Mr. Thaxton Brandeis University Politics 128 Fall, 2015 The Politics of Revolution: State Violence

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Mr. Thaxton Brandeis University

Politics 128 Fall, 2015

The Politics of Revolution: State Violence

and Insurgency in the Third World
This course is an introduction to twentieth century revolutions in the third (agrarian) world. The purpose of the course is to acquaint you with several instances of revolution, and to encourage you to use theory to investigate and explain at least one of those instances or a specific theme in one or several instances.
The course has two specific goals. The first is to understand the origins, growth, and victory of rural based revolutions. In pursuing this goal, we will address the question of why rural people have been willing to die in revolution, and you will be expected to answer from the experiences of peasant cultures as well as your own. We also are interested in why the insurgent champions of basic human rights have sometimes turned into violent abusers of such rights in the course of, or shortly after, revolutionary struggles and victories.
The second goal is to weigh the utility of several contending theoretical approaches to rural based insurgency and revolution. Here we will pay special attention to those theories which best illustrate revolutionary causes, processes, and outcomes. The course also deals with cases where active rebellion has not produced a revolutionary victory (the Philippines, Colombia, Peru) as well as the cases of revolutionary success (China, Cuba, and Vietnam).
This course focuses almost entirely on the emergence of resistance and revolution in the world beyond the West, and includes the political experiences of country dwellers in Mexico, Columbia, Peru, China, Algeria, Cuba, Vietnam, the Philippines, Nepal, Afghanistan, Tunisia, etc. We will, however, discuss one case of "peasant revolt" in the West with an eye toward exploring the utility of non-Western traditional vs. Western modern dichotomies; and we will read one book on survival and resistance in the agrarian interior of the United States. We also will study embedded cultures of dissent, and ask whether insurgents were or were not able to resonate with these cultures and thereby legitimate their causes in the cultural realm.
There will be a two-part mid-term exam (50% of your grade), and one ten page term paper (50% of your grade). Participation in class discussion of books and films will also be factored in your grade, and such participation can only enhance your grade.
The dates for the two part mid-term exam will be announced in class, and you will have ample time to prepare for each. One of the mid-term exams most likely will be a take-home exam.
I will guide your choice of the term paper topic. You are urged to attend class on a regular basis to make the most of my guidance. A 2-5 page outline of your term paper topic is

required. The outline should state the topic, articulate the thesis or hypothesis you are exploring, and list the sources you have read or you intend to read. I will review your term paper outline and return it to you with comments and suggestions. The final ten page version of your page term paper is due in class and in e-mail ( on Thursday December 3 at 8 p.m. Late papers will incur a grade penalty, so be sure that you turn your paper in on time.

In addition to the key readings listed below, we also will view and discuss several films on oppression and repression, on dissent, resistance, and rebellion from below. Please do not purchase your books until after the first class meeting.

There are five required (Req.) books, and two strongly recommended readings:

  1. Frederic Engels, The Peasant War in Germany (Req.) (On Germany)

2. Sven Lindqvist, Exterminate All The Brutes (Req.) (On the Congo) CLASS DISCUSSION

3. E.J. Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels (Strongly Recommended.)
4. James C. Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant (Req.) (On Southeast Asia)
5a. B. Traven, Government (Req.) (On Mexico) CLASS DISCUSSION


5b. Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses (Req.) (On Rural Arizona) CLASS DISCUSSION
6. Eric Wolf, Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century (Req.) (On Mexico, China, Russia,

Algeria, Cuba, and Vietnam) Read only the introduction, 2 case studies of your choice, and the conclusion.

Recommended Readings:

John Walton, Reluctant Rebels (Strongly Recommended)

John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution
Jaymie Heilman, Before the Shining Path
Ben Kerkvliet, The Huk Rebellion
Ranajit Guha, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Strongly Recommended)
Steven J. Stern, ed., Shining and Other Paths
Order of Readings
I. Defining and Conceptualizing Revolution: Key Issues In the Course
Engels, The Peasant War in Germany (All).
Lindqvist, Exterminate All the Brutes (All). CLASS DISCUSSION

II. Introduction to Peasantry and Everyday Forms of Resistance in the Third World

Rene Dumont, "Agriculture as Man's Transformation of the Rural Environment." pp. 141-149 and Basile Kerblay, "Chayanov and the Theory of Peasantry as a Specific Type of Economy," pp. 150-160 in Theodore Shanin, ed., Peasants and Peasant Societies.
James C. Scott and Benedict J. Tria Kerkvliet (eds.) "Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance in Southeast Asia," Journal of Peasant Studies, Vol. 13, No. 2, 1986, pp. 1-34.
R. Guha, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India (Rec., All)

B. Traven, Government (All) CLASS DISCUSSION

Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses (All) CLASS DISCUSSION
III. Peasant Rebellions: Uprisings of the Powerless (LOSERS)
Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels (All).
IV. Half-Way Houses: Banditry
E. J. Hobsbawm, Bandits (Rec.)
V. Rebellion, Subsistence, and Remedialist Politics
Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant (All)

VI. Accommodations with the State: Repression and Reforms

Wolf, Peasant Wars (Mexico). (Recommended)


John Walton, Reluctant Rebels, Chapter 2 on the Huk Rebellion in the Philippines;

Or Chapter 3 on La Violencia in Colombia; or Chapter 4 on the Mau Mau Revolt in Kenya. (Recommended)
VII. Violence and Revolutionary Warfare in the Third World
Wolf, Peasant Wars (China, Algeria, Cuba).
Fanon, Wretched of the Earth (Rec.)
Guevara, Episodes in the Revolutionary War, (Rec.)
Linda L. Reif, "Women in Latin American Guerrilla Movements," in Comparative Politics, January, 1986, vol. 18. no. 2, pp. 147-165. (Rec.)
VIII. Some "Free World" Perspectives on Counterinsurgency in the Rural Third World
E. Rice, Wars of the Third Kind: Conflict in Underdeveloped Countries, pp. 1-156. (Rec.)
IX. Revolutionary Victories: Have the "Peasants" Really Made Them? (WINNERS)
Wolf, Peasant Wars (China, Vietnam, Cuba and Russia.)
Walton, Reluctant Rebels, Chapter 1
X. Revolutionary Causes and Consequences
Wolf, Peasant Wars (Conclusion).

Walton, Reluctant Rebels, Chapters 5 and 6. (Recommended)

XI. Theory and the State

Theda Skocpol, "What Makes Peasant Revolutionary," Comparative Politics, April, 1982.
Joseph Tharamangalam, "Indian Peasant Uprisings: Myth and Reality," in The Journal of Peasant Studies, vol. 13, No. 3, 1986.
Ralph A. Thaxton, Jr., Salt of the Earth: The Political Origins of Peasant Protest and Communist Revolution In China, University of California Press, 1997, Chapters 1-2, 5 on Qi Ji, and Conclusion.
XII. Rebellion and Insurgency In the Age of Globalization, Terror, and Genocide
Some Concluding Remarks and Reflections on the Fate of the Promise of

Revolutionary Victory

Additional Basic Books/Recommended for Assistance with your Term Paper Research:
1. John Walton, Reluctant Rebels: Comparative Studies of Revolution and Underdevelopment
2. Jack Goldstone, ed., (3rd edition) Revolution: Theoretical, Comparative and Historical Studies

3. Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie, Carnival in Romans

4. Walter Lafeber, Inevitable Revolutions
5. Doug Macadam, Sidney Tarrow, and Charles Tilly, eds., Dynamics of Contention
6. Ronald R, Aminzade, et al, Silence and Voice In the Study of Contentious Politics
Suggested Academic Journals
1. Comparative Studies in Society and History
2. Theory and Society
3. Comparative Politics
4. Journal of Peasant Studies

Films We Will View:
1. Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death (On the Congo)
2. Braveheart (On Scotland)
3. The Heroin Wars, Parts I, II, & III (On Burma)
4. Obstinate Memory (On Chile)
5. A Man Called Juan Carlos (On Guatemala)
6. A Film on Mohamed Bouazizi: A Tunisian Martyr (On Tunisia/TBA)

My office is 116 Golding. Office hours TBA.
Please be advised that this course has four general learning goals:
1) To introduce you to critical thinking about politics.

2) To help you reason clearly and effectively when constructing arguments and counter-arguments.

3) To help you grasp the importance of grounded research and local knowledge (and the vale of case study).

4) To introduce you to important frameworks and concepts in political science, and to help you understand why they are or are not useful in understanding the politics of revolution.
If you are a student with a documented disability on record at Brandeis University and wish to have a reasonable accommodation made for you in this class, please see Prof. Thaxton immediately after class.

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