Collective farm

Image - A rural newspaper staff reports on the work at a collective farm in Ukraine. Image - A propaganda photograph depicting collective farm members who promote the collectivization and anti-kulak campaign.

Collective farm (Ukrainian: колективне господарство or колгосп [kolektyvne hospodarstvo or kolhosp]; Russian: колективное хозяйство or колхоз [kolektivnoe khoziaistvo or kolkhoz]). From 1930 the type of farm that dominated farming in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Collective farms were introduced by force during collectivization and existed side by side with state farms (radhospy). Collective farms were called agricultural artels for some time. Apart from the land, which belonged to the state, members of the collective farms owned their principal means of production in common, and these could not be divided among the members of the collective. Labor on the farms was collective, but the income was divided, either in kind or in money, among the members. This practice distinguished the collective farms from other forms of shared farming such as the commune, association for the joint cultivation of land, and state farm. Legally the collective farms were autonomous economic enterprises that functioned on the basis of their own statutes within a framework of administrative-legal and contractual relations with the state, other enterprises, and their own members.

In the Ukrainian SSR collective farms were introduced in 1928–33. Collectivization was achieved by the abolition of privately owned farms and the intervention of political and police agencies. By 1939 there were 27,377 collective farms, the average farm having 1,285 ha at its disposal. Despite intensive collectivization in Western Ukraine at the end of the 1940s, the total number of collective farms fell to 23,653 owing to the merger of smaller farms. In the late 1940s many collective farms had very small areas of arable land: for example, 800 farms had less than 100 ha per farm, and almost 3,000 had less than 300 ha per farm. The policy of amalgamating collective farms, introduced in 1950, further reduced the number of farms to 13,192 by 1958. At that time an average collective farm had 2,660 ha of land and 289 households. In 1938, after a decade of collective farming, 79.1 percent of the land in Ukraine was used by the collective farms. By 1958, 86.1 percent of the arable land was under their control. The land at the disposal of the farms was gradually reduced as the number of state farms and their farmland were increased: the number of state farms increased from 929 in 1940 to 2,104 in 1979. Starting in the 1960s, some of the lands belonging to collective farms were transferred to interfarm enterprises and associations, which increased in number from 488 in 1965 to 1,537 in 1979. In 1980 the area of the tilled land and farming facilities at the disposal of collective farms in Ukraine amounted to only 70 percent of the total tilled land and facilities in the Ukrainian SSR. About 26 percent of the farming facilities were in the hands of state farms and the state.

During the 1960s–1970s the number of collective farms continued to decrease gradually, but at a slower rate than before. There were 9,553 collective farms in Ukraine in 1965, 9,141 in 1970, 7,603 in 1975, 7,016 in 1980, and 7,157 in 1982. For the average collective farm, however, the land under seed increased rapidly. By 1979 it reached 3,400 ha, while the number of collective-farm households on the average farm had reached 655. In 1979 the average collective farm owned 2,278 head of livestock, of which 719 were cows; 1,516 hogs; and 922 sheep and goats.

The main purpose of the collective farms in the Soviet economic system was to provide the state with the maximum cost-free capital for developing heavy industry, arming the military, and maintaining the bureaucracy. Taking into account the demand for agricultural products inside the country and abroad, the government assigned maximal delivery quotas and minimal delivery prices, which it regards as expenses that must be minimized. The government then sold the products delivered by the collective farms at the highest prices, thus reaping a huge profit (see Agricultural procurement). High selling prices were determined by the necessity to absorb the purchasing power of consumers and to adjust the demand to the available quantity of farm products. The profits of this operation were appropriated by the state treasury through the turnover tax. These profits were to a large extent absolute rents that the state exacted from the collective farms.

Until 1956 the collective farms did not keep records of their costs and labor losses. Government data in 1957 showed for the first time that many collective farms operated at a deficit. According to the data, the average production cost of one centner of pork was 1,185 rubles, while the state paid the farms only 425 rubles for obligatory deliveries and 880 rubles per centner for non-obligatory deliveries. The production cost of one centner of milk was 142 rubles; the state paid 55 and 135 rubles per centner. One thousand eggs cost 780 rubles in capital and labor; the state paid only 200 rubles for them. This kind of exploitation obstructed the development of collective farms and undermined any incentive to work. In September 1953 the Plenum of the Central Committee (CC) of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for the first time gave some recognition to these facts, and certain reforms were introduced. On 30 June 1958 delivery prices were raised, all forms of deliveries were consolidated into one, and the collective farms were ordered to change gradually to a sounder economic basis.

From 1960 to 1980 the delivery prices of farm products were raised several times, but the prices on most products were always lower in Ukraine than they were in the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic or in the USSR generally. From 1970 to 1980 these prices rose 2 percent per year, while the state prices for industrial products rose 5 percent per year.

Until 1955 all the particulars of collective-farm economic life were planned centrally in Moscow. The USSR government set the same norms of production, forms of labor organization and compensation, and norms and deadlines for sowing and harvesting for all collective farms. It even issued instructions on the spacing of plants. Without permission of the raion land department members of a collective farm could neither plow, sow, nor reap. The collective farms had to conform to standards and instructions that were often pointless or unsuited to local conditions. They were given some economic autonomy only on 9 March 1955.

With time this ‘autonomy’ expanded somewhat, and all farming enterprises were supposed to have changed to a profit basis and to have received greater independence. In 1981, however, all the main parameters of the collective farms, including the area to be seeded, were still determined by the republican agencies, which in turn still had to conform to the agricultural policies of the central government in Moscow.

Collective farms were first permitted to own tractors in 1956. This reform, however, was made fully effective only by the law of 1 August 1958, which almost abolished the system of machine-tractor stations (MTS). During 1958, 94 percent of the collective farms purchased their tractors and other machinery from the MTS. The farms purchased equipment and fertilizer through the state enterprise known from 1961 as Silhosptekhnika. Eventually, it was changed to a Union-republican agency known as the State Committee for Farm Supplies. The collective farms later acquired the right to purchase farm machinery and fuel from the state directly.

The 6 March 1956 resolution of the CC CPSU granted the collective farms the right to introduce amendments to the artel statute. Until then a uniform ‘model statute’ was binding on all collective farms. Thereafter the general meeting of each collective farm set the production norms, organizational forms, wages, and minimum number of obligatory workdays. But this new form of collective-farm democracy was quite limited, for the Party cell of the farm (consisting of 18 members on the average, including the farm chairman and other supervisors) played a decisive role in the farm's life and followed the instructions of the raion Party committee.

The collective farm's work force was divided into brigades. Each brigade had a certain amount of land, buildings, equipment, and animals at its disposal for at least a year. The purpose of organizing labor in this way was to develop specialization and expertise among the farmers. The brigades devoted to gardening and to tilled crops were divided further into squads (lanky).

Until 1966 every form of farm work had its production norm, which was based on a certain assigned number of conventional units called workdays (trudodni). There were close to 2,000 forms of work and norms, all of which were assigned a value in terms of workdays. The lightest forms of work were valued at 0.5 of a workday, while the hardest or most skilled work was valued at 2.5 workdays. By fulfilling the norm, farm members got a certain number of workdays to their credit. At the end of the year, after the collective farm had fulfilled its obligations to the state, its remaining income was divided by the total number of fulfilled workdays to obtain the remuneration per workday. Each farmer then received a share of the farm's income according to the number of workdays he had earned during the year.

The income of collective-farm members consisted of two main parts: (1) wages paid in money and products, and (2) income derived from their private plots. The first was supposed to constitute 75 percent and the second 25 percent of their incomes. In reality the first never accounted for more than 50 percent of their incomes. In 1934–7 the wages for a workday were 33–75 kopecks and 1–3.5 kg of grain. With time monetary wages increased, while wages in kind decreased. The farmers were hard hit by the drop in their share of the products, for they used grain for food and animal feed.

At the end of the 1950s farm labor gradually began to be recompensed solely in monetary wages, and in 1966 the system of workdays was finally abolished. The wages of collective farmers rose significantly, yet they remained lower than the wages on state farms. The incomes of collective farms increased from 1,818 million rubles in 1966 to 4,335 million rubles in 1975 and to 5,500 million rubles in 1979. Divided among all the working members of collective farms, these funds provided an average monthly wage of 96 rubles in 1975 and 81 rubles in 1979, indicating a drop in individual earnings rather than an increase.

As late as 1952 the workday of a collective farmer was worth only 0.85 rubles on the average. In 1960 the value rose to 1.19 rubles. In 1970, according to official data, the value of the workday in products and money rose to 3.58 rubles. At the same time the proportion of payment in kind decreased to 25 percent of the farm income in 1965 and to 8 percent in 1975.

Lacking a sufficient incentive to work on the collective farms, farm members tried to devote as much labor as possible to cultivating their private plots, which the government allowed the peasants to keep in order to increase the availability of food products and satisfy the peasants' traditional need for private ownership and because it realized that its delivery quotas were too high and that the farmers were left too little. To force the members to give more of their labor to their collective farms, in 1939 the government introduced an obligatory minimal standard of workdays—60–100 per person. In 1942 this standard was increased to 100–150 workdays, and in the 1980s in some collective farms it amounted to 200–250 workdays per year. Many collective farms, however, did not fulfill the minimal standard.

In 1956 the collective farms were allowed to set up their own co-operative industries in the countryside. By 1958 69 percent of the collective farms were members of raion interfarm building co-operatives, which were based on shares and which owned 300 brickyards, 500 carpentry shops, and 116 co-operative electric stations. This change increased the productive capacity of the collective farms and created opportunities for higher incomes for the collective farmers. The state required that the collective farms build their own schools, hospitals, etc at their own expense. In 1953–8, for example, the collective farms in the Ukrainian SSR built, on their own, 720 village schools, 125 hospitals, 800 bathhouses, and 1,800 clubhouses. The collective farms also reforested land, built irrigation systems, and constructed new roads at their own expense.

In general, there was much less investment in rural development than in urban development. Hence, the living standard on the collective farms was much lower than that of urban workers or the urban population in general. The average Ukrainian village in the 1970s–1980s had poor housing, inadequate medical services, poor roads, and insufficient public facilities.

From the end of the 1960s collective farms were allowed to enter jointly with state farms and industrial enterprises into‘agrarian-industrial complexes,’ or associations for processing raw agricultural and animal products (fruit canneries, dairy and cheese operations, meat plants, etc). They could also form ‘state-and-collective-farm enterprises’ for building rural electric stations, creating irrigation systems, repairing farm equipment and machinery, etc. The collective farms maintained their separate identities and entered these associations to utilize their human and material resources more economically. The ideological purpose of these innovations was to integrate the collective farms and their property more closely with the state.

Legal status and collective-farm legislation. According to the Model Collective-Farm Statute of 1969, ‘the collective farm was a co-operative organization of peasants who join together voluntarily to conduct large-scale socialist agricultural production on the basis of social means of production and collective labor.’ The statutes of 1930 and 1935 defined the collective farm in the same way. They emphasized the ‘voluntary’ nature of the association and thus contradicted the historical facts of forced collectivization. The model statutes stressed that the land held by the collective farms, like all land in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was owned by the state and was granted to the farms for their use indefinitely. For this reason the land could not be bought, sold, or rented. The state decided such questions as the amalgamation of collective farms, their transformation into state farms, and the allocation of land for the private use of peasants.

During the collectivization drive the property of the collective farms was usually acquired by the socialization of private peasant farms. A part of this property was assigned to the common reserves of the collective farm, and a part was defined as the collective-farm member's share, which would be returned to him if he left the collective farm. Thus, only a portion of the peasant property—the common reserves—was expropriated during collectivization. The peasants retained ownership of the part that went into the shares until 1969, when the third Model Statute dropped any reference to shares and thus retroactively expropriated all the peasants' land.

The property of the collective farm—machines, equipment, livestock, etc—did not belong to all the members of the farm but to the collective ‘juridical person.’ Like state property, collective farm property was socialist (not private). It differed from state property in that the latter figured in the state budget, which was the basis for economic planning, while the budget of each collective farm was not included in the state budget. The state plans defined only the total agricultural production that the collective farms must deliver to the state. A small part of the collective- farm lands was distributed among the peasants for ‘the private use’ of each collective-farm household.

Legally the collective-farm agencies had the right to manage the property and the financial resources of the farms. The property of collective farms was divided into various funds, of which the main ones were the basic fund and the turnover fund. There was also a seed fund and a feed fund. These funds were managed according to the state and production-financial plan of the collective farm. In this respect the collective farms barely differed from state enterprises, particularly state farms. Although collective farms were not formally state enterprises, they were subject to the principle of ‘state control of agriculture.’ There was a whole system of state bodies for managing agriculture. The executive committees of raion and rural soviets were involved directly in agricultural management. The executive committees of the raion soviets in particular approved the planned purchases of farm production and oversaw their fulfillment, provided the collective farms with modern technology, and attempted to improve the material-technical base of farming. They also exercised a number of control functions over the collective farms. There was no sphere reserved by law for the collective farms in which the state could not interfere.

Formally, the general meeting of the membership was responsible for affairs on the collective farm; between meetings the executive of the collective farm managed the farm. The general meeting approved the farm's statute; elected a chairman, the executive, and the auditing committee; approved the wage scale; etc. In reality all these decisions were made by the appropriate CPSU and state agencies. The elections, particularly, were controlled by the Party apparat.

The various branches of farming at a collective farm were supervised by specialists—agronomists, economists, zootechnicians, engineers, veterinarians, bookkeepers, etc. Formally, they were appointed by the farm's executive, but in reality they were sent by the executive committee of the raion soviet. The collective farm received from the raion executive committee the projected quotas of farm products that were to be delivered to the state, and on this basis the farm's management drew up the so-called production-financial plan. The plan was formally approved by the general meeting and sent to the raion executive committee ‘for examination.’ Any changes made by the executive committee were binding on the collective farm.

In 1958 a unitary system of deliveries to the state at fixed prices, varying by zones, was introduced. The prices became stable in the sense that with normal harvests they did not change. At the same time the prices fluctuated; that is, they were adjusted depending on conditions during the year and during harvests. The delivery plans were approved by the USSR Council of Ministers and distributed among the republics. In exceptional circumstances they could be set by the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR, and the central agencies in Moscow had to be advised of this. The government of the Ukrainian SSR determined the deadlines by which the delivery plans must be fulfilled. The prices were approved by the USSR Council of Ministers for the entire USSR; on this basis the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR set the purchase prices by zone, variety, and delivery season. Thus the delivery organizations signed what are known as contractual agreements with the collective farms. These agreements were a more flexible form of obligatory delivery. Higher prices were provided for products sold to the state over and above the contracted deliveries. Any surplus could be sold at collective-farm markets.

Labor discipline was obligatory at collective farms. Penalties such as redoing a poorly done job without pay, warning, censure, censure at a general meeting (formerly a fine of up to five workdays), transfer to a lower job, and finally expulsion from the collective farm were meted out by the executive for careless handling of common property, absenteeism, poor work, and other infringements of the farm regime.

Until 1964 collective-farm members had no social security. The law of 15 July 1964 introduced old-age and disability pensions and welfare for families that had lost their breadwinner. This was one step towards raising the economic status of the collective farmer to the level of the industrial worker.

АN URSR. Sotsialisticheskoe sel'skoe khoziaistvo Ukrainy (Kyiv 1939)
Nahornyi, P. Rozvytok sil's'koho hospodarstva URSR za roky radians'koï vlady (Kyiv 1947)
Istoriia kolkhoznogo prava, 1917-1958 gg. (Moscow 1958)
Naukovo-doslidnyi instytut ekonomiky i orhanizatsiï sil's'koho hospodarstva. Sil's'ke hospodarstvo Ukraïns'koï RSR (Kyiv 1958)
Zbirnyk zakonodavchykh aktiv kolhospnoho budivnytstva (Kyiv 1962)
Ianchuk, V. Problemy teorii kolhkoznogo prava (Moscow 1964)
Lushch, H. Intensyfikatsiia kolhospnoho vyrobnytstva (Kyiv 1972)
Pravovi akty pro diial'nist' kolhospiv (Kyiv 1978)
Synel'nykov, B.; Opria, A. Analiz hospodars'koï diial'nosti kolhospiv (Kyiv 1978)
Halanets', V.; Shcherbyna, V. Operatyvne upravlinnia v kolhospi (Lviv 1979)
Panchenko, P. Razvitie sel'skogo khoziaistva Ukrainskoi SSR, 1959-1980 (Kyiv 1980)

Andrii Bilynsky, Vsevolod Holubnychy, Yakiv Shumelda

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

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