The manifestation of a different type of authority, the institutional authority of the National Councils, is a new phenomenon in Bieszczady. This sort of authority is closely linked to the appearance of symptoms of integration amongst the settlers in all of the pioneer villages in consequence of the progressive crystallization of the factors of economic cooperation, social activity and also participation in culture. Such integration is proceeding not only in particular neighborhood circles but is progressively encompassing all the inhabitants of the pioneer villages.
Henryk Jadam (Bieszczadzianie - tworzywo osadnicze in Mlodosc' i Tradycja regionu krosnienskiego, ed. H. Jadam; Rzeszow, 1979, p.158)
A New Community in Wislok?
The method used in the closing sections of the previous chapter was to note an orthodox or widely accepted view in the Polish literature, and then to see whether or not the evidence from Wislok confirmed that interpretation. It was found that the Ukrainian ethnic minority is by no means as satisfactorily integrated as official sources claim, although there are signs that in the long run the ethnic cleavages will weaken, as regional differences within the Polish population have weakened already. It was also suggested that new cleavages might appear in village society as a result of recent economic policies; the present divisions between occupational groups and a potential for class differentiation within the private sector could be followed by a polarization of sectors and a situation in which class distinctions were more conspicuous within the socialist sector than amongst the successors to the peasantry.
Adhering to the same method we may now turn in this final chapter to consider the question of a new community in Wislok. This concept, too, is problematic in Western sociology, though there have been efforts to adopt an unromantic and value-free approach.1 Polish authors in the socialist period have tended to regard the formation of a new community unambiguously as a normative goal. Generally, they have reported that this desirable objective can be attained in socialist conditions. For example, in the general context of the weakening of ethnic and regional differences, a leading sociologist and ideologue has written of 'the new reality of an integrated national community being formed in the crucible of socialist change'.2 He and many others have devoted particular attention to the achievement of this goal in areas where mass resettlement was organized after the Second World War, principally in the western and northern territories acquired from Germany. An official or orthodox position may also be derived without difficulty from the published works of sociologists and ethnographers on the Bieszczady region. I have relied primarily upon two authors who conducted empirical investigations, the sociologist Henryk Jadam (1976) and the ethnographer Maria Biernacka (1974).a The term 'community' does not appear in the titles of these studies, for it has no exact equivalent in Polish. The word wspolnota is occasionally used by Jadam but it does not have quite the same range (some would say vacuity) that community possesses in English. Instead, these writers use the concept of social and cultural integration, and they purport to analyze the 'formation of a new society', founded on these patterns of integration. Their conclusions can be fairly summarized as follows: in Bieszczady in the socialist period new social relations have come into existence which have permitted the formation of integrated communities in at least two senses, firstly within each rural locality, and secondly at the level of the region. Let us begin the empirical evaluation at the lower of these two levels, and consider first of all the economic transformation, which the Polish authors agree has been fundamental in creating the conditions in which integration could proceed.
As we saw in Chapter Three, it is difficult to maintain that the peasants of Wislok are integrated in an economic sense. They do not interact constructively with the public sector. Most keep their demands for services from the SKR to a minimum, few have any contacts with the State Farms, and few have responded significantly to the authorities' attempts to increase production by a system of long term contracting. Even peasants who took up specialist cards (see Chapter Three, pp.44-8) were soon disenchanted, as the state reneged upon many of its promises of assistance. The entire peasantry remains deeply suspicious of the intentions of the socialist authorities in agriculture, and is above all sensitive to any dilution of their private ownership rights. It will take more than slogans to persuade peasants to change their mentality of resistance for one of enthusiastic economic cooperation with the socialist sector; and for long periods, including the 1970s, even the slogans were far from reassuring.
Mistrustful of the state, the Wislok farmers are also mistrustful of each other. Only in the first years of the new settlement was there substantial pooling of equipment and mutual aid between households. In recent years the latter has declined to negligible proportions, except for a few close kin who happen also to be neighbors. Farmers in most neighborhoods cannot even agree to graze the few head of cattle they possess on any joint basis. Help is not extended in non-agricultural activities either (such as house-building). It might be supposed that the poor quality of the support and extension services offered by the public sector would be an incentive to high levels of cooperation, e.g. in the passing of information as well as in lending equipment. This is not in fact the case. An example of extreme self-reliance is being set by the most productive farmers, who find themselves increasingly isolated and unable to maintain close relations even with their kin. Nor are the less productive much more inclined to cooperate with other households to overcome their problems. When the prospects for the peasant farm are judged bleak, then not only the younger generation but also heads of households are likely to turn instead to the socialist sector.
Some of the consequences of central policies towards the peasantry in the Bieszczady context are noted by Jadam and Biernacka. They state that some immigrants did not settle because their farms did not prosper, and that some were unable to repay the initial credits which they received from the Agricultural Bank. They note that great importance was attached to the ownership of land, but that there were many who did not use their new resources efficiently. The deployment of credits to erect new residential buildings, rather than to build stables and attempt to mechanize the farm, is seen as a positive virtue by Jadam. It reveals (in his opinion) not the failure of the authorities to provide economic incentives, but a lack of commercial orientation on the part of immigrants which amounts to a break with the capitalist past: '. . . the farmers who came to Bieszczady did not represent the orientation of an enterprise, of an owner of capital. Rather they were characterized by the spontaneity of their economic actions. . .' Attractive though this idea of non-capitalistic farming may be, it did not solve the problems of the settlers. It left most of them both unable to persuade their children to inherit, and obliged to supplement their incomes in the socialist sector.
Only if integration is taken to mean greater involvement on the part of immigrant families with wage-labor in the socialist sector can a high proportion of households in Wislok be called integrated. Centrally approved plans for the development of the region have consolidated this sector. Within the village, employment may be sought with the Forestry Commission or the State Farms. Outside it, but within daily commuting range, the socialist sector has constructed major new enterprises, such as the sawmill at Rzepedz'. Those who work in this sector must accept (though to varying degrees) the labor discipline of the factory. Their pensions and social security rights are superior to those of the peasants, and in this sense it might be said that they are more completely integrated into the new socialist society. However, there is an inverse relation between integration of this sort and the stabilization of a new community in the village. Those employed in the socialist sector discourage their children from remaining in the village, many of these workers aspire to leave themselves eventually and prefer to distance themselves from the local society. Most of the daily commuters hope to migrate to the new housing estates in Rzepedz itself. It is no more than a large village at present, but perhaps there a new socialist community may be formed. The implications for the several dozen settlements from which workers presently commute to the sawmill are rather different. Expansion of the socialist sector results in the presence of a number of distinct occupational groups, none of which has any commitment to the village's future. At the same time, some of the peasants who might develop such a commitment through building up their own farms are tempted to opt instead for a more regular cash flow and improved long-term security. Such peasants will hang on to their land as long as possible, for this continues to provide them with another kind of security. This group falls midway between the minority of peasants which has managed to improve its perspectives and whose farms should remain viable, and those families whose commitment is solely to the socialist sector. If more and more peasants drift 'spontaneously' towards the latter, Jadam might infer that socialist economic integration was advancing to a higher stage. But only the remaining family farmers will retain any commitment to the village, and it is difficult to envisage what feelings of solidarity can develop if they are heavily outnumbered by short-term residents working for wages in the different branches of the socialist sector. The fundamental contrasts between these two sectors of the economy seem certain to polarize the village even further. It is possible that in the future closer bonds will develop within each, but the tendency at present seems to be in the opposite direction.
Socialist integration is also alleged to have proceeded apace through education and culture. However, we saw in Chapter Seven that many factors continue to handicap children in rural areas. Although most children nowadays go on to some form of secondary education, this is usually of a very limited kind; and of the several hundred children who have graduated from the primary school in Wislok over the entire post-war period, not a single pupil was admitted to university, and only a tiny fraction gained entrance to other forms of higher education (teacher-training etc.). We noted that in certain respects, particularly concerning the inculcation of patriotic sentiment, the system may work quite efficiently for the authorities. However, attempts to encourage 'participation in culture' have not been successful, for either youth or adults, since the closure of the community-center in the 1960s. The active programs allegedly organized by Socialist Youth Groups and the Housewives' Circles in other parts of Bieszczady are entirely absent in Wislok. None of the new socialist public holidays are celebrated, as they are said to be in other places. The library is little used, except by a few non-peasants with voracious appetites for war thrillers (some of the most popular being full of anti-Ukrainian prejudice). There are no dances at weekends, as in other villages. There is no place where people can gather, apart from the post office, the bus-stops and the shop. However, for women standing in line at the shop and using the buses more frequently to search for supplies, the economic crisis brought about a dramatic increase in the amount of time spent in company. A true spirit of solidarity developed during the hours (sometimes days) they spent waiting at the shop for the delivery truck to arrive.
'Social activity' (dzialalnosc spoleczna) is another, related area in which our Polish authors (particularly Jadam) claim that the course of integration in the new communities of Bieszczady can be scientifically verified. Again it cannot be supported from contemporary Wislok. In earlier years teachers did organize evening classes for illiterate peasants, and certain small jobs (such as the maintenance of public buildings and road verges) were carried out collectively, though at the instigation of the authorities. This ceased entirely during the 1970s. It is still expected that the population will pull together in building the new school; but the headman, despite his considerable prestige and some years of effort, has so far been unable to overcome the inertia. It has not been possible to persuade peasants to collaborate in their direct material interest, e.g. in laying on a water supply from a local spring; it was difficult to cajole small neighborhood groups into working together to improve their joint access road.
The complete lack of social and cultural activities of the sort described by the Polish investigators can perhaps be explained by the absence of the organizations or individuals to stimulate them. It can be suggested that this may be related to changes which took place in the 1970s, after the fieldwork of Biernacka and Jadam was completed. The bureaucratization of local government at a commune center several kilometers away, and the development of new relations of vertical dependence between the administration and peasant households, had unfortunate consequences. It might be argued, from a purely formal standpoint, that more households were being drawn into contacts of a socialist kind; but the cost was total petrification of contacts within the village. Depoliticisation was carried so far that, with complete apathy in some quarters and perhaps shrewd calculations in others, not even Rural Solidarity could muster support.
The expansion of the socialist sector and of the sphere of responsibility of the administration at all levels is cast, particularly by Henryk Jadam, as the driving force behind the creation of new communities in Bieszczady. Hence, he is led to argue, in the passage quoted at the beginning of this chapter, that the official organs of public administration enjoy great autorytet on the basis of the constructive tasks they carry out. He supports the claim with detailed empirical data.5 On this issue the evidence from Wislok is in such flagrant contradiction with the sociologist's generalizations about the region that I am compelled to suspect an error. The loan word autorytet has an ambiguity in Polish similar to that which it possesses in other languages. Jadam clearly intends to suggest that the new villagers of Bieszczady attach more prestige to the councils, the administrative organs and the village headman, than they do, for example, to the priest and the teachers. But only if it was power that his informants thought they were talking about in their interviews do their answers become consistent with my own findings.
Sharp practice of this sort is characteristic of Jadam's work, less so of Biernacka's. Both also contain abundant material that is corroborated by the evidence from Wislok. They stress the importance of the nuclear family in socialization, in contrast to the large, multifamily households which they claim were the norm in this region in the pre-socialist period. Both recognize the importance of the autochthonous group in many villages, find this to be a stabilizing element and in the forefront both socially and in economic cooperation between households. Jadam writes occasionally of a 'homogeneous' population, which is clearly premature. However, the general picture of ethnic and regional differences being broken down is one that the Polish authors document very well, e.g. in describing the constantly widening circles within which marriages take place. This is certainly undermining the Ukrainian minority in the whole of the Koman'cza area, whilst within Wislok itself the diverse regional origins of the immigrants have left little mark upon their children. Current marriage patterns generally support the proposition that in the special conditions of resettled villages regional and ethnic cleavages can quite rapidly be broken down. However, with a high proportion marrying outside the region and many of those who marry locally also anxious to get away as soon as possible, integration of this sort should not be confused with the stabilization of a new community.
In the early 1970s, when the fieldwork on which the Polish authors base their works was being completed, it might have seemed reasonable to assume that the breaking down of the most obvious barriers within the new population would lead eventually to stable communities. The turnover of farms in the private sector, though still considerable, was lower than it had been in the 1950s and 1960s, whilst some personnel in the socialist sector were residing for longer than they had in the past. However, the general effects of policies pursued in the 1970s combined to smother self-administration, to increase the unpopularity of the authorities, and to make the objective of the 'integrated community' more elusive than ever. Consequently, the evidence which I found in Wislok does not affect the validity of the accounts I have been discussing, prepared almost ten years earlier. A further reservation should be entered in defense of Maria Biernacka. Whilst she generally implies, like Jadam, that integration is something more than an analytical category, that a new community is something which can be observed 'out there', she nevertheless confesses that in certain villages an opposite tendency is to be found.6 We are not told how many such villages there are, or how they came into being. Instead, Biernacka goes on to discuss the processes of integration at higher levels, where her findings are again largely, though not entirely, congruent with those of Jadam. In the main the immigrants to Bieszczady have become increasingly attached to their region, and simultaneously they have been more fully incorporated into the new national community. Of the two authors, it is Jadam who places the greater emphasis on a new regional consciousness, which he claims was fully fashioned by the 1970s, and articulated in various ways by the new inhabitants. I would contend that, on the contrary, to the extent that Wislok peasants do consider themselves to belong to Bieszczady, this is the consequence of sustained myth-making in the regional and national media, but is still far from deeply 'internalized'. The name which immigrants use (according to Jadam) in describing themselves -Bieszczadzianie - was never used in Wislok, where even the term Wisloczanie to' denote the members of the local community is very seldom heard. However, a researcher who made no systematic inquiries of his own throughout the region is in no position to dispute the more general claim. Upon reading Biernacka and Jadam, when my work in Wislok was already at an advanced stage, I felt for some time that I was in an awkward position. Either I had to suppose that the entire situation had been transformed in the relatively short time - scarcely a full decade - which had elapsed between their fieldwork and mine, or I should face the fact that Wislok was a quite exceptional village, from which it would be unsafe to draw any conclusions about the region to which it belonged, let alone the nation.
As already indicated, there is some truth in the first of these possibilities. The discovery of another reliable empirical study of the region, prepared by a young researcher with a particular interest in the sociology of religion, enables me confidently to reject the second proposition. Unfortunately, this work had not been deemed suitable for publication. Andrzej Potocki's thesis, entitled 'The link with the Roman-Catholic Parish and the link with the region of settlement; a sociological study based on the example of Bieszczady', was submitted at the Warsaw Theological College in 1974. The author conducted his fieldwork at approximately the same period as Biernacka and Jadam, and based his study on similar questionnaire techniques. Unlike them, however, he did all the detailed interviewing himself, tramping around the villages for more than a year in order to do so. Potocki distinguishes three socio-occupational groups amongst the new immigrants to the region: individual farmers, workers in the new socialist sector in agriculture and forestry, and finally those who earn their living outside of agriculture altogether (commuters etc.). High levels of satisfaction with their conditions in the Bieszczady region are expressed only by the members of a fourth group, the autochthonous population. Farmers in full ownership of their land were found to display more positive attitudes towards the region than the other Polish immigrant groups. However, Potocki is successful in bringing out the ambiguities of a concept of 'regional patriotism'. It transpires that some of those who have most sympathy for the region are also the ones least anxious that their children should remain there. Only in the autochthonous group was a majority of respondents keen that at least one child should remain in the region. Farmers were adjudged to be the most 'stabilized' of the three immigrant groups, but even here, the rates of re-emigration were high. In response to detailed questioning 34 per cent of individual farmers said that they had 'no social contacts' in their new community (the reasons commonly cited being 'lack of a suitable partner' or 'feelings of personal self-sufficiency'); 47 per cent declared that they possessed 'no friends'. Here was confirmatory evidence that I had not been spending my time in such an unusual community after all. The main sociology-of-religion themes in Potocki's dissertation were also most interesting. He found that the church generally played a very constructive role in fostering a new local and regional identification, but that there was considerable variation across the different groups. For farmers in the private sector, strong ties with the parish were positively related to the intensity of their ties with the region. However, in the case of those committed to the socialist sector a strong attachment to the region was compatible with weak linkages to the parish, and Potocki offers a plausible explanation for this. This group contains many individuals who have come to Bieszczady because they have infringed the Christian moral code elsewhere, most frequently in the course of the breakdown of their marriages. For such persons the new parish 'reminds them of duties which they prefer not to think about'7 and they neither know their priest as well as other immigrants, nor do they attend mass so often. However, a large majority of persons in all of the groups examined by Potocki still described themselves as 'believers' (the range was from 85 per cent of those working outside agriculture to 95 per cent of individual farmers). The fact that the Bieszczady region offered asylum to some individuals seeking to escape from previous bonds of family and community did not prevent some of these from eventually forging new ties with the parish. For the large majority, the parish served from the outset as the major force promoting community in the new environment.
The role of religion and of the Roman Catholic parish in particular are subjects conspicuously ignored by the authors previously considered.8 Yet if anything can be said to integrate the people of Wislok it is their church. There is only one atheist family, and even they could not escape the church's monopoly of the rites of the life-cycle. Most families attend services regularly in the Wislok building, even those working in the socialist sector whose ties with the village are so weak that neither they nor their children are likely to remain there permanently. The traditional ritualistic character of Polish Catholicism has been modified of late but the range of the church's functions remains wide. Its role in the past of the nation ensures that it cannot lose from any upsurge in patriotic sentiment. It has appeared to go out of its way to maintain its appeal to its rural constituency: the emphasis it places upon the family and the virtues of small holdings is intensely satisfying to peasants who struggle in a socialist environment. In the welding of a new local community in Wislok the church has contributed a great deal. It might have done even more, had it been permitted to do so. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that people might have managed to do more for themselves had they been allowed greater freedom to express their religion. For example, the youth club might have functioned more smoothly if it had been organized under the auspices of the church rather than those of the Communist Party. There was also the sorry fate of a theatrical group which flourished in the village in the 1950s and early 1960s. Although not directly sponsored by the church, the most popular pieces put on by this troupe (and performed by them in many other villages in the area) were invariably religious in character. Eventually a performance was proscribed by the administration, and scripts confiscated. With the church unable to play any prominent role outside a narrowly defined 'religious sphere', cultural life has been needlessly impoverished in recent years. Nowadays there is really only the Sunday mass to bring the village together.
It is conceivable that the church could also succeed one day in creating a new regional identity for Bieszczady, as effectively as it already embodies the national identity, provides solace for the individual and the cement which unites the village. Although Latin Catholicism did not predominate in this mountain zone before the socialist period, the development of a new pilgrimage center at Jasien' is an illustration of what the church can do to create a new sense of belonging. It is hard to imagine that any other institution is capable of doing this. The attempts of certain Polish authors and the media to construct a new regional mythology seem likely to be less successful than the efforts of an earlier generation of Polish scholars to fabricate a regional identity for indigenous inhabitants of the mountain zone, who called themselves Rusnaks. The so-called Lemkos in the more westerly parts of the zone (to whom this name was indiscriminately applied only after the First World War) could at least be distinguished from their fellow Rusnaks in other parts of the mountains and from neighboring Poles by any number of ethnographical and linguistic criteria. This is hardly the case in Bieszczady (a name not taken up until after the Second World War), where the diverse immigrant and autochthonous groups which make up the present population have been rapidly losing their distinctive identities in the course of the advances of the socialist economy and the homogenization of the new national community.
To an even greater extent than other territories resettled in the socialist period, Bieszczady has stood out as a melting pot. However, the region has also been an instructive setting in which to consider the implementation of general socialist policies. Researchers have recognized the interest of the experiment, but from published studies it would appear that the village which I studied has no representative significance. Only the unpublished work of a young Catholic sociologist, bringing out the importance of religion as a factor promoting integration, convinced me that my results were not highly unusual. Whatever the general merits of the community study, a special defense can perhaps be made out for the foreigner when circumstances do not permit the publication of solid, truthful empirical studies by native investigators. Would I have done better to have translated Potocki's thesis in its entirety, or to have sought to emulate his methods in covering a much wider area? Had I done so I might be in a position to generalize more confidently, but I am not sure that this would have produced results more worthwhile than those of my 'massive immersion' in Wislok. No doubt Biernacka, and most certainly Jadam, also feel that they have grasped a deep sociological truth when they write about processes of integration in the new communities which have taken shape in Bieszczady. They are native researchers from the towns who, like Potocki, applied sociological techniques in studying a large area; whereas I have relied on the oldest established technique of empirical anthropology to describe a single locality. On some issues I think our studies may complement each other, on some we may arrive at very similar conclusions. On some of the most crucial we are fundamentally at odds, and the reader must make up his mind. In my opinion, the complete absence of 'integrated communities' is highly relevant to the crisis besetting the socialist state in Poland. The causes must be sought a) in features common to many other societies undergoing rapid industrialization, but also in b) features peculiar to socialist, centrally-planned, but non-collectivized Poland. Let us turn finally to consider again the latter, and the contradictory persistence of this peasantry.
The worse the better
Nobody can deny that the interests of Polish farmers are better protected than under any other East European government, even though they could always be improved.
Olga A. Narkiewicz (1976, p.284)
The sub-title is a pithy encapsulation of communist policy towards the peasantry in the Stalinist years.9 According to this principle the worse the position of the peasants became, the better the prospects for socialism and transcendence of the old class structures. Although these policies were ostensibly abandoned after 1956, in practice there have been important elements of continuity. The socialist sector has retained ideological priority inside as well as outside of agriculture. The inability to pursue collectivization and the unwillingness to allow independent farmers to prosper along a 'capitalist road' has enabled the peasantry to survive.10 It is important now to ask if this sterile conjunction was unique to Poland, and to assess how these peasants compare with rural dwellers in other socialist states.
First of all it is important to clarify in what sense the peasantry has been preserved. 'Traditional' peasant farming was extinguished in the 1950s, as elsewhere in Eastern Europe. This was a consequence of rapid industrialization, and perhaps an inevitable one, given the political context in which this was pursued. In many parts of the country there was pressure to join cooperatives. The free market was effectively suppressed and the private sector (in which agriculture now dominated, after sweeping nationalization in all other sectors) was denied the possibility of accumulation. Hence, many farmers were willing recruits for industry and the peasantry has become incomparably more open to the wider society. Some migrated permanently, but others worked as commuters because of the lack of urban housing. Peasant workers, like those who remained fully engaged in private farming, had their legal rights as private landowners reaffirmed after 1956. The extent to which the reality of control has been retained is debatable; it seemed to peasants that the constraints of the socialist environment tightened intolerably in the 1970s, when Gierek's policies enabled a minority of peasants, selected by the administration, to achieve long overdue modernization. These policies seem likely to be resumed in the rest of the century, as the upheavals of the early 1980s recede. In the meantime the essentials of the peasant labor process have remained in place for the large number of rural households who have neither been elevated to 'specialist' status and expanded commodity production nor wished to rely solely upon wage income from the national labor market. The survival of the group of 'full-time farmers', albeit a minority in many villages today, has facilitated the survival of a 'peasant ethos' amongst other groups. This was strengthened by the effects of the economic crisis of the early 1980s, when the poor food situation forced a general re-evaluation of the subsistence plot. Farmers able to market a large surplus were reluctant to do so as the currency in which they were paid ceased to command any goods whatsoever. There resulted a burgeoning of 'informal' links between town and countryside (via kin, worker-peasants etc.), and these circuits permitted more realistic exchanges to take place, often by barter. After martial law the campaign against 'speculators' increased and government controls became more effective once again. All the old problems in persuading peasants to expand their production remain. Politically, these years of crisis may perhaps be seen in retrospect as a late flowering of peasant populism. Government resistance in 1981 was on no issue so clearly in evidence as over the issue of allowing peasants to replace the defunct populist party and form their own free trade union. Central to the program of Rural Solidarity throughout its brief existence was the demand for full and genuine recognition of the peasant's private ownership rights. There were significant conflicts within the movement. It was symbolic that one of the earlier designations of the union, 'Peasant Solidarity' was dropped in favor of 'Individual Farmers' Solidarity'. Some activists were well aware that reiterating the inviolability of two hectare parcels of private property was not conducive to solving the agrarian problem; but it was felt that without these basic guarantees the government could not win the trust of any peasants. Leaders had no convincing alternative to the 'Stolypinist' polarization strategy of the government. Their egalitarian spirit was plainly incompatible with economic efficiency (except insofar as they demanded parity with the socialist sector of agriculture). In other words, in the technological conditions of the 1 980s populism was even less viable than it had been fifty years earlier: it was unrealistic to suggest that all peasants could have access to the optimal size of holding, and the industrial sector was no better placed to absorb redundant rural labor than it had been in the capitalist period. In such circumstances, the similarities with the fate of earlier populist protests are striking. There were pockets of militancy, of which Bieszczady was one of the most notable, but altogether (perhaps because of the accumulated effects of socialist administration) the peasantry has been passive. If it is finally to disappear, it seems likely to acquiesce to its fate. It is not clear what kind of populism, if any, can be preserved by the modernized family farmers who replace them.
But in other socialist countries the authentic peasant representative bodies have long since vanished from the scene, and farmers no longer have the direct control over their labor process which enables them to determine production, and gives them the power to deepen a crisis such as that of 1981. The contrasts with the other socialist states of Eastern Europe are the most revealing, though they are not entirely straightforward. Poland's immediate neighbors are East Germany and Czechoslovakia. Both of these states were already developed industrially before they became socialist and embarked upon the collectivization of agriculture. Although by Western standards productivity in agriculture may still leave a lot to be desired, output has expanded, the populations are well nourished, and the numbers employed in this sector have fallen to a relatively low proportion of the national labor force. Perhaps the most significant statistical indicator is one that was reported in the Polish press in 1981 (and noticed by peasants in Wislok). It was stated that the proportion of industry's aggregate product going to meet the needs of agriculture in these neighboring states was 12 per cent, compared to a figure of only 4 per cent in Poland.11 In other words the failure to collectivize in Poland seems to have led not just to discrimination against the mass of peasant producers, but to discrimination against the agricultural sector as a whole.
A comparison with the two Balkan states collectivized along the Soviet lines suggests that it is the nature of the industrialization strategy (rather than starting position, natural endowment, commitment to collectivist principles etc.) which is the crucial variable. Romania and Bulgaria started from an extremely underdeveloped industrial base, nearer to that of pre-revolutionary Russia than to the East German or the Czech position. Each still has a large proportion of the work force in the agrarian sector (though this proportion has declined more rapidly than it has in Poland, where it has stabilized at about 30 per cent). The difference seems to be that Bulgaria, with a more centralized structure, has invested heavily and consistently to make the most of a favorable natural endowment, resulting in plentiful food supplies at home and useful surpluses for export, whilst the Romanian drive to attain a higher measure of industrial self-sufficiency has produced strains comparable to those encountered by the USSR when it embarked on a similar course. Thus, in Romania the proportion of investment resources going to agriculture began to decline once the collectivized sector was established, and without supplies of basic inputs (above all adequate fertilizer) productivity remained far below the potential. By the 1980s the food crisis was profound, and rationing had to be introduced almost on the Polish scale. The short-term solution has been to require the rural population to make good the inadequacies of the socialist sector by producing more on the private plots.
At this point we enter a potential minefield, for the role of plot farming in socialist states is easily misrepresented. It is best approached as one aspect of overall integration in this sector, important in every state, but particularly so where urbanization and industrialization are not advanced and there is the potential to mobilize labor in high-value, labor intensive branches of production. Hungary is the clearest case in point. Her overall success with collectivization results both from high levels of investment in socialist agriculture and from stimulating (using market prices as incentives, rather than relying on exhortation and political pressure) high levels of production on small, family-managed plots. The comparison with Poland may be especially instructive, as the social structures of these states were fairly similar at the onset of the socialist period. In Hungary the proportion of workers employed in agriculture has fallen much more rapidly, to below 20 per cent, and it might even be maintained that the structure and performance of the urban labor force have been decisively influenced in consequence.12 But does not the survival of the peasant labor process on these private plots imply that peasantry is still alive here too? Apparently not, at least not according to these petty commodity producers themselves, nor to most outside observers. The inequalities between town and countryside are certainly there: lower wage rates, differential access to state housing, to culture etc. But where there is enough flexibility to permit material incentives to function in plot farming, the rural population can actually acquire larger incomes (by giving up leisure) and compensate handsomely for its inferior access to the benefits of socialist redistribution. Because the socialist sector in agriculture is strong and efficient in the conduct of large-scale operations, this solution does not have the negative consequences for the agrarian structure implied by the large worker-peasant population in Poland. Where genuine 'market socialism' is put into operation, where rural dwellers can build large houses, purchase cars in their own currency, and have all that they need for production laid on by well equipped socialist farms, then it is possible to speak of integration both within the agricultural sector and at societal level. Exploitation through a market mechanism seems preferable to the complete blockage which the Polish peasant has experienced. In Hungary the peasant has been 'captured', the old ethos is almost dead (it may survive in a few isolated areas, amongst the most senior age groups only), and there is no desire to turn the clock back to the days of private peasant ownership.
Finally, if we omit consistently Stalinist Albania from this brief review, there is the other outstanding representative of 'market socialism', Yugoslavia, which from a number of angles would seem to be most suitable for comparison with Poland. Not only is the size of the agricultural labor force rather similar, but some 85 per cent of the cultivated area is in private ownership and, as in Poland, given the large numbers engaged in commuting who wish to retain their small holdings, the structural problems of agriculture are serious. They are accentuated by a limit of 10 hectares upon the area to which a private farmer may expand (a restriction it has never been necessary to enforce in Poland, which had perhaps more effective means of forestalling progress in 'capitalist' directions), and by policies giving the socialist sector priority in investment programs. It can be argued that these contradictions will bring agriculture to a critical point at which effective modernization must be introduced, either in socialist ways (expanding the public sector) or by permitting the private sector to expand production. The similarity with the Polish predicament is obvious. It would seem also that we have greater likelihood of encountering peasantry in this context. However in Yugoslavia the decentralized and self-managed economy has not been excessively biased towards industry, and rural dwellers have been drawn in much more, both as producers and consumers, to the national market. The availability of more capital equipment to the private sector than in Poland, and the possibilities for intensification of production in many areas (not present to the same degree in Poland) have meant that in practice the Yugoslav peasant has not been trapped in the same way as the Pole. Above all perhaps, he has been given greater security of private ownership. Thus, the constraints deriving from self-management socialism are not the same as those of central planning within the Soviet bloc: the failure to collectivize need not have the consequences it has had in Poland.13
The comparative framework could be broadened further, to include the changes which have occurred recently in agriculture in other European states, with very different economic and political organization. Exodus from the countryside and the consolidation of farms have been widespread phenomena, with peasantry surviving tenaciously only in conspicuously underdeveloped regions. The most impressive concentrations of peasants are now to be found where contradictions between socialist ideology and the economic requirement that a genuine market permit individuals to accumulate have prolonged the transition to a modern agrarian structure:
notably in Poland, and to a lesser extent in Yugoslavia. In the latter it can be maintained that a more balanced industrialization strategy and the relative adequacy of the market mechanism have permitted the assimilation of peasantry into that federal socialist society to advance more rapidly than has been the case in the national society of Poland. In relation to the collectivized socialist states the proportion of the work force remaining in agriculture seems likely to remain high; it seems likely too that the traditional cultural stereotype of the 'peasant' will remain stronger in these countries. In the event of an economic crisis, such as that of the 1980s in Poland, the traditional versatility of the small farm may be reaffirmed, 'peasantry' may again become prominent both in the self-image of farmers and also in the attitudes of townspeople, incited to be jealous of peasant self-sufficiency by the propaganda of the politicians. However, in spite of these factors, when even the non-collectivized states of Eastern Europe are compared with other European states it can still be claimed that there has been continuous high mobility out of the rural sector, and indeed high rates of mobility in society as a whole. Peasant youth, though perhaps not everywhere to the same degree as in Wislok, has preferred the towns and industrial employment. When one takes account further of all those who are drawn into socialist wage-labor without migrating from the village, it must be concluded that in the very broad sociological sense (the first aspect of our 'working definition' of peasantry), the peasantry in Poland has been a casualty of the policy of imposed industrialization. In this basic sense socialist goals have been realized as fully as in the collectivized states: an antagonistic class has been incorporated, and its continued ownership of the land has not been the foundation for continued wealth and income differentiation of the kind found in capitalist class societies. On the contrary, in spite of official policies aiming to equalize incomes in rural and urban sectors, it seems certain that most rural dwellers in Poland are further from attaining such parity than the farmers of a collectivized state able to participate in a lucrative 'private sector'.
Whatever satisfaction the authorities might have gleaned from the social consequences of their policies towards the peasantry, they have fallen short of their own ideological standards, and for this reason persisted in dealing with peasants as a hostile, anachronistic element in the system. Proof that they were not in fact accepted as just another occupational group came with the protracted efforts to deny them the right to form a trade union in 1981, when this right had already been conceded to industrial workers. The authorities have also had to recognize that their policies have had disastrous economic consequences. In the absence of a coherent plan for the sector, only small numbers of individual farmers (not necessarily the most able) have been able to mechanize significantly, and to expand their acreage. It has been proven that forced expansion of the socialist sector in agriculture has been costly and inefficient, and detrimental not merely in direct material terms to the private sector (fertilizer diverted etc.) but even more importantly to the latter's sense of security. Consequently, many aspects of the old, labor-intensive, non-specialized peasant farm have remained in place, or re-emerged at times of crisis. In the current efforts to stimulate the private sector to move away from this pattern of farming and towards more modern types of production which will permit the marketing of larger surpluses, it remains to be seen if the necessary sense of security can be created. Experience would suggest that it might best be provided by a general switching from administrative methods to reliance upon the forces of the market, in the context of a far-reaching reform of the whole economic mechanism. For the fortunes of the private sector to improve, even for a minority, and to motivate youth to remain engaged in farming, it would appear essential that the land which they work also be subjected to the market, and thereby restored to its traditional role in the peasant community, the focus not merely of sentiment but of the most fundamental economic values. Here we are back once again with the dilemma of explaining just how important a factor land ownership has been in the persistence of peasantry, and the related issue of the extent to which the persistence of private property in land modifies the class structure of a socialist society.
An orthodox socialist response might be to agree that the deficiencies of agriculture were crucial to the productive system as a whole and so to political breakdown in the 1980s, and to insist that the persistence of peasant private property is the anomalous element in the socialist relations of production, responsible for the malfunctioning of the whole system. But does his ownership of land make the class position of the Polish peasant any different from, say, that of a cooperative farmer in Hungary? Hungary has much less private property, but makes much fuller use of market incentives, lacking in Poland: is Poland then less of a socialist society than Hungary? It might seem that the private ownership of land is not very important in practice, when it is very difficult to obtain, even to hire from socialist enterprises, the other 'means of production' without which the land cannot be efficiently worked; and when the controls vested in the state apparatus seriously qualify those ownership rights; and when the peasant has no representative body to help ensure that his legal ownership gives him the practical power to do things with his basic resource. When the socialist sector is as dominant as it is in Poland (with only 22 per cent of the land but owning more than half of the machine stock and making about 70 per cent of new investment) then it seems ridiculous to pretend that Poland is on the 'capitalist road'. The social relations of production, in the broad Marxian sense, as opposed to superficial property relations, have been as socialist here as anywhere else in Eastern Europe, perhaps more so.
Rural dwellers are discriminated against in the other socialist states. In Poland many have remained private landowners and resisted incorporation into the national market; in other words, they could choose to remain peasants. It is a moot point whether the advantages they have gained in this process outweigh the disadvantages. If a very positive evaluation is placed on private ownership, small-scale production and the occasional surfacing of the peasant ethos in populist outbursts in the political arena, then the assertion by Narkiewicz quoted at the head of this section is unchallengeable. If, however, one takes due account of the aspirations of the people living as peasants, the desire above all to improve their living standards, then the Polish solution is no longer self-evidently superior. If one accepts as given, as previous generations of populists usually did, the 'framework of harsh political realities',14 then it was, perhaps, a mistake to insist on the continued private ownership of land. Polish peasants may remain proud to be owners of their land, and many may have built large modern houses. But they also look enviously at the conditions enjoyed by cooperative members and employees in Hungary, where vastly superior market opportunities have more than compensated for the loss of private ownership of land. Collectivization of land in the 1950s might, given that Poland was to remain firmly within socialist constraints, have led to more rapid improvements in the living standards of the rural population and more general satisfaction than is found today. On the other hand, if collectivization had been pursued along the anti-market, industry-first lines followed in Romania, then the Polish peasantry would not have even legal ownership as a consolation today.
Collectivization does not in practice bring about a modern agrarian structure 'overnight'. In their continued reliance upon the private sector it may be said that almost all of the socialist states are exploiting elements of the old peasant economy. The conditions of rural families are in certain respects almost everywhere inferior to those in the cities, the latter having far easier access to the rewards of the system. Yet, particularly where there are opportunities to redress this balance in material ways through activities in the 'informal sector' (including plots), where market criteria are effective, the old peasant ethos and self-image would seem to be on the wane. In the severing of links with traditional agrarian society, that of private land ownership seems to be the most important. In circumstances where the old agrarian class cannot be assimilated into society by either socialist or capitalist methods, legal ownership of land is sufficient to ensure the survival of peasantry long into the industrial age.
No doubt this stalemate, the barriers to modernization, cannot endure indefinitely. The immediate impact of crises such as that of the 1980s is to reinforce small-scale production and to highlight the resilience and self-sufficiency of the peasantry. Yet, given developments in agriculture in other countries, the logic seems ineluctable; in Poland too, sooner rather than later, peasants will give way to a new stratum of family farmers. No doubt they will not be commercial farmers in the Western sense, with powerful unions to defend their interests. However, if they are to be motivated to produce at anything like their potential, they may well have to be assured a standard of living that would disturb some socialist purists. One optimistic scenario would envisage the post-peasants as a pressure group in a kind of pluralist socialism. Polish socialism has not really been like that so far. It has had to accommodate only one other major power center, the Roman Catholic Church. Some minority groups consider that they are better served by this socialist regime than by an opposition movement too closely identified with the national church. In a sense the peasantry too has, through clinging to its land, also retained a separate power base. Certainly the ethos has survived and peasants are united in their profound suspicion of the authorities. Of course, peasant political opposition has been less effective under socialism than under the populist leaders of the agrarian age. On the other hand peasant religiosity remains at a high level, ensuring that the Catholic Church remains the major solidifying force, in local communities and in the nation. It must be hoped that the power of this church will combine with the idealism of Solidarity and the pragmatism of genuine economic reform, and eventually prove conducive to a true pluralist scenario in the socialist industrial state.
Page prepared by Walter Maksimovich
Copyright © 1999 LV Productions
© LV Productions Originally Composed: April 8th, 1996
Date last modified: May 30th, 1999.