(15 May 1988, Calcutta) – Collective production is a system in which something is produced collectively. In an agricultural society as well as in society at large there are some commodities which are produced collectively. For example, sugar cane farmers in India collectively produce raw sugar from sugar cane grown in their individual fields. They collectively purchase a large vat in which they boil the juice of the sugar cane for the preparation of raw sugar.
The commune system is also a kind of collective production in that people produce something in a collective manner. Cooperative industrial and agricultural production belongs to the same category. Agricultural production by private enterprise is not collective production, neither is agricultural production by the sharecropping system.
"In the modern world the cooperative system is the best system of agricultural and industrial production."
Of the different systems of production – the cooperative system, private enterprise, the sharecropping system and the commune system – the last one is the worst. The sharecropping system is slightly better than the commune system, and better still is private enterprise, but the best system is the cooperative system of production.
In the commune system individual ownership is denied. In some countries the right of individual ownership may be accepted in principle but not in practice. In such places there is no scope for workers to get either the inspiration or the incentive to fully utilize their skills in either agriculture or industry. There is no opportunity for them to enhance their working capacity. They are like oxen moving around an oil grinding mill with their eyes blindfolded. The oxen may move one hundred miles a day but they make no forward progress. Similarly, the workers in the commune system are confined within the four walls of intellectual staticity. They have no opportunity to develop subtle thoughts, so their lives can never be elevated to higher strata. People living in the commune system are like animals trapped within the vortex of staticity till the last breath of their lives. They have no psychological or human relation with their work. This is the nature of the commune system. The whole system runs counter to human psychology, and consequently production never increases.
Those countries which have adopted the commune system directly or indirectly have utterly failed in agricultural production. This is a most unfortunate fact. Capitalist countries, where agricultural production takes place on the basis of individual ownership, supply food grains to communist countries. Communist countries are compelled to purchase their minimum requirements from countries under private enterprise. The poor masses live a miserable existence of hunger and deprivation, and their lives are nothing but a bad dream. Though the capitalist system is bad, even then the commune system surrenders to it. What a pitiful situation this is. Until communist countries reject the commune system they will not be able to solve their food problems, and they will continue to move from country to country with their begging bowls outstretched.
The sharecropping system is better than the commune system because people get more incentive and freedom. In this system the psychology of “If I can produce more I can earn more” dominates. But this system also suffers from some major defects. Suppose a sharecropper manages to get seven acres of land from three different landowners and thus arranges twenty-one acres of land. He may not cultivate the total acreage due to idleness, want of sufficient labourers or financial constraints. He may think that limited cultivation will provide enough food to meet the demands of his family for a whole year, so he does not bother cultivating the remainder of the land. As a result the owner of the land uncultivated by the sharecropper will be deprived of his share.
The second negative aspect of the sharecropping system is that sharecroppers often hold more land than an individual landowner. As a result some sharecroppers have a higher standard of living than landowners. This kind of sharecropper cannot claim that he works in the fields with his own physical labour. In a round about way such a system encourages capitalism in agriculture.
The third defect of this system lies in the fact that sharecroppers employ hired labourers to work the land, and remain idle themselves.
The fourth defect is that landowners holding very small amounts of land cannot cultivate their land independently because their capacity is limited. Only a sharecropper can cultivate such small plots. Consequently, a new feudalism is created out of the sharecropping system, is this not so?
Another serious defect of the sharecropping system is that in India the owner of a few acres of land is brought under the land ceiling acts whereas the sharecropper, even though he may cultivate a much larger area of land, does not come within the scope of the land ceiling laws at all. He can openly challenge these laws and say that as he is not the actual owner of the land, why should he be served a land ceiling order. Thus, a section of the landholding capitalists who are big sharecroppers escape through the holes in the nylon dragnet of the law.
Individual agricultural production and the sharecropping system both suffer from another major problem. If farmers in these two systems do not have enough capital but have a large area of land, they cannot adopt modern agricultural methods for production. Tractors and power tillers remain beyond their means. By using age-old ploughing techniques these farmers can only cultivate the surface of the land, and this does not help increase its productivity. They cannot utilize better quality fertilizers, high yielding seeds and proper irrigation systems.
There are more incentives for farmers in individual agricultural production than in sharecropping, but in private enterprise there are still drawbacks which prevent the adoption of a modern and progressive system of agriculture. In this system there is not much possibility of increasing agricultural production because up to one hundred percent of infertile land lies unutilized. Often farmers do not have the capacity to utilize the benefits of tractors, power tillers, high yielding seeds and proper irrigation systems due to their lack of finance. Although private enterprise is better than the sharecropping and commune systems, ultimately the state and society cannot be benefited. If an individual cultivator has a large amount of land in his possession (in capitalist countries farmers can hold unlimited amounts of land) he may be able to use high yielding seeds and proper irrigation systems, but the government will have to avoid introducing a land ceiling. However, this is not desirable because it will lead to over accumulation.
In the modern world the cooperative system is the best system of agricultural and industrial production. In the cooperative system members can pressurize the government because of their collective strength and gain financial help and various facilities to increase production. They can pressurize the government to provide better irrigation facilities and high yielding seeds and even make infertile land productive. Land with little fertility can be transformed into fertile farm land with proper care. This will increase total agricultural production and also help a country become self-sufficient in food production and cash crops, freeing it from food shortages.
In addition, plots of land on the same level and of the same fertility can be turned into larger single plots by removing all dividing boundaries. However, if the land is undulating and varies in fertility, the division of land may be maintained, otherwise land cannot be properly irrigated.
I have already said that in the sharecropping system one gets a better output than in the commune system, but in such a system it is not possible to adopt progressive methods of agricultural production. Eventually the level of production will come down to the level of the commune system.
Among all the attachments human beings suffer from, attachment to land is one of the strongest. Out of sympathy farmers can donate large amounts of produce without hesitation, but they will feel tremendous pain if they are asked to donate a few square metres of land. If they have to donate land to somebody, farmers feel that their ribs will break because of the pain in their hearts. Those who donate land do so for three reasons – to save the major part of their land, for a high humanitarian cause or out of spiritual inspiration.
Copyright Ananda Marga Publications 2012