Our idea of communes favors more hippy movement than governmental control, however, that is exactly what happened under the Chinese leader, Mao Zedong’s administration from 1958 to 1983. The People’s commune model was part of the Great Leap Forward, which demanded the mobilization of peasants in huge water projects during the winter slack seasons and thus improving agricultural production. These communes had political, governmental and economic functions and were divided into production teams and brigades.
Made up of a combination of smaller farm collectives, these communes consisted of 4,000 – 5,000 households and in some cases were as large as 20,000 households. Within the communes everything was shared – private cooking was banned and all kitchen furniture, pots, pans, and utensils were contributed to the main communal kitchen for communal dining. The peasants had no private property.
Assignments of household items, private animals, stored grains and other food items were made available for the commune as a whole. Every morning all farming activities were assigned centrally by cadres and commune leaders assigned each member of the commune with a job or task. In some places, money was outlawed. Even when bad weather hit the communal lands in 1958, 1959 and 1960 and famine became widespread the food resources were still being exported to urban areas.
Decades of governmental turmoil had these communes reconstructed, severely oppressed and eventually disbanded.