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International Socialism, Winter 1962


Constance Lever



From International Socialism, No.11, Winter 1962, p.30.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Other Society
H. Darin-Drabkin
Gollancz. 35s.

The Kibbutzim of Israel, their successes and failures, are of more than marginal interest to Socialists. Here was an attempt to set up in isolation and conditions of great scarcity, perfect societies incorporating democratic planning and workers’ control with common ownership. Much of the attempt was successful – secondary education is provided for all children, and to some extent the division of labour between mental and manual work has been abolished. Economically, as this book shows, it is more efficient than capitalist or peasant production. Workers on Kibbutzim are four per cent of the Israeli population but they contribute twenty-six per cent of its agricultural and six per cent of its industrial production (twelve per cent of the total). Politically, their influence is also disproportionate, providing 19 out of the 120 members of the Knesset. Above all, the second generation on the Kibbutz remains there.

On the other hand must be noted the heavy burden of debts, the dependence on an external market which makes much of planning a farce, the fact that official positions now rotate in a small core of experts where power (though not privilege) are concentrated and that attendance at the General Assembly is falling. The ethic of hard productive work has led to tremendous dissatisfaction amongst women and older people who feel themselves of less value and often dislike their work. The ethic of community and personal sacrifice has led to a lack of privacy and consequent frustration. Kibbutz workers have become a slowly declining proportion of the population and are increasingly divorced from the urban proletariat, especially the new immigrants from Arab countries.

The Other Society gives a good broad coverage of the Kibbutzim, their history, organisation, economic structure and position in the country. It touches on all the questions mentioned above, and others, but fails really to analyse them deeply, to show what is due to the Kibbutz’ isolated position, agrarian nature, origins in conditions of pioneering and scarcity, to the drive of a first generation – as opposed to what derives directly from a socialist society. The book is extremely interesting and useful, but could have been enlivened by a few concrete illustrations and by less repetition of rather vague generalisations.

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