This paper attempts to answer the question of what, if anything, have radical social movements achieved for the poorest. Like most peasants in the Global South, those supported by radical movements nevertheless landed in the throes of capitalism, increasingly becoming immiserated wage labour.
Using the case of two provinces in India that had the presence and absence of a radical movement respectively, I undertake an examination of how radical social movements might shape the trajectory of the state and capital, and in turn, impact the conditions of labour.
Although both economies under consideration, I argue, transitioned to capitalist practices, in movement absent areas — small and marginal farmers lacking a worker’s organization — remained stuck in previous exploitative relations of production. In such areas, any break in labour conditions came only from random opportunities that arose in the local economy. In movement present areas, I find, although new relations of exploitation replaced old ones, an organizational structure of protest that had provided land and wage gains for the peasant class in the past, led to creating further contradictions between labour and the capitalists. This resulted in renewed protest cycles and an advancement in wage opportunities for the peasant masses. I conclude with what I see as the impact of armed social movements in the global south in creating ‘economies of struggle,’ where collective action organizing pays off in terms of improving peoples’ livelihoods and more significantly, in creating a protest infrastructure that can and does become deployed more willingly in labour-capital struggles.