What is a kibbutz?

What is a kibbutz? A short answer would be a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based around agriculture. Nowadays they have since expanded into other areas. It was famously extremely popular as working holiday.

But, of course it was much more than this.

Israel and the Kibbutz

Few people realize, but in the aftermath of the devastation of the holocaust and the formation of Israel, the new state was extremely left-leaning. In fact until the mid to early 1970’s the economic growth of the country had largely been achieved under left-wing ideals. Obviously this has changed somewhat over the years. The right have had a monopoly for years, and peace with the Palestinians seems a long way off.

The Kibbutz were an integral part of early Israel and its left-wing ideals.

The regional Kibbutz were founded in the early 1900’s by the original settlers to Israel, but it would be later after the formation of the state that they would really start to be a big deal.

Cold War and the Kibbutz movement

In the early years of the existence of Israel the country had been recognized by both the Soviet Union and America. Originally it tried to steer a middle-path, before siding with the west. This led to ideological splits in the kibbutz movement, which had always been socialist in nature and generally secular.

The splits led to different kibbutz movements siding with different labour unions, depending on the ideology followed. Regardless of this Kibbutzim flourished and it became “fashionable” as a working holiday, or a way to move abroad.

People from all over the world would come and volunteer at various kibbutz and receive free housing and food in exchange for their work, and for a long time this was an extremely popular gap-year type activity.

The Kibbutz Crisis

During the 1980’s the Israeli economy was declining and Kibbutz, which had served an ideological purpose were losing money. Many ended up being privatized, with a few staying afloat whilst upholding their traditional values.

Essentially though with the government was no-longer prepared to support the movement it would enter a stark decline that it has never recovered from.

Do they still exist?

Kibbutz has carried on into the modern era, many have adapted and no longer do agriculture. Others have stayed loyal to the original ideals and remain secular and socialist in origin.

Were Kibbutz Anarchist, Socialist, or what?

No two kibbutz were ever the same, but again they tended to secular and ran as cooperatives, or collectives, which made them socialistic, or left-anarchistic in nature, although they would also exist in the free-market economy of Israel.

Many also practiced direct democracy in the kibbutz itself, whilst voting nationally along their kibbutz ideological lines.

What was their life like?

Until the fall of the kibbutz in the 80’s communal living and equality were taken extremely seriously. Gifts etc receive from family were turned over to the kibbutz and people regardless of sex were required to work equally for the good of the collective.

Children born into the kibbutz also tended to raised more communally than in a traditional family setting.

This communal element also carried on into how people ate and socialized together, and whilst this might sound a bit cult like, people were allowed to come and go as they pleased, with people not willing to work hard not being allowed to stay.  Many volunteers look back kindly to their days on a kibbutz.

Overall though and at least for a time the kibbutz movement proved that societies of anarchist, or socialist leaning communities could co-exist within a market economy. This is something that may prove interesting with regards to the sustainability of Rojava. Of course only time will tell.

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