Socialist Collective

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Collective, Socialist


(Russian, kollektiv), one of the most important cellular units of socialist society; a relatively compact social group bringing together people engaged in a particular social task. It combines the interests of the individual with those of society and is based on the common goals and principles of socialist cooperation, which serve its members as value orientation and as behavioral norms.

Depending on the type of activity they are engaged in, collectives are classified as labor, educational, military, neighborhood, sports, or amateur artistic talent groups. Labor collectives have a place of fundamental importance in society, and among them the production collectives are the most important.

The socialist revolution creates the material, intellectual, and moral conditions (for example, public ownership of the means of production, socialist norms in social relations, socialist values and ideals) under which various types of collectives will arise. As socialist society develops, changes take place in the structure and functions of the collective, and it evolves from its initial forms into those of a higher, communist type.

A collective has two chief functions—objective carrying out of the immediate task for which it was created and the socioeducational function of assuring that the interests of society and of the individual are merged through the development of the various abilities of the individual. The task and size of the collective determine its organizational structure: it may be on one, two, or several levels (for example, a work brigade, workshop, and factory staff). On the primary level stands the small group, in which relations are directly between individuals. A collective possesses both an official (formal) and a sociopsychological (informal) structure; the latter is formed on the basis of personal sympathies and antipathies. Since personal relations affect people’s behavior in a crucial way, including their attitude toward their work, the establishment of an optimal correlation between the formal and the informal structure is of great importance.

A certain amount of change in composition may be observed in any group. This turnover is the result both of objective factors, such as technological progress, the law of labor turnover, and demographic and other laws, and of subjective factors, depending on the nature of the relations within the collective. Some collectives change composition periodically (educational institutions and army units, for example). Others are purely temporary (for example, the construction staff of a hydroelectric power plant).

A major role in each collective belongs to the local branches of the public mass organizations, including the party, the Komsomol, and the trade unions, since their task is to influence the work of the collective, to raise the consciousness of the members to the level of society’s demands on them, and to prevent the rise of localist tendencies or of collective egotism.

A person’s place in and value to a group depends primarily on his or her personal qualities and abilities, which to a significant extent also determine the nature of his or her relations with the other members of the collective. People usually belong to more than one collective (such as to a labor collective, a neighborhood group, and a sports team), which develop different abilities in them.

The collective’s appraisal is a powerful incentive to the individual in social and business activities. It encourages constant individual improvement and helps to develop the sense of collectivism. The member is morally responsible not only for his or her own activity but also for that of the other members and of the group as a whole. Individuals must compare their actions with those of the group and subordinate themselves to collective discipline. However, a particular individual may sometimes understand the tasks objectively facing a collective better than the majority of its members. In this case the individual has the right and the moral duty to oppose the majority in the interest of society and ultimately in the interest of the collective itself. The indicators of the level of a collective’s development are (1) the degree of unity between the individual and the collective when the socially directed activity of the individual and his demands upon himself and upon the collective (including its leaders) are increasing, and (2) the degree of unity between the collective and society when the group’s independent activity is increasing, which presupposes a high level of social consciousness on the part of the members.

In a developed socialist society, the interests of society, of the labor collective, and of the individual coincide to an ever-growing degree. An important part in this growth is played by socialist emulation, one of whose basic functions is to raise the collectives that are less developed in the social sense up to the level of those that are more advanced, such as the collectives of communist labor. The movement for a communist attitude toward labor becomes a matter for conscious creative attention among ever greater numbers of working people and is vividly reflected in the drafting and implementation of plans for the social development of labor collectives.

Collectives play an enormous role in developing a communist world view among Soviet people, in imparting a communist attitude toward labor and developing conscious discipline, and in overcoming survivals of the past in people’s consciousness and conduct. One of the central tasks of the party is being carried out in the labor collectives—drawing the working people ever more extensively into the management of production and of society.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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