Anorak News | Note to egalitarian socialists on kibbutz: even among volunteers egalitarian socialism doesn’t work

Note to egalitarian socialists on kibbutz: even among volunteers egalitarian socialism doesn’t work

by | 24th, July 2012

THERE’S one place in the world that has had a proper experiment with voluntary egalitarian socialism. That is, it really has been tried without anyone being whipped in to it by Stalin, Pol Pot or some other bloodthirsty monster. And the thing is, even among said volunteers, it doesn’t actually work very well:

After decades of declining numbers, bankruptcies and privatisation, Israel’s kibbutz movement is undergoing a remarkable revival, with rising numbers wanting to join the unique form of collective living.

The population of about 143,000 is the highest in its 102-year history, after growth of 20% between 2005 and 2010, according to the official Kibbutz Movement. More people are now joining kibbutzim than leaving – a reversal of the crisis years – and the influx of working-age adults and young children is helping to redress the balance of an ageing population.

That seems to contradict me: rising numbers is a sign of success, surely?

Most kibbutzim have implemented reforms to become commercially viable and stem decline. Liberalisation – including permitting differential incomes and home ownership – has increased their attractiveness to newcomers reluctant to commit to pure communal principles.

Only about 60 of Israel’s 275 kibbutzim still operate a completely collective model, in which all members are paid the same regardless of their allotted job. Most of the rest have introduced wage differentials for people employed by the kibbutz – but, more importantly, many members now work outside the kibbutz and contribute a proportion of their salaries to the collective.

That is, the kibbutz’s that are succeeding are the ones that are not in the vanguard of egalitarian socialism. Aren’t socialism, let along the egalitarian version of it in fact.

None of which means that if this is what floats your boat you shouldn’t go and do it: please do and send us a postcard from time to time. You don’t have to go to Israel either: we’re all just fine with you setting up hippy communes wherever you can get the land. But the thing is, even among those who volunteer for such things the failure rate is immense. So, could we please get over the idea that anyone should be forced into this mode of living? Whether by force of by that tyranny of the majority which is democracy?

It’s been tried, it doesn’t work. RIP egalitarian socialism.

Photos: Israeli settlers, joined by their Arab neighbors, have a noontime meal after a ceremony celebrating the founding of new Jewish kibbutz settlement in Yazur, in western Galilee, Israel, on Feb. 13, 1949. They listened to speakers from the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the Jewish National Fund, the Israeli government, and Israeli Army. 

Posted: 24th, July 2012 | In: Money Comments (4) | TrackBack | Permalink