Is there an orchestrated communist plot to weaken the Western world by financing, trafficking and distributing a constant supply of illegal, mind-distorting drugs?
Most experts say no - but add that some communist, and socialist, nations are definitely involved in parts of the global drug business.
An orchestrated plot is hardly necessary, they say. The Sicilian Mafia, the Camorra Mafia in Naples, Colombians, Lebanese, Thais, Pakistanis, and Mexicans have already helped generate a tidal wave of drugs.
In the United States, growing evidence implicates Cuba in aiding cocaine and marijuana smuggling from Columbia.
''As a communist, Fidel Castro doesn't want drugs in his own country,'' Rep. William J. Hughes (D) of New Jersey, chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime of the House Judiciary Committee. ''But recently I have seen classified data that gives me tremendous difficulty with his position. . . . I am troubled by the information.''
Congressman Hughes has asked the State Department to try to set up a trip to Cuba to investigate. The two countries have no formal diplomatic relations.
A jury in southern Florida this year named four senior Cuban officials as co-conspirators in a case in which five others were sentenced to between seven and eight years in jail. Named were the former Cuban ambassador to Bogota, his minister-counselor, and two members of the Cuban Communist Party's Central Committee.
A Cuban defector named Mario Estebes Gonzalez, the chief government witness at the trial, was arrested for marijuana smuggling Nov. 29, 1981. He said later he was one of 3,000 Cuban agents who infiltrated the US among the 125,000 refugees allowed to leave the port of Mariel early in 1980.
Francis ''Bud'' Mullen, chief of the Drug Enforcement Agency, told me he had hardened his position on Cuba since he testified in April to the Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
At that time, he detailed the case of Jaime Guillot-Llara, a Colombian alleged to have sent 2.5 million tons of marijuana, 25 million Quaalude tablets, and 80 pounds of cocaine through Cuban waters to the US between 1977 and 1981, paying protection money to the Cubans.
''On the basis of intelligence,'' Mr. Mullen told me, ''I am now convinced that the Cuban government is involved (in the drug trade). I will say this: If the Cubans would cooperate totally, we could shut off the drug trade in the Caribbean altogether.''
On the existence of a communist plot generally: ''I usually deal with evidence, and I cannot prove a plot exists. My view is that communist countries make little effort to curb drug trafficking. They are taking, well, delight in our drug problems. . . .''
Is the Soviet KGB also involved in smuggling?
A former agent in the Bulgarian KGB, Stefan Sverdlev, who defected in 1971, says that Warsaw Act security services met in Moscow in 1967 in part to discuss how to hasten corruption in the West.
According to interviews Sverdlev has given to Nathan Adams of the Reader's Digest, the result was a three-year plan, begun in 1970, to use a Bulgarian state enterprise called KINTEX to exchange drugs for arms later smuggled to insurgents in the Mideast and elsewhere.
US officials confirm that Sverdlev and Kintex are known to them.''An old story,'' said one State Department source, who nonetheless did not deny it.