A major portion of Europe's Communist parties has tolled the end of their heresy which challenged Moscow's ideology. At the same time, the 22 parties meeting here launched a major campaign against NATO deployment of middle-range nuclear weapons.
Both results were worth the cost to Moscow of the conspicuous absence in Paris of softer-line Communist parties like the Italian, Spanish, Yugoslav, and even Romanian parties, noncommunist analysts believe.
The results of drawing a sharp distinction between themselves and the French Communists, the analysts believe.
The campaign against deployment of middle-range nuclear weapons agreed on by NATO last December was kicked off by the Paris meeting's sharp condemnation of these weapons, the Finnish party's proposal for a rally of all "peace forces" this summer in Helsinki -- and the meeting's careful avoidance of formal endorsement of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
The French and other parties at the Paris meeting have already declared their backing of the occupation, but they did not draw the public's attention to this in their communique and press conference closing the meeting. They focused instead on the theater nuclear weapons that NATO plans to deploy three years from now to counter the already deployed Soviet SS-20 theater missiles.
The Paris meeting also marked the end of a Eurocommunist pretension to a legitimate communist policy critical of Soviet foreign assertiveness and domestic repression. The French party clearly ended its flirtation with such a course when party leader Georges Marchais approved the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in Moscow last January. But the assembled European Communist parties have now given their collective stamp of approval to this retreat.
The atmosphere could not have been further removed from the last Communist Party conference in East Berlin in 1976. There the Italian and Spanish parties publicly challenged Soviet leadership, and Spanish party leader Santiago Carrillo spoke of the need for the communist "church" to emerge from its "catacomb" mentality. Under the Eurocommunist onslaught Moscow reluctantly agreed to drop the phrase "international proletarianism" -- the code word for a Soviet monopoly on communist leadership -- from the final 1976 communique.
Today, Moscow is no longer willing to risk such a temptation to the ruling East European Communist parties to distance themselves from Moscow.
For the French Communist Party, the short-term cost of losing a percentage point or two of votes because of its hardline support of the Soviet Union is worth the expected long-term gain of establishing itself as the only party of leftist opposition in France. Even since 1977 -- and especially since the death last summer of Jean Kanapa, the communist foreign-policy theoretician of the united front with the French Socialist Party -- the French Communist Party has been viewing its 1972-77 policy of a united front as a mistake.
French communist support for the Afghan occupation and an aggressive campaign against NATO modernization will now clearly separate French Communists and Socialists. The Socialists have enthusiastically backed French nuclear modernization, and have diluted their mild opposition to NATO modernization with concurrent opposition to Soviet SS-20s. But the Italian Communist Party has thrown a monkey wrench into the French Communist strategy, however, by beginning a new "Euroleft" dialogue with Socialist (French) and Social Democratic (West German) parties this year.