Of all the subjects on which he fancies himself an expert, none is closer to Nikita Khrushchev's heart than corn. He is full of it. On the last lap of his ten-day state visit to Poland (TIME, July 27), before flying home to Moscow and Richard Nixon, Khrushchev tore up his official itinerary. Instead of a visit to a Poznan factory where the Polish rebellion against Communist rule began in June 1956, Khrushchev insisted on making an impromptu inspection of one of Poland's corn-growing cooperative farms. As Khrushchev and Polish Boss Wladyslaw Gomulka climbed out of their black limousine, Western correspondents (whom Khrushchev jovially called "my sputniks") confidently started to follow them. They were roughly shouldered back by tough Polish secret policemen.
The reason soon became clear. One of the few Marxist heresies that Gomulka has not stamped out in his campaign to restore Communist authority in Poland is official tolerance of private farms. So stubbornly resistant are Polish peasants to collectivization that even now, after three years of Gomulka, cooperative farms total less than 1% of the nation's arable land. Would Khrushchev spoil everything with one of his off-the-cob remarks? Gomulka wanted no independent witnesses present when Nikita got to talking about agriculture.
As it turned out, Gomulka need not have worried. Khrushchev had come to praise the faithful Gomulka. Determined to cover the last gullies in the 1956 breach between Warsaw and Moscow, he was even willing to swallow Poland's independent, inch-slow progress along the road to agricultural socialism. "My conscience does not allow me to speak untruths and praise private farms," said Khrushchev. "The cooperative is the best form of organization of peasants' labor, the best form of organization of production. But one must not drive a man to a better life with a whip or, as the saying goes, drive someone into paradise with a stick . . . People have to grow up to cooperatives so that they understand the necessity for joining them."
History Teaches ... In fact, Khrushchev seemed clearly less irked by Poland's determination to remain this side of the Communist agricultural paradise than by Red China's earlier insistence that it would reach Marxism's pearly gates ahead of Russia itself. In his bluntest assault yet on Mao Tse-tung's rural communes, Khrushchev recalled that soon after the Bolshevik Revolution, some Soviet leaders had also decided that the way to achieve true Communism was by herding the peasantry into communes. "Well, they organized communes," he said. "But neither the material nor political conditions for itI mean the consciousness of the peasant massesthen existed. A situation arose in which everyone wanted to live well but to contribute a minimum of labor to the common cause." China, in other words, would soon learn, as Russia did, that communes offer too much scope for goldbricking.