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Communist influence in peace movement: threat or red herring?

By Elizabeth PondStaff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor / November 29, 1982


Active but very far from decisive.

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This seems to be the general Western intelligence estimate of the communist role in Western European peace movements in general, and of the crucial West German movement in particular.

The communist role might best be characterized as one of amplifying antinuclear sentiment that is already strong among an articulate group of non-communist peace activists. This conclusion emerges from conversations with British, Norwegian, and American sources and high officials both of the new conservative government and the old left-Liberal government in Bonn.

The communist aims are said to be two-fold: (1) keeping the movements one-sidedly critical of Western but not Eastern nuclear weapons (and thus blocking NATO's planned mid-'80s missile deployments), and (2) especially in West Germany, helping the minuscule Communist Party to break out of its political isolation by promoting the popular peace issue.

In line with this, evidence of Soviet and/or native communist party involvement in the Western European antinuclear movements include the expulsion of two Soviet diplomats from Norway and Denmark in 1981 for allegedly passing money to peace demonstrators and the expulsion from the Netherlands the same year of a Tass correspondent who was allegedly involved in mobilizing protestors.

Other indications include a recently leaked Dutch intelligence report of meetings in East Berlin and elsewhere between Soviet and East German officials and peace activists from Dutch churches and trade unions; the highly visible (and perfectly legal) plying of the European antinuclear lecture circuit by Soviet diplomats and journalists; and hefty representation in 1982 in the top council of the key British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) - according to George Miller of the Institute for the Study of Conflict - of communists, ex-communists, and extreme leftists.

CND spokesmen, while not denying some specific identifications of CND activists as present or past communist party members, discount their influence in a mass movement in which Quakers, for example, outnumber communists.

In West Germany, says one government official, ''We have enough information that the peace movement and the Greens are supported by organizational help and some cadres of the DKP (the West German Communist Party).'' He named 50 million to 60 million marks ($20 million to $24 million) as the annual sum East Germany funnels into the West German antinuclear movement directly or through the DKP. This money, he indicated, goes for such things as publicity and transportation costs involved in assembling the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators for major peace rallies.

He immediately added, however, that despite the communists' vigorous efforts, ''It is not easy for them (to get) political influence'' in the rather diffuse movement. Sometimes they are successful and sometimes not, he suggested, concluding, ''I'm sure it's the smallest part of the movement, but the most effective part.''

In Norway, Defense Ministry spokesman Christopher Prebensen warns against any urge to dismiss the whole peace movement as communist-led. ''We find little reason to discredit the genuine sentiments of the antinuclear movement,'' he noted in a telephone interview. ''There is (nuclear) uncertainty, and a lot of people support (communist) views or are parallel to those who are for that policy'' of a nuclear-free zone in Scandinavia.''