Kfar Hanassi ~
"The Kibbutz-Retreat from Utopia."
About the changes and how-why they came about.
by Author Daniel Gavron
Gradually, the flaws in the system grew wider and wider.
A major flaw was that it led to wastage and carelessness. For instance, people often took more food than they needed and threw the leftovers away. When I was working as a carpenter, I went into people's houses to make repairs, and in winter I would see that they had left the heater on, while they were away at work or at school. If a child lost a shoe or ruined his clothes or tore a mosquito screen at home, they were simply replaced. People lost the sense that there was a connection between income and expenditure, in general, but especially they lost any feeling of personal responsibility for the imbalance between them.
The second inbuilt flaw was the gap between the needs of the society and the desires of the individual. In crisis situations, individuals willingly accept the demands of the society over their own preferences. You have to understand that the word "sacrifice" simply doesn't apply: we did what the community needed, because that's what we joined it for. Once the State had been established, the big wars had been won, and the kibbutz was a going concern, the gap between communal demands and individual desires grew. The entirely voluntary discipline that I've been describing weakened, and the individual began to challenge the demands of the community. Maybe people felt less driven at work, certainly many of us felt less strictly bound by the rules. One might take an hour or a day off work when it was not really essential, another might take his food allowance for an "official" day away from home (such as seeing a specialist doctor) and take a sandwich with him instead of buying a meal, a third person might take a bag of avocadoes for a friend outside the kibbutz. Rumour spoke of more serious examples of cheating than that.
when there was only one brand of toothpaste and one brand of soap or shoes
available, that is what you took, without question. When other brands
came on the market, as the country developed, someone might say, "I
don't mind washing myself with laundry soap, but I can't stand the taste
of that toothpaste. I want cheaper soap and more expensive toothpaste".
"I'd rather have one good bra than two cheap ones". More and
more of the personal budgets were allocated by cash value, instead of
by direct demand, and more and more of these allowances were lumped together,
so that people could not only add money from their "holiday money"
to buy a more expensive soap than the toiletries budget allowed, but soon
they were able to buy sandals from toiletries allowance, or go on a better
holiday with their clothes allowance. (Actually, it worked the other way
round: people ended up spending all their holiday allowance on extra day-to-day
expenses). Eventually, all the personal allowances were united into one
"inclusive budget" that the kibbutz member spent as he liked.
"Personal choice" became a slogan that challenged communal norms.
This slogan was one of the things that led to a series of more fundamental
changes in our way of life. Another was that equality was more and more
measured in terms of giving the same amount of money to everyone - a major
departure from our original ideal.