The Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan has had a splintering effect on the Communist parties of Western Europe. Italian and Spanish Communists have strongly condemned the action.
But the French Communists have come out in support of the russians -- indicating not only a binding solidarity with Moscow but also a possible case of hasty misjudgment that could lead later to serious internal party strife.
Although many analysts now consider "Eurocommunism" a defunct term because of the apparent differences in Marxist interpretation among the parties, their views on Soviet policy are still regarded as a revealing gauge in determining their independence from Moscow.
The most vehement criticism against the Soviet invasion has come from the Italian Communist Party (PCI).
In recent years the PCI has gone head over heels to demonstrate its democratic respectability and continued desire to join the coalition Christian Democratic-led government as part of the "historic compromise." The Italians accused the Soviets of violating "some of the principles that must govern international coexistence."
In a front-page editorial of l'Unita, the official party newspaper, the PCI said that the invasion countered the best traditions of the workers' movement, namely, "the defense and respect of national independence and sovereignty, the unexportability of revolutions, the obstinate search for peaceful and political solutions instead of military ones."
While condemning Moscow's move as the fruit of "perverted logic," the PCI also noted that the Soviet Union's interest in maintaining Afghanistan within its sphere of influence was understandable because of repeated US attempts to "eliminate her from the Middle East."
The Spanish Communists, led by moderate Santiago Carrillo, who has in the past come under violent attack from party hardliners for being too soft, joined the Italians in their attacks against the Soviet Union. The PCS asserted the action was "contrary to class and revolutionary posture."
But in what observers believe is a possible attempt by the Spanish Communist leadership to appease internal party critics, the PCS remarked that "neither the United States nor the other main NATO powers have the moral authority to reproach the Soviet Union for its military intervention in the internal affairs of Afghanistan."
The French Communist Party, however, has proven to be the extreme hardliner of the three. In repeated statements to the press it has alienated itself from its Eurocommunist colleagues by declaring the Soviet invasion as perfectly justified because of Afghanistan's sovereign right to call on its allies to fight against "foreign elements."
The French Communist Party (PCF) not only accused the United States of supplying arms and financial support to the rebels led by the "dispossessed feudal opposition" but also attacked the French government for implicitly supporting the Americans in their quarrel with the Soviet Union.
Not turning down US Undersecretary of State Warren Christopher's appeal to the West to reconsider its bilateral relations with the Soviets, the PCF maintains, "is eqaul to engaging our country in the policy decided by Washington."
In what is being regarded as political canvassing for the 1981 presidential elections, the French Communists have adopted a strong nationalist pose.
While warning of the dangers of a return to the cold war, the PCF party newspaper l'Humanite declared last week in an editorial: "The deterioration of Franco-Soviet relations favor without doubt American aspirations and hegemony."
The PCF, like all other French parties, has been struck by political apathy. Observers feel that in an attempt to remain in the news it may have been too hasty in its support for the Soviet invasion for French voters.