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Tazlar: a village in Hungary 

General Editor; Jack Goody 

The aim of this series is to show how specific societies and 
cukures, including sub-groups within more complex societies, 
have developed and changed in response to conditions in the 
modern world. Each volume will draw on recent fieldwork 
to present a comprehensive analysis of a particular group, 
cast in a dynamic perspective that relates the present both to 
the past of the group and to the external forces that have im- 
pinged upon it. The range of volumes in the series reflects the 
developing interests and concerns of the social sciences, 
especially social anthropology and sociology. 

Also in this series 

The Nayars Today by Christopher J. Fuller 
The Skolt Lapps Today by Tim Ingold 
The Yoruba Today by J.S. Eades 
The Western Isles Today by Judith Ennew 

Tazlar: a village in 


Department of Social Anthropology 
University of Cambridge 





Published by the Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge 
The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 IRP 
32 East 57th Street, New York, NY 10022, USA 
296 Beaconsfield Parade, Middle Park, Melbourne 3206, Australia 

® Cambridge University Press 1980 

First pubUshed 1980 

Printed in Great Britain at the 
University Press, Cambridge 

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication Data 

Hann, C. M. 1953- 
Tazlar, a village in Hungary. 

(Changing cultures) 
Bibliography: p. 
Includes index. 

1. Tazlar, Hungary-Rural conditions. 2. Villages- 
Hungary-Case studies. I. Title. 
HN420.5.T39H35 301.35'2'094391 79-14810 
ISBN 521 22591 4 hard covers 
ISBN 521 29571 8 paperback 


list of illustrations and tables page vii 

Preface ix 

1 Introduction 1 

2 The tanya question 1 5 

I Tanya settlement and the peasant economy of the ^ 
capitalist period 1 6 

II The drift away from the tanya 20 

III The tanya and the integration of peasant economy 24 

3 The transition to a socialist agriculture 33 

I Land Reform and the origins of agricultural 

cooperatives 1945—56 33 

II From 'counter-revolution' to mass collectivisation 

1956-61 37 

III Cooperative groups in Tazlar 1960—8 40 

IV The formation of szakszovetkezets and the impact 

of economic reform 43 

V Recent trends in agricultural policy 46 

4 The szakszovetkezet community — economy 49 

I The socialised sector of the szakszovetkezet 49 

II The main characteristics of small-farming 58 

III The employment market outside the szakszovetkezet 67 

IV The integration of small-farming 76 

V The marginality of szakszovetkezet farmers 94 

VI The alcohol market — a special case? 99 

5 The szakszovetkezet community — politics 1 06 

I The traditional system of local government 106 

II Local government and administration since 1950 108 

III The Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party 112 

IV The Church 115 

V Cultural life — the example of the upper hamlet 1 22 

VI The democratic potential of the szakszovetkezet 126 


6 The szakszovetkezet community — society 139 

I Family and household 139 

II Differentiation and stratification 147 

III Values and norms 158 

7 Conclusion 167 

Notes 173 

Glossary 196 

Bibliography 197 

Index 204 


Illustrations and Tables 


1 Regional communications page xi 

2 The village zones xii 

3 The centre of the village xii 


1 The local market 9 

2 A tanya of the second zone 1 1 

3 Anew village street on the northern side, after rain 13 

4 A fully modernised, electrified tanya, with surrounding 

orchards 21 

5 Inside the spinning factory 73 

6 Sandor Horvath, a tanya farmer, ploughing with his oxen 77 

7 Harvesting rye by hand 78 

8 Harvesting with a combine harvester 79 

9 Buying supplies at the szakszovetkezet stores 8 1 

10 Drinking inside the bisztrd 100 

11 House-building 143 

1 2 The tanya of Jozsef Szoke , in the fourth zone 153 

Some residents of Tdzldr 

Mrs Istvan Lazar 1 86 

FerencHadfi 187 

TamasKazi 188 

Andras Farkas 189 

Mrs Jozsef Krizsan 190 

Ferenc Papp 191 

Mrs Samuel Koros 192 

Pal Trsztyinszki 193 

Janos Fenyvesi 194 

Imre Bugyi 195 


Illustrations and tables 

1 Total population 1880-1978 6 

2 Land ownership 1935 6 

3 Land ownership 1935 34 

4 Maize area and farm size in Tazlar 1936—48 35 

5 Small-farm aggregate production 1975-7 59 

6 Production trends in the three branches of small-farming 

1975-7 61 

7 Breakdown by branches of production, showing specialist 

producers, 1977 62 

8 Mean landholdings of various small-farm units 1975—7 83 

9 Full-time and worker-peasant farms 1977 84 

10 The effect of household full-time labour supply 1977 87 

11 Full-time farms 1977 — possible sub-groups of 'maximisers' 

and 'satisficers' 93 

12 Small-farm wine-producers 1975— 7 102 



Before I went to live in Tazlar in Autumn 1976 I spent a year in Budapest, 
learning Hungarian and about Hungary. Because of its unusual Turkish 
origin, the very name of Tdzlar rang strange to my Budapest friends. The 
community belongs to a world far removed from that of Hungary's sophis- 
ticated capital, a world unfamiliar to any urban Hungarians. Despite the 
work of sociologists and ethnographers, and the burgeoning of a literary 
sociography in the last decade, the reality of the Hungarian countryside 
in communities such as that of Tazlar remains insufficiently understood 
inside Hungary. Ahhough this book is naturally intended to help fill a 
very large gap in Western perceptions of sociahst rural society, it is also 
hoped that some of its points would not be too harshly received if read 
by those capable of acting and improving upon present conditions in 

I first visited Tazlar in May 1976. Further short visits then preceded 
ten months of continuous residence, from October 1976 to August 1977, 
after which I returned for a fortnight in the summer of 1978, and for further 
brief stays thereafter. The ethnographic present of the book refers to the 
first half of 1977, except where specific indications to the contrary are 

The choice of Tazlar as a community to study was far from fortuitous. 
In spring 1976 I walked around a number of villages in the concentrated 
szakszbvetkezet zone administered from the town of Kiskords. I decided 
to study this particular village when, while seeking some basic statistical 
data on Tazlar at the main administrative offices in Kiskoros, a number 
of officials expressed to me their unanimous distaste for that community, 
and suggested that any other village in the district would be more suitable 
for study and analysis. They would have far preferred me to undertake 
the study of a more 'model' community. Tazlar is not a model community; 
on the contrary, it is characterised by the persistence of elements of pre- 
socialist socio-economic organisation into the socialist period. It was for 
this very reason, and for the opportunity it presented of studying the ways 
in which a traditional peasant society had adapted to socialism, that I 
chose to study it. It is therefore obviously questionable how representative 
Tazlar is of Hungary as a whole. However, I did not set out to describe 
a 'typical' community, but rather, during both the fieldwork and the 
ensuing writing, to describe and to analyse a contemporary Hungarian 



rural community not only unfamiliar to the West but also largely unknown 
and ignored in Hungary itself. 

The book is based primarily upon traditional, though perhaps unusually 
'passive' participant observation. Non-academic Hungarian friends, un- 
famihar with Western fieldwork practice, tended to think of my work as 
a 'felmeres', which usually implies a quantitative survey, and, certainly, 
I did attempt to use the statistics available, as weU as collecting some 
of my own. By and large, I was assisted in this by the local administration, 
both at the szakszovetkezet and at the council offices. However, not all 
of the arguments and conclusions of this book can be defended with 
statistics. Some judgements are expUcitly subjective, and these are obviously 
open to question. 

The data quoted to illustrate patterns in the nation as a whole, for 
comparison with Tazlar, are generally taken from the Hungarian Pocket 
Statistical Handbook for 1977. Otherwise, with the exception of the 
figures which I obtained myself in the community (see note to Chapter 4), 
statistics are taken from diverse, accessible pubUcations of the Hungarian 
Central Statistical Office. In general, I have avoided cluttering the text with 
references which are neither indispensable to the speciaUst nor of much 
value to the average English reader. 

A minimal number of Hungarian words are used and explanations of 
those used more than once are provided in the glossary. Some of the 
proper names are fictitious and those of the individuals have been written 
in the English manner, with the Christian name first. The conversion of 
Hungarian currency presents a greater problem. The official rate of around 
35 forints (abbreviated to fts) to a pound is now only some two-thirds of 
the rate which prevailed in the early 1970s; the effects of inflation in 
Hungary have been partly alleviated by the continued large subsidies on 
basic goods such as foodstuffs and public transport. To give some indi- 
cation of costs, average monthly wage packets at the time of the field- 
work were approaching 3,000 forints; the price of a new Soviet-made 
Zsiguli, although it had remained fixed since the car was introduced in 
the early 1970s, was 80,000 forints. Other prices, including housing, 
and increasingly foodstuffs as well, have been continually rising in recent 

I am grateful to the Social Science Research Council and the administrators 
of the Anglo-Hungarian Cultural Exchange Programme for financial sup- 
port; to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, for a travel grant in 1978; 
and to my supervisors Tibor Bodrogi and Mihaly Sarkany in Budapest, 
and Jack Goody in Cambridge. I wish to thank Nigel Swain and Sandor 
Dul, now the Secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party cell in 
Tazlar, and my many friends in that community. Thanks also go to Claude 
Rosenfeld and to 'Ocsi', for developing most of the photographs. 

October 1978 C.M.H. 



Tarmac road 

Dirt road 

==::^== Majornver 
County boundary 

H — 1- Railway 
*^^ Town Oo Village 
10 20 30 km 


20 miles 

Kecskemet J 




Soltvadlrerr==^>^ ,' 





Map 1 Regional communications 





'Si " ^ 

Lljfilvv state 

.(mainly ^. 
■ sand dunes) 

'-. / .: ^. ^"^^ 

//'E vineyard .•:■'.■'.-' -^yr-^, 
-^ ajE---^ ■■■■■'.■ SzanW 

/ . 4!. - . ^ . - 

j^ ^. ^ ^. ik . {swampy 

'5/* "^^^^ /■;:-::Corner 

03/ 0) / .'.'.7 

o/^ i.-y.- .■.■.■.•■■ J 

1 /^ ^ 
■■ / / 

-/ ° 

' ' 

/ ^ V 

1 h .•.'.'.'.'.',' .j 


/ X X 

1 State farmj-y.-'.-'.-'.-y.-'.- 

/ "^ X 

/ vineyard/;-:-:-:-:':-;-:-/ 

^^*=5tx Ji 

!, Upper -^ 

/ " ^ ^~~-^^-'-^^\\-.7 

■■-^ ^^^^ 

1 hamlet /-?^?5n: j 

,- ^ ^^~w 


^^c. Lake ^^ 


^^'-i /^~ - 

/ f 

.?=v ^^^J, ^ 

^ -''. ^ 

^P ^^ pL. 

^ / "^^7---^ 

■^ "" ^ 

Lake ^^^^^^^^^ 

7-K</^ / / 


^^fr-_ ' ' 

^ X centre r/K^y/y/y^, 

■-. I 

^ ^ 

(mainly sand 

dunes)^,-.- ^^^r ^ ^ 

[km- ■ ^ v/ 

^ y to Pirtd 

■ ' 'Harkakotonv Q'? foreTt *? 

6 l/2m,lG ■■■-.._ 

/> and Kiskunhalas 

+ Q area <? 

Map 2 The village zones 

Map 3 The centre of the village 



Two Hungarian words are essential to the problematic of this book and must 
be introduced at the outset. Together they contain the key to the 'atypi- 
cality' of Tazlar, and unless the reader has some grasp of them at the 
beginning he will not appreciate the arguments in later chapters, which 
attempt to relate this atypicality back to the contemporary national con- 

The first of these terms is 'the tanya problem'. The literal meaning of 
this phrase could be given as 'the problem of the isolated farm', but in 
Hungarian, even today, the phrase carries a heavy emotional and analytical 
load. For example, according to Erdei (1970, p. 3), 'If a family has no 
house in the village in addition to their tanya accommodation the con- 
notation is clearly that of a rural slum.' Western travellers to Hungary in 
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries created an image of the entire 
Great Plain as a wild and romantic puszta (steppe), and this image was 
officially maintained, largely for the benefit of the tourist trade, at least 
until the inter-war period. It was left to Hungarian novehsts and socio- 
graphers in the first half of this century to describe the real 'tanya problem', 
particularly as it existed in the conditions created by the penetration of 
capitalism. Population growth and pressure upon the land led to the 
establishment of fully autonomous tanyas (units of production and 
consumption without any connection with larger nuclear settlements), 
sometimes in previously uninhabited regions. Tazlar provides a good 
illustration of this particular settlement phenomenon and of the full range 
of social problems posed by all types of scattered settlement.' 

The second term with which the reader must familiarise himself is 
'szakszdvetkezet' (pronounced 'socksovetkezet'), which can be rendered 
as 'specialist cooperative'. The szakszovetkezet is a self-administering 
association of farmers, the sovereign authority of which is the general 
assembly of all the members. This assembly elects an executive committee 
and a full-time salaried chairman from amongst its members. Other full- 
time officers such as agronomists and accountants are responsible for 
managing the activities of the cooperative, both in the socialist sector (i.e. 
the land which is cultivated collectively) and in the dealings with individual 
members. In addition, there is a substantial number of manual workers 
employed at the machinery centre, and some members may work for the 
szakszovetkezet part-time or on a seasonal basis, although the majority of 
individual members devote their main energies to their personal farms. 



The reasons for the establishment of this unusual type of cooperative in 
Tazlar will become clear in Chapters 2 and 3. They have much to do with 
the importance of the tanya in the history of the community and the 
technical difficulties of coUectivising in areas of scattered settlement : 
'From a purely organisational point of view, scattered buildings suitable 
only for a few animals and their fodder . . . could not be considered for 
the purposes of collective farming' (Fekete, 1973, p. 23). However, the 
persistence of the szakszovetkezet in this area is also bound up with 
structural problems of post-collectivisation agriculture in Hungary. Its 
main feature is the scope which it affords to individual small-farming. 
The members of this association are not obhged to change their tra- 
ditional pattern of farming and a majority has carried on farming tra- 
ditional family farms. The evolution of the szakszovetkezet over the last 
two decades is a reflection of government poUcies towards the rest of 
the small-farm sector (primarily the members of full 'production co- 
operatives' who have rights to a household plot), and to some extent of 
the evolution of the economic system itself, especially since the introduction 
of the New Economic Mechanism in 1968. It has frequently been difficult 
to reconcile the practical need for the production of the small-farm sector 
with basic ideological commitments and, in the case of the szakszovetkezets, 
with a commitment to the eventual completion of collectivisation. The 
latter have flourished for some years now, despite the threat of imminent 
extinction. The reader should bear in mind that in Tazlar, while many 
private farmers were flourishing, poor performances in the small 'socialised 
sector' of the szakszovetkezet, and serious disturbances in the leadership, 
made uncertainty unusually acute in 1977. Many farmers were convinced 
that outside forces would put an end to individual farming on substantial 
family holdings by 1980 at the latest. 

The concern of this book is to examine the changes which have occurred 
in this one particular community during the socialist period, and to show 
how various forms of pre-socialist socio-economic organisation have persisted, 
adapted to, and been accommodated in the sociaUst period. It analyses 
the way in which a traditional peasant economy has responded to the impo- 
sition of collectivisation, and also the effects which this collectivisation 
has had on social and cultural life. It is hoped that, while the community 
itself is not typical, some of the issues raised here can shed some general 
Ught on State sociaUst society. Occasionally these issues may be 'sensitive', 
in the minds of either Hungarian or Western readers. It may dismay many 
to realise the current rehance of Hungarian agriculture upon its small- 
farming sector and to accept that the government regulates its relationship 
with this sector primarily through the price mechanism and material in- 
centives. However, I should make it clear that I do not argue that the 
small- farms constitute some kind of autonomous 'private sector'. In fact, 
I agree with the repeated claims of the authorities that most small-farms, 
including those of the szakszovetkezet community, should be considered 
as a more or less integrated component of modern socialist agriculture. 


Unlike some sociologists critical of State socialist societies, I also believe 
that changes in ownership relations are far from superficial, and, even 
in the szakszdvetkezet community, the ownership of land has been dis- 
placed as the basic criterion of social status. At the same time, I find it 
useful to consider the persistence of elements of a 'peasant mode of 
production' within the small-farm sector and, despite ideology and despite 
some empirical evidence for the equaUsation of rural and urban incomes 
in Hungary in recent years, to reconsider at the end of the book the 
question of continuing disparities between town and countryside and the 
emotive issue of 'exploitation'. 

The community which is the subject of this book is known as Tazlar. 
For a period after 1907 it was called Pronayfalva (Pronay's village), having 
taken the name of a well-known politician and noble, who had no con- 
nection with the settlement, but from whom the local administration of 
the time hoped for patronage and financial assistance. The lord was ap- 
parently willing for the community to bear his name, but less forthcoming 
with material aid. The original name was restored in 1947. Confusion 
reigns today only in the heads of certain outside employees at the council 
offices, who puzzle about the location of Pronayfalva, the recorded birth- 
place of the majority of the population of Tazlar today. 

The community name is not the only name which has changed over 
the years. The streets in the centre have acquired official names in the 
socialist period, but many of the older people have not learned them and 
regularly use the old forms. Certain buildings too have changed their 
function, but have retained their popular designation. When a new bisztro 
(bar), including an expresso coffee section and providing meal services, 
replaced the former kocsma (inn) in the early 1970s, the new name took 
a long time to stick, and many of those for whom there has been no change 
of function still tend to prefer the term 'kocsma'. 

Moreover, the people themselves have changed their names. One oc- 
casionally hears the boast in Tazlar that this is a pure Hungarian community 
in an ethnically very mixed district. Kiskords was populated by Slovaks 
in the early eighteenth century and Tazlar's immediate neighbour, Solt- 
vadkert, was settled by Svdb Germans shortly afterwards. In fact, many 
of the early settlers in Tazlar came from these two older coirmiunities. 
Both these and others later changed foreign-sounding family names to 
similar-sounding Hungarian forms, for patriotic reasons. Thus Plametz 
became Pusztafi. Fogl became Fdldi or Fdldvari, and Hasko became 
Hadfi, to give but a few examples of family names common in Tazlar 
today. Immigration into Tazlar continued until after the First World 
War, when a number of families from Transylvania arrived in the com- 
munity. They had possibly the best claim of all the settlers to a pure 
Hungarian ethnicity. 

At any rate, the name Tazlar is indubitably more ancient. The first 
reference to a settlement of this name dates from 1429 (Karoly, 1904 


p. 603), and it is likely that there was a well-developed network of small 
villages in this area in the later period of Kun settlement. The Kuns or 
Cumanians were a nomadic eastern-Turkish people who arrived in several 
waves in the Carpathian Basin and were settled by medieval Hungarian 
kings principally in the region between the Rivers Danube and Tisza. The 
names of Tazlar and those of its immediate neighbours Bocsa, Bodoglar 
and Kdtony are all of Kun-Turkish origin (Rasonyi, 1958). 

Nothing is known of the medieval settlement. According to a legend 
widely repeated today, but with scant archaeological support, the original 
settlement was on a slightly raised area, about 1 kilometre from the 
village centre, known as Church Hill. Stones found here are said to have 
been used in the construction of modern tanyas in the 1 870s. Almost 
the entire Danube-Tisza interfluve was abandoned following the Turkish 
invasion and their decisive victory over the Christian armies at Mohacs 
in 1526. Thus the lands of Tazlar were uninhabited for some three centuries 
in all, although this did not imply that they were not used, nor that their 
ownership was not important and subject to occasional legal wrangling. 
The social structure of Turkish-controlled Hungary was highly complex. 
While in some areas villagers paid taxes to both the Turk and to the 
nominal Hungarian landlord, elsewhere the emergence of large and sub- 
stantially autonomous agrarian towns undermined feudalism. The latter 
tendency was stronger in the Danube-Tisza interfluve. In the middle of 
the seventeenth century Tazlar was rented for pasture by the citizens of 
Szeged, to the south-east (Borovsky, 1910). Later, at the very end of the 
Turkish occupation, a peasant from Kiskunhalas lost his life after venturing 
beyond the town boundaries into Tazlar. (Nagy Szeder, 1926, Document 

The expulsion of the Turks began a new epoch in the eighteenth 
century, characterised by the general reimposition of feudal controls, a 
Second Feudalism which sent the country into a developmental process in 
many ways the reverse of that under way in western Europe. The re- 
constituted enclaves of Kun settlement, including the most southerly on 
the interfluve, the Kiskunsag, are partial exceptions to this process. They 
retained their anomalous status in the Hungarian state until the middle of 
the nineteenth century. But the new Kiskunsag had no connection with 
the original Kun settlers, and Kiskunhalas for example was repopulated in 
the main by Hungarians from south Transdanubia. Furthermore, the 
geographical correspondence with the old Kun territory was imperfect. 
Tazlar was excluded, and linked instead, together with five other unin- 
habited properties, all described as pusztas, to the new settlement 
of Kiskdrds, which was granted by the monarchy to the Wattay family in 
gratitude for poUtical and military services rendered (Sarlay, 1934). This 
family then populated the settlement with poor peasants from Slovakia 
in 1718(Tepliczky, 1880). 

In the course of the eighteenth century the Wattay serfs travelled out 
regularly to Tazlar for summer grazing. The noble family lived in Pomaz, 


north of Buda, and its archives record in detail the rents paid from its many 
widely-distributed possessions. They also show that an inn was established, 
probably at the crossroads of the Soltvadkert -Szeged and the Kecskem^t- 
Kiskunhalas roads, the same intersection which still marks the centre of the 
community today. The consumption of spirit (pdlinka) was high here during 
the summer months, when it was proportionately low in Kiskoros; in 
winter, when the animals were kept in the town, the pattern was reversed. 
During this period Tazlar developed the same outlaw traditions as did 
neighbouring regions of the Kiskunsag. These flourished until well into 
the nineteenth century, when, according to some, the famous outlaw 
Sandor Rozsa sought refuge here for a time after his escape from gaol 
in Szeged. A case of violent assault and robbery on the 'Tazlar puszta' which 
rendered a local man incapable of work for some months is recorded in 
Kiskoros in 1807, in terms which suggest that the event was far from un- 

A few years after this, the Wattay property began to fragment. This 
process intensified as the century proceeded, and is very typical of the 
fate of large sections of the Hungarian nobihty of the period (Malyusz, 
1924). Tazlar was separated from Kiskoros and the more northerly of the 
six pusztas. It was hnked instead, both administratively and ecclesiastically, 
to Soltvadkert, and, according to the ecclesiastical records, permanent 
settlements began in 1822, probably from Soltvadkert. The annual popu- 
lation counts throughout the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century 
show very considerable fluctuations in Tazlar, and a maximum population 
density of less than one person per square mile (2.6 square kilometres). 
Permanent settlement here in 1881 was still very limited in extent, in 
contrast to the developed nuclear community of Soltvadkert. 

The modern age began with heavy waves of settlement in the 1870s and 
coincided with the tragic decades of the 'tanya movement' in Hungary. 
By this time the puszta had been divided between several large landowners, 
but the name Tazlar still designated an area far larger than that of the 
present community. It included the whole of Bocsa and Harkakotony, 
plus fragments of other neighbouring communities, making a total territory 
of over 100 square miles (260 square kilometres) (Galgoczy, 1876). In 
1872, an independent local administration over this territory was formed, 
on principles which were not fundamentally altered for a further three- 
quarters of a century (see Chapter 5 below). A former manor house was 
used temporarily as a school in Upper Tazlar. It was converted into a church 
in the first decade of the twentieth century, after the construction of a 
new schoolhouse, the single classroom of which is still in use today. Tazlar 
was separated from Bocsa and new council offices were built in what is 
now the village centre, still sometimes referred to as 'Lower Tazlar'. 

Despite these changes and the growth of organised religion and edu- 
cation, the tanya world was growing very rapidly during these years, 
with minimal administrative interference. The individuahst spirit of frontier 
pioneers replaced the bonds and social control of a cohesive community.' 


Population growth is shown in Table 1 . The process of parcellisation at- 
tracted the poorer strata, and especially the landless, from surrounding 
black-soil regions, including large numbers from beyond the Tisza. How- 
ever, by the 1930s in Tazla'r also there was a significant proportion without 
land. The diaries and records of the Catholic Church for the inter-war 
period reveal considerable poverty, and susceptibility to disease and to 
alcoholism in certain sections of the population. Yet the census data of 
1935 (Table 2) are open to a rather different interpretation. Compared to 
other Hungarian communities at this time, Ta'zlar has a high proportion 
of peasants with plots over 5 hold (2.8 hectares) and, even allowing for 
the poor quality of much of this land, one might presume the existence of 
a large, mainly self-sufficient 'middle peasantry'. In some respects the farm 
production of this peasantry, notably in animal-breeding, compares 
favourably with production levels in the community today. 

Table 1 Total population 1880-1978 


1890 1900 



1930 1941 


1960 1970 



515 876 



3,103 3,147 


2,994 2,466 


Note: Figures prior to 1910 are official estimates from the totals which then included 
Bbcsa and other territories. The figure for 1978 was obtained at the Tazlar 
council offices and is the official figure on 31 May. 

Table 2 Land ownership 1935 

(area in hold) 
Less than 1 1-5 5-50 50-100 100-500 500+ Total 

without with 

ploughland ploughland 

No. of 

farms 27 61 279 507 55 26 4 959 

1 hold = 0.58 hectares (5,755 square metres) 

The aim of this book is to examine the changes in the community that 
have taken place in the socialist period. However, to understand these one 
must begin from the ambiguous achievement of the pre-socialist society 
and the compatibiUty of extremes of inequality and poverty with an 
apparently 'open', private peasant economy, tanya-based and subject to 
no effective community control, in which certain families were highly 
mobile and indeed very prosperous. 


Tazlar is situated on low-lying sandy soils in the centre of the Danube- 
Tisza interfluve, about 80 miles (130 kilometres) south-east of Budapest. 
The sand is characteristic of large areas of the interfluve, although in recent 
decades the notorious shifting sands {futo homok) have been brought 
under effective control by planned forestation. In Tazlar the problem has 
always been most acute in the fourth zone, which borders Kotony and 
Bodoglar. This has always been the most sparsely populated area, and was 
forested on a large scale in an early phase of resettlement by the absentee 
landlord, Earl Vigyazo, after whom the entire forest is still popularly 
named. The settlers of the 1870s were all exhorted to plant trees in order 
to restrict the movement of the sand (Galgoczy, 1876). 

Despite the very low average value of agricultural land, there is a con- 
siderable variety of soil types. The territory is now divided administratively 
into four zones which are roughly equal in size and which meet in the 
village centre (see map 2). The first resettlers occupied what is generally 
regarded as the best black earth, to the west and north-west of the village 
centre in the first and second zones. The third zone, to the east and north- 
east, like the fourth, is of lower average quality than the first two, especially 
as one moves away from the village centre in the direction of Szank, the 
so-called 'Szank corner'. Most of the land in this zone has been taken 
over by the Kiskoros State Farm. Apart from a small area of forest, two 
successful large-scale vineyards were established in this zone by the State 
Farm in the 1960s. This success highlights a factor which applies equally 
to private peasant farming. The pioneers learned over time that it was 
possible to carry on certain types of agriculture on apparently unattractive 
soils, and that careful manuring would improve results significantly in aU 
but the most hopeless areas of shifting sand. Only in recent years have 
scientific soil analyses preceded the execution of costly investments. The 
large-scale vineyards now planned by the szakszovetkezet for the early 
1980s should not fail in the same way as earlier szakszovetkezet projects 
of the 1960s. 

Detailed climatic information has to be taken from data for Harka- 
kotony, Soltvadkert and Kecskemet. There is an annual average of 2,051 
hours of sunshine, and 25 inches (635 millimetres) of rain (14 (355 mil- 
limetres) of which fall between April and September). Cloudbursts are very 
common during the summer, and May and June are the wettest months of 
the year. The average temperature in July is 21 .9° C, in January — 1.8°C. 
(with a January record minimum of — 32.2°C. and record maximum of 
17°C.). The people of Tazlar feel that their winters have become milder 
in recent years, and certainly the quantity and duration of snow cover 
appears to have diminished. The essential climatic uncertainties of great 
relevance for agricultural production have, however, persisted. The first 
frost on average occurs on 20 October, but frost has been known as early 
as September. Similarly, the 50-year average for the last spring frost is 
10 April, but frosts have been known to occur late in May. Hailstorms in 
spring or early summer have frequently destroyed an entire year's grape 


production, wliile the wind, which moves the sands, is also a recurring 
hazard which often makes work in the fields impossible. 

The main branches of agriculture have not changed fundamentally 
since resettlement. The production profile of most farms was initially 
decisively influenced by the conditions of tanya settlement and the 
isolation of Tazlar from outside markets, even after the opening of the 
railway at Soltvadkert in 1882. Grain was not produced for sale on these 
soils, but animal-breeding continued on larger properties with the old 
extensive methods. Later, following intensive parcelUsation, the local 
council administered a public pasture which afforded even smaller farmers 
at least summer-grazing rights. The census of 1895 records a total of 
3,265 head of Hungarian cattle on the territory then administered from 
Tazlar. By 1935, on a territory reduced by more than half, this number 
had fallen to 1,463, and a much larger area was devoted to intensive 
crop production, especially to maize. However, fruit and wine production 
was probably of greater marketability from the outset, and was given 
by many families as the main reason for their migration to Tazlar. The 
Danube-Tisza interfluve is not one of the great traditional wine-producing 
regions of Hungary, but because of the incidence of phylloxera in those 
regions, grape cultivation spread rapidly in the decades of heavy resettle- 
ment in Tazlar. Thus fruit and wine production also estabUshed itself 
in both the ideal and the actual composition of peasant farm output. 
Richer farmers, able to produce their own wine, found this a highly 
marketable commodity in the inter-war period ; but even poorer settlers, 
those unable to keep large animals, still had an area of vines for their own 
consumption and, perhaps through some exchange with richer farmers, 
found many opportunities to satisfy their consumer demands in wine 

Map 1 shows the position of Tazlar and its regional communications. 
The only tarmac road runs from north-west to south-east and is traversed 
twice daily in each direction by the long-distance bus. Almost all other 
bus services link the community to the west, to the rich community of 
Soltvadkert (population presently around 8,500), and to the towns of 
Kisk6r6s (population 15,000) and Kiskunhalas (population 28,000) on 
working-days only. However, there are no buses in this direction after 
six o'clock and on Sunday there is only the long-distance bus, which leaves 
soon after four. Hence public transport, and in particular access to the 
railway station at Soltvadkert 6 miles (10 kilometres) away, still leaves 
much to be desired, and contributes to the importance of private means 
of conveyance. 

It is obvious from Map 1 that to go from Tazlar to Kiskunhalas via 
Soltvadkert is a somewhat circuitous route. However, the earth road 
which provides a more direct link is frequently quite unsuitable for motor 
transport, and the same is true of the earth road which joins Tazlar to 
Bocsa, in the direction of Kecskemet. Many Tazlar people allege that 
the condition of these roads is connected with the presence in the vicinity 


of Soviet and Hungarian military bases, and the shooting ranges at Bocsa 
and Kotony. Certain sections of the entire earth road grid estabUshed 
over the community during tanya parcellisation are regularly rendered 
impassable by long convoys of mihtary vehicles. These generally travel 
at night, and soldiers are not often seen in the village centre. 

Bocsa, Pirto, Bodoglar and Harkakotony are neighbouring 'tanya 
centres', the first two roughly comparable in size and settlement pattern 
to Tazlar, the latter less developed and administratively subordinate to 
Kiskunmajsa and Kiskunhalas respectively. Tazlar people commute to both 
of these towns (commonly abbreviated as Majsa and Halas), but there are 
no formal administrative links. Instead, Tazlar remains, as it was in the 
eighteenth century, the south-eastern extremity of a district administered 
from Kiskoros. There is no longer an elected district council, but Kis- 
koros contains nevertheless a large Party-State apparatus which, as will be 
examined in this book, plays a very important role in events in Tazlar. 
The town, famous as the birthplace of the great revolutionary poet Sandor 
Petofi, also contains a court-house and a large surgery; it has grown rapidly 
since its promotion to the rank of town in 1972, but still lacks a substantial 
industrial base and as a market centre it attracts from Tazlar only those 
dependent upon public transport. For the marketing of their own produce 
and for exceptional consumer needs, in addition to the local Thursday 
market in Tazlar itself, the twice-weekly market in Soltvadkert is sufficient. 

1 . The local market 


For other needs, the fashion is increasingly to take longer trips, either to 
Szeged or to the county-town of Bacs-Kiskun county, Kecskemet. The 
latter also exercises considerable direct administrative control over Tazlar, 
and local officials must travel here almost as often as they are called to 
Kiskoros. Tazlar men work in all these towns and in the capital itself. 
Those young people who study beyond the compulsory eight-grade 
'general school' in the village are even more widely spread. 

Ecclesiastically, Tazlar falls into the Catholic diocese of Kalocsa, in 
a district formerly based on the larger village of Kecel. Episcopal visits 
are rare nowadays and no longer demand a mounted guard of welcome at 
the community boundary (which point is still marked, however, by a 
large wooden crucifix at the side of the road). Kalocsa is also the centre of 
the dairy enterprise to which Tazlar's daily milk output is sold. 

The internal communications and landscape of Tazlar are quickly 
described. Upper Tazlar (a felso telep), about 2 kilometres nearer Solt- 
vadkert, and the site of the earliest manor houses and of the first church 
and school, was the original tanya-centre. Even today there is some new 
house-building here, because some tanya-dwellers of the vicinity prefer to 
move here than to build in the village centre. All the buses stop in Upper 
Tazlar, and there is a shop and a private grinder. The population of the 
hamlet is around 130, their houses border the main road and two small 
side-streets, and the average age of the inhabitants is somewhat higher 
than the average in the village. 

The regular plan of the main village (Map 3) was laid down in the first 
decade of the century, yet in the 1970s a few of the house-plots in these 
old streets were still awaiting their first dwelling, and were temporarily 
functioning as gardens. The final street on the eastern side, north of the 
main road, is old and distinctive. Its small, identical houses were constructed 
in the 1930s specifically for poorer families with many children, one of a 
range of direct relief measures taken by the State in the years after the 
depression. The street is still known by the nickname bestowed at the time 
of construction and also retains a little of its past in the character of its 
inhabitants today. The last street on the other side of the main road has 
an utterly different character, having been more recently built up by 
richer farmers moving in from tanyas. Most new housing is scheduled for 
the area north of the main road. The allocation of all building plots is 
now carefully controlled by the council. Its latest long-term development 
plan for the community has designated a large marshy area within the 
inner village (belteriilet) for landscaping as a park. The road which leads 
in the direction of Kecskemet and is officially named the Kecskemeti ut 
has been built up so as to link it to the most proximate tanya row, which 
it now incorporates as part of the inner village. 

Tanyas are not randomly scattered over the land, but are in general 
found at regular intervals along an earth road, sometimes still bearing exact 
witness to the original scheme of parcellisation. Some have profited from 
specific natural features and built beside one of the two large shallow lakes, 



or in the shelter of a permanent sand-hill, or in the cover of a pre-existent 
copse or glade. Others were built wherever their families were able to make 
a plot available, and this explains the existence today of several rows of 
dwellings built as close to each other as village houses are, and commonly 
named after a single family. The tanya was usually surrounded by trees, 
so that it was visible to the stranger only in winter. The complete fencing 
in of the farmyard is, however, a more recent development. It is associated 
in the state farm area of the third zone with a measured 'household plot', 
the norm for which in the nation as a whole since mass collectivisation has 
been 1 hold (0.58 hectares). All the principal earth road arteries have popular 
names, usually signifying the dominant family along a particular track, or 
some conspicuous feature such as a windmill. 

Today almost all public buildings and faciUties are concentrated in the 
village, most of them in a very small area at the centre. At the perimeter 
one finds the two cemeteries, the sports field, the dairy and animal col- 
lection points and the machinery centre of the szakszovetkezet, its granaries 
and grinder. Otherwise, everything has developed within a stone's throw 
of the ancient crossroads. This is the site of the modern bisztro, where 
the Communist Party offices stood in the 1950s. Next door, on the site 
of the former kocsma, is the main self-service shop. There are also separate 
butchers', clothing and household-goods shops, which operate in the 

2. A tanya of the second zone. It is inhabited, but has no garden plot and 
only a small yard. It is surrounded by collectively-owned pasture 



framework of a Consumers' Cooperative based in Soltvadkert. This total 
falls considerably short of the number of private shops which functioned 
in the 1930s. Across the road from the bisztro and shop a small park has 
been established. Behind it, the former village hall (nephdz) has been 
recently converted into a spinning factory, controlled from Kiskunhalas 
and employing some 50 persons, most of them female. Next door is the 
calvinist church, built in the mid-1960s, while a httle further down the 
Kecskemeti ut are the large culture house, opened in 1961 and fulfilling 
many of the old functions of the nephdz, and the new kindergarten. 
The main school was built on the same block in the 1960s and replaced 
a previously fragmented network of classrooms founded, and until the late 
1940s maintained, along sectarian lines by the two major Churches. In 
the same street as the school are the administrative offices of the 
szdvetkezet, in a converted former private house, the new post office 
(opened in 1963), the new council offices (1965) and the new surgery 
(1973). The largest building in the community remains the Roman Catholic 
church, built beside the main road after decades of planning and wrangling 
with the authorities, largely through self-help and subscription in the 
difficult years of the 1950s, and finally consecrated in 1958. 

The physical environment of both village centre and tanya world has 
been transformed in the socialist period. In the village the 1970s brought 
a steep increase in house prices, but dwellings continued to increase in 
size and to follow ever more novel designs. The first two-storeyed house 
was built in 1971 by a private motor mechanic, and not emulated until 
five years later by a private builder and by the then treasurer of the 
szakszovetkezet. Pavements have been laid down in all the village streets 
by the council, which in an energetic phase in the 1960s also established 
a piped-water system and contributed towards the costs of electrification. 
Not all households drew immediate benefit from these services, as the 
costs to individuals remained considerable. There are still a few families 
today who use petroleum lights in winter evenings, and draw their water 
from pumps in the street or from wells. The village skyline is now also 
adorned with television aerials. In 1978 there were officially 228 sets in 
the entire community, including some battery-powered models in tanyas; 
there were also 337 radios, plus one or two unofficial (i.e. unlicensed) 
colour television sets. Bicycles remain the ubiquitious form of transport. 
The traditional horse-drawn carriage was replaced by a rubber-tyred 
version in the 1960s. Slowly, of course, horses are themselves being re- 
placed by motor vehicles, but recent tax changes designed to encourage 
small-farming, through eliminating the tax on horses, may weaken this 
trend still further in Tazlar. 

Change in the tanya environment has been no less-far-reaching. Tanyas 
themselves crumble very quickly once abandoned, even if the roof and 
other sections are not immediately dismantled for use elsewhere. In certain 
areas, especially in the first and second zones, the land has already been 
transformed by the formation of large fields or tdblas, which are farmed 



by the szakszovetkezet on a large scale, principally for cereal production. 
On the other hand, there are numerous areas in every zone where land has 
fallen into disuse in recent decades. In 1977 the treasurer of the szak- 
szovetkezet estimated privately that between one-quarter and one-third 
of the total surface area of Tazlar might fall into this category. In the 
following year a major campaign was launched in the nation as a whole 
to restore all abandoned lands to efficient cultivation. In Tazlar strenuous 
efforts were made but, for reasons which will become clear in later chapters, 
the task was proving impossible and the szakszovetkezet, according to the 
new laws, was having to face heavy fines. New forests and large-scale 
vineyards were mentioned above. The other major change in the landscape 
has resulted from costly investment in irrigation channels, which now Unk 
the major lakes of the community and also join up with similar schemes 
in neighbouring communities. The total project is of questionable final 
advantage to the szakszovetkezet, but nevertheless absorbed most of its 
investment resources in the 1970s. 

This introductory outline is developed in Chapter 2, which concentrates 
upon the problems associated with tanya settlement and the task of 
'community building' in the socialist period. Tanya settlement in itself 
is shown, however, to be an insufficient explanation for the contradictions 
which have arisen from half-hearted collectivisation in Tazlar, although 

3. A new village street on the northern side, after rain 



tanya residence has continued to play a significant role in farm production 
for a certain section of the population. 

Chapter 3 follows Tazlar's recent history in its national context. It begins 
with the origins of the cooperative movement in the 1940s and continues 
through the reversals of 1956 to the accompUshment of mass collectivisation 
between 1959 and 1961 and the formation in Tazlar of simple cooperative 
groups and later of szakszovetkezets. The theory and practice of the szak- 
szdvetkezets is related to basic premises of Hungarian development strategy, 
and also to the reform of the national economic mechanism introduced in 
1968, i.e. the launching of the so-called 'guided-market economy' 

Chapters 4, 5 and 6 examine various aspects of the szakszdvetkezet 
community. Each contains detailed analysis of the situation which prevailed 
at the time of fieldwork and some form of prognosis for the 1980s. Although 
the list of topics covered is far from exhaustive, it becomes clear that the 
influence of the szakszdvetkezet upon the development of the community 
has been profound and certainly cannot be restricted to any narrow 'economic' 
sphere. Chapter 7 reverts to certain theoretical implications of the earlier 
analysis, which mainly concern the transformation of the peasantry and 
the basic character and relevance of the 'Hungarian Road', in both collec- 
tivisation and general development policy. 



The tanya question 

The late Ferenc Erdei, one of Hungary's greatest social scientists, in his 
early sociography of the Danube-Tisza interfluve, classified Tazlar with a 
small group of tanya communities which 'lacked any germ of a village' 
(Erdei, 1957, p. 174). At the same time he made it clear, both here and a 
few years later in his definitive treatise on the tanya question (Erdei, 1976), 
that this form of tanya settlement was exceptional and that therefore the 
problems which it posed would lie outside the general scope of 'tanya 
pohcy', which in any case Erdei regarded as a poorly formulated panacea 
unable to remedy the fundamentally misguided policies of the Horthy 
government. In contrast to the typical settlement pattern of the Great 
Plain with its ancient nomadic origins, the tanyas of Tazlar were permanent 
and self-contained productive and residential units. Because they had not 
developed through any specific relation with a neighbouring town or older 
nuclear settlement they did not, strictly, deserve to be called tanyas. More- 
over, the sum of these self-contained units had developed only minimal 
community institutions and even these were, for the most part, externally 
imposed by the requirements of the State administrative system. Because 
of the diversity of the immigrants and the absence of nuclear settlement 
the application of any concept of 'community' to Tazlar has, until quite 
recently, been quite unreal. Today, despite deliberate emphasis upon 
community-building in the sociaUst period, there is still a tanya problem 
which needs to be faced. This is not necessarily the same problem as that 
now typical of the rest of the country, where the tanya system had different 
origins and closer links with traditional communities, and has often played 
a different role in the transition to a collectivised agriculture in the sociaUst 

There is an immediate and obvious contradiction between the goals of 
large-scale, collectivised agriculture and fragmented tanya settlement of 
the kind which took place in Tazlar. This problem is often discussed in the 
literature and was the main justification for effectively excluding Tazlar 
and a number of similar communities from mass-coUectivisation in the 
early 1960s (Orosz, 1969). The task of this chapter is threefold: first 
of all to define the relationship between Tazlar's atypical tanya settlement 
pattern and the character of peasant economy in the capitaUst period; 
secondly, to assess the impact of socialist policies, of specific measures to 
stimulate migration into the village centre and the criteria likely to in- 
fluence the choice of residence in the near future; and thirdly, to consider 


The tanya question 

what role, if any, the tanya has played in the farming economy of the 
socialist period. 

/ Tanya settlement and the peasant economy of the capitalist period 

The break-up of the unified puszta which had belonged to the Wattay 
family began in the early part of the nineteenth century. It intensified 
after the 1870s and reached a climax in the first decade of the twentieth 
century. This was the period in which agriculture was begun, on land 
previously utihsed only for summer grazing. These decades also saw heavy 
immigration, mass migrations in the national context, and the full impact 
of capitaUst penetration from western Europe. In the mid-1 870s there 
were already numerous manors and tanyas of various sizes (Galgoczy, 
1876). The founder of the Lazar family is said by his descendants to have 
arrived at this time from Szeged and to have purchased 600 hold (340 
hectares) of the best soil, and to have Uved for a few years in huts dug into 
the ground before gathering the materials for tanya construction. Later, 
the parcels which larger landowners offered for sale through regional 
banks became much smaller. Several old men still recall the parcellisation 
of the Schwdb property in 1905 by the Kalocsa Bank. This was sold off 
in 30-hold (17-hectare) parcels, some of which were taken up by immigrants 
from Soltvadkert, who constructed what became known as the Hirsch 
row of tanyas at just over 2 kilometres from the lower village centre. This 
cluster is still fully populated today and, having been electrified, is likely 
to remain so. However, four of the Schwab parcels, totalling 134 hold 
(75 hectares), were taken up by a single family of earlier settlers who were 
already prospering on the rich soils of this zone. 

Despite the tendency for larger properties to fragment, which continued 
until the end of the capitaUst period and reached a climax in the Land 
Reform of 1945, inequaUties remained very pronounced throughout this 
period. For example, there are records of essential welfare relief in the 
community being undertaken by the local council from the 1870s onwards. 
There is considerable difference of opinion in the recollections of in- 
formants concerning the period prior to the liberation. Many middle 
peasants assert that they never had any difficulty in buying land when they 
wished to expand, but were frequently unable to find a ready market 
when they wished to sell; some blamed this fact specifically upon the 
security enjoyed by the landless and farm-servant strata in Tazlar, which 
gave them no incentive to set up independent farms. During the Second 
World War there were one or two properties which were owned by absentee 
landlords and exploited in a more 'capitalist' manner. But even these 
were a far cry from the system of large noble estates which remained 
dominant in the country as a whole, and in Tazlar the largest farms were 
owned by rich peasants who were frequently well liked and respected by 
the people who worked for them, in permanent or temporary capacities. 

On the other hand, there are many objective reasons for supposing that 


The capitalist period 

the greater mobility of the first generation of settlement in the heyday of 
the tanya movement, when even poor immigrants fortunate in the location 
of their parcel had a real opportunity for self-enrichment, had been stifled 
by the sheer volume of settlement and by the economic conditions of the 
inter-war period. For example, later immigrants who obtained between 
5 and 1 5 hold (3 and 9 hectares) of poor soil on peripheral zones such 
as the Szank corner were faced with a daunting subsistence task. Most men 
in this neighbourhood were always in need of work as farm servants or as 
day-labourers. They generally kept one cow, but only a few kept a horse 
as well; almost all had about 1 hold (0.58 hectare) of vines. Today this 
zone has been considerably depopulated by the expansion of the State 
Farm, and only two young families remain. 

The formation of a community from such disparate tanya elements 
was in a number of ways impeded by the peasant economy of the period. 
There was no public market activity in the form of exchange of goods within 
the territory, and only larger farmers were able to develop external trading 
links, usually with Jewish merchants in Soltvadkert and Kiskunhalas. But 
despite the constraint on mobility by worsening economic conditions and 
the hmited extent of external marketing, the organisation of farm work did 
not encourage the integration of tanya households. In fact, tanya farming 
is remembered by most middle peasants as isolated and individualised. It 
contrasts fundamentally with the mutual-aid patterns found in most 
peasant economies, as for example with the cooperation described by Fel 
and Hofer in their study of a traditional community of the Great Plain 
(Fel and Hofer, 1969, pp. 179—80). It is through both the individualisation 
of production and consumption on the tanya, and the new pattern of 
stratification which followed, emphasised by unilateral transfers of labour 
to richer farmers, that the tanya system in Tazlar revealed the scope it 
afforded capitaUst forces. This was in spite of the unfavourable environment 
and the fact that the system was built by those in flight from the consequences 
of capitalist penetration elsewhere in the countryside. 

It is very important to understand the character and extent of capitalist 
relations in Tazlar in this period and to realise that the character of capitalist 
penetration in other, more traditional, village communities was quite dif- 
ferent. It is true that in its regional context Tazlar has always been regarded 
as a poor and backward settlement, and with some justification. It has 
also been perceived as socially very heterogeneous, and it is still considered 
as such today. It is easy to forget about this social diversity when the main 
aim is to stress the relative deprivation of the entire community, and this 
is very much the case with Erdei (1957). At this time Erdei was considering 
the process of embourgeoisement (polgdrosodds) of the peasantry from a 
material and technical point of view, basing his judgements upon the 
development of the forces of production, and neglecting the class relations 
which were then developing within the peasantry. Erdei welcomed this 
process. Moreover, in many of the older nuclear communities of the region, 
including Kiskords, he understated the class differences and emphasised 


The tanya question 

the unity and the social homogeneity of the village (Erdei, 1957, p. 168). 
Later, in his foreword to the third edition of Futohomok, Erdei retracted 
this analysis. Instead he declared that there were two aspects to the 
process of embourgeoisement and that he was concerned with the develop- 
ment of both forces and relations, though a certain ambiguity would have 
to remain through the use of the single term polgarosodas. The distinction 
is nevertheless important for the analysis here. In Kiskoros Erdei saw that 
the forces of production were rapidly developing in response to capitaUst 
stimuU, but that the attendant process of class formation was rendered 
much less acute by the unity of the community. In Tazlar the absence 
of any such unity was a condition for the formation of classes which 
developed along capitaUst lines in spite of the high proportion of self- 
sufficient family farms, and the number of other factors which inhibited 
the development of productive forces (market isolation, etc.). 

One further aspect of the economy of this region in the capitaHst period 
should be stressed as a condition for the social relations which prevailed in 
Tazlar, and which created a very different situation from that which 
prevailed in the country as a whole. Because of fruit and wine production, 
the latter exceptionally labour-intensive, there was no fundamental problem 
for anyone here in making a Uving from the land. Despite the heavy settle- 
ment of the tanya period, the land was always able to absorb more im- 
migrants. Significantly, it was the poor who led the way in the planting 
of vineyards, but when the richer farmers followed and Hungarian wines 
became increasingly popular on the German market, casual labour oppor- 
tunities were guaranteed, and at times of the year which did not prevent 
subsistence production from continuing in other branches. Erdei makes 
the point in relation to Soltvadkert (Erdei, 1957, p. 171) but it applies 
just as well to Tazlar: the "rural labour surplus' in Tazlar was not condemned 
to the fate suffered by landless labourers in so many other parts of the 
country (such as seasonal migration or non-agricultural work). This was so 
in the earUer phase of the tanya period because of the general availability 
of land, and, as land became increasingly scarce, because of changes in the 
composition of production and the market conjuncture in wine. Consequently 
despite the restricted mobiHty of the later tanya period, everyone was able 
to make some sort of Mving from the land inside his native community. Thus, 
in comparison with other regions of Hungary, much social conflict was 
not thrown so sharply into relief here. However, this must not bUnd us to 
an awareness of conflict and of its underlying causes. 

Can we relate this discussion to anthropological theory of peasant 
economy, and postulate a Unk between tanya settlement and the peasant 
economy of Tazlar in the capitalist period? A late settlement community 
of scattered peasant farms is qualitatively different from the nuclear com- 
munity on which much of the traditional theory of peasant economy has 
been founded. It is not necessary for the settlement to be nuclear for the 
village to be considered as a production entity and not simply a 'granular 
mass of households' (Georgescu-Roegen, 1970). It is common to assume 


The capitalist period 

that the village is cohesive in every way, that cooperation between house- 
holds will complement production on the family farm, and even that the 
unity of the village as a community ('Gemeinschaft') is a simulation at 
a higher level of the organisation of the peasant family itself. Now, given 
that the village community does have some determining influence over 
the sphere of operation of individual farms, it is only a short step to posing 
the community as a barrier or shield which can protect those productive 
units from the market principles which increasingly impinge from out- 
side in the period of capitalist penetration. This has led to the construc- 
tion of an autonomous domain of peasant economy within a capitalist 
national framework, and also to Erdei's failure to notice the changes in 
social relations brought about by capitalism in the 1930s. There is no 
place for class differentiation in the theory of the traditional village. 
Moreover, even in Lenin's classical analysis of the Russian countryside there 
is some recognition of the resistance offered by the traditional community 
to the successful implantation of capitalist relations; in the short term 
and under certain conditions the community is able to preserve the unity 
of a 'stratum of peasants' and to prevent the emergence of a peasantry 
which is differentiated along urban-capitalist hues.' 

These versions of the traditional theory are clearly of httle use for the 
analysis of the pre-war situation in Tazlar. The majority of the tanya 
peasantry were isolated, atomised producers. They were a 'granular mass'. 
From this point of view they can, however, be taken to illustrate another 
recurring theme in the analysis of peasant economy, associated in par- 
ticular with vulgar interpretations of the theories of Chayanov, according 
to which the isolation and the 'natural state' of peasant economy can be 
explained exclusively at the level of the household. Undoubtedly, poor 
communications and farm isolation had severe cultural implications and 
contributed to the absence of a community sentiment. They also contributed 
to economic backwardness, emphasised subsistence production and the 
autonomy of individual farms, and minimised both cooperation in the 
agricultural labour process and dependence on an outside capitalist market. 
In these aspects the tanyas of Tazlar fulfil certain criteria of the traditional 
model of peasant economy, which stress the 'domestic economy /consumption' 
functions at the expense of its character as a productive enterprise. This 
model too assumes the unity of a peasant stratum which is not susceptible 
in these conditions to the class differentiation which only capitalism can 

There is some questionable support for this model in the very large 
number of farms of between 5 and 50 hold (3 and 29 hectares) shown in 
the 1935 census data (see Table 2). But it would be necessary to have a 
more detailed breakdown of this category and of the quality of the land 
they were farming to estimate what proportion of them were able to live 
from their own land alone. And even if this was a considerably higher 
proportion than in most areas of the country at this time, alongside the 
proud autonomous middle peasantry there were those whose production 


The tanya question 

was primarily intended for the market and many others who could only 
dream of self-sufficiency. We must remember that tanya settlement in 
Tazlar grew out of the penetration of capitalism into other areas of the 
Hungarian countryside, and perhaps detailed knowledge of the character- 
istics of those who bought land and settled in Tazlar would help explain 
the pecuUar vulnerabihty of the tanya community itself to capitalist 
forces. Those forces resulted in a very wide span of differentiation and 
in a very active labour market which was much more highly developed 
than the analysis of Chayanov will allow. We may conclude that despite 
the low level of productive forces, and even though many producers were 
not involved directly in significant production for the market, and for a 
long period land remained relatively abundant, nevertheless the settlement 
of this 'frontier' was from the beginning governed by the capitalist mode 
of production. Furthermore, the stratification which resulted in Tazlar 
may have corresponded rather better than the typical pattern in villages 
elsewhere in the country to the Leninist ideological assumptions upon 
which anti-peasant policies and eventually collectivisation came to be 

n The drift away from the tanya 

Nuclear settlement has developed in the lower centre of Tazlar in the 
sociaUst period, i.e. in a period of intensified industriaUsation in the 
national economy and of conditions generally associated with the dis- 
integration of peasant communities. The lower centre is commonly referred 
to as 'the village' and it has been the consistent poUcy of the government 
to persuade tanya-dwellers to build and resettle there. In historical per- 
spective, the socialist ban on farmstead construction, which in practice for 
a long time extended also to farm amelioration, and to the repairing and 
replacing of essential buildings, is in effect a return to pre-settlement 
restrictions (perhaps less effectively enforced, and designed to buttress 
feudal controls over the population).^ Whatever the underlying objectives 
of sociahst policy towards the tanya, in terms either of social control or 
of raising the economic level of the peasantry, it appears to have had far- 
reaching effects, both in Tazlar and throughout the country. In 1949 
Tazlar had a population of 2,650 Uving outside the two tanya centres, 
out of a total population of 3,408 (78 per cent). By 1978 out of a total 
of 2,121, just over 50 per cent were living on tanyas. Almost all the 
growth in the nuclear population had taken place in the lower centre, and 
of the remaining tanyas a high proportion was close to the centres or to the 
main road. These results were not achieved by the use of force. Only those 
residents of the third zone whose farms fell within the area redeveloped 
by the State Farm in the 1960s were obliged to leave their tanyas, although 
situations similar to this were still arising in the late 1970s as the szak- 
szovetkezet embarked upon similar large schemes. When a middle-aged 
widow lost her home to the State Farm, she had a small tanya built by 


The drift away from the tanya 

the family in another area of the third zone, and defended this action on 
the grounds that the compensation provided was insufficient for the pur- 
chase of any dwelling within the village centre. She nevertheless paid a 
small fine. A considerably larger fine was levied upon a rich farmer whose 
permanent abode lay in Soltvadkert but who, in the traditional manner in 
which tanyas originated, built a conspicuously elegant tanya beside his 
fruit plots near the Soltvadkert boundary (see plate 4). Almost a full two 
storeys in height, it incorporated cellars and a garage. Recently, many 
families have renovated buildings and even erected new ones without 
incurring punishment. The main practical difficulty, which several tanya- 
dwellers criticise strongly and claim is forcing them to migrate, is that the 
Savings Bank will not provide loans for tanya-building work. Against this, 
it is clear that for many families the well-known lines of official policy are 
a pretext or at most a secondary factor behind a decision to emigrate, 
the real causes of which must be sought elsewhere; in other words, State 
policy merely facilitates a process which it is unable to control or actively 
to precipitate. 

Ideally, the drift away from the tanya should be linked with a general 
analysis of rural emigration and of the motives and behaviour of different 
categories within the peasantry, all within the context of State policy and 
the distinctive features of 'extensive' industrialisation in Hungary. Because 
there are no rehable statistical data for the social patterns of emigration 
from Tazlar and because the typical patterns of other communities cannot 
be assumed to apply here, there can only be some conjecture, supported by 
the evidence of today and the opinions of informants. All levels of the 

4. A fully modernised, electrified tanya, with surrounding orchards 


The tanya question 

peasantry were affected. The tiny elite of absentee owners and rich peasants 
had been speedily eliminated by the end of the 1940s. The exodus of the 
former agricultural proletariat has been a more gradual process. Some 
obtained larger properties following Land Reform and prospered as small- 
holders, surviving within the framework of the szakszovetkezet up to the 
present day. Others could not respond to the challenge of independent 
farming and preferred to join the cooperative farms which functioned from 
1949. Most of this group have left the community and very few remain 
on tanyas today. As for the middle peasants, although in general their 
children have profited from new educational opportunities, and have 
obtained skills and quaUfications and then emigrated, many of this wide 
band have flourished in the szakszovetkezet community. A high proportion 
of the most impressive new housing in the village centre is the fruit of their 
labour in private small-commodity production. 

In the campaigns which have been regularly mounted by the media as 
a result of countless analyses of the 'tanya problem', much stress is always 
laid upon the cultural and material advantages of residence in the socialist 
village community. Given the obvious attractiveness of the village, despite 
high building-costs and despite better transport and other improvements 
which have reduced the discomforts of the tanya, it is useful to ask in what 
sense this expansion has strengthened bonds of community, and whether this 
community now has a specifically socialist character. 

Undoubtedly, the presence of certain sociaUst institutions in the village 
centre was no incentive to tanya-dwellers and in the past certain bureau- 
cratic organs may have been a considerable disincentive. Later, in an im- 
proved poUtical and economic cUmate, a non-interfering bureaucracy was 
no longer perceived as a threat to private peasant economy; and it is argued 
in Chapter 4 how well the Umited cooperative type, the szakszovetkezet, 
served a certain manner of community integration. However, it is doubtful 
whether the major pubUc investments of a novel, socialist character, such 
as the culture house, contributed much to the popularity of village residence. 
Even the closure of tanya schools and the construction of a large new 
school in the village was no great inducement, for most tanya famihes now 
have close kin in the centre and there is always a place where a child can 
stay during those brief periods in winter when the daily journey may 
prove impracticable. Moreover, certain indirect consequences of the new 
order have had a negative effect. For example, the traditional private shops 
and taverns have been replaced by new establishments under cooperative 
control from Soltvadkert, but the services provided are not reckoned to 
be of a high standard. The quality of the bread and the inadequacy of meat 
supplies were especially delicate problems in 1977. As for the bisztro, the 
only official public tavern, in famiUes where a wife preferred to have her 
husband drink at home this too worked against resettlement in the village. 

Nevertheless, if socialist policy is taken more broadly to include public 
works and the various aspects of successive community development 
plans, then the achievement has been considerable. The improvements of 


The drift away from the tanya 

the 1960s greatly increased the attractiveness of village residence. Further- 
more, the installation of basic amenities to households called for careful 
negotiation between council and individuals, who were required to make 
high advance contributions to the investment costs. These pubUc utility 
provisions may not seem extravagant, but in this context, where, for 
example, social security at this time extended only to a small minority of 
the population, it is difficult to exaggerate the importance of the initiatives 
taken by the council and of the financial collaboration organised between 
households at community level, involving for the first time all sections of 
the population. Significantly, the 'free rider' problem has been an obstacle 
recently to the spread of electrification in the tanya areas where the higher 
material contributions could have been met by a cluster of tanyas, but 
where the households individually were unable to agree and to make their 
demand effective. 

Improvements in public facihties are still going ahead on a smaller 
scale, mainly through additions to existing buildings or to the network of 
pavements around the village. Much more important, however, are the 
changed opportunities for employment, including, in the early 1970s, the 
opening of the spinning factory, for which the council was in part responsible. 
This was the first important source of non-agricultural wage-labour in the 
community, and it absorbed principally unskilled female labour, thus 
complementing the simultaneously expanding opportunities in agriculture 
for male wage-labour. However, since the spinning factory demanded regular 
night-shift work, tanya-dwellers were at a clear disadvantage. Although a 
few workers at the factory, as well as some other daily commuters, do travel 
in from tanyas and affirm that they have no intention of changing their 
abode, the majority of the industrial workforce lives in the village. Modifi- 
cations in traditional peasant economy and the increasing popularity of 
external commuting on a daily basis have inevitably encouraged the move- 
ment in from the tanyas. There is a general demand for wage-labour, not 
only among the young. But young women in particular have been attracted 
by recent State family allowance policies. The child-care allowance intro- 
duced in 1967, which permits a female in employment to take three years' 
maternity leave with a substantial monthly allowance, is one of a few 
socialist measures universally praised by the people of Tazlar. Moreover, 
women are assisted in their return to work by the excellent nursery 
facilities, another major bonus of village residence. In Tazlar in 1977 
approximately 43 women were on paid maternity leave, and of this 
number 35 were resident in the village. 

Thus the growth of the village centre in Tazlar has been influenced 
by socialist policies, but this has been due more to higher national standards 
in public facilities and the integration of the community into the national 
economy than to either tanya policy per se or to the establishment of 
specifically socialist institutions in the village. There are many other 
factors at work, some of which can be quantified — the economic factors 
analysed below — and some of which cannot. It is reasonable to suppose 


The tanya question 

that the process of emigration from tanya areas is self-reinforcing, i.e. that 
conditions which are known to be shared by a number of households in 
an area become less tolerable when the neighbours emigrate, either to 
the village or to some urban destination. Thus depopulation has not 
proceeded evenly over the entire territory, but has left empty pockets 
which cannot be completely explained by the quality of the land, by the 
impact of land confiscations, by distance from the centre or by any other 
quantifiable variable. Despite the radio and many other innovations on the 
tanya, with family size now much reduced and agriculture less demanding 
than in the past, and with younger members of the family expressing 
unambiguous preferences for the village, it may be that behind the decision 
of many a tanya family to move to the village there lies a positive desire 
to discover 'community'. Such a move will frequently mark a transition 
in the life-cycle of the household, or in that of the head of the household 
only, perhaps the latter's definitive abandonment of peasant farming. 

Other aspects of the village housing market and in particular its role in 
prestige competition are considered in Chapter 6. The process of building 
always makes very heavy demands upon family labour and may be very 
protracted (although there is often a panic at the end to meet the official 
deadline when a mortgage has been raised). But when a tanya farmer 
completes his house today there is no guarantee that he will move in at 
once. Some houses have been sold, let, or simply left to stand empty for 
years, providing insurance for an owner who, perhaps for specific economic 
reasons, chooses to stay a little longer farming on the tanya. These economic 
motives and the economic conjuncture of the later 1970s, in which some 
farmers scrambled to sell tanyas while others simultaneously renounced all 
intention of migration to the village, will be considered in the next section. 

/// The tanya and the integration of peasant economy 

The origins and development of tanya settlement in Tazlar can be explained 
in terms of a particular mode of peasant economy tied up with the pen- 
etration of capitalist relations in Hungary. Let us now examine the relation 
between the settlement pattern and the persistence of a modified peasant 
economy in the socialist period. The main question is whether the conse- 
quences of tanya policy and the drift to the village centre are in accord 
with the more recent vital objective of the socialist state, not specific to 
dispersed-settlement communities. This objective is the maximum utilisation 
of 'marginal' peasant labour in small-commodity production, in the case 
of Tazlar to take place within the organisational framework of the szak- 

Apparent confirmation of the contradiction between tanya settlement 
and sociaUst collectivised agriculture is abundant in Tdzlir. On the perimeter 
of the third zone the State Farm expanded on private territory, took over 
rather more land than it was able to farm, and by the 1970s was leasing 
back large areas to the few surviving tanya-dwellers. The same pattern is 


The tanya and the integration of peasant economy 

characteristic in neighbouring communities where full cooperatives were 
formed in place of szakszovetkezets, and this suggests that an active land 
policy would have had highly deleterious consequences for production in 
Tazlar also. In any case, many tanya farms have been more or less voluntarily 
abandoned and their land ceded to the szakszdvetkezet, which has been 
unable to utilise the land. It is probable that there was a continuing decline 
in the area of arable land before the late 1970s, and by 1978 there was 
still no fundamental improvement. Amongst tanya-dwellers rumours of 
the impending completion of collectivisation were strengthening the desire 
to emigrate. Amongst even the leaders of the szakszovetkezet, few had 
much confidence in its ability to make good the inevitable losses in pro- 
duction. The contradiction between the maximisation of economic resources 
and collectivisation in tanya areas will persist at least until the large in- 
vestment of capital enables a cooperative fully to replace private tanya 
production. In Tazlar and many similar communities only a 'second-best 
optimum' has been pursued so far. There has been a gradual drift away 
from the tanya, for reasons not primarily bound up with local land policy 
and collectivisation, and an even slower expansion of the socialist nucleus 
within the szakszovetkezet. Since this transitional period has now lasted 
almost two decades it may be asked at what poUtical and social cost it has 
been achieved and what evidence there is today to link a high level of 
private small-commodity production with dispersed settlement. 

If one begins from bourgeois locational theory one might expect 
a negative relation between the distance of a farm from the main road 
or the centre of the village (or possibly of the upper hamlet if that is 
nearer) and the volume of its production, on the grounds that for farms 
nearer the village shorter distances and better communications should 
have a positive effect on production potential. Now, it is true that the 
szakszdvetkezet has indeed brought the entire tanya world into contact 
with the external 'market' and it has integrated tanya farmers in the same 
'vertical' manner in which it has integrated the farmers of the village. There 
is a general dependence on the szakszovetkezet for marketing produce, for 
machinery services and for material inputs, fodder supplies, etc. Moreover, 
the greater propensity to abandon tanyas in peripheral zones has been 
noted, whilst the proportion of cultivable land which has fallen out of 
use in the proximity of the centre is exceedingly small. One could adduce 
individual examples of farmers whose output increased significantly when 
they moved from a very remote tanya to one better situated nearer the 

Nevertheless, the overall picture of the 172 tanya enterprises which 
marketed some produce through the szakszovetkezet in 1976 shows that 
the distance from the centre has no significant influence upon the level 
or type of farm production. If, in addition, the tanya production figures 
are compared with those of farmers based in the village, similarly we find 
few significant differences. The total number of farm units in the main 
village centre is still smaller than the tanya total (for more detail on 


The tanya question 

these statistics and the definitions behind them see Chapter 4). Rather 
more tanya enterprises produced wine than did village farms, but the 
average value of the quantity sold by the latter was slightly higher. Pigs 
were sold by more units in the village than on tanyas, and again the 
average value produced was greater in the village. This barely holds in the 
case of milk production, where the number of tanya producers is 176 
compared to the village's 69. Only 100 enterprises in the village had 
pasture land of their own, compared with 214 tanya units, and the average 
size of the plot was also higher for the tanyas. Tanya holdings of arable 
land also exceeded village holdings and 312 tanya enterprises had one or 
more plots, compared with only 209 in the village. Despite these dif- 
ferences, if we consider only those economic units which did market 
some produce through the szakszdvetkezet in 1976 (261 out of 410 
tanya units, 210 out of 372 village units), the average total value of 
production comes to 24,955 forints for tanya-based units and 26,999 
forints for those based in the village. 

Such evidence is important because it contradicts the often imphcit 
assumption that tanya residence in itself and independently of the organ- 
isational framework of production confers significant economic advantages, 
which individuals would be deprived of if they were resettled in nuclear 
settlements. It would seem that in Tazlar in 1976 either few such ad- 
vantages existed or that if there were such objective advantages they were 
no longer perceived or taken up by tanya-dwellers. The data are especially 
interesting in view of the official reasons for avoiding full collectivisation 
in Tazlar. If both villagers and tanya-dwellers respond in the same way to 
the institution of the szakszdvetkezet, then both the need for a distinct 
cooperative type in tanya zones and the justifications for the adoption 
of an alternative type everywhere else are called into question. 

The fact is that the tanya world has been integrated, but not in a 
bourgeois way. The land requirements for the maintenance of a peasant 
farm today are very small, indeed for some units they are zero. The 
abstractions of locational theory do not apply because nearness to the plot 
is not essential to the farmer. He now farms on only a few holdings and 
produces more intensively, wasting little time in travel between plots and 
making full use of fertilisers and machinery that were not available prior 
to the formation of the szakszdvetkezet. At the same time, minor differences 
between the tanya and the village farming pattern persist. Village farmers 
do make rather more use of the services of the cooperative than do tanya 
farmers. The more remote do experience difficulty in transporting supplies 
and in bringing in their animals to collection points. If such factors do have 
some influence upon the composition of farm output, they appear to be 
offset by certain survivals of the 'natural state' advantages of the tanya, 
contingent upon its location but still not necessarily upon the ownership 
of land. For example, on the periphery it is easier to rent pasture land 
either privately or from the szakszdvetkezet or State Farm. This may 
account for the higher milk production of tanya households, especially 


The tanya and the integration of peasant economy 

during certain months, and compensates for the villagers' ease of access 
to directly purchased supplies at the szakszdvetkezet shop. However, 
even tanya dairy production cannot be regarded as unintegrated, since it 
is the szakszovetkezet which guarantees the daily collection of output 
of even the most remote producers. 

The community-wide vertical integration of farmers into the szak- 
szovetkezet must not blind us to the importance of other patterns of 
integration which have developed in the peasant economy in the socialist 
period. One such pattern relates specifically to the tanya problem. Types 
of dual residence, which have long been thought central to the origins 
and development of the Hungarian tanya, have become important in 
Tazlar only in the socialist period and their appearance can be taken as 
symbolic of the reintegration of the community into the national society. 
There were partial exceptions to atomised isolation in the past but these 
were mainly immigrants from nearby communities who retained their 
kinship ties, and perhaps property interests as well, and in a few cases 
moved back to the older village upon retirement from agriculture. Nowadays, 
although not officially encouraged, dual residence provides many more 
families with the means of combining the comforts of village residence with 
the tanya's economic advantages over the annual production cycle. 

There are only a few famiUes resident in the village (or in neighbouring 
villages and towns, or even in Budapest) who move out to occupy a tanya 
during the agricultural season, i.e. for some period between March and 
October. In theory, Hungarian law prevents a person from owning more 
than one permanent dwelling, but this is not the problem. In fact the 
spirit of this law is not observed by anyone nowadays, although a rich 
widow who had not bothered to transfer one of her houses to another 
family member was having to face confiscation of one property in 1978. 
There is a larger group of villagers who make limited use of an abandoned 
tanya, primarily during the summer months; but a routine of daily com- 
muting makes it difficult to keep animals on such a tanya, and, besides, 
buildings that are not lived in tend to decay very quickly. 

By far the most interesting links are those which have developed 
between large numbers of vUlage-dwellers and their immediate family 
who inhabit tanyas. In many cases production links are intimate and all 
marketing takes place under the same family identification, although 
budgets are very seldom jointly managed. Sometimes the older generation 
has invested in village housing for their child or children, but has preferred 
to remain on the tanya with informal rights upon the labour of the younger 
generation at peak periods until a late age. The younger generation does not 
establish a separate farm and undertakes production only of a very marginal 
type at the village house. As the incentives to private agriculture have 
increased in the 1970s an inverse type has again become common. Here, 
the older generation moves into the village, and possibly into semi-retirement, 
whilst the young spend their most productive years on a tanya. Such a 
pattern is not new. The first tanya-dwellers who built houses in the centre 


The tanya question 

before the Liberation were careful to preserve the family tanya. They only 
moved in to the new house when a newly-married couple was ready to 
take over the tanya, but they seldom handed over all of their land at this 
point. It was common for two prosperous families to buy a tanya from a 
third party in order to set up a young couple. Nowadays, few young 
couples are keen to remain in full-time peasant farming in the long term, 
either on a tanya or in the village. Nevertheless, many will accept free, or 
almost free, tanya accommodation and the currently highly remunerative 
opportunities of agriculture in the short term. The financial motivation is 
strong, and the tanya is said to 'die' only when the children follow their 
parents into the village, or migrate further afield. 

Dual settlement may often be only a transient stage, which is unlikely 
to keep life on the tanya for very long, but in the present context it 
cannot be ignored. It is noteworthy how it upholds the traditional family 
base of peasant farming, at least at peak periods on the production side, 
even after the family has ceased to reside under one roof. Of course, this 
effect is also achieved by the return at peak periods of family members 
who have emigrated outside the community; some of those who return no 
longer have any kin in the community at all, but still return to cultivate 
a few vines. But it seems reasonable to maintain that what has loosely been 
termed 'duality of settlement' denotes a phenomenon which is concealed 
in the statistics and which may disguise the continued importance of a 
tanya base for peasant farm output. 

A further trend of the 1970s may yet suggest a more permanent future 
for the tanya. There is some evidence in Tazlar to show that electrification 
can check the exodus, and perhaps change the social characteristics of 
emigration as well. By 1977 only a few conveniently -located clusters of 
tanyas had been provided with electricity, though the proportion was 
possibly above the national tanya average. The problems of persuading 
individuals to cooperate in order to obtain the most rational electricity 
distribution system have been noted (p. 23), and naturally there has 
been no demand amongst the very poor and the old. But it is several years 
now since the first tanyas were electrified and there has been no tendency 
to emigrate from these. One which came on to the market in 1977, when a 
widow moved to another tanya to live with her daughter, fetched almost 
as high a price as a comparable village dwelling. This should further caution 
against exaggerating the success of sociaUst policies in explaining the exodus 
which has taken place until now. There is at least one case of a prosperous 
farmer who built a large new house in the village centre at a time when it 
was reckoned unlikely that his tanya would be scheduled for electrification. 
Then, having installed electricity in the tanya, he successively postponed 
the decision, and finally, even after taking up a salaried post at the szak- 
szdvetkezet in the centre, decided to remain on his tanya, though he did 
not hurry to sell the new house. 

A caveat should be entered here. Those tanyas which can be electrified — 
so far those lying up to about 2 kilometres from the main road or from the 


The tanya and the integration of peasant economy 

village centre — have been those which would in any case command a 
price on the market. They tend to belong to richer members of the peasantry 
who have traditionally farmed the higher-quality soils near the centre, 
and whose very proximity to the centre, together with their longstanding 
identification with their patrimony, reduces their incentive to migrate. 

Let us return to the farmer in the example above and consider his 
reasons for remaining on the tanya after going to all the trouble of building 
a house in the village. This man, although his stepmother lives in the village 
and although he cooperates in production with a village household, has 
remained fundamentally the head of a family-labour farm (most of the 
labour being that of his wife). He insists that he would not be able to run 
the same farm in the village. If the szakszdvetkezet were to coUectivise 
the land immediately surrounding his tanya, he says he would still not 
fence in his yard and his checkens would continue to wander on the rich 
grass. The statistics may suggest that the man is bluffing, but this is very 
difficult to prove. 

The problem is that a static statistical description of the situation which 
prevailed in 1976 is no basis for assuming that the present tanya producers 
could be easily chivvied into the village without changing the pattern of 
their production. There has been a steady decline in the number of productive 
units based on tanyas, and the recent rise in production levels is Umited to 
quite a small group. It has been pointed out that some farmers take ad- 
vantage of the move away from the tanya to reduce the scale of their 
private farming. If tanya farmers are now obhged to move into the village 
as the result of new land appropriations by the szakszdvetkezet, or if 
they simply lose their land, there is likely to be a serious decline in pro- 
duction. For many of those still producing on tanyas today the size and 
proximity of the landholding is probably intimately related to their pro- 
duction in a way that is no longer the case for villagers. In other words, 
the old bases of peasant production have been less effectively undermined 
for the tanya population as a whole than for the village population. We 
have seen this already with respect to dairy production, which would 
inevitably suffer from hasty collectivisation today. But the same applies 
in other branches. There is no relation between the extent of the arable 
landholdings of village units and the value of the pigs they sell through the 
szakszdvetkezet, whereas for tanya units there is a good statistical relation. 
It cannot be assumed that the present tanya population would adapt to a 
new process of production, even if we take it for granted that the szak- 
szdvetkezet has all the feed and other materials they may need. 

There are also important differences between tanya and village popu- 
lations, which must be taken into account. The average age of the head of 
a tanya household is over 55, compared with 52 in the village, in spite of 
the number who have moved into the village in retirement. There is a 
similar difference in the ages of the heads of actively producing enterprises 
(49 in the village, 52 on the tanyas). A large number of solitaries live on 
tanyas (65 compared with 39 in the centre), and there are still many more 


The tanya question 

full-time farmers in the tanya population than there are in the village, for 
all age-groups. In view of these factors it cannot be assumed that the 
comparable global averages in the production of tanya and village units 
indicate any identity of social structure. 

An active pohcy of land appropriation is now threatening the tanya 
farmers and the village farmers in a different way, although production 
statistics do not show this. Firstly, there is the phenomenon of dual 
residence, in particular the number of village farmers who still make use 
of a tanya base, which is not apparent in the statistics. Secondly, there 
is the problem of consciousness. Tanya farmers for the most part firmly 
believe that only through living on the tanya and farming the land they 
currently farm can they maintain their accustomed level of production. 
Thirdly, there is the range of social differences in the structure of the two 
populations. For all these reasons an active campaign now to dispense 
with the tanya would entail serious consequences for agricultural pro- 
duction. The tanya today is more than just a dispersed residence: it re- 
mains an economic unity that has not yet been fully integrated by the 
sociaUst farm. 

One feature in the present social structure of the tanya population 
deserves special emphasis. It has become more polarised than the popu- 
lation of the village. At one extreme there is a large number of house- 
holds with a very small population, of high average age, including many 
solitaries, and only minimally productive. At the other extreme there is 
a group which regularly markets a large surplus, shows considerable willing- 
ness to modernise, and owes its current prosperity to the szakszovetkezet 
and to the success of national policies to encourage private production. 
Some of these policies have not been designed specifically for the szak- 
szovetkezet community, but they have brought special benefits to the szak- 
szovetkezet members. This group is made up mainly, but not exclusively, 
of former middle peasants. It is present in the village also, and indeed, as 
in the example quoted above, many of these farmers have already taken 
the precaution of investing in village housing. It seems unlikely that their 
children will remain in farming full-time, and one must therefore hesitate 
to speak of a future for the modern 'farm-tanya'.^ But even if electrifi- 
cation can make the tanya sufficiently attractive as a residence, the per- 
sistence of its role in production, even in the short term, is crucially 
dependent upon the continuation of present policies and the survival of 
the szakszovetkezet in its present form, or something very similar. 

If what might be seen as the logic of the transition to full collectivisation 
is now too forcefully pursued — and the nature of the threat will become 
clear in later chapters — then global small-farm production is bound to 
suffer. Much will depend upon how the poUcies are put into practice. The 
confiscation of land in itself may not be the worst blow. It might have the 
effect of encouraging more farmers to move into the village, but would 
not necessarily push them out of full-time farming, although many insist 
a priori that it would. They might, in other words, make the same adjustment 


The tanya and the integration of peasant economy 

as that made by many village farmers already and become fully integrated 
szakszovetkezet members. The biggest problem would arise if they were 
obliged to work on the collective sector of the szakszovetkezet, as is 
usual on production cooperatives, and were denied the services and supplies 
they need from the szakszovetkezet to maintain and increase their former 
levels of production. The danger in the elimination of full-time farming 
as an occupation is not experienced to the same degree by the farmers of 
the village, a larger proportion of whom already combine farming vnth 
some wage-labour activity. 

If we now step back and consider the entire evolution of the tanya 
problem in Tazlar, certain conclusions can be drawn. It seems likely that 
the crude political goal proclaimed in the late 1940s, the total abolition 
of tanyas wherever they appeared, will not now be realised. Electrification 
will ensure the survival of a number of outlying farm-residences, which 
will probably be inhabited by older people and by individuals with a dis- 
like of larger settlements. However, an absolute onslaught on the tanya 
was not the policy espoused by all, even in the early socialist period. 
Erdei in particular argued for the careful reintegration of tanyas into 
larger units, bearing in mind the continued role of the tanya in small 
commodity production even after the sociaUsation of agriculture. Although 
his arguments were not designed for communities such as Tazlar, which 
had to a large extent developed independently of any traditional com- 
munity, they nevertheless became particularly pertinent after the establish- 
ment in Tazlar of a limited cooperative type, the szakszovetkezet. It has 
been the framework of the szakszovetkezet which has slowed the exodus 
from the tanyas and at the same time preserved their role in peasant farming. 
Szakszovetkezet tanyas are classified by Romany as virtually the only 
remaining tanyas of a type which was much more important in the past, 
on which the peasant family lives and produces in the traditional atomised 
manner (Romany 1973 cf. Kulcsar in Erdei, 1976). But the szakszovetkezets 
are explicitly a transitional institution. Despite the substantial economic 
benefits they have brought, it would seem that after two decades a further 
decision must be taken. The State may still fear the losses in production 
which would result if it were now to end the long experiment with the 
szakszovetkezet and pushes through fuU collectivisation. On the other 
hand, this would secure ideological consistency and, in the light of what 
has been noted above, the state may hope by such a step to avoid the re- 
emergence of a rich peasant or even capitalist 'farmer' stratum out of the 
ranks of the former middle peasantry. An obvious compromise for the 
authorities would be to go for the appropriation of private land, with the 
exception of household plots of 1 ^oW(0.58 hectare) as in the usual 
production cooperative, but also to retain the basic framework of the 
szakszovetkezet and not to compel its members to work in the socialist 
sector. The resuh of this would be to achieve the transformation of the 
economic role of the tanya and to put it abnost on a par with a house 
in the village as a dwelling. But it would also leave individuals the option 


The tanya question 

of remaining full-time peasant farmers and prospering as private producers, 
as have numerous village farmers up to now. It would not, of course, dispose 
of the worries of creating a privileged class; but in any case it would be 
clear that the tanya is no longer responsible and that the problem of the 
tanya has been transcended by the problem of the szakszovetkezet. If 
a class is now forming, the tanyas are not a prime cause, but have merely 
been a means of preserving continuity with the class divisions of the past. 

The essential irony explored in this chapter will be pursued in the rest of 
this book in the context of the szakszovetkezet. Briefly, Tazlar was re- 
settled late in the last century by the tanya movement and was an extreme 
example of the penetration of capitahst relations into Himgary. In the 
1930s, despite 'full employment' on the land, the apparently small number 
of poor and landless peasants, and the limited impact of the outside 
market, the internal stratification of the peasantry was particularly marked. 
Tazlar thus provided an example of a certain simplistic socialist analysis 
of rural class relations which had its theoretical origins in Lenin's The 
Development of Capitalism in Russia and its practical apogee in Stalinist 
collectivisation. Hungary did not escape the pervasive influence of the 
Soviet model. The theoretical justifications of mass collectivisation here 
too were based upon an ideology of capitalist class division within the 
peasantry. Tazlar was strongly affected by policies based on this ideology 
in the 1950s. Later, however, this unambiguous product of capitalism, 
the tanya community, was excluded from mass collectivisation for obvious 
reasons of expediency and cost, when ideological considerations should 
have made it a prime target for transformation. Instead, Tazlar developed 
szakszovetkezets. These belong to a quite different socialist tradition, 
which had its clearest expression in the years of the New Economic Policy 
under Lenin, passed through Bukharin and long years of eclipse, and 
re-emerged after collectivisation in numerous socialist states in the guise 
of household plot incentives, and, in the case of Hungary, in close associ- 
ation with the spirit which has pervaded the entire national economy 
since the reform of the economic mechanism which was introduced in 



The transition to a socialist agriculture 

In most Western countries the socialist debate on the peasantry and on the 
correct approach to the transformation of the countryside, to which brief 
reference was made at the end of Chapter 2, is known and widely under- 
stood only in the context of the Soviet experience. This chapter will 
review the comparable experience of Hungary. It is important that the 
reader should understand the course of events in Tazlar in the national 
context. Without this background it will be impossible to evaluate the 
detailed ethnography of the chapters which follow. There are important 
differences between the process of collectivisation in Tazlar and the 
transformation of other Hungarian rural communities, just as there are 
many differences between the national process in Hungary and the Soviet 
Model from which so much was taken. Perhaps overall the word 'transition' 
suggests the keynote for Hungary, if it is taken to imply a prolonged and 
gradual process, subjected to many political constraints, but ultimately 
designed to maximise the contribution of the agricultural sector to the 
development of the national economy in the phase of intensive industrialis- 
ation. It is instructive to compare how general issues of theory and practice 
have been tackled at both national and local levels and to consider the 
special features of the Hungarian path — without, however, nourishing 
too many illusions about the relevance of this path for other nations and 
for rural communities elsewhere. 

/ Land Reform and the origins of agricultural cooperatives 1945-56 

Although Hungarian agriculture flourished through most of the Second 
World War, in the end it nevertheless suffered heavier losses than any 
other branch of the economy as a result of the slaughter of livestock 
in late 1944 and early 1945. Land Reform was a popular cause and a 
political necessity. It was carried through in the spring of 1945 in a highly 
decentralised and democratic manner by the formation of special com- 
mittees in all the communities of the country. The main consequence 
was the destruction of the system of large estates and of the class of 
great property-owners, and, in their place, the consohdation of small and 
medium peasant holdings. In principle the reform covered only land- 
holdings larger than 200 hold (112 hectares), but the tax system, labour 
market conditions and general political pressure further reduced the 
number of rich peasants in the years after 1945. Altogether almost 


The transition to a socialist agriculture 

35 per cent of agricultural land was affected by the Reform, including just 
under 30 per cent of the total ploughland. Of this area about two-thirds 
was distributed to those who put in claims for land and the rest was 
retained in various forms by pubUc authorities, much of it going later to 
assist the foundation of State Farms and cooperatives. As a result of the 
Reform the proportion of small commodity-producers (defined as the 
owners of properties of between 1 and 25 hold (0.58 and 14 hectares)) 
in the agricultural population of the nation as a whole rose from 47.2 per 
cent in 1941 to 80.2 per cent in 1949. The proportion of the agrarian 
proletariat, those with less than 1 hold (0.58 hectare), fell from 45.8 
per cent to 17 per cent over the same period, and the proportion of rich 
and 'capitalist' peasants fell from 7 per cent to 2.8 per cent (Berend, 1976, 
p. 31). 

Thanks to a judicious range of measures taken by the State the agri- 
culture based upon these radically altered property relations made con- 
siderable progress in the later 1940s. By 1949 both livestock levels and 
crop yields were approaching the pre-war levels. The government's levelUng 
policy, however, resulted in the new peasantry being willing to market 
only limited surpluses, a consequence of higher peasant consumption, 
which was matched by a rise in working-class living standards during the 
years of the three-year plan 1947-9 (Berend, 1976, p. 91). Supply dif- 
ficulties persisted despite the freeing of most agricultural prices and price 
controls that were favourable to agricultural products (Berend, 1976, 
p. 67). But even in the 1940s there were very strict compulsory-deUvery 
obligations based primarily upon size of landholding, which together with 
changes in the tax system severely curtailed the production of the richer 

In Tazlar, given the general absence of large estates. Land Reform had a 
smaller impact than elsewhere and this is highly relevant to later develop- 
ments. It did, however, result in the elimination of the previous landholding 
eUte, as can be judged from a comparison of Table 3 with Table 2 (p. 6). 

Of the changes to be noted when comparing Tazlar in 1949 with the 

Table 3 Land ownership 1949 

(area in hold) 
0-1 1-3 3-5 5-10 10-15 15-20 20-25 25-50 50-100 100+ Total 



farmers 47 142 167 315 148 76 55 73 21 2 1,046 

1 hold = 0.58 hectares (5,755 square metres) 

Note: Figures include the farms of Harkakotony, administratively separated from 
Tdzldrin 1949. 


The origins of agricultural cooperatives 1945-56 

pre-war community the most important reflect the general problems 
encountered by agricultural policy in the years after the Land Reform. 
The community was still predominantly agricultural. Of the total tanya 
population of 2,650 in 1949 no less than 2,553 are recorded as totally 
dependent for their living upon agriculture. Yet despite the small in- 
crease in the population living on the land, the sown area declined from 
10,910 hold (6,110 hectares) in 1935 to 9,270 hold (5,191 hectares) 
in 1948. The shortfall can be entirely accounted for by the decline in the 
area of rye, barley and oats. There was no decline in the production of 
maize, but there was a significant change in the size of the farms which 
produced the crop, which underlines the importance of the Reform. 
Table 4 compares production in 1948 with three pre-war years. There was 
a rise in the production of the industrial crops sugar beet, tobacco and 
sunflowers, but this was for many a reluctant response to the system of 
compulsory deliveries. 

Table 4 Maize area and farm size in Tazlar 1936-48 


Farm size 

: (hold) 

Total maize 






area (hold) 


1 hold ■■ 

124 190 455 
294 342 672 
230 266 509 

875 473 

= 0.58 hectares (5,755 square 






Faced with such difficulties and with similar problems in livestock 
production, the government began to take action on a new front from 
1948 by encouraging the formation of agricultural cooperatives. The 
cooperatives, together with the large number of State Farms which were 
established between 1948 and 1952, brought a large productive area more 
directly within the sphere of influence of the State. On the other hand, 
the cooperatives also possessed from the outset an impeccably democratic 
structure, and this too was to be important in the long run. Membership 
was voluntary but tended to be sought by those of the former agrarian 
proletariat who had not adapted well to farming on their own. Control 
was effectively in the hands of the general assembly of all the members, 
though in practice there was frequent interference from outside, which 
began with the founding initiative and continued through a carefully 
recruited local leadership of Party sympathisers. Not all of the cooperatives 
were fully collective in their work organisation, and only the so-called 
'third type' took the members' livestock as well as their land into col- 
lective exploitation. Remuneration, as in the Soviet Union, was based on 
the work-unit. But behind the impressive formal apparatus and the rules 


The transition to a socialist agriculture 

by which the cooperatives were supposed to function, in practice, as in 
the early years of cooperatives in the Soviet Union, they were very diverse. 
Thus despite a formal organisation into brigades it often happened that a 
cooperative with little machinery delegated the teams at its disposal and 
the responsibility for particular tasks to family units. Many cooperatives 
were dominated by a few families only. Machine tools, when they became 
available, were kept centrally and most often separately from the cooperative 
in machine stations, as in the Soviet Union. 

In Tazlar the first agricultural cooperative was founded in 1949. It was 
called the Red Csepel, in memory of proletarian revolutionary activity in 
1919. In 195 1 a further six cooperatives were formed, which meant that 
in Tazlar in that year there were 142 cooperative members from 97 
families, farming a total of 1 ,113 hold (623 hectares) of arable land and a 
total land area of 1,884 hold (1 ,055 hectares). There was no substantial 
increase in the membership of any cooperative after its formation, except 
later in the case of the Red Csepel through mergers. They were not, in 
fact, attractive to the bulk of the independent peasantry and it is not 
difficult to understand why. Many of those who joined were very politically- 
conscious former proletarians, but they were not the most practised farmers. 
They lacked much in the way of buildings and equipment, but what the 
government was able to make good here it could not remedy in the case 
of know-how and experience on the land. In any case it was difficult for 
richer peasants to join these cooperatives and there is at least one case in 
the district archives at Kiskoros of an individual being expelled from a 
cooperative as a kulak (rich peasant).' It was not therefore surprising that 
only one or two of these cooperatives, which were all full collectives of 
the third type, remained economically viable and were able to pay out 
dividends to their members without regular recourse to outside subsidy. 

The beginnings of the cooperative movement are important for the 
example they set and the spirit they created during these years when, 
organised on a local basis in a democratic way, they grappled with the 
tremendous difficulties facing them with the energy of pioneers. But 
they were not able to alleviate the government's problems with agri- 
cultural production and with the independent peasantry. A new phase of 
government policy began in the early 1950s, based upon anti-peasant policies 
and administrative methods involving greater government control. This 
policy affected the peasantry almost as severely in the case of cooperative 
members as in the case of those still farming independently. At best, the 
former were better placed to preserve at least the basic ration from appro- 
priation, while, according to Berend, in 1952 two-thirds of all peasant 
families were left with insufficient corn for bread and future seed require- 
ments (1976, p. 109). Cooperative members, hke private farmers, conspired 
to conceal produce from government inspectors in order to have some 
food for consumption. Many farmers in Tazlar still have some bitter tales 
to tell from these years — of the land they were obliged to yield by ex- 
tortionate tax demands, of their friend the former 'magistrate' who was 


From 'counter-revolution' to mass collectivisation 1956-61 

several times taken away by police in the night, or of their own farcical 
journeys to distant markets in order to pay high prices for goods they 
would then hand over for a pittance at the local council. Many were 
obliged to seek work in industry and especially in the mines in order to 
keep their famihes. In consequence of this, as well as because of certain 
confiscations by the cooperatives, more land was lost to cultivation. The 
agrarian price 'scissors' widened dramatically in the early years of the 
1950s, but for the great majority of the peasantry prices and markets, the 
central institutions under capitalism, were to a large extent replaced by a 
coercive relation with the socialist power. 

The dark phase in which 'administrative methods' were applied to 
relations between town and countryside is now openly condemned by 
poUticians and scholars alike in Hungary. But at the same time this regime 
initiated unprecedented industrial growth and secured the primacy of 
socialist enterprise in all major sectors of industry. The resemblances to 
Stalin's achievement in the Soviet Union are striking, even if Matyas 
Rakosi was never politically strong enough to go for full collectivisation 
at this stage. What is the general connection between the political and 
economic attack upon the peasantry and the achievement of a 'crash' 
programme of industriaUsation? The answer in economic terms must be 
that the use of coercion reduces peasant consumption by a quantity 
more than sufficient to compensate for the economic losses caused by 
the reluctance of the peasantry to produce, and thus the net contribution 
or surplus from the agricultural sector to the national economy and the 
needs of industry is positive. There were serious economic losses and the 
year 1952 was a disastrous year for agricultural production. But such an 
approach is exceptionally short-term and fails to take any account of the 
long-term consequences of large areas of land falling into disuse and of the 
costs to the industrial sector of the economy of repairing the damage done 
to agriculture before, during and after collectivisation. As recent debate 
on the Soviet experience has made clear both the long-term and the im- 
mediate economic rationale of the StaUn development plans are very 
doubtful (Millar, 1970;Ellman, 1975). 

11 From 'counter-revolution' to mass collectivisation 1956-61 

The correction of administrative poUcies or 'leftist' deviation created 
further problems of a 'rightist' or 'revisionist' nature; and in the poUtical 
struggle which led up to the 1956 uprising, agriculture, like the other 
sectors of the economy, suffered from the instability of central poUcy. 
The cooperative movement was particularly vulnerable, and suffered its 
first decisive check in 1953 with the dissolution of some 500 farms (Orban, 
1972, p. 132). In Tazlar the Fight for Peace was lost that year, although it 
had been founded only in 195 1 . But it was the more widespread with- 
drawals and preference for independent farming shown in 1956 which 
really exposed the weaknesses of the cooperatives. Although Orban 


The transition to a socialist agriculture 

believes that there was some moral gain resulting from this shakeout 
which left a higher proportion of former proletarians and Party members 
amongst the remaining cooperative members, he does not conceal the new 
problems which arose, in part because of the poorer quality of the labour 
force (Orban, 1972, p. 168). A confidential Party report of 1957 judged 
two-thirds of farming cooperatives to be 'weak' with those of most 
recent formation the weakest of all (Orban, 1972, p. 169). Of the six 
remaining cooperatives in Tazlar before 1956 the three smallest, the 
Comrade, the Progress and the Peace, folded and almost all of their members 
returned to private farming. The other three continued separately until 
1959, when they merged and retained the name of the largest, the Red 
Csepel. This remained chronically insolvent until it finally became the 
base of the State Farm's operations in Tazlar in 1961. Of all the early 
cooperatives in Tazlar, with the exception of the Fight for Peace, about 
which Httle is known as it functioned for only one year, only one, the 
Second Congress (named after the second congress of the Communist 
Party), succeeded in maintaining a consistent acreage of arable land 
throughout its existence, in spite of the fact that it lost 1 1 of its 34 
members in 1956. 

It is typical of the people of Tazlar that in the middle of the 1956 
uprising, with only a few radios in the community and all communication 
services suspended, they responded to the exhortations and the news 
(brought from the capital by a stranger) by joking about the panic and 
confusion in the council offices and applying themselves to the final 
stages of the construction of the new Catholic church. Nor was there much 
sign in the rest of the country of any desire to return to the old division 
of property and to comply with the requests of some former rich peasants 
for the restitution of their land. There was no open expression of political 
opposition in the countryside (Orban, 1972, p. 161).^ 

However, even if no major political concessions were made to the inde- 
pendent peasantry in 1956, the disturbances had many important conse- 
quences outside the cooperative movement. There were also some major 
changes in economic pohcy which were very well received in the country- 
side. The most important of these were the raising of agricultural prices 
and the abolition of compulsory deliveries from October 1956. The 
general result was a breathing-space for independent farming, and pro- 
duction more free from central controls than at any time since the beginning 
of the war. The number of private farmers rose almost to the level of 1949 
with the return of some farmers from industry and the mines, and the 
adoption by others of farming as a secondary occupation. There was a 
general willingness to invest in farming, and a significant rise in the area 
of ploughland in 1957 and 1958. Moreover, although there was some 
increase in differentiation, especially in areas of intensive crop production, 
and although the former middle peasants benefited most from these 
policies, larger farms were by this stage unable to generate substantially 


From 'counter-revolution' to mass collectivisation 1956-61 

higher incomes and on smaller farms income earned outside agriculture 
now tended to compensate for lower agricultural income (Orban, 1972, 
p. 197). 

There was thus at least temporary satisfaction with the considerable rise 
in peasant incomes and farm production which preceded the planning and 
implementation of mass collectivisation between 1958 and 1961. Politically, 
the ground was very carefully prepared for collectivisation, though the 
country was hardly prepared economically. The harvest had not been 
particularly successful in 1958 nor had the cooperative sector shown 
any great improvement in its performance. Within the Party the debate on 
collectivisation was won by the 'moderates' and therefore the resolution 
of December 1958 was expUcitly gradualist and opposed to the use of force. 
Nevertheless, the first great wave of collectivisation in early 1959 was vital 
to the success of the policy, and when it was completed the cooperative 
and State Farm sectors together already controlled over 50 per cent of 
the ploughland of the country. By the summer of 1960 this had risen to 
72 per cent, and a year later, in the final wave of mass collectivisation, 
a further 291,000 famiUes joined cooperatives (Berend, 1976, p. 140), 
including the new cooperatives formed in Tazlar. This success owed much 
to the toleration of lower forms of cooperative on soils unsuited to col- 
lective exploitation. Flexibility was shown in the attitude to the leasing out 
of scattered vine plots in 1959 (Orban, p. 221); and in the general policy 
towards the household plot a necessary compromise was struck with the 
peasantry — they were allowed to keep a limited stock of animals on the 
household plot and in practice only poorer animals were taken into the 
collective sector. Thus, although by 1961 land ownership was very firmly 
in the hands of the cooperatives and the State, the household plot sector 
on only 7.9 per cent of the land was still producing 24 per cent of the net 
agricultural product (quoted in Orban, 1972, p. 247). All the vast problems 
in the material and technological development of the new cooperatives, as 
well as the social integration of their new membership alongside the former 
poor peasants, were resolved in some fashion in the years which followed, 
but the integration of 'private' production on the household plot has not 
evolved in the way foreseen by the policy -makers of 20 years ago, and is 
a theme which will be taken up again below. 

With perhaps more irony than he really intended in view of the course 
of events in communities such as Tazlar, Sandor Orban ends his book with 
the statement that collectivisation brought about the TmdX polgdrosodds 
(embourgeoisement) of the Hungarian peasantry (Orban, 1972, p. 258). 
Presumably he intends the word in its 'developmental' sense and not with 
respect to bourgeois social relations. Before we consider the impact of 
collectivisation in Tazlar let us therefore note one further consequence 
of collectivisation upon the development of the national economy: between 
1960 and 1963 there was a drop of 16 per cent in the numbers of those 
employed in agriculture and over the total period 1957-67 the agricuhural 


The transition to a socialist agriculture 

labour-force declined by more than half a million (Berend, 1976, p. 141). 

/// Cooperative groups in Tdzldr 1960-8 

Mass collectivisation gave renewed impetus to the process of migration 
out of agriculture but its total impact was perhaps less radical than that of 
the first Five Year Plan. In the Soviet Union collectivisation had preceded 
the intensive phase of industrialisation. In Hungary, although the country 
was already much more developed than pre-revolutionary Russia, this 
sequence was reversed. It is the early 1950s, rather than the years of mass 
collectivisation, which merit Marx's description of '. . . one of those 
moments when great masses of men are suddenly and forcibly torn from 
their means of subsistence, and hurled as free and unattached proletarians 
on the labour market' (Marx, 1976, p. 876). 

Hungarian agricultural poUcy was altogether more gradualist. In Tazlar 
the exodus from the land was still further staggered as a result of a Party 
resolution of October 1960, an essentially pragmatic measure typical of 
the willingness throughout the period of Kadar's leadership to compromise 
with the peasantry. This resolution encouraged the formation of 'simple 
cooperatives' in exceptional areas where collectivisation was liable to prove 
especially difficult, particularly in zones of poor soils and dispersed settle- 
ment and in communities where there was a high degree of intensive com- 
modity production, e.g. in fruit and wine. Collectivisation in such areas 
would not only be expensive to finance, it would also risk doing serious 
damage to the production of the independent peasantry. Thus in Tazlar, 
towards the end of the national campaign, minimal ideological uniformity 
was attained by the formation of three 'production cooperative groups' 
in the last week of December 1960. After the usual short local campaign, 
consisting mainly of farm-to-farm visits by veteran urban 'educators', the 
vast majority of Tazlar farmers joined one or other of these groups and, 
with the exception of their vineyards and orchards and each with a nominal 
1 hold (0.58 hectare) attached to their dwellings, signed their plots over 
to the group. 

Many farmers claim today that they were reluctant to sign and did 
so only after three or more 'final' visits from the educators. Some claim 
to have been threatened with firearms. But, in private, given the general 
pattern throughout the country, where lands signed over to the cooperative 
were immediately adapted for large-scale, collective cultivation, the Tazlar 
farmers were reasonably contented with the basic organisation of the co- 
operative group. In practice they were not deprived of their land and not 
required to work in the kozos (collective sector) although they could do so 
if they wished. Most land remained under private cultivation, with the 
proviso that a small percentage of the members' lands (originally 4 per cent 
was the figure specified) would be converted each year to collective cul- 
tivation. Members would be compensated for land appropriated, either 
with alternative plots in another area or by payments in cash or in kind. 


Cooperative groups in Tdzldr 1960-8 

They were expected to sell most of their farm production through the 
group, which would deduct a certain percentage as a levy to promote the 
development of the group and of the collective sector. There was also a 
small fee to be paid upon joining the group. Those who have defended 
the persistence of the simple cooperatives have stressed the virtual identity 
of its organisation at the centre and its management with that of a normal 
production cooperative, which in turn has strong similarities in its 'inner 
structure' to the Soviet kolkhoz (collective farm). The socialist nucleus 
gathers strength and expands its territory, but at the same time it develops 
its ties with the individual members, who themselves prosper as a result 
of the supplies and machinery services increasingly available to them through 
the group. Thus, according to the theory, an 'organic unity' is achieved 
and in the words of Jinos Gyenis ' . . a many-sided programme of co- 
operation is worked out between the two farming types on the basis of 
mutual material interests' (Gyenis, 1971, p. 8). 

In Tazlar the experiment did not succeed as planned in the 1960s. In 
the first place consolidation of plots did not proceed piecemeal annually 
as laid down. In the case of one group, the Rakoczi, the official figures 
actually show a contraction of the collective sector. The Rakoczi began 
operations in 1960 with 2115 /zoW (1,184 hectares), of which 364 hold 
(204 hectares) was collective, and of this only 129 hold (72 hectares) 
was arable soil. By 1969, probably as a result of the expansion of the 
State Farm, the total area of the collective sector had fallen to 320 hold 
(179 hectares). The small expansion that occurred in the other two groups 
over the same period was due mainly to the voluntary ceding of land 
by middle peasants, whose land-needs were indeed reduced by the services 
now provided by the cooperative group, and to migration. In the isolated 
cases where it was necessary to appropriate land from a reluctant farmer, 
he was adequately compensated elsewhere. The farmer might complain 
about the position or the quality of the new plot and frequently did not 
take up the option. But this indicates only that he no longer needed the 
acreage he owned, and he was often glad when the group gave him the 
chance to contract his area, while seeming to do so only under protest. 
The group was not perceived as a predatory threat by the mass of the 

The farmers elected the chairman of their group from amongst their 
own number. He was typically a well-respected farmer who continued 
private farming as best he was able alongside his official duties. Each group 
recruited a small permanent labour force, for the most part from amongst 
its poorer and less competent members, including some who had belonged 
to the earlier cooperatives. The administration, in temporary offices in the 
village, was small and the machine centres were rudimentary. The technical 
progress of these years nevertheless transformed the economy of most farms. 
It was during these years that chemical fertilisers first became widely avail- 
able and the old threshing machines were replaced by modern combine 
harvesters. Yet these simple cooperatives were constantly criticised by their 


The transition to a socialist agriculture 

members. This was partly because of the poor economic performance of 
the collectivised sector, reviewed in Chapter 4. More fundamentally, there 
was never any effective link between the results of the group and the 
individual member's income. In the conditions in which the groups func- 
tioned, without substantial State support and for a long time with no 
technical or expert advice of any kind, individuals who remained outside 
the collective sector never had any incentive to become involved and to 
improve the collective sector's work. Some farmers were also conscious of 
inferiority in comparison with cooperative-group members, particularly 
with regard to social-security benefits and later to pension rights (Orosz, 
1969). The State not only failed to make the collective sectors viable 
through the provision of investment funds, it also discriminated against 
cooperative-group members privately by denying them the price bonuses 
received by the members of full production cooperatives for their private 
production on the household plot. Tazlar farmers thus paid a heavy price 
for their temporary reprieve from collectivisation. They felt that they 
had signed over their property to the certainty of collectivisation in the 
long run, but had obtained few of the benefits and securities of cooper- 
ative membership in return. 

The new order brought no major changes in the pattern of land use in 
the community. However, there was a large drop in the sown area in 1962 
which affected almost all field crops and was only partially recovered in 
later years. The total area of private landholdings declined steadily, and, 
of greater importance for production, so did private animal stocks. At the 
same time there were signs in each cooperative group that some farmers 
were adapting more successfully than others to the new conditions and as 
a result of their transactions with the group were able both to raise farm 
production above the levels to which it had fallen and completely to over- 
haul the traditional organisation of the peasant farm. The impHcations of 
this transformation and of the parallel process of differentiation within 
the peasantry will be analysed below. 

Comparisons of this type of simple cooperative with those of other 
countries and other historical periods can be very misleading. According 
to their practice in these years, the cooperative groups of Tazlar may seem 
not to differ much from many types of voluntary association of farmers 
found in generally more developed Western agricultures. In fact the dif- 
ferences are fundamental. The Tazlar cooperative groups are non-voluntary 
formations, and there is a presumption that they will eventually be converted 
to the nationally dominant kolkhoz-type. These points are equally signi- 
ficant in comparisons with those socialist states in Eastern Europe which 
have diverged more completely from the Soviet model. In many Polish and 
Yugoslav communities property relations and the general economic en- 
vironment of peasant decision-taking may seem to resemble those of Tazlar. 
But Tazlar obtains its special interest precisely because it is not typical in 
the Hungarian national context. To some extent it has developed in the 
way that it has only in order to help continue an opposite trend in the 


The formation of szakszovetkezets 

national economy. Following the reform of the economic mechanism 
introduced in Hungary from January 1968 and the formal substitution in 
the same year of three szakszovetkezets or 'specialist cooperatives' for the 
production cooperative groups, Tazlar's deviation from the national model 
became more pronounced in practice if not in ideology. 

IV The formation of szakszovetkezets and the impact of economic reform 

The change from cooperative group to szakszovetkezet in Tazlar was Uttle 
more than a change of name. Szakszovetkezets had also originated in the 
last phase of mass collectivisation as another type of simple cooperative. 
The difference was that while cooperative groups had been established in 
the poorest tanya communities, szakszovetkezets had hitherto been located 
in richer communities that were important for their fruit and wine production. 
Thus Tazlar's neighbour formed the nation's first szakszovetkezet late in 
1960. Soltvadkert's history since 1960 is in many ways an ideal type with 
which to contrast that of Tazlar. Here too there was a general reluctance 
to join the new cooperatives, and the experience of the 1950s and the 
example of the earlier cooperatives had not been encouraging. However, 
the initial fears allayed, the Soltvadkert farmers invested considerable 
private resources in their szakszovetkezets. New collective vineyards were 
begun almost at once, and growth was spectacular. As in Tazlar, the richer 
farmers remained essentially private farmers. They were able to convert 
their labour obligations to the szakszovetkezet to cash payments. Thanks 
also to astute local leadership and to a larger measure of support from the 
State than Tazlar received at this time, by the end of the 1960s the popu- 
lation of the community was expanding strongly and important foreign 
visitors were being taken on tours of the szakszovetkezets, which were put 
forward as an exemplary framework for the integration of collective and 
private interests in a socialist agriculture. 

The 1968 amendment to the 1967 law on agricultural cooperatives 
left the szakszovetkezet as the only remaining independent type of simple 
cooperative, but was unable to set Tazlar upon the miraculous path trodden 
by Soltvadkert. There was no attempt now to establish greater conformity 
with the production cooperatives, and the members of szakszovetkezets 
who did not work in the collective sector remained underprivileged in their 
access to welfare benefits. The ideology of a 'transitional type' was not 
substantially amended, but szakszovetkezets were now to expect a long 
future and it was explicitly recognised that wherever the collective sector 
could be developed only at great cost to the State it would be preferable 
to support the peasant farms of individual members for an indefinite 
period (Gyenis, 1971, p. 109). 

In mid-1969 there were 238 szakszovetkezets in the country. By 1976 
this figure had fallen to 108, but this was mainly due to mergers and there 
had been no comparable decline in the number of individual farms or in 
the total area farmed within the szakszovetkezet sector. Obtaining precise 


The transition to a socialist agriculture 

data for this sector is often difficult. It figures as a section of the aggregate 
cooperative sector, but when this is broken down, as it commonly is, into 
'collective' and 'household-plot' components, the szakszovetkezets can be 
wholly assigned to neither. The general agricultural census of 1972 provides 
the most helpful data. From this it can be seen that 65,600 'private' 
szakszdvetkezet farms comprised 15 per cent of the total productive area 
of small-farms, which may be thought of as the total 'private' sector, or, 
as we shall call it here, the "small-farm sector'. About 50 per cent of this 
sector was made up of 782,000 household plot units belonging to families 
employed in production cooperatives, the remainder being mainly the 
auxiliary farms of industrial workers. Despite their small number, the 
szakszovetkezet farms contained 23 per cent of the small-farm vineyards 
and 37 per cent of the small-farm meadow area. Inside the szakszovetkezet 
sector only 12 per cent of the productive area is made up of vineyards, 
while the arable surface amounts to more than 66 per cent. The average 
age of szakszovetkezet farmers is high and in 1972, 31.8 per cent were 
over the age of 65 . Of the total population in szakszovetkezet households 
38.8 per cent are classified as active earners in agriculture and only 12.7 per 
cent as active earners in industry. Their land and Uvestock holdings are 
significantly higher than those of other small-plot farmers, and within 
their section of the small-farm sector there is a definite relation between 
the size of the holding and the level of animal-breeding. The average size 
of holding is 2.4 hectares, which compares with an average household 
plot size of 0.75 hectare. The animal stock begins to increase substan- 
tially above the 1 .73 hectare mark, and only 1 5 per cent of cows are 
kept on less than 1.15 hectares. Vines are generally concentrated on the 
smaller farms. Large farms over 5 hectares are almost certain to be the 
property of those classified as active earners in agriculture. The effects 
of the size and the structure of the household are not of outstanding 
importance. Average household size is 2.75 persons. Five-person house- 
holders are more likely to have two breadwinners than one, but the 
presence of even three active earners causes virtually no change in the 
household's animal stock. 

Szakszovetkezets are most highly concentrated in the Danube-Tisza 
interfluve and Bacs-Kiskun has by far the highest proportion of szak- 
szovetkezet members (22.5 per cent of all its small-farmers in 1972). There 
were 31,693 private szakszovetkezet farms in the county in 1972, and of 
these the largest number, approximately 13,000, were to be found in 
Kiskoros district. Within this district the szakszovetkezet dominates the 
small-farm sector more completely than anywhere else in the country. Of 
a total of over 10,000 hectares of small-farm vineyards in the district, 
more than 9,000 hectares belong to individual szakszovetkezet farmers. 
Tazlar is, however, the only community in the district which has no vine- 
yards in the sociahsed sector of the szakszovetkezet. Apart from the 
recent plantings by the State Farm the entire vine area in Tizlar (470 
hectares in 1975) remains in private hands. The total small-farm pro- 


The formation of szakszovetkezets 

ductive area in Tazlar was 2,491 hectares in 1972. The rest of the com- 
munity territory was approximately evenly divided between the State 
Farm and the Forest Farm on the one hand and the socialised sector of 
the szakszovetkezet on the other. 

In recent Hungarian history the year 1968 is generally regarded as a 
watershed, principally because of the introduction on 1 January of that 
year of a wide-ranging reform of the economic mechanism. The Unks be- 
tween this reform and the development of agriculture should not be 
exaggerated, but it has had a particular impact upon the szakszovetkezet 
sector and hence upon recent events in Tazlar. 

The main aim of the reform was to achieve a new 'organic combination' 
of central planning and market relations. This entailed a large measure of 
decentralisation to enterprise-level, which included the agricultural co- 
operatives; these had been awarded enterprise status the previous year. In 
the extensive literature on the many variants of 'market sociahsm' there is 
a consensus that, despite running into serious problems in the 1970s, 
the Hungarian reform did have far-reaching social as well as economic 
effects. Essential to its success was a price reform which amounted to a 
qualitative change in the functioning of the price system. Whether there 
was any such qualitative change in the tools of agricultural policy is 
another matter, which neither Hungarian economists nor Western com- 
mentators have examined in detail. Csikos-Nagy contents himself with the 
observation (in Friss, 1969, p. 133) that ". . . price policy has become the 
main tool of control in agriculture'. 

Qualitatively, this could only be interpreted as the continuation of the 
agricultural policies already practised at least since the Party's 'Agrarian 
Theses' of 1957. Quantitatively, however, there were now large increases 
in state purchasing prices and hence in the incentives given to the entire 
small-farm sector to raise its market production. It was now realised that 
the interest of the domestic consumer coincided with a major field of 
export demand, and that the output of many commodities could be 
substantially increased only in the small-farm sector. The performance of 
the total agricultural sector in the first five years after the economic reform 
contrasts favourably with the relative stagnation of the earlier 1960s, and 
very favourably indeed with the fate of agriculture in the years of the first 
Five Year Plan. The most impressive achievements were registered by the 
State Farms and by the socialised sectors of production cooperatives. There 
were also notable increases in the production of most branches of the small- 
farm sector, which had the additional merit of utilising no State investment 
funds. There was, however, a small decline in the first half of the 1970s in 
the value of produce marketed by the production cooperative members 
who owned household plots. 

What the aggregated production statistics cannot reveal, but which must 
be reckoned against the positive achievements of the reform, are the dis- 
proportions and differential processes of development introduced by this 
sudden extension of the role of the market, and experienced in agriculture 


The transition to a socialist agriculture 

as in other sectors of the economy. The point can be made by comparing 
Tazlar with Sohvadkert. By 1968, after a number of amalgamations, the 
szakszovetkezets of Soltvadkert were as well placed to take advantage of 
the decentralisation of investment decisions as were their members to 
profit from the new higher purchasing prices. They were stimulated to 
combat the monopoly of the State buying agencies by investing in their 
own refming and bottling plants (Nagy-Pal and Apro, 1972, 135). Because 
the Tazlar szakszovetkezets were not in this fortunate position the 
prices offered to Tazlar members for their wine have remained consistently 
lower than those paid in Soltvadkert. Only the successful szakszovetkezets 
could compete as equal partners in the new environment. The measures 
of redistribution taken by the State during these years, mainly by the 
eUmination of the tax burden upon all poorly endowed agricultural co- 
operatives, were quite insufficient to prevent the emergence of wide inter- 
community differentials.^ 

Thus the economic reform did more than extend to all branches of 
the economy a flexibility and an emphasis upon market-price relations 
which was already practised to a large extent in policies towards the small- 
farm sector in agriculture. The economic differentials, which it widened 
significantly almost everywhere, have had countless social and political 
ramifications. The new system has boosted a 'neo-bourgeois life' in the 
opinion of Ignotus, who goes on to claim that the reform induced a new 
respect for Mammon in all walks of life and, with some exaggeration, that 
'A new era of enrichissez-vous has dawned in Hungary, reminiscent of the 
great upsurge of capitalist enterprise a hundred years ago . . .' (Ignotus, 1972, 
p. 279). It may come as no surprise to know that personal income differ- 
entials also widened appreciably in the years which followed the reform, 
and perhaps nowhere more so than in the szakszovetkezet community of 
Tazlar where, however weak the response of the socialised sector, many 
elements of the small-farm sector endeavoured to satisfy the demands 
made of them in small-commodity production, and reaped their private 
rewards accordingly. 

V Recent trends in agricultural policy 

There has been no major change in the direction of agricultural poUcy in 
the 1970s but it will be useful to emphasise a few points about the national 
context before proceeding to analyse the position in Tazlar. 

As we have noted, total agricultural production was rising strongly and 
improvements were especially marked in the sphere of 'industrialised 
agriculture', i.e. in the sociaUsed sectors. There were improvements in the 
yields of field crops, in the level of mechanisation, and in the supply of 
chemical fertilisers. However, there were also certain discouraging signs, 
including the stagnation or decline in animal stocks and contraction of 
several land-use types, including the vineyard area. In 1976 a poor harvest 
coincided with a sharp downturn in animal-breeding, especially in small-farm 


Recent trends in agricultural policy 

pig-fattening, and the total value of agricultural production showed a 
decline on the previous year for the first time since 1970. 

Government poUcies are obliged to take into account the structural 
composition of agricultural output, and the underlying problems of this 
basic limitation on policy have intensified in the 1 970s. It is in the pro- 
duction of field crops that heavy investment has enabled the socialised 
sector to achieve its good results. In animal-breeding and in the production 
of intensive commodities such as wine there remains much greater depen- 
dence on the small-farm sector. Thus, although there were respectable 
increases in the stocks of pigs and cattle held by State Farms and by the 
socialised sectors of production cooperatives between 1970 and 1976, 
this was insufficient to compensate for the decline in the holdings of the 
household-plot section of the small-farm sector over the same period. 
In the case of pigs this decline was more than offset by the rest of the 
small-farm sector, including of course the szakszdvetkezets. The sector as 
a whole continues to possess more than half of the total stock of pigs. In 
the case of cattle there was a large decline in the household- plot sector, 
but the preponderance of the socialist sector here ensured its greater 
success in stabilising stocks and compensating for the decline in the small- 
farm sector. The State has nevertheless made strenuous efforts in recent 
years to stimulate small-farm dairy production. 

Clearly there are important differences within the small-farm sector, 
e.g. between, at one extreme, household-plot owners who now wish to 
allocate less time to small commodity production or whose plots are 
increasingly incorporated into the sociaUsed sector and the benefits com- 
muted to a cash payment, and at the other, the full-time farmers in szak- 
szovetkezets.'' The principal lever with which the State can hope to 
influence the entire sector is that of price variation. The differences brought 
about by collectivisation or resulting from different occupational patterns 
do not alter this fundamental premise. In the case of pig-fattening, which 
is perhaps unusually sensitive to the current price-level, there was a fall in 
the total marketed from 726,000 tons in 1975 to 625,000 tons in 1976. 
This was in spite of an increase in the basic state buying-prices for animals 
and animal products of more than 25 per cent over the period 1970—6, 
and an increase of 9 per cent between 1975 and 1976. The only answer 
was to raise prices still higher, and eventually, at least in the szakszovetkezet 
community of Tazlar, the response was satisfactory. The highest price in- 
creases of the 1970s have been awarded to the producers of wine. This 
has not halted the decline in the vineyard area but it has increased the 
proportion of wine which is sold on the market. Price signals therefore are 
effective. The apparent decline in the willingness of household- plot 
owners to produce may mean that still higher prices must be paid to other 
sections of the small-farm sector in several important branches of production 
where the socialised sector is unable to dominate. The more the smaller 
part-time farmers drift away from agriculture, the greater will become the 
role of the full-time private farmers of the szakszdvetkezets. Already when 


The transition to a socialist agriculture 

prices are raised all round, many szakszovetkezet farmers may gain a larger 
'surplus' than other small-farmers because they are 'captive' producers who 
will market a certain quantity of produce in any case, irrespective of the 
price. When small-farmers respond very positively they will find the 
socialist sector of the szakszovetkezet ready to assist them to maximise 
their production by supplying them with feeds which are more efficiently 
produced in the socialised sector, and with machinery services. This is 
the trail which leads to the situation of Tazlar in the later 1970s. Under- 
lying it is the structure of post -collectivisation agriculture and the fun- 
damental problem that the transition to a large-scale mechanised agriculture 
is not equally simple in all branches of production. A related point con- 
cerning the detrimental impact of collectivisation upon factor combi- 
nations in agriculture is made by Kozlowski (1975, p. 427). It is a ques- 
tion of major structural weakness which in Hungary it has been the role 
of the small-farm sector in general and of the szakszovetkezets in particu- 
lar to counteract. 

There has been some controversy as to whether the poUcies of the economic 
reform have been consistently pursued, especially in the period since 1973. 
This is partly because of certain steps taken to curtail the spread of dif- 
ferentials after much adverse comment in the media, and partly because of 
measures forced upon the planners by international economic events. How- 
ever, so far as agricultural poUcy is concerned, the stress must be upon its 
continuity, upon consistent strategies to complement high investment in 
the socialised sector. Kozlowski has criticised the capital privileges enjoyed 
by State-owned farms and their very high production costs (1975, p. 439). 
It is certain that the reform has increased inequalities within the socialised 
sector. On the other side, the continuing reliance upon the small-farm sector 
has been manifested above all in attempts to stimulate production through 
price policy. In this there has been no abandonment of earlier ideological 
positions, and indeed in Tazlar contradictory, moves have been made 
recently against key features of the szakszovetkezet. To what extent the 
farmers and szakszovetkezets of Tazlar have conformed to trends else- 
where and how they have responded to national agricultural policies will 
be the main subject of the next chapter. 



The szakszovetkezet community - economy 

In order to justify the definition of the community in terms of a single 
economic institution, the szakszovetkezet, the influence of that insti- 
tution must be demonstrated in all areas of culture. This chapter begins 
the task where that influence has been most direct, with the economy. 
It concentrates on the changes in traditional farming brought about by 
the szakszovetkezet, but it also assesses the performance of agriculture's 
socialised sector and describes the impact of the employment opportunities 
which have arisen outside agriculture in recent years. Finally, the chapter 
analyses two levels of integration, each associated in a different way with 
the szakszovetkezet. The first, the transformation of the production pro- 
cesses of small-farms, has been a condition for the incorporation or in- 
tegration at a higher level of traditional peasant economy into the modern 
sociaUst state. In Tazlar, as elsewhere in Hungary, the presence of a wage- 
labour component in many farming families is changing the character of 
small-farming as a full-time occupation. 

I The socialised sector of the szakszovetkezet 

The economic foundations of the cooperative groups founded in Tazlar 
at the end of 1960 were extremely weak. The major differences between 
them arose out of their location. In principle, each group farmed in one 
specific zone or zones and each farmer joined the group in the zone where 
the majority of his holdings lay. The groups were able to exchange plots 
to enable individuals to consolidate their holdings but such exchanges were 
Hable to cause disputes. Sometimes the members of a family joined different 
groups in order to preserve their traditional holdings. Throughout its 
existence, the Remeny (Hope), farming in the first and fourth zones, was 
the strongest and the most stable, whilst the Kossuth in the second zone and 
the Rdkoczi in the third both suffered from leadership that was less secure, 
and experienced regular financial crises. 

Theoretically the successors to the cooperatives of the 1950s, the new 
groups were not in fact able to attract the majority of their members to 
work on the lands inherited from the Red Csepel, and they also had dif- 
ficulty in obtaining the machinery they needed to preserve the existing 
arable acreage of the socialised sector. The record of the Red Csepel was 
discouraging. The value of a work unit was very low and performance in 
stockbreeding was especially weak. In 1959, on a total land area of 1 ,370 


The szakszovetkezet community - economy 

hold (767 hectares), the cooperative had produced a total of 23 fattened 
pigs and kept 23 cows, which had a mean annual yield of only 938 litres 
of milk. Most of the land and buildings of the Red Csepel were taken over 
by the State Farm, which gradually moved out of stockbreeding altogether 
and switched instead to large-scale viticulture, to forestry, and to field- 
crop production that was susceptible to mechanisation, such as silo maize. 
It was the State Farm which accomplished what expansion there was in 
the sociaUsed sector in the 1960s. Its workforce was larger than the col- 
lective workforce of the three new cooperative groups combined. 

During the early 1960s each group was required to make substantial 
new investments. Between 1961 and 1964 a total of 138 hold (77 hectares) 
of orchards were planted in different zones using improved, modern 
methods. In the same years there was also new planting of vines and heavy 
investment in new livestock facilities and in machinery. The machinery 
was for deployment on members' individual farms as well as in the socialist 
sector, but, in practice, in the 1960s demand from the small-farm sector 
always exceeded the supply available. The major investments all failed, 
some of them within a very short period because of natural disasters, 
others because the fruit that was picked for a few years never reached the 
standards required for profitable sales. Today some of these orchards are 
still standing but they have long been neglected. Even the Hope lost one 
entire plantation of vines. 

These failures all left their mark upon future developments and they 
had certain basic causes in common. Firstly, there was the absence of 
sound professional advice. More to the point, given that each new scheme 
relied upon local plaiming and local execution, many of the least suc- 
cessful projects were undertaken reluctantly in response to insistent 
outside prompting. Thus the attempt of the Kossuth to plant 30 hold 
(1 7 hectares) of apricots in 1964 was in part the result of pressure applied 
by the local Party secretary. Many of the leaders in each group had no 
enthusiasm for planting on a large scale and argued instead for the indi- 
viduals' right to plant smaller areas, according to the techniques with which 
they were famiUar. This was one reason why larger and genuinely collective 
projects failed. Voluntary investment schemes were seldom given the go- 
ahead when the decision was left entirely to the members. Yet the Hope 
farmers, for example, might have drawn considerable individual benefits 
from the development of irrigation channels in the second zone, a scheme 
which they turned down in the 1960s. 

The acquisition of machinery proceeded much more rapidly than the 
expansion of the land area of the socialised sector. But the provision of 
services to the members remained inefficient, in part because of unnecessary 
duplication. Each group maintained separate offices and administrative 
staff, as well as separate storehouses and machinery centres. No group 
farmed very well in its socialised sector. At the end of the 1960s their 
maize yields were below the mean yield of the small-farm sector, which 
were in turn below the national average, at only 1,600 kilograms per 


The socialised sector of the szakszovetkezet 

hectare. Furthermore, by the end of the 1960s field-crop production was 
the only major productive activity of the new szakszovetkezets, the 
Rakoczi being the last to abandon the collective fattening of pigs in 1968. 
Worsening economic performance lay behind two thorough enquiries 
conducted into the Kossuth and the Rakoczi by the 'District Control 
Committee'' in 1969 and 1972. The need to improve efficiency and in 
particular to reduce machine overheads, was one of the main arguments 
put forward in support of mergers in the early 1970s. Eventually, despite 
considerable reluctance in all three szakszovetkezets, a single community- 
wide szakszovetkezet, the Beke (Peace), was founded in 1974. 

Following the mergers, there was a marked increase in investment 
and also a considerable improvement in the quality of services provided 
to the members. This was to a large extent the personal achievement of 
the first szakszovetkezet chairman to represent the farming interests of 
the entire community. Further changes in the leadership following unification 
saw the arrival of a number of younger, qualified experts whose energy 
and know-how brought about an improvement in crop yields in the socialised 
sector in the mid-1970s. Attention was also focused on the poor pasture 
owned by the szakszovetkezet, mainly in areas remote from the main 
village. The investment by the Hope in a large sheep-fold had been one of 
the few durable achievements of the 1960s. The number of sheep rose 
sharply to reach almost 3,000 in 1977. Other initiatives taken by the new 
managerial leadership^ had an adverse effect upon specific groups of mem- 
bers without bringing any lasting benefit to the socialist sector. The new 
leaders, on balance, worsened the image of the szakszovetkezet in the eyes 
of its members. The latter remained convinced that it was unduly bureaucratic 
and inefficient in farming the socialised sector. The leaders were unable to 
make work in the socialised sector more attractive to members. Indeed, 
in certain fields they now faced acute labour shortages. Rather than 
contract to work in a socialised sector which in their opinion did not 
qualify as an advanced socialist farm, many young workers with skilled- 
worker qualifications preferred to commute outside the community or 
to work irregularly in the 'private sector'. 

A high proportion of those employed by the szakszovetkezet work only 
for very limited periods each year. For many of these, work in the sociaUsed 
sector is only a subsidiary source of income, though one which may be 
very important for cash needs at particular times of the year, or for the 
assurance of later pension rights. In the national context of acute labour 
shortage neither skilled nor unskilled men have any difficulty in obtaining 
employment temporarily at any time of the year. The szakszovetkezet's 
workforce includes a few owners of substantial farms who reserve their 
main efforts, especially at peak periods, for their private farms. The 
number of members who work for short periods, when special jobs may be 
created for them, is at present small, but may well rise if collectivisation 
is carried through in such a way as to impose severe constraints upon 
small-farm production. 


The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

It should be made clear that there are major differences between the 
collective workforce in Tazlar and that of a typical production cooperative. 
Apart from the difference in size, there is the striking absence of females 
in the szakszovetkezet' s manual labour force. This is because the men may 
be full members while continuing to farm individually on a full-time basis 
or to commute to work outside agriculture. There is no need for another 
family member to join the cooperative since ample land resources have 
been retained by the family and there is no need of a household plot 
allocation. The age-structure of the szakszovetkezet's collective work- 
force (though not that of its total membership) also differs from that of 
a typical production cooperative. Although it is difficult now to attract 
young workers, men in the generation now approaching retirement have 
generally preferred to take advantage of the opportunity to carry on full- 
time on their own farms. In consequence the average age of those working 
in the sociahsed sector may well be below the national average, but this is 
no indication of vitality and the problems in recruiting skilled labour will 
continue to grow in the near future. 

Some workers in the socialised sector may not be members of the 
szakszovetkezet at all, but fall into a separate category of 'employees'. 
This group has only become prominent since mass collectivisation, as a 
result of the retirement of old members and the rise in the proportion of 
skilled workers. Both in a szakszovetkezet such as that of Tazlar and else- 
where on production cooperatives there is no longer any fundamental 
difference between these categories, and recently many employees have 
been encouraged to apply for full membership. 

Levels of remuneration are determined, within wide limits, by the 
szakszovetkezet itself. In Tazlar, apart from the leaders, the general level 
is low. Annual bonuses remain of considerable importance, even in a poor 
szakszovetkezet such as that of Tazlar, which does not regularly make a 
profit. In addition to the main incentive, that of a guaranteed income, 
there are other features which may raise the attractiveness of the szak- 
szovetkezet. Perks range from the car for the chairman to the provision of 
free working-clothing for the manual workers. Certain benefits in kind and 
the right to a household plot may apply to all those in employment. 

The details of personal incomes paid out by the szakszovetkezet reveal 
a wide span of differentiation. Amongst those who worked over 200 days 
spread over ten or more months of the year, whom we may consider as 
being in full-time employment, the chairman received the highest salary 
in 1976 with 8,000 forints monthly (and a total of 315 days worked). 
Three other white-collar leaders earned significantly more than the monthly 
blue-collar average. The lowest wage was that of the office-cleaner with 
16,748 forints for the whole year (314 days worked, and a total of 2,752 
hours). Aggregated figures for the year will in most cases give a misleading 
picture of differences in wage-rates. Within the category of full-time, 
blue-collar workers there is wide seasonal variation in earnings. A good 
tractor-driver may treble his normal wage in the high season, especially 


The socialised sector of the szakszovetkezet 

if he is good enough to be assigned to a combine harvester. Most of the 
workforce are paid at an hourly rate, which may be readily altered by the 
leadership. The system is not universally popular, but there is no demand 
for, nor any likelihood of, a return to a 'work-unit' system (cf. Russian 
trudoderi) and the present complaints would not easily be solved by any 
alternative system of remuneration. The real problem is the higher level 
of pay which prevails in the communities to the west, and the higher rates 
which can be earned within Tazlar, e.g. by a few private tractor-owners. 
The hourly rates of the unskilled are very low and turnover in this category 
is predictably high. In 1976—7 virtually no 'labourers' (gyalogmunkds) as 
such were employed by the szakszovetkezet, although there were several 
unskilled workers attached to the construction brigade. 

White-collar workers, with the exception of the engineer and the crop- 
production leader, all work in the main offices, which are situated in the 
centre of the village, about 300 metres from the machinery centre. They 
have fixed monthly salaries and fewer possibiUties to work overtime, but 
exceptional effort and good results may be rewarded with substantial 
bonuses. The atmosphere in the offices is relaxed, except when outside 
visitors are present or when committee meetings are taking place in the 
chairman's room. The wages clerk and junior officials may have to take 
work home with them in order to meet deadlines, but there are no large 
bonuses for them. Their salaries are lower than those of many blue-collar 
workers, but their status as office-workers may be higher. There is no 
difficulty in filling posts at this level, but, at the top level of the leader- 
ship, salaries well above the average have not been enough to tempt quaUfied 
agronomists, accountants and engineers to settle in Tazlar. 

Outside the offices the social conditions of labour remain primitive. 
There is no common room or canteen at the machinery centre, and prac- 
tically no heating. But for the presence nearby of a house where home- 
distilled palinka is readily available, attendance might be somewhat down 
on many winter mornings, when work is supposed to commence well 
before light. For years there has been talk of the need for showers at the 
centre, but none have yet been installed. The chairman had the construction 
brigade devote its main energies in 1978 to renovating and sprucing up 
the exterior of the main offices. 

Coffee is available in the offices, the heating is good and a pleasant 
conviviaUty has been maintained by a nucleus of female accountants and 
clerks, who have provided essential personnel continuity in recent years. 
Their relations with the young managers who led the szakszovetkezet 
from 1975 until 1977 were very good. Namedays were regularly marked 
by office collections, present-giving and parties. At the same time a per- 
sonality conflict between the chairman and the financial manager was 
always present in the background during these years, and had some effect 
both upon the working of the administration and on discipline below. 

Although more than 100 persons were employed by the szakszovetkezet 
in 1976, including just over 50 who could be classified as 'full-time', the 


The szakszovetkezet community - economy 

white-collar group in the main offices, with a total of just over a dozen, 
is in fact the largest group to work regularly together throughout the year 
(separated only by office doors). The blue-collar workforce lacks any 
cohesive organisation. The construction brigade has been highly unstable 
since its inception. The only other relatively homogeneous group is that of 
the tractor drivers, but they have little esprit de corps and, apart from 
seldom working together, must vie with each other in the knowledge 
that their wage rates are individually assessed by the leadership. In daily 
contact at the machinery centre are a number of mechanics, electricians, 
lathe-workers, flour-millers, etc. There are also several drivers and others 
whose work is mainly solitary, such as the 'field inspectors', whose job is 
to protect the interests and property of the szakszovetkezet over the 
entire community, perhaps against the encroachments of members them- 
selves, and on occasion to dispose of the produce of the socialised sector 
to the members. Finally, there are other employees who need never attend 
the machinery centre, and who may have their pay packets brought out 
to them in the fields. Jozsef Hazai earned 10,500 forints in 1976 for 
looking after the szakszovetkezet hogs throughout the year, while the 
shepherd Imre Nagy in the same year worked longer hours than any white- 
collar leader (3,330), all of them spent alone, some 3 miles (4.5 kilometres) 
or more from the village centre. 

Work discipline in the socialised sector of the szakszovetkezet is in- 
consistent but generally lax. It is admitted as lax by many of the workers 
themselves. Punctuality in reporting for work and in returning promptly 
from lunch may be carefully observed, while serious infringements of the 
regulations, especially those concerning the consumption of alcohol, 
sometimes pass unnoticed. The nationwide labour shortage forces the 
szakszovetkezet to employ a few individuals to whom it would not other- 
wise be willing to offer jobs. Though discipUne weakened because of 
instabihty in the leadership in 1977, there are certain problems which are 
always recurring, such as workers' obtaining private access to szakszovetkezet 
machinery, or the habits of some tractor-drivers who fail to log their 
journeys in advance, as stipulated by the rules. Behind such details lie still- 
unresolved difficulties, experienced equally by the State Farm and generally 
by all large units in the countryside, of creating an industrial-type factory 
hierarchy and enforcing the discipline of industrial labour where all labour 
is now in short supply and where formerly the ultimate source of authority 
over the economic unit was the patriarchal head of a peasant household. It 
was not easy for any cooperative leaders, and especially for the young, 
professional managers, to strike the right attitudes towards the labour force, 
and neither is it easy for young skilled workers to give orders to men who 
may be their seniors not only in years but also according to certain status 
perceptions that have retained their force. In 1977 during the leadership 
crisis two members of the elected executive committee of the szakszovetkezet 
were hired to fill key posts in the offices and in the machinery centre. One 
of the reasons for the success of this unusual step was the fact that each 


The socialised sector of the szakszovetkezet 

individual concerned had considerable prestige because of his age and 
general social standing in the community, independently of his new 
szakszovetkezet office. 

A special case on the payroll of the szakszovetkezet in 1976 was that 
of three famihes of melon-growers. For the purposes of payroll statistics 
they were assumed to have worked 2,500 hours each, spread evenly over 
all the months of the year, and to have earned a monthly wage which 
approximated the national average. Although not fully part of the sociaUsed 
sector and not subject to its labour discipline, they feU clearly outside 
traditional small-farming practice. They demonstrated a uniquely close 
cooperation with the szakszovetkezet, which differs from the general 
integration of small-farmers to be discussed below. 

The melon-growers hailed from a region on the northern edge of the 
Great Plain which has long specialised in this branch of production. Each 
year they leave their permanent homes in early spring and settle for more 
than half the year in temporary accommodation — either in huts dug down 
into the soil for maximum coolness, or in wooden chalet-type dwellings. 
The melon-fields, which may be 16 hold (9 hectares) or larger, constitute 
part of the sociaUsed sector of the szakszovetkezet, which negotiates a 
contract with each family. According to those concluded in 1976 and 1977, 
the szakszovetkezet made available high-quahty land, undertook deep- 
ploughing, assisted with fertilisers and with water supplies during the 
drought of 1977, and supplied the transportation for final marketing, 
mostly to Budapest. All other tasks were performed by the families, each 
one a distinct economic unit (though there was systematic cooperation 
between two of them in 1977). However successful the outcome, the 
greater part of the final revenue accrues to them. They are paid advances 
by the szakszovetkezet to help cover the costs of various outlays during 
the production process. Whereas the ordinary farmer in Tazlar who wants 
to grow a few melons simply sows a seed, these families hired day-labourers 
to assist in the planting of carefully nurtured seedlings. It was the first 
time this culture had been introduced on a large scale for the market in 
Tazlar. The families had practised their speciaUty in many areas of the 
Plain, but as the risks involved are high on both sides they seldom stay 
very long in one place. Their first year in Tazlar, 1976, was highly suc- 
cessful for all concerned, but in 1977 the glut on the national market 
kept prices very low, possibly below what the szakszovetkezet needed to 
cover costs. Whether because of this failure, or because of the departure of 
the chairman who had first invited the families to come to Tazlar, only 
one family negotiated a fresh contract in 1978. 

In the national context, sharecropping, of which this may be seen as a 
particular form, is now accepted as a means for the integration of socialised 
and small-farm sectors in agriculture. Its general effect can be compared 
with the integration that is achieved in most production cooperatives via 
the household plot. The main difference would seem to be that the individual 
retains greater control over his own labour process through household-plot 


The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

arrangements, although in many modern, highly mechanised, production 
cooperatives this is no longer the case.^ In Tazlar there are very few 
household plots and these are held for the most part by white-collar 
employees who are eligible because they have no private landholdings in 
the community. The szakszovetkezet performs the basic machine services 
on these plots, for which it charges the same prices as it charges its other 
members, and it may see some return in animal produce marketed. From 
another point of view, the generally larger holdings of all individual mem- 
bers of the szakszovetkezet can be regarded as household plots, which are 
integrated to varying degrees into the sociaUsed sector. Sharecropping, on 
land that has already been "coUectivised' by the szakszovetkezet (i.e. taken 
into the socialised sector), has not yet been explored as an alternative. 

There are two obvious reasons for the failure to promote sharecropping 
schemes in Tazlar. The first is the strength of the current household plot 
organisation, when this is taken to denote all small-farming pursued, 
however loosely, in the framework of the szakszovetkezet. Sharecropping 
is superfluous in the szakszovetkezet community because its essential 
result, the utilisation of marginal peasant labour for production in labour- 
intensive branches, is accomplished by other means, based on the more 
complete survival of the traditional family farm. Secondly, the strength of 
the szakszovetkezet and its present level of mechanisation is not sufficient 
to enable it to cultivate large tracts of former arable land already in col- 
lective ownership. Granted more favourable labour supply conditions it 
would still be necessary to increase significantly the capital base of the 
szakszovetkezet before any large sharecropping schemes could be put 
before the members. A third possible objection is that Tazlar farmers might 
at that point object to being told what they must cooperate to produce, 
and they might respond, as in the 1950s, by a general contraction of 
output. Thus, up to 1978 there have been only limited ad hoc arrangements 
to sell produce from the socialised sector, such as lucerne, to members 
wilUng to pay a given sum and to go out to the fields and collect it them- 
selves; but these scarcely quaUfy as sharecropping schemes. 

There is already considerable leasing to small-farmers of former arable 
land now used as pasture, especially by the State Farm in the third zone. 
If this is not to become a major trend in future and if the proportion of 
arable land is to be maintained, then it may become necessary to consider 
sharecropping as the most appropriate means for achieving integration. 
This would presuppose an advanced szakszovetkezet context in which 
the majority of holdings were coUectivised, machinery was more plentiful 
and, displaced from their present privileged extra-large household plots, 
sufficient peasant labour resources were still available in the community. 
The typical household plot arrangement with its limit of 1 hold (0.58 
hectare) — plus in most cases the plot on which the house itself stands — 
would be less appropriate in Tazlar because of the poor quality of the land 
and the demonstrable fact that most families utilise more than this area 
to maintain their present levels of production (see section IV below). 


The socialised sector of the szakszovetkezet 

Such arguments have aheady been cautiously advanced by certain elected 
executive committee leaders of the szakszovetkezet. But when the new 
young managers in 1975 coUectivised the large areas of reeds around the 
two major lakes they refused a sharecropping compromise with the previous 
owners and instead, offering minimal compensation, they made over the 
entire area to an outside contractor, who moved in and cut the reeds 
swiftly and efficiently with modern methods. This pursuit of quick profits 
is easier to defend in the case of a product where the labour-saving gains 
from mechanisation were considerable. The problem is to redeploy that 
labour in branches where it is still needed, and the leaders have not yet 
appreciated the adverse consequences of intensifying collectivisation without 
at the same time exploring all opportunities to maintain production in 
the small-farm sector. Fishing, which has stagnated at very low levels in 
recent years, is another speciahsed activity which might be greatly expanded 
by a well-planned incentive structure. It should be possible in other branches 
as well to involve individual farmers while leaving the ownership of resources 
and full control over the process of production firmly in the hands of the 
leaders of the sociahsed sector. 

The szakszovetkezet envisages no immediate move in this direction, with 
the exception of one ambitious scheme to raise funds from individual 
members for the foundation of a new large-scale vineyard, which would 
involve the members in the most labour-intensive stages of production in 
return for a major share of the profit. It is intended greatly to extend 
collectivisation in every zone, including the high-quaUty area near to the 
village which is of the greatest importance for small-farmers based in the 
village. There are also plans for a joint venture in vines with the State Farm, 
which has almost two decades experience in the field. The other main 
line of development in the szakszovetkezet's blueprint for the 1980s is the 
improvement of the quality of the outlying pasture and the further expansion 
of sheep-rearing (rising to an estimated 7,640 head of sheep by 1980). With 
a new leadership from 1977 bringing some much-needed stability to all 
levels of the organisation, there seems a good chance that all of these 
targets will be met. 

However, there is still a crucial need to maintain a large area of arable 
land and as yet the small-farm sector remains indispensable to stockbreeding. 
Geographers and soil scientists have argued that it is particularly important 
on the Danube-Tisza interfluve, in conditions such as those which prevail in 
Tazlar, that a large quantity of organic fertiliser be used regularly on the 
land. In the similar geographical conditions of Kiskoros, Berenyi has stressed 
the need to develop stockbreeding based on the intensive utiUsation of 
arables, meadows and pastures, in addition to the expansion of vineyards 
and orchards (1971, p. 131). For local ecological reasons and because of 
more general imperatives arising out of the structure of post-collectivisation 
agriculture in the national context, it is desirable that the socialised sector 
of the szakszovetkezet should make greater efforts to reproduce the balance 
of the traditional farming economy. This need not restrict the extension 


The szakszovetkezet community - economy 

of collectivisation and is not inconsistent with a sharp increase in the labour 
force and the capital strength of the socialised sector, but it does inevitably 
entail continued reliance upon the small-farm sector. 

II The main characteristics of small-farming 

According to the classification of Beluszky (1976, p. 49) Tazlar must be 
rated today a rural settlement of type A2 , "villages of a decisive agrarian 
character without definite secondary functions'. In type A3 'villages pre- 
dominantly of agricultural character' the proportion of all earners active 
in agriculture is greater than 82 per cent, and although at the last national 
census of 1970 87.3 per cent of all active earners in Tazlar performed some 
agricultural work, this proportion has since decUned (though relatively 
few enterprises have disappeared).'* Farms and landholdings may still be 
inherited and most enterprises have been able to survive (though sometimes 
in a very attenuated form) the entry of one or more family members into 
fuU-time wage-labour, and occasionally even the migration of the entire 
family. From a total of around 760 households, 19 of which could be 
subdivided into two economic units, it was possible to identify 400 units 
which sold some produce through the szakszovetkezet in each of the years 
1975, 1976 and 1977. The mean annual value of produce marketed by 
these units fell from 33,565 forints in 1975 to 29,800 forints in 1976, 
but then rose sharply to 55,052 forints in 1977. These units owned on 
average 18,41 1 square metres of arable land, 13,063 square metres of 
pasture and 6,209 square metres of vineyard. Of course not all of them 
were active in all branches of production. The figures for 1977 show that 
372 units fattened pigs, 349 sold grapes or wine (or, in a small number 
of cases, a little fruit only), and only 230 units were active in the third 
major branch of production, dairy farming. Table 5 shows that only a 
minority of these units can be regarded as consistent substantial producers. 
Only 199 units marketed produce in excess of 15,000 forints in each of 
the three years examined, 95 consistently exceeded 30,000 forints, and only 
40 were invariably above the 50,000-forint mark. Of the 400, a total of 
179 were to be found in the main village and the rest divided between the 
four tanya zones, including the upper hamlet.^ 

A preliminary outline of the agricultural cycle for small-farms must 
emphasise the continuity with the traditional farming economy. In the 
records of the former Catholic elementary school a document has survived 
from 1933, which casts useful light on how peak-period labour needs were 
satisfied. Signed by the chief clerk (fo fegyzd), it is entitled 'Community 
Testimonial' and part of it reads as follows: 

... we officially declare that the larger agricultural tasks commence here 
at the beginning of May and continue through until the end of October. 

MAY: hoeing potatoes, maize, turnips and vines; tying the vines; 

JUNE: picking potatoes; hoeing maize; cutting and collecting hay; 
beginning the harvest; spraying; 


The main characteristics of small-farming 

Table 5 Small-farm aggregate production 1975-7 

No. of 

Mean value 
of pro- 
COOOs of 

No. of 
units in 

No. with 



No. trans- Mean value 
acting of trans- 
with szak- actions 
szovetkezet (fts) 
(all 3 years) 

Total units 







Total marketing 
over 15,000 
fts annually 







Total marketing 
over 30,000 
fts annually 







Total marketing 
over 50,000 
fts annually 







Total marketing 

all 3 products* 


* Pigs, milk, and 

54 207 
wine and fruit 





SEPTEMBER: digging potatoes; picking beans; picking maize; ploughing 
and sowing; harvesting grapes; 

OCTOBER: picking maize; ploughing and sowing; harvesting grapes; 

. . . We hereby certify that the 4,016 inhabitants of our community, ex- 
cluding a handful of artisans and traders, teachers and officials, are occupied 
entirely in agriculture and in this occupation have an unavoidable need of 
particularly the older schoolchildren during the months of May, June, July, 
August, September and October. 

Pronayfalva, 1933. Chief Clerk/Magistrate 

Compulsory education in the 1930s was only six grades, so that 'older 
schoolchildren' referred at best to 14-year-olds. Today the inventory of 
tasks needs little amendment. The vines are now opened earlier than indi- 
cated in this testimonial, certainly during the first half of April. Spraying 
is not confined to one month only, but is now repeated systematically by 
all larger wine-producers, until August if necessary. A few of the jobs Usted 
would in most small enterprises no longer be performed by the family but 
by the szakszovetkezet. This applies most notably to the harvesting and 
ploughing, but also possibly to all sowing, harrowing and cutting of natural 
grasses as well. Yet a preference for traditional methods lingers in some 
households. At the same time the general reduction in the size of the 


The szakszovetkezet community - economy 

household presents formidable problems in the case of all those tasks which 
cannot easily be performed using large-scale techniques. Prime examples 
would be the tying and the final picking of grapes. The holidays of the 
schoolchildren still begin in time for the early summer peak in June, but 
they must return to school in early September. Their only involvement in 
agriculture in autumn is likely to be with a school party drafted to assist 
on a State Farm, most often as fruit-pickers. 

Small-farming has adapted to changing conditions in a great variety of 
ways. This variety can be explored by considering the degree of specialis- 
ation of the producer and the extent of his dependence upon the suppUes 
and services of the szakszovetkezet. Between 1975 and 1977 only 54 econ- 
omic units marketed produce in all three sectors in all three years, and only 
270 units made regular use of szakszovetkezet services. There are considerable 
differences between the production processes in the major branches. The 
size and the composition of the household affect not only the decision of 
what to produce but also the techniques employed, the use, if any, of 
hired labour, and participation in mutual-aid groups. These questions will 
be examined in greater detaU below, in the section on the integration of 

Although the cultivation of vines dates back to the beginning of mass 
resettlement, and although many of the early settlers established large 
vineyards, the risks involved in this branch of production were too great 
to permit the emergence of a group of exclusive specialists. But by the 
1930s a small number of richer farmers had specialised to some degree on 
the basis of well-developed trading outlets in Soltvadkert. The greater 
part of the wine area was widely spread over a large number of small 
plots, and it is possible that in this period the greater part of production 
did not regularly reach the outside market. The varieties planted were 
always those most popular in the region, but compared to its western 
neighbours Tdzlar had inferior cellar facilities and, when comprehensively 
surveyed in the 1960s, it had an older vine stock and a higher proportion 
in ineradicable decay (Szigetvari, 1968). This must be attributed in part 
to socialist policies, which, though leaving vineyards in private ownership 
at the time of mass collectivisation, have never ruled out the possibility 
of their ultimate collectivisation. The freedom to invest privately has been 
restricted since the 1950s, although the theoretical prohibition of un- 
authorised private planting has not been strictly enforced and some of 
the best vines observable in Tazlar today are the results of such 'black' 
investment. The trading of small vineyards was officially suspended in 
1977. It is still, in practice, possible to dispose of a good-quality vineyard, 
but demand is not strong and in fact vineyards in reasonably good condition 
have been abandoned as their owners have migrated, or in response to one 
particularly bad harvest. 

Some indication of the decline is given by the szakszovetkezet production 
statistics (see Table 6). The harvest of 1976 was so bad that some farmers 
did not bother to tend their vines at all that year. This is shown by the 


The main characteristics of small- farming 

Table 6 Production trends in the three branches of small-farming 1975—7 




Total no. of 




Mean value of 
pigs marketed 




Total no. of 
dairy farmers 




Mean value of 
milk marketed 




Total no. of 
wine and fruit 




Mean value of 
wine and fruit 
marketed (fts) 




limited extent of the recovery in 1977, even though that was a very good 
year (as indicated by the jump in the mean value of the wine and grapes 
marketed). In a considerable number of households wine is the only com- 
modity marketed. This is largely because a number of aged and pensioner 
families have abandoned the constant fatigue of stockbreeding but retained 
a small vineyard near the farm. In 1977 the mean age of the head of a wine- 
producing enterprise was almost 60. The mean in 1976 was 56, still above 
the average for all enterprises, but an indication that the younger men were 
better able to cope with the damage caused by late frosts. The number of 
'specialist' units (those who marketed exclusively one commodity) was 
1 10 in 1975, fell only to 97 in 1976, but declined further to 80 in 1977. It 
is characteristic of the specialist wine producers that they have relatively 
little demand for the services of the szakszdvetkezet. In 1977, 48 of them 
did not transact at all, while the average of the remaining 32 was below 
that of most other enterprises (see Table 7). Curiously, the mean vineyard 
area of these 'specialists' was below the mean for the total 400 regularly- 
producing enterprises, and their production was consistently lower than 
that of the total of wine-producing units. The small scale of this specialist 
production in Tazlar contrasts with the large-scale profit-maximising 
specialisation in wine which is common in some of Tazlar's neighbours, 
particularly in Soltvadkert and Kiskdros. The maximising speciaUst is not 
yet common in Tazlar, but, as will be shown below, his future cannot 
entirely be discounted. 


The szakszovetkezet community - economy 

Table 7 Breakdown by branches of production, showing specialist 
producers, 1977 

No. of Mean value Mean age No. of No. of Mean value 
units of pro- of head units in units of trans- 
duction of unit village transacting actions (fts) 
COOOs fts) 

units, 1977 

Units marketing 
only pigs, 1977 

units, 1977 

Units marketing 
only milk, 1977 

Fruit- and wine- 
producing units 

Units marketing 
only fruit and 
wine, 1977 












53.2 192 293 

51.1 57 38 

53.9 66 202 

56.1 3 16 

55.0 158 








These results can be explained by the regional context and by the nature 
of the labour process in this branch of production. It is the branch which 
has been least affected by the szakszovetkezet. At best, the socialised sector 
may supply fertilisers and chemicals for spraying, and arrange final trans- 
portation for sale. At present no szakszovetkezet machinery is deployed in 
vineyards. The entire production process remains under family control. 
In recent years it has become common informally to share power-sprayers 
or to hire the services of the owners of large motorised pumps, a costly 
way in which to ease the major labour burden. Remaining labour demands 
are seasonally highly concentrated, and only with great difficulty can they 
be carried out by one person. Tying and picking require large bands of 
labour which the modem household is unable to provide. In consequence, 
certain new strategies have been devised, based on new patterns of co- 
operation and renewed exploitation of hired labour, which enable peak 
shortages to be overcome. The secular trend has been, nevertheless, one of 
steady contraction in the small-farm vine area and, given the labour dif- 
ficulties, it is hard to see how this can be reversed, except by large invest- 
ment by the szakszovetkezet in collective vineyards. 

Dairy production has also experienced a downward trend in the whole 
of the post-war period, but in recent years government policies designed to 
stimulate milk output have begun to take effect. The number of producers 


The main characteristics of small- farming 

has remained roughly constant, and the total size of the small-farm herd 
has been stabilised at around the 500 mark (compared with 1 ,463 head in 
1935 for the territory which included Harka-Kdtony, 752 in 1966 and 732 
as recently as 1972). The mean value of production rose consistently 
between 1975 and 1977, although there was no significant rise in the buying 
prices for milk in these years. The statistics implied a mean production of 
some 4,000 litres of milk per enterprise in 1977 but in fact the variance in 
output (and hence also in earnings) was much greater than in the other 
major branches of production. The government's success is attributable 
partly to large grants which have both attracted new and able producers 
and encouraged existing producers to increase their stock, and partly to 
the efforts of the szakszovetkezet in making fodder available at reasonable 
prices and in guaranteeing the daily collection of mUk from even the most 
remote tanyas (including some tanyas actually located outside the boundaries 
of the community). 

Relatively few households specialise in milk production (see Table 7). The 
larger number of specialist units in 1976 (56, compared with 33 in 1975 
and 20 in 1977) may be related to the poor wine production of that year. 
In 1977 the mean value of the production of the 20 specialists was below 
the mean for all milk producers, while their age was above the mean, indi- 
cating again that specialisation does not arise from any tendency of dynamic 
elements to maximise, but is associated with the limited ambitions of older 
households. The mean pasture area of the specialists greatly exceeds the 
mean for the 400 enterprises, while their arable area shows no significant 
difference. A majority of them made some demand on the services of the 
szakszovetkezet, but the mean value of their transactions was again well 
below the average for all producing units. 

These results must be explained by the influence of national and local 
poUcies and again by the requirements, especially the labour demands, of 
the production process itself. Although the expansion which has taken 
place since 1975 cannot be associated with exclusive specialisation, it is 
probable that many smaller enterprises have abandoned dairy production 
and that larger and younger units have taken their place. The latter were 
encouraged by the new subsidies to diversify into dairy farming, or to take 
it up again after their stables had long been out of use. The statistics show 
that some enterprises soon reached previously unknown high levels of 
output. Leading the way in 1977 with a herd of eight cows, almost double 
that of his nearest competitor, was Lajos Egeto, a resident of the village, 
but one who still made some use of his family's tanya, as well as making 
very heavy demands upon the services of the szakszovetkezet. His milk 
production rose from a value of 29,830 forints in 1975 to 119,327 forints 
in 1976 and 277,293 forints in 1977. Over the three years he paid out a 
total of more than 75,000 forints to the szakszovetkezet, including large 
sums for supplies of straw and fodder. Moreover, in 1977 he also marketed 
wine to the value of 89,500 forints and pigs to the value of 125,450 forints. 
In achieving this extraordinary output he was assisted only by his wife on 


The szakszovetkezet community - economy 

a full-time basis: a son and daughter-in-law resident at home helped out 
occasionally, but they had full-time jobs outside the comrnunity and 
young children to look after. To mark his industry Lajos Egeto was 
honoured with the title 'Excellent Agricultural Worker' in 1976 and took 
a day off to be feted at the ministry. 

Many other farmers have tried to take advantage of the economies of 
scale in dairy production. Milk marketing is now simpler than at any time 
in the past. For a period before the Second World War only cream found 
a market outlet in Soltvadkert. Later a cooperative purchased milk as well, 
but as late as the 1960s when miUc was dispatched daily to Kalocsa, both 
the total output from the community and the yield per dairy cow were 
very low. The labour demands are quite different from those associated 
with vines. Not even the largest producers have yet mechanised milking, 
which remains at least a once-daily chore. The assurance of supplies at the 
szakszovetkezet makes for greater evenness of output over the year, though 
there is still some decline in winter. The major agricultural task associated 
with dairy production is the cutting of hay, and most Tazlar farmers still 
rely upon large stockpiles of natural grasses for the winter. Cows can, 
however, be given over to the szakszovetkezet for organised grazing on 
collective pasture from May until October, when they do not therefore 
impede other tasks on the land or any outside occupation. Milk producers' 
generally low value of transactions suggests that few exploit fully the 
possibihty to purchase winter fodder. 

The risks involved in keeping cows, the occasional delay and expense 
of obtaining veterinary services from Soltvadkert, and the monotony of 
the work are the major drawbacks in dairy farming. On the other hand, this 
branch of production leaves much control with the head of the enterprise 
himself. He is able to choose when to buy and sell animals (within limits, 
if he has accepted the recent subsidies), he decides whether he wants the 
trouble and the additional risk of raising calves, whether to purchase 
extra suppUes and attempt to increase the yield, or to continue relying 
solely upon his own rough pasture, etc. Dairy production is common in 
aged households and with solitaries where often only a single cow is kept, 
and it fulfils an important role in subsistence. But it is also mcreasingly 
attractive to modernising 'paysans evolues'^ such as Lajos Egeto, who 
appear to make careful calculations to maximise their revenue or their 
profitability. It does not require the application of large resources at any 
one time and so the problems caused by the decline in the size of the 
household are not relevant here. 

Pig-fattening is the third major branch of the small-farm sector. It is the 
one which has expanded most dynamically in the szakszovetkezet period. 
It is not a new activity, but the number of enterprises which fatten pigs for 
the market has actually risen in recent years. Major changes have taken 
place in the speed with which piglets can be fattened and, associated with 
new techniques, in the sensitivity of production to market prices. 

In the pre-szakszovetkezet past the marketing of animals required their 


The main characteristics of small-farming 

time-consuming transportation to Soltvadkert, Kiskunhalas, or even further 
afield. Many farmers still attend major markets {vdsdr) outside the com- 
munity, and twice annually a large animal market is organised in Tazlar 
itself. These markets have survived throughout the socialist period and 
their popularity is undiminished. However, their trading role today is 
insignificant compared to the simple procedures now in operation for 
direct marketing to the State through the szakszovetkezet. The member 
only has to contract to sell a certain number of pigs at guaranteed prices, 
report to the szakszovetkezet offices when he judges they have reached 
the specified weight, and then at a given time deliver the animals to a 
weighing point just outside the main village. From there they are picked 
up by lorry and taken to abattoirs in remote towns. In addition to the 
producer, three persons are involved in the final stage : the household- 
plot agronomist from the szakszovetkezet, the representative of the State 
meat enterprise, and the vet who has to certify the condition of the pigs. 

The statistics reveal interesting trends in pig-fattening over the period 
1975—7, though it must be noted that prices rose appreciably at the end of 
1976 and the figures therefore exaggerate the increase in output in 1977. 
In 1976 the mean value of production was maintained, but by only 279 
producers, causing a decline in total production. In 1977, following the 
impact of the price increases, 372 pig-producers marketed a mean value 
of 28,717 forints, which implied some eight or nine animals each (no larger 
than the size of an average litter). The upward trend showed no sign of 
abating in 1978. Indeed, supply was so great at the traditional early 
summer peak (many farmers preferring not to keep animals during the 
hottest months), that the szakszovetkezet experienced great difficulty in 
disposing of all the animals which the farmers wished to sell. 

The number of farmers who marketed only pigs rose steadily from 57 
in 1975 to 67 in 1976 and 79 in 1977. In 1975 and 1976 their production 
was only slightly below the mean for all pig-producing enterprises, but they 
were left straggling in the expansion of 1977. Once again the expansion 
cannot be explained by a trend to exclusive specialisation. However, the 
age of the specialist pig-fatteners is well below the mean. Their land- 
holdings are also well below the mean for the 400 enterprises, both for 
arable land and for pasture. Of the 79 specialists in 1977, 27 possessed 
no arable land of their own and 53 had no pasture. The value of their 
transactions with the szakszovetkezet is inconsistent, but with the exception 
of 1977 (when there was a drop in the value of transactions for most 
enterprises) a large majority of the specialists did make some purchases 
or demand some services. In each of the three years examined, almost 
three-quarters of the specialist pig-fatteners lived in the main village. This 
was the exact inverse of the distribution of the specialist milk producers, 
and amongst the wine specialists also a consistent majority live out on 
tanyas. Finally, we may note provisionally the much greater probability 
of finding sources of income extraneous to small-farming amongst the 
specialist pig-fatteners than amongst the specialists of either of the other 


The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

branches, or in the 400 enterprises taken together. The impUcations of this 
result will be analysed below in Section rv on the integration of small- 

Relating these results, as before, to distinctive features of the labour 
process involved, it can be stated at once that the recent popularity of pig- 
fattening owes much to its negligible capital requirements. Even if they 
lack suitable stables and have no equipment for the processing and storing 
of wine, few Tazlar dwellings lack some old outhouse which can serve as 
a sty. The labour demands are smaller than those of dairy production, do 
not require that time be spent in the fields and are perfectly consistent 
with regular wage-labour. At the same time, reliance upon the szakszovet- 
kezet is far from general and amongst pig-producers as a whole there are 
many who still fatten pigs without any recourse to the szakszovetkezet 
for either grains or concentrates. 

Kg-farmers can set their own production targets. Some famOies rear 
only one litter each year to guarantee a cash supply during periods when 
other sources of cash are inadequate. It is not essential to keep a sow, for 
piglets may be readily bought on the market, or from neighbours reluctant 
to rear a large litter. Some larger producers do, however, keep as many as 
four breeding-sows. Several keep their own hogs as well, although this 
practice is attacked by the leaders of the szakszovetkezet, who prefer 
members to make use of the special breeds of hog which it keeps centrally 
and on a few strategically situated tanyas. 

For many enterprises today, pig-fattening is little more than an extra 
household chore, the timing and the intensity of which is regulated by 
current financial circumstances or by the need to prepare for a major 
life-cycle event such as a lakodalom (wedding reception). The constraints 
of traditional peasant farming do not apply any longer in this branch. 
This is reflected in the differentials which have appeared between the tanyas 
and the central village. Although tanya pig-production has followed the 
same market trends as village production, in mean value it has lagged 
consistently behind, despite the larger landholdings of tanya-resident 
farmers and the smaller proportion of tanya pig-producing households 
active outside small-farming in wage labour. 

In addition to pig-fattening, there are today a number of subsidiary 
branches of production which similarly exist outside the traditional frame 
of reference of the peasant farm and its associated organisation of labour, 
and which also operate outside the szakszovetkezet. There are a few indi- 
vidual specialists, such as beekeepers, where if the specialisation is full- 
time it is pursued in a more or less profit-maximising manner, and if it is 
not full-time then it is regarded more as a hobby or at most as an important 
source of supplementary income. There is also a wide range of activities 
in what can be summed up as market gardening. This too has become for 
a few a full-time 'business-like' activity. More than one farmer has ex- 
perimented with greenhouses to produce early lettuce and tomatoes. 
Another has estimated profits of some 30,000 forints from intensive 


The employment market outside the szakszovetkezet 

paprika production on a land area smaller than 3,000 square metres. But 
in general, market gardening complements the main production of the farm. 
It is an exclusively female domain on most full-time farms, and often it 
is the wife alone who carries the produce, fruit or vegetables, to Solt- 
vadkert for sale. Like pig-fattening, market gardening can also be pursued 
alongside a regular wage-labour job. If the marketing opportunities for 
small-garden produce were improved, there is little doubt that many more 
households in the village and on tanyas would expand their gardening 
beyond what most of them currently undertake for subsistence needs. 

Before the detailed examination of how the production of the small- 
farm sector is integrated by the szakszovetkezet and how total agricultural 
activity is related to the occupational structure and to ever-expanding 
labour opportunities outside small-farming, the next section will examine 
this 'public' labour market, which we have so far seen only in the socialised 
sector of the szakszovetkezet. 

ni The employment market outside the szakszovetkezet 

There is no unemployment in Hungary.'' Old-age pensions have only 
recently been introduced for szakszovetkezet farmers, and the general 
level of welfare benefits is low although it has risen substantially since 
1968. In any case, farmers do not receive their pensions until the age of 
70. Hence there is a constraint upon most households to participate in 
the labour market. If this is conceived of as being composed of two parts, 
■public' and 'private', corresponding to a distinction between factory-type 
wage-labour and what is known in the West as self -employment, then it 
should immediately be made clear that a discussion of small-farming by 
no means exhausts the private sector. In many cases households and 
individuals are found active in both sectors. 

The public sector includes, besides the socialised sector of the szak- 
szovetkezet, additional wage-labour employment in agriculture through 
the State Farm and the Forest Farm. It also includes industrial wage- 
labour in nearby towns, which involves daily commuting, and similar 
employment further afield, in which case the return to the Tazlar home 
may be highly irregular. Within the village, the major opportunities for work 
in the public sector are offered by the spinning factory, the school and the 
council offices, and the shops and the bisztro (bar, cafe) which are controlled 
by the Consumers' Cooperative. 

In contrast, the private sector is inevitably more of a catch-all, residual 
category. It includes a small section of the peasantry which engages in 
subsistence production only and has no need for regular inflows of cash. It 
includes also the wage-labourers hired seasonally by the private builders 
in the village, whose attitudes to work may approximate to those of the 
factory labourer. There is also an important group of skilled self-employed 
to whom we may refer collectively as 'artisans', although many have with- 
drawn from their traditional specialisations and now devote more of their 


The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

energy to small-farming. Like wage-labourers, they may become members 
of the szakszovetkezet. Hungarian law does not prevent a man from 
joining more than one cooperative, but in cases where certain welfare 
benefits could be compromised, another family member might maintain 
the link with the szakszovetkezet. However from the point of view of the 
leadership of the szakszovetkezet today it is of no importance who the 
member might be, or how many persons might join from the same family. 
The leadership was willing to accept produce for sale on virtually the same 
terms from all small-farmers, members and non-members alike. 

Some of those who procure a livelihood in the private sector alone 
are directly involved with agriculture without themselves being farm 
owners and without marketing any produce. However, the diffuse problems 
of hiring private labour on the land, the means by which a few families 
earn enough to maintain themselves throughout the year without under- 
taking any regular wage-labour in the public sector, will be separately 
discussed below. There are also artisans, controllers of their own labour, 
who have prospered through the supply of special services to small-farmers, 
services which the socialised sector has been either unable or unwilling to 
provide, or for which it has charged higher prices or offered unreliable 
quality. Indirectly, the business of all artisans has depended upon incomes 
generated in small-farming. 

It is difficult to draw the line in the private sector between the day- 
labourer who has invested in some simple spraying equipment and is willing 
to use it for a fee in the vineyards of his neighbours, and the specialist 
owners of motorised pumping vehicles which they place at the service of 
the entire community for rather higher fees. A good example of current 
practice in the private sector is that of Attila Kertdsz, the most energetic 
and successful of the private tractor-owners. Tractors, especially modern 
multi-purpose machines, are hard to come by privately in Hungary (there 
is a belief in Tazlar that across the border in Yugoslavia they are freely 
available), but it is possible to purchase old machines that have been 
discarded by the sociahsed sector. This loophole has enabled skilled 
mechanics in communities such as Tazlar, where the large size of small-farm 
holdings gives the tractor its great value, to estabhsh lucrative, but quite 
above-board, businesses. Attila Kertesz likes to refurbish one complete 
tractor each winter, which he then re-sells privately for a large profit. 
He retains another machine which he operates himself or with the help of 
an assistant throughout the agricultural season. Demand is sometimes 
so great that the tractor may be delegated to the assistant, who commutes 
to work in a nearby town, for late-evening or night work. He then obtains 
one-quarter of the fee, the remaining three-quarters going to the owner. 
Attila Kertesz is a member of both the szakszovetkezet and of the Con- 
sumers' Cooperative. As the son of a well-to-do family he has inherited a 
medium-sized vineyard, on which the members of his family supply the 
necessary labour with the regular help of hired labourers. He cooperates 


The employment market outside the szakszovetkezet 

informally with other pubUc-sector tractor-drivers, such as employees of 
the State Farm, or with anyone who can help him with parts and with the 
supply of fuel. Theoretically, like the members who sell their produce, he 
too must pay a 10 per cent levy to the szakszovetkezet on all his private 
contracting work. This is his major tax liability and one which is inherently 
difficuh to enforce. He is popular with many small-farmers because he 
saves them from having to wait for the szakszovetkezet, and his efficiency 
leaves no grounds for complaint. 

One way of classifying the very heterogeneous self-employed is by the 
size of their small-farm production. In recent years some older craftsmen 
have become almost indistinguishable from the full-time farming members 
of the szakszovetkezet. This has not always been a voluntary decision. In 
the case of smiths and wheelwrights, technological changes have forced 
several individuals to devote more time to farming, but most keep their 
workshops and are happy to accept the occasional commission. Compar- 
able transitions have enabled a few of the private traders and shopkeepers 
supplanted by the Consumers' Cooperative to maintain their independence. 
They may conserve vestiges of their traditional occupation over a long 
period. Others have shown no hesitation in moving out of a declining 
craft. Demand for the services of the village cobbler and tailor have slumped, 
but both men have prospered in private farming. 

Not all trades have gone into decline and a few new ones have flourished 
recently. There has been a shortage of electricians, in part because one of 
them has worked full-time in the socialised sector of the szakszovetkezet 
and the others have worked irregularly in the public sector outside the 
community. The chimney-sweep has migrated to Soltvadkert, but has 
retained his old monopoly. New hairdressers' have opened. Large numbers 
of women embroider at home for the Kiskunhalas hand-industry cooperative, 
other home-workers make attractive wicker chairs for a similar cooperative, 
and there are plenty of part-time seamstresses who work at home to 
individual commissions. There is a deficiency in carpenters and a great 
need for a repairer of television sets. Some deficiencies can be met by non- 
qualified, semi-skilled labour; for example, some of the seamstresses fall 
into the category of amateurs. But the practice is best demonstrated in 
the building-trade, where there has been a long boom in private house- 
building and the limitations of a March to November season have made it 
hard for the quahfied gang-leaders to keep up with demand. Hence, although 
they continue to compete in the rates they charge and in the speed and 
quality of their work, they have ceased to object when smaller jobs are 
undertaken by semi-skilled competitors. The latter may be very popular 
with customers because of their lower rates and because they are often 
immediately available. In 1977 a young builder, freshly qualified and with- 
out experience, had no difficulty in forming a small gang and carrying out 
small jobs such as building outhouses and garages. He was not, though, 
able to obtain a licence from the council offices and was therefore forced 
have prospered in private farming. 


The szakszovetkezet community - economy 

to pay a premium for the signature of one his authorised rivals when the 
final result was subject to official inspection. 

The total number of part-time specialisations is very large. About a 
quarter of village households have some regular source of private-sector 
earnings outside small-farming and outside labouring. Specialisations in 
this sense can be estabhshed without formal training and, as in the case 
of the home-workers, they can have no economic function in the com- 
munity apart from increasing the inflow of cash. Individuals can make 
money from lending machinery, but they also hire out dining-sets, or the 
entire marquee, tables and lighting required for a lakodalom. As with the 
tractor-driver, the hirer generally obtains the services of the owner of the 
goods as well as the goods themselves. The owner of the marquee also 
acts as a professional master-of-ceremonies throughout the lakodalom. 
The same is true when transportation (either mechanical or horse-drawn) 
is demanded and supplied. In a small community an individual's ability 
and willingness to provide an original service or to undercut a State- 
endorsed supplier quickly becomes common knowledge. The same applies 
in the local trading of certain small commodities, such as paprika, and in 
illicit spirit distribution. There is some tendency for children to adopt the 
specialisations of their parents or of other relatives. Custom, however, 
depends upon the personality of the specialist and the loyalty he can 
attract as an individual. When one barber recently retired and his son set 
up a new establishment in his own home, not all of the old clientele moved 
over to the younger man. The latter was proud of his qualification and of 
having trained outside the community. He denied that being his father's 
son had conferred any business advantage. 

Specialisations, as the term is used here, range from those of the private 
tractor-owners and the builders, who may pay more in tax in a few months 
than most households expect to earn in a year, to that of the lady employed 
for very low wages by the Catholic Church to tend the cemetery. Some posts, 
such as that of the representative of the State undertakers, are more honorary 
and prestigious. Others are remunerative but are highly demanding only in 
emergencies, such as that of the vizes (water-man), who is responsible for 
the pubUc wells and the piped-water system developed in the 1960s. The 
unifying characteristic of all these specialisations is their compatibility 
with the running of a small-farm. Potentially, the farm can be quite large 
when the speciaUsation does not make heavy and regular demands upon 
the labour of the individual. Even where the incentives to full-time special- 
isation are greatest, in the building-trade, the individuals have maintained 
szakszovetkezet membership (though perhaps more to enable them to draw 
upon particular machine services than to faciUtate their production of 
agricultural commodities), and they at least keep gardens for subsistence 

Almost aU of the specialists are resident in either the main village or the 
upper hamlet. The same opportunities, with the exception of that for 
female home-working, do not exist for tanya-dwellers. It is not difficult 


The employment market outside the szakszovetkezet 

for the latter to become chairmen of szakszovetkezet committees, and many 
of them have become regular commuters. But only in a few exceptional 
cases have central functions been devolved to outlying tanyas, e.g. by the 
szakszovetkezet (in the case of its pedigree hogs), or by the soda-water 
producer (one of the older and most coveted of specialisations). There is 
also one energetic tanya-resident tradeswoman who buys up small produce, 
mainly from village households, and employs a chauffeur to assist in 
distant urban marketing. A case might also be made for regarding the 
distillers of illicit spirit as enterprising tanya specialists. 

It is common in many Hungarian villages nowadays that a proportion 
of young persons who qualify as skilled workers fail to take up employ- 
ment which would make use of their skills (cf. Zsigmond, 1978, p. 168). 
Young people have been tempted by highly-paid work in the unskilled 
urban labour market, particularly in the construction industry. In Tazlar 
it generally takes some years of apprenticeship before one is able to 
establish oneself as an artisan with an assured income in the private 
sector outside small-farming. It is therefore common to find that intel- 
ligent youths dissatisfied with farming are openly cynical about the benefits 
of study, and reject both subordination to older craftsmen and employment 
in the low-wage socialised sector of the szakszovetkezet. Such youths have 
in Tazlar many more opportunities in the private sector, inside and outside 
agriculture, which have reduced the proportion of commuters. In Tazlar 
intensive day-labouring brings in the largest sums, and the house-building 
boom has created similar opportunities outside agriculture. Not only 
unskilled labourers, but also the skilled and semi-skilled can earn large 
sums through private contracts and by working long hours in summer. 
Because Tazlar prices are slightly below those of the rich neighbours to 
the west, the Tazlar gangs are also much in demand outside their native 

The 'pubhc sector' of the labour market is the sector in which individuals 
are subjected to a factory-type labour discipline and deprived of control 
over their labour time, unlike the full-time small-farmers, the 'speciaUsts', 
and the other participants in the private sector who retain this control. In 
Tazlar the public sector has three main divisions. These are (i) wage- 
labour within the community, (ii) daily commuting, (iii) long distance 

The opportunities for wage-labour within the community are limited. 
The State has two large monthly payrolls, one for all the staff of the school, 
the other for the administration at the council offices, plus a few specialists 
such as the doctor, the midwife and the poHceman. The Consumers' Co- 
operative employs a number of girls in the self-service shop, the kitchen 
staff and waitresses in the bisztro, and a few other shopkeepers, including 
a part-time butcher. One individual runs a small collection point for eggs, 
occasionally rabbits, and other small items of household production. An 
outlet for building materials is also maintained and employs one individual 


The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

The Tazlar division of the Kiskdros State Farm is based just outside 
the village on a large, former kulak (rich peasant) tanya. Its main activities 
are concentrated in the third zone on the two large vineyards which spill 
over into neighbouring Bocsa. It also has some mechanised maize pro- 
duction, some forest, and a considerable area of poor pasture, much of 
which is now rented out to small-farmers, as the State Farm keeps no 
animals in Tazlar. Because so much of the production is mechanised, a 
fair proportion of the workforce have skilled-worker qualifications. The 
leader of the Tazlar division is not a native of the community, but was 
building a house in the village in 1978. He is a well-qualified agricultural 
engineer. The technology commanded by the State Farm includes spraying 
by helicopter, and its maize production likewise contrasts with the labour- 
intensive methods of the small-farm sector. State Farm employees are less 
likely than other public-sector employees to market small commodities 
through the szakszovetkezet, although some have retained szakszovetkezet 
membership. The leader of the division himself sells a small quantity of 
grapes annually through the szakszovetkezet. 

The Forest Farm is also managed from outside the community, but the 
greater part of its workforce, mostly drivers and a substantial body of 
unskilled labour, both male and female, is locally recruited. The Forest 
Farm has no headquarters in the village but has a tanya base deep in the 
forest. Each day the workers are picked up and driven by van towards 
the fourth zone and Kotony. Forestry has greatly expanded in many 
areas of the Danube-Tisza interfluve during the socialist period, as part of 
complex strategies to improve land utilisation: it is likely that in Tazlar 
both the area and the numbers employed in forestry will continue to 
increase. little private use is made of forests, nor do any large woods 
remain in private ownership. But certain public sector employees are able 
to turn their rights to timber on small plots of illetmeny fold (bonus plot) 
to commercial advantage, and the trees are also important to the private 

Also in the south of the fourth zone and in Kotony, scattered across 
the forest, the last decade has witnessed a series of moderately successful 
oil and gas explorations. The oil has proved disappointing compared with 
results elsewhere on the Great Plain, but drilling for natural gas continues 
and plans exist to pipe supplies to the towns of the region and beyond. 
The drilling centre is manned on a three-shift system by 12 Tazlar men, 
most of whom have received only minimal technical training. Control is 
exercised from the more successful drilling bases at Szank, some 10 
kilometres distant. This workforce is a well-satisfied one. Although the 
pay is not high the work is not demanding and leaves plenty of time for 
other activities. Most of these men belong to households which are active 
small -commodity producers through the szakszovetkezet. 

The largest source of local wage-labour is also non-agricultural. This 
is the spinning factory which was opened by the Kiskunhalas hand-industry 
cooperative in the centre of the village in 1971 . The importance of this 


The employment market outside the szakszovetkezet 

factory lay in the openings which it brought for initially unskilled female 
labour. Of the 150 or so persons active full-time in the other major sectors 
of the local public labour market (i.e. in the sociahsed sector of the szak- 
szovetkezet, the State and Forest Farms and the oil- and gas-drilling 
enterprise), the great majority is male. In the spinning factory, of a total 
workforce of about 50, approximately four-fifths are female. Only a few 
machinery maintenance engineers, loaders in the yard, and the director 
are male. It is usual now for school-leavers who are to be employed in the 
spinning factory to attend classes in Kiskunhalas and to perform a variety 
of training tasks before they qualify for full wages. In any case, because 
of the demanding nature of the work, beginners cannot often earn as much 
as more experienced women. Payment is by a piece-rate system; the local 
director is in sole charge of recruitment and the system is such that it is 
easy for him to assess performance individually. Wages and quarterly 
plan-fulfilment targets are fixed in Kiskunhalas, and it often happens 
that full weekends must be worked when the deadline is imminent. 

Almost 150 women applied for jobs in the spinning factory when it 
opened, but of those originally taken on, only 8 remained in 1977. In 
that year more than three-quarters of the women were under 30. Tumover 
remained high, despite a 50 per cent pay increase between 1975 and 
1977 (the increase was accompanied by reductions in bonuses, and raised 
average monthly earnings to only the 2,400-forint mark). Women are 

5. Inside the spinning factory 


The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

slowly becoming less willing to take on the night-shift work, and there are 
plans to construct a new factory in which night-shift work will be phased 
out. Many women still find the factory the most suitable employment in 
the first years of their marriage. Seventeen former employees were 
receiving the child-care allowance in 1977, and the director estimated that 
fewer than half of those who benefited from these allowances actually 
returned in the long run to their old employment. 

A thin line divides the community-based workers from the daily com- 
muters. There are, for example, some employees of the State Farm who 
commute daily to the Farm's machinery and stockbreeding centres in 
Kiskoros, while other employees of the same Farm reside temporarily at 
their workplace and return home at only five- or six-day intervals (not 
necessarily at weekends). Larger numbers of workers take the bus which 
leaves from the village centre at dawn for the light industries of Kiskun- 
halas. They return on the same bus in mid-afternoon. Kiskunhalas is not 
a major industrial centre, but it is the last major station on the railway 
line to Belgrade and has benefited from several large national investments 
in recent years. Residence in Kiskunhalas is not greatly desired by many 
of the people of Tazlar, partly because of its high gypsy population. But 
when a large textile factory opened for the first time in 1977 and advertised 
for unskilled labour, both males and females of all ages showed tremendous 
interest. The greatest expansion in the 1970s has been in local commuting 
by females. Workers of both sexes change jobs with a frequency that has 
disturbed the authorities, but the general labour shortage encourages their 

Rather greater stabiHty was shown by many of the long-distance com- 
muters. There were about 70 of these in 1977 and they were predominantly 
male. Some Tazlar men have worked for decades with the same Budapest 
construction firm, or the same oil enterprise beyond the Tisza. Many 
received their first taste of industrial work in the 1950s in the mining industry. 
Some of the earlier commuters moved to the towns at the first opportunity, 
and there are still fresh departures each year. But although there are some 
for whom long-distance commuting is merely the necessary preliminary to 
final migration, for many older men with families in Tdzldr it remains a 
temporary strategy designed to bring in extra income, sometimes only in 
the years when the children are growing up. It may be prolonged after- 
wards, perhaps in order to estabUsh pension rights, but urban residence is 
never seriously considered. The patterns of return vary considerably. All 
buses to and from Tazlar are always crowded at weekends. There are 
families who live for only short periods in the community and spend most 
of the year in modern workers' hostels. These families are unlikely to 
produce agricultural commodities in Tazlar, and unlikely to maintain even 
tenuous links with the community when they have obtained a flat in the 
town. Another extreme has been represented in recent years by a few 
youths who have spent up to three years in the German Democratic 
Republic as guest workers. While there they improved their skilled-worker 


The employment market outside the szakszovetkezet 

qualifications, saved substantial sums in Deutschmarks, and upon completion 
of their contracts at least some have resettled in Tazlar. 

The total number of households with one or more members employed 
full-time in the public sector as we have defined it is 348. In a further 19 
households an individual specialisation verges on being 'fuU-dme'. Of the 
total number of households which thus have regular sources of income 
outside small-farming, only 108 failed to market any produce whatsoever 
in the period 1975-7, and a high proportion, about 46 per cent, marketed 
some produce in all three years. This is one empirical estimate of the 
'worker-peasant' population. It is more usual to exclude 'artisan' house- 
holds from the definition, since the duality in their case is traditional and 
full control over all production is retained within the family based enter- 
prise. Worker-peasant households are then defined as households where at 
least one individual has no direct control over a part of his labour which 
is expended outside small-farming. Occupational pluralism influences the 
division of labour at a household level, particularly in the case of the long- 
distance commuters. Farmwork has often become the responsibility of 
the commuter's wife, or of an elder family member, and the worker or 
workers help out only at special periods. The greater proportion of males 
employed in the pubhc sector has contributed to the feminisation of 
agricultural work. 

The existence of a large worker-peasantry is a major consequence of 
Hungarian industrialisation strategy, and of post -collectivisation agricultural 
policies in particular.' Infrastructure improvement and urbanisation have 
been consistently neglected, and every effort has been made to maintain 
small-commodity production in the households of rural commuters. 
Almost 50 per cent of Hungary's industrial workers still lived in villages in 
1977, and approximately the same proportion of households were active 
in small-farming. The number of 'mixed' households may be smaller in 
szakszovetkezet communities than elsewhere because of their exceptional 
incentives to full-time small-farming. In 1977 there were in fact 275 regular 
commodity -producing households in Tazlar without any source of income 
from outside small-farming. Nevertheless, especially amongst younger 
persons, there is no strong desire to remain full-time in small-farming. The 
relatively poor communications of Tazlar make the social consequences 
of commuting as bad as anywhere else in the country. In the long term it 
must be expected that further migration to the towns will diminish the 
extent of small-farming. 

There are, however, sociologists who have tended to argue that many 
worker-peasants are content with their 'dual economy' and have no desire 
to migrate.'" Only a substantial improvement in the urban housing supply 
can put this argument to the test. There are a few families in Tazlar for 
whom commodity production in agriculture is at present a remunerative 
by-product of rural residence, but one which they say they would gladly 
forgo; in a small number of cases activity is limited strictly to subsistence 
needs. But in the short term, the transition to an industrial pattern of 


The szakszovetkezet community - economy 

employment in both industry and agriculture has made occupational 
pluralism indispensable to the government. Despite consequent social 
problems in the community and the economic problems created by the 
fickleness of the worker-peasant labour force, one can expect a rise in 
the number of worker-peasant households at the expense of homogeneous 
'full-time farms', and no overall decline in the number of small-farm com- 
modity-producing enterprises. The labour shortage shows no sign of al- 
leviating, and the State will continue to offer high-price incentives to the 
small-farm sector. The szakszovetkezet community will remain well 
placed to exploit this conjuncture. 

IV The integration of small- farming 

The main features of small-farm production and of the employment market 
inside and outside agriculture should now be clear, but there has been 
some abstraction in the analysis so far. The characteristics of the major 
branches of production were outlined with the help of the statistics for 
exclusive specialists in each branch, although such specialisation is ex- 
ceptional and most enterprises have at least some activity in more than one 
branch of farming. There has been no discussion of how artisans are able 
to reconcile their dual activities within the private sector, nor has there 
been any indication of how full-time labour in the public sector is rendered 
compatible with particular patterns of small-farm production. Even full- 
time jobs prescribe some holiday entitlement, and even where labour 
discipHne is most strict, in the spinning factory, absenteeism is conspicuous 
at agricultural peaks. This section will concentrate on the integration of 
small-farming which has taken place in the context of, but not always 
through the agency of, the szakszovetkezet. It extends to the enterprises 
which have retained traditional homogeneity and practise small-farming 
as their exclusive full-time occupation, as well as to the farms of worker- 
peasant households. The differences between these two broad categories, 
the likely future of full-time small-farming in the szakszovetkezet com- 
munity and the implications of the present situation in Tazlar for theoretical 
attempts to understand the organisation of 'peasant economy' are points 
taken up in Section V. 

It has been shown that the production process in each major branch of 
farming is susceptible to differing degrees of integration, and leads enter- 
prises into varying degrees of dependence upon the szakszovetkezet for 
inputs and services. It appears from Tables 5 and 7 that there is relatively 
little variation in levels of transactions with the szakszovetkezet. Either 
this is a highly imperfect measure of integration, or some other feature 
such as the size of the household or the subjective preferences of the farmer 
outweighs the objective requirements of the production process. Some 
farmers demand services which are not related to their production (e.g. 
transportation of building materials). Others purchase essential inputs from 
the sociaUsed sectors of farms outside the community, and certain other 


The integration of small- farming 

transactions are also excluded from the accounts (see note 5 to this 
chapter). Nevertheless, a large and increasing proportion of producers in 
all branches, on tanyas and in the village, do obtain services from the 
szakszovetkezet, and the larger the enterprise the greater the level of 
transactions is likely to be. Some contact with the szakszovetkezet and 
advantage from simplified marketing is necessarily established by everyone 
who sells produce, if only once a year in disposing of the grape harvest. 
The transformation of traditional farm organisation is the precondition 
for what may be termed the limited 'social integration' of most house- 
holds and enterprise types to be found in Tazlar today. 

Sandor Horvath is a tanya farmer and an exceptional example today 
of an individual who is preoccupied with minimising cash outlays to the 
szakszovetkezet. His major cash expenditure is the rent which he pays to 
the State Farm for the pasture which is grazed by the most substantial 
privately-owned flock of sheep in the community today. His relatively 
autonomous farm organisation is made possible by the large size of his 
family labour force: in 1976 he had five sons (aged between 1 1 and 19) 
still resident at home. Other households are similarly reluctant to pay out 
cash for services which were traditionally performed on the farm by the 
family. Resistance to technological innovation is often defended by the 
people of Tazlar with the proposition that only time-hallowed methods 

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6. Sandor Horvath ploughing with his oxen 


The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

are appropriate to the special ecology of the community, and that modern 
ideas which may succeed elsewhere are inapplicable on the soft sand. Such 
attitudes have hindered the expansion of szakszovetkezet services. How- 
ever, Sandor Horvath is now the only farmer who keeps oxen, and even 
he turns to the szakszovetkezet for harvesting. The szakszovetkezet has 
altered the production process of most farmers, most decisively in replacing 
the former privately-owned threshing machines and the large bands needed 

7. Harvesting rye by hand 

The integration of small-farming 

to operate them by Soviet-built combine harvesters which require only 
one skilled operator. Threshing is perhaps the only activity which is now 
performed exclusively by the szakszovetkezet. The shortage of combines 
causes a few farmers to harvest by hand if the machine is not available in 
their zone when they judge their crop to be ready (Plate 7), but all will 
turn to the szakszovetkezet later for threshing. Older farmers frequently 
complain about the quality of the combines and the quantity of straw 
which is wasted. 

The relationship between the total output of a farm and the value of its 
service transactions with the szakszovetkezet is not a strong one. The 
elected members of the executive committee are amongst the heaviest 
demanders of services, thereby putting into practice the ideology which 
governs the relationship between the socialised sector and the members. 
We have seen (p. 63) how men such as Lajos ^geto may strain the servicing 
capacity of the szakszovetkezet and may be constrained to make sup- 
plementary purchases elsewhere. Ambitious individuals willing to contract 
high levels of output may be able to obtain special terms and substantial 
advances of inputs. Although larger producers may have certain advantages, 
in principle the szakszovetkezet tries to offer maximum support to any 
individual who wishes to expand his farm production. Its primary goal is 
the overall maximisation of output. It may also make available extra 
land at a low rent, in the unusual case of a producer anxious to expand by 



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The szakszovetkezet community - economy 

traditional self-reliant methods and lacking the necessary land resources. 
For the same reason it is generous with the size of the household plots 
which it allocates to its own workforce. 

Since the early 1960s, the szakszovetkezet has gradually extended the 
range of its machine services. It is the main source of tractor power and, 
building upon the former tractor station which became the machinery 
centre of the socialised sector, has, in the 1970s, generally satisfied local 
demand for the most essential of services, except at isolated peaks. New 
tractors are not freely available on the market, and only those of the szak- 
szovetkezet have road licences which enable them to travel outside the 
community (e.g. in transporting supplies). Smaller items, such as sprayers, 
mini-tractors, or multi-purpose mechanised carts, which can be purchased 
by individuals on the market, are not supplied by the szakszovetkezet, 
even though in practice few small-farmers are able to buy them. At the 
other end of the machinery scale there are also deficiencies. The szak- 
szovetkezet no longer possesses up-to-date harvesting technology. In 1977, 
Tazlar was unable to bale waste straw economically, relative to price 
levels elsewhere in the region. Although the straw was necessary for 
expanding dairy production, and although bales were much the most 
convenient form, the treasurer was adamant that the szakszovetkezet 
should not provide the service. The eventual compromise, worked out 
after executive committee members had voiced the interests of the members, 
was to raise the price so high that very few farmers were willing to pay it; 
several sought cheaper supplies in other communities. There was an overall 
decline in services provided in 1977, partly as a result of the instability 
within the leadership. 

Supplies of fertilisers are also criticised by many of the members, though 
in the opinion of the leaders the stocks at present available are not used in 
sufficient quantities on most small -farm landholdings. The szakszovetkezet 
has also become a vital supplier of fodder and feeds to the whole spectrum 
of small-farmers, i.e. to full-time farmers eager to maximise farm output 
as well as to part-time farmers anxious just for a httle extra cash, most 
frequently through pig-fattening. The main storehouse of the szakszovet- 
kezet at the machinery centre opens regularly like a shop, and normally 
stocks a wide variety of feeds and concentrates. For some purchases a 
chit is required from the szakszovetkezet offices which authorises the 
purchase on the basis of a contract to market future produce. The 'shop' 
was accepted somewhat cautiously when it opened in 1972, but in recent 
years the increase in trade has been spectacular. Purchases are made in 
cash and are not recorded individually: hence they do not appear in the 
statistics. Some of the feed which is sold to members, particularly barley 
and rye, originates from inside the socialised sector of the szakszovetkezet. 
However, because of the limited storage and processing capacity much 
local crop production leaves the community and crop 'imports' are separately 
managed. Tazlar is now, perhaps surprisingly, a substantial net importer 
of animal feeds. In other words, in the 1970s the economy of the community 


The integration of small-farming 

had reached a stage where the level of animal-breeding in the small-farm 
sector was not being sustained by crop production within the community, 
or within the local socialised sector, but required substantial net imports 
from the national farm economy. 

Many members have frequent occasion to visit the main offices of the 
szakszovetkezet. The leader most frequently consulted is the 'household- 
plot agronomist'. Not only is his advice commonly sought on technical 
questions, but the major part of his job consists in haising with small- 
farmers in arranging for the marketing of their produce. He is also respon- 
sible for organising summer grazing, travels most frequently amongst the 
tanyas, reports on farmers' topical grievances, ensures that they are in- 
formed of subsidies available to them, and may deliver public lecture 
programmes in winter. With the marketing of dairy and wine produce the 
practical difficulties are small, although members continually find fault 
with the tests for fat content, on the basis of which payment is made to 
milk producers. The agronomist has more serious problems in harmonising 
the supply and demand of fattened pigs, which is not well regulated by 
the system of advance contracting. Farmers are advised to give considerable 
notice of intended sale. Then, if one or two animals in a litter fall outside 
the prescribed weight limits, the farmer may have to waste time later. 

9. Buying supplies at the szakszovetkezet stores. The 1950s slogans are 
still visible on the wall 

The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

accept lower prices, or even (e.g. in the case of old animals which are 
rejected by the vet, or by the representative of the purchasing enterprise) 
be obliged to resort to 'forced slaughter' at a very low price. Cash pay- 
ments to the producer are normally made on the day of the sale in the case 
of pigs and wine, and mid -way through the following month for the 
month's production in the case of milk. 

Apart from reporting to the household-plot agronomist and the cashier, 
members may have diverse business at the offices. The chairman and the 
financial manager are rarely approached. There is also a full-time clerk of 
landholdings, who handles occasional boundary disputes and inheritance 
settlements, arranges for the ceding of holdings to the szakszovetkezet, 
and has the impossible job of maintaining up-to-date records of land 
ownership and land use, in association with the tax inspectors at the 
council offices. The Reformed Church pastor was in charge of social 
security and pensions inquiries in 1977, and was regularly consulted by 
members about continual minor modifications of the benefit system. 
Other personnel, including agronomists, accountants and secretaries, may 
be sought out on specific issues. The extremely fluid staff situation in 
1976—7 makes it impossible to generalise about individual spheres of 
responsibility in the leadership of the szakszovetkezet. In 1978, after one 
year under a new chairman, it was felt by some hiembers and junior 
staff that power had remained too highly personalised and that there was 
no significant delegation of responsibility by the chairman to his new 
financial manager, his new chief agronomist, or to any other leaders. With 
one or two exceptions, notably that of the household plot agronomist, 
there was no close contact between these white-collar leaders, several of 
whom lived outside the community, and the mass of the members. As a 
general source of information for small-farmers on all matters relating to 
farming, the szakszovetkezet offices are perhaps less important and less 
efficient than the council offices. 

There is, then, some interdependence of socialised and small-farm 
sectors in Tazlar. Integration of some form affects virtually all enterprises. 
The balance of feed imports into the community is a good illustration of 
the general productive role of the small-farm sector. Yet the szakszovetkezet 
is not merely one type among others in the small-farm sector. The owners 
of household plots have access to similar supplies to aid their animal- 
breeding. Integration has not been a uniform process there either, as some 
household-plot owners make much heavier demands upon the production 
cooperative and market more commodities than others. We cannot assume 
that all the szakszovetkezet farmers are fully integrated in the same way; 
this would imply that, if feed imports from the socialised sector outside 
were guaranteed and prices manipulated to give some kind of 'reasonable 
return' similar to that earned today, then the excessive landholdings of 
the szakszovetkezet farmers (everything above the household plot norm 
of 0.58 hectare) could be creamed off without damaging the will to produce. 
The basic problem is that in Tazlar willingness to produce may still depend 


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The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

upon substantial on-farm crop production and hence on the retention of 
a private farm substantially larger than the area of the household plot. 
Table 8 shows that there is a significant rise in arable landholdings as 
the level of production of the enterprise increases, and that even in the 
lowest category, that of landowners who were not regular producers 
between 1975 and 1977, the area is substantially in excess of the house- 
hold plot norm. The table also suggests that the appropriation of private 
pasture could be highly detrimental to milk production. The table is 
complemented by the highly seasonal pattern of sales at the feed-shop, 
which consistently peaks in early summer and declines dramatically from 
early autumn as many households resort once again to their own crop out- 
put. It is therefore a mistake to exaggerate the extent and the uniformity 
of szakszovetkezet economic integration. 'Full integration' in the sense 
hypothesised above may never become generalised. 

Within the total number of small-farm enterprises a basic distinction 
was drawn above between 'full-time farms', where no member of the house- 
hold has any source of regular income from outside small-farming, and 
'mixed' or 'worker-peasant' households where there is at least one such 
regular outside earner. In Table 9 it can be seen that of a total of 498 
units which marketed some produce through the szakszovetkezet in 1977, 
275 could be classified as full-time farms. The table brings out some 
of the differences which previous analysis would lead us to expect. Many 
more full-time farms are located outside the main village, there is a large 
difference in the mean age of the head of the unit, and there are notable 
differences also in each major branch of production. Only in wine production 
does the output of full-time farms tend to exceed that of worker-peasant 
farms, yet the larger average value of total production of the former is 
proof of their greater diversification. This is in line with what we should 
expect from the earlier analysis of production branches. The incidence of 
outside earners is lowest in the branch which is least integrated by the 
szakszovetkezet and where the labour demands of the small-farm enter- 
prise are highest. In specialist wine-producing units in 1977 the mean 

Table 9 Full-time and worker-peasant farms 1977 

No. of No. in Mean age Mean value (fts) 

units main of head Total Pig Milk Wine 

village of unit produce products products products 


farms 275 








farms 223 







AU farms 498 








The integration of small-farming 

incidence of outside employment was 0.56, in pig-fattening it was 0.94, 
and in milk production it was in between at 0.75. Pig-fattening is the 
branch most easily carried on by the worker-peasant household: indeed, 
a further distinction may be made and pig-fattening recognised as com- 
patible with a homogeneous worker-peasant household in which all 
adults are active earners outside small farming. 

But perhaps the more surprising feature of Table 9 is the final similarity 
of mean aggregate production in the two broad groups of worker-peasant 
and full-time farm households. It is difficult to find a reason in the earlier 
analysis of the different branches of production why average milk production 
in those worker-peasant farms which market mUk should exceed the full- 
time farm average. Many milk producers are tanya-residents who are not 
easily able to commute daily, and they generally need at least one individual 
full-time on the farm, if only because of the need to guard a valuable animal. 
The landholdings of the full-time farms exceed those of worker-peasant 
farms, but not by a large amount (18,924 square metres compared to 16,616 
square metres in arable land, 13,032 square metres compared to 1 1,086 
square metres in pasture). The proportion of full-time farmers who transact 
with the szakszovetkezet is slightly lower than the proportion for worker- 
peasants, but again there is no significant difference in the mean level of 
transactions. There is still clearly an 'autonomous' element within the 
worker-peasant group as well as amongst the full-time farmers. 

Further problems arise when we try to see which group has very large 
enterprises and whether the full spectrum of enterprises can be found in 
both. The mean incidence of outside employment is 0.63 in the 400 
enterprises which marketed commodities in each year between 1975 and 
1977. It falls slightly as the production level is increased, but in the top 
group, the 40 units which marketed over 50,000 forints-worth of produce 
in each of the three years examined, the mean incidence rises again to 0.6. 
In those units which marketed produce in all three branches in all three 
years, the incidence of outside employment is very low (only 0.3), but the 
total mean value of production of this group of enterprises was not especially 
high (see Table 7). Large enterprises clearly exist amongst both full-time 
farms and worker-peasant households. It is noteworthy in Table 8 that 
while the mean area of landholdings rises with production at first, there is 
no rise in the top group, those producing 50,000 forints-worth of goods in 
each year. The mean value of this group's transactions with the szakszovet- 
kezet is however almost 50 per cent higher than the 400-enterprise mean 
(Table 5). 

It is possible that the differentiation which needs to be explained requires 
a more sophisticated classification of enterprises. A number of analysts 
of peasant economies have taken demographic variables as major factors 
which underlie farm production." Yet it is by no means clear which 
variables should be considered in the case of Tazlar. Is the size of the house- 
hold, or the number of active earners, or the number of earners active full- 
time on small-farms of greatest importance? It is conceivable that the number 


The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

of active earners might give the best explanation of pig production, while 
the number of those in full-time small-farming might give the best ex- 
planation of milk production, and total size of household including 
pensioners and children the best explanation of wine and fruit production. 
Rather than develop these interesting possibilities here, and experiment 
as some writers have done with 'standard labour units', where the labour 
of outside earners is converted as a certain fraction of that of a full-time 
farmer, only a general account will be given of the continued importance 
of the family unit and the size of the household in production, as well as 
of the means through which most worker-peasant households may still 
reach potentially high levels of output. 

There is first of all a consistent but weak relation between the aggregate 
production of regular commodity-producing units between 1975 and 1977 
and the size of their households. Mean household size for all 400 units was 
3.1 persons. This rose to 3.2 in the group producing over 15,000 forints 
in goods annually, 3.4 in those producing over 30,000 forints and 3.7 in 
those producing over 50,000 forints. Clearly, the size of the household is 
an insufficient explanation for the level of production achieved. It is 
significant that those units which produced aU three commodities in all 
three years, which as has been noted have the lowest incidence of outside 
sources of income, also have the lowest mean household size. 

Household size is included as a variable in Table 10, which explores the 
effect of the number of full-time earners in small-farming upon the production 
of the unit, its holdings in arable land, and its transactions with the szakszovet- 
kezet, for each of the two basic groups. It is apparent that only 40 worker- 
peasant households lack a full-time adult non-pensioner, active in small- 
farming, and that a substantial proportion has more than one such individual. 
Production increases significantly in both groups as the number of earners 
in small-farming rises from one to two. It is noteworthy that mean total 
production in the 65 worker-peasant households with two or more full- 
time farmers is very similar to the mean for two-farmer full-time farms, 
though there is a large difference in the mean size of household in all 
categories. Only a small proportion of households have a third full-time 
farmer. His presence creates no substantial rise in the mean production of 
worker-peasant households, and actually results in a large fall in the mean 
production of full-time farms. This fall occurs in spite of the fact that full- 
time farms with three earners have substantially higher transactions with 
the szakszovetkezet than other full-time farms. It is interesting to observe 
the level of transactions rising with the number of farm workers in the case 
of full-time farms, but declining in the case of worker-peasant farms. Arable 
landholdings increase predictably in both groups. The table does not give 
the details of specific production branches, but the greater diversification 
of full-time farms is apparent in all categories: worker-peasant enterprises 
attain consistently higher production in pig-fattening and in milk, while 
only in fruit and wine do the full-time farms show larger mean output. 

These results imply that simple 'demographic differentiation' cannot 












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The szakszovetkezet community - economy 

account for the range of differentiation in production, nor for the dif- 
ferences between the two major types of enterprise. Other explanations 
must be sought for the decUne in full-time farm production when a third 
earner is introduced, and for the decline in worker-peasant enterprises' 
transactions with the szakszovetkezet as the number of full-time farmers in 
their households is increased. The effect of the number of individual worker- 
peasants also introduces puzzles into the analysis. Sixty-six enterprises 
had two individuals in full-time employment outside small-farming, and 
the average production of these enterprises was only 36,719 forints — 
more than 10,000 forints down on the average for all worker-peasant 
enterprises. Yet 15 enterprises had three outside earners, and their mean 
production in 1977 was over 40,000 forints. 

Without attempting more complex explanations from the manipulation 
of statistics it will be more profitable to look next at some basic differences 
between the two major types, which greatly influence the organisation of 
the enterprise, but are not necessarily decisive in the determination of its 
level of output. We must bear in mind from Table 10 that whereas a 
majority of worker-peasant enterprises has only one individual adult active 
in small-farming full-time, the majority of full-time enterprises has two or 
more such individuals. This naturally has an important effect on the organis- 
ation of the farm. The larger size of worker-peasant households is an obvious 
advantage to them at peak periods. However, they have few other advantages 
compared to full-time enterprises, which have been able to adapt to the 
constraints of a smaller household size by making some traditional features 
of peasant economy become significant in szakszovetkezet conditions. 

Labour-hiring is a traditional practice in Tazlar which has been signi- 
ficantly rehabilitated in the szakszovetkezet period. The hiring of labour, 
usually on a daily basis, for the payment of a previously agreed sum known 
as the napszdm, is one way in which farmers can solve the problems caused 
at peak periods by labour scarcity. Chapter 2 commented on the importance 
of the labour market in the pre-war farming economy, but there is no 
suggestion that current activity is on the same scale. The widespread system 
of permanent farm-servants (cseleds) disappeared at the end of the 1940s, 
and the possibilities for even occasional labour-hiring were greatly reduced 
in the 1950s. Today only a very few households make permanent use of 
outside labour through what amounts almost to a cseled relationship — 
and the latter-day cseled may drive a car of his own and is not likely to 
reside at his place of work. Larger producers more commonly seek to 
devise a means of guaranteeing a supply of non-family labour for peak 
periods. Some of the dependency relations which have resulted have 
retained the old paternalist tinge, e.g. when a large wine-producer makes 
alcohol available cheaply throughout the year in return for work in the 
vineyard when required. Conditions and bargaining power having changed 
so fundamentally on both sides, only the financial incentive is effective 
in most cases today. There is no longer the pretence, as there was in the 
1930s, that labour -hiring was a form of charity to the underprivileged. 

The integration of small-farming 

For farmers who cannot meet their labour needs in any other way it is now 
a calculated necessity. Many tanya farmers, especially those in the first 
and second zones with large vineyards, estimate that they need over 100 
days of hired labour on their farms every year. Their major complaint is 
not the rise in the napszdm (which stood at around 250 forints in 1978 and 
was considerably higher in the richer communities to the west), but the 
quality of the workforce and the basic availability of any men or women to 
undertake casual labour at peak periods.'^ 

The supply of napszdm labour has almost completely dried up in the 
main village. In outlying tanya areas, which is where more of the full- 
time farms are located, the situation is more favourable to larger producers. 
Old men approaching retirement are reluctant to commute and prefer a 
quiet life at home with subsistence farming eked out by work for pros- 
perous neighbours. A few of those who now spend a part of each year as 
casual labourers are men who once belonged to the earlier cooperatives 
but find it is now to their advantage to work privately rather than in the 
socialised sector of the szakszovetkezet. For some women in tanya areas, 
work as day-labourers is the only means of gaining access to cash resources. 
In addition to those for whom the napszdm is the basic source of income 
there are also those with full-time wage-labour jobs or with their own small 
farms who can be tempted by the large cash sums to work at weekends. 
There are also seasonal immigrants to Tazlar from less privileged com- 
munities in the region, though perhaps not so many as commute regularly 
from Tazlar at peak periods to obtain the higher wage-rates in neighbouring 
communities to the west. 

The work of the day-labourer is prescribed by unwritten rules which 
hark back to days when the hirer had more power than he has today. The 
labourer would arrive at dawn, spend the entire day in the fields, and if 
he was given food at all it would not necessarily be the same as that 
consumed by the hirer's family. Today the hours worked are still long 
(although in their anxiety to obtain labour some hirers make it possible 
to work for less than the minimal ten hours at proportionally reduced 
rates), but the labourer cannot now be sent away if he arrives late: at the 
most he may forfeit his first glass of pdlinka. Throughout the day it is 
now the duty of the farmer to ply his labourers with good food and 
drink, for stinginess will make it impossible for him to recruit on any 
future occasion. 

Labour-hiring functions not so much as an alternative to greater rehance 
upon the szakszovetkezet as a necessary addition to such services where 
family labour resources are most deficient, notably in those branches where 
production remains unalterably labour-intensive. The government now 
supplements high-price incentives to the small-farm sector by turning a 
blind eye to the widespread buying and selling of labour power. Effectively 
it has rejected the former socialist insistence upon the non-exploitative 
character of the family farm. The scope given the small-farm sector in 
Tazlar has made the mitigation of labour scarcity more imperative than 


The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

elsewhere. The same underlying problem has been accentuated even here 
by continued outmigration, but there have also been other approaches to 
a solution. 

The second archetypal feature which has been adapted to meet szak- 
szovetkezet conditions is a more novel phenomenon in Tazlar. In the 
pre-war period, cooperation between tanya farmers on the basis of mutual 
aid was inhibited by the conditions of settlement and the diversity of the 
settlers, and was rendered less urgent by the large labour resources avail- 
able within the kin group. Informants stressed the unequal character of 
a great deal of the exchange that did take place, most commonly the 
exchange of labour by dwarf-holders for labour plus tools or the services 
of draught animals, and for such exchanges there were commonly agreed 
conversion ratios. While older farmers are more likely to hire labour, in 
the socialist period labour shortage has induced some members of the 
younger generation of farmers to begin cooperating with each other and 
even to purchase jointly essential tools and horses and carts. In some 
cases the informal work-group is still formed within kin-groups. In many 
other cases simple dyadic partnerships have replaced kin-based groups, 
often when the latter have declined through emigration, but sometimes 
when close kin are still resident in the community and active in farming. 
Such partnerships are informal understandings between friends about the 
order in which respective maize plots will be tackled and no fixed rules 
prescribe how many members of one family will turn out to assist on the 
other family's plots. The attractions of cooperation are considerable for 
the young and able-bodied, especially for tanya farmers who wish to save 
up for village housing. Labour scarcity is mitigated at production peaks 
without the expenditure of large sums either to the szakszovetkezet (for 
substitute supplies) or to hired labourers. 

Compared with labour-hiring, informal mutual aid is poorly developed, 
and cash payments of one sort or another find their way into many 
'informal' transactions. Some farmers have tried to combat labour scarcity 
by increased investment in labour-saving machinery, but while some may 
exploit such machines on their neighbours' farms for gain, the cUmate of 
competition and emulation restricts such 'unequal exchange'. In one 
revealing case in the first zone, a young farmer was unable to benefit 
from machinery purchased by his neighbour, because the latter was un- 
willing to accept payment in cash. In return for the use of his machinery 
he was anxious to obtain some labour services from the younger man, but 
the latter preferred to continue with time-consuming techniques on his 
own plots, rather than perform any services for a neighbour who was not 
willing to offer labour in return. 

The reluctance or inability to repay labour services in the same currency, 
the equally great reluctance to pay out large sums to hired labourers, and 
the difficulty in supervising the work of any outside labourers, are three 
reasons why worker-peasant households are unable to make full use of the 


The integration of small- fanning 

outlined strategies for combating labour shortage. In spite of their larger 
households and their smaller landholdings it must not be thought that they 
do not experience shortage. They may be more successful than full-time 
farms in mobilising labour resources from outside the nuclear family. They 
may time their own holidays to coincide with the major tasks on the land, 
and they too will strive to exploit the labour of elderly relations and of 
children. But worker-peasant households, though they may cooperate 
from necessity in other fields such as private house-building where the 
need for large labour groups is unavoidable, are less Ukely to cooperate 
with other households in major agricultural tasks and are less likely to 
produce at levels which strain the labour resources of the simple family 
household. Where they do produce at high levels they are likely to have 
large resources of labour in the family and to be highly dependent on the 
szakszovetkezet. In fact there are few very large producers amongst the 
worker-peasants. Their mean value of production is close to that of the 
fuU-time farm enterprises only because of the greater variance within the 
latter and the high proportion of aged and 'marginal' households (cf. 
the greater polarity of the tanya population noted in Chapter 2: this is 
where most of the full-time farms are to be found). 

All production in the small-farm sector is ultimately labour-intensive. 
Demographic variables impose limits upon the enterprise, which can be 
countered in a number of ways: by specialisation in the least labour- 
intensive branch of production, by private capitalisation, by hiring labour 
or cooperating with other households, or by greater dependence upon 
the szakszovetkezet. Possibly more significant than a distinction between 
full-time farms and worker-peasant farms, another distinction based on 
the subjective preferences of households might be drawn between, on the 
one hand, those farms which seek to attain optimal combinations of the 
above strategies in a desire to maximise their production and, on the other 
hand, those which accept the constraints imposed by the supply of labour 
and limit their aspirations to maintaining something like the traditional 
level of farm output, with the help of szakszovetkezet machinery. The 
latter are averse to cooperation, private mechanisation and the expenditure 
of cash in any phase of the production process, either to the szakszovetkezet 
or to hired labourers. They do not aim at any maximisation of output or 
profit — indeed their farms are integrated unities of production and con- 
sumption to which any application of a concept of profit is inappropriate 
(cf. Chayanov, 1966, p. 4). 

The word 'maximise' has been introduced loosely without a specification 
of what it is that some households may seek to maximise, but it may be 
assumed there is a general consistency between the maximisation of out- 
put and the maximisation of net income. Maximisers are not necessarily 
more integrated technically into the szakszovetkezet. Non-maximisers tend 
to transact at very low levels, if at all, and amongst the full-time farms 
today there are some who are farmers 'by default'. They may be described 


The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

as "satisficers' and in their reluctance to develop the production functions 
of their farms and to separate them out from the consumer functions, they 
remain closer to classical models of the family farm.'^ 

Satisficers can be identified amongst both full-time and worker-peasant 
enterprises, but in the latter farm activity is better conceived as part of an 
overall income-maximising strategy or as a secondary, hobby-type activity 
with certain leisure attributes. The full-time satisficing individual is a more 
traditional, conservative 'peasant type' who has no concept of leisure. He 
has not realised the potential either to free himself from full-time farming 
or to improve the efficiency of his labour allocation on the farm in con- 
junction with the szakszovetkezet. The satisficer has been integrated only 
to the extent that he accepts compensation from the szakszovetkezet 
for the reduction in the family labour supply and the possible migration 
of his own children. His attitude to his own labour is one of self-exploitation, 
i.e. an absolute commitment to the farm as both productive enterprise 
and household consumer unit. He executes most tasks personally in con- 
junction with his immediate family. He has not responded to all the efforts 
that have been made by the government to stimulate small-farming. Un- 
expected, urgent requirements for cash are more likely to be met through 
casual work in the service of a maximising neighbour than by an expansion 
of his own production to unfamiliar levels. 

These ideal types must naturally be treated cautiously. The transform- 
ation from satisficer to maximiser may be made with surprising rapidity, 
since the basis of the distinction is in subjective attitudes and not in wealth 
or capital requirements. However doubtful the future of the satisficing 
type at the moment, he still outnumbers the maximiser amongst the full- 
time farmers. In spite of the 'subjective' definition offered, it is possible 
to approach satisficing and maximising elements within the full-time farm 
enterprises by careful demographic selection. Table 1 1 illustrates the 
production of two possible sub-groups. Similarly, within the worker-peasant 
farms there are wide differences between the farming activity of those still 
engaged in saving up for or actually building houses and those beyond 
this stage in the developmental cycle. The greater integration of the 
maximisers has been manifested in their response to government price 
incentives, may result in greater technical integration into the szakszovet- 
kezet, but also has entailed features to which the government is strongly 
opposed, such as labour-hiring, and has led to wide disparities in income 
within the farming population. The numbers of full-time maximisers are 
reduced by the uncertainty attached to full-time farming as an occupation, 
and the strong disaffection of the young. Most recently the farming activities 
of worker-peasant households have also been threatened by talk of the 
appropriation of private land resources, including vineyards, from house- 
holds where no individual is employed full-time in agriculture. The previous 
pattern of integration here too is likely to be modified in the 1980s. 

This section has examined major differences between full-time and 
worker-peasant farms. Although all have been effected to some degree by 















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The szakszovetkezet community - economy 

the framework imposed by the szakszovetkezet, some farms have shown 
a much more positive response to the incentives of the government to 
'integrate'. The patterns of integration are diverse. Many full-time farmers 
maintain high levels of output through rehance of labour-hiring or co- 
operation rather than through outlays to the szakszovetkezet. But if 
not all maximisers are well-integrated in the way the government would 
prefer, many satisficers are hardly integrated at all, despite the routine 
services which they may obtain annually from the szakszovetkezet. The 
worker-peasants as a group are more integrated by definition into the 
national economy, but there is little uniformity in this category either, 
and the mean overall level of their transactions with the szakszovetkezet 
is still low. From these bare bones of a typology of enterprises let us move 
from integration to the obverse of the coin and examine the continued 
"marginality' of all szakszovetkezet farmers. 

V The marginality of szakszovetkezet farmers 

Marginality is a term to be handled with care. The small-farm sector has 
been treated officially as 'marginal' in the agricultural development of 
Hungary, but we know in fact that it performs essential functions which 
the socialised sector is unable to perform. Within the small-farm sector 
the szakszovetkezets might be dismissed as of marginal importance, in 
view of their small number, yet they make a contribution to production 
out of all proportion to their number. Tazlar itself might be regarded as 
an atypical, late-settlement community on the margins of Hungarian 
society. And the entire economic development of post -feudalist Hungary 
may with some justification be viewed as 'marginal' to the expansion of 
capitalism in Western Europe over a long historical period (cf. Berend & 
Ranki, 1974b, Part 1). 

Marginality has also been actively utilised or implied as a concept in 
numerous theories of peasant economy and explanations of peasant 
behaviour. The marginality of the peasantry as a class caused Lenin, even 
while analysing the process of their incorporation into national capitalist 
markets, to hold out little hope of their participating in revolutionary 
transformation of the capitalist system. The same marginality was the 
basis for the creation by Chayanov and the neo-populist school in Russia 
of a theory of a fully autonomous domain of peasant family economy 
(Chayanov, 1966, Part 1). There are, however, signs, especially in his later 
writings, that Chayanov was well aware of the role and the position of the 
peasantry in the national society. He fought to spare the peasantry from 
political attack and condemnation to the margins of socialist society under 

Marginahty can be seen as associated with exploitative, possibly coercive, 
relations with extraneous forces. It can also be seen as the key to the 
internal functioning of peasant economy, or rather to the organisation of 
each of its units, the family -labour farms. It has been common since Chayanov 


The marginality of szakszovetkezet farmers 

to describe the attitude of the head of the farm to his own and to his 
family's labour as one of self -exploitation (Galeski, 1972; Franklin, 
1969; etc.). Because of the unity of the farm as a producing and consuming 
entity, there is no calculation of return on labour, but instead a total 
commitment which makes the application of bourgeois 'maximising' 
assumptions as irrelevant from the perspective of the family as the ap- 
plication of Marxian concepts of 'under-production'. The Polish rural 
economist Jerzy Tepicht has developed Chayanov's thought in this con- 
nection (Tepicht, 1973, pp. 15-46). 

Tepicht's basic position is to contrast the peasant labour process with 
that which is typical of industrial conditions, and to emphasise in this way 
the special relation between peasant labour and its remuneration. Unlike 
industrial labour, the traditional peasant labour process cannot be con- 
ceived as an undifferentiated continuum. It consists rather of two quaU- 
tatively different parts, each of which may be schematically connected 
with a different part of the production process. One of these parts is 
crudely to be associated with crop production, which is highly conducive 
to industrial working methods, i.e. to mechanisation and also to collec- 
tivisation. The other part may be thought of as the 'irreducible peasant 
component', and it corresponds in a general way with livestock production. 
Because of its heavy and irregular labour demands it cannot easily be 
industrialised. These labour demands can be conceived as bearing upon 
the 'marginal' labour time of the family, i.e. as falling over and above 
the activities of 'normal working time', which on an integrated farm is the 
time allocated to crop production. In the pristine condition of the farm 
('natural economy') there is no means of distinguishing between the two 
components of the labour process and their schematically complementary 
labour-time requirements. Hence it is unrealistic to speak of aggregate 
under-employment in the countryside since this is an economic concept 
which can be applied only to one part of peasant time allocation, 'normal 
working time'. But in modern, industrialising economies Tepicht is op- 
posed to subjective 'leisure-preference' explanations of peasant behaviour, 
and he too stresses the isolation of the peasantry as a class as the pre- 
condition for the outside exploitation of the marginal and normal labour 
time of largely non-transferable labour resources. 

On the basis of his division of farm output and of labour inputs into 
these two ideal-type components, Tepicht proposes a general redefinition 
of a 'peasant mode of production' in the sociaUst states of Eastern Europe. 
The sectoral complementarity which was formerly achieved at the level 
of the family farm is now organised community-wide through the pro- 
duction cooperative {kolkhoz) and nationwide through the interdependence 
of socialised and small-farm sectors. The production cooperative is con- 
ceived as reproducing the integration of the family farm. The 'normal 
labour time' of the old labour process has been replaced by a highly 
mechanised socialised sector, which is Uable in addition to claim most of 
the farm's former landholdings. But the small-farmers will be left the 


The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

facilities to enable them to continue small commodity production, and 
particularly to specialise in livestock. It is thus a mistake (though one 
frequently committed by the people of Tazlar), to contrast the perform- 
ance of the small-farmers with that of the sociaUsed sector, since to do 
this is to miss what the ideology has been proclaiming all along: their 
structural complementarity. Tepicht sums up this system as '. . . peasant 
economy multiplied by 'n', where 'n' signifies the number of individual 
farms incorporated in a production cooperative. Agglomerated, without 
being essentially transformed' (Tepicht 1973, p. 69). 

How appropriate is this model to the conditions of the loose servicing 
and marketing cooperative in Hungary, the szakszovetkezet? We have 
already looked in some detail at integration and we might first of all wish 
to emphasise the nationwide level at which integration now takes place. 
In the szakszovetkezet, in contrast to more typical production cooperatives, 
the relative weakness of the socialised sector requires imports from the 
national farm economy to satisfy the input demands of small-farmers. 
But more rigorous specification of the model is necessary if Tepicht's 
basic distinction between complementary components of production can 
be related to the types of enterprise we have seen active in Tazlar in the 
later 1970s. 

The reformulation of 'peasant economy' at the level of the production 
cooperative implies that individual farms are no longer integrated units 
of production. They produce primarily in one sphere, that of animal- 
breeding, corresponding to the 'marginal labour time' of the old production 
process. Yet by now the break-up of the old production process at farm 
level has been accompanied by a general breaking down of rural isolation 
and an expansion of opportunities in the outside labour market. The 
notional distinction between the two types of labour time has become 
effective as the sphere to which 'normal labour time' was applied has 
been generally removed from peasant control and taken outside the sphere 
of 'peasant economy'. 'Normal' labour power has become effectively 
transferable and in the case of the worker-peasants has been displaced 
from small-farming. The marginal labour time of the worker-peasant is, 
however, still devoted to small- commodity production in agriculture. This 
marginahty is no longer the same as the former isolated marginality of 
the peasantry as a class of captive producers. But, as a result of the govern- 
ment's inability to dispense with the products of the small-farm sector, 
the worker is still encouraged to allocate a part of his labour power to a 
part of agricultural production. Since this latter part is the traditional 
labour-intensive component of family farm output and since the labour 
power applied is the irreducible marginal labour of the producer (which 
in a fully industrialised context would be his 'free-time'), Tepicht still 
considers it useful to speak of a peasant mode of production in the present 
stage of development in Eastern Europe. 

At this point there are immediate complications in the case of the szak- 
szovetkezet. The worker-peasant may be of overriding importance in the 


The marginality of szakszovetkezet farmers 

national context, but he does not yet dominate here. The 'vertical inte- 
gration' of many worker-peasant enterprises is far from complete and in 
most households there remain one or more individuals who allocate all 
of their labour power (i.e. 'normal' as well as 'marginal') to small-farm 
production. In addition there are those whom we have classified as 'maxi- 
misers' and 'satisficers' who may dispense with vertical integration through 
cooperating horizontally amongst themselves, hiring labour, or even through 
continued reliance upon the family alone to meet traditional labour require- 
ments in a traditional manner. 

Let us take the 'maximisers' first, and include with them the majority 
of worker-peasant households, in which some individuals still devote their 
total labour resources to farmwork. Again, we need no precise definition 
of the maximiser.'' It is superfluous here to detect 'capitaHst' tendencies 
and ambitions amongst all the maximising farmers of Tazlar. The term 
can be applied loosely to all those who market larger quantities of produce 
than would be possible for them without some integration into the szak- 
szovetkezet or which was achieved by the traditional family farm. It 
should not include those for whom the szakszovetkezet merely substitutes 
the former land and labour inputs. 'Maximisers' may thus have quite low 
levels of production, if the supply of family labour is very small, and they 
need not strictly be maximising the product of either their 'normal' or 
their 'marginal' labour time. For many maximisers, total labour power is 
still applied to a wide range of productive tasks, i.e. not only to the marginal 
component, which we have seen to be the tendency for the worker-peasants. 
This sub-group of maximisers is peculiar to the szakszovetkezet. The 
genuine 'integrated maximisers' are those who apply their total labour 
power to only that part of production in which the socialised sector is 
less productive. On a larger scale they resemble the pattern of the worker- 
peasants and that of other small-farmers, such as the members of production 
cooperatives who do not have the opportunity to work full-time in small- 
commodity production. As with the more traditional maximisers (and we 
have seen that there is a whole spectrum which ranges from almost complete 
dependence on the szakszovetkezet to farm autonomy through maximum 
reliance on traditional methods of production), no matter how well inte- 
grated the paysan evolue it is impossible to distinguish between the 'normal' 
and the 'marginal' components of his labour time on the full-time farm. 
'Self-exploitation' remains a characteristic of the family farm enterprise 
in advanced capitalist agricultures, although only a few Tazlar farmers, 
those most heavily dependent upon hired labour, could be said to be 
developing in a capitaUst direction. Full-time farming is on the wane even 
in the nationally non-collectivised agricultures of Poland and Yugoslavia,'* 
and in Hungary the szakszovetkezet is the only sector in which this type 
may have a future. 

The trend of the 1970s has been towards an increased reliance upon the 
szakszovetkezet, and within the maximisers there has been a greater tendency 
to increase production in branches where the benefits of vertical integration 


The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

are high and increasingly to forgo the back-up activities of inefficient small- 
scale crop production. The 'satisficers', however, remain a group apart. 
They are the conservatives who have adhered to the production levels 
determined by the traditional productive forces. In 1977 there were 1 1 1 
units amongst full-time farms whose value of production marketed was 
under 30,000 forints, compared with an average for the group of almost 
50,000 forints. Only 59 of these units transacted with the szakszovetkezet, 
and they averaged only 1,407 forints in value, compared with the group 
average of 2,292 forints. The average age of the heads of these units was 
64.6 years, compared with 59.8 for the group and 54 for all households. 
The satisficers have not been integrated in the national context. In their 
case marginality is comparable to that of the old peasantry, isolated as a 
class. This group too is peculiar to the szakszovetkezet community. No 
doubt they would not have welcomed the establishment of a production 
cooperative in Tazlar, any more than the maximisers would have welcomed 
this. Nevertheless, against the achievements of the szakszovetkezet in 
stimulating high levels of production amongst older, former well-to-do 
farmers and amongst younger worker-peasants must be weighed the 
stagnation and in many cases the deprivation which has afflicted the 

Again we return to the special characteristics of the szakszovetkezet. 
The Hungarian government has in general attempted to make the fullest 
use of marginal labour power in small-farming, as part of its overall economic 
policy and as the necessary consequence of the timing of collectivisation 
and the establishment of an 'industrialised agriculture' post -collectivisation. 
Only in the szakszovetkezet, however, has an integrated labour process 
and the unity of the family farm as both enterprise and unit of domestic 
consumption been preserved. On the positive side, from the point of view 
of the government, this exceptional type has induced a number of maxi- 
misers to make conscious decisions to remain full-time farmers and to main- 
tain high levels of commodity production in small-farming, albeit not 
always with the recommended degree of integration into the szakszovet- 
kezet. On the negative side, besides the undesirable traces of 'capitalism' 
primarily in the extent of labour-hiring, a large group has forgone aU the 
opportunities and, though many have sought out wage-labour occupations 
in diverse spheres and the number of worker-peasant households is con- 
tinually rising, these might have drawn greater benefits from the formation 
of a production cooperative in place of szakszovetkezets. Although the 
details will depend upon the government's resolution in the final carrying 
through of collectivisation and success in persuading maximisers to accept 
more complete vertical integration, the number of full-time farms may 
still be expected to decline and Tazlar will then increasingly approximate 
to the pattern of production cooperatives typical in the country as a whole. 
In the meantime only the szakszovetkezet farmers have not been fully 
converted to a nationally uniform, industrial-type labour process, and we 
can reflect on the contrasting types of marginality which they represent. 

The alcohol market — a special case? 

Given the exceptionally long hours worked by the worker-peasants and by 
most of the maximisers, and given the abject conditions of many of the 
satisficers, who have simply been passed-by by modemisation, it is arguable 
that in the end every group in the szakszovetkezet community has been in 
some way 'exploited' by government policies over the last two decades. 
This question will be raised again in Chapter 7. 

VI The alcohol market - a special case? 

The ideology of complementarity of socialised and small-farming sectors 
is most applicable to field-crop production and animal-breeding. A some- 
what different marginality is at issue in the case of fruit and wine production, 
where it is generally admitted that the technical bases for the integration 
of the small-farm sector are but feebly developed. Here the production of 
the small-farm sector is no less crucial than in other branches, and indeed 
this was the major economic reason advanced for the stabilisation of a 
dense tanya network in the region of the Danube-Tisza interfluve (Lettrich, 
1969, p. 160). No significant grass-roots modification of the production 
process has taken place (although the quality of the product marketed has 
fallen, for reasons we shall come to below), but government policies at 
national level have influenced producers indirectly through the price 
system. The government thus has considerable power to manipulate pro- 
duction levels in this branch, but the nature of the small-farm production 
process is such here that undiscriminating policies to maximise output 
have had highly deleterious social consequences. 

Alcohol consumption is traditionally high in Hungary and certain 
controls over this market were developed by pre-capitalist forms of the 
State. In recent years, following the reform of the economic mechanism 
in 1968, there has been a substantial rise in domestic consumption and also 
in wine exports. In order to satisfy rising demand the government, in 
addition to promoting large-scale vineyards in the socialised sector, has also 
been concerned to halt the decline in the vine area of the small-farms. In 
addition to the stabilisation of a tanya network, the prevalence of the 
szakszovetkezet in the Danube-Tisza interfluve is also due in part to the 
importance attached to this policy, an importance outweighing that of 
uniform collectivisation. 

The government's recent dilemma results not only from the contradiction 
with collectivisation policy. For many obvious social reasons the govern- 
ment has wished to restrain alcohol consumption. It has been particularly 
concerned to restrain the illicit production and distribution of pdlinka. 
Despite a multitide of campaigns in the media and despite the rise of beer 
as a staple alcoholic intoxicant in recent decades in both towns and country- 
side, the government's campaign for restraint has met with little success. 
This can be attributed in part to the conflict between its general welfare 
goals and its underlying economic purpose of maximising the wine output 
of small-farmers. In the spirit sector of the market the government is at 


The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

least able to attempt to enforce its monopoly of production by the penal 
taxation of small producers. Very few individuals in Tazlar have sought 
the right to produce legally in recent years. But, as the sociographer Tibor 
Zam has forcefully argued (1974), the government has undermined its own 
monopoly in the spirit sector through the subsidy of a commodity which 
is generally used in the wine sector to increase output and alcoholic 
strength. The commodity which links illicit spirit production to small- 
farm wine production is sugar. It is the major input which must be pur- 
chased for pdlinka production, while if the regulations which technically 
prohibit its use in wine production were to be strictly enforced, then yields 
in the small-farm sector would fall so low that vineyards would be abandoned 
by maximising and satisficing enterprises alike. Zam is able to present 
elaborate estimates of the ratio in which sugar is now divided in the szak- 
szovetkezet communities of Bacs-Kiskun county between the technically 
illegal but tacitly encouraged adulteration of wine and the high-risk but 
high-profit spirit sector. 

Wine was a new commodity in Tazlar at the time of mass resettlement in 
the last quarter of the nineteenth century, although there is evidence for 
the more ancient cultivation of vines in neighbouring Soltvadkert (Nagy- 
Pal and Apro 1972, pp. 9—12) and we have noted in the introduction that 
the Wattay family used to sell wine and spirit, some of it produced in the 
region, at the Tazlar csarda in the eighteenth century. But wines have never 

10. Drinking inside the bisztro 

The alcohol market - a special case? 

become as important in Tazlar as in Soltvadkert. According to an official 
estimate for 1965, total production in grapes and in wine amounted to 
28.4 per cent of the total value of the agricultural production of the 
community, rising to 35.3 per cent with the inclusion of fruit (in the so- 
called ket-szintes ('two-level') system fruit trees are planted within the 
rows of vines; the system is no longer used but remains dominant in the 
small-farm vineyards). The corresponding figures for Soltvadkert are 51.7 
per cent and 59.8 per cent, and the rest of the district falls somewhere in 
between (all figures given in Szigetvari, 1968). As we have seen, since 
1965 the area of vines in the small-farm sector has declined to reach only 
736 hold (412 hectares) in 1977. Even this figure includes many vineyards 
that are no longer fully productive. In 1968 Szigetvari noted a higher than 
average proportion of 'weak' and 'disappearing' vines in Tazlar, though 
their age structure was close to the average for the district (only 15.7 
per cent under 13 years old; 54.3 per cent over 25 years old). Since the 
1960s there has been a virtual ban on new planting in the private sector, 
such that at best farmers have been able to replace non-productive vines 
within existing vineyards. Tazlar had consistently below-average yields in 
the years of the 1960s which Szigetvari examined in detail, and this had 
not changed in the mid-1970s. Zam has estimated that a minimal yield 
for small-farm vineyards, one giving a small return on labour, would be in 
the region of 3,000 kilograms per hold or 5,215 kilograms per hectare 
(1974a, p. 33). Between 1963 and 1967 Tazlar's yields varied between 
1 ,670 kilograms per hectare in 1965 and 4,050 kilograms per hectare in 
1964, compared with district averages for those years of 3,025 kilograms 
per hectare and 6,100 kilograms per hectare (Szigetvari 1968). Tazlar's 
small vineyards produced 4,020 kilograms per hectare in 1975, compared 
with 6,880 kilograms per hectare in Soltvadkert and 9,550 kilograms per 
hectare in the most successful of the Kiskoros szakszovetkezets. One of 
the reasons offered by the leaders of the szakszovetkezet in Tazlar for the 
relatively poor performance of their members is the age and the con- 
servatism of many of the producers and their unwillingness to modernise 
their techniques (i.e. amongst other factors, to use sugar). Cellar storage 
capacity in Tazlar is mainly private, stood at only 5,300 hectolitres in 
1967 and probably has not risen substantially since. Even the larger 
producers have not invested in cellar equipment and in the means of 
transportation on the same scale as the successful wine producers of Solt- 
vadkert and Kiskoros, and they may therefore be constrained to earlier 
sale and realisation of the produce in fruit or must form. 

The current importance of the larger producers is apparent from Table 
12. Amongst the 94 producers who sold over 60,000 forints-worth of wine 
through the szakszovetkezet in the period 1975 to 1977 there were 35 
who topped the 100,000-forint level, and 21 who were over the 20,000- 
forint level in each of the three years separately. At the other extreme there 
is the large number of satisficing units, including many pensioner families, 
where this is now the only commodity marketed. In the past the average 


The szakszovetkezet community — economy 
Table 12 Small-farm wine-producers 1975-7 

Total Units Mean age Mean area 

units in of head of vines 

main of unit (square 

village metres) 

Mean annual 
value of 
produce in 
other branches 

Units marketing 
wine up to a 
total value of 
20,000 forints 213 

Units marketing 
wine over total 
value of 20,000 
fts and below 
60,000 fts 154 

Units marketing 
wine over a total 
value of 60,000 
fts 94 

31 55.5 

74 55.0 

48 54.0 







vineyard area and wine production in TazWr was probably higher than else- 
where in the district, and in 1967, which was a good year, the difference 
between mean production in Tazlar and the district mean was much smaller 
than the difference in yields. However, the available statistics, especially 
when based on the farmers' own tax returns, are notoriously unreliable 
in this branch of production. Large vineyards under the control of a single 
maximising farmer may be nominally held by scattered urban relatives. 
Because of this and because tax is still paid on some vineyards in very 
bad condition, there is only a weak relation between the size of vineyards 
and the quantity of wine produced from them. Some cynics in the com- 
munity would attribute this result entirely to the new adulteration tech- 
niques, which enable some farmers to produce very large quantities from 
very small areas of vines. No wine was produced at all by 106 nominal 
owners of vineyards. 

The table shows that the larger producers of wine tend to maintain 
above-average levels of production in other branches. Large specialist 
producers constitute only a very small group in Tazlar compared with 
neighbouring communities to the west. Nevertheless, similar social conse- 
quences can be observed. It is this branch of production which has greatest 
need of large work-groups and therefore makes greater use of labour- 
hiring practices when production is expanded. Policies to stimulate output 
in other, more integrated branches of small-farming do not necessarily 
have this effect. 

It was pointed out in Chapter 3 that it is in this branch that the rise 


The alcohol market - a special case? 

in State buying prices has been greatest in the 1970s and that there has 
been a considerable rise in the proportion of output which is officially 
marketed. At the same time it can be argued that policies designed to 
stimulate production, which have had some polarising impact upon tra- 
ditional producers, have also weakened the government's control over 
distribution and marketing. Theoretically each producer is entitled to an 
annual personal allowance of 250 litres (the so-called fejadag). He must 
declare his total produce to the tax inspectors at the council offices a 
short time after the harvest, and he must pay a tax of 8 forints per litre 
on the quantity which he retains in excess of his personal allowance. It 
is one junior tax inspector's job to proceed from cellar to cellar in late 
autumn checking the vaUdity of the declarations, and large numbers of 
minor frauds are invariably discovered. In fact, all producers have virtually 
unlimited scope for deception. Even if we do not question the integrity of 
the solitary responsible tax inspector, it is not especially difficult to 
conceal barrels, temporarily bury them or move them elsewhere. The 
potential rewards are large, for the wine retained can be sold privately for 
considerably more than the official purchasing price, but still under- 
cutting the price per litre in the shops. Indeed, even after paying the tax 
some entrepreneurial producers calculate that higher profits can be made 
through private sale (which is not then illegal in small quantities) than 
through sale through the szakszovetkezet, because the official mark-up, 
in an attempt to limit consumption, is so high. The incentive to private 
marketing exists only in this branch of production: in the case of milk 
the subsidy is such that the price in the shop (admittedly for a milk low 
in fat content) is 1 forint less than the basic buying price. Some larger 
producers regularly sell large quantities of wine privately and have developed 
excellent trading connections outside the region. The most frequent cus- 
tomers are those who seek large supplies for a lakodalom. Others main- 
tain retail outlets on urban housing estates, e.g. in Budapest. One of the 
more unlikely trading networks was that linking one of the pillars of the 
Reformed Church in Tazlar to Catholic presbyteries throughout the non- 
wine-producing areas of Transdanubia. Some producers are always willing 
to measure any small quantity informally for kinsmen or neighbours. 

It is commonly the larger wine producers who are most active in the 
production and the distribution oipdlinka. The technology required in 
production is exceedingly simple - many prosperous families produced 
for their own needs in the past and still have fruit readily available in 
their vineyards. Because of the characteristic smell it is more dangerous 
to distil in the main village, but on certain tanyas at certain times of the 
year the equipment may be in use virtually round the clock. In the event 
of discovery, following a raid by outside excise officials (there is no internal 
law-enforcement procedure), very heavy fines are imposed (e.g. 10,000 
forints upon a Tazlar farmer discovered in 1976). However, despite the 
newspaper publicity and derogatory portrayal of the unlucky individual, 
there are grounds for supposing that some larger producers have the 


The szakszovetkezet community — economy 

capacity to protect themselves at least against the possibility of being 
reported by the internal authorities. The distribution of pdlinka from 
private houses in the main village and elsewhere is the most open secret. 
In some respects this is a specialisation like many others, which serves to 
bring in a httle extra income. For example, in the upper hamlet, where in 
one row pdlinka is available at almost every other house, the doors are 
found open at all reasonable hours and custom depends upon the quality 
of the product and often upon some personal tie with the producer. 
The personal tekintely (prestige) of the producer is likewise important in 
the establishment of trading connections outside the conununity, even with 
institutional customers such as the police or the army. 

There are also private outlets in the village today for both wine and 
spirits. Here the sellers are only middlemen who obtain their supplies from 
direct producers who are often still resident on tanyas. Where turnover 
is higher there may be a willingness to sell, by the glass or by the bottle, 
even to strangers. Alcoholics thus have private shops to which they can 
turn for spirit even when the bisztro is closed, and where they can be 
more certain of obtaining service as long as their money lasts. The tra- 
ditional family still (e.g. that of the old man who lives near the bus-stop 
and serves the frozen commuters at dawn in winter when the bisztro 
is not open) was never used in such an undiscriminating manner. One or 
two producers are prepared to justify the production of pdlinka as one 
activity in which private enterprise is rewarded by large profits, as just 
compensation for the taxes that farmers must pay and the hard work that 
goes into other branches of production. Many others who once produced 
smaU quantities primarily for family consumption have recoiled from the 
numerous accidents which have occurred over the years during and as a 
result of production (commonly, when the producers are unable to refrain 
from immediate consumption), and question the morality of the present 
sales network and the high profits made by a few. There remain many who 
prefer the quality of the best home-made pdlinka to the standardised tastes 
of the shop brands. But it should be clear that it is neither the flavour of 
the drink nor the sociability of the landlord that attracts customers to the 
current major sales outlets: it is a straightforward price differential. As 
with wine but more emphatically, pdlinka prices can undercut the shop 
and still remain high enough to give a very large return to the producer. 

By now it should be apparent in what sense the branch of fruit and wine 
production constitutes a special case. In the first place the small-farm's 
production process has not been significantly altered during the period of 
the szakszovetkezet. Integration of the production process has developed 
in richer communities such as Soltvadkert where the socialised sector has 
invested in its own processing plant and has been able to offer higher 
prices for the produce of its members. In Tazlar, effectively, there is only 
the purchasing agency of the State, which dictates the prices paid by the 
szakszovetkezet to its members. These prices have still been high enough 
to encourage a section of the population, those who have inherited the best 


The alcohol market — a special case? 

vineyards (in otlier words the traditionally prosperous sections of the 
peasantry), to expand their production in this branch. They have done 
so in the way that prosperous families expanded their production in the 
past and the only way possible in view of the production process: they have 
made heavy use of hired labour. The means chosen by the government to 
stimulate wine production in the small-farm sector have had further un- 
desirable consequences because of high alcohol consumption in the com- 
munity and the links between the wine and the spirit sectors of the alcohol 
market. The apparently high degree of price responsiveness of small- 
farmers in this branch has been achieved at the cost of frustrating govern- 
ment control over the black market production oipdlinka, has increased 
the scale of tax evasion, and has encouraged the black market distribution 
of both pdlinka and wine. A rise in the shop prices of alcohohc beverages, 
such as that announced in July 1978, may do more to encourage black 
market activity than to discourage consumption. Market principles have 
even penetrated the informal household sales of spirits within the com- 
munity, breaching traditional norms (e.g. in serving an alcoholic against 
the wishes of his family), but following predictably from the decision to 
rely on untramelled markets and material incentives to remedy the structural 
deficiencies of the agricultural sector. 



The szakszovetkezet community - politics 

Having analysed in some detail the economy of the szakszovetkezet com- 
munity in Tizlar the next step is to consider its influence upon other 
fields of culture. In this chapter on 'politics' it will become clear that 
events and individuals have in practice been considerably manipulated 
from outside Tazlar. This was traditionally so from the beginning of mass 
resettlement, and it follows now from the theoretical premises of demo- 
cratic centralism that the community must be studied in a larger context. 
Therefore it is appropriate to consider the evolution of local government 
and administration in the same chapter, together with forces more 'internal' 
to the community, notably those founded upon religious belief. It will be 
seen that the szakszovetkezet itself, though invested with important 
'centraUst' functions from outside, has also developed an 'internal' rep- 
resentative role in the expression of the poUtical opinions and demands of 
the people of Tazlar. We have seen how the szakszovetkezet has facilitated 
the strategies of individuals in the economic sphere, where it has impeded 
the emergence of that economic 'community' which is necessarily created 
by the productive cooperative. Here we shall see that it has been a vehicle 
for the expression of political unity and an effective community-wide, 
collective strategy of opposition to the policies of outside forces. 

I The traditional system of local government 

The revolution of 1848 and the liberation of the serfs did not eliminate 
feudal elements from many Hungarian institutions and practices. Certain 
tithe payments continued for several decades and it has been estimated 
that some 53 per cent of all land remained with the noble owners of large 
estates (Berend and Ranki, 1974, p. 31). Continuity with the feudal past 
and with the centralist traditions of the Hapsburg state was also preserved 
by the system of local government which developed in the later nineteenth 
century. All self-governing communities, the category to which Tazlar 
belonged from 1872, had an array of officials, notably the 'magistrate', 
the 'notary', and their assistants or deputies. These individuals held much 
power in the community, being responsible for law and order, tax collection, 
the administration of community-owned land, road-building and the control 
of spirit sales, to name but a few of their activities. But they were also 
directly subordinate to the administration at district level. Tazlar was at 
this period part of a large district whose centre was Solt. There was also a 


The traditional system of local government 

'body of representatives', which was, however, only in part representative 
of the population of the community; half its membership was comprised 
of the so-called virilistas, the largest landowners in the community whose 
right to representation was automatic (although few of the absentee land- 
owners made use of this right). Without major modification, except 
temporarily during the revolutionary chaos of 1919 when the clerk was 
dismissed by the local direktorium, this system and its feudal characteristics 
survived until the beginning of the socialist period, and was not formally 
replaced by the present structure of councils until autumn 1950. 

While it may be true, as Horvath has argued (1965, p. 318), that in the 
national context the pohtical and administrative organisation of the com- 
munity had by the end of the nineteenth century become quite detached 
from peasant control and could not further the goal of local self-government, 
there are a few special points to note in connection with the tanya settle- 
ments of Tazlar. The county archives (BKML, Prdnayfalva) offer much use- 
ful information on the local government practice of the period. In the very 
first decade of the community's existence it appears that the majority of 
the representatives came from one family. Later the number of representatives 
was increased, and we can see from the archives that each of the 12 
virilistas of 1887 owned over 500 hold (288 hectares) of land, and that 
they included one or two members of the upper nobility. By the end of 
the pre-war period this had all changed and the largest taxpayers were 
merely richer members of the local peasantry or successful local merchants. 
The main office-holders were also for the most part the educated sons of 
richer local families. This does not alter their practical subordination to 
forces outside the community and there is no disputing the fact that, 
although the elective posts were actively competed for in the inter-war 
period, the mass of the populace had no voice in local government. There 
was, however, no dominant noble family and there was more scope for the 
articulation of middle-peasant interests than in many communities where 
the social relations of feudalism had been better preserved, particularly in 
regions dominated by large estates. 

There is not a great deal to say about the early activity of the local 
administration. Although we have emphasised in the discussion of the 
tanya problems the ineffectual nature of public control in the early decades 
of resettlement, there are nevertheless constant references in the archives 
to the welfare undertakings of the council, usually couched as the paternal 
responsibility of the magistrate or of some other official. The most am- 
bitious relief works culminated with the State-financed street -building 
programme of the 1930s, designed specifically to aid poorer families. 
But an early copy of the rules for the local officials charges the magistrate 
with the alleviation of distress (and, incidentally, the midwife with a 
special duty to watch the unmarried pregnant, and to report all cases of 
abortion and infanticide). It is far from clear how much help poor families 
did receive from the council. In several years the payment of the officials' 
salaries was by far the largest item in the budget. Some welfare assistance 


The szakszovetkezet community — politics 

was provided indirectly. The doctor, for example, according to his contract 
with the council, was obliged to treat the needy without request for pay- 
ment. Later, certainly following the impact of the economic crisis in the 
1930s, there was close cooperation with the CathoUc church in welfare 
relief, and according to the local church records 40 to 50 families were 
fully supported during the winter of 1931—2. 

Apart from its role as the local agent of State welfare poUcies, the 
administration was active in many other spheres. At the beginning of re- 
settlement it was directly involved in the agricultural cycle, being charged 
with the job of officially proclaiming the day on which the grape harvest 
should begin (BKML Pronayfalva, n.d.). It offered employment to a few, 
e.g. in addition to the prestigious white-collar jobs, employment in road- 
building, or as a forester or summer herdsman. It also constituted an 
important forum for the voicing of opinion on poUtical issues at all levels, 
ranging from heated debate on the number of postmen needed to make 
all the tanya deliveries to unanimous protest at the 'mutilation' of Hungary 
following the first world war (BKML Pronayfalva 1933 and 1919). 

II Local government and administration since 1950 

It is as well to begin a consideration of sociaUst local administration by 
outlining the "pure theory' of democratic centraUsm, which has its origins 
in the organisational principles developed by Lenin for the Communist 
Party in Russia (Lenin, 1902). The essential concept then and now is one 
of 'dual subordination', each tier in the apparatus of either the Party or 
the State being subject both to its members or its local constituency, 
and to the decisions taken at any level further up the hierarchy. Western 
social scientists have found the theory of httle use in understanding con- 
temporary reality, but have sometimes attempted to gauge the political 
chmate in communist states by isolating two components, basically a 
'democratic' component which is implied by responsiveness to members 
or to the electorate and a 'centralist' component which is the command- 
pattem of all political hierarchies. Recent studies have found the origins 
of this theory in Rousseau and conceived the hierarchies as information- 
systems in which the essential task is the channelling of issues and infor- 
mation upwards; it is no longer the case in most socialist states that all 
important decisions are issued as commands from the top of the hierarchy, 
as is assumed to have been the norm in Stalin's time (cf. PiekaUciewicz, 
1975;Taras, 1975). 

Since our concern is with the very lowest tier of State administration 
and local government there is no need here to take account of 'decentraUs- 
ation' to other levels, e.g. to provincial level, and the scope that is now 
afforded a large variety of interest-groups above the level of the community 
(see e.g. Hough (1969), or Lane and Kolankiewicz (1973), for a weahh 
of material on other sociahst states). It is probably not only in Hungary 
that the rural community has benefited least from the general post-Stalinist 


Local government and administration since 1950 

reaffirmation of the 'democratic' component. The basic council structure 
remains as it was when it was estabhshed in the 1950s, with a permanent 
staff subordinate to the elected council and the executive committee of 
that council on the one hand, and on the other to the next level of the 
administrative hierarchy, which is the district centred on Kiskords. The 
chairman, the key figure, is both an elected member and chairman of the 
council's executive committee, and also a full-time official on the payroll 
of the State, together with the other staff at the offices, clerks and tax- 
collectors, whose work he oversees daily. According to the theory, the 
executive committee of the local council is subordinate to the entire 
council, and at the same time to the executives of higher councils at district 
or county level. The specialist administrative bodies are subordinate to the 
local executive committee, but also to the corresponding speciaUst bodies 
at higher levels. Executive committees of councils have no power to oppose 
the instructions of superior specialist administrative bodies, although 
technically they have a right to 'object' to them. Thus the possibility for 
a unique vertical chain of command is clear. In practice the functioning of 
the system depends greatly upon the individual at the centre of both the 
elected organ and the administration, the council chairman. 

The authority of the present chairman. Pal Trsztyinski, is very great 
indeed, and is commonly acknowledged even by his enemies. The councils 
elected in the 1950s were initially large, 50-member organs, revolutionary 
'Soviets' according to the ideology, but in practice a subordinate part of 
the larger State bureaucracy which was brought to bear most heavily upon 
the independent peasantry during the period of the first Five Year Plan. 
Although a few individual council members became important as 'brokers', 
especially in the implementation of the compulsory-dehvery system, the 
composition of the council was not representative of the mass of the 
peasantry and it was helpless to protect their interests. The turnover of 
officials, almost invariably strangers to the community appointed at district 
level, was also extremely high. The chairman's job changed hands six times 
in as many years after 1950. Since 1957 however, Trsztyinszki, who is of 
Kiskorbs Slovak descent, has retained office. He maintains firm control, 
and this, in combination with the general precepts of administration, 
has restricted the council's ability to mobilise or express the views of the 
population in general. In addition to heading the council and the local 
administration, Trsztyinszki is also the community's representative on the 
county council and is the one man invariably consulted on all decisions 
affecting Tazlar which are taken in Kecskemet or Kiskoros. The entire 
functioning of the council is commonly perceived as manipulated by him 
in concert with outside forces. This is enough to earn him a measure of 
respect, although there are many who criticise his intellectual abilities. He 
has remained for most purposes a social stranger in the community, living 
in a house which is adjacent to the offices and owned by the council. 

The actions of the council chairman and the administrative bodies are 
effective in a number of fields. Apart from its general task of 'coordination' 


The szakszovetkezet community — politics 

in all spheres, there has been direct intervention in the szakszovetkezets, 
which, as we have seen, has not always had the desired effect. The council 
chairman makes regular public speeches on socialist hoUdays and addresses 
the community of farmers at szakszovetkezet open meetings. He may play 
a leading role in resolving crises, such as that which developed in the 
leadership of the szakszovetkezet in 1977 (see section vi). 

The administration no longer has any direct economic functions, and 
employs no manual workers apart from cleaning-ladies. However it does 
exercise considerable influence over the running of the school, the nursery 
and the culture house, since the finances of all these are channelled through 
the administration. It also has an enlarged role in welfare policy. Although 
assistance given to individuals is only a small portion of the annual budget 
of the community, ensuring its optimal distribution is the major task of 
one employee at the offices. There is careful monitoring of households 
where children may be 'endangered' and of old people in need of attention. 
The administration has the power to remove persons in both categories 
to State institutions and this commonly takes place against the will of the 
individual or of the parents concerned. Special allowances have been paid 
out in recent years for winter fuel, and children have been given clothing. 
Nine persons were drawing regular cash grants from the council in 1978, 
but the allocation of such funds is not always undisputed. A gypsy family 
was refused support after an appeal, on the grounds that they were capable 
of procuring a livelihood from the cultivation of the land which they 
possessed (see chapter 6, Section ll). 

Much has been made in recent years of attempts to encourage local 
self-government (az onkormdnyzati jelleg) in Hungarian rural communities 
(cf. Danyi, 1976, pp. 288—9). In Tazlar they carry Httle conviction. The 
full-time salaried chairman and his permanent staff, numbering seven in 
1977, although charged only with the implementation of the decisions of 
the council, in practice exert great influence over its executive committee 
and indeed over the infrequent sittings of the full council. Despite suc- 
cessive reductions in the size of the council it remains, with 28 members, 
too large to permit frank discussion of the kind that is occasionally possible 
within the 12-member executive committee of the szakszovetkezet. 
Meetings tend to be dominated by the chairman and a select group of floor 
speakers, usually committee chairmen or officials or invited speakers from 
outside, who dehver prepared speeches which they have discussed before- 
hand with the chairman. Many members sit in a silent group towards 
the rear of the chamber as if in a classroom. They feel that the effect of 
any real decentralisation of power to the community would only be 
further to strengthen the personal resources of the chairman, who is at 
present subject to many checks from outside the community. 

Such a development is unlikely. Despite some theoretical control over 
taxes raised locally through the so-called 'community development fund', 
in practice the improvements in public utilities carried out so far have 
always relied upon considerable State grants, and this dependence becomes 


Local government and administration since 1950 

ever more pronounced. Local budgets have, nevertheless, continued to 
rise. There is a staff of three in the local tax office which is responsible 
for all tax collection in the community and works under close supervision 
from Kiskdros. But the Hungarian tax system in general has not responded 
to the jump in personal incomes which has occurred through a great 
variety of causes since 1968, and in Tazla'r the large incomes earned by 
many over the last decade have not been tapped for community develop- 
ment purposes. Even in self -managing Yugoslavia, control over the local 
budget is still the means by which considerable power is exercised from 
the centre (Pusic, 1975, p. 143). 

If many members of the council are apparently resigned to a ceremonial 
role, they are nevertheless chosen very carefully. Each individual represents 
one small constituency, either a street in the village or a particular tanya 
area. The composition is very heterogeneous, but biased towards the 
village intelligentsia, and strongly biased against women. As in the case of 
the executive committee of the szakszovetkezet there is no attempt to 
nominate exclusively Party sympathisers, but outspoken critics could not 
expect nomination. The organisation of elections and the drawing up of 
hsts of candidates is the task of the Patriotic People's Front, an other- 
wise 'purely ritualistic organisation' (Ignotus, 1973, p. 273). In practice 
it is the members of the Party and the chairman who have the last word. 
Although there has been at least one case when a nominee was rejected 
by the electorate (which is possible by scratching out the name on the 
ballot paper), this is a surprisingly rare occurrence given the size of the 
constituency and the scope for collusion between electors. There are 
procedures for the recall of members and new members may be elected at 
by-elections in the course of the four-year duration of the council. Thus 
in 1977, after one council member had left his wife and eloped with a 
young teacher, and a member of the council's much more prestigious 
executive committee had committed suicide, the new secretary of the Party 
cell was elected to fill both posts, despite the drawback of not being a 
resident of the community. 

Anyone may accept nomination. Since few people believe that the 
council has much power anyway, one is not compromised by participation 
in a 'talking-shop'. And on the positive side there is the possibility that 
one day a councillor might use his meagre resources to voice a specific 
request or perhaps a personal complaint, either publicly or privately with 
the chairman. Points made by farmer councillors are generally highly 
specific and, if they warrant action of some kind, can be dealt with by 
the chairman within the community. Some members intercede regularly 
on behalf of individuals, one recurring issue in the 1970s being the extension 
of electrification in the tanya areas. As in the 1950s certain councillors 
play important roles in mediating between farmers and the representatives 
of State power. However, it would be an exaggeration to see the office of 
local councillor as creating some institutional 'middleman' or any kind of 
systemic regulator either in the 1950s or today. The office cannot create 


The szakszovetkezet community - politics 

or enhance personal resources, it can only be a useful vehicle for their 
deployment. Many councillors are respected citizens, influential because 
of their general standing in the community, and only a competitive election 
might further raise their legitimacy. As councillors they are obliged to 
participate in maintaining the illusion of an elaborate mechanism of social 
control under the patriarchal aegis of the chairman. Each year, according 
to the familiar principles, they must present formal reports, not only to 
their constituents, giving an account of the activities and achievements of 
the council, but also 'upwards' to the chairman, outlining their agitation 
work, and hopefully their successes in raising the consciousness of their 

It is difficult to gauge the incidence of the upward channelling of 
information from Tazlar to Kiskords. Some people assume that Trsztyinski 
must be a man of authority at the district centre, simply by virtue of his 
length of service. But there is no evidence that he has been able to influence 
the lines of policy which emanate from Kiskdros and Kecskemet, nor even 
the manner and timing of their implementation in the community. This is 
certainly the feeling of most people in Tazlar, whose own contacts with 
officials from outside are limited to szakszovetkezet open meetings. The 
evidence of Szego (quoted by Triska, 1976, pp. 165-6) shows that few 
Hungarians believe that their 'deputies' have much influence upon county 
council decisions. More interestingly, few of the deputies interviewed would 
accept the conceptual possibility of conflicts of interest between com- 
munities. Their own model, and it must be assumed that of most council 
chairmen, is of an indivisible poUty which they identify with the State 
apparatus. It is the prevalence of these notions, and the strict subordination 
of the salaried local bureaucracy, which establish the continuity with the 
traditional system of local government, cause the council structure to be 
widely regarded as no more than the local manifestation of State power, 
and prevent its developing as a representative and responsible poUtical forum 
in which the mass of the population might usefully participate. 

ni The Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party 

Whatever the defects in the council structure it is significant that when 
Trsztyinszki wants to underscore a point, e.g. at a meeting of the szak- 
szovetkezet executive committee, he will say that he is speaking in the 
name of the council, even though he is also the pillar of the local Party 
organisation. In practice the elective council seems to embody the greater 
legitimacy. Few studies have been made of the role of the Party at the 
local level. In theory one knows only that, like the council, the Party is 
expected to influence and coordinate all other community institutions, 
including economic enterprises and agricultural cooperatives. The Party 
is always well represented on the council, but Party members can claim 
unambiguous priority only on "political questions'. 

The Party has never had a large membership in Tazlar. Today it has 


The Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party 

only a few dozen members. Its meetings are infrequent, and gone are the 
days of the 1950s when, as many villagers recall, the Party occupied a 
large headquarters outside the council offices and introduced such novelties 
as communal news analysis during work breaks in the fields. Many of its 
leaders in the past and today have been strangers to the community, 
including immigrants of urban origin in the 1940s. Very few of the pre- 
1948 members (in 1948 following complex tactical manoeuvres and 
political pressure the social-democrats merged with the communists to 
form the Hungarian Workers' Party) can be found in the community 
today. Perhaps because of the course followed here by the cooperative 
movement, and also because of the absence in Tazlar of a clearly-defined 
landless proletariat in the pre-socialist period, there was no committed 
native political nucleus which could assume a guiding role in the village 
through the Party. This latter pattern was common in other Hungarian com- 
munities, where a stratum of veteran communists has consistently main- 
tained its prominence in both cooperatives and councils (e.g. Sarkany's 
observations on Varsany, the village studied by the ethnographers of the 
Academy in Northern Hungary, 1978, p. 102). In Tazlar council chairman 
Trsztyinszki qualifies by his social origin, as a good example of a communist 
of this type. 

A large proportion of the members today are white-collar workers, 
teachers and clerks, who are often encouraged to apply for membership 
by their superiors and to believe that at whatever level it will improve 
their prospects for career advancement. Members of the early cooperatives 
were also encouraged to display their political commitment by joining the 
Party. In addition, there is a significant proportion of self-employed trades- 
men, including the richest building contractors, who may hope to draw 
attention away from their essentially private and highly remunerative 
trades by the demonstration of their political orthodoxy. In common with 
other cells all over the country the Tazlar branch has become increasingly 
less of a workers' party. It was rather embarrassing that the senior secretary 
in the local administration had to wait almost a year before she could 
gain admission to the Party, because the cell was unable to tolerate any 
further deterioration of its worker/intellectual ratio. In the country as a 
whole there was a heavy decline in the ratio of workers in the 1960s, 
from 59 per cent in 1962 to 38 per cent in 1970, and the switch to a 
classification based on social origin rather than current employment ob- 
viously does not offer a long-term solution to this problem for the Party 
(Keefeera/., 1973, p. 158). 

In the Kadar period there has been no attempt to broaden substantially 
the mass-base of the Party. At the grass roots it has retained much of its 
elitist exclusivity. It makes certain demands of its members, of which 
the cessation of Church attendance and the exclusion from the life-cycle 
rituals still dominated by the Church are the most serious in a rural com- 
munity. However, there is no difficulty nowadays in relatives of the 
Party member preserving their religious afiliation. Increasingly, Party 


The szakszovetkezet community - politics 

members themselves can be seen in church on important occasions. Promi- 
nent members of the Reformed Church in particular have retained Party 
membership. Much now depends upon the will of the individual. Party 
membership is widely regarded as instrumental in the planning of one's 
career or as a genuine but vague declaration of 'progressive' views in the 
realm of politics, rather than as a fundamental statement about ultimate 
beUefs. The headmistress of the school, who arrived in the 1940s as a 
Reformed Church teacher and part-time cantor, is one Party member who 
still feels inhibited from openly expressing her religious convictions, 
but pays regular visits to the pastor's house (he is her next-door neighbour) 
and is widely reputed to have paid her Church dues in secret over many 

In recent years the Party has become almost inconspicuous. The secretary 
for some years was a quietly-spoken female teacher, who was invariably 
upstaged by district Party representatives at all the more important meetings. 
Meetings are not generally advertised, but may be awaited with great 
interest when price increases are rumoured. It is said that turnout is highest 
whenever such an item appears on the agenda and that Party members 
are followed over to the shop when the meeting is over! An 'open day' is 
organised annually, but little effort is made to attract a crowd. Political 
education has been left almost entirely to Trsztyinszki, who makes the 
traditional speeches on May Day, 7 November (the anniversary of the 
Soviet October Revolution), and other holidays, but only to captive 
audiences from the school. 

The extent of positive intervention by the local Party in the affairs of 
the szakszovetkezets, as opposed to a quietist presence which is always 
maintained, depends a great deal upon the personality of the secretary. 
There was a period in the 1960s and early 1970s when a local secretary 
intervened regularly, for example in siding with an executive in criticism 
of the szakszovetkezet chairman. He could always invoke threats of 
inquiries from outside in the name of the Party. It is customary also for 
all long-term development plans for both the community and the szak- 
szovetkezets to be carefully discussed by the Party before they are of- 
ficially placed before other bodies for adoption. 

I was informed by members that debate at Party meetings could be 
lively, although as the numbers are small and turnover not high the per- 
sonalities are all well known to each other and differences of opinion all 
too predictable. I was not able to attend any meetings myself, despite 
being the subject of discussion at several. On rare occasions votes are taken 
and a unified front is then presented behind the result, in strict accordance 
with Leninist theory. 

Two other bodies are closely associated with the Party. The Patriotic 
People's Front is active only at election time. The Party youth wing, 
KISZ has functioned more spasmodically in recent years, mainly owing to 
problems with its leadership, but also because few young people live and 
work in the community beyond school age. After a number of small 


The Church 

scandals involving salaried leaders, the culture house v^^as entrusted part- 
time to an older housewife who performed her task conscientiously but 
had little rapport with the young. Although for a time a youth club 
continued to meet within the culture house, by 1978 this had disbanded. 

It is therefore scarcely surprising that the composition and the total 
activity of the Party in Tazlar are viewed with contempt by some of the 
people who Uve in the village. These include a few commuter workers 
and others who have obtained few of the material benefits available through 
small-farming in the szakszovetkezet community, as well as at least one 
Party member. Thus while the Party is still viewed with suspicion by the 
mass of the peasantry, which makes no distinction between national and 
local spheres, there are a few Tazlar residents who despise the torpor and 
the 'conservatism' of this cell and its failure to take more initiative in 
community affairs. An overdue attempt to rectify this situation began in 
1977 with the re-establishment of the Party cell within the major economic 
institution of the community, the szakszovetkezet, and the appointment 
of its household agronomist, a popular man in the community although a 
resident of Kiskoros, as a full-time salaried secretary. Previously an older 
member had been delegated as an unpaid Party functionary in the szak- 
szovetkezet. Henceforth Tazlar was to conform to the pattern of almost 
all production cooperatives, where the full-time Party secretary is a ubiqui- 
tous figure in the leadership, a freelance and a troubleshooter who has the 
power to intervene everywhere and is accountable ultimately only within 
the Party. The choice of a popular individual should help to galvanise the 
Tazlar cell out of its previous lassitude. It is difficult to predict whether 
the new secretary or anyone else is capable of altering general perceptions 
of the Party or even of winning the support of the nucleus of long-standing 
Party members for schemes of reform proposed from outside the com- 
munity. There are elements in the Party today with a strong interest in 
the maintenance of the current szakszovetkezet status quo. Because of 
the importance of the small-farming sector in the economy it is hard to 
conceive how the local Party could begin to organise and express mass 
public opinion and aspirations on any major issues. 

IV The Church 

The inclusion of a discussion of the Church in a chapter on 'politics' calls 
for preliminary justification. In fact relations between the State and the 
CathoUc Church have created many problems in the socialist period, which 
in the national context were resolved partially by the 1964 accord with 
the Vatican, and more completely following the departure of Cardinal 
Mindszenty from the American Embassy in Budapest in 1971. The Church 
has taken up many liberal causes and at the higher levels followed a very 
conciUatory policy, even offering support for the government on such 
issues as the basic desirability of collectivisation. However at the grass 
roots, and especially in rural communities, many of the old conflicts still 


The szakszovetkezet community — politics 

linger. In the absence of any other mass-membership organisations in the 
modern community, it is important that we consider the functioning of 
the Church and whether its organisation has much social and pohtical sig- 
nificance today. 

In the history of Tazlar religious belief and denominational differentiation 
were of immense importance. Numerous small sects flourished in the early 
decades of resettlement and there are many records of sectarian conflict. 
However, the major Churches were not slow in attempting to institution- 
aUse religion. In this they were considerably aided by their virtual monopoly 
of public education. The Catholics had been the more numerous since mass 
resettlement began, but at the end of the last century the Protestant 
minority in Tazlar was still the third-largest in the lower Solt district, after 
Soltvadkert and Kiskoros. Recently it has declined and today comprises 
less than one-fifth of the total community population. Everyone but a 
handful of white-collar communist families has an affiliation to some de- 
nomination, and is anxious that his children should grow up with the 
same affiliation. The most scandalous memory from the 1919 Revolution 
is of the man who espoused atheism in the centre of the village and argued 
that man was descended from monkeys. In the inter-war period the Church 
regained and strengthened its position throughout Hungarian society, 
feeding on troubled economic conditions. In Tazlar we have already noted 
close collaboration between Church and State in welfare policy. The 
Church was also of great importance socially. A place on the church council 
was the coveted ambition of many well-to-do farmers, in both Catholic 
and Reformed Churches. There were separate prayer societies to which 
families of similar social standing could affiliate, and separate committees, 
e.g. that responsible for education, which offered responsibilities and 
prestige to a few. There was also a mass-membership Catholic circle 
which involved much larger numbers in a wide variety of activities both 
inside and outside the sphere of religion. 

The Church has seen its wider role in the community drastically curtailed 
in the socialist period. Yet in the case of Tazlar it is only in the socialist 
period that the 'institutionaUsation' of religion has been carried to its 
conclusion. Both Catholic and Protestant Churches have now realised long- 
standing ambitions to erect new centres of worship in the village, the 
Catholics succeeding laboriously, mainly through voluntary effort, in the 
1950s, and the Reformed Church erecting its chapel in the mid-1960s. 
The Protestants remain divided into Reformed Church (Calvinist) and 
minority Lutheran components, but both use the new chapel and are 
served by the same Reformed Church pastor who also administers scattered 
Protestant families over a vast area of the former puszta to the east, in 
the communities of Bodoglar and Bugac. The Catholic parish on the other 
hand corresponds to the secular community boundaries, with the ex- 
ception of the extreme settlement cluster at Kotony, which is now attached 
to Kiskunhalas. There is also a small Baptist chapel, still regularly attended 
by some half-dozen famiUes, with different visiting preachers each month. 


The Church 

Although there is abundant evidence of secularisation in the modern 
community, most conspicuously in the decline in regular church attendance, 
it is not a simple matter to relate this to underlying loss of reUgious con- 
viction and to the impact of State policies. We are not concerned here with 
the great importance which faith may have for some people who no longer 
display it in the traditional manner, i.e. with its private importance. In 
public, in everyday life, the reconciliation of religious and secular demands 
is continually creating extraordinary conflicts and anomalies. Most families 
have to make some compromises, and the details of specific compromises 
form one of the mainstays of local gossip and comment in the community. 
The problems arise because in many recurring situations, notably the 
rituals of the life-cycle, no effective secular alternatives have yet been 
devised. It is likely that the families of even Party members wiU prefer 
to call in a priest rather than have the Party secretary officiate in the 
cemetery. Similarly a majority of families scorn the naming ceremony 
which occasionally takes place at the council offices in lieu of a church 
baptism. Weddings create the greatest difficulties, highlight the differences 
between generations, and provide the clearest public occasion for the 
demonstration of religious convictions. According to the law the civil 
ceremony in the council offices is obligatory and the religious ceremony 
optional. Nowadays there are plenty of couples, especially those who 
have already worked away from the community, or whose remote tanya 
families have no history of regular church attendance, who opt only for 
the civil ceremony. This itself has become something of a rite, the Hun- 
garians having shared the Soviet concern with the elaboration of secular 
ceremony in the effort to replace religion. The council chairman or senior 
secretary, draped in the colours of the national flag, makes weighty speeches 
to the accompaniment of taped music in the council chamber. However, 
especially when a large lakodalom is planned, there are often strong family 
pressures to proceed to the church. Some guests may slip away from the 
procession before the church, but others will join it only there. All will 
unite later for the festivities of the lakodalom. Another solution, if the 
couple do not hail from the same village, is to hold the civil ceremony in 
one community and the religious ceremony in the other, perhaps even a 
considerable time later, when the couple are hving together or when they 
decide they wish to have their children baptised. In such cases there may 
be two lakodaloms. But if there is to be only one it is more likely to 
follow the religious wedding. To dispense altogether with a religious 
wedding may result in family reluctance to mount a lakodalom and 
could be financially very expensive for the new couple. It may also be noted 
that some couples, often with only tenuous links with the community, 
satisfy family pressures by returning for quasi-secret church weddings 
which they are reluctant to go through with in a town, either because 
of their careers or because of the over-zealous insistence of a local priest 
on regular church attendance and religious education in preparation 
for the sacrament. 


The szakszovetkezet community - politics 

Marriages can thus create delicate problems for ordinary families in 
the socialist community. A more serious matter, long seen as a kind of 
litmus test by Church and State alike in their strategies to maintain family 
affiliation, is that of religious instruction in the schools. The Roman 
Catholic priest deploys all his considerable oratorical skills each year in 
order to persuade Catholic parents to sign the special form which may 
enable their children to enrol in the classes conducted inside the school 
by the priest himself. Enrolment is not guaranteed because the list is 
then carefully scrutinised by the secular authorities and the names of 
children who ought not to receive religious instruction may be withdrawn. 
In any case many parents are naturally reluctant to commit themselves 
publicly by signing the list at the council offices. Some have contrived 
'accidentally' to miss the times stipulated. Others enrol their children in 
the lower grades, but see no point in continuing beyond the sacrament of 
confirmation, especially if the child hopes to go on for further studies. 
The total percentage of children attending was 76 per cent in 1957, but 
has fallen since to under 50 per cent. The priest, of course, rails against 
this system, which allows him to enter the school, but then to reach 
only a declining percentage of the pupils, and to find that even these 
may be reluctant listeners, as the instruction falls outside normal lesson 
time. In contrast the pastor has adopted a low profile and throws the 
decision wholly onto families by making attendance voluntary outside 
school hours. He attracts an even smaller percentage of the Protestant 
pupils. The priest, who left the community in 1978 following a serious 
stroke in 1977, was perceived as a 'hardliner'. Though many admired 
his energy and his undoubted integrity, few applauded his tactics when 
he made a great fuss at Sunday High Mass in distributing religious trinkets 
to his best pupils and read aloud the attendance figures for each grade 
and the family names of the regular attenders. 

Regular attendance at the Sunday service is no longer regarded as 
essential, and this now applies as much to the Catholic congregation as 
to the Protestant. There is a general preference for a quiet Ufe on Sundays, 
and for maintaining a low profile in the Church. Many of those who reg- 
ularly pay their dues do not attend more than once or twice annually. 
The sums collected at Sunday services are trifling, but the system of 
annual dues (about £2 Sterling (70 forints) per adult, with half-rates for 
pensioners) offers an ideal solution, since regular payment is now sufficient 
to guarantee a Christian burial. Undignified squabbles still frequently occur 
in cases when the priest wishes to apply the rules strictly and refuses burial. 
Weekday services are the most sparsely attended. At the Reformed Church 
chapel sometimes only the wife of the pastor is present. At the CathoUc 
church the number varies seasonally but never exceeds a few dozen, mainly 
elderly women. 

There is one major fete, the bucsu, when the Catholic church is always 
full. Each Hungarian village has a biicsu on a fixed date each year. In the 
village centre of Tazlar this is normally the first Sunday in June. In the 


The Church 

upper hamlet it is around the feast of the Assumption in the middle of 
August. Biicsus were formerly events that one spent weeks preparing for 
and participation in the biicsu of a neighbouring village was one of the few 
occasions for travel outside the community. Nowadays, however much 
the priest may stress its religious importance, for the majority it has come 
to resemble the other major holidays and has a mainly social and secular 
character. It is a time for families to reunite and for extended eating 
and drinking. There was a time when joining the pubUc procession after 
High Mass around the village may have been construed as a pohtical 
act. But now, on account of the traffic on the road, the procession is 
confined to the church grounds. (The only public march to take place 
regularly now in Tazlar is the school-leaving parade, the ballagds, but 
neighbouring Sohvadkert is sufficiently large to mount a May Day parade.) 

It may be asked whether secularization per se is the dominant recent 
trend in Tazlar, or whether what can be observed is the consequence of 
a contraction in the sphere of activity of the Church itself, of its forced 
withdrawal from secular Ufe. It is of course hard to distinguish between 
the two processes. Divesting the Church of its wide-ranging social control 
functions has no doubt contributed to a weakening in the religious sphere 
as well, although it should not be thought automatically to diminish the 
capacity of the Church to influence and represent opinion. It is important 
again to glance back over the peculiar history of the community. The 
problems of social control affected the Church as much as the secular 
authorities. The local records show that it was continually necessary to 
make quite crude exhortations to improve church attendance. In the past 
the Church regularly involved its ultimate sanction, the denial of a religious 
burial, to those who shirked their financial obligations or those who did 
not bother to sanctify common-law marriages. It was the poorer section 
of the population that was always more liable to fall foul of God's ministers. 
For some of them the Church hierarchy was as alien as the secular hier- 
archy of the State. The priest and the full-time cantor in the Catholic 
Church enjoyed a high standard of living by comparison with most of their 
congregation. The priest was entitled to receive tithe payments in addition 
to the income he obtained from land in Church ownership. He employed 
servants and was often the recipient of substantial gifts in kind from his 
parishioners. Even today the meagre wages of the pastor are necessarily 
supplemented in this way. Although the Tazlar clergy were poorly endowed 
in comparison with the clergy in older communities (where there was 
often considerable property and involvement in agriculture), in Tazlar 
also individual priests were known on occasion to arouse the resentment of 
their parishioners by their acquisitiveness. 

The ministers still tend to be very conservative politically. The Catholic 
priest is prone to dismiss the entire fourth zone as a 'proletarian zone' 
and is occasionally criticised for neglecting certain scattered elements of 
his flock. It is also true that the fine stained-glass windows of the new 
church each bear the name of one or more of the traditional Catholic 


The szakszovetkezet community — politics 

families who were able to pay for them, a gesture corresponding to the 
pre-war custom whereby the leading families established public crosses 
at the community boundary. However, both religious denominations now 
have a more popular social base than formerly. At Sunday masses the 
collection plates are sometimes passed around by two former independent 
smallholders. One of them lost his land and his team as a result of the 
expansion of the State Farm. He moved into the village from his tanya 
and now works irregularly as a labourer, in addition to maintaining a 
small-farm. The other has of his own accord almost abandoned small- 
farming and works as a full-time labourer in the szakszovetkezet. It 
is difficult to imagine either man reaching any position of prominence 
in the pre-war Church. The two Church councils were perhaps of greater 
importance in the past, but as their importance has declined they have 
widened their social composition. The average age of the Catholic council 
members is high, and each one represents a small constituency in the 
community, just as a secular council member does. The selection of new 
representatives is in both cases under the effective control of the full- 
time minister, but as changes in the membership are rare the councils 
have institutional continuity and powers which may be brought to bear 
against the policies of a minister. This is particularly true in the case of 
the Reformed Church council, but because of the small size of the con- 
gregation this is not always the self-governing, democratic body it is 
meant to be. 

A great deal still depends upon the character of the ministers. The 
relation between the Catholic priest and the council chairman is a formal 
one. In 1955, a new priest, accused by the secular authorities of being 
difficult to work with, had responded with a forthright public declaration 
of his political neutrality and intention not to intervene in secular affairs. 
Nowadays the priest and the chairman seldom meet, although they live 
next door to each other; but it is said that a priest in the early 1960s 
had rather warmer ties with the same chairman, frequently visiting him at 
his home. Despite the occasional diatribe from the pulpit, most commonly 
on declining moral standards and the moral price which the nation is 
paying for recent material prosperity, the ministers have generally main- 
tained their neutrality, and they have earned general respect for their 
integrity as individuals. An observation in the Catholic priest's diary from 
1957 shows the desire of the Church to avoid all secular taint. The priest 
declared as follows: 'The people of Tazlar say that the intellectuals who 
come here and work here all get rich — well, at no time will the priest 
come to live amongst you with these intentions.' 

It may be that the increasing detachment of the Church from the secular 
society is making it 'marginal' to the community altogether. Membership 
of a Church council is no bar to membership of other councils and com- 
mitees, even Party membership. Several councillors figure prominently 
in the Church. It is true that teachers and the intelligentsia as a whole do 
not attend church, and that some of them follow with some reluctance 


The Church 

what everyone sees as an unwritten rule. But it is only the ministers 
themselves and a few old people who see the secular authorities as con- 
stantly manoeuvring to destroy the Church. The age-structure of the 
population attending church, the lack of interest shown by the young 
and all non-peasant groups, indicate that the quietist stance of the Church 
is rendering it increasingly isolated in the new community and at the same 
time preventing it from expressing the conservative opinions of the old. 

At this point it is important to correct in certain details the impression 
of a uniformity of religious practice in the major denominations. Currently, 
the most important difference is the lower profile and more strictly 
apolitical stance of the Protestant minority. In the past, the mere existence 
of a plurality of reUgions was of the greatest importance. Historically the 
Catholic Church has been dominant in the nation since the early Hapsburg 
days, and it has tended to maintain a strict attitude towards mixed mar- 
riages. Dispensations were regularly granted, but in families strongly 
identified with one denomination the problems could be acute. The in- 
genious solution sometimes adopted was to educate the children of different 
sexes, or each alternate child, according to different religions. Formal 
conversion of one partner, the partner of lower social standing if there 
was a substantial difference between the two, was a more common solution. 
Such problems have still not disappeared entirely, and a richer family 
may still be able to stipulate a religious wedding in the church of its 
traditional affiliation. Denominational conflict also surfaced in the election 
campaign for a szakszovetkezet chairman in 1975. Though in fact the 
religious identification of the candidates had virtually no effect on the 
result, candidate Rozinger belonged to the small Lutheran section of the 
minority, where sensitivity to discrimination from the Catholic majority 
is most acute. 

There are major differences in style between the two ministers, which 
reflect to some extent the differences between their respective Churches 
in the national framework. The future of religious affiliation in Hungary, 
as in other socialist states, is a controversial subject, both as regards the 
overall speed of secularisation and the denominational variety within the 
process. There has been some consolidation of the institutional strength 
of the Catholic Church within the socialist state, and a more substantial 
weakening of all other denominations, partly because of poorly developed 
organisational hierarchies. The research of Miklos Tompa (1977) has shown 
that a larger proportion of Cathohcs than of those born into Protestant 
families describe themselves as 'actively religious', while for the latter 
the proportion is now below 50 per cent. Catholic congregations are 
younger (52.5 per cent of Protestants are over 60 years old), they contain 
more active earners (fewer pensioners and 'dependants'), and they are 
better educated (only two-thirds having failed to complete eight grades 
of 'general school', compared with three-quarters of the Protestants). 
On the basis of a highly dubious questionnaire and sampling techniques, 
Tompa reaches a conclusion which the evidence from Tazlar would tend to 


The szakszovetkezet community - politics 

support, namely that in the near future secularisation will continue to 
wreak greater change upon the Protestant than upon the Catholic popu- 
lation. Active Christians in both denominations are demonstrably less 
well educated than the non- practising Christians, and further improve- 
ments in educational standards are likely to have a relatively smaller 
effect upon the Catholic Church. 

From the Church's point of view the most depressing feature in the 
evidence from this one locality is the lack of interest shown by younger 
people and the failure of Christianity to attract any significant support 
amongst those white-collar workers who are not Party members. Admittedly, 
given the effective ban still enforced upon the teaching staff and the 
administration of the provisions for religious education, the Church has 
great problems in reaching the youth of the community. But in the rural 
community the Church is not Umited by exactly the same constraints 
as the Church leaders concerned to perform a "holding operation' in the 
nation as a whole. There are many who feel that the resources of the 
Catholic Church are not being optimally deployed, even though its strat- 
egies have been more successful hitherto than those of other denominations. 
Despite, and in part because of, its liberalism and conciliatory policies 
towards the State, it appears to fall short of giving a clear 'Reformist' 
lead which would attract the support of many young people and of 
intellectuals. At the same time it has given less of a lead in the nation than 
has been achieved by the Polish Catholic Church, and has forfeited any 
role as a conservative rallying force in the countryside, which is a role a 
man such as the priest in Tazlar might have eagerly cultivated in the 
secular sphere. 

Instead we must conclude that the Church altogether does seem con- 
demned to a 'marginal' role at all levels of the socialist state in Hungary. 
And with reference to our main theme, in the village of Tazlar the religious 
heterogeneity which dates back to the first decades of resettlement has 
also contributed to the failure of the Churches to become integrating 
political forces. In contrast with many Hungarian villages (e.g. F61 and 
Hofer, 1969, p. 380; Javor, 1978, p. 336) religion could have no 'unifying 
functions' in the development of Tazlar. 

V Cultural life - the example of the upper hamlet 

Although there is a separate Catholic Church in the upper hamlet of 
Tazlar, the Churches, the secular administration, the Communist Party 
and almost all other bodies in the community today (such as the Hunting 
Society, or the Firemen's Association) are organised on a community- 
wide basis. In the case of the hunters, a single society covers the three 
communities of Tazlar, Soltvadkert and Pirt6. This is an exceptional 
society, the membership of which carries considerable prestige. It con- 
tains an unusual mixture nowadays of representatives of the old richer 
peasants and members of the new local elite including Party members. 


Cultural life - the example of the upper hamlet 

Two of the new 'technocratic' leaders of the szakszovetkezet from 1975 
were enthusiastic hunters. The local Firemen's Association has a long history 
and a more mixed membership, but meets infrequently and has no important 
social role. The same may be said of various other bodies and conunittees 
— a paramilitary organisation which organises rifle-shooting practice, 
especially for schoolchildren, the Consumers' Cooperative, which is now 
based entirely at Sohvadkert (although in the 1940s and again after 1956 
there was an independent branch in Tazlar), the Patriotic People's Front, 
etc. For various reasons none of these community-wide bodies has developed 
any political functions in the community, either because they are identified 
with the monolithic State outside, or because they have chosen to with- 
draw from the social sphere, or because they are specialised groups meeting 
infrequently and are not socially exclusive. 

Cultural policy in Tazlar has also been directed from the lower village 
centre and centred on the improvement of the cultural level of this centre. 
The cornerstone of these policies, for which there is one man in overall 
charge (a communist councillor and deputy head at the school), is the 
culture-house. However, for a number of reasons this is no longer well 
utilised. Besides the fact that only small numbers of young persons remain 
in the community beyond school age, there are many who consider the 
size and village-hall design of the building inappropriate for regular youth 
club meetings. Expensive structural alterations to the roof have become 
necessary. There have also been serious defects in organisation which have 
hindered the development of simple club and recreational facilities. The 
culture-house is not a complete white elephant, though. It is used oc- 
casionally by the school for concerts, and by the szakszovetkezet for 
its open meetings. It is sometimes used as the venue for a lakodalom, 
and for special dances and parties organised by a particular society such 
as the hunters or by the general committee at New Year, or to celebrate 
Women's Day, etc. Regular discos were held for a period in 1977 but these 
failed to attract much support, while the films screened on Sundays are 
of very bad quality and attract smaller numbers than in the past. There 
are also fewer visits to the village by outside artists and theatre groups 
than in the past, although a popular event such as a concert of zither 
music may still draw a large crowd. Theatre trips to Kecskemet are now 
arranged by the cooperative and a few, mostly white-collar workers, 
travel in their own private cars. Finally, the culture-house is used regularly 
by enthusiastic young table-tennis players, and its library serves a very 
small number of village-dwellers. 

The disenchantment of many young persons is expressed by a few with 
conspicuous clothes and hairstyles, and in occasional rowdiness at the 
bisztrd. They arouse some bewilderment and even resentment in the older 
generation. In the upper hamlet of TazMr the problem is naturally muted. 
There is no bisztrd there, and there are very few young people. But behind 
the placid appearance of this hamlet, which has been steadOy deprived of 
its central functions over the last 70 years, and where even the schoolhouse 


The szakszovetkezet community - politics 

takes pupils for only the first four grades and faces possible closure in the 
near future, there has in fact been a lively cultural organisation in recent 
years. The older generation came together under the nominal umbrella 
of the Women's Council, and began meeting regularly, arranging social 
functions and mounting ambitious cultural events in a tiny hall, a former 
Catholic group meeting-house. Within a few years their activities were 
given national prominence and created a furious scandal in the lower 
village centre. 

It all began at the old schoolhouse with the initiative of the school- 
mistress who has taught there during most of the sociaUst period. Mrs 
Kadar's achievement was to exploit reserves of female energy which have 
only become available since the formation of the szakszovetkezet. She 
gave the women a group identification they had never before possessed 
but needed greatly, as more and more men were absent through com- 
muting and as both the size of the family and the scale of the farm con- 
tinually shrank. Later the women began to involve the men as well. The 
most successful field for their talents proved to be amateur dramatics. 
Under Mrs Kadar's guidance a wide section of the hamlet, from farmers' 
wives to skilled bricklayers, were persuaded to make costumes, learn lines, 
paint each others' faces and finally carry polished performances to the 
culture house in the lower centre, for the entertainment of the modem 
community. This was all done with virtually no assistance from the council, 
and contrasts with the stagnation of the Women's Council in the village 
centre. Annual coach excursions organised by Mrs Kadar also became a 
popular fixture, and one not duplicated in the main village. 

There the story might have rested, but for the arrival of television 
cameras and the screening of a documentary film about cultural life in 
Tazlar in 1975. The television people were originally interested by a 
novel feature in the structure of the school's teaching staff — the fact 
that there were two deputy heads, one responsible for community-wide 
cultural policy and the other more closely involved with the affairs of the 
school who was, incidentally, the Party secretary at the time. Once in the 
village the director found a more interesting theme in the contrast between 
the cultural stagnation of the main village, where large sums of money 
had been spent and still larger sums were being claimed by all the local 
leaders, and the vitality of the upper hamlet arising out of traditional 
self-help practices and the enthusiasm of one schoolmistress. The film 
exaggerated the collective sociability of the upper hamlet and did not 
point out a simple Una of continuity with the traditions of the pre-war 
nephaz. It also gave vent to the resentment born by a few residents of 
the upper hamlet towards the council for its general neglect of the hamlet 
and its failure to honour specific undertakings. Finally, it highlighted 
plaintive cries of boredom and loneliness from certain village-dwellers, 
expressed most colourfully by the first lady of the village, the wife of 
the council chairman. The national press gave the documentary very 


Cultural life - the example of the upper hamlet 

favourable reviews. The main point, that the allocation of material resources 
is not the key to a successful cultural policy in small communities, was 
generally accepted and it led most reviewers to reflect on the challenges 
socialist cultural policy now faces in the country as a whole. All this 
created much embarrassment and irritation in the leaders of the lower 

Most inhabitants in all parts of the community felt that the film exag- 
gerated. The complaints of the upper hamlet are not deeply felt by the 
majority of its residents. It is true that there is no piped-water system 
here, nor even a network of pavements in the side-streets, and that virtually 
nothing has been done by the council to improve the cramped hall which 
is the hamlet's only public building, apart from the church, the school 
and the shop. But this discrimination is consistent with national policy, 
which makes no attempt to raise such tiny centres to a higher level. It 
should also be stressed that the entire contrast between the hamlet and 
the village may rest upon the gifts of one individual, who was motivated, 
at least in part, by a strong personal antipathy towards the community 
leaders, whom she held responsible for her late husband's dismissal from 
the headship of the main school and his subsequent disgrace. Mrs Kadar 
was due to retire in 1979 and her departure from the community might 
well affect the activities of the Women's Council, which have already 
declined since the death of her husband in 1976. It may be entered as a 
further caveat that the dances held in the upper hamlet are based on exactly 
the same format as those in the main culture house and that young people 
have never been involved to any great degree. Finally, there should be no 
impression of general conviviahty throughout the hamlet. Relations 
with neighbours are no more close and visiting houses no more important 
within the hamlet than in the main village. In fact there is a number of 
longstanding quarrels and Mrs Kadar herself has long been at loggerheads 
with her immediate neighbour, who, though a very resourceful woman 
herself, has therefore been excluded from much of the activity of the 
Women's Council. 

With all these limitations the facts remain that something impressive 
was organised and that the motivations were not uniformly negative. The 
question which arises is whether consistent growth of the hamlet, material 
ameUoration and the renovation of its culture centre would have improved 
the achievement or removed its fuelling-power. If the galvanising of the 
upper hamlet depended upon the gifts of one person it remains of importance 
that no one's imagination has yet been turned to such effect in the main 
village, or on a level which would embrace the entire community. Mrs 
Kadar found no panacea for the fundamental problems of the upper ham- 
let, which must continue to decline as a planned result of national and local 
poUcies; but she succeeded in bringing individuals together and firing them 
into action in the field of culture. Something similar is needed at the level 
of the community as a whole if tanya traditions are ever fully to be overcome. 


The szakszovetkezet community - politics 

VI The democratic potential of the szakszovetkezet 

Nothing that we have looked at so far has brought much success in unifying 
the disparate elements of this community, let alone in representing them to 
forces in the outside world. Even the effect of cultural policies has proved 
divisive. It has been left to the szakszovetkezet itself to develop as a 
political forum, to promote the coalescence of fragmented tanyas into 
a real community of interest and vigorously to represent and defend that 
community against the administrative forces outside. 

Ferenc Donath has argued that some of the democratic spontaneity 
of the 1945 Land Reform could have been developed by the early cooperative 
movement, and that had the Land Reform been carried out in more favour- 
able political and economic conditions there would have been more spon- 
taneous support for the formation of cooperatives at that time (Donath, 
1969, p. 390). Even in the Rikosi period which followed, when other 
community institutions were completely divested of their representative 
functions and placed under outside control, the early cooperatives retained 
elements of the 'Direct Democracy' of 1945. This was why, as was noted 
in Chapter 3, in the implementation of the system of compulsory deliveries 
the cooperatives were treated in essentially the same manner as the inde- 
pendent peasants. The officials of these cooperatives, in what Kunszabd 
characterises as the earliest phase of spontaneous democratic organisation 
(1974, p. 78), were not distinguished from the main body of the cooperative, 
although a few were recommended to the members by outside forces and 
Party membership was recommended to all. They did manual work along- 
side the other members, in addition to their paperwork. The chairman had 
no security of tenure, and it was his job to represent all of the member- 
ship. In the antagonistic climate of the 1950s this made him not so much 
an intermediary with State or Party power as a collaborator with the rank 
and file against an over-weening bureaucracy. Former members tell of how 
animals were kept secretly, and driven off to the forest whenever outside 
inspectors appeared, in order to guarantee families a supply of winter 
meat. The general political climate may have strengthened certain features 
of internal democracy. Friction over the allocation of State aid was com- 
mon, and squabbling over distribution between neighbours and within 
famihes tended to increase from year to year. 

After the fluctuations of the 1950s these pioneer democratic associations 
were replaced by the mass-member production cooperative groups, which 
retained constitutions and an elected leadership very similar to those of 
the earlier cooperatives. In addition to their economic functions in developing 
the socialist sector and integrating private peasant farming, the new groups, 
in the tradition of their predecessors, saw themselves duty-bound to defend 
the interests of their members, if need be against forces outside. Hence the 
failure to pursue collectivisation during these years. In fact the socialist 
sector in the 1960s scarcely exceeded the size of the collectively farmed 
area in the early 1950s. Over the decentraUzed production of the members 


The democratic potential of the szakszovetkezet 

the leaders could exert only limited control. At the same time the records 
show that these groups were required by the Kiskoros administration to 
influence production outside the socialist sector in each group. The mem- 
bers were exhorted, apparently by their own leaders, but also by visiting 
Party leaders, and we have seen already that there was considerable inter- 
vention from outside in the development of the socialist sector. As an 
example of the kind of attempt to influence the private sector one can 
find a district Party secretary in 1964, on hearing that the pig-fattening 
plan of the Kossuth group was only 50 per cent fulfilled, urging the 
group's leadership to 'make a list of those members who can afford to 
fatten pigs, and to ask them personally, and to convince them of the 
importance of the pig-fattening plan'. Later in the same year the executive 
brought the matter before an open meeting of the group and it is clear 
that the threat of sanctions was invoked: reference was made to 'those 
members who will be required to take up pig-fattening'. 

The compromising of the local leadership and the regularity and variety 
of outside intervention in all the affairs of the group were new features in 
the cooperative movement in Tazlar after 1960. There was also a change 
in the all-important figure of the chairman. Rather than choosing a truly 
representative individual of average ability the mass-member groups 
tended to prefer more successful and respected peasant farmers from the 
former middle peasantry. In Kunszabo's terminology this was the phase 
of the gazddlkodo or 'farming' chairman (1974, p. 82). These men were 
popular choices and, unlike previous leaders, were capable of providing 
effective leadership. At the same time they were required by the admin- 
istration outside to influence the membership in specific directions, and 
so we may see them as mediators, continual compromisers. Their fun- 
damental loyalties were, however, firmly with the interests of their mem- 
bers, which coincided with their own private farming interests. The charactter- 
istic reserve and modesty of most farmers was intensified by political 
hazards and caused most former middle peasants to be highly reluctant 
to accept any office in the new order. However, unanimous nominations 
could not be declined. In two of the three groups the same individual 
remained in the post of chairman for more than ten years. In the third, 
the Rdkoczi, which not coincidentally we have seen already to be the 
weakest of the three, there was a series of leadership crises and incipient 
factional struggle within the five- or six-member executive. The longest- 
officiating chairman here, in the poorest of the zones covered by the 
groups, proved to be the veteran chairman of one of the earlier cooperatives, 
who found himself under continual pressure, partly because his individual 
record as a farmer was insufficient to warrant the respect of the fuU range 
of the new membership. The role of outside agents is seen most prominently 
in this group, whereas in the others external interference was generally 
limited to particular issues and to emergency situations. 

The institution of gazddlkodo leadership, though removed from the small- 
group, direct democracy of the early cooperatives, offered important 


The szakszovetkezet community - politics 

guarantees to the mass of the members. In addition to the chairman there 
were places for numerous individuals on the various elected committees, 
and all of these leaders were more than the temporarily appointed spokes- 
men of an association of families. They were the products of a particular 
section of the peasantry but when they spoke to the administration out- 
side they knew they had a local power base and they represented the 
peasantry as a whole. After the formation of szakszovetkezets and the 
introduction of the economic reform in 1968, which diminished the extent 
of detailed local planning, there was less interference from outside in the 
running of the members' farms and a chance for the associations to strengthen 
their democratic character. 

The conditions for this democratic practice are fully specified in the 
constitutions of all cooperatives. Sovereignty is vested in open meetings 
of all the membership. The phrase szovetkezeti demokracia (cooperative 
democracy) is a potent encapsulation of the democratic theory which has 
been grasped by most members. Leaders can only be nominated and 
elected at open meetings, and elections as well as other major decisions 
require a two-thirds majority of the total membership if they are to be 
effective. Open meetings must be held several times each year, including 
once in winter for the detailed reports of the leaders and the presentation 
of the accounts. The mass-member cooperatives thus became the first 
organisations to have regular mass-meetings in the community since the 
CathoUc societies that had flourished before the Second World War. The 
membership of an agricultural cooperative was perhaps less voluntary, 
but the opportunity for the peasantry to organise as a socio-economic 
interest group was quite novel. 

The typical production cooperative in Hungary has the same democratic 
theory, but despite its potential has never achieved the same novelty of 
local political expression. The shift to expert, 'managerial' leadership took 
place very early here, whereas at the end of the 1960s the Tazlar szak- 
szovetkezets were still sharing the services of a single Sokvadkert agronomist 
and maintaining only a skeletal accounting staff in their offices. Beyond 
this, the production cooperative changed the family farm drastically, 
introduced large numbers of skilled workers and non-member workers 
alongside the peasant rank and file, and drove larger numbers to become 
wage-labourers, and a high proportion to leave agriculture altogether. In 
this context the open meeting can easily become an assembly of purely 
ceremonial importance, though valuable to the leaders and to the Party. 
It no longer exercises effective control over the choice of leaders and does 
not check their activity. This may be seen as a consequence of the success 
of policies designed to create a large-scale socialist sector in agriculture 
in the 1960s. The intended approximation to the conditions and working 
relations of industry, was largely achieved by the State Farms. Since 1967, 
when agricultural cooperatives were given full legal status as enterprises, 
and since 1968, when the general framework of enterprise behaviour was 
relaxed by the economic reform, the cooperatives have increasingly behaved 


The democratic potential of the szakszovetkezet 

as large commercial enterprises. They have grown rapidly and in most 
regions of the country cover an area now greater than that of the admin- 
istrative territory of a single community. The szakszovetkezets have been 
the only major sector when an important part of production has been 
decentrahsed to full-time individual farmers and where the technical 
conditions have been conducive to releasing a democratic potential never 
realised in the production cooperatives proper. 

Outside interference declined in the late 1960s, but then increased again 
as each of the szakszovetkezets experienced economic difficulties in the 
early 1970s. Pressure was applied to induce mergers, and in 1972 the 
Kossuth and Rdkoczi szakszovetkezets amalgamated to form a single 
unit under the leadership of the recently elected chairman of the Kossuth, 
Imre Bugyi. Flouting the recommendation of the council chairman the 
new szakszovetkezet chose for itself the name Egyetertes (Harmony). 
Previous merger initiatives had failed because of wrangling within the 
executives, the reluctance of the rank and file, and the difficulty of 
excluding the Hope from the arguments for unity and securing the benefits 
of scale economies. Older members feared the loss of relative advantage 
and levelling downwards a single community-wide szakszovetkezet would 

Amalgamation with the Hope in fact followed two years later, precipi- 
tated by pressure from outside. An election was necessary in order to 
select a new chairman, for although the claims of the popular Bugyi may 
have seemed strong, the Hope also had a recently elected and younger 
chairman, who had a narrower group of strong supporters. The community- 
wide electoral contest which ensued was without precedent in local 
poUtical history. By polling day, tension was at fever pitch. Controversial 
and slightly scurrilous slogans appeared everywhere, there was door-to- 
door canvassing and a spate of rumours alleging bribery and high spending 
by both candidates spread. There was no question of substantial differences 
of opinion between the candidates. The contest was essentially one of per- 
sonahties. Voting required a judgement of the individual wanted as chair- 
man, the man thought to be better equipped to represent and defend 
local interests. This did not prevent some supporters of Pal Rozinger, 
the chairman of Hope, from explaining his defeat as a conspiracy against 
the Lutheran minority by the Cathohc majority. Following his defeat, 
to which most Tazlar people feel his religious and family background did 
not contribute, he made weighty charges of electoral malpractice and 
succeeded in having the whole election re-staged. On the second ballot 
he was heavily defeated. This election did not prevent his remaining on 
cordial terms with Bugyi, and from accepting office under him in charge 
of the new szakszovetkezet's crop production, a responsible and well- 
paid post which he still held in 1978, two chairmen later. The new co- 
operative was given the name Beke (Peace). 

Consider now the position of Imre Bugyi at the end of 1974. His massive 
support in all corners of this scattered community made him the most 


The szakszovetkezet community - politics 

powerful individual in the village and gave him incontestable bargaining 
authority in all dealings with higher organs. It goes without saying that 
had Bugyi been explicitly unacceptable to the outside administration then 
he would never have risen to prominence in the Kossuth. Members had no 
desire to make selections that were controversial, or provocative in this 
direction. In fact, his basic acceptabihty was proven by his election as a 
councillor in 1973. Thanks to his good relations with council chairman 
Trsztyinszki, he was still serving as a member of the controlling executive 
committee of the council in 1977, two years after he had ceased to reside 
permanently in the community. The election of 1974 is significant in 
retrospect as the last opportunity for democratic choice in the cooperatives. 
Bugyi's victory was probably the last victory of the archetypal successful 
gazdalkodo, of a man freely entrusted with the leadership of the szak- 
szovetkezet on the basis of his private quahties as a farmer. The members 
saw no other valid criterion for the definition of a good leader. Hence 
they chose an individual whom ordinary farmers could recognise as one 
of their own kind, and with whom they could identify. The outside admin- 
istration was less than satisfied, but it had found the task of engineering 
the mergers sufficiently daunting, and was not yet ready to impose its 
own leaders. I was told in 1977 by officials in Kiskoros of how difficult 
it had been on occasion to deal with Bugyi, and in particular to win his 
backing for their many schemes to raise the efficiency of the szakszovetkezet, 
or rather of a rejuvenated socialist sector within the szakszovetkezet. 

Thus it was no accident that Bugyi was displaced and effectively ex- 
pelled after less than a year in office at the head of the Beke szakszovetkezet. 
Moreover, the manner of his departure and the election of his successors 
made it quite clear that the aberration of competitive elections was not to 
be repeated. The cause of his downfall was significant. It had been a frequent 
source of complaint, both within the szakszovetkezet s and outside them in 
official reports and policy statements, that the gazdalkodo leader who 
retained his own land would resolve any conflict of interests by putting 
his private economic interests before the longer-term public good of the 
cooperative. A new treasurer arrived in 1975, a young man of local descent 
and the first trained expert of local origin to hold office in any Tazlar 
cooperative. A problem arose almost at once concerning the alleged abuse 
of szakszovetkezet supplies on the private farm of the chairman. There 
was no major scandal and no public campaign to discredit Bugyi. He 
remains convinced of his innocence, and is well liked and respectfully 
greeted by his former neighbours, who see him when he commutes out 
from Soltvadkert during the summer months to the land around his 
now empty tanya. But his resignation was immediate and his disgrace in 
the eyes of the outside administration was complete. It seems appropriate 
that the fall of the most popular and representative leader to have emerged 
in Tazlar in the sociahst period was accomplished 'from above' on the 
evidence of charges which clearly emphasised the declared incompatibility 
between private peasant aims and the new sociahst goals, the pursuit by 


The democratic potential of the szakszovetkezet 

the szakszovetkezet of some 'collective good' which was unconnected 
with the democratically expressed preferences of their rank and file 

If the survival of the szakszovetkezet type itself was not yet called into 
question in the mid-1970s, the balance of socialist and private sectors was 
altered decisively by the downfall of Imre Bugyi. The seeds of change were 
sown under Bugyi, following the mergers, when a number of new young 
specialists with no commitment to the private sector arrived. Appointed 
to succeed as chairman was the agrarian engineer of the cooperative, not 
well known in the community, Laszl6 Font. He was from a neighbouring 
village, of middle-peasant origin, young (born 1942), a dedicated pro- 
fessional and a longstanding member of the Party. He was unburdened by 
private farming interests. His nomination was accepted passively at the 
open meeting called shortly after Bugyi's resignation. Rozinger was un- 
doubtedly still ambitious, but the memory of his defeat was too recent, 
and he was in any case a friend of Font. Thus there was only one name on 
the ballot paper and the choice of the outside administration was accepted 
without significant protest. 

This election is now seen by many Tazlar farmers as a watershed in 
the history of the community. Given the previous career background of 
Font, the years he had spent in another village in a production cooperative, 
it was inevitable that the direction would now change. Even had he possessed 
any of Bugyi's strength in the community, he was not interested in using 
such locally-vested power to counter the proposals of the outside admin- 
istration. Instead there was now an identity of views on the need to modernise 
the szakszovetkezet and to compensate for the years of neglect of the 
socialist sector. The new 'managerial' group took over the szakszovetkezet. 
The treasurer (born 1943) possessed a degree in agricultural economics 
from the Karl Marx University, Budapest. A new qualified engineer was 
recruited (born 1947), as well as two agronomists, the elder of whom 
was only in his early thirties. The last three were all strangers to the village, 
and the agronomists did not even establish residence but commuted daUy 
from nearby towns. 

While it would be an exaggeration to claim that everything was trans- 
formed in the next two years, the economic profile did change considerably, 
as was described in Chapter 4. The collective sector initiated a great ex- 
pansion of extensive sheep-farming on the vast empty pastures that had 
fallen into cooperative ownership. The quality of the services provided to 
members improved, as did the level of investment and the readiness to 
use State credit when available. Much more important for the rank and 
file was the move against the land area of the private sector, which antag- 
onised the membership at large and certain important elements in particular. 
The identification for the first time of the poUcies of their own leadership 
with the anti-peasant poUcies attributed hitherto to the outside admin- 
istration caused the profound estrangement of the rank and file. This led 
firstly to a successful assault on the new managerial group, partly spontaneous, 


The szakszovetkezet community - politics 

partly provoked by the executive committee, which emerged as the new 
custodian of unchanged gazdalkodo interests. In the longer run, however, 
the reassertion of local power within the cooperative served only to strengthen 
the resolve of the outside administration to carry out major reform and to 
disarm the szakszovetkezet as a vehicle for the mass organisation and 
defence of peasant interests. 

The crisis of 1977 developed in the following way. A foretaste was given 
in autumn 1976, when a meeting of the executive committee heard a 
report from the internal control committee, which had investigated the 
large losses recorded of kozos sheep, and the semi-starved condition of 
most of the remainder. Responsibility was laid at the door of the chief 
agronomist. He listened passively that afternoon to the criticism from the 
executive committee, and was not seen in Tazlar again. A year later the 
szakszovetkezet was still unable to find a successor. In the meantime Font 
himself was criticised by certain members of the 12-man executive. They 
found a measure of support in the treasurer, who was believed to cherish 
personal ambitions of his own and, proudly responsible for the sacking 
of one chairman, was keen to claim another. He accordingly precipitated 
a crisis by asking to be relieved of his treasurer's responsibilities at the 
executive meeting on the eve of an open meeting in February 1977. This 
request was not granted and quietly pushed into the background in the 
following weeks. 

It was, however, impossible to shelve the issues and the bitter taste left 
by the February open meeting. The discreet criticisms of the executive 
were now voiced loudly by the rank and file in the presence of the outside 
administration. There were angry personal attacks on the chairman, which 
cited, for example, the house he occupied at a low rent and the car he had 
ordered on behalf of the szakszovetkezet without due consultation with the 
executive committee. Other speakers attacked the new aggressive coUec- 
tivising poUcies, particularly the confiscation of the important reed areas 
and the sale of the reeds to mechanised outside contractors. Similar 
strictly commercial criteria had led to the transfer of fishing rights to 
outside institutions, to the fury of the handful of local fishermen. AU 
the criticisms were roundly answered by the visiting Party spokesman in 
the most general ideological terms. He finished his speech with great 
difficulty because of loud interruptions. Praise and full backing for Font 
came from Trsztyinszki the council chairman. However, when Font him- 
self arose towards the end of the meeting to answer the attacks, he sounded 
a broken man. He apologised for his temperament, his nervousness and 
other character defects which had impeded his contact and harmony with 
the rank and file. Behind these euphemisms there was no retraction on any 
matter of principle or of current policy. Yet it seemed to many of the 
400 present that Font had lost the will to continue as chairman. 

In fact, despite strenuous efforts in the following weeks by outside 
officials to restore equilibrium and heal the dispute with the treasurer, his 
resignation was submitted to the outside administration and accepted in the 


The democratic potential of the szakszovetkezet 

following month. This followed the departure of the engineer, a long- 
expected move made largely for personal reasons, but which also added 
to the crisis in the leadership group. No replacement was found for him 
either, and after a two-month hiatus it was a local artisan and member of 
the executive committee who stepped in at the machine centre and did an 
admirable job in preparing the combine harvesters for the summer season. 

The final assessment of Font's reasons for resigning is difficult. He was 
a very complex, intelligent character.' Some were of the opinion that it 
was the long squabble with the treasurer that precipitated his departure. 
Others referred to his wife's desire to return to her native village some 30 
miles away, which was where the family moved shortly afterwards. This 
became the version put about by the outside administration. It was true 
that the marriage had been under strain in Tazlar, that neither partner 
had found friends in the divided ranks of the local intelligentsia. Both 
regarded the community as unusually cold towards outsiders. These 
'personal' factors are thus important, but it is the conjuncture of events 
which resulted from deliberate policies and the mass opposition of the 
peasantry that are of greater interest and must be included in any complete 
account of why he resigned when he did. The following is based on his own 

Font believed himself by virtue of his background in a production co- 
operative to be unsuited to managing the szakszovetkezet as a non-socialist, 
non-coUectivising amalgam of private interests. After the February open 
meeting he also felt he lacked the essential power resources to continue 
the attempt to reform. He drew this conclusion because of the attitude of 
those members of the executive committee who had acted as the self- 
interested representatives of wider private-peasant interests. The executive 
was composed of precisely those respected private farmers who had been 
dislodged from the very top in 1975. It is extraordinary to observe just 
how well the executive represented the cream of richer farmers today. 
For example, the average sum of produce sold through the cooperative 
between 1975 and 1977 by members of this committee was more than 
double that of the average for all the active members. This group, which 
had never before articulated poHcy opposition and even now was far 
from displaying a coherent united front, saw itself nevertheless as the 
representative of the private interests of the membership at large. The 
individual most persistent in his complaints was perhaps the man best 
placed to do so - the former chairman of one of the earlier cooperatives 
and a veteran Party member, but also a fisherman, whose family had lost 
substantially through the confiscation of the reeds. His dedication to 
the future of his own family farm and the private future of the membership 
at large proved to be his most fundamental loyalties. It could certainly 
not be local Party policy to crificise the reforms of Font. He was too widely 
admired in the outside Party on account of the sweeping changes that 
had taken place since he had taken office. However, despite the support 
given at the open meeting, it was suggested by other well-placed informants, 


The szakszovetkezet community - politics 

and suspected by Font himself, that the soUdarity of the council chairman 
was withdrawn in the weeks following that meeting. 

It is worth considering the implications of this possibility. Could this 
be seen as a judicious concession to the strength of local opinion, as 
demonstrated at the open meeting? Although that was indeed the effect 
of his action, a more plausible explanation is one of self-interest. Font, 
a radical 'new broom' unwilling to make compromises in the old ways, was 
a power threat. The chairman, hitherto the dominant representative in 
the community of the outside Party, had reason himself to fear the 
commitment of an over-zealous communist at the head of the szakszovet- 
kezet. He had preferred to deal with several leaders whose activity on the 
land prevented their threatening his monopoly in full-time administration. 
It had been his practice to dispose quickly of any threat, whether it 
emerged within the council bureaucracy, where the turnover of executive 
committee secretaries had been very high for exactly this reason, or in 
ancillary institutions, such as the school, where he had played an active 
role in the dismissal of Mr Kadar and his replacement by a more amenable 
headmistress, who is aware that her Job depends in some measure on 
his support. It is possible that the chairman was actually approached by 
individuals or groups to further the conspiracy against Font. He was, for 
example, seen in frequent consultation with the treasurer, not himself a 
Party member. In any case many suspect that the chairman has a strong 
personal interest in preserving a vigorous private sector in agriculture, 
which would be always liable to need favours from the council and able 
to pay for them. 

Whether or not the council chairman was directly involved, the resignation 
of Font became effective early in April, and from that time until the end 
of July the szakszovetkezet had no full-time chairman. A senior communist 
executive committee member took over on an interim basis, but effective 
control passed to the treasurer, who governed in the style of a garrison 
chief with a very small staff. A new agronomist arrived in May to take 
responsibility exclusively for the sheep, and, in addition to the artisan who 
took over the machine centre, another member of the executive was hired 
to assist the remaining household agronomist in the marketing of small- 
farm produce. Meanwhile, during the next few months the curious in the 
village would occasionally catch a glimpse of well-dressed strangers who 
arrived in State cars and paid visits to the cooperative offices and the 
chairman's empty house. At last in mid-July the members, who still knew 
nothing officially of the departure of Font, were summoned to an open 
meeting in the Culture House for the business of electing a new chairman. 
The candidate was Jozsef Penzes, qualified agronomist. Party member, 
only seven years away from retirement and previously employed in a small 
enterprise in the district centre, Kiskoros, and with large private farming 
interests in that area. Only members of the executive committee had met 
him before the open meeting. They had elected him a member of the 
szakszovetkezet the previous week, to estabHsh his eligibility for the 


The democratic potential of the szakszovetkezet 

chairman's job. It was widely expected that there would be only one name 
on the ballot paper at the Sunday afternoon election. However, Pdnzes 
was not accepted as readily as was hoped, and it is worth considering some 
of the questions asked at that meeting and the issues raised for the future 
of the szakszovetkezet by the flagrant abuse of its normal procedures 
through the will of the outside administration. 

The fundamental problem was the reality of an election with only one 
name on the ballot paper. The frustration of the rank and file was intensi- 
fied by the strict adherence to the formahties of democratic procedure. 
These included the ratification by the open meeting of a nomination com- 
mittee, chaired by a member of the executive committee, which ceremonially 
withdrew and then returned with a carefully prepared speech recommending 
Penzes. Several speakers then re-stated the opinions expressed in February 
and in addition criticised the electoral procedure. The most interesting 
moment came when an individual, searching for potential candidates in 
order to permit a choice to be made by the members, hit upon the names 
of the treasurer and the household agronomist. No local gazddlkodo 
candidate could establish eligibility because none possessed the new 
quaUfication of a formal higher education in agricuhure. The treasurer 
and the agronomist were obliged pubUcly to decline nomination. Each 
asserted the need to preserve unity and a strong collective leadership. The 
agronomist stressed the essential point when he stated that if elected he 
would be powerless to further the interests of the cooperative outside the 
community, since only Pdnzes had the full confidence of the outside 
administration. In other words, both managers and executive committee 
men were constrained to urge acceptance of the man presented to them by 
the outside administration. Members were told that it was now in their 
own interests to approve the decisions taken elsewhere because this was 
the way to elect the individual best able to represent their interests outside 
the community. The spokesmen for the Party and the council chairman 
restricted their contributions to a justification of the recruitment process, 
the careful sifting which they said had preceded their selection. 

The next telling contribution was made by Penzes himself. In a short 
speech he emphasised his peasant origins, his own private farming interests, 
his financial standing and current job security irrespective of whether he 
came to Tazlar. In the ballot which followed there were significant ab- 
stentions and a very few votes of opposition, but members were inhibited 
from scratching out the candidate's name by the presence of a district 
official next to the urn, who simply stared hard at anyone who moved 
away with his paper instead of dropping it straight into the urn. Moreover 
the 'polling booth' was not opened for much of the time, nor was any 
writing instrument supplied. In any case with only just over a third of the 
membership present, there was no way in which the required two-thirds 
percentage of votes could be obtained. However, the cars of the Kiskords 
officials appeared in the village several times during the week that fol- 
lowed. Membership lists were revised and large parts of the official minutes 


The szakszovetkezet community — politics 

of the meeting were dictated by the same official who had supervised 
Sunday's polling. 

That meeting broke up in good humour with the distribution of free 
beer. Penzes took up his job in August in a generally neutral climate. In 
the treasurer's quarter, however, he was already seen as another Imre 
Bugyi, but lacking the latter's popularity. It is too soon to give any verdict 
on the Penzes szakszovetkezet. The danger from the treasurer passed 
with his resignation after only a few months when he was replaced by an 
elderly lady from Sohvadkert who expressed her astonishment at the 
young expert's pecuniary management and general irresponsibility. The 
chairman continued to commute in the szakszovetkezet's car from Kiskoros, 
which at least saved the expenses of a chauffeur, even though there were 
those who complained and suggested that the chairman could quite well 
use his private car for travelling to work each day. The former chairman's 
house has been occupied by a new young agronomist who was making 
valiant efforts to raise production in 1978, especially on the large areas 
of abandoned land which, as a result of government policy, he is now 
attempting to bring back into cultivation. Penzes is going ahead with the 
same policies for full collectivisation as his predecessor, but he has also 
tried to reassure the members, and to muster support for a collaborative 
vineyard in which the members will invest and retain limited ownership 
rights while the szakszovetkezet will ensure that varieties of grape are 
optimally chosen, that the distance between the rows permits mechanised 
spraying etc. 

It is clear that Penzes has certain bargaining reserves vis-a-vis the outside 
administration, or at least some room in which to manoeuvre, as a direct 
consequence of the local hostility which was expressed in 1977. There 
was a general feeling that he was a 'last chance', that another failure 
could not be contemplated because the outside administration would 
never be able to find another man to take on the job. The executive and 
the szakszovetkezet officials had to work with Pdnzes, given the preclusion 
of an internal gazdlkodo solution. The mass of the members probably 
felt they had the next best thing to one of their own kind — physically, 
Penzes somewhat resembled Bugyi and he was in most respects the op- 
posite of Font. This was the balance of forces as it crystalHsed in 1977, 
and it is now up to Penzes to negotiate a path between them, helped by the 
fact that no one wishes to provoke his early downfall. 

A chronological exposition has been given as the best method of bringing 
out the great changes which have taken place since the formation of the 
first cooperatives 30 years ago. Three phases of the movement have been 
identified in Tazlar. The first, from 1949 until the establishment of the 
mass-member szakszovetkezet in 1960, includes the period of greatest 
authoritarian abuse in the national sphere. The cooperatives were small, 
almost familial in character, and in Tazlar at any rate the leaders were 
responsive to the needs of the members. These cooperatives received small 
subsidies and much ideological support from the State, but played no 


The democratic potential of the szakszovetkezet 

major part in enforcing external controls and did not unduly disturb local 
peasant opinion. Some of their land had formerly belonged to richer 
farmers, but they did not actively seek to expand and were indeed much 
too weak economically to undertake any embryonic coUectivising role. 

In the second phase, following mass collectivisation, the cooperative 
group, or szakszovetkezet as it was later called, became a doubly rep- 
resentative political institution. To an extent it represented the will of 
the State in the locality, but it also transmitted local peasant opinion to 
the outside administration through able, popular, freely chosen leaders. 
The szakszovetkezet remained too weak to fulfil the socio-economic 
role which the State intended for it, but not only the economic strength 
was lacking. The representation outwards and the self-managing attributes 
of the szakszovetkezet at first increased after the economic reform and 
reached a peak with the amalgamation of the early 1970s and the com- 
munity-wide election of Imre Bugyi as chairman in 1974. 

The third phase has been characterised by 'managerial' leadership and 
the active implementation for the first time of the commitment to col- 
lectivisation. The political function of the szakszovetkezet has now become 
one of negative protest, but it has survived in substance as well as in 
form. Control over policy has now been removed entirely from the rank 
and file and vested in an alien leadership largely drafted in by the outside 
administration. Yet in 1977 the strength of the protests became too much 
for the first wave of the new managers. There was no sign in the resolution 
of that crisis of any fundamental concessions being made by the outside 
administration. Given national policies and the extent to which Tazlar 
already lags behind other communities in the region, this is hardly possible. 
It seemed to the farmers that the szakszovetkezet had at last confirmed its 
anti-peasant intentions. And it might have seemed to an observer that not 
only had Tazlar been obliged to conform on the issue of collectivisation 
but that the emergent pohtical role of the szakszovetkezet in the community 
was being transmuted to conform to general local government practice. 
Yet so long as the open meeting persists as a forum the new leaders and the 
outside administration cannot help but take note of mass opinion — and 
if they should attempt to ignore it, there is the szakszovetkezet executive 
with which they must maintain working relations. Even if mass opinion 
is no longer able to influence any actual decision field, it may still exercise 
a delaying effect upon all fields, and the possibility of further crises such 
as that of 1977 cannot be excluded. 

If we try once again to see Tazlar in the national context we must first 
note that collectivisation did not in general disturb the established relations 
of power within the rural community or its relation to higher levels of 
administration. In contrast to the szakszovetkezet communities, the higher 
rate of migration out of agriculture, the earlier substitution of managerial 
leadership (even if not always in the position of chairman), and the organ- 
isation of Party groups within the cooperative were just three factors 
which facilitated the incorporation of the production cooperative into the 


The szakszovetkezet community - politics 

local polity. Mass-membership was not a danger if members never regarded 
the cooperative as a potential arena for the expression of interests which 
might be antagonistic to those of Party and State. Personal interests could 
be taken up in other quarters, such as the council, as in szakszovetkezet 
communities. In practice, ^owp interests are not articulated. 'The public, 
theoretically plugged into the control and information channel, . . . 
realises its subordinate status and uses this vehicle for the promotion of 
individual interest. It does not criticise nor check the bureaucracy, but it 
begs for personal favours' (Piekalkiewicz, 1975, p. 210). 

Tazlar followed a different path. The peasant landholdings which were 
not collectivised in 1960 survived to become both the material and symbolic 
basis of private interests. In 15 years during which there was no attempt to 
implant an alien leadership or an active policy of collectivisation the szak- 
szovetkezets emerged as the unifying mass-based representative organs of 
the traditional independent peasantry. They were not a substitute for 
political parties, which had at no time organised successfully amongst 
the scattered tanya peasantry. In the last resort membership was obligatory 
and self-management an illusion. Behind the local leaders the Tazlar farmers 
generally perceived the encroaching agents of an anti-peasant State. Never- 
theless, over a sufficiently long period the szakszovetkezet proved com- 
patible with the pursuit of private farming interests. In 1974 it generated 
massive participation in a non-sectarian, non-ideological electoral contest. 
A few years later it seemed that this unusually 'open' experiment in 
gradualist transition to full collectivisation had been abandoned. Despite 
the protests of the members against the aggressive new tactics of the first 
leaders they had not freely elected (1975), and later against the abuse of 
the democratic character of the szakszovetkezet in the appointment of 
new leaders (1977), the traditional pattern of State-community relations 
in Hungary was reaffirmed. Democratic-centralism proved unable to 
assimilate the democratic szakszovetkezet. Some have tended to argue 
(e.g. Pusic (1975) for the case of Yugoslavia) that socialist states may be 
able to cope better with interest -group confrontations at grass-roots level 
and afford more local independence when they reach a higher stage of 
socio-economic development, or, in other words, when the crucial issue 
of collectivisation has been settled and the distinctive interests of the 
landholding peasantry have vanished from the scene. In Tazlar it is possible 
(and will'be considered again in the next chapter) that within the land- 
holding peasantry the benefits of the szakszovetkezet were far from equally 
distributed, and on these grounds alone one may wish to approve of its 
suppression. However, the evidence of the more 'developed' communities 
in Hungary today is not encouraging. In the end the full costs of the events 
of 1977 in Tazlar must include a certain moral damage caused by the July 
open meeting which ratified the choice of Pdnzes, and this may never be 
understood by the outside administration. 



The szakszovetkezet community - society 

The sociology of the szakszovetkezet community is decisively influenced 
by two aspects already covered — on the one hand by the limited integration 
of small-farms into the szakszovetkezet, and on the other by the inability 
of the szakszovetkezet to develop its representative functions and of any 
other group or organisation to assume the tasks of political and social 
integration. In spite of great changes in family size and household structure, 
in the differentiation of groups and in the system of values and norms, there 
is still much continuity with the tanya past. In particular, no new social 
structure has yet been generated by the changes we have seen in the oc- 
cupational structure, and the continued vigour of small-farming has 
preserved certain features of the old social hierarchy. Recently, in the 
period of 'market socialism', individualist attitudes and values seem to 
have maintained pre-eminence. At the same time, specific social problems, 
such as the integration of the new intelligentsia, the improvement of the 
conditions of minority groups, of the deviant and aged, remain unsolved. 
In their own analyses of culture, family hfe and 'normative structure', 
some Hungarian sociographers and ethnographers have been unable to 
refrain from stating strong personal opinions about the phenomena observed. 
In the case of the sociographers a commitment to certain values and a 
didactic approach to writing are easy to defend and have brought impressive 
literary and political achievements in the twentieth century. It is less 
clear why an ethnographer such as Zsigmond (1978, p. 169), at the end of 
a discussion of family types in the village of Varsany, judges it necessary 
to denigrate village architecture and to criticise village families from a 
privileged urban standpoint. If the reader thinks that subjectivism has 
been pushed far enough in earlier chapters of this book, he may be reassured 
that no blanket 'objectivist' models will be imposed here, least of all in 
the discussion of stratification. At the same time it is hoped that the 
pervasive influence of the szakszovetkezet will be clear, especially in the 
final section on values and norms. 

/ Family and household 

It is common to begin the analysis of household structure with more or 
less adequately documented reference to a large traditional household 
which contained more than two generations and often enough more than 
one family. In the case of Hungary it has been shown that there was 


The szakszovetkezet community - society 

considerable regional variation in the incidence of complex households at 
the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries 
(Andorka and Farago, n.d.). The conditions which prevailed on the sparsely 
populated 'frontier' regions of the Great Plain, the only large region where 
land was not scarce even at the end of the nineteenth century, give credence 
to the common ideal-type in the case of Tazlar. Andorka and Faragd 
argue that the complex family was not necessarily an ancient phenomenon 
but became common amongst serf-peasants, especially the better-off 
peasants with substantial land resources, because in communities remote 
from markets and biased towards subsistence production complex house- 
holds permitted a more efficient division of labour. In Tazlar in the period 
of mass resettlement, given the virtual absence of any housing stock, 
household size was large; it was, however, usual in the late nineteenth cen- 
tury for sons to leave their parents within a few years of marriage and build 
new dwellings on land made available by the parents (but not always 
inherited until after the death of the father). In 1 892 a total population of 
2,021 persons inhabited only 246 dwellings. 

Average family size began to dechne in most groups, except the poorest 
and the landless, before the war, under the influence of adverse economic 
conditions and the diminishing availability of land. However, the most 
substantial contraction occurred in the 1950s and 1960s, in association 
with high rates of outmigration, the appropriation of the substantial land 
resources of many traditional farms, and very low, almost negative, rates 
of natural increase in the national context. The rate of natural increase 
has remained low nationally in the 1970s, and there has been a steady 
decline in the proportion of economically productive age-groups. The 
marriage rate has remained stable but the average age of marriage has 
fallen for both males and females in the socialist period (to 2 1 for females 
and 24 for males in 1972). Fertility is considerably higher in villages than 
in provincial towns or Budapest. 

The average household in Tazlar today contains 2.99 persons and the 
average age of its head is about 55 years. The total numbers of males and 
females are almost equal, but at any time a larger number of males are 
resident outside the community in workers' hostels, or in further education, 
or in the army. Following Laslett's typology of households (1972, p. 31), 
in 1976—7 almost two-thirds of Tazlar households could be classified as 
"simple family households', i.e. as households which contained a married 
couple alone, parents with their children, or a widowed parent plus children. 
The next-largest group is that of solitaries — over 100 households altogether 
including 59 widows or widowers. The most common type of extended 
family household is the 'upwards' extension, i.e. where the family is 
supplemented by one or more elder relatives. The number of households 
which contained more than one family ('multiple family households') 
was 32. Of these, 23 had a 'secondary unit downwards': in most cases 
these secondary units would in due course build new houses and become 
'simple family households'. 


Family and household 

There are some striking differences between the village and the tanyas. 
The tanya population is older; in the case of the head of the household 
by an average of three years. The simple family household dominates 
everywhere, but while the majority of 'married couples with children' 
are found in the main village the majority of 'married couples alone' 
reside on tanyas. In the village the average age of household heads is 
boosted by the large number of widows and widowers who live alone (36, 
compared to 23 on tanyas). Yet the total number of solitaries is much 
greater on tanyas (65 , compared to 39 in the village) owing to the larger 
number of single persons and a few cases of nominal tanya residence 
where the individual now has his principal residence elsewhere. Only 8 
multiple family households are found on tanyas, compared to 15 in the 
village. Because of a small number of very large households, including a 
few which occupy State Farm-owned accommodation, mean tanya house- 
hold population is only slightly below the village and community mean. 

The general pattern shows that a high proportion of famOies in Tazlar 
realise what seems to be the 'ideal family-type' in the national context 
(cf. Zsigmond, 1978, pp. 155—6). This is commonly said to be based on 
the urban family. The family is small, attaches high value to the occupancy 
of independent accommodation (and its material amelioration) and to 
the achievement of full independence from the authority and influence of 
the older generation at or as soon as possible after marriage. 

Marriage choice has long been effectively 'individualised', i.e. determined 
by the couple involved and not substantially influenced by their families. 
There were, nevertheless, many cases in the pre-war period when differences 
in religious beUef led to serious friction within families and even dis- 
inheritance. There were also many examples of marriages where property 
interests were carefully calculated by both generations, e.g. when a stepson 
married his cousin and a large property was saved from division. The mar- 
riage of genetic first cousins was discouraged, and though there were cases 
when romantic attractions led to the breaking of this rule such 'individualism' 
was sternly rebuked. 

In recent years the proportion of intra-community marriages has remained 
high in Tazlar even amongst those who have not resided in the community 
full-time after the completion of the general school. The young couple 
have the final say in most matters, in contrast to the village examined by 
Zsigmond where important issues, such as the timing and location of 
house-building, are still said to be subject to parental interference. In Tazlar 
the price of building plots in the village still encourages young men to accept 
the parents' offer to divide their own plot and to share a common yard 
and outbuildings. Where there is significant status difference between the 
marrying partners the richer family may lay down conditions in return for 
their larger endowment. There is Uttle respect for the son-in-law who is 
obliged to reside with or beside his wife's parents and does not make 
strenuous efforts to begin independent house-building. 

The older generation may be puzzled and hurt at the refusal of the new 


The szakszovetkezet community - society 

couple to build in the immediate vicinity of the old home (on either the 
male or the female side). Some couples prefer to move to the new streets 
being built on the northern side of the main road. Yet at the time of 
marriage and throughout the years of house -building (which frequently 
dominates the early years of the marriage), the new couple are dependent 
upon substantial material support from their families. The inheritance of 
land has lost its overriding importance, but the transfer of other goods, 
and above all of cash, is essential to the estabUshment of the new family. 
If neither family is willing to cooperate to fund a substantial lakodalom 
on the occasion of the wedding the financial penalty to the new couple 
is immense. In this way certain powers and moral rights are established 
by the older generation. 

The modern lakodalom exceeds the bounds not only of the modern 
family but of the traditional kin group as well. It is commonplace nowadays 
for 400 or 500 persons to be invited. In addition to neighbours and kin 
on both sides there is an indeterminate number of friends and acquaintances 
who will be flattered by an invitation, overwhelmed by the hospitality 
on the day, and obUged to contribute heavily to the fund for the new 
couple. The preparations, by the family with the assistance of many friends 
and neighbours, take several days. The festivities themselves invariably 
continue until the following morning. But the central moment comes 
late in the evening, following a large supper, when the dancing and the 
good humour is at its zenith. The 'bride's dance' is an opportunity for all 
guests to dance a few steps with the bride. The steps completed, a donation 
is made, on behalf of the guest's family, to the couple's future prosperity. 
(In the case of kin and close friends substantial presents may be given 
instead of, or as well as, money: such presents are generally major house- 
hold durables.) Then silence is demanded and it is usually the bride her- 
self who announces the sum that has been raised and thanks the revellers. 
Later the women will discuss whether the outcome was better or worse 
than expected, and the whole wedding will be remembered by the quantity 
of cash grossed. In Tizlar a lakodalom with 400 guests might raise over 
50,000 forints in cash and bring in the furniture for one or two rooms in 
the new house, kitchen equipment and, inevitably, a television set. De- 
pending on their means the parents may also make separate gifts: in rich 
communities such as Soltvadkert it is common to give a car or a very 
substantial sum towards the house. 

The couple's dependence upon their immediate families and upon a 
range of close friends continues during the period of their house-building. 
None of the problems of the developmental process of the family, the 
sociology of work and leisure, status differentiation and the system of 
norms and values can be understood without a knowledge of the working 
of the private housing market. 

The housing stock in Tazlar is being continually improved, yet despite 
the growth of the village centre in the socialist period and the abandon- 
ment of many tanyas, at the last detailed survey in 1970 more than 


Family and household 

three-quarters of all houses had been built before 1944. In the district as a 
whole 21 per cent of housing was nineteenth-century and 44.5 per cent 
had been erected between 1900 and 1944. The comparable figures for 
Tazlar were 8.7 per cent and 67.1 per cent. Only 35 per cent of houses 
had been connected to the electricity supply in 1970, 9 per cent had 
bathrooms and fewer than 3 per cent had modern flush toilets. The stat- 
istics also show that each house contained only 1.38 rooms, but that each 
room was occupied by almost two persons. 

The great majority of housing in the village is privately owned (although 
in recent years the council has bought certain buildings when an individual's 
death occasioned a sale, and the szakszovetkezet too has a number of 
houses which it puts at the disposal of leaders recruited outside the com- 
munity). There is a basic difference between the countryside and the 
larger towns in the general means of obtaining housing. The major builders 
in towns are councils and cooperative associations, and the main problem 
is how to quahfy for such housing, which is in very short supply but not 
distributed at 'marlcet prices'. In some rural communities local councils 
have taken similar initiatives and younger couples in certain categories of 
employment have been able to benefit from cheap housing, but this has 
never taken place in Tazlar. There has therefore been an obligation to 
build privately. The national savings bank offers substantial long-term 
loans to all first-time builders, at very low interest rates, but these loans 

1 1 . House-building 


The szakszovetkezet community - society 

are not sufficient today to cover even half of the cos't'of tlje materials 
required for a small family house. Only a few exceptional loans to indi- 
viduals in special categories of employment, such as teachers or civil 
servants, come anywhere near to covering the costs of materials alone. 

Because of the considerable sums involved it may take several years 
before the new couple can tackle the job. The plot might be bought in 
the first year, the bricks ordered in the second, the foundations put down 
in the third, etc. Then, in one concentrated summer season, the family 
will try to build the entire main dwelling. Moving-in may be further 
postponed while outhouses and extensions are added, and new houses 
usually must wait years before finances permit the luxury of a final 
exterior plastering. During the summer of the most concentrated work 
there are numerous occasions when, in addition to the small band of the 
hired builder, the future owner must raise large workbands from amongst 
his own kin and friends. From the laying of the foundations to the packing 
of mud for the insulation of the roof he is grateful for all the help he 
can get. Such informal cooperation has become extremely widespread 
with the recent growth of the main village. Some older people allege 
that it is quite without precedent in the tanya community where building 
was the task of the simple family household plus any number of hired 
specialists. It is said that the village doctor was the first to call together 
such a large band of 'volunteers' for collective labour at weekends. In fact, 
given the size of the building bands, the nature of certain tasks is such 
that they could scarcely be performed in any other way, except at extra- 
ordinary expense through hiring day-labourers. The kin group is unlikely 
to be large enough or susceptible to regular and intensive mobilisation. 

Private house-building relies therefore upon a collective labour system, 
and is the only such occasion for significant cooperation in 'private sector' 
activity. In return for ample food and drink the house-builder is given 
command temporarily over large resources of labour. He is then, of course, 
bound to reciprocate this service when invited by other house-builders, 
and for some years after his house is completed he can be obhged to 
sacrifice many of his summer weekends in assisting those who once extended 
their assistance to him. These are very demanding years for most couples. 
Children are not usually postponed more than a few years and indeed are 
commonly born while the couple is still living in rented accommodation 
or with one set of parents. Whatever the occupations of the couple, there 
is very likely to be some small-farming, to help cover the escalating costs 
of building and to furnish the new house. It is rare for the people of 
Tazlar to take honeymoons or any substantial trips away from the com- 
munity at this time: in the summer any hoUday entitlement is fully used 
up by the demands of the house or of work on the land. 

The importance of the family as a production unit was emphasised in 
Chapter 4, particularly in the section on the integration of small-farming. 
After the initial years of marriage, when heavy burdens are shouldered by 
both partners, it is common, especially in worker-peasant households, for 


Family and household 

an increasing proportion of the labour burden to be shifted on to the wife. 
It is she who is responsible not only for the house and the animal-breeding, 
but also frequently for the landholdings still associated with the farm. 
Even if she too had a full-time job at the time of the marriage, more 
work devolves on her in the agricultural sphere in the years when she is 
at home receiving the child-care allowances. If she returns to work, the 
agricultural jobs remain hers in the first instance. The consequences are 
more severe if her husband is a long-distance commuter. He, meanwhile, 
commonly reaches a stage where the pressures to reciprocate labour 
services are reduced (more men of his age having completed their houses), 
and where he is not necessarily sympathetic to his wife's demands to 
improve the interior decoration and comfort of the home.' 

It has been argued that the main consequences of the division of labour 
within the family are more deleterious for women than for men in other 
Hungarian communities, where the men have almost all been drawn into 
public, wage-labour employment and where, as a result, small-farming has 
been most thoroughly feminised. The strains upon women in the traditional 
farm enterprise were not negligible but they have certainly increased in 
recent years. In Tazlar too, as in Varsany (cf. E. Kovacs, 1978, pp. 188—9), 
many women complain about the short -time available for their housework. 
Families do not eat together regularly and parents do not go out together 
socially in the village except on rare occasions when special parties are 
held in the bisztro or culture -ho use. There is a high incidence of nervous 
disease amongst women, and of other- illnesses which can be brought on 
by overwork, including alcoholism. The rate of divorce or of irretrievable 
breakdown of marriages does not appear to be much higher than in the past, 
but this may be partly attributable to the extent of the joint investment in 
property and the daunting task of repeating this accomplishment in a 
second marriage. 

It should be pointed out that some of these problems are experienced 
on a lesser scale in the szakszdvetkezet community where the 'full-time 
farms' still outnumber the "worker-peasant farms', although the latter 
are gaining in strength all the time and dominate amongst the young. The 
alternative to the "worker-peasant' strategy of 'mixed' households, which 
is that most typical of the young couples who have built in the community 
in the 1970s, is less attractive in the longer term. The increase in mixed 
households proves that there is no absolute commitment to private farming 
and ensures that the szakszovetkezet community does not become an 
isolated pocket in the nation, a prosperous pocket today admittedly, 
but a potential rural backwater tomorrow. 

Within the present framework the role and the situation of women are 
in any case, eased by a number of factors which have not yet been con- 
sidered. Firstly, there is the assistance frequently provided by the family 
on either side which enables the young mother to leave her children with 
elder family members while she herself performs some productive task. 
Such child-minding is an important consideration which often influences 


The szakszovetkezet community - society 

the newly-married couple to build in the vicinity of elderly kin (not 
necessarily parents). 

Secondly, the labour contribution of older children themselves still 
deserves to be taken into account, particularly in full-time farm families 
resident on tanyas. Children may be seen as a significant 'economic cost' 
by parents today. In 1977 only seven households in the entire community 
had more than three children under 16 (29 had three, 99 had two, and 
1 19 had only one). It is also true that, as most children are absent from 
the community after the age of 16, in further education or in some urban 
employment, children may contribute less to the farm than in the past, 
and that parents, or the mother alone, are thereby forced to allocate more 
of their time to tasks formerly performed by the entire family. Yet all 
children, including those studying outside the community or those already 
with urban jobs, form part of the family labour unit at peak periods, while 
the children living at home are brought up to help out regularly in the yard, 
to run errands, etc. 

Women have also benefited from new opportunities and national legis- 
lation in the sociaUst period. The introduction of the child-care allowances 
had its desired effect in raising the birthrate from the low levels to which 
it had faUen in the 1960s. In association with improved pre- and post- 
natal care at the village surgery, it also induced important changes in the 
attitudes of families towards bringing up children, including the attitudes 
of older 'full-time farm' families who did not benefit directly from the 
allowances. A certain solidarity and tempered competitiveness has developed 
amongst young mothers, who dress themselves and their babies in best 
holiday attire for summer walks around the village pushing modern prams. 
The general acceptability of shopping at the self-service shop, the purchase 
of canned and conserved foods and of fresh meat at the butchers, has 
simplified the woman's work in the kitchen, though it remains true that 
even younger households strive to make the maximum use of private 
gardens and set aside large quantities of home-made fruit and vegetable 
preserves every summer. Women benefit also from the existence of the 
nursery school, which may take children as young as three. Those who 
return to work later are helped in so doing by the provision of a school- 
meals service at the general school. Some schoolchildren have virtually 
no breakfast at home but go out to the shop for bread rolls during the 
school break, eat lunch at school, and then go directly to the shop again 
for sweets or ice-cream in the afternoon when school has finished. 

Sociologists have naturally associated the demise of peasant economy 
in socialist nations with an increase in the importance of the consumption 
functions of the family, at the expense of its former role in production. 
The effect of incorporation into a production cooperative removes the 
need for economic cooperation between households and the social security 
system of the modern state means that: 'Contemporary rural families are 
nowhere near as totally dependent on their neighbours as they were in 
the past' (Hegediis, 1977, p. 168). It may be doubted whether this dependence 


Differentiation and stratification 

was in fact very great in the past in the case of the tanya community. The 
szakszovetkezet community of recent decades has continued to rely upon 
the productive effort of the family but, as we have seen, the links between 
households are but feebly developed in agricultural production and informal 
cooperation is limited in modern 'mixed' households to the process of 
house-building. The simple family household is both the ideal and the 
dominant reality of household structure in Tazlar today, but the reduced 
size of the family, the weakening of kin ties by migration, the importance 
of individual family housing, and the intensity of labour commitment 
required to finance it, all combine to make the isolation of the modern 
family comparable to the isolation of the tanya family of old. As Andras 
Hegediis notes at the end of his chapter discussing the family, there are 
as many suicides and psychiatric cases in Hungarian villages today as 
there are in towns (1977, p. 178). 

n Differentiation and stratification 

One general problem in the analysis of group differentiation and stratification 
in peasant communities has been that no matter how variegated and hetero- 
geneous the community, it may still seem to display a certain unity and 
homogeneity in any larger context. It was shown in Chapter 2 that 
Tazlar was a 'community' in only a loose, administrative sense before the 
Second World War and one that was subject to wide class divisions consequent 
upon the penetration of capitalism. Great improvements in communications 
since the war and the changes in the occupational structure associated 
with the rise of the worker-peasantry have brought Tazlar into ever closer 
contact with the national society. At the same time. Land Reform, the anti- 
kuldk levelling of the 1950s and eventual loose integration of virtually 
all farmers into the szakszovetkezet have destroyed the foundations of 
the traditional system of stratification, which even in the ecological 
conditions of Tazlar had been based primarily upon the quantity of land 
owned by the family. Yet even now essential differences between town 
and countryside (e.g. in housing conditions) make some sociological 
concepts that are valid at the national level quite inapplicable to rural 
communities. The concern of this section is only with Tazlar, where co- 
operative integration has been of a 'vertical' type, and this in itself creates 
a quite different situation from the 'horizontal' consolidation of small 
farms achieved by the production cooperative, and more typical of villages 
in the national context. 

It has been shown by Yoon in a study of Provenqal wine cooperatives 
that in the context of capitalist markets vertical cooperation accentuates 
class distinctions in the rural community (Yoon, 1975, p. 76). The relax- 
ation of political pressure on small-farmers in Tazlar after 1956 and the 
ever greater incentives offered to small-farmers in the szakszovetkezet 
period have resulted in comparable phenomena in a context of socialist 
markets. In spite of the rise in the number of worker-peasant households 


The szakszovetkezet community - society 

and greater uniformity in living styles amongst younger households in the 
community today, small-farming has remained the major economic activity 
and full-time farm households still constitute the 'backbone' of the com- 
munity. The wide variation in the incomes derived from small-farming 
was documented in Chapter 4 and attempts to account for this in terms 
of demographic variables and in terms of key differences between full- 
time farms and worker-peasant farms were only partially successful. The 
higher incomes of many regular commodity-producing worker-peasant 
households depend upon one or more members remaining full-time in 
agriculture and are partly attributable to the larger mean population of 
these households compared with those of full-time farms. The latter 
are able to generate very high incomes not only through drawing upon 
the supplies and services of the szakszovetkezet and perhaps through 
cooperating with fellow full-time farmers, but also through a revived 
use of traditional labour-hiring (see Chapter 4, pp. 88—9). 

There is a continuity here with the pre-war pattern of stratification. 
Most of the larger hirers of labour today are farmers in their fifties and 
sixties who belong to the traditional middle and well-to-do families of 
the community. A few of them were once branded as kulaks in the 1950s. 
Some have seen their sons and daughters through advanced schooling 
and have encouraged them to settle in remote towns. Many have accepted 
the fact that their farms will have no successor, but strive in the mean- 
time to accumulate the largest possible nest-egg for their families and 
for themselves before retirement. Some have built new houses in the village 
in late middle-age, others have returned to the family home in Soltvadkert 
from where the family migrated two or three generations previously. Some 
of them retain great pride in their family's pioneering exploits and high 
status in the pre-war community. One or two families (including that of 
Lajos Egeto, the most dynamic small-farm producer in the community 
today) are able to claim descent from the lower nobility in the regions 
from which they originated. 

Even in villages characterised by production cooperatives, this stratum 
of 'middle peasants' retained its identity over a long period (cf. Juhasz, 
1975). They did not perform the same jobs in the cooperative as other 
members, and they were always more likely to see their children through 
further education; a few underwent a 'sea change' and became Party 
members and leaders of the new community in the council or the co- 
operative. In Tazlar the persistence of this differentiation is stronger, and 
it is still associated with the ownership of property and of the means of 
production. Because this differentiation has persisted without a break 
(even in the 1950s when some of this stratum were obstinate and refused 
to flinch under political pressure), and because the mass of farmers have 
never worked alongside each other in any form of collective labour system, 
there remains a stratum of 'prosperous' (jomodu) families whose higher 
status is beyond question within the farming population. 

This is not to deny that great socio-economic mobiHty has characterised 


Differentiation and stratification 

the entire post-war period. A few 'middle-peasant' families abandoned 
agriculture in the 1950s. Some have only reached the ranks of the 'pros- 
perous' in recent years, starting from lowly positions on the pre-war 
hierarchy. Yet such upward mobility has not been easy; the mere achieve- 
ment of high farm incomes through heavy purchasing of the szakszovet- 
kezet is insufficient to estabhsh a family at a higher place on the social 
scale. On the other hand, differentiation with respect to the ownership 
and control of the means of production remains important in a number 
of ways. Firstly, there is land itself. Although the traditional prosperous 
families have aU ceded or otherwise abandoned a large acreage, the small 
areas they still control tend to be of a very high quality. More especially, 
the ownership of vineyards and orchards is a durable source of wealth 
with which the government has yet to interfere, and it may be stressed 
again that it is in this branch that labour-hiring and 'class differentiation' 
is most conspicuous. We have already seen in Chapter 4 that the owner- 
ship of machines enables some small-farmers not only to save labour on 
their own farms but to extract rents from their neighbours. There are 
considerable economies of scale within small-farming, and though the 
capital requirements to establish a farm are very small and the assistance 
of the szakszovetkezet is extended to all, it is those who have some capital 
in building, land and vineyards that are best placed to profit from szak- 
szovetkezet services. Indeed, the rich can become richer through looking 
beyond the local szakszovetkezet. For example, some have sold their 
wine elsewhere, or purchased root crops for use in pig-fattening in black- 
soil villages to the south. These are opportunities which only a few rich 
'maximisers' are able to exploit. 

The perceptions and judgements of the farming population still dominate 
in the community. Even the basic yardstick of class and social status in 
the old system, the ownership of land, has not been as effectively eroded 
as in villages which formed production cooperatives. This has to some 
extent held back the emergence of differentiated groups within the 'worker- 
peasant' households. The latter are by no means regarded as a homogeneous 
group. Yet the differences between families where the adults are skilled 
workers who commute to local towns, and those where all family members 
are labourers with the State Farm, are not so great as might be supposed. 
Younger persons may perceive a status difference more clearly here, and 
they may have a greater valuation of comfort and satisfaction during work. 
The differences in incomes in the public sector are small. In the eyes of 
many older farmers it is a tragedy that so many smallholders have freely 
exchanged farming for unskilled wage-labour, and there is bitter sympathy 
for the small number of traditionally prosperous farmers who have been 
forced to abandon farming (e.g. through the expansion of the State Farm). 
However, most farmers now encourage their sons to obtain skilled-worker 
qualifications. The blanket stigma against wage-labour will continue to 
weaken and finally it will disappear. Given the current wage-structure, 
however, and the relatively small spread of income differentials, it may 


The szakszovetkezet community - society 

be a very long time before the new occupational structure can be associated 
with a well-defined status hierarchy. Until then the most important general 
determinant of social rank will continue to be related to small-farming, 
not only to the resources and the production of the enterprise today but 
also to what the family represented in previous decades. 

This implies that the impact of new elements in the socialist period 
has been small. It was suggested in Chapter 5 that the liquidation of the 
genuine collective farms and their replacement by mass-member szak- 
szdvetkezets at the time of mass collectivisation may have influenced the 
failure of a class of careerist officials to emerge within Tazlar through the 
Communist Party and to exert its influence through the leadership of 
the council and the cooperative. Instead the upper levels of the 'intel- 
ligentsia' (ertelmiseg) in Tazlar have had to be recruited from outside. 
The council chairman and the chief secretary at the council offices have 
long been appointed from Kiskoros. Since the fall of Imre Bugyi after 
the unification of the szakszovetkezets the same has been true at the 
cooperative. A high proportion of the teaching staff are also strangers not 
just to the community but to the region, and many stay only a few years 
in Tazlar. The priests may stay for a longer period but eventually they too 
move on. The provision of housing at a low rent for most of these rep- 
resentatives of the intelligentsia means that there is no incentive for them 
to build and settle in the village. Building is in any case no easy task for 
those on fixed incomes with little opportunity or experience in small- 
farming, although the doctor and several long-serving teachers with no links 
with the land did buHt private houses in the 1970s. Teachers' salaries were 
exceptionally low before 1976, and even afterwards their average level in 
Tazlar is boosted to respectability only by heavy overtime working. 

The incomes of the intelligentsia are low primarily in comparison with 
those commanded by the most entrepreneurial small-farmers. They are 
not low in an urban context, and when bonuses and hoUdays are taken 
into account their lot is not a hard one. Nevertheless, a few intellectuals 
resent the material rewards available elsewhere. There is no idealisation of 
the hfe-style of the few 'fully intellectual' households which are not active 
in farming, and sometimes a rueful cynicism is expressed when such house- 
holds seek means to supplement their fixed incomes, as when the council 
chairman proposes a price for administrative services which will benefit 
an individual, or the teachers sponsor dancing parties at the culture-house, 
or the 'landlord' of the bisztro organises all-ticket social evenings. The 
leaders of the community today do not command the respect that previous 
leaders commanded. The single young policeman is not respected as was 
the large local gendarmerie in the past, but he is preferred to his immediate 
predecessors who were dismissed for various misdemeanours. Corruption 
is suspected wherever money is handled and sadly at the szakszovetkezet 
and elsewhere in recent years suspicions have been amply confirmed. 

It is possibly the knowledge that they do not command the respect which 
they feel they merit that contributes to the ill-will and quarrelling that 


Differentiation and stratification 

have persisted within the inteUigentsia, and even within the staff-room 
at the school. With the exception of the priests and a few of the teachers 
they are not admired for their intellectual qualities, and few of the brighter 
young people of the community would aspire to occupy their jobs. Officials 
are granted a certain deference primarily in official places, especially by 
older tanya farmers whose gratitude shown for any petty favour is some- 
times grossly exaggerated. Outside these places they are subject to the 
same kind of gossip as everyone else. The status of the director of the 
spinning factory does not protect him against criticism of alleged romantic 
involvement with younger employees (though his status as the boss may well 
help in launching an affair). The only place where the 'intelligentsia' hangs 
together well is when the doctor and his cronies organise informal football 
matches during the summer and adjourn to the bisztro afterwards: yet 
even on the football field the intellectuals sometimes appear as a 'foreign 
body' in the village. They commonly play challenge matches against a 
similar scratch team from Soltvadkert but are not always so keen to com- 
pete against other teams formed within Tazlar. 

There is thus a general problem in integrating the new intelligentsia, 
and part of the problem has been caused by the szakszovetkezet and by 
the relatively small number of white-collar workers resident in the com- 
munity. Of the 43 households containing such workers in 1977, 32 con- 
tained only one white-collar worker and many of these maintained some 
commodity production in agriculture. So did several of the 11 households 
which contained two white-collar workers. The locally resident intel- 
Ugentsia is therefore still in close contact with the land. Although those 
who come from outside may be uneasily accepted, and although white- 
collar work does have a higher status in the eyes of some younger persons, 
the intelligentsia is not therefore a distinct group or class in the com- 
munity.^ On the contrary, the growing number of 'mixed' marriages, 
where one partner is a skilled manual worker and the other a teacher or 
administrator, should be accounted a healthy development in the break- 
down of the hegemony of occupations associated with small-farming. 

A comparable problem of integration is posed by elements in the 
modern community which in the terminology of Kunszabo (1970, p. 1302) 
can be classified 'distressed'. Not much more than half of the total number 
of households could be classified as regular small-commodity producers 
between 1975 and 1977. Even after we have added the small number of 
all-white-collar households, those pensioner households to which, in 
addition to State benefits, family and neighbours extend regular assistance, 
and the small numbers of homogeneous worker households, there remains 
a substantial proportion who live at or very near the poverty line in certain 
seasons, and where even basic subsistence needs are frequently not met. 

Many of the households in this group consist of old persons unable to 
take care of themselves adequately and sometimes, following migration, 
without family in the community. There are also a number of cases of 
subnormality, where able-bodied individuals live alone in the most squalid 


The szakszovetkezet community - society 

tanya conditions. In the winter, when there is no napszdm work available, 
they lead a beggar-like existence and obtain occasional food and warmth 
at the houses of their kin. The tanya of Jozsef Szdke is pictured in Plate 
12: the outer door was removed and burnt as firewood in 1977. He walks 
barefoot throughout the year. The napszdm population is of course re- 
cruited not only from amongst the subnormal. AlcohoUsm is also very 
common in outlying tanya areas. Addiction usually renders a man (and, 
less frequently, a woman) incapable of paying regular attention to his own 
farm, condemns him to seasonal labour on the farms of his neighbours 
and often to winters of frozen misery. 

The major role in public assistance is performed by the council through 
one clerical employee at the council offices. Apart from the small numbers 
who obtain regular assistance, mainly aged widows, fourteen persons 
benefited from a special hardship allowance in 1977, awarded specifically 
to alleviate winter fuel shortage. Various other benefits and allowances 
may be awarded if eligibility can be proven. About a dozen persons received 
a special allowance for the blind. Aid may be given to ease the expenses 
of a funeral. Special assistance is avaOable for the mothers of large families, 
but this has not been claimed in recent years in Tazlar. There were, how- 
ever, in 1978 an estimated 21 children (under the age of 18) living in 
conditions classified as prejudicial to their well-being, either because of 
the quality of the housing or, in the majority of cases, 'because of the 
parents' alcohoUsm and improper conduct'. A further 14 Tazlar children 
had been removed from their families and placed in State care, normally 
with foster-parents in other communities. Such action is taken only as a 
last resort after parents have received several warnings. It is not council 
policy to offer regular aid to such famihes, because there is no guaranteeing 
the purposes to which the money would be put. Instead children are likely 
to have winter clothing bought for them directly. 

The council administrators have done their best to deal with the causes 
of the problems, but there is little they can do apart from keeping house- 
holds where women and children are in danger under some surveillance. 
They rely for information upon the goodwill, or possibly the malice, of 
neighbours. They can recommend the prolonged treatment of chronic 
alcoholism in detoxification centres, but very few persons have received 
such treatment and the administrators say that the 'cure' never survives 
the return to the community. 

The administrators also have the power to recommend the admission 
of certain old persons to special homes, and of the subnormal to various 
institutions. The lack of places is a constraint upon the numbers accepted, 
and in any case even those utterly incapable of looking after themselves 
generally prefer to continue in Tazlar with a little help from the council 
rather than enter a home. 

Not surprisingly, because of the age structure of the population and the 
migration of the young, it is the care of old persons which poses the 
greatest problems for public welfare administrators in Tazlar today. It 


Differentiation and stratification 

12. The tanya of Jozsef Szoke, in the fourth zone 


The szakszovetkezet community - society 

was estimated that 28 individuals over the age of 60 needed public assistance 
in 1978. Nineteen of them lived on tanyas. The total number of persons 
over the age of 60 was 550 (out of a total community population not 
far in excess of 2,000). More than 300 of them live on tanyas, where the 
men slightly outnumber the women, while in the village there are 141 
females to only 98 males. The administrators made a special investigation 
into their conditions in 1978 but took no specific action apart from 
criticising negligence within certain families. The names of those suffering 
the greatest hardship, in a typically fatuous gesture, were passed to the 
local branch of the Red Cross: fatuous, because this organisation has a 
formal existence only. In the past, though it cannot be said with certainty 
that families accepted much responsibility for their neighbours, all strata 
did offer greater security to old persons than they do today. Landholdings 
were commonly transferred only at the death of the household head. Today 
old persons are often forced to fend for themselves long after the age where 
their own parents would have abandoned manual work, and individuals 
in late middle-age expand their farmwork instead of contracting it, in order 
to guarantee with cash the security that the modern family and State com- 
bined do not provide. 

The earlier cooperatives had a genuine "welfare' role and even the szak- 
szovetkezets in the 1960s made a range of special payments to members 
unable to sustain themselves, and organised communal parties and even 
summer picnics by the lakes. The new szakszovetkezet is too large and, 
committees notwithstanding, has played no active welfare role : for old 
persons in 1977 it sponsored one sparsely attended tea-party at the culture 
house, costing rather less than the leaders' entertainments allowances. It 
is difficult to blame the council administrators, who do their job conscien- 
tiously. Special praise should be given to certain members of the school 
staff, who liaise with the council in monitoring the conditions of certain 
children, and in general make brave attempts to compensate for adverse 
conditions in the home that no public agency has come forward to improve. 

There is one 'marginal' group which even the teachers have failed to 
help, the only group to be denied support by the council administrators 
after specially applying for it in 1977. These are the three gypsy house- 
holds in the main village. In fact there are two families and both of them 
are recent arrivals to Tazlar. The exact size of the households is difficult 
to estimate because in one there are a great many children and, at certain 
times of the year, a fairly constant stream of relatives and in-laws from 
outside. The two families are not treated in exactly the same way, for one, 
it is admitted, works much more steadily than the other, 'almost as if they 
were Hungarians'. In the other, the house and personal appearance and 
hygiene are neglected, the younger members work irregularly as casual 
labourers, and there is occasional involvement outside the community in 
traditional low-status gypsy activities, including horse-dealing. Hungarians 
constantly assert that this family steals, and that gypsies in general steal. 
Many refuse to employ them as napszdmos (day-labourers) no matter how 


Differentiation and stratification 

severe the labour shortage. In the school, talents that would be carefully 
nurtured in a Hungarian child are wasted. Teachers claim that they can do 
nothing because of the home background, but, perhaps understandably, 
they do not always take the proper action when gypsy children fail to 
report for school. At the council offices, assistance has been extended on 
occasion in the past but was refused in 1977 on the grounds that the family 
concerned had some land in its name (and actually fattened one pig that 
year). They were told to work their land decently for a living, and lost a 
further appeal against the administrators' decision. 

In the past there were other small groups which stood out conspicuously 
in this predominantly Hungarian community. Cortunents of a racialist 
kind could be (and occasionally still are) directed against small clusters of 
settlers oiSvab German descent (they are said to be more Shot (Scottish, 
or miserly) than other nationalities). The council chairman today is oc- 
casionally mocked for his large Slovak nose. Religious affiliation was also 
in the past a cause for some social ostracism, in the case of a few small 
sects and possibly the Baptists. However, no other group is so irrevocably 
isolated as are the gypsies. The prejudice is deep inside many Hungarians 
in the national context, despite consistent policies of the government to 
improve the status and living conditions of gypsies. Tazlar itself has no 
major problem, with only two families, who serve to bring in a little more 
casual labour for beleaguered maximisers unable to recruit elsewhere. But 
it is the very failure of the gypsies nationally to benefit from what are seen 
as generous pohcies favouring them at the expense of Hungarians (e.g. in 
public housing in towns such as Kiskunhalas) that confirms their 'otherness' 
in the eyes of the people of Tazlar. In contrast to the Hungarians of the 
szakszovetkezet community they appear to reject every new possibility 
the State proposes for their self-improvement. It is said that they are not 
prepared to work, because one of the two families does not work but makes 
a living in the same way as do numerous Hungarian families. Although the 
gypsies of Tazlar all live in the centre of the community, like the gypsies 
of Atany they are regarded as 'being created different' (Fdl and Hofer, 
1969, p. 227). The death of a young gypsy boy under a bus near the SoU- 
vadkert boundary was not received with anything like the depth of concern 
which would have been the response had the victim been Hungarian. 

There is relatively little overt expression of status ranking and differen- 
tiation in face-to-face encounters in everyday Hfe, but in the case of the 
gypsies this rule is easily broken. Their lower status is commonly ex- 
pressed by a refusal to use the polite, third-person form of address in 
conversation with them or m the customary exchange of greetings in the 
street. The Hungarian language and kinship terminology is in fact a rich 
field in which to look for signs of differentiation and stratification. Though 
the comparison is not one that space permits to be pursued here, there 
would appear to be significant differences between TazWr and the Hungarian- 
speaking community in Rumania examined by Vincze (1978). In Vincze's 
case solidarity is argued to be strong and the asymmetrical exchanges in 


The szakszovetkezet community - society 

kinship relationships function to inject ' . . . a measure of hierarchical 
order into a society with minimal social differentiation' (1978, p. 1 14). 
In Tazlar there is little need for the injection of further hierarchical 
elements. Relative age is a most important factor in status differentiation 
here also, but the diffuse concept of tisztelet (respect) is more closely 
associated with the wealth a family controls, or controlled in the previous 
generation. Exaggerated attention is paid to address usage. The drinking 
of a special toast, the pertu, marks the transfer of two men to the personal 
mode of address, but even after such a toast the younger man must speak 
carefully and follow the friendly 'Szervusz' (French 'salut!') with the name 
of the older individual and some general kin term (bdtydm : my elder 
brother). Children are taught to greet all adults they pass in the street, 
usually with the polite 'csokolom' ('I kiss you'). Men usually use this 
address to women whom they are acquainted with; a more flowery 
'kezicsokolom' ('I kiss your hand') is used in formal situations in offices, 
while strangers in the street commonly receive a cursory 'good-day!' 

In fact nowadays there are relatively few well-known and well-respected 
citizens (koztiszteletben allok) who can count on being greeted by most 
people they recognise in the village, and it is at least equally common to 
walk with one's head down while passing others in the street. In trans- 
actions with strangers it is virtually obligatory to use the third-person, 
but it is also common to enter any transaction with reserve, to utter the 
customary phrases in a most perfunctory manner and only after the 'fare- 
well' turn aside to a family member and express what one really feels 
about the personaUty and the status of the other individual. In such 
contexts a well-specified address system does, as in Vincze's Rumanian 
community, minimise the conflict which can arise out of social differences. 
It is possible to go along with his conclusion, that address usage '. . . may 
be regarded as a cultural device which counterbalances the divisive conse- 
quences of atomisation' (1978, p. 115), but with the proviso that 'atomis- 
ation' and differentiation are more pronounced in Tazldr than in his 
community of Gyarak. 

There are certain uses of language and forms of address which are not 
used outside the farming population (such as the common farewell: 'God 
bless you!'), and other forms which have been recently introduced and are 
confined to an official sphere. As Fdl and Hofer (1969) stress, the peasants 
of Atany conceived themselves as a very distinct group. Officials, teachers 
and pastors could never properly become part of that community. The 
same is true in Tazlar today. The old term of address which expressed 
the higher status of the teacher or official was ur (gentleman) commonly 
added after the stating of the profession, e.g. a tanar ur (the respected 
teacher). The term is still used occasionally today, especially by older 
persons, in referring to teachers, priests, or even the director of the factory. 
It is used most widely in addressing the doctor, which is an accurate indi- 
cation of the greater freedom this professional retains within the new 
intelligentsia (for example he is perhaps the only individual amongst 


Differentiation and stratification 

them who can send his children to church with impunity). It is, however, 
quite inappropriate to refer to a chairman, be it of the council or the 
szakszovetkezet, as a 'gentleman'. The correct term here and in all modern 
bureaucratic etiquette, and in the Party, is Elvtdrs (comrade). The szak- 
szovetkezet chairman under criticism at an open meeting in 1977 (see 
p. 132) was addressed as an iir instead of as an Elvtdrs by a peasant speaker 
from the floor, with calculated cynicism designed to convey disaffection 
with his policies.^ As in Gyarak it is also an insulting sarcasm to use such a 
title to a fellow-farmer (Vincze, 1978, p. II 1). A peasant told also of the 
insult he experienced when once the council chairman called to him from 
the council offices while he was walking in the street, in the third-person 
but shouting his surname only — an impoliteness which would never be 
committed within the farming population. 

The analysis turns again and again upon the standards and behaviour of 
'the farming population'. Although the number of full-time farms is in 
decline, and although the great vigour of small-farming in the conditions 
of the szakszovetkezet has led to wide income disparities in both full- 
time and worker-peasant enterprises, there is still a fundamental unity in 
the community's social structure, from which only the intelligentsia and 
certain small numbers of 'deviant' households are excluded. This is not 
to be confused with 'communal solidarity', yet as in the more integrated 
community of Atany it is not thought to be anti-social if a household 
keeps very much to itself, in its religious convictions, its economic activity 
and its social profile (Fel and Hofer, 1969, p. 305). The goals are decentralised 
and the society is 'atomistic'. Excluded from the unity of the community 
are those elements which challenge these traditional values: on the one 
hand, the sociaUst intelligentsia with its mission, on the other, the 'deviants' 
and the marginals who create a real need for effective intervention from 
outside, in the absence of internal community solutions. 

There is little hope of an improvement here in the near future. What 
is possible, depending upon the future of the szakszovetkezet and the 
government's policies towards small-farming, is that a class of rich farmers 
will emerge from amongst the maximising elements analysed in Chapter 4. 
The most hopeful sign preventing this is the attitude of the young, and It is 
an appropriate point on which to end a discussion of stratification. Older 
families still take great pride in family names and genetic parentage: it is 
of great importance to know that X is not really a member of prosperous 
family Y but only an adopted member, the son of one of Y's farm-servants. 
For young people these values do not count. They are equally indifferent 
to rank in socialist officialdom. They respect individuals on the basis of 
individual traits and achievements: performance on the football field, 
dancing in the culture house, driving abihty, generosity in the bisztro, 
etc. For many of their parents their style of dress and objection to authority 
in the home are signs of unruly 'hooliganism', a rejection of all values. A 
more optimistic interpretation would see in the egahtarian but individualist 
spirit of youth continuity with the openness and atomisation of the past 


The szakszovetkezet community - society 

and the means not only to overcome the stratification system of the past 
but to avert the tyranny of any new hierarchy. 

ni Values and norms 

The preceding sections have impHed a good deal about the values and 
norms accepted and observed in the community today. This final section 
will concentrate on what has survived from the past, on what is most 
characteristic of the present situation and on the association of many of 
these factors with the szakszovetkezet. The 'unity' of the community as 
described at the end of the last section is the justification for proceeding 
as if the values and norms outlined were recognised and observed by all 
sections of the population. At the end of this section one should have a 
better understanding of the nature of this 'unity' 

Fundamental values have been retained from the pre-socialist period. 
The attack upon property -based status ranking, the transformation of 
community government, and the conflict with the Church (e.g. over 
the secularisation of the school) could not prevent individuals from 
clinging to the old order. In many cases personal religious convictions 
were strengthened as the Church lost its former institutional importance. 
We have noted that it was following the years of intense political pressure 
that local energies in both major denominations were harnessed in the 
building of new places of worship. Since then religion has retained over- 
riding importance in many older households, where the only books in the 
house and all the pictures on the walls are religious in nature. Catholic 
women organise regular trips to traditional national shrines and in 1977 
there was pious support amongst the women for a diocesan pilgrimage to 
the Holy City, the first time that many of the participants had travelled 
outside Hungary. 

Organised party politics was never well -developed in Tazlar. In the years 
following the war there was general support for the popuhst peasant 
parties and amongst a few intellectuals for the social-democrats.'' The 
gendarmerie was identified with right-wing groups and opinion in the pre- 
war period. For a majority of farmers over 50 the pohtical grievance they 
have born all their adult Uves has been the 'mutilation' of their country 
by the territorial provisions of the Treaty of Trianon in 1920. The move- 
ment for a 'great Hungary' was one of the antidotes to the depression 
years. Although realistic hopes of enlarging the territory of the country 
are no longer entertained, there is still concern, especially amongst the 
post-First-World-War immigrants from Transylvania, about the treatment 
of the Hungarian minority there by the current regime in Bucharest. Some 
people of Tazlar also keep up ties with relations in Slovakia and in Yugo- 
slavia. In the latter case there is frequently some envy of contemporary 
conditions e.g. greater religious tolerance and the availability of consumer 
goods. People of Tazldr with their own cars frequently go for one-day 
shopping trips across the border, taking with them whatever latest gossip 


Values and norms 

holds to be in demand from Hungary. The image of everyday hfe in the 
Soviet Union (which very few Tazlar families have visited, except in the 
course of the war) is biased in the opposite direction from the idealised 
image of Yugoslavia and the West. 'Talking politics' is not a common 
pastime of any group in Tazlar, but anti-Soviet jokes are the stock-in-trade 
of humorists. The undisciplined behaviour of elements of the Red Army 
in 1944 after the Liberation of the territory is still recalled with horror 
by some persons. A few individuals were convicted on trumped-up charges 
of defying soldiers and held in the Soviet Union until the 1950s. 

Patriotic values are powerfully held by all age-groups, though expressed 
in different ways. Older men justify the compulsory military service in 
patriotic language. For the young the call-up is something which is awaited 
with the utmost apprehension. But for them too the national flag, the 
anthem of the Hungarian nation, the poems of the hero of the 1848 
Revolution, Sandor Petdfi, are all most powerful, evocative symbols. 
Perhaps because of her long history of domination by foreign powers 
and her linguistic and cultural isolation in the Carpathian Basin, there 
is a great concern in Hungary with the image projected abroad. In scientific 
achievement just as in sport the successes of Hungarians and of foreigners 
of Hungarian descent occasion deep pride. There was universal joy when 
Hungary's football team defeated the Soviet Union to qualify for the 
1978 World Cup Finals in Argentina, but dismay and almost shame at the 
performance of her team in the final stages of the competition.^ 

Other powerful values are those which anthropologists have found 
characteristic of peasant communities in many parts of the world. Some 
of these remain strong in seemingly incongruous situations. For example, 
consistency is greatly respected in an individual, especially if strength of 
principle conflicts with material interest. Most people would admit that 
a nagy kommunista (raving communist) and sincere atheist could be a 
good and honourable man by his own standards, though they might 
recognise few such honourable men in the Tazlar cell. Similarly, respect 
can be earned by the mere fact of the stability and duration of an insti- 
tution or a relationship over time. This applies to many common-law 
marriages, especially in cases where old people come together for com- 
panionship or where considerations relating to State welfare benefits 
mitigate against legislation of the marriage. The same factor underlies a 
widespread resignation of the farming population to socialism itself - for 
over two decades now it has not assailed them directly and in recent years 
it has brought them a prosperity they never previously knew. 

The council chairman merits respect for the duration of time through 
which he has fulfilled his duties. His status falls, however, on another 
score: the traditional expectation of higher intellectual quaUties as well 
as certain professional qualifications in the white-collar leaders. The 
former 'middle peasants' led the way even in the pre-war period in seeking 
for their children the best educational facilities they could afford. Nowadays 
it is a great deal easier for all families to keep their children in some form 


The szakszovetkezet community — society 

of further education after the elementary school. Yet the status differences 
between traditional gimndziums (grammar schools) and newer technical 
schools for training skilled workers are still considerable. A higher degree 
from a teachers' training college, various forms of polytechnics or in a 
very few cases, universities, still carries very great prestige. It was shown in 
Chapter 5 that educational qualifications above elementary level are now 
essential for szakszovetkezet leaders. In the case of the council chairman 
there should be similar high standards, but it is widely alleged that the 
present chairman was appointed at a time when political rectitude was 
considered much more important and that he failed even to complete 
the full eight grades of the elementary school. 

Those with any ambitions in the local public employment sector can 
improve their qualifications through occasional adult classes in the village 
and also, through the Party, by application for part-time courses right up 
to degree level. This is the so-called 'Marxist University'. It is not especially 
difficult to gain acceptance at lower levels. Many of the courses taught are 
highly theoretical and ideological in character, and much of the study can 
be done in lieu of normal office working-time. It is also possible to study 
for other higher specialist qualifications on a part-time basis, and at the 
council offices new young clerical recruits are encouraged to attend the 
gimndzium at Kiskdros part-time. While those who succeed in this way in 
completing the gimndzium in the standard four years are deservedly ad- 
mired for their apphcation, there is considerably less respect for the 
exphcitly political courses and qualifications. Some of those who attend 
them, or who intend to keep applying each year until they are at last 
admitted, are frankly cynical, but welcome the break from routine office 
work and the possible advantage the qualifications might bring in their 

If the modem intelligentsia does not receive the same deference as that 
generally awarded the community officials in the past, and is indeed 
prevented by its own precepts from taking active steps to recreate such 
deference, nevertheless in all dealing with the administration, at the szak- 
szovetkezet as well as at the council offices, a traditional code of behaviour 
has survived. The overt payment of bribes has probably increased in 
recent years as a result of relatively low official salaries. The scale varies 
from simple gifts of chocolates to junior clerks for performing routine 
tasks with exceptional speed, to large payments to a policeman for his 
acquiescence in a spirit-distribution network, or to a council chairman 
when the council purchases a private house at an inflated price. It is assumed 
that the officials have their prices, and the blank refusal of Font when he 
was szakszovetkezet chairman even to listen to such offers astonished 
and angered some small-farmers. This is part of a complex mentahty which 
extends well beyond the sphere of the administration. When an individual 
is convinced of the importance of a goal to him, he mentally allocates a 
certain sum for the purpose. Even if the matter could be easily handled 
through the normal channels, he will seek to ensure their efficacy by 


Values and norms 

'greasing palms'. If the concern is over a health matter the sum will be 
effectively offered up to the doctor, in the belief that seeing him outside 
regular surgery hours for a fee will guarantee higher-quality medical 
advice. If the concern is for a relative's soul the Catholic Church too has 
limitless ways and means of absorbing the restless cash. On All Souls' 
Day in the cemetery the priest and cantor move from tomb to tomb singing 
a special hymn until the bidders desist and everybody can go home and add 
up the accounts.* 

For those with sincere socialist convictions there are other domains 
where the policies of the government and of the government's representatives 
in the locality must have caused much soul-searching in recent decades. 
This is most acutely so where government policies (acting, for example, 
through price incentives) have undermined traditional moral controls and 
protective devices, inadequate as these generally were in the tanya com- 
munity. The effective acquiescence of the government in the illegal pro- 
duction of spirit, and of local officials in its unrestrained distribution on 
the market, is the extreme case of a carte blanche from the government 
to produce for private profit without regard to wider social consequences. 
In such a case it is the government which has acknowledged the 'atomised' , 
'individualist' values of the community in a context where the community 
itself finds such values inadequate (see the discussion on the alcohol 
market in Chapter 4). 

There is general recognition of the impulses which the government has 
sought to activate. They are 'materiaUst' in character, they are bound up 
with a desire for higher standards of living and material comfort. They are 
not always realised, because of the tenacity of old habits and the life- 
styles of the past. For some families Uttle changes as wealth accrues. Some 
have built large new houses which are seldom entered, the entire family 
continuing to reside in an old dwelling adjacent, or in a 'summer kitchen'. 
In other cases, amongst younger households, and in the families of former 
prosperous peasants, the new house is genuinely to be Hved in, and there is 
less preoccupation with the perfection of the exterior after building. 
There is no way of knowing the size of a family's savings at the bank, 
but interest rates are not much incentive to investment. Astute individuals 
put down deposits for new cars with great regularity and make large 
profits from their re-sale. Competition in material goods is most con- 
spicuous and least susceptible to rebuke in the cemeteries, where large 
and ornate tombs and headstones have become fashionable in recent years. 

Only a few worker-peasant and all-worker households have avoided the 
excesses of this 'materiahsm'. Instead of devoting all their efforts to the 
construction of expensive houses and to the purchase of motor vehicles 
they are prepared to spend larger sums on entertainment within and oc- 
casionally outside the community, and even to take proper hoUdays. In 
many older households there is a comparable distaste for the new norms 
and for all materialist status competition. This distaste is associated with 
a puritanical, almost ascetic impulse and the denigration of all contemporary 


The szakszovetkezet community — society 

values. It is commonly echoed by the local clergy. Such individuals ex- 
trapolate from the jolet (prosperity) of Tazlar to the nation at large, which, 
as some of them are well aware, possesses large foreign debts. Nation and 
people are said to be living off borrowed assets and one day, it is held, 
the day of reckoning will come. Some of these characters, unfortunately, 
not only conform to the norms and work harder than many of those they 
criticise, they fail to extract the smallest tangible benefit from their 
labours and, instead of using the savings bank, store large wads of bank- 
notes under beds and in lofts. The greatest public display of 'materialist 
excess' is at the lakodalom, but here too a certain sourness has appeared 
in recent years. It is now more common to refuse an invitation than 
was ever the case in the past. The musicians at the lakodalom come by a 
part of their payment in a curious, symbohc way, being required to scratch 
up money from the earth where it has been buried by the host while the 
entire assembled company stand around and chant 'Dig it out!' 

Behind the accumulation of material goods there lies a value system 
based on the respect for and the integrity of human labour, primarily of 
manual labour. First impressions of the melon-growers after their arrival 
in the community were highly unfavourable: these people did not even 
occupy proper houses. When it was seen that, in addition to being masters 
of their speciality and astute hirers of labour, they were also, each and 
every one of them, hard workers individually on their fields, opinions 
changed quickly. The virtues most commonly praised are those of hard 
work. Those held in least esteem are the igenytelenek (those without 
wants), while the man who is szorgalmas (diligent) exceeds the man with 
esz (a fine brain) in public estimation (cf. Javor, 1978, p. 365). The 
continued unity of the enterprise and the family home makes it easy to 
judge individuals on the quaUty of their labour in the szakszovetkezet 
community. The criterion can, however, be applied outside the farming 
population: it is not much use having a doctor who is brilliant but erratic 
and prone to negligence (hanyagsdg). 

In recent years the estimation of industry and manual work has remained 
high, but it has been tempered by new elements. It is considered foolish 
to invest large quantities of labour in some tasks which szakszovetkezet 
machinery could perform more efficiently: better to free the labour for 
deployment elsewhere on the farm than obey the instinct to oppose all 
outlays of cash in the production process. There remains suspicion of 
those who attain very high levels of production through purchasing large 
quantities of supplies at the szakszovetkezet and without personal graft 
on the land. There is now an ambivalence towards the Ugyesseg (ingenuity) 
of those producers, especially in the alcohol market, who live comfortably 
without appearing to exert themselves. In small sections of the well-to- 
do there is a lingering willingness to defend the man who is able to 
dolgoztatni (have others work for him) as opposed to dolgozni (to work — 
but implying here manual work on the land). Outside these ranks it is 
the quahty of performance of the traditional tasks on the land that is the 


Values and norms 

primary basis for status and reputations for all those active in small- 

The place of such values at the centre of the value system of the szak- 
szovetkezet community, given the atypical character of this community 
in the national context, leads to specific views about various factors which 
appear nowadays to be undermining the integrity of 'honest work on 
the land' and to distorted opinions of 'socialism' and 'capitalism' as 
economic systems. There is widespread respect for a system (capitahsm) 
in which it is felt individual farmers have more scope for self-improvement 
and therefore must work harder than farmers lacking the security of private 
property and the explicit approval of society for efforts to expand 
their enterprise. There is a widespread belief that individuals work harder 
in the West than is general in the socialised sector in Hungary. At the 
same time, they are equally firmly convinced of the special 'enclave' 
status of the szakszdvetkezet within Hungary. They have a kis kapitalizmus 
(httle capitalism) as the local structure, which is why so many individuals 
work as hard as they do. But in the absence of guarantees which could 
only be given in the national context, theirs is a hand-to-mouth capitalism. 
There will be no substantial investment in the farm's capital because ever 
since the foundation of the szakszdvetkezet the future of the family-farm 
has been in jeopardy. Hence, over this entire period and in spite of the 
ever greater incentives from the government to the small-farm sector as 
a whole, there has been primarily intensified exploitation of the labour 
factor, and hence the continued dominant role of labour as the basis of 
the value system. 

It is doubtful whether this respect for individual work should be identified 
with an absolute commitment to 'private', 'individuahst' values, with an 
'atomised' ideal of how society should be organised. We have seen that this 
is not the case with regard to spirit production and distribution. More 
significantly, the general readiness of szakszdvetkezet farmers to seek work 
in the 'public' sector of the labour market when not obliged to do so shows 
that there is no sentimental loyalty to the patrimony on these sandy soils 
(though it can still be maintained that given greater security on the land 
they would not have been so quickly attracted by the guaranteed pay- 
packets of industry and the socialised sector in general). Some credit must 
be given here to the success of a generation of the dissemination of socialist 
norms and the expectations that people hold for the future of socialist 
society. The people of Tazlir articulate praise most readily for material 
prosperity, for visibly higher standards of living and of public utilities in 
the main village. The circulation of newspapers shows that in addition to 
about 40 copies of the major Party daily which are distributed almost 
entirely in the village there are also 146 subscribers to the county daily 
which is pubUshed at Kecskemet, and about once or twice each year 
contains an article which reviews some event or the general socialist 
progress of Tazlar. A still larger number subscribe only to the agricultural 
weekly newspaper Szabad Fold (Free Land). The circulation of other 


The szakszovetkezet community - society 

national papers with greater news coverage and of cultural and scientific 
magazines, etc. is minimal. However, with radio and television in Hungary 
both devoting high proportions of peak viewing and listening time to news 
analysis and political programmes there are many channels for the constant 
exposition of socialist goals and for the inculcation of socialist values (cf. 
Volgyes, 1975, pp. 107-15). 

It is therefore paradoxical but unexceptional in the community today to 
hear the government's current policies and general programme called 
into question from the standpoint of socialist ideals themselves. If the 
government itself has abandoned doctrinal purity, can individuals them- 
selves be blamed for selfishness, for greed, for responding to an economic 
juncture in exactly the way in which the government wishes them to 
respond? The limitations on individual economic initiative, e.g. through 
the continued squeeze on land, are obviously contradictory. They are 
still attacked from a moral conviction of the righteousness of private 
ownership, but, 20 years after this moral issue was settled in the nation 
as a whole, the people of Tazlar are often content merely to point out 
the manifest inconsistency with the goals of increasing small-farm sector 

There are elements which still attach the highest value to the continued 
possession of family landholdings. Of greater importance in fact is the 
opportunity to work freely and independently without supervision. These 
are 'private sector' values which conflict with the proclaimed values of the 
government, but they by no means entail the 'exclusion' of moral judge- 
ments from the sphere of economic activity. There is a distinction between 
an activity that it is 'private' (maszek: the word which is formed from 
magan (private) and szektor (sector)), and one which is expUcitly con- 
demned by public and private sectors alike as zug (black market). It is 
true that the labelling of a privately-owned boar used for insemination by 
maszek farmers in preference to the breeds of the szakszovetkezet as a 
zugkan (black market boar) might not be accepted as a correct use of 
zughy the farming population. Similarly a zugkocsma is, in the eyes of 
the State, any private retail outlet for illicit spirit, but local opinion 
would distinguish between the small-scale provision of a neighbourhood 
service and large-scale commercial distribution. The derogatory conno- 
tations of the word 'maszek' refer to contravention of an abstract socialist 
standard which no one nowadays relates to the real world: those of the 
word 'zug' imply the legal infringement of a specific rule, the desirability 
of which few in the private sector would wish to challenge. The necessity 
for a wide range of maszek activity in the interstices of the socialised 
sector of the economy has long been admitted (cf. J. Kovacs, 1978), 
but it is only in exceptional spheres in recent years that great efforts have 
been made to stimulate such activity and that explicitly zug activity has 
been more or less openly condoned. 

The major value which underlies the unity of the szakszovetkezet 
community is the value oi maszek independence, yet there is resentment 


Values and norms 

against the way in which this value has been exploited and cheapened in 
recent decades. The unity is something to which the population is inhibited 
from owning up both collectively and privately, and as a result the homo- 
geneity of the norms and values of the szakszovetkezet community becomes 
deeply paradoxical. As in other communities the greatest stress has fallen 
upon family values and the approximation to urban life-styles through the 
exaggerated imitation of material elements. This has come to mean, in 
Tazlar, a norm virtually to dispense with norms; those families which 
diverge from the statistical pattern (e.g. the few families who value their 
leisure time as do city families and make heavy purchases at the shop) are 
subject to no social rebuke or sanction. There is no 'control' of any kind. 
In general 'unity' may have been better preserved in Tazlar because there 
was no nuclear centre before the Second World War and because there 
was no large group of landless whose behaviour could be contrasted with 
that of the former smallholders in the socialist period. Although there is 
general perception of polarity, it is based on purely personal factors 
since there is httle basis for the formation of differentiated groups (cf. 
Javor, 1978, p. 368). There has been, if anything, an increased passive 
homogeneity of values and norms in recent decades, and as in the case of 
the village studied by Javor, the 'levelling' has been downwards. The richer 
farmers of the past may have been expected to follow stricter moral 
standards, but the same is not expected from Party members today. An 
offence is mitigated, or even entirely legitimised, when large numbers 
are party to it, but the problem of the szakszovetkezet community is 
that where there is no collective labour there is no concrete knowledge 
of the deceit being practised by one's neighbour. Unity here lies in this 
absence of any collective, community-wide framework.' 

This unity cannot be described as 'peasant' because this word (in 
Hungarian paraszt) as in other languages, has a strong pejorative flavour 
today, certainly when applied to anyone below the age of 30 who has no 
full-time occupation and no specialisation (cf. Gyenes, 1973, p. 48). 
Within the older generation there is still immense respect for traditional 
peasant virtues. The new szakszovetkezet chairman, Pe'nzes, Hke other 
leaders in the sociaUst sector today, was proud to boast of his 'paraszt' 
origins at his first open meeting. Nor is the term maszek ever likely to 
become a rallying cry, for its derogatory force is perceived by many of 
those to whom it is sweepingly applied. They admit jocularly that the 
szakszovetkezet community is a maszek vilag (private world) within 
contemporary Hungary, but when describing themselves they prefer the 
traditional /oWmwvex (cultivator) or the more impressive sounding magdn 
gazdalkodo (private farmer). Similarly, artisans describe themselves as 
private craftsmen or by the specific name of the craft. Despite the eager- 
ness for security and guaranteed incomes, even in the worker-peasant house- 
holds the freedom to work on the side is greatly prized, and the extent 
and the skill with which 'free time' is exploited is often the basis for 
social ranking in this group just as the quality of labour on the land or 


The szakszovetkezet community - society 

in craft specialisation remains the primary basis of social ranking in the 
fully private sector. 

The conflict today is with an ideal sociaUst theory and not with socialist 
practice, although there are instances when it is felt that current practice 
diverges excessively from proclaimed standards, as in the alcohol market. 
When steps are taken or even mooted to bring the theory and the practice 
of the szakszovetkezet community into greater aligimient, there is danger. 
Collectivisation is more than just a powerful symbol since, as Chapter 4 
demonstrated, larger landholdings make an important contribution to 
small-farm production in Tazlar. It also became apparent in that chapter 
how limited the extent of 'integration' really was, in that in addition to 
technical integration through the szakszovetkezet, traditional features of 
peasant economy and features such as labour-hiring to which the govern- 
ment is explicitly opposed, have maintained their importance. At the same 
time, there is great difficulty for the population of the former tanya com- 
munity in coming to terms with the extent of their present integration. 
They like to feel still that they are independent producers with respect 
to the szakszovetkezet and are isolated exceptions in the national context. 
There is some truth behind these sentiments, but their wOlingness to produce 
today may still be dependent in part on a certain false consciousness in 
failing to recognise a large measure of sociaUst control over their production 
process and the socialist definition of the framework of all their economic 
activity. Perhaps this 'false consciousness' could now survive even the 
final stage of collectivisation to establish formal conformity with the 
national pattern, while all the inconsistency with the abstract socialist 
principles would remain.^ As long as large numbers of Tazlar farmers 
are not obliged to seek their livelihood in the public sector they will 
retain their illusion of independence: they do not consider themselves 
substantially integrated today and for the pragmatic reasons we have 
discussed it is unlikely that the government is prepared to pay the price 
of changing this consciousness overnight. 




'Now you must explain to me what sort of thing your village community 
is,' Bazarov would interrupt [the peasant] . 'Is it the same world which we 
are told sits on three fishes?' 

'It's the earth, master, that is stood on three fishes,' the peasant would 
explain soothingly in a good-natured, patriarchal sing-song, 'An' over an' 
above our world, our village community, I mean, we all know there's 
the master's will; on account of you bein' like our fathers. An' the more 
strict the master rules, the better it be for us peasants.' 

Turgenev, Fathers and Sons, Penguin ed. (1965), p. 217. 

The conclusion does not set out to summarise the material and the analysis 
of previous chapters. Rather, it attempts to relate them to other theoretical 
and empirical approaches to peasant communities and peasant societies, 
beginning at an abstract level with Marx and looking briefly at the results 
of studies of other European peasantries before returning to Hungary. 

The quotation above is not intended to imply that patriarchal relations 
were ever of great importance in Tazlar outside the family, nor that the 
problematic of Tazlar's status as a 'village community' has been resolved. 
Nor is the mutual contempt which it turns out Bazarov and the peasant 
have for each other necessarily an appropriate characterisation today of 
the relation between peasant communities and their elites. That relation, 
however, is the final problem which must not be evaded. If special features 
of 'peasant economy' have persisted, if the development of the agricultural 
sector has been distorted under socialism, in what respects, if any, is it 
correct to speak of the continued 'exploitation' of the countryside and its 

The writings of Marx on the peasantry are not central to his work but they 
do deserve attention. Some recent writers have been concerned quite cor- 
rectly to show that Marx's praise of the English yeomanry and the sympathy 
which he occasionally expressed for 'the free property of independent 
peasants' do not add up to support for a theory of a peasant mode of 
production 'in the full sense' (Ennew et al., 1977; Littlejohn, 1977). Because 
the family -labour farm is always subsumed by a larger system of social 
relations, it cannot itself be used to define an autonomous mode of pro- 
duction. However, this need not necessarily preclude the use of the term 
'mode of production' (or preferably something less confusing) as Marx 



himself certainly appears to use it on several occasions to characterise the 
special features of the organisation of peasant farms.' 

Later socialists, in their theoretical analyses if not in their empirical 
works, ignored the special characteristics of peasant farms as enterprises 
and analysed peasant economy as a problem specific to the general system 
of capitalism. The best example of such an approach, where the theory 
is in a continual tension with the observed facts about the peasantry, is 
that of Lenin in The Development of Capitalism in Russia. The neo- 
populists were the faction which continued to uphold the 'autonomy' of 
peasant economy, while not necessarily denying the penetration of capitalist 
social relations in the countryside. It is necessary to preserve a distinction 
between the 'autonomy' of peasant farm organisation and the compatibility 
of this form of enterprise with a diversity of social formations and class 
structures in order to explain the persistence of peasant economy after 
the abolition of capitalism. 

Modern analysts of peasant economy in socialist states in Europe have 
confirmed its character as a special domain that is potentially compatible 
with various social systems (cf. Tepicht, 1973, pp. 17, 45—6). However, 
there is relatively little scope for comparative empirical studies of this 
domain. Immense difficulties beset all attempts to generalise about peasants, 
even if we begin by basing the comparisons on other European peasantries, 
(cf. Dalton, 1972). Many of the phenomena described in this book appear 
in similar forms in Western Europe. Amongst these can be included the 
general decline in the size of the family, the emigration of younger members 
and their early withdrawal from the family labour force through the demands 
of the education system, the emergence of the 'mixed' households of the 
worker-peasantry and the feminisation of agricultural work which commonly 
occurs when the head of the household becomes a breadwinner in industry. 
On these points and many others it will be useful to relate the experience 
of the Tazlar inhabitants to rural trends elsewhere in Europe. Yet although 
Tazlar has been unaffected directly by the two basic transformations 
through which most socialist states have passed in the twentieth century, 
those achieved by Land Reform and by mass collectivisation, it would be 
a mistake to neglect the indirect effect of these changes working through 
the national context. 

If we return to the model of Tepicht (1973), an outline of which was 
given in Chapter 4, we find that it is intended to have general relevance 
for the sociahst states of Eastern Europe. Tepicht's analysis of sectoral 
interdependence in modern socialist agriculture leads to a reformulation 
of peasant economy as a special domain. His claim that peasant farms are 
merely 'agglomerated' and not 'transformed' by their incorporation into 
a production cooperative {kolkhoz) needs some additional explanation, 
for it would seem that the production of the individual farm is necessarily 
modified through its contraction and redirection into the 'irreducibly 
labour-intensive' branches, and integration into the cooperative. Never- 
theless, Tepicht's concept of the continued 'marginality' of peasant labour 



inputs in those branches where small-farm production is most vital establishes 
his model in direct line of descent from theories of the specificity of peasant 
economy implicit in Marx and most highly developed by Chayanov and 
the neo-popuhst school. 

The possibility of a single model having a general relevance for Eastern 
Europe is nevertheless questionable. Most of the empirical examples of 
Tepicht (1973) are drawn from Poland, where mass collectivisation was 
abandoned after setbacks in the 1950s. In Hungary, in spite of similar set- 
backs, the political decision was taken to press ahead with collectivisation 
in 1958. While the szakszovetkezet community of Tazlar has many points 
of resemblance to the general structure of PoHsh agriculture, it is now an 
isolated exception in the Hungarian context. In Hungary the socialised 
sector, and hence the government, has developed greater control over 
agricultural production as a whole, including small-farm production, than 
has been achieved in Poland. This pattern may be more typical of the 
countries which have undergone mass collectivisation. Control over the 
'small-farm sector' (substantial production from which is still required in 
all sociahst countries) is not prejudiced by reliance on 'indirect' incentives, 
i.e. on material incentives through the price mechanism. 

The issue of control is important. Critics of a 'compromise' with the 
small-farm sector have nowhere been more vociferous than in the case of 
Hungary, where its persistence has been unusually strong, as typified by 
the szakszovetkezet, and where economic decentraUsation and reUance 
on material incentives have been taken to greatest lengths. Cynics in the 
West have found in such phenomena an abandonment of socialist principle. 
Within Hungary concern was expressed at the excessive differentials which 
developed after the introduction of the economic reform in 1968 and at 
the continued scale of private-sector activity in agriculture and elsewhere 
in the economy. The evidence of this study of a szakszovetkezet community 
(which is an enclave in the national economy where 'individuaUsm' and the 
forces of the market are given greater scope than almost anywhere else) 
shows such fears to be groundless. There are some weak signs of capitahst 
tendencies, notably in one branch of production, that of wine, which has 
the greatest need of labour hiring if production is to be expanded. The 
government's concern to raise small-farm production in this branch is 
encouraging these tendencies, and the general reliance on material incentives 
has certainly widened income differentials. But there has been no substantial 
private investment in agriculture because the small-farm sector remains 
fundamentally suspicious of the government's intentions. Small-farming as 
an exclusive occupation has not become any more attractive to the young, 
and even in the szakszovetkezet community there has been a general rise 
in the proportion of mixed households and of outside commuting to 
industry. At the same time, at farm level the apphcation of capitalist con- 
cepts such as 'rate of return on labour' remains as inappropriate as in the 
past in all branches, including that of fruit and wine production. 

Equally mistaken is the criticism from the right which is still frequently 



heard within Tazlar. Collectivisation has not proved to be, in the Hungarian 
case, part of a protracted political campaign waged by the government 
against the peasantry. Inevitably the appropriation of landholdings, the 
symbol of peasant independence but not necessarily crucial to the per- 
sistence of peasant economy, gave collectivisation this colouring. In 
Tazlar now there is still a widespread fear of the eventual realisation there 
of mass collectivisation. Yet if collectivisation is judged on the basis of its 
general social and economic results the conclusions may be highly favour- 
able from the point of view of the peasantry. Tepicht is aware that the 
virtual abandonment of collectivisation in Poland makes that country 
atypical, but he is correct to stress the resources and the power now com- 
manded by the peasantry even in those countries which experienced the 
shock of collectivisation. In view of the high prices now paid for small- 
farm output he is quite correct in observing that '. . . at present Hungary 
offers a particularly instructive example of the concessions imposed upon 
the national economy by the agricultural sector, and which are reflected 
in the price levels' (1975, p. 261). 

The issues raised here are great indeed. Recently it has been suggested 
that collectivisation did not succeed in extracting a 'net economic surplus' 
from the agricultural sector for the development of other sectors during 
Soviet collectivisation, but was a politically inspired campaign against 
peasants which forced milhons into starvation and at the same time 
enfeebled agriculture's capacity to contribute to national growth (cf. 
Millar, 1970; EUman, 1975). According to Tepicht's view of more recent 
collectivisation in Eastern Europe (1975), its non-utility as an instrument 
of general surplus-extraction is confirmed, but its social and political 
effects can be seen as highly beneficial to the peasantry. It is their revol- 
ution because it has helped their capacity to bargain with the government 
over small-farm produce and in the absence of coercion to force even 
reluctant governments to raise the prices of peasant produce. The fun- 
damental point is that modern governments are not likely to be reluctant 
since they represent peasant -class interests, recruit their elites in the main 
from those of first -generation peasant descent, draw much sohd support 
from the peasantry and especially from mixed households, which are content 
to maintain well-rewarded small-commodity production in agriculture and 
are proud that one day their children will have the opportunity to succeed 
in the town. Hence the fact that in Hungary today there are some urban 
and white-collar workers with fixed incomes who feel resentment of the 
high earnings generated by worker-peasants, and both these groups may 
envy the few who, in addition to wage-labour earners, have household 
members active as full-time small-commodity producers in the framework 
of the szakszovetkezet. 

Neither Millar nor Tepicht would judge it correct in an economic sense 
to speak of the 'exploitation' of peasant economy by the national economy 
in socialist states, for the agricultural sector has not made a positive con- 
tribution to economic development as a result of any process of surplus 



extraction. In the case of Soviet collectivisation it is reasonable to argue 
that an attempt was made to develop in this way, but coercion does not 
necessarily imply exploitation (cf. Dalton, 1974). In the case of East 
European collectivisation, in retrospect the policies put into practice may 
be seen as paradoxically 'Bukharinite' and consistent with the policies 
pursued under the New Economic PoUcy in the Soviet Union and with 
remarks made by Lenin in that period about the need to 'satisfy the middle 
peasantry'.^ The general performance of agriculture, the recent steep rises 
which have been necessary to stimulate small-farm production together 
with the vast costs of the investments which have saved so much peasant 
drudgery in crop production and established an 'industrial labour sector' 
within agriculture since collectivisation make it unreasonable to speak of 
the continued exploitation of the agricultural sector in Hungary. 

The rejection of a theory of exploitation in the version in which it is 
commonly expressed by conservative opponents of collectivisation within 
the peasantry and by ideological opponents in the West does not prevent 
us from recognising and criticising the persistence of the special domain 
of peasant economy and the national economy's continued rehance on 
inputs of 'marginal' peasant labour. The szakszovetkezet community in 
Tazlar is an instructive setting for a final assessment. 

Tazlar and the loose form of cooperative known as the szakszovetkezet 
can be conceived as the realisation of Chayanov's call for the vertical 
integration of the 'elemental peasant farm' through cooperatives (Chayanov, 
1966, p. 267). This he envisaged as the basis for a new social structure 
under State capitalism and ultimately for a 'social cooperative economy' 
Vertical integration was the only alternative in the short term to capitalism 
and the further proletarianisation of the mass of the peasantry. In most 
socialist countries horizontal consolidation to form production cooperatives 
was what eventually took place. In Tazlar too, where there has been little 
significant integration of a horizontal type, the family base and the pro- 
duction sphere of the 'elemental peasant farm' have been transformed 
by the szakszovetkezet but not yet replaced by the anticipated 'industrial- 
isation of the countryside'. In fact, neither vertical nor horizontal integration 
has abolished the dependence upon the marginal labour of peasants, although 
the peasantry as a whole has been well integrated into the national economy 
and indeed, far from being proletarianised, has forced numerous political 
and material 'concessions' from the national economy. Some sociaUst 
critics have condemned Chayanov's interim approval of vertical integration 
as '. . . an idealisation of petty commodity production' (littlejohn, 1977, 
p. 132). But if, after at least several decades of experience with all forms of 
integration, certain elements in the peasant farm enterprise have not 
changed, then one is faced with admitting that the enterprise has proved 
its compatibility with a variety of systems, capitalist. State capitalist, or 
sociahst, or alternatively proving that the existence of peasant farm enter- 
prises entails elements of capitalism wherever it is found. 

This study has shown that distinctive features of peasant economy have 



persisted up to now in the small-farm sector in socialist Hungary. High 
prices have been an exceptionally but unevenly effective incentive to 
marginal peasant labour in the szakszdvetkezet community. High incomes 
have resulted but successful groups have continued to work exceptionally 
demanding hours to obtain these rewards. There has as yet been relatively 
little change in rural life-styles, but some notable rise in conspicuous con- 
sumption and in status competition through house-building. The different 
working of the housing market in town and countryside is an example of 
the mechanisms which have developed to redistribute wealth away from 
the active small-farmers; but in many cases it is their own traditional 
attitudes and 'consciousness' which prevent many benefits from actually 
reaching the direct producers. The exploitation which persists, then, is 
clearly of the sort that is correctly called into question by Dalton (1974).'' 
Despite their relative prosperity within the national context, few in Tazlar 
have the positive support for their government which Tepicht ascribes to 
the contemporary peasantry in Poland (1975, p. 261). Perhaps there is a 
need for a further and stronger dose of cruelty-to-be-kind, at least with 
regard to the remaining pockets of vertical integration. It might now be 
desirable that the national economy should face the massive investments 
necessary to enable agriculture to dispense altogether with small-farm 
production and thus with the remaining features of peasant economy and 
the exploitation of marginal labour which have so characterised the szak- 
szovetkezet community. 



/ Introduction 

1 This is, of course, a very unsatisfactory account of the breadth of 
writing on the 'tanya problem' or 'tanya question'. For background 
in English on the historical origins of tanya settlement see den Hol- 
lander (1960—1); for information on more contemporary issues see 
Lettrich (1969) and Petri (1969) and (in Hungarian) Romany (1973). 
Theory and policy have been greatly influenced over the last three 
decades by the writings of Erdei (1957, 1970, 1976, etc.). However, 
because Erdei is concerned above all to stress the 'dual settlement' 
characteristics of the tanya system (specifically, the links with large 
'agrarian towns' which replaced the former village network in many 
areas of the Great Plain during the Turkish occupation), he consistently 
neglects the problems of the truly isolated tanya areas such as Tazlar. 
Instead he has on occasion put forward confusing recommendations 
that the 'tanya problem' be resolved not by any more attempts to 
buUd 'socialist model villages', but by the eventual incorporation of 

all tanyas into agricultural towns (cf. Erdei, 1962). 

2 The case was brought to trial before the Kiskoros barber in 1809, 
according to the County archives (Bacs-Kiskun Megyei Leveltar, 
Kiskoros, Protocollum Sessionale 1799 — 181 1). The incidence of 

such violence is one point advanced by den Hollander in his elaboration 
of similarities between the Great Plain and the American 'wild west' 
frontier (see den Hollander, 1960-1, 1975). 

3 I have avoided alternative usages such as 'local ecological community' 
or 'rural collectivity' and preferred the simple 'community' through- 
out, even when there was no possibility of any cultural unity or 
identity between settlers. In Hungarian there is a distinction between 
the term denoting an administrative unit, kozseg, and that which 
denotes the unity or 'commonwealth' of a group, kozosseg. Tazlar 
became an independent kozseg by decree in 1872, but the evolution 
there of a kozosseg is the longer process which forms the subject of 
this entire book. I am not assuming that all nuclear villages with long 
histories of continuous settlement are necessarily cohesive communities, 
but it is clear that the conditions which prevailed in Tazlar were fun- 
damental obstacles over a very long period to the emergence of kozosseg. 

2 The tanya problem 
1 Lenin's formulation of the problem is of some interest as, despite his 


Notes to pp. 19-20 

strong opposition to the romantic narodnik view of the capacity of 
the peasant community to resist capitalism, he too finds that many 
factors associated with that community are able to slow down the 
penetration of capitalism and hence of social development as a whole 
(of. 1956, p. 347). Factors such as 'the absence of full freedom in 
the purchase and sale of peasant lands and in the movement and 
settlement of the peasantry' establish major differences between 
Tazlar and the traditional community, despite the correct insistence 
of Lenin that the latter was itself inevitably disintegrating under 

It is remarkable to note how narodnik conceptions of the peasantry 
have continued to influence the analysis of peasant economy since 
Lenin wrote. Besides Georgescu-Roegen (1970), Shanin has often 
emphasised the village as an economic unit (e.g. 1974, pp. 72—3), 
while Scott (1976) has constructed an elaborate theory of the 'moral 
solidarity' of the peasant community on the basis of the functioning 
of 'the village as an institution'. Hungarian studies have generally 
adopted a similar standpoint. To Erdei's impressions of Kiskoros 
society, cited in the text, could be added the detailed analysis of 
Atany by Fel and Hofer (1969). Indeed the authors of the latter 
work freely admit that they set out to describe homogeneity where 
it had no statistical basis at all: 'Numerically, the proper peasants 
were in the minority, but their way of life was the more or less gen- 
erally adopted model for the whole village, and, more importantly, 
it was the way of life we wished to describe' (1972, p. 481). In 
Varsany, despite abundant evidence of stratification in the pre-war 
period, Javor does not see the village as significantly affected by 
capitalism (1978, p. 297). Extreme patterns of stratification are 
perfectly consistent with the model developed by Scott (1976) who 
should not therefore be criticised for paying little attention to such 
factors in his empirical material. It is necessary to distinguish Tazlar 
from even the practice of 'conservative village egalitarianism' in which 
no one can be exploited because everyone is assured subsistence (cf. 
Scott's views on 'the peasant's view of relative equity'): nothing 
whatsoever was guaranteed to the pioneer tanya settlers in Tazlar. 

Curiously, it is Chayanov (1966) who comes closest to a theory 
which will help us to understand the tanya community. This is because 
he openly avows a 'private economic viewpoint', and though unable 
to account for the great changes taking place in the national economy 
which define the framework for the farm, he does not mystify, nor 
move dishonestly in his analysis from the level of the household to 
that of the community. For detail relevant to the early conditions of 
resettlement in Tazlar, see his analysis of 'an isolated economic machine' 
'the almost natural economy' in Tot'ma (1966, pp. 121—5). 
2 See Erdei (1976, p. 1 1) for an opinion on the ineffectiveness of feudal 
controls when economic factors began to favour prolonged residence 
on tanyas. The socialist ban on farmstead construction was proclaimed 
in 1949, but it is now generally admitted that the attempts to deal 
with the 'tanya problem' by administrative measures (such as the 
creation of 150 new 'tanya centres' from 1949) were relative failures. 


Notes to pp. 30-8 

By the 1970s the Minister of Agriculture confessed that the regulations 
which governed tanya residence and production were contradictory 
and in need of revision. He noted that in practice many were simply 
disregarded and that in the 1960s some 3,000 new tanyas were built 
in Bacs-Kiskun County alone (Romany, 1973, p. 54). 

3 The concept of the 'farm-tanya' is also used by Erdei (1976, pp. 
148—9), but in a sense quite different from the way in which some 
people in Tazlar use the term today. For Erdei the peasants of the 
farm-tanya are resident on an isolated farm but still closely bound to 
a town, and the endowment of the farm may be insufficient to main- 
tain the family except through specialisations such as market gardening. 
For the people of Tazlar today the word denotes the large, prosperous 
family farm of capitalist agricultures in the West. 

There have been relatively few attempts to relate the development 
of Hungarian agriculture and of the tanya system in particular to 
developments in other countries, but steps have been taken in this 
direction by Hofer (1974). 

4 Controversy continues to surround economic reform in Eastern Europe 
generally, and the pedigree of the Hungarian reform in particular. Karcz 
(1973) is one who views Hungary as the 'market extreme' amongst the 
COMECON countries and has seen an explicit debt to the tradition 

of Bukharin. However, some critics of the reform argue that it is has 
never been substantially implemented at all levels of the economy. 
For example Szelenyi, in a stimulating paper (1977), has argued that 
market forces remain subordinate to a 'redistributive sphere'. Much 
of the liberty given to specific groups was modified and withdrawn 
in the 1970s, and as will be shown, policies towards the small-farm 
sector also oscillated. Nevertheless, some measure of decentra- 
lisation to enterprises and a greater reliance upon market-price signals 
were fundamental changes. The controversies which took place in 
the media centred upon the impact of the reforms upon distribution 
and crystallised their 'spirit' in the popular mind as associated with a 
greater reliance upon a profit indicator and upon material incentives. 
For an early account of the political and social effects of the reforms 
see Nyers (1969); for a brief but slightly more reaUstic appraisal 
after ten years, see Csikos-Nagy (1978). 

3 The transition to a socialist agriculture 

1 The little material that has apparently survived from these years is 
not systematically filed and I came across this information almost by 
accident in the Kiskoros district offices. It is, of course, difficult to 
obtain access to certain recent archival material. 

Lists of peasants branded as 'kulaks' were drawn up in most Hun- 
garian communities. The word has entered Hungarian from the Russian, 
where it meant originally 'fist'. For a good discussion of the kulak 
stratum and other strata of the Russian peasantry prior to collec- 
tivisation see Lewin (1968). 

2 This account of the events of 1956 in one community may not satisfy 
those aware of the rising's popularity and active support in other 


Notes to pp. 46-56 

areas of the countryside; but if Orban (1972) deliberately understates 
the political importance of the disturbances, it is grossly exaggerated 
in the account given by Coulter (1959), who writes of peasants 'able 
spontaneously to create a governmental apparatus' (p. 539). It is fair 
to point out that several young men in Tazlar received prison sentences 
for their part in pulling down communist flags and in damaging 
property; but this was seen in the community more as youthful 
bravado than as a calculated political protest. In the longer term, 
1956 certainly marked a decisive turning point in rural conditions, 
for there was to be no return to the system of compulsory deliveries 
under the new Kadar government. For interesting detail on the 
activity of peasants during what is still officially described as the 
'counter-revolution' see Lomax (1976) and Fryer (1956, pp. 58—63). 

3 Widening differentials were general except where the government was 
able to intervene directly, e.g. in controls over the wage-rate in pro- 
duction cooperatives. See Donath (1977) for an interesting discussion 
of the problems faced by the government in ensuring that the more 
efficient cooperatives obtain a fair reward, while at the same time dif- 
ferentials do not widen too rapidly. Of course in the szakszovetkezets 
the greater part of individual incomes is not subject to any direct 
government control. 

4 Blanc (1977, pp. 32, 36) accounts for declining performance on the 
household plot in terms of the increased leisure preferences of their 
holders; he finds that decline is most serious in highly labour-intensive 
branches of production (such as dairy farming), where the full-time 
farmers of the szakszovetkezet are well placed to expand, given 
adequate incentives and a minimum of security. 

4 The szakszovetkezet community - economy 

1 All bodies in the State apparatus have, in the system adapted from that 
of the Soviet Union, their own control committees. In addition to 

the performance of an internal control function the committees may 
also investigate problems at lower levels, as in the case here, both 
inside and outside the apparatus of government; an initial report 
might or might not have come from the internal control committee 
of the szakszovetkezet. 

2 The term 'managerial leadership' is chosen because the newcomers 
were trained experts in their professions who could be expected to 
exploit the new scope given to 'management' in general by the economic 
reforms. In fact it can be doubted whether the leaders of agricultural 
enterprises, even of large State Farms and production cooperatives, 
benefited to the same extent as industrial management from the reforms. 
As socialised agriculture enjoys considerable subsidies from the 
government it is perhaps to be expected that greater controls be main- 
tained, particularly by the apparatus at district level. However there 
was undoubtedly a great increase in the autonomy of richer cooperatives 
less dependent upon the government for investment funds (cf. Csendes 
and Laszlo, 1970). 

3 The private plots have long been integrated into the crop rotation plans 


Notes to p. 58 

of production cooperatives (cf. Varga, 1965, p. 33). But full 'col- 
lectivisation' of the plot has become widespread only in the 1970s. 
The members right to the plot is commuted into either a specified 
quantity of produce (e.g. 2,000 kilograms of maize, to encourage 
him to remain in small-farming) or into a cash payment. 

The flexibility of sharecropping schemes is one of the main reasons 
for the success of Hungarian collectivisation policy in many areas 
of the country; for the proliferation of the so-called 'Nadudvar 
system' see Lazar (1976, p. 66). 

4 There are special problems in arriving at the population of 'active 
earners' in a szakszovetkezet community. According to statistics 
collected during fieldwork in 1977 (see note 5 below), there were 142 
manual workers employed 'full-time' in the socialised sector of agri- 
culture (i.e. in the szakszovetkezet, the State Farm and the Forest Farm). 
There were also 256 individuals employed in wage-labour outside 
agriculture, including daily commuters, 70 long-distance commuters, 

50 white-collar employees, and 31 'artisans' (individuals who practised 
a non-farming specialisation on a 'full-time' basis). If we add all of 
these together, and then add the numbers of children, of those in 
further education or in the army, of those in receipt of pensions and 
of all those over the age of 70, and then subtract this total from the 
total population of the community, this leaves a figure of 932 who 
might be considered as full-time earners in small-farming. Some of 
these will correctly be classified as 'housewives' by the national stat- 
istics; others will rely on day-labouring or other casual work for 
their livelihood and do not maintain independent farms. Nevertheless 
the production figures for 1977 show that the units which marketed 
produce through the szakszovetkezet in that year included 674 adults 
to whom no wage-labour occupation or full-time specialisation could 
be assigned; if we add to these the large numbers of workers, artisans 
and 'intellectuals' (white-collar employees) who are active part-time 
commodity producers in agriculture, plus the 142 agricultural wage- 
workers, we have an idea of the continuing importance of agriculture 
in the community economy. 

5 The figures relating to production marketed through the szakszovet- 
kezet were painstakingly collected from the system of cards used by 
the szakszovetkezet accountants. The cards describe the production 
of each member in each year, as well as taxes and levies paid, social 
security contributions (if any), and services obtained from the szak- 
szovetkezet ('transactions'). Since considerable use will be made of 
these and other figures in the course of this chapter it is as well to 
make clear certain reservations. 

Figures can give only an approximate guide to the actual production 
of each enterprise, because the szakszovetkezet has no monopoly over 
the farm sales of its members. In the case of dairy production the ap- 
proximation is very good, since there are few other channels for the 
marketing of milk. Yet, there are village households which sell milk 
to neighbouring famihes without cows at the same price as that paid 
by the szakszovetkezet. Such production will not show up in the 
statistics. Nor will that of a household which uses its milk to produce 


Notes to p. 58 

curd cheese for sale on the local market. In the case of wine production, 
those with means of transportation have plenty of marketing oppor- 
tunities in neighbouring communities. In 1976 a number of large 
producers benefited from the higher prices which prevailed elsewhere, 
but were then heavily penalised by the szakszovetkezet, whose regu- 
lations (seldom invoked nowadays) guarantee it the right to claim a 
certain proportion of the member's produce. In the case of pig- 
production, there are many opportunities on local markets where 
animals can be sold at prices roughly comparable to those paid by the 
State through the szakszovetkezet. Tazlar farmers do not resort to 
this market because of a price differential (except with specific classes 
of animal, such as high-quality piglets, where a higher price could be 
expected on the open market), but when there is a long waiting period 
at the szakszovetkezet, or when the animal has not been properly 
castrated as the State enterprise requires, etc. A further channel, 
through the Soltvadkert-based Consumers' Cooperative, is consistently 
preferred by a minority of farmers, including some who see this as a 
'half-way house' between the State and the private market: they argue 
that animals slaughtered and processed locally will return to the village 
butchers for local consumption. 

The statistics obviously do not comprise the component of pro- 
duction which is retained for domestic consumption. Some households 
with relatively large landholdings do not market large quantities of 
produce, but they seldom purchase food at the self-service shop. Some 
slaughter as many as five pigs annually. Almost all households keep 
some poultry and a small garden for subsistence needs. The systematic 
marketing of small commodities produced in the farmyard and garden 
takes place outside the framework of the szakszovetkezet. The Consumers' 
Cooperative is the major buyer of eggs, rabbits, and fruits such as 
apricots and cherries. Vegetables, fruits, and special commodities such 
as paprika can be sold on the Thursday market in the community or 
in Soltvadkert, or informally from the house, or to licensed traders who 
will dispose of them on large urban markets. Other products have 
their own specific channels. Some wine is retailed privately, or on the 
black market (for the distinction see the account of the 'alcohol 
market' which begins on p. 99). One household is a large producer 
of honey and contracts with a remote cooperative for its sale; another 
draws substantial income from a private flock of sheep; a third has 
contracted with another outside cooperative to raise large numbers 
of geese. 

All of these factors create small distortions in the statistical analysis 
of small-farming, and if a family specialises in one of the activities 
Usted above (at the expense of production in one of the major branches) 
the distortions are serious. Further problems are posed by the 19 
recognised cases of 'multiple famihes' where more than one 'enterprise' 
can be identified within the household. In a few cases the decision to 
recognise a separate unit had to be taken on the basis of separate 
accounting records only (without evidence as to separate cultivation 
of the land, division of buildings etc.). In other cases the nominal 
production of a dependant (e.g. one who still owns a large vineyard) 


Notes to p. 58 

has been included with that of the family members who actually 
performed the labour. It was also difficult to ensure that all and only 
the production of current Tazlar-based enterprises be included in the 
statistics: small numbers of migrants, and current residents of Solt- 
vadkert in particular, have retained landholdings and vineyards in 
Tazlar and may continue to market produce through the Tazlar 

Nevertheless th« production figures accurately describe the main 
branches of production in the community and they do comprise a 
very high proportion of all produce marketed by the small-farm 
sector. Units for which there was no three-year run of production 
figures (except where it is known that one or more years saw no 
production) have been disregarded. Thus for example, a family active 
until 1976 which then migrated has not been included at all. New 
arrivals in 1977 are similarly disregarded in the analysis of production, 
but details on the composition of their households and the employ- 
ment of their members are included in the general sample. It should 
be stressed that the information on the employment of household 
members, as well as on the numbers of children, of dependent adults, 
etc., refers to the first half of 1977; the records of land ownership 
(including vineyards) were obtained from the tax officials at the 
council offices and refer to 1976 (except in a few cases where a 
revised 1977 figure was known to give a more accurate estimate of 
land actually used in preceding years). In general, no account could 
be taken of all the changes which occurred over the three years in 
the size and composition of the household, in its permanent place of 
residence, in the employment of its members and in the resources at 
their disposal. 

A closer analysis might well show that 'demographic' variables 
were of considerable importance in the explanation of changes in house- 
hold production, and errors must inevitably result from the crude 
assumption that family size, pattern of employment, etc. did not 
change between 1975 and 1977. Small errors may also have resulted 
in the processing of data from a failure to subsume the 19 'secondary 
units' under their respective households. Despite these and other 
potential sources of error, I have preferred to present statistical results 
with these imperfections, because of the advantages of having a three- 
year run of production data for a large sample. Certain enterprises 
have a tendency to dispose of their wine in alternate years only; 
production in any one year can be highly sensitive to climatic factors 
and to the prevailing configuration of prices: this was particularly 
true in 1976, when the grape harvest was bad and small-farming had 
declined as a response to State moves against the sector which were 
speedily reversed when their economic consequences became apparent. 
The run chosen gives a sound basis for a statistical analysis and enables 
one to pick out significant trends in the small-farm sector as a whole 
and in each of its major branches. 

Additional material based on these figures, together with a fuller 
account of the reservations concerning their use, will be found in the 
author's doctoral thesis (in preparation). 


Notes to pp. 64—75 

6 Cf. Franklin (1969, pp. 223—6), who finds the concept of a 'modernised 
peasantry' ambiguous in itself, and, noting that such a peasantry has 
nevertheless become the aim of governments in Poland and Yugoslavia, 
doubts that anywhere 'the paysans evolues will attain parity with 
comparable industrial earnings'. 

7 Nor has there been any unemployment in the last quarter of a century 
in Hungary. This is more than an impressive propaganda claim: it is 

a legitimate indication of the "socialist' character of the economic 
system. Hungarian experiences in recent years has reversed that of 
capitalist countries (e.g. that of Britain, a country similarly dependent 
upon foreign trade and hard hit by developments in the international 
terms of trade in the 1970s). Whereas the capitalist nation has responded 
to crisis by increasing unemployment, the socialist nation has at- 
temped to increase production through the prohferation of oppor- 
tunities for second jobs outside the 'socialised sector' (cf. Kovacs, 
1978) and has maintained constant excess demand in the labour market. 

The very existence of a labour market in State socialist society has 
been questioned by Szelenyi, who argues that direct producers have no 
power to bargain with the State and that the 'core institution of the 
State socialist redistributive economy is the non-market trade of 
labour' (1977, p. 12). He perhaps underestimates the extent to which 
the 'rational redistributive' socialist society now compromises with 
market forces, especially in agriculture. Szelenyi claims that a party 
of the working class in Hungary might need to fight for the right to 
be 'unemployed', but in the szakszovetkezet community the direct 
producers already have this right, and as the fluctuations in the 
production reveal they do not hesitate to withhold their labour from 
society when prices are considered low. 

8 Pohcies to maintain over-full employment have inevitably resulted in 
high labour turnover, and attacks in the media upon 'wander-birds' 
have had little effect. It has been argued that increased mobility in 
the labour market was the major advantage (curtailed by law since) 
obtained by the working classes and especially by unskilled labour, 
from the economic reforms (cf. Kemeny, 1978). 

9 The worker-peasantry is not, of course, unique to Hungary, but because 
of the relative neglect of urban housing conditions and the small 

size of the country, which facilitates long-distance commuting, it is 
exceptionally large here. Franklin (1969, p. 220) makes a distinction 
between worker-peasants, who tend 'to assimilate to a form of industrial 
labour, the proletariat' (cf. Gyenes (1973) on the rise of a 'worker 
type' within Hungarian cooperatives), and part-time farmers, who 
tend to acquire 'the characteristics of the petit-bourgeoisie'. A third 
group of 'labourer-peasants' who never work outside the agricultural 
sector would also find members in Tazlar, but for simplification in 
this chapter, households are classified as 'worker-peasant' if they 
have any member who enjoys regular income from outside small- 
farming (in socialised sector agriculture, in industry, as a long-distance 
commuter, a white-collar employee, or as an artisan), while all remaining 
households are 'full-time farms'. 
10 Sociologists anxious to demonstrate the trend towards an equaUsation 


Notes to pp. 85-97 

of rural and urban incomes have not always pointed out that in many 
areas this depends upon the organisation of a 'dual economy'. Soci- 
ologists have emphasised the transitional character of the worker- 
peasantry, but have realised at the same time that some families are 
tempted to prolong commuting patterns and working highly unsocial 
hours because of the undoubted material benefits of such a life- 
style (cf. Markus, 1972, 1976). 

Szelenyitoo (1977) offers a justification of the 'dual economy'. 
Worker-peasants according to him can be seen as typical products of 
the class struggle, who are anxious to keep their farms because it 
increases their independence from 'the bureaucratic labour organisation', 
But his earlier research on the housing market in Hungary (Szelenyi, 
1972, pp. 269—97) may be thought to offer more cogent reasons 
for the persistence of a large worker-peasantry. 

1 1 The analysis of demographic differentiation between peasant farms is 
primarily associated with Chayanov, though he did not argue that all 
social differentiation could be attributed to demographic factors. On 
the contrary, he stated explicitly that 'purely economic causes' can 
also intervene, while remaining in no doubt that 'demographic causes 
play the leading part . . .' (1966, p. 249). 

For a summary of more recent work done with "standard labour 
units' and the dominance of the two-unit enterprise in western agri- 
culture in recent decades, see Franklin (1969, pp. 17—20, 36—7). 

12 This is confirmation of the ineffectiveness of State bureaucratic control 
in the labour market. It would be useful to have more information 

on the extent of private labour-hiring in other socialist societies (cf . 
Halpern and Halpern (1972, p. 132) on the scope for the use of 'the 
supplementary labour of others' in Yugoslavia). 

13 For the modern theory of 'satisficing' see Simon (1957). It should be 
stressed that unlike the satisficing of, for example, the modern business 
corporation, that of the peasant farm enterprise cannot be construed 

as 'maximising in conditions of uncertainty', or as optimising behaviour 
of any 'economic' variety. The peasant satisficer is not responsive to 
market-price signals, has no awareness of return on labour, etc. and 
for these reasons he may be closer to the traditional models of the 
peasant farm than is the modern maximiser. 

14 For background to the accomplishment of collectivisation and forced 
industriaUsation in the Soviet Union, which is relevant to the Hungarian 
experience, see Erlich (1967), Gerschenkron (1966), Lewin (1968). 
Tepicht (1975) has claimed that there was substantial support for 
Stalinist agricultural policies even in the countryside, while Ellman 
(1975) has shown that the urban proletariat may have suffered 
relatively more than the peasantry as a result of the use of coercion, 
for the actual terms of trade remained on the whole favourable to 

15 Maximisers may resemble the pay sans evolues, or they may be striving 
only to attain higher levels of production in the short term without 
any change of techniques. In Tazlar the latter are more numerous. 
They are more interested in the short-term maximisation of income 
than in the long-run improvement of their farms, because many feel 


Notes to pp. 97-158 

that the szakszovetkezet does not offer them a long-term future in 
farming. Kunszabo identifies a similar category in a production co- 
operative community, and he classifies such individuals as 'feszitok' 
(1970, p. 1303). 
16 Poland and Yugoslavia offer the best possibilities for comparison with 
the small-farm sector in Hungary, although both countries have stepped 
back from full collectivisation and the evolution towards higher 
forms of socialist property is less advanced than in Hungary. The future 
of family farming as an occupation seems uncertain in both countries. 
For Poland see Galeski (1972, 1977); for Yugoslavia see Halpern on 
'the negative attitude toward working the land' (1967, p. 319). 

5 The szakszovetkezet community - politics 

1 In addition to obtaining excellent qualifications at the Agricultural 
University, he was also a gymnast of outstanding abUity. However his 
exceptionally small height was the subject of some pointed jokes: 
unUke his predecessor, who could be considered a 'big man' not only 
in physical stature but also as regards social standing in the community, 
Font was doubly condemned to be a kis ember (small man). 

6 The szakszovetkezet community — society 

1 See Javor (1978) for an analysis of the 'womens' society' that has 
evolved in a village where a very high proportion of males are com- 
muters, and on the crude 'materialism' which is stronger in the women 
than in the men. See also Brody (1973) for a description of how most 
of the recurrent tasks in agriculture have devolved upon women in 
the west of Ireland, Many comparisons may be sought on this point 
with other European peasantries; see Cernea (1978), Morkeberg (1978), 

2 The higher status of white-collar work was made plain in 1977 by the 
fate of one of the szakszovetkezet wage-clerks. It was considered a 
heavy punishment for rather minor misdemeanours to dismiss him 
from the offices and employ him instead in the technical centre as a 
lathe operator, though he would receive more pay as a manual worker. 
He was not, of course, obliged to quit his low rent, council-owned 
accommodation as a result of this move. Within a year he returned to 
the offices with a new post under new chairman Penzes. 

It is perhaps unreasonable to expect recent theories of class conflict 
in State-socialist societies to be confirmed by much visible evidence 
in the rural community although the fundamental lack of integration 
of the intelligentsia might be taken as such an indication. For a recent 
theoretical approach see Szelenyi (1978). 

3 Fryer (1956) notes that the State Farm workers in Babolna during 
the 'counter-revolution' rejected the term 'elvtars' for the slightly old- 
fashioned polgdrtars (citizen). 

4 For a useful account of populist politics in Hungary in the period 
before 1948 and interesting comparisons with other East European 
countries, see Jackson (1974); but see also Tepicht (1975) for a 


Notes to pp. 159-68 

somewhat different view of the extent of peasant support commanded 
by the new, communist governments. 

5 In a perceptive note on nationalism and in particular on the impact of 
1956 on national consciousness Vali considers such sentiment to be 
'the most persuasive motivating force which engenders antagonism 
towards the main facets of Soviet-communist rule' (1966, p. 152). 

6 Javor (1978, p. 364) emphasises the prevalence of such behaviour in 
Varsany and argues, quite correctly, that individuals mistrust other 
methods, including a reliance upon the objective impartiality and 
efficiency of official channels. The ecclesiastical archives in Kalocsa 
contain numerous examples of favours sought through Church patron- 
age, in the period when the Church was still a great secular force. It 

is more appropriate to emphasise the continuity with past modes of 
behaviour than to criticise current phenomena by reference to Utopian 
socialist morality or to some other standard of an 'upright society' (cf. 
Volgyes' exaggeration, 1975, p. 126). 

7 See note 1 to Chapter 2 for an emphasis on past divergences between 
Tazlar and the 'traditional village community'. It would seem that, 
while the old communities are all in the process of losing their enigmatic 
unity of the past (cf. Javor, 1978, pp. 367—8) Tazlar has now found 

in the szakszovetkezet an institution which corresponds very well 
to their most basic values, and one which they would like to defend. 

This is not to deny that many of the phenomena excellently described 
and analysed by Javor are not to be found in Tazlar as well. Her village 
is perhaps more typical of general tendencies than is Tazlar, but many 
aspirations, beliefs and aspects of social behaviour are identical. 
For example, even though the proportions of the socialist and the 
small-farm sectors differ so greatly there is a similar general attitude 
towards work in the kozos and towards so-called 'social work', while 
real effort and resources are conserved for personal activities, be this 
the management of a large full-time farm or merely the maintenance 
of a smart-looking house and garden. Ultimately, it seems that an 
emphasis upon the values of the atomised family is everywhere 
dominant, but only in the szakszovetkezet community with its history 
of tanya settlement could such values become a positive basis for 
unity. 'Isolation' is still a major feature of Tazlar society, but the 
problems it creates are not 'chronic' for the majority, as Brody describes 
them in Inishkillane (1973), nor has depopulation been accompanied 
by so many negative features. See also Tepicht's concept of 'family 
individualism' (1975, p. 261). 

8 For a perspective on the future evolution towards higher forms of 
socialist property in Hungary (where the ideological categories still 
resemble closely those of the Soviet Union), see Donath (1977). 

7 Conclusion 

1 Both Tepicht (1973) and Littlejohn (1977) draw on the same passages 
from Marx (1970-2, Vol. 3, pp. 804-7), recognise the same implications 
in them, but then come up with different conclusions. In these pages 
Marx describes the 'free self-managing peasant proprietorship of land 


Notes to pp. 171-2 

parcels' as the basis for a 'mode of production' which is potentially 
compatible with a wide variety of social formations, including those 
of classical antiquity, feudalism and capitalism (socialism is not 
mentioned). Tepicht and Littlejohn both recognise that there is an 
ambiguity in the use of the phrase 'mode of production', which Marx 
elsewhere in Capital tends to use when characterising social formations 
in their entirety. Obviously it is desirable to find some other phrase 
to describe what Marx perceived to be the remarkable durabUity and 
flexibility of peasant economy. But it is only Tepicht who accepts 
the substance of this perception and builds on it his own model of 
how elements of peasant economy have persisted in socialist 
societies. It would seem from passages elsewhere in Marx that he did 
not anticipate that this would happen. Instead he believed that other 
countries would copy the English model (where the very existence of 
a peasant yeomanry, which Marx took for granted in preindustrial 
England, has recently been questioned by Macfarlane (1978)) and also 
that the peasant, who was above all a 'man of reckoning', would soon 
see for himself the advantages of cooperation to form larger units 
(cf. Marx, 1933, p. 46). 

Littlejohn (1977) denies that the brief remarks of Marx in Volume 
3 of Capital, where there are obvious similarities with the later views 
of Chayanov on peasant-farm organisation, are consistent with the 
main body of Marxian analysis. 

2 It is instructive to follow the development of Lenin's thinking on the 
agrarian question, particularly in confronting practical problems in 
the years after the Revolution. See for example his remarks on 'pro- 
tracted transition' (Lenin, 1965, Vol. 30, p. 112) and his political 
approach in the Report on the substitution of a tax in kind for the 
system of surplus appropriation, where he argued unequivocally that 
the 'needs of the middle peasantry must be satisfied' (Lenin, 1965, 
Vol. 32, p. 216). Although there were great differences between the 
vague 'Cooperative Plan' championed by Lenin during the years of 
the New Economic Policy and the cooperatives which Chayanov 
envisaged creating, it is nevertheless worth reflecting what course the 
Soviet industrialisation debate might have taken, had Lenin lived to 
shape events over another decade (perhaps creating at least a small 
sector to compare with that of the szakszovetkezet in Hungary, in 
the framework of which in recent years large numbers of the former 
middle-peasantry have been materially 'satisfied'). See the references 
on the industrialisation debate note 14 to Chapter 4. 

3 Szelenyi (1977) sees the new class war as being fought between, on 
the one hand, the intellectuals, and on the other, direct producers in 
both industry and agriculture. In my opinion his model of the 'rational 
redistributive' economy cannot be a sufficient basis for explaining 
how the small-farm sector is exploited in Hungary today. As a result 
of transactions on the market, small-farmers are able to secure con- 
siderable advantages, which may nevertheless be outweighed by pat- 
terns in the "redistributive sphere' The economic power of the small- 
farm sector, and of strategic groups such as full-time szakszovetkezet 


Notes to p. 1 72 

farmers in particular, certainly sets limits to their exploitation and has 
won for individuals the apparent freedom to decide for themselves to 
a large extent the labour they wish to expend in small-farming. Small- 
farmers may then be exploited 'to a lesser degree' than industrial 
workers who, as Szelenyi convincingly shows, have not (except briefly 
in certain respects after the introduction of the economic reforms) 
possessed the resources to transact and bargain with the government 
through the market. 


Some residents of Tazlar 

Mrs Istvan Lazar, born in 1895. Her husband committed suicide in 1951, 
the day before he was due to go before a committee in Kiskoros to defend 
himself against the charge of being a kulak. She now lives alone in the main 
village and recalls her husband's suicide with mournful clarity. She receives 
a monthly allowance from the szakszovetkezet and some infrequent 
attention from two jomodu sons resident on nearby tanyas. 


Ferenc Hadfi, born in 1949 into a well-to-do family. He qualified as a 
mechanic, and later graduated from Zl gimnazium as a part-time student. 
He is a szakszovetkezet member. He works primarily with his own tractors 
on the small-plots of other independent farmers; the pigs which he markets 
and the wine he produces from the vineyards he inherited are the responsi- 
bility of his wife, with some assistance from hired labourers. 


Tamas Kazi, born in 1942. He is the leader of the largest group of builders 
in the community (the most profitable specialisation in recent decades) 
and a very hard worker during the building season. He is active also as a 
Party member, with 'white-collar' friends in occasional football matches, 
and as a small-game hunter. 

Andras Farkas, born in 1930. He is a resident of the Szank corner, about 
6 kilometres (4 miles) from the village centre. He procures a livelihood 
through day-labouring when strong enough to work. He was deserted by 
his wife in 1977 and his five children are now scattered: one living with 
his mother, two in State care, and two still with their father, but fre- 
quently missing school to work for richer small-farmers (not for full 
wages, but for a pittance plus a little food). 

Mrs Jozsef Krizsan, born in 1940. She is an 'employee' of the szakszovet- 
kezet, and works in the dairy collection-point several mornings a week 
throughout the year. She lives in a council-owned house in the centre of 
the village, by virtue of her second marriage to a former policeman who 
now commutes to Kiskunhalas. A son by her first husband has qualified 
as a tractor driver, and a daughter is being trained by the Kiskunhalas 
hand-industries cooperative. She maintains substantial farm activity with 
only occasional help from other family members. 


Ferenc Papp, born in 1913. He was chairman of the relatively successful 
Remeny (Hope) szakszovetkezet in the 1960s and is very well-liked in 
the community today. Still a council member, but no longer involved 
with the szakszovetkezet, Ferenc Papp also runs an active and innovating 
small-farm. His children have all obtained considerable help in settling in 
the main village; he and his wife have recently electrified their tanya and 
continue to produce high-quality cheeses for the local market and to 
experiment with highly profitable lines in greenhouse production. 


Mrs Samuel Kords, born in 1929. She lost her husband in 1978, but 
continues to reside alone on his tanya, about 3 kilometres (2 miles) from 
the centre, where she maintains breeding-hogs owned by the szakszovet- 
kezet. Farm production was fully diversified between 1975 and 1977, 
but she is unlikely to maintain production in all branches. Her son is 
employed in the machinery centre of the szakszovetkezet and has recently 
built a large house in the village. 


Pal Trsztyinszki (second from right), born in 1925, of poor Kiskoros 
origin. He came to Tazlar in the mid-1950s as a tax official and has served 
as council chairman for the last 20 years. He lives in a large council-owned 
house in the village centre and, apart from tending the vines in the garden, 
neither he nor his wife performs any agricultural work. They have three 
sons: one works as a waiter in Kiskoros, another is an excise inspector, 
also in Kiskoros, and the third, having finished at the gimndzium , will 
possibly follow his father in local government by graduating from the 
'Councils' Academy'. Trsztyinszki is here pictured in consultation with 
district and county officials during the open meeting to elect chairman 
Penzes in July 1977 (see pp. 134-6). 


Janos Fenyvesi, born in 1921. He is a skilled wheelwright who still finds 
opportunities to be active in his workshop (e.g. making barrels and agri- 
cultural tools) although his traditional craft has disappeared. A resident 
of the village, with ancestors who were lesser nobles on the Great Plain 
beyond the Tisza, he is a lay leader of the Reformed Church council, 
and an important public figure on several bodies and committees. His 
wife is also active in the community, one of his daughters is a nurse and 
the other a teacher. 


Imre Bugyi, born in 1921. He was excluded from membership of the szak- 
szovetkezet of which he was chairman in 1974—5, for alleged abuse of 
supplies on his own farm. He is now resident in Soltvadkert, maintains tra- 
ditional family links with a town beyond the Tisza, and commutes out to 
his tanya on the Tazlar/Soltvadkert border during the agricultural season, 
although he has reduced the scale of his farming and abandoned a large 
vineyard area. He is still widely respected in the community, where he is 
now seldom seen. 



bisztro: the new form of the kocsma: bar, cafe 

cseled: a farm servant (m pre-1950s agriculture) 

elvtdrs: comrade 

felso telep: upper hamlet 

Futohomok: Running Sands (title of Erdei's ethnography/sociography of 

the Danube-Tisza Interfluve, 1936) 
gazddlkodo: farmer 

hold: measure of area, = 0.58 hectare (5,755 square metres) 
jolet: prosperity 
kocsma: inn, bar 

kozos: joint, collective (as a noun: the socialised sector of agriculture) 
kulak: rich peasant (pejorative) 
lakodalom : wedding reception 
magdn: private 
maszek: the private sector; (person: one who is self-employed, on the land, 

as a craftsman, or otherwise) 
napszam: the rate for a day's hired labour 
napszamos: day-labourer 

nephdz : the village hall (pre-socialist equivalent of the 'culture-house') 
pdlinka: fruit brandy 
paraszt: peasant 

puszta: lowland plain, steppe, waste 
szakszovetkezet: specialist cooperative 
tanya: isolated farm 
zug: 'black market' 



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'administrative methods' against the 

peasantry, 37 
in pre-socialist period, 5, 8, 106-8 
in sociaUst period, 109-12 
manipulated from outside, 10, 127, 
agriculture, see farming 
artisans, 67-70 

bisztrd, 1 1, 22, 67, 100 (plate) 
biicsii, 118-19 


as a factor of farm production, 66, 

'capitalist' farmers, 31-2, 97; see 
also farming, maximisers 

current perceptions of, 163 
development of in pre-socialist 
Tizlii, 16-18, 19-20 
Chayanov, A.V., 19-20, 94-5, 169, 

171, 174(n), 181(n) 

contribution to farming, 58-9, 146 

in pre-socialist period, 12, 116, 119 
in socialist period, 115-22 
personal religious convictions, 114, 
climate, 7-8 

collectivisation (see also under land, 
peasant economy, szakszOvet- 
zeket, tanya) 
general rationality of, 37, 39-40, 48, 

in TizliT, 30-2, 39-40, 131-2, 136, 
Communist Party, 50, 111, 112-15 

absence of in pre-socialist period, 5, 

15, 17-20, (173(n), 174(n) 
Hmited emergence of in socialist 
period, 23-4, 157, 164-6 

Consumers' Cooperative, 12, 71, 123, 


informal, 17, 23, 90, 144 
corruption, 150, 160-1 
council chairman, 109—10, 111, 112, 

132, 134, 159, 193 (plate) 
cultural development, 115, 123—5, 

Cumanians, 4 

democratic centralism, 108-9 
'distressed' elements, 151-4 
dual residence, 27—8 

economic reform, 45-7, 175(n), 185(n) 
education, 159-60 

political, 114 

religious, 118 
elections. 111, 129-30, 135-6 
Erdei, F., 15, 17-18, 19, 31, 174(n), 

family {see also under households, 
labour, women) 

as a productive unit, 27—8, 36, 77, 

continued isolation of, 146-7 

determined by environment, 7-8, 

development of cooperatives, 34—8; 
see also under production co- 
operative, production cooperative 
group, szakszOvetkezet 

fruit and wine production, 8, 18, 26, 

milk production, 26-7, 29, 62-4, 

pig-fattening, 26, 29, 47, 64-6, 81- 

small-farm sector: full-time farms, 
76, 85-8, 91, 98; integration at 
locallevel, 78-80,82, 91-4, 
95-8; integration at national level, 



2, 44-8, 169; maximisers, 64, 
91-4, 95, 97-9, 149; resistance 
to innovation, 77-8; satisficers, 
91-3; 'specialist' farmers, 60-3, 
65-6, 102; tanya and village 
farms compared, 25-6, 29; 
worker-peasant farms, 84-5, 90- 
socialised sector, 50-5, 57-8, 131-2 
see also under capital. Forest Farm, 
labour, land, machinery. State 

feudalism, 4, 20, 106-7 

Forest Farm, 45, 72 

general meeting, see under szakszOvet- 
kezet, democratic organisation 
gypsies, 74, 154-5 

house-building, 10, 69-70, 142-4 

size of, 86, 139-40 
structure of, 139-41 
household plot, 11,32,44,52,55-7, 
80, 82, n 6-1 (n); see also under 
production cooperative 


differentials in, 46, 52-3, 149-50, 
intelligentsia, 120, 150-1, 156-7 

in Party, 113 

in szakszOvetkezet, 53—4 

Kiskdros, 4-5, 9-10, 17-18, 57 
kolkhoz, 41, 42; see also under pro- 
duction cooperative 


as a factor of farm production, 85- 

labour-hiring, 18, 20, 88-90 
private sector of labour market, 51, 

public sector of labour market, 23, 

67, 71-5,180(n) 
respect for manual labour, 162-3 
lakodalom, 66, 117,142, 162 

as a factor of farm production, 26, 

pre-sociaUst parcellisation of, 6, 16 
see also under collectivisation 
Land Reform, 16, 33-5 

new managerial group, 51, 82, 131 

ofgazddlkodd type, 127-30, 132, 135 
Lenin, V.I., 19, 20, 32, 94, 108, 168, 
173-4(n), 183(n) 

machinery, agricultural, 36, 41, 50, 80, 


current market-gardening, 9, 66-7 
Tdzldr's former isolation from, 8, 17 
see also under peasant economy, 
economic reform 
marriage, 121, 140, 141 
Marx, Karl, 167-8, 183-4(n) 
middle peasants 

in pre-socialist period, 6, 16, 19, 107, 

in socialist period, 22, 30, 31, 38 
migrant workers in East Germany, 74-5 

in pre-socialist period, 16 
out-migration in the sociahst period, 

to the centre, 24, 28-9 


production of, 99-100 
distribution and consumption of, 5, 
99, 103-5 
peasant economy 

capitalist character in pre-socialist 

period, 17-20 
'demographic differentiation', 86-8, 

elements of 'natural economy', 19, 

26, 95, 174(n) 
'marginaUty' of peasant labour, 24, 

94-8, 168-9 
persistence of traditional elements 

under socialism, 88-91 
surplus extraction and 'exploitation' 

of peasantry, 34, 99, 170-2 
see also under Chayanov, Lenin, 
Marx, Tepicht 
Poland, 42, 97, 122, 169 
production cooperative, 2, 41-4, 95, 

production cooperative group, 40-3, 

proletariat, in TizUr, 22, 35 

secularisation, 119-22 
sharecropping, 55-6, 177(n) 
sociahsm, perceptions of, 159, 163-4, 

Soltvadkert, 18,43,46 
Soviet Union, 33, 35-6, 37, 40, 170-1 



spinning factory, 11, 23, 72-4 
State Farm, 7, 24, 38,45,72 

continuity witli pre-socialist differ- 
entiation, 147-50 
forms of address, 155-7 
white-collar work, 53, 159-60, 

character and distribution, 1-2, 

collective workforce, 51—5 
democratic organisation, 1, 128 
democratic organisation undermined, 

link with future of tanya, 30-2 
Party cell founded within, 115 
services to members, 26-7, 31, 60-6, 

■vertical' integration, 25, 97-8, 147, 


contemporary trends in TizMr, 10- 

contradictions with large-scale farm- 
ing, 2, 15, 24, 29, 30-2 

established theories of tanya settle- 
ment, 1, 15, 173(n) 

effect of electrification, 28-9 

persisting differences with village 
centre, 23, 29-30, 31-2, 70-1, 

persisting role in small-farming, 24- 

sociahst policies towards, 20-3, 28 
tax system, 103, 111 
Tepicht, J., 95-6, 168-9, 182-3(n), 

upper hamlet, 5, 10, 70, 104, 123-5 


manual labour, 162—3 

'materialist', 104, 161-2 

patriotic, 159 

political, 158-9 

'private sector', 163-6 

youth, 157-8 
village centre, 5, 10, 11-12, 22-3 

welfare benefits 

assistance in pre-socialist period, 10, 

assistance in socialist period, 42, 

child-care allowance, 23, 74, 146 

active in the upper hamlet, 124-5 
as wage-labourers, 52, 73-4 
increased role in farming, 67, 144-6 
worker-peasants, 75-6, 96-7, 145, 
149, 165, 180-l(n) 

youth, 28, 51, 114-15, 122, 157-8 
Yugoslavia, 42, 97, 111, 138, 158-9, 



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