Central Europe’s breadbasket no more

In addition to the various crimes of communism it also became known in the West that the success stories of the various occupied Eastern Bloc countries were destroyed. The same holds true for Hungary’s agricultural might, which was unparalleled throughout Europe in no small part due to the country’s natural endowments. But the agricultural sector’s reorganization during the Rákosi era beginning in 1945 made paupers out of the peasants on whose backs this system rested. In no short amount of time the breadbasket of Central Europe could not even feed its own people.

From 1948, the individual farmers had to join collectivized farms (a process that took the authorities more than ten years to accomplish and even then only by force). Within this collectivized framework, the same level of production was expected as that which had been produced prior to 1945. For a host of reasons this didn’t quite come together. They were called collective farms because they were cultivated in such a way that the lands owned by the peasants were nationalized with ownership going to the village, otherwise known as collective ownership. What this eliminated, however, was the peasant’s interest in producing the greatest yields or quality, since it was all made collectively.

Think of it this way: the farmers worked the same lands they had before 1948, but from this point forward not only was the land no longer theirs, but most of the agricultural tools (such as work animals or tractors) and the yearly harvested grain or fruit were not their own either, since they were immediately transported to the shared storage facility, from which they were then sold together. Of course, the peasants did not see the proceeds from this, since everything went into the unseen common treasury, from which in theory next year’s investments would be funded. In reality these funds were siphoned off by the leaders of the collective farms or to other communist officials. While it is true that the leadership of the collective farms always prepared reports at the close of each financial year in which they listed how much proceeds were realized from the investment, most of the pre-tax income was taken by the communist leadership, with the majority of the workers barely receiving anything. It is no wonder then that those working the lands found ways to redress this, by taking from the collective farms (we can say stealing) what they needed: seeds for the small private gardens around their houses, tools and spare parts. This is why the collective farms were unsustainable, and why communism failed in the end: valuables that were collectively possessed did not have an owner, were neglected and frequently even stolen. As such the excellent agricultural achievements of communism existed merely on paper, and we can say they were among the many lies of the communist system.

Bence Csatári