Labor correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor Lane Kirkland is turning out to be just as tough an anti-Communist as George Meany. The new AFL-CIO president has been bluntly outspoken in his condemnation of the recent internal exile of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, one of the Soviet Union's foremost scientists, and has intensified the AFL-CIO's already fiery anger at the USSR.
The federation of unions, with 13.6 million members, has been a spearhead of support for Soviet and other dissidents through the years. Dr. Sakharov was invited to address the AFL-CIO's biennial convention in 1977, when the Soviet Union appeared to be relaxing its restrictions on dissidents. At the last minute, Dr. Sakharov was barred from leaving the country.
The AFL-CIO obtained a copy of the speech he planned to make. It was read at the convention and then widely distributed. In the speech, Dr. Sakharov warned against too much Western reliance on detente and ties with the Soviet Union.
"Authorities in the USSR undertake the most shameless measures to cut off channels of communication with the West, and it seems to me that only by actively opposing this can we anticipate successful cooperation in the struggle for human rights," Dr. Sakharov's text said in 1977.
The dissident scientist continued to be a beacon for citizens unhappy with their Communist regime and was listed as a sponsor of the International Sakharov Hearings, a biennial human rights conference last held in Washington under AFL-CIO auspices in 1979, with Mr. Kirkland as chairman.
The conference reiterated demands that the Soviet Union live up to the provisions of the 1977 Helsinki accord on human rights.
According to the Soviet government Newspaper, Izvestia, Dr. Sakharov was arrested and banished, with his wife, to the closed city of Gorky for "blurting out" state secrets to Westerners. Mr. Kirkland, along with the White House, blames his criticism of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan for the "brutal attempt to silence this gentle and heroic couple."
"This is a grim reminder of the character of the men who run the machine that now poses the greatest threat to peace since World War II," Mr. Kirkland said. He pledged the federation's "best efforts" behind "appropriate steps to ensure that Dr. Sakharov's voice is not silenced."
Mr. Kirkland has been blunt and outspoken in other calls for toughness against the Soviet Union:
* In declaring strong support for President Carter's retaliation against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he denounced the "murderous attack" and said that "mere indignation" in the United States is not enough. There must be a hard-nosed policy that will cut off all technological support of the USSR and confront its Politburo "with scarcer resources, higher costs, and harder choices ," he said.
"It is high time that American business stop selling, on easy credit, the rope that will hang us," Mr. Kirkland declared. He noted that US corporations sold the Russians parts for their SS-18 missiles and built the Kama River truck plant that produiced the vehicles that have been rolling into Afghanistan.
* He blamed the Soviet Union for "right now helping to block the distribution of food in Cambodia, with truly genocidal consequences."
* Echoing one of Mr. Meany's last public statements, he said that "it would demean the Olympic spirit if the Games were held in a nation which oppresses and represses the human freedoms of its citizens." He urged that the 1980 games be moved out of Moscow.
*And he said the Carter administration and the nation must not be put into a situation of having to choose between social needs and defense needs, terming a "guns or butter" argument "always dangerous and fundamentally dishonest."