There were no tractors in the street, no angry farmers descending on Warsaw to dump grain on the steps at Nowy Swiat 6, the Communist Party headquarters.
But the image of Poland's disgruntled small-time farmer, able generally to feed himself but failing--either out of spite for officials or out of chronic systemic inefficiencies--to supply this hungry nation with meat and produce, overshadowed the momentous joint gathering this week of the leaderships of the United Workers and United Peasants parties.
It was an unprecedented teaming of the two Communist-controlled central committees, meant to show a renewed attack by authorities on the nation's farming bottlenecks and food shortages.
Polish leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, summing up the two-day session last night, characterized it as "businesslike and creative"--euphemisms, to judge from the texts of party speeches published today in the official press, for brutally serious and desperate debates about how to improve agricultural output.
No changes in basic farm policy emerged but there was widespread acknowledgement among top Communist Party members that the Polish system would have to do better by its farmers through the pricing of produce and by boosting the availability of agricultural tools and machines.
Also underscored was the fact that Poland, already broke, would have to stop dipping into precious hard-currency holdings to import grain and food from the West. Instead, it should become agriculturally self-sufficient.
In the Soviet Bloc, only Bulgaria and Hungary approach self-sufficiency in food.
The Warsaw government spent $1 billion in 1982 to import food to keep consumption levels from falling, according to official figures. With western governments maintaining their refusal to give fresh credits, the Communist state is bound to be thrown more on its own devices this year to feed itself.
"We know that distrust of these announcements and decisions can be justified in the light of plentiful past experiences and disappointments suffered," Jaruzelski said at the meeting's close, conceding deep public skepticism that authorities will be able to manage the crisis in the countryside.
"This is why our resolution, far from being a promise, is a beacon and a chance. Its fulfillment will determine the real significance of this plenum."
Having starved the agricultural sector in the 1960s and 1970s to fund glamorous but, as things turned out, largely disastrous industrial projects, Warsaw officials pledged two years ago to give farming a top priority. Poland's social upheaval was in full swing then, and the bankruptcy of the old business-oriented economic plan was apparent to all.
But party leaders were forced to admit this week that the ambitious five-year agricultural targets set in 1981 will not be met.
Everywhere along the farming chain there have been disturbing gaps. Machines, tools and fertilizer remain seriously short of demand, and peasants continue to complain about red tape, official corruption and the unavailability of spare parts.
Hopes last year that a good harvest in field crops and fruit would ease the food crunch were soured by a poor potato yield damaged by drought.
Tons of grain are produced by Polish farmers but a grain shortage has resulted nonetheless from farmers' refusal to sell more than half of the roughly 5 million tons the state wants. Farmers say a lopsided government pricing structure makes it pay to hold on to their grain or unload it on the more lucrative black market.
Compounding the problem has been a shortage of fodder, which in turn has led to a wholesale slaughter of pigs and cattle and to a severe reduction in the number of chicken farms.
Recognizing the political sensitivity of the meat issue--it was an attempt to raise meat prices that triggered the strikes of August 1980--officials have been saying up to now that they will try to keep the meat ration unchanged this year. To achieve that, though, party leaders indicated that certain "makeshift measures" may be required, including the export of better cuts of Polish beef to obtain hard currency to buy greater quantities of cheaper meat.
In an overview report to the joint session presented by United Workers Party Secretary Zbigniew Michalek, the Communist chiefs played down the chances of widespread hunger. "Are we faced with a threat of famine? No," the report said, "we are not. Polish farming has potential possibilities to feed Polish citizens. We want to attain the goal in the shortest time possible."
A substantial 28.1 percent of total state investment will be spent on agriculture this year, the report pledged. But despite this step-up in farm spending, deliveries of equipment to peasants are expected to fall 24 percent short of target by 1985. Tractor production alone, while on the rise, will meet only half of Poland's needs this year, according to other figures publicized by Deputy Prime Minister Zbigniew Szalajda this week.
Poland stands out among its socialist neighbors for letting about 75 percent of its farmland remain in the hands of 4 million private farmers rather than be massed into state-run collectives.
Except for electrification and increasing literacy, the life of the typical Polish farmer has changed little in centuries. He lives on about 13 acres in a one-story wooden or masonry house with a brick stove in the kitchen and religious pictures on the walls. Outside is a well and a thatched-roof barn for one or two cows.
Feeling ignored and vilified by a socialist revolution that favored industrial workers, Polish farmers turned their disaffection into activism in 1981 with the birth of Rural Solidarity, but the independent farm union remained unsure of itself and was politically more moderate than its industrial counterpart, Solidarity.
A primary demand by the now-banned union was a constitutional safeguard for the private ownership of farmland. The party leadership continued to hold out the promise of action here, saying in its report: "This permanent character of such farms should be confirmed by an entry in the Constitution."