In Agrarian Problems and Peasant Movements in Latin America, Rodolfo Stavenhagen has compiled an excellent group of essays, some original and some previously published, authored by a cross-section of social scientists from the United States, Latin America, and Europe. The purpose of these essays is to provide the reader with a somewhat general and introductory view of the numerous problems and aspects that the agrarian question creates. For this purpose, then, this book is divided into three sections. While the first section deals with the traditional agrarian structures, the second is concerned with the controversial issue of agrarian reform. The third and final part specifically deals with the various ways peasants have reacted to a changing agrarian structure.

The agrarian question is also handled in the readable but doctrinaire Soviet study entitled La cuestión agraria y los problemas del movimiento de liberación en la América Latina. The nine essays in the book attempt to reexamine the various points of view, the profundity of facts, and the established social and economic trends that make this question so important. Each chapter “scientifically” analyzes the different socio-economic aspects of this question. All conclude that the majority of the peasants are ruthlessly exploited, oppressed, pauperized, fooled, and starved by a socio-economic system and political situation ruled by a dictatorial oligarchy. This oligarchy is composed of a few wealthy landowners and numerous merchants and industrialists who not only have incorporated the capitalistic spirit into agricultural production but who also are vehemently loyal to and dependent upon foreign imperialism—namely the USA. To the Soviet scholars, the agrarian question is one of the most important economic and social problems, as well as a pressing political one. Thus, it requires from the exploited peasants some organized and systematic forms of action in order to “liberate” their country from tyranny, capitalism, imperialism, and deprivation.

Whatever tactics the peasant movements employ, their potential for success is severely limited by the inherent weaknesses and cleavages that are inimical to such organizations as well as by the flexibility of their enemies in developing new forms of subordination and domination. According to these Soviet scholars, peasant movements can, thus, only be successful when there is a close and inseparable cooperation between the agrarian and industrial proletariats. It will be this vanguard of the people, in conjunction with the Communist Party, that will liberate the country.