The benefits of collective farming (1952)

By late 1951, the Agrarian Reform Law had dissolved the power of landlords and handed most of China’s land back to the peasants. Mao Zedong then embarked on the next phase of land reform: the gradual introduction of collective farming. The government set up experimental collective farms and monitored their progress. Study teams were sent to the Soviet Union to examine collective farming methods there. ‘Mutual aid teams’ were established to assist peasants with collectivisation. Most visibly, a flood of state propaganda sought to convince China’s peasant-farmers of the benefits of collectivisation. This article from the People’s Daily (March 24th 1952) is a typical example:

“There is a collective farm on the southern bank of the Sungain River in Manchuria… The collective farm has 99 hectares and 36 peasant families. The plan for 1952 is to expand it to 160 hectares and 60 families.

Life is prosperous on the farm. The individual income for a full labourer in 1951 was between 9,500 and 14,000 catties [pounds] of grain. The average income, including that of non-working family dependents, was between 2,500 and 3,300 catties of grain per head… The farm has come to own considerable common property: 28 weeding machines, eight winnowing machines, five strip-sowing machines, a rice mill equipped with four electric machines, five electric motors, one internal combustion engine, one workshop, 46 head of cattle and 10 Berkshire hogs.

The Party leads the peasants to create a happy new life and also raises a new type of peasant. Love of labour, love of collective life, care for common property and warm love for our great fatherland are becoming new characterises of the members of the collective farm.

Members of this collective farm live comfortably… The members have turned the collective farm into a big family in which all are united and friendly. When discussing the labour situation on the farm, the chairman of the farm says: “The initiative of labour comes from the peasants themselves. No member chooses to be idle or tricky during production”.

This collective farm has developed step by step on the foundations of the exchange of labour, mutual aid and agricultural cooperation. It was voluntarily organised by peasants who, through personal experiences, perceived that collective labour would bring them a more fortunate life. They know that the better they work in collective production, the more prosperous their life will be; that the bigger their collective farm becomes, the greater will their benefits grow…

The farm is supported by a good democratic management system and self-imposed discipline… The General Farm Meeting is the highest authority of the collective farm. It elects the chairman of the farm and members of the Control Committee. It discusses and approves the farm’s production plans. It fixes standards of work for farm members and rates of remuneration. It examines the accounts of the farm and approves budgets…

Every member of the collective farm has plenty to eat and enough clothes. Everyone has a new house built only last year. The houses are neat and attractive, with big windows facing the sun. Every house is supplied with electricity. On the snow-white wall of every house are hung portraits of Chairman Mao and Stalin… All members of the farm have fragrant rice at every meal… Prosperous material life has directly enriched farm members’ cultural life. There are, on the farm, 124 persons between seven and 50 years of age. Fifty-seven grown-ups joined winter studies, eight youngsters are studying at Middle School and 50 children are studying in the primary school attached to the farm…

The collective farm has become a paragon for the neighbouring villages. In the collective farm, the peasants have seen their own future, the road that leads to a fortunate life.”

collective farming china
“Mutual help with plowing has produced more food”, a propaganda poster from 1953 extolling the virtues of collective farming