Poland: and now the farmers

Even as Poland's workers were achieving victory after victory in their union activities, pundits were doubting that Poland's farmers could do the same. It was reasoned that the communist authorities would never tolerate the organizing of the three million private peasant farmers who provide three-quarters of Poland's food. The risks of anarchy, anticommunist agitation, or the growth of a powerful opposition movement in the countryside were supposed to be too great. As recently as February the supreme court ruled against registration of an independent farmers' union like the workers' Solidarity.

But, oh, those brave and wonderful Poles!

The workers got behind the farmers. So did their church leaders.Farmers' sit-ins in government buildings dramatized their determination. An agreement to forestall a general strike included a provision to allow the farmers to proceed with their unionizing.

Now the farmers, like the workers, have triumphed. In an accord signed with the farmers, the government agreed to legalize Rural Solidarity by May 10 on the same basis as the Solidarity trade unions are registered.

Everyone knows that this means the farmers join the workers in accepting the "leading role" of the communist party in Poland.To deny this, of course, would really be intolerable in a Soviet satellite. The farmers, like the workers, have to combine courage with judgment as they go forward.

The apparent general approval of the accord in Poland is a measure of how far the political climate has changed there in the months since the workers began reasserting their rights.

But the Kremlin did not hide its unhappiness. And it has something to be unhappy about. Russia's agriculture has been in worse shape than Poland's. Poland's recognition of Rural Solidarity is a step toward improving agriculture there. If it works, the news can hardly be kept from Soviet farmers, who already know that their private plots can outproduce the government's collectivized acres. If farmers make progress in one part of Moscow's empire, shouldn't they be allowed to at home? The Poles deserve credit for the extraordinary fact tha t such questions may become a possibility.

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