East Europe's peace movement: discreet but not silenced
Vienna — Go into a Warsaw student club and you might hear these lyrics: All the armies have tanks, Those from the Rhine and from the Volga, On both sides, the politicians build them: New weapons.m
The Polish rock group that sings this song used to call itself ''SS-20,'' after the Soviet rockets that are one of the major stumbling blocks in the Geneva talks. The group changed its name, at the advice of a discreet manager, to forestall censorship.
But the message that East and West share the responsibility for the arms race was not lost with the group's name. Especially when the song is strummed out in an East-bloc country.
The ''peace movement'' in Eastern Europe cannot be nearly as articulate as it is in the West. In most Communist-bloc states, it gains no tolerance at all.
Nonetheless, the ''peace movement'' in East Europe has not been silenced. It is as alive to the issues of the NATO deployment starting in December as the many people campaigning and arguing over it in Bonn this week.
It is better described as a ''peace feeling.'' It must be read between the lines in the official news media, but it is there: a questioning that runs as deep as the feelings of the West German Greens or the women at Greenham Common in Britain.
It is mostly youth who have given this feeling its form and expression. And through the churches, most notably the Evangelical and Lutheran churches in East Germany, protest has been still more widely heard.
East Germany is one of the two East-bloc countries selected so far to receive Soviet ''countermeasure'' weapons for NATO's cruise and Pershing II missiles.
The other is Czechoslovakia. But any incipient peace movement there was curbed recently when the leaders of the dissident group, Charter 77, were summoned to the Interior Ministry.
Charter 77 had already issued documents on the arms race. Now the group was told bluntly that any attempt to oppose the government's formal agreement with the Russians over new weapons placement would be ''subversion'' and dealt with rigorously as such. Subversion in Czechoslovakia entails a sentence of up to 10 years.
The East German authorities have blown hot and cold about how far protest might go, but they have in several ways at least acknowledged its existence.
In alate October, at about the time Charter 77 was getting what emigre sources here described as its ''stiffest warning yet,'' the East German party daily, Neues Deutschland, gave prominence to letters addressed to Erich Honecker by Evangelical congregations in West and East Germany.
Moreover, it was a letter from a church in East Germany that was the more forthright. Such a letter was without precedent in a Communist-bloc press. It was in direct conflict with official Soviet (and East German) policy blaming the US alone for failure to reach agreement.
All the East-bloc regimes have organizations ''for peace'' - but they are strictly official. In Hungary there has been some latitude for unofficial groups - even an effort to persuade several of them involving young dissidents to cooperate with the official Peace Council.
For East Europeans, the renewed East-West tension has a double interest: It not only brings the arms race closer home, but also diminishes their hopes of domestic reform and relaxation.