West European communists split over possible Soviet invasion

"An invasion of Poland by the Soviet Union is highly unlikely," remarked a graphic designer and militant of the French Communist Party (PCF) over dinner at his Left Bank home in the Montparnasse area.

"That's all part of the West's hysterical propaganda. But if it did happen, we would, of course, be on the side of the workers."

Remaining evasively ambiguous as to which side he was referring to -- the "official" workers of the government or those of the autonomous Solidarity trade union movement -- the designer's observations reflect the standard rhetoric of many intellectual communist militants here in France.

But they also reflect a profound ideological dilemma. Not only are the French communists still forced to grapple with the embarrassing legacy of past Soviet incursions into Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and more recently Afghanistan, but they must gear themselves to the possibility of a Polish invasion in such a manner that they will not be forced to compromise their political consciences.

"An invasion of Poland would be an absolute disaster for the French Communist Party," said one analyst. "They are doing their best to will the crisis away. But there is no doubt in my mind that they would condemn it, although they would at the same time support the Soviet Union."

During the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, the PCF officially "disapproved" of the Soviet action but later supported the "normalization" process that smothered all traces of the Prague spring and reintroduced central dictatorial repression. With regard to Afghanistan, the PCF openly supports the Soviet occupation, claiming that troops were called in to protect the country from outside interference.

So far, the PCF leadership has refused to state its official position in the event of an invasion of Poland. L'Humanite, the party daily, repeatedly has maintained that an invasion is out of the question.

"No such measures have been taken by the USSR," wrote editor-in-chief Rene Andrieu. "No declaration by one of its leaders permits it to consider such an eventuality." The newspaper further declared that "no one in Poland, whether government members, trade unionists, of artists, believes in a military intervention."

Instead, the communists have loudly attacked the "bourgeois" press for launching a "formidable barrage of propaganda easily leading one to believe that the voice of France has become the voice of America."

Both the Italian and Spanish Communist parties, on the other hand, have publicly warned against an invasion. Earlier this week, leaders of the Italian communist Party (PCI) declared that any aggression against Poland would lead to a formal rupturing of relations with the Soviet Communist Party. Such an intervention, charged Paolo Bufalino of the PCI "would be extremely serious and totally unacceptable."

Similarly, Santiago Carrillo of the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) called for order and peace. By invading Poland, he charged, "Moscow would be committing a stupidity just as it did in afghanistan."

Compared to its Italian and Spanish counterparts, the PCF appears to have abandoned its former semblance of democracy and political independence from Moscow. Eurocommunism, if it ever existed, has become a historical term. In April 1980, for example, the PCF organized a European Communist Party conference with the Poles but failed to attract the Italian, Spanish, Romanian and Yugoslav parties among others.

Both the Italians and the Spanish have totally different views of policy as far as Europe is concerned than the French. They believe that Europe should be strengthened to make it more autonomous from both the Soviet and American blocs.

"It is one thing to be allied with the United States," maintains I'Unita, the Italian Communist Party daily. "It is another to succumb to the imperialist strategy with its inevitable symmetry in the soviet camp."

In France, there is also growing disenchantment with the lack of democracy within the party among militants and intellectuals. A number of them have openly announced that they will not vote for party leader Georges Marchais in the 1981 presidential elections. Internal dissension, analyst here maintain would be seriously aggravated by an invasion of Poland.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.