herring 1996: Chapter 6). [BACK]

43. For a correction to the common misperception that Travancore and Cochin had healthy agrarian structures, see the data in Herring 1983:160. [BACK]

44. Dilip Menon's (1994) treatment of Malabar takes as its central problematic the conjunctural nature of "community" formation from divergent individual interests. [BACK]

45. This is not the only difference of course; in Sedaka, a state-run economy which is rich, welfarist, and growing softens the edge of capitalism in a setting of a difficult but not awful land-person ratio. Largesse for patronage channels spoils to the poor via the dominant (UMNO) party (Scott 1985:5254). Ethnic politics mitigates market forces. [BACK]

46. For an empirical treatment, see chapter 5 of Herring 1991. [BACK]

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T.J. Nossiter, 1981, Communism in Kerala (Berkeley: University of California).

T.J. Nossiter, 1988, Marxist State Governments in India (London: Pinter).

T.K. Oommen, 1984, Social Transformation in Rural India (New Delhi: Vikas).

T.K. Oommen, 1976, "Problems of Building Agrarian Organizations in Kerala," Sociologia Ruralis XVI:3.

T.K. Oommen, 1985, From Mobilization to Institutionalization: The Dynamics of Agrarian Movement in Twentieth Century Kerala (Bombay: Popular Prakashan).

K. N. Panikkar, 1979, "Peasant Revolts in Malabar in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries," in A. R. Desai, ed., Peasant Struggles in India (Bombay: Oxford University Press).

Panikkar, K.N. Against Lord and State: Religion and Peasant Uprisings in Malabar, 1836-1921. Delhi: Oxford University Press,1989.

[Herring - Mobilization ++Page 37]

S. Parameswaran, 1951, Peasant Question in Kerala (Bombay: People's Publishing House).

Thomas Paulini, 1979, Agrarian Movements and Reforms in India: The Case of Kerala (Saarbrucken: Verlag Breitenbach).

Thomas Paulini, 1978, "Agrarian Movements and Reforms in India: The Case of Kerala," Ph.D. Thesis, University of Stuttgart.

Karl Polanyi, 1957, The Great Transformation (Boston: Beacon Press).

B.A. Prakash, 1988, "Agricultural Backwardness of Malabar during the Colonial Period," Social Scientist 16:6-7 (June-July) pp 51-76.

P. Radhakrishnan, 1980, "Peasant Struggles and Land Reforms in Malabar," Economic and Political Weekly XV:50.

Radhakrishnan, P. Peasant Struggles, Land Reforms and Social Change: Malabar 1836-1982. London: Sage, 1989.

K. Saradamoni, 1980, Emergence of a Slave Caste: Pulayas of Kerala (New Delhi: People's Publishing House).

T.V. Sathyamurthy, 198S, India Since Independence: Studies in the Development of the Power of the State, Volume I, Centre-State Relations: The Case of Kerala (Delhi: Ajanta).

Bhabani Sen Gupta, 1972, Communism in Indian Politics (New York: Columbia University Press).

Eric R. Wolf, 1966, Peasants (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall).

__________________, 1969, Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century (New York: Harper and Row).

Donald S. Zagoria, 1971, "The Ecology of Peasant Communism in India," The American Political Science Review LXV:1 (March).
Ron Herring

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