Theme 2 - Agriculture and industry, 1949-65


How and why did the system of land ownership change during 1949-57?

Attacks on landlordism and the redistribution of land

  • 1950 Agarian Reform Law - taking land from landlords and redistributing to peasants
  • Would restrain over-zealous activists seen in civil war
  • PLA played crucial role - silencing hostile people, helping local officials
  • Calculated amount of land owned to be taxed
  • Meetings where people were labelled - landlords publicly humiliated, accused of exploitation
  • Lots of anti-landlord paranoia 
  • Put power in peasant's hands - could blame them, showed peasant-led revolution

Moves towards agricultural co-operation

  • Didn't want peasants to own land either - moved towards collectivisation
  • Mao wanted to take it slow - also experimented over years
  • 1951 - MATs - 10 families pooled equipment, animals, labour, still private ownership. Voluntary
  • 1952 - APCs - 40/50 families, pooled land aswell, some personal land, profits shared. Voluntary

The change from voluntary to enforced collectivisation

  • Mao frustrated at slow pace
  • Some APCs rushed, in debt, so Mao called for slowdown in spring 1953
  • 1954 - peasants begin capitalist methods. Mao angry, renewed pressure to join APCs
  • Richer peasants killed livestock in protest. Requisitioning to cities causes protest. Mao called for slowdown
  • July 1955 - Mao chooses all-out collectivisation. Doesn't want peasants revolting
  • Almost everyone joins APCs
  • HPCs - 200/300 households, rewarded work with work points
  • Ideological success - state owned means of production of food
  • Showed Mao's power in party
  • Increased local party power
  • However, meant peasants were now servants, not allies
  • Made Mao over-confident, ignored economic sense
  • Productivity very low - insufficient food to feed industrial population
  • People lacked motivation, no capitalist incentives

What was the impact of the people's communes after 1958?

  • Mao's answer to catching Britain was to make collectives larger and responsible for industrial production, education, welfare provision and local defence

Reasons for launching the communes

  • Thought more resources pooled together woud lead to higher food yields and leave peasants more time for industrial work
  • Mao impressed with APCs (on tour). Able to get through politburo with evidence
  • Mao wanted to continue revolution

How the communes were organised

  • May 1958 - Great Leap Forward announced - 'walking on two legs'
  • Grain and steel production given equal priority
  • Mao keen to decentralise so power with enthusiastic local officials, not technical experts
  • First People's Commune in Henan - 9,000 households
  • Not possible to move out of commune without internal passport

Communal living

  • Communal canteens and dormitories. Couples only slept together when allowed
  • Management teams - directed labour, tractor stations, backyard furnaces, mills etc.
  • Provided education, healthcare, police, army, childcare, canteens, 'happiness homes'
  • Managers deployed free workers in construction projects
  • Mao wanted 'utopian socialism'
  • 10 guarantees - meals, clothes, housing, school, medical, burial, haircuts, entertainement, heating, money for weddings.

The abolition of private farming

  • Communes were compulsory - all private property surrended
  • No work points, because state provided everything anyway. Lack of incentives
  • Strict management - 6 hours sleep every 2 days. Villagers tried to do as little as possible
  • Large military presence…


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