When one looks at the history of the Saiyan people, one can see that their story is one of class struggle. Throughout the entire unfolding story of Dragon Ball Z, (as it relates to the Saiyans), we can see that they have experienced different forms of class oppression from different sources at different times in their history.
Let us start at the beginning, originally the Saiyans were on equal grounds with Tuffels, their neighbours who lived on the same planet. These two peoples lived in relative peace for a while. This changed when the Tuffels developed and the Saiyans did not. It has not been explained exactly why this happened. Its author Akira Toriyama has thus far only said in the story line that the Saiyans were too brutal to become civilized (supposedly). Without any further explanation it may be a simple case of some kind of Social Darwinism. (I say maybe because there are aspects to the Saiyans that may counter this argument. Survival of the fittest, or what have you.)
The gulf between these two peoples grew quite large as one developed and the other did not. The Tuffels are described as having a very advanced civilization, one that had developed beyond that which we enjoy here on Earth. From the images we see in the Anime, (I’ve not seen the Manga), we see these beautiful tall white buildings that pierce the sky with many green and red lights placed on them. (Seemingly these lights are purely for waring approaching aircraft. I don’t know if they have any other meaning.) The roads were coloured a kind of bright cream colour and there were plentiful flowers around public spaces. To be honest this depiction of an advanced civilization reminded me of the Venus Project; a lot of it with its Utopian views of a better society. Unfortunately there was no mention of the civilization’s political or economic system. All that has been said is that they “lived in peace”, a statement that may give one pause to think when we see how advanced the Tuffel’s military is. The Tuffels had tremendously advanced weaponry, something not usually seen in so-called civilized societies.
With this vision we can see a very possible Nazi influence depicted in this society. There are a few parallels between the Tuffel society and that of the vision of Adolf Hitler. Both had similar looking cities with the bright white look to it with sometimes overly large buildings that serve as eye pieces and sometimes a social point of pride to architectural accomplishment. A kind of self-congratulatory gift for their perceived or actual “superior” nature. Both societies prided themselves on the fact that they were so civilized. The Nazis over the “lesser” races around them in the world, similar in appearance is how the Tuffels saw themselves as surrounded by the violent and uncivilized Saiyans.
The Saiyans were by contrast twice the size of the Tuffels. They had immense brute strength but almost nothing in the way scientific understanding. They were (and continued to be) violent uncontrollable creatures who enjoyed violence simply for violence’s sake. The Saiyans lived in buildings made out of stone, primitive materials that had no electricity. I could not help but notice the similarities between the depiction of Saiyans by Tuffels and the imperial Japanese views of other races. The Japanese empire (like almost all empires) felt they had right (or duty) to rule other others because they were “lesser”, “uncivilized” creatures, often not even thought of as humans. (Its tempting to use the phrase “Yellow Man’s Burden” due to its identical nature to European and American colonialism.) This self-perceived superiority was a very big part of Japanese culture up until their defeat in WW2.
The difference in the case of the Tuffels and Saiyans is that the Tuffels seemingly had no interest in ruling the Saiyans. This may have been due to the fact that the Tuffels already had monopoly control over all the resources on the planet. They already had the technological, economic and military advantage so they never considered the Saiyans a threat due to their small numbers and primitive culture. Instead of seeing them as a race to be conquered and used like the Nazis, British and Japanese saw other races, they just simply ignored them. Interestingly they never saw them as a people to be helped either. Often the “White Man’s Burden” was carried out under the guise of helping the lesser races only to exploit them and control them. So its interesting to see the similarities to real life events and those that take place in the story of planet Vegeta.
At some point the Saiyans attacked the Tuffels for a reason that (I think) has yet to be revealed. A hypothesis that I have is that the Saiyans witnessed the immense disparity between between the lives of Tuffels and themselves. No doubt they must have also noticed their lack of resources, no doubt caused their monopolization by the Tuffels. This disparity between the advanced easy superior lives of the Tuffels as compared to the brutally short and poor living conditions of the Saiyans must have caused one huge class antagonism. Again because of a lack of definite information, this is merely an educated guess based on the material conditions of both races on the planet.
Eventually things came to a boiling point and the Saiyans attacked the Tuffels ruthlessly destroying every last Tuffel (except for the one that appear later in Dragon Ball GT named “Baby”) and their entire civilization. Again it is interesting here to see how the Japanese empire eventually fell at the hands of their enemies who were seen as inferior, and then suffered the event of the nuclear bombings.
Once the Saiyans had eradicated the Tuffel race, the civilization the Tuffels had created was completely destroyed. The class antagonism between those who had a monopoly over resources, technology and living standards had been resolved. All the technology that had been destroyed as well. This meant that when the Saiyans wanted new enemies to fight they were unable to leave the planet. From the anime it appears the Saiyans tired to get into space, building a rocket, but apparently it didn’t work.
Seemingly this attempt to get into space was noticed by a race called the Arcozians. The Arcozians saw the Saiyans as a group of people they could make money off of. The Saiyans had no industry, no infrastructure and lived in desperate poverty. Seeing a chance to make money the Arcozians decided they could use the Saiyans as cheap labour. What the Arcozians do is conquer valuable planets and sell them to whoever may be looking to purchase one. Of course here we begin to see the parallel between the Arcozians and the European Pilgrims who came to the “New World”. Both people’s came to their respective destinations and removed the populations there to use what was available for profit. Remember that the settlers began trade with England and other countries fairly quickly. The Arcozians like the Pilgrims saw an opportunity to exploit an indigenous population, a main stay of imperialism.
Saiyan warriors are were very effective in this role. The natural destructive power and violent nature of the Saiyans made them ideal for combat. Since they had no regard for life, they without pity destroyed population after population. The Arcozians recognized too the benefits of using Saiyans in war. Saiyans required no weapons because of their ability to use their ki as a weapon. All they required was a little body armour and a one man craft in which to travel. This reduced their military expenditures; previously they had to arm and train thousands of soldiers in order to invade a planet. However with the Saiyans they were able to reduce costs and keep more profit.
Here we can plainly see the capitalist mode of exploitation. The Saiyans were paid less than the value of the world they conquered, not receiving the full profit from their work. Here it is important to note the unfair trade that occurred between the indigenous population of the West and the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims gave these tiny trinkets that had little value in exchange for very expensive goods. The Pilgrims would give glass beads and mirrors in exchange for beaver pelts which were traded internationally for a good price.
After having resolved the class conflict with the Tuffels, the Saiyans once again found themselves subjugated in another class based relationship. With no means of production of their own (ability and contacts in which to sell planets) they were forced to submit to the exploitation that is employment. However the class antagonism did not end there; with in influx of private profit, class divisions within the Saiyan society began to develop. Eventually a King emerged from the Saiyan society, this was of course King Vegeta whom the planet was named after. As a result there began all kinds of different classes among the feudal order, royal families and the like.
What’s not known here is at what point the Saiyans stopped working for the Arcozians and began working for Frieza. Infact, we’re not sure if Frieza isn’t Arcozian. So without an exact knowledge of what happened, I’ve just assumed that the Saiyans just began working for Freiza and what is later revealed to be his family. Frieza never seemed to be a more loving businessman than the Arcozians were. In fact he seemed to be much worse, not only was the exploitation of the Saiyan race occurring, but he was also subjugating them and was often very abusive to the population.
This subservient role however, was not to last. The abuse suffered by the Saiyans was not going to last forever, the King was already plotting against Frieza. The Saiyans have an unbreakable pride that would not allow them to remain the servants of anyone. Frieza was not a fool, he knew well that the Saiyans were plotting against them and he’d heard of a prophesy that an extremely powerful Saiyan was going to destroy him at some point. Frieza claimed he didn’t believe in the prophesy but spent time and effort trying to prevent it from happening. The main leader of a group of Saiyan forces, Bardock (who turns out to be Goku’s father) is sent with his best men to a planet to take it over, but instead falls into a trap and barely survives. In surviving he finds out about Frieza’s plan to destroy the Saiyan race because of the prophesy. He returns to Vegeta in order to warn the population and the King. He plans an uprising with the King in order to free themselves from Frieza’s grasp but eventually fails. In retaliation Frieza destroys planet Vegeta and the entire population (except Prince Vegeta the King’s son, Nappa, Radditz and Goku). (This point in the story also displays a very sick side of Frieza in that he delights in raising Prince Vegeta in his own image after having destroyed his father and home world.)
In the end the Saiyans actually lose the class war to Frieza with the Saiyan population destroyed. The remaining Saiyans are made permanent soldiers of Frieza and told nothing of how their planet was destroyed. Instead Frieza tells them that the planet was destroyed by a group of meteors. Here we see a similar fate to that of the European and Chinese communism. As communism came to an end in both places, the ruling elites rewrote history. They invented all these fancy ideas about “it just doesn’t work” with no explanation, inventing genocides that never happened and completely changing what caused certain events, like blaming starvation on Stalin when it was actually the free market that caused food shortages leading to people supporting collectivization in order to prevent further loss of life.
So we see here a very clearly how Frieza and his entire organization is capitalist, causing all the same genocides, lies and distortions.
There is much more I could do here, I could mention the class struggle between Goku and Prince Vegeta as the remaining survivors of their race. Goku was low class born but always remained more powerful than Vegeta who was born of royalty. This one antagonism remained through the entire series, Vegeta challenging his low born rival for supremacy, claiming he should be number one because of his royal birth. But that should be talked about in another video.
I could also make an analysis about nature versus nurture, about how Goku had an entirely different personality than the rest of the Saiyan race because he was raised on Earth as opposed to planet Vegeta. Saiyans maintain that they are violent and destructive by nature, however this seems to be different with Goku because of his different upbringing. But this should be talked about in another video.
In conclusion this is why the history of the Saiyan race is a history of class struggle.