Poland has a new hero. He is Jan Kulaj who heads up the independent farm union which has just won legal recognition by a Polish court. Some three million private Polish farmers now have the same rights as the industrial workers in the Solidarity organization.
Like everything else that has been happening in Poland of late, the development is extraordinary. Private farmers are not after all employees of the state, so to give them union rights is to make another break with Marxism. However uncomfortable this must make orthodox communists, it is bound to be good for Poland -- politically and economically.
Assuming, of course, that it can continue to survive the internal political tensions and the Soviet pressures which these far-reaching changes have spawned.
So far the signs are favorable. It is clear that the Polish government, after first trying to block the historic Gdansk agreements, has finally decided to work with the unions and to try to lead the reform movement. It has no choice if it wishes to restore its credibility and authority. The communist party is being rebuilt from the ground up; the delegates to the all-important upcoming congress will have been chosen in free elections and many will also be members of Solidarity. If the July congress is held on a more or less democratic basis, if there is open discussion, and if a consensus can develop over an economic reform program, the ground will be firmly laid for evolving a new form of socialism in Poland and launching the country on the road to economic recovery.
No one underestimates the difficulties ahead. Polish Deputy Minister Mieczyslaw Rakowski minced no words when he told the New York Times in a recent interview: "So far in Poland we have just disassembled or damaged the old structures, but the new ones have yet to be constructed. The world will look upon us as idiots if we do not create a cohesive, efficient and working economic system."
That will take cooperation between workers and state, of course, and there is evidence such cooperation is developing. The government recently praised Solidarity for helping to disperse unruly youth in the town of Otwock. The party has vowed to work more closely with the Roman Catholic Church and the independent unions. Lech Walesa, the leader of Solidarity, is lecturing his co-unionists on the need for discipline and hard work. And Jan Kulaj told farmers amid their jubilation over the new agricultural union that the public now expects an improvement in farm output.
These are encouraging beginnings. If the Kania government keeps faith with its pledge of reform and renewal, there is little doubt the Polish workers and farmers will keep faith with their government. All it takes is a lit tle democracy.