This book examines Soviet agriculture in post-1945 Hungary. It demonstrates how the agrarian lobby, a development following the 1956 revolution, led to contact with the West which allowed for the creation of an effective agricultural system. The author argues that this ‘Hungarian agricultural miracle,’ a hybrid of American technology and Soviet structures, was fundamental to the success of Hungarian collectivization.
Zsuzsanna Varga is head of the Modern Hungarian History Department at Eötvös Loránd University.
Chapter 1: The Stalinist System of Socialist Agriculture and Its Export to East Central Europe
Chapter 2: Transplanting the Soviet Model—The First Attempt for Collectivization
Chapter 3: Retrenchment to Private Farming—Twice
Chapter 4: The Final Drive for Collectivization
Chapter 5: Convergence or Divergence?
Chapter 6: American Model Transfer
Chapter 7: Contextualizing the “Hungarian Agricultural Miracle”
Zsuzsanna Varga’s book, which is built on decades-long archival and oral history research, is essential reading for any scholar interested not only in the specific Hungarian variant of state socialism but also in how to write from a postrevisionist angle.
This is a masterly account by the pre-eminent historian of socialist agriculture in Hungary. Zsuzsanna Varga has deftly combined a study of transnational relations influencing the course of collective agriculture in Hungary with a novel reinterpretation of the history of the New Economic Mechanism in 1968. Varga rewrites the standard account by illustrating how political machinations and strategic compromises within the party state enabled officials to benefit from extensive international connections, connections that bolstered expertise, improved technology, and that helped to create a unique configuration of enterprise diversity and a dynamic symbiosis between collective and private agricultural production.
This is essential reading for those wishing to understand the mechanics of real-world socialism. Commentators on Kádár’s Hungary are familiar with its ‘agrarian lobby’ and abundant food supply, but the precise ‘who’ and ‘how’ remained obscure. Zsuzsanna Varga uses previously closed archives to illuminate Hungary’s challenge to Soviet orthodoxy. It is a story of grassroots initiatives, political mobilizations, organizational restructurings, and international technology transfers. Varga reveals how economic models can be adapted successfully to countries with very different political and property-ownership systems. Political principles were not so much abandoned as subjected to the pragmatic test of putting food on the table.
Zsuzsanna Varga has produced a comprehensive account of collectivization and agriculture in Soviet Hungary placed within the context of transnational comparison. The Sovietization followed by the Americanization of agricultural structures produced a hybrid system of agriculture in Hungary, whose development was shaped by knowledge transfers as well as the political and international context. This thorough and original account is based on meticulous research, keen analysis, and wide-ranging knowledge of collectivization in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Zsuzsanna Varga’s groundbreaking work—an examination of the Americanization of Hungary’s Stalinist agricultural system in the aftermath of the failed revolution of 1956—attests to the importance of the transfer of knowledge and know-how in the Cold War, as well as to the implicit recognition by the country’s communist administration of the superiority of the capitalist mode of production, the triumph of Adam Smith over Karl Marx. On the basis of primary documents, Varga traces the complex dynamics of economic Westernization and demonstrates that, in Hungary, the gradual dismantling and transformation of the decrepit central command economy began long before 1989.