2021_3_Zsuzsanna Varga

Practices of Creative Disobedience: A Key to Economic Success in Socialism? A Case Study of a Hungarian Agricultural Cooperative

Zsuzsanna Varga
Eötvös Loránd University
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 10 Issue 3  (2021):444-465 DOI 10.38145/2021.3.444

In this article, I examine the fate during the decades of socialism in Hungary of the agricultural company Árpád-Agrár Ltd. of Szentes, which which has flourished up to the present day. Its predecessor, the Árpád Mezőgazdasági Termelőszövetkezet (Agricultural Producer Cooperative), was established in 1960, during the last wave of collectivization. Most members were gardeners who specialized in a Bulgarian type of horticulture.

One of the central questions in my inquiry is how individual gardeners’ best practices were preserved and further developed within the structure of a socialist cooperative. I also consider how the Árpád Cooperative used the economic reforms of 1968 to expand its market-share.
In my analysis of the successful transfer of knowledge and processes of adaptation, I devote particular attention to the human factor, taking into consideration both the changing relationship between the leadership and the membership of the cooperative and the formation of a class of managers who had had experiences in the West and had a more open-minded mentality. These factors offer a possible explanation as to why this agricultural community chose the organizational form of a cooperative at the time of the change of the political regime and was transformed into a public limited liability company only a decade later.

Keywords: Hungary, socialist cooperatives, horticulture, adaptation, bottom-up initiatives, agrarian lobby, market reforms, innovation

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