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News of the Day ... In Perspective

9/28/2007

The kibbutz sheds socialism

For most of Israel’s existence, the kibbutz ran on the Marxist axiom: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

As debts mounted and the young moved away, Israel’s kibbutzim seemed doomed. By 2000, more than half of the 257 collective farms were bankrupt.

As the second generation of offspring, who slept in communal children’s homes with assigned caregivers began to rebel, the lifetime security promised by the kibbutz was in jeopardy. The founders, after decades of hard work, reached their 80s and 90s without an apartment or pension to call their own.

Most of the kibbutzim are undergoing a process of privatization, euphemistically called “renewal.” Wages are now differentiated on the basis of the amount of income a worker brings in, rather than being strictly equal. Decisions are made by professional managers rather than by popular vote. And houses may be transferred by individual members.

People are now lined up to buy in.

Some people are still bitter about the past, including 38-year-old Boaz Varol. “My parents worked all their lives, carrying at least 10 parasites on their backs,” he said. “If they’d worked that hard in the city for as many years, I’d have had quite an inheritance coming to me by now” (New York Times 8/27/07).

 

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