The French Communists are back snugly into the Soviet fold with most observers refuting their contention of continued fidelity to Eurocommunism. The French Communist Party (PCF) has accepted lock, stock, and barrel the Soviet version of the latest events in Afghanistan. Events, incidentally, that were denounced in no uncertain terms by the Italian and spanish Communist Parties.
Following the collapse of the Left Union in 1978, the PCF has multiplied reassurances of solidarity to Moscow. It supported fully the Vietnamese intervention in Cambodia. In May, 1979, the same Georges Marchais who had berated for years the Soviet Union for a number of sins, from 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia to the Gulags, introduced the thesis of a "globally positive balance sheet" concerning Moscow. Then came the all-out antiNATO missiles campaign.
Why did the PCF decide to turn the clock back to the unconditional fidelity to the Kremlin of cold war times?
Prior to 1977 and for a number of years afterwards PCF leader Marchais and Moscow were at odds mainly for two reasons:
* The soviets had disapproved of the alliance between the PCF and Socialists known as the Left Union. They believed it would upset the East-West balance and do nothing for the communist camp. When in the last presidential elections the PCF decided to support Socialist candidate Franccois Mitterand, the Soviets marked their preference by having their ambassador call on candidate Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
* the Soviets have been consistently hostitle to Eurocommunism, which the PCF had adopted as a necessity in order to work in alliance with the Socialists.
Now that the Left Union is definitely a thing of the past, the French Communists have felt free to throw Eurocommunsim overboard and return to the strict Kremlin-inspired orthodoxy that marked most of their history. Eurocommunism means first of all acceptance of the democratic process; secondly, the right for each communist party to develop independently and rejection of a "model" to imitate.
Even though Mr. Marchais has proclaimed that his party is more Eurocommunist than ever, in one essential element at least this does not appear to be the case. Statements while he was on a Moscow visit indicate the French Communist leader shares with the Soviets the principle of the irreversibility of a communist conquest. In other words, once a country falls within the Soviet sphere it has no right to get out.
This, of course, is pure Leninism and has nothing to do with the democratic process and the principle of free political choice.
Mr. Marchais has also insisted that the present struggle is between imperialism, identified with the US and the multinationals, and the communist camp.
By identifying totally with the latter, Mr. Marchais admits implicitly that the French communists can gain power only as a result of an extension of the "socialist camp" -- in the Soviet sense of "communist" camp -- to the whole of Europe. That helps explain PCF unconditional support for all Soviet foreign policies and adventures.
When PCF policies are compared to those of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), the French party's departure from Eurocommunism becomes evident. The PCI denounced Soviet action in Afghanistan as "perverted logic" that violates, to quote the party organ Unita, "some of the principles that must govern international coexistence and that belong to the best tradition of the workers' movement: the defense and respect of national independence and sovereignty, the unexportability of revolutions, the stubborn search for peaceful and political solutions instead of military ones."
The PCI has followed up on its criticism by introducing a motion of censure against the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan before the European Parliament.
Italian Communists have advocated the formation of a "third force" in Europe, halfway between Washington and Moscow. They believe this Europe may emerge as East-West tensions ease and detente progresses. The party will turn against whichever side -- United States or Soviet Union -- it sees as disturbing this process.
While the PCF leads the campaign against NATO's decision to install cruise and Pershing missiles, the PCI mitigates its opposition by blaming the Soviets for having placed SS-20 missiles within range of Western Europe. And unlike the PCI, which works for a third force independent of both Washington and Moscow, the PCF only knows two forces -- "imperialism" and the "socialist camp" -- and sides unreservedly with the latter.
Everything indicates that, as far as the PCF in concerned, Eurocommunism is dead.