The peasant farmers who have been battling Poland's regime for official recognition may very soon have a trade union equal in status to the workers' Solidarity union.
Although it has yet to be confirmed, official sources say the government is prepared to drop its objections as it did earlier with the industrial union.
Nothing could do more help Poland regain social peace and revive its faltering economy.
When farmers went to the regional headquarters of the United Polish Peasant Party in Bydgoszcz March 16 to present their case for legalization of a trade union for private farmers, they touched off the worst period of all in the crisistorn months since August.
Although the Peasant Party would not support them, the industrial Solidarity union did. The issue escalated into "the Bydgoszcz incident," and police action brought all Poland to the brink of a catastrophic general strike.
There was good news for farmers in general this week as substantial increases were made in prices for products delivered to the markets.
And formal registration of Rural Solidarity seems near. Although it was turned down by a Warsaw court early this year on a legality, no one doubts it was because the Communist Party disliked it on political grounds. The issue is to be debated in parliament today.
On the eve of this parliamentary session, the farmers issued the charter stating the nature and goals of their union. It contains several assurances designed to mollify the Communist Party's ideological fears.
Declaring the union has "no political ambitions," the statute unequivocally recognizes the Communist Party as the country's 'leading political force." It acknowledges the Peasant Party, which is allied with the Communists, as the legitimate spokesman in questions vital to the countryside and agriculture. Many private farmers are, in fact, members of the Peasant Party.
Parts of Rural Solidarity's charter are a simple declaration of faith from Poles who are deeply rooted in land they own but for whom, over the years, there have been fewer and fewer resources and less encouragement for good farming.
"Our main concern," it says, "is recognition of agriculture's proper place in society and that the farmers' work shall be property rewarded.
"We do not want our sons and daughters to leave our family farms, nor the countryside to become desolate. We want it to be rich and capable of feeding our nation and exporting food as was once our tradition.
"Many of us are indebted to the 'peoples power.' Many of us received land under the agricultural reform.
"But we wish to see restored the principle laid down in that decree that agriculture would in future be based on healthy, productive farms owned by individual farmers."
The allusion is to an early decree by the postwar Communist regime breaking up and distributing vast estates among 2 to 3 million landless peasants. The decree is still on the books.
In another gesture to the party's ideological misgivings, generated in part from the support given the farmers by the Roman Catholic Church, the charter concludes:
"Our union is open to all farmers, regardless of their political and religious beliefs. Nevertheless, most of us were brought up in the faith of our fathers and we see in the church moral support during times that are difficult for our whole nation."
The primate, Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, has several times endorsed the farmers' right to their own associations like workers or any other branch of society.
This support and the regime's need for the cooperation of the church -- plus the stark necessity of stimulating agriculture -- induced the regime to promise in the agreement that ended last month's threat of a general strike to "reconsider" the question of Rural Solidarity.
The need will be still further emphasized by the gloomy economic report to be presented in parliament today. It will point to continued falloff in production , an inescapable tightening of consumer belts for at least two or three more years, until the government's efforts to reform the economy and grapple with Poland's fearful foreign debt begin to take effect.
an adequate food supply is essential if this new austerity is to prove acceptable.