Reacting to recent Soviet military moves in Afghanistan and the exiling of prominent dissident Andrei Sakharov, the Italian Communist Party has begun a campaign to divorce itself and other European communists from a Kremlin line that one leading party official has termed "an incapacity to solve tensions affecting Soviet society in tolerent ways."
Led by party secretary Enrico Berlinguer, who s trying to revive the Italian party after severe electoral losses in parliamentary voting last June, the Communists have exacerbated their already tense relationship with the Kremlin by breaking ranks with Moscow on both Kabul and Sakharov.
There was no mistaking the Italian party's tone or intention. "Ultimatums, search for strategic positions by military means, the attempt to extend political 'blocs' -- all of this represents one thing and one thing alone: the dangerous logic of force,'" said Giancarlo PAjetta, the Italian party's key foreign policy spokesman.
"We condemn the Soviet invasion [of Afghanistan] in no uncertain terms," Mr. Pajetta said, "and we ask that the troops involved be withdrawn as soon as possible."
Nor were the Soviets spares following Mr. Sakharov's arrest.
"It is a vision of society that considers all that is different either pathologically wrong or somehow irrecuperable," wrote the editors of the party's official organ, L'Unita.
L'Unita's attack and Mr. Pajetta's though unmistakably strong, were tempered by softer blows againts the United States and Europe for "poisoning" the atmosphere of detente.
Mr. Pajetta referred to a decision by several Western European NATO countries to dePloy Pershing II and nuclear criuse missiles aimed at the Soviet Union. Italy's Christian Democratic government has agreed, over Communist exception, to the deployment of 572 such missiles.
Soviet observers were not particularly understanding. Vadim Zagladin, believed to be Boris Ponomaryov's second man in the Russian Foreign Office, was quoted by a leading Italian daily as "baffled and disappointed" by Mr. Berlinguer's gambit.
"What is necessary is a dialogue between Europe and the Soviet Union, but I see no such dialogue developing and find myself more than a trifle baffled and disappointed by the Italian position," Mr. Zagladin was quoted as saying. "I don't understand their motives."* Mr. Zagladin could be forgiven his bafflement, though a bit overstated. It was Mr. Berlinguer, after all, who invented the notion of Eurocommunism. "Let the Soviets seek solace in [French Communist leader Georges] marchais," said one Communist official, "they know better than to get a rubber stamp from us."
The Italian Communists know they cannot enter the government without the backing of ruling Christian Democrats, who have repeatedly ruled out any such alliance. But folloing more than 10 days of sustained anti-Kremlin attacks, Christian Democratic secretary Benigno Zaccagnini suggested he might want to give the communists another look, "if they repudiate Moscow once and for all."
Despite the recent criticism, however, such a wholesale repudiation still seemed a bridge too far for the Communists.