Transitional Economic Systems: The Polish-Czech Example

By Dorothy W. Douglas | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
THE REORGANIZATION OF AGRICULTURE

Post-Reform Patterns

L and reform had very considerably modified for both Poland and Czechoslovakia the basic European pattern of rural economy. By 1948 landlords, large and small, were gone or were on the way out: only the man who worked on his place himself could supposedly continue to hold it. The large estate as a private institution, with all the prestige and authority attaching to it, was no more. Agricultural wage labour was still freely permitted, but its numbers were on the decline, since many landless labourers had now received land and since the industrialization programme was beginning to draw them to the towns.

What remained in the country-side was a small number of older holdings ranging up to the permitted 125-acre maximums in the central territories of both countries and 250 in the border or western regions, and an enormous number of small holdings, a large block of them new, averaging around 12 to 15 acres for most of Poland, 15 to 20 acres for most of Czechoslovakia. These latter comprised the vast majority of all farms, and there was little hope of increasing their size yet further in the near future: the limits of enlargement had now been reached. (In the case of Poland, it was the boast of the Government immediately after the Reform that the average holding per head of agricultural population had gone up from under 2½ acres to about 3¾.)

In terms of agricultural output, such a land-holding pattern inevitably means perpetuation of a régime of low productivity per man-hour, combined though it may be, under favourable circumstances, with a relatively high productivity per acre. However, actual post-war conditions were far from favourable, and the inherited internal organization of the small farms bade fair to be a long-time hindrance.

The strip system, with the average farm in twenty to thirty narrow slices, some near, some far away, scattered about among other

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