MOSCOW AND THE EUROCOMMUNISTS: WHERE NEXT? (RP 77-10078)

Created: 4/1/1977

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Moscow and the Eurocommunista: Where Next?

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Moscow and the Eurocommunistsi

Where NextP

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Summary

Evidence is mounting llin! relations between tlic Soviets nnd the more autonomous Communist parties of Western Europe, the so-ailled EurocommunUts, ireew and more difficult phase. This time the issue is democratic freedoms, which theprofess to champion and v. "nidi the Soviet bloc states conspicuously violate.

Some of the evidence Is available in the public domain, where Eurocommunist spokesmen piously decry the lack of political democracy in the Soviet Union, and Soviet propagandists sternly want the Western Communists against fulling prey toplotsnlmcd nt pitting the Communists of the West against those of the East. Other evidence.

Indicates that the Soviets arc becoming ever more* worried about the degree to which Eurocommunist doctrines arc contributing to dlssldcncc withinSR and Eostcrn Europe, and ever more determined tj do something about It.

The Berlinuhlout Achievement

The worsening of relations betweenand the "Eurocommunist" partlcs-thc -most importani of which arc the Italian. French, and Spanish-comes only months after the Conference of European Communist Parties fCECP) In East Berlin. This gathering. Inas intended by its Soviet sponsors to serveeaffirmation of the unity of the international Communistsuch renegades as the Chincse-andcafflrmatlon of Soviet preeminence within that movement.

In the end, the Soviets had to take solace chiefly in the fact they had succeeded in bringing together the leaders of almost all the European parties, including such long-time apostates as Tito of Yugoslavia. Beyond that, the results of the meeting fell far short of Moscow's original expectations. Insteadocument which paid at least indirectto Its central role within the movement andeneral line for thatMoscow had to settle for an anodyne document which skirted these and most other contentious issues. The impression of disarray was acccntuutcd by the published proceedings of the conference, us ihe Eurocommunist leaders took (he opportunity tooses in thnr speeches to the gathering.

The equivocal result* of the Berlinhad been presaged by Ihe difficulties Moscow experienced in bringing off the meet* ing. Both (he bonds of unity within the movement and Moscow's authority had come under strain5h because of developments in Portugal. The conspicuously antidemocratic actions of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) had weakened the credibility of the newly minted democratic credos of the Eurocommunist parties, and impelled them to distance themselves from Ihe PCP and its Soviet mentors. Moscow itself contributed lo the breach, as its vocally

Aggressive support for the actions of the PCP met with increasingly strident disclaimers from the Eurocommunist parties. Moscow'sfor the militant tactics of the PCP in particular contributed to the conversion of the French party, which had been relatively docileut which once again became an outspoken critic of Soviet actions.

Nevertheless, nothing that happened at or before Berlin was of sufficient weight to persuade the Soviets that the advance of Communism in Western Europe was not in their long-term interests, despite theof the moment. These Irritationson the Kurocommunists' rejection ofauthority within the movement, and the doctrinal innovations of theseespecially their verbal commitment topluralism and their formal repudiation of one-party rule.

Against this, the Soviets were able toroad coincidence of foreign political views,eneral hostility topolitical, economic, and militarywithin the Atlantic community. This fully coincided with the long-term Soviet objective of securing the eventual weakening of (he American presence in Europe and the neutralization ofropcolitical power factor.

Straightforward calculations of foreign political advantage are not the only factors thai have affected Soviet attitudes.conviction also hasole. The Soviet leaders see and portray themselves as the leadersorld movement. In practice, since the defection of the Chinese, this claim hus been justified in large part by Moscow's continuing relationship with the large Western parties, the most Important nonrulingparlies still maintaining close ties with Moscow. It Is understandable that the Soviet leaders have been reluctant lo sign theof (he international Communistby ending their relationship with these parties, just as the latter have been reluctant

to run Ilic risk of Internal schism (hut nn ending of the historical relationship with Moscow would entail.

Soviet Attitude* Toughen After Berlin

la spite of the factors arguing forhowever, Moscow's willingness tothe compromise achieved at Berlineroded by the end of the year.in Soviet attitudes Is tracedthe posi-

tions taken by Soviet officials Jna series of meetings between6 and

The first was the Warsaw Pact summitleaders in Bucharest in lateWhile there Is no evidence tothat (he question of relations withdirectly uddresscdmeeting.

indicates that the subject of dissent within the bloc came in for considerable attention. The problem of relations with the Eurocom-munists. therefore, must. have come up at least on the periphery of Ihe uiscussions, since many East European dissidents havesought-and occasionally received-expressions of support from theunist parties. The Italian purty, for example, played an active role In pleading for clemency for the Polish workers sentenced to prison terms after the disturbances of June and

One^report is more specific about the attitudes the Soviets expressed at the next suchonference of bloc ideological officials held in Sofia in the middle of Dcccmbcr.f*

Tthise Soviets came downhe sideough approach, both on what measures were necessary to restore order within the bloc and on the appropriate attitude toward the Euro-communist parties. On the latter question, the Soviets reportedly argued that lhc popular-front tactics favored by the Eurocommunist parties could not be. upproved because these parties had abandoned the concept of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" (one-party rule) and "proletarian internationalism"with the Sovieihe deepening chasm between the Communists of East and West was indicated when the confereeswere unable to agree on-ato split and weaken the deviant Western parties. Nevertheless, the Soviets apparently then wcnl ahead with threats to do just this anyway."

The same hardening Soviet attitude was revealed in talks with loyal Western European Communists the following month.

Communist

leaders attending were (reareduuncia-(ion of the Eurocoinmunists by Mikhail Suslov, the senior ideological spokesman of the Politburootorious hard-liner. Suslow reportedly charged Hint lhc Italian. French, and Spanish parties formed un "axis of Eurocommunism" and were attempting to wean the other Western parties away from the Soviei Union. Suslov urged his listeners to resist these blandishments and to cooperate with the Soviets to rebut criticism from Abroad.

^ The most recent meeting was of senior bloc Ideological officluls in Sofiaates which appear to have been chosen to coincideEurocommunist summit" of Italian. French, und Spanish Communist leaders In Madrid. According to one report, the Soviets stuted ut the Sofia conference that they intended to crock down on their own dissidents nnd pressed hurdimilar crackdown on political dissidents throughout Eastern Europe.

J^rcporl-

*Slii!ifly,cr-wlcdly wwe unable In Micemcauiicinci wiihln Ihclc own uni*.

ing does not indicate the substance of the discussion of Eurocommunism. One source claims lhat the East Germans and Bulgarians

were mosi hostile to the Western parlies and the Hungarians most sympathetic. Tlic Soviets were described as "very, veryut visibly displeased by the Hungarian attitude. In any case, it seems clear that the Soviets could not press at Sofiaougher line on political dissidents in Eastern Europe without taking into account the impact such awould have on their relations with the .Eurocommunist parties, since theseave been strained more than anything else in recent months by the conspicuous andembarrassing denial of political freedom in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Soviet Threat*

Other C, ^Tcports indicate that since January the "Soviets have begun to threaten direct retaliation against parties which persist in public criticism of theof political dissidents within tiic Soviet sphere. According to these reports, the Kalian Communist Party (PCI) has been the target of particularly blatant pressure. Two Sovietvisited Italy in January, reportedly to try to outflank the PCI leaders by taking the Soviet case onrights directly to the PCI rank and flic. They are reported to have arranged toew pro-Soviet publicationeans of conveying Soviet views toCommunists.

The same two Soviet officialstheir lobbying with some tough talk in their contacts with PCI leaders. According to one report, they threatened Soviet retaliation against the PCI-spccifically the publicof pusl PCI collaboration withIf the Italian party did not moderate Itsol" Moscow's performance on luimnn rights Issues.

AnothciC. plaints that ItalianGiovanni Ccrvcttl, who visitedIn late January, mode the trip Inu Soviet demand that the PCI sendlo "explain" the PCI"*of Soviet

U Sccrctaiy Ponomarev. who met with Ccrvetti, denounced the "anti-Soviet" statements of tlte PCI and warned that the Soviets wouldrontal attack on the PCI ifit persisted.*

Information on Soviet dealings with the French and Spanish parties is much sketchier, but there arc some Indications that these parties also hive become the targets of Soviet pressure. There arc reports that Soviet and bloc subscriptions to the French Com/nunist Party (PCF)mall butsource of revenre for the PCF-were cut back sharply In Janu-ryign of Soviet displeasure. To the same end, the Soviets reportedly haveisaanking PCFengthy attackrench Communist historian which appeared in the Soviet journal New Times in Januarywas meantarning shot.

Wc have no specific information of any Soviet threats against the Spanish party, but it is noteworthy that the same two Soviet officials who were in Italy in January traveled on to Spain. It is fair to surmise that the Spanish. Communists heard much the same messages conveyed in Italy.

Nor are these parties Ihc only oneshave sought 'n intimidate intothe question ol huinjn rights. anotherreport, in mid-

February the Soviet Woe ambassadors in Copenhagen were preparing lo warn theof the banish parly againstfoolish" position on the human rights issue. They reportedly intended to backeminder thnt continued bloc support was essential to Ihc survival of the Danish parly.

Moscow's resort to crude bullyingeparture from recent practice. Even during

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(tie pill hy piomlilnj! pcnciout (tninctil old tf lhc PCI compllo with Ihcti wWic

the height of the Soviets' quarrel with the Spanish and Italian Communists56 over the propriety of Communistin Portugal, there Is no evidence that Moscow employed direct threats or blackmail to attempt to force them to capitulate.he Soviets had gone to considerable lengths to patch up their quarrel with the Spu'ilsh Communist Partyven though It had questioned the legitimacy of the socialist system as practiced in the USSR and Eastern Europe.

wo-Edged Sword

Moscow's previous reluctance to employ direct pressure-either financial or political-was founded on doubts about the efficacy'of these methods and uncertainty about the consequences. Doubts on both pointswere fostered by the Sovietafter the invasion of Czechoslovakiahen Soviet attempts to suppressCommunist critics had mixed results.

Of the three future centers ofonly in France-whcre the PCF soon gave up its criticism of Moscow's actions-could the Soviets89 be satisfied with the results of their efforts. Results were much less positive In Italy; the PCI eventually put aside its quarrel with the Soviets, but has yet to reconcile itself with the Soviet-supported government In Prague. In the case of the Spanish party, Moscow's efforts boomcranged, even though theparty was subjected to more intense pressure than cither the Italian or French. The Soviets went so for as to try to break up the Spanish party and replace Itew, pro-Soviet organization.

The Soviets not only failed to bring the Spanish party to its knees, but contributed to making It Moscow's most consistent and outspoken critic among the Eurocommunist parties. The Spaniards have gone muchthan either the French or Italians in suggesting that the totalitarian features of the

Soviet system arc endemic, ratherroduct of the personal aberrations of Stalin or any other individual. They attribute these defects to the Soviet Union's "Asian" and "despotic" heritage, all by way of arguing, of course, that the Soviet historical experience will not be repeated if Communism comes to power in Western Europe.

Moscow today has no grounds forthat direct pressure and blackmail will have any greater long-term effect than they didn the case of the Italian party, withdrawal of financial and political support might wu'1 prove Ineffective In halting criticism of Moscow for very long. This party now has much more varied financial resources thanarge state subsidy providedew electoral law-and is much less vulnerable to financial pressure. The Spanish party was able to resist Soviet pressure8hen itmall. Illegal organization depending on the charity of other parties. There is no reason to believe that it will prove weaker now that It is in the process of establishing itself in Spain. Only In the case of the French party, whose willingness to stand up to Sovie' pressure has proved limited in the past, could Moscoweasonable hope ofetreat by threats.

There is no reason to believe that these facts arc lost on the Soviets. Moscow'sto seek to club the Furocommunlsts Into submission, nevertheless, suggests that it sees little alternative to strong action.

Soviet Actions Are Defensive

arge extent, the Eurocommunlsts have forced Ihe Soviet hand by showing an increasing inclination to criticize the internal practices of the Soviet state. This is adeparture from past practice. Even when their post quarrels with the Soviet' were moM blttcr-is over the invasion of Czechoslovakia-most Western Communist leaders tried to make it clear that

menlingle point of principle did not signify disillusionment with the essentials of the Soviet system.*

Beginning with the Portuguese crisiswhich coincided with the rise in the political fortunes of the PCI and PCF-thc Eurocommunist parties have become more and more outspoken and sweeping in their criticisms of the Soviet system. By the endt had become almost routine for the Italian Communists to decry the lack of political democracy in Ihc USSR, for the French Communists to denounce theuf dissident luminaries such us Leonid Plyusheh and Vladimir Uukovskiy, and for the Spanish Communists to dismiss the Soviet system as having more in common with Russian traditions than with Marxist teaching.

Nor was there any sign ut the beginning of the year that this trend was bcingreversjjd. On ihe contrary, inhat the PCI was in the process ofigh-level party commission whose sole purpose was the formulationweeping critique of the whole Soviet system. At about the samehe plansEurocommunist summiT^in Madrid began to circulate, and were accompanied by speculation that the Western Communists were intent onival Communist center.

Instability Within the Bloc

These developments were in themselves alarming enough to Moscow. They occurred, however,ime when Moscow's ability to tolerate the criticism of Its alllcs-stlll In evidence ut the Berlin conference Inhud sharply diminished becuusc of the spreud of political unrest and dissidencc in Eastern Europe and in the USSR itself. The specific causes vary but the condition Is general.

'The Spsnldi Cornmunbu havelgnlikani exceptionthlt general rule of conduct doer

The potential for serious trouble is greatest inountryeep strain ofecent history of worker unrest and street violence. The latest wave of unrest was triggered by proposals for food price hikes inorker demonstrations against this action erupted, and the jailing of some of the alleged leaders of the demonstrations has ledew surge of politicalamong the intelligentsia und on the part of the powerfulChurch.

In Czechoslovakia. there hasenewal among intellectuals ot the reformist sentiments associated with the "Prague Spring"for reform were put forwardocument calledhichymbolic significance in Europe far out of proportion to the strength of the Czechoslovak

In East Germany, the immediate source of unrest has been revived interest in emigration to Westthat has been rostcred in large part by the Helsinki agreement's guarantees of the right to travel and ol reunification of families.

In lliuiRary, npurtodest show of support for theCharterroup, there has been no evidence of unrest. But the Soviets confront another potential problem: the Kadar government has been ahead of Moscow in its flexible handling of dissenters. Even though this in large part reflects the lack of any direct challenge to the regime, the Hungarian example could he cited by advocates of change in the USSR or 'he other more rigidly controlled bloc countries.

Even In Romania, whose leaders ore umong the most heuvyhanded and whose people ore among the most cowed In Eastern Europe, there have been isolated manifestationsunrest.

Wc have no evidence that developments In any East European country haveritical point, thatoint where popular unrest threatens the security of the regimeoint where dlssldencc and dissent have penetrated the ranks of the leadership. In other words, we have no immediate reason to believeepetition of the0 or of the Czechoslovakwith democratic reforms8 Is Imminent.

There is every reason to believe,that Soviet reporting and perceptionsalarmist than^our Soviet analysis of the

situation in Eastern Europe suggests that the Soviet leaders ore very nervous. Theirto developments there ure coloredonviction that their futal error Inwas in permitting the situation to get out of hand. This conviction makes them peculiarly sensitive to signs of incipient tiou-blc In Eastern Europe.

Moreover, tho anxieties of the Soviet leaders may be sharpened by continuing problems in the Soviet Union itself.dissidence continues unabated, despite the virtual decapitation of the dissidentthrough the exile or Imprisonment of many of its established leaders. Like the majority of their East European brethren, some Soviet dissidents now ure aiming their main efforts ot demands for officialwith the humun rights provisions of the Helsinki accord. Moreover, these dissidents claim to be able tonwing willingness on the port of their sympathlzers-always much more numerous than the oelivlsts-to align themselves with their cause.

Simultaneously, Jliere have been rumors of worker discontent over shortages in food supplies stemmingspoor harvest, It is widely believed in Moscow that the bomb blasts which occurred early7 were carried out by workers embittered byof food In outlying areas. There ure also widespread" rumors of scattcrex' workand other protests against dislocations in food supplies.

Moscow's toughening stance toward the Eurocommunists must therefore be seen in the light of anxiety over dissidence both in Eastern Europe and at home. The criticism of foreign Communists is more dangerous to Soviet interests than those of even the most powerful non-Communist voices. The fact that Moscow continues to insist that both the bloc parties and the Western parties are unitedingle Internationalertain legitimacy to theprograms which the latter haveEast European and Soviet dissidents can-and do-cite the programs of these parties to demonstrate the Marxist legitimacy of the reforms they espouse.

For the bloc regimes and their domestic opponents, it matters little whether the Euro-communists are sincerely committed to the democratic goals which they profess. As long us they publicly stand by these programs, they will continue to serveource of support for East European dissidentseproach to their governments.

The Eurocommunists have not beenInvoluntary contributors to the ferment in Eastern Europe. The Spanish party has openly attacked Moscow for its treatment of dissidents and failure to observe elementary human rights. Even the more cautious French and Italian Communists have deplored the suppression of political liberties in the bloc ano have spoken out in defense of individual dissidents. There have also been directbetween bloc dissidents and

muimt representatives. Al lhc turn of the year, lor example. Kalian Communistsmet with Czechoslovak dissidents and with Roy Mcdvcdycv, the Soviet historian. The PCI party press has also published the works ofiberal Marxist, cvrn though they still circulate in the USSR only in umltdar (underground press) copies.

Results of Moscow'i Efforts

The menacing messages which Moscow has been passing to the Western parties since the beginning of the year are intended,inimum, to put an end to this *ort of intervention into the affairs of the CPSU and the other bloc parties. For the moment. Moscow's efforts appear to have met with some success.

This success was most visible in the results of the Eorocommunist summit in Madrid in early March. Despite speculation that the summit would produce adeclaration of independence from Moscow, and despite the avowed intention of the Spanish Communists to win nndenunciation of Soviet-style Communism, the actual results were much more modest. The communique issued after the summit reaffirmed the attachment of theleaders to the democratic values of the West, bul completely avoided the delicate question of the suppression of these values in the area dominated by Soviet power.

The actual turnabout had occurredat about the time that Eurocommunist arms were bclnc twisted most violently by the

Soviets C

^Tkiviel pressure in January led the ItuJrunsTat least temporarily, to abandon their plansigh-level analysis of the defects of the Soviet system. At the same time, the tone of the Italian parly's public commentary on developments in the bloc moderated. The change was first visiblepeech delivered by party leader Berlinguer in Milan onanuary. Berlinguer wasreticent on developments in Eastern Europe, andew and tougher note in his treatment of domestic issues.

The Soviets have apparently beensuccessful-for the momcnt-in stemming the tide in France. The French party has been notably more subdued in its comments on human rights issues since February, and the PCF's Marchais was the most conspicuous of the Eurocommunist leaders in his avoiduncc of the topic at Madrid. Only the Spanis'; party appears to have been undeterred by any Soviet threats it may have heard.

As long as the French and Italianrefrain from pushing their quarrel with Moscow, the Soviets clearly are not disposed to press their side of the dispute. Even though Moscow's public statements have become more and more open in warning of the dangers of ideological contamination and "anti-Sovictism" in exposure to Westernpolitics, they have refrained from identifying the Eurocommunists as the targets of the'r warnings. Publicly they have held lo the fiction that Eurocommunismabel which is used only by the bourgeois press andommunist politicians.

Can Moscow Hold the Line?

Despite the obvious reluctance of cither the Soviets or Eurocommunist leaders to pursue their quarrel to the point of open schism, there is some reason to question whether the present polemical cease-fire is anything moreomcnturyIn the long-term trend toward the splintering of the European CommunistDifferences began to emerge openly after Khrushchev's dc-SlalinlMtion campaign, and over the years were intensified by each of

the bloc's Internecine conflicts, particularly the occupation of Czechoslovakia

The divergence of Interests betweenand the major Western parties Is real. For the first time since the Cold War years, these parties-at least the French and Italiana real hope for participation In government. But to do so, they must convince their electorates-as distinct from theircadres-of their democratic convictions and national character. The need to make their political platforms and promises credible has driven the Eurocommunists to takemore and more critical of the dictatorial practices of the Soviet and other bloc parties. It is questionable whether thecan back away from their earlier criticism of Soviet actions without losing much of the ground ihey have gained by their past assertions of independence.

Moreover, their present reluctance to do battle with Moscow results as much from tactical and national exigencies as from Soviet pressure. These considerations apparentlya reluctance to be too closely identifiedause which has come to he labeled an "American" one. This at least was theof officials of one pro-Soviet Western party after meetings with Eurooinmunht leaders in February. This reluctance is tied to an unwillingness to pmvokc defections on the part of old-line cadres already upset by the pnrty's tampering wi'n orthodox dogmas (France) or its overly cooperative attitudeourgeois government (Italy).

The Eurocommunist leaders would no doubt prefer to sec the current furor over hui..an rights in the bloc die away, because this would relieve them of the unpleasant choice between Internal harmony and afuture. Human rights will, however,to be an issue unless the Soviets and East Europeans end the current wave of political dlssidcncc without resort toor Intensified repression. It is doubtful that they can do so.

Moreover, it is possible that Moscow is no longer willing tooderate approach In areas where It perceives that dis-sidence hasangerous level,reported efforts at Sofia to pressrackdown on dissidencc could have serious implications, particularly in Poland. If the Polish authorities should agree to annd subsequent repressive measures should leadiolent reaction withinthe pressures on the Eurocommunists to break with the bloc patties would mount sharply. They might become irresistible iftroops were to become involved in the forcible suppression of worker

Similarly, Moscow's margin for tolerance of renewed Eurocommunist "interference" will become ever thinner if dissent persists in Eastern Europe. Despite Moscow's strong commitment to the international movement, it would undoubtedlyew schism if the Soviet position In Eastern Europe were at stake.

Even if there is no further deterioration of the situationtcrn Europe, the truce may still be short-lived. The French and Italian Communists have softened theirof Soviet and East European actions, but they have not entirely reversed themselves. One recent indication of thisharply worded critique of Soviet and East European efforts to replace the "battle of ideas" with "policehich appeared onarch in an article in LVmia, the journal of

enndudon Ii, of cowrie.Someargue that, at laail for Ih* PCI. there are enduiinft domestic reuoti* for ll lo avoid lalilrv the tone of publicth therW* fiom ihe fact that ire PCl'ii lo enterfovornmtnl require ll tonrttlUn DemnctatK yovetr.meni and unje prrajrami oppoted br lefibt iradrntt. thr uoernployed, and many worken Since ihe PCI leader aMp matt already aiorry ifcovi dtiaf-fcciloa anont Cheat iroupt, ll can be argued lhal II win be eiireoidy retuetanl it do anything which would aflUfouUe that minority (probably leai lhanercent) of Italian*ho remain itrongly loyal lo Ihe Suvtel Union. In thbalur event lhal prctenied the PCI with an unavoidable challenge couU load Ii to move beyond Isolated erlilclami of tpccirV Soviet ecttoni.

the PCI. Slmaarly, the clumsy efforts of the Soviet ambassador In Romeuppress an art exhibition on the theme of East European dissidence has led the PCI to criticize the Soviets. Irritants of thisuld eventually provoke ths sort of "frontal" clashes which Ponomnrcv warned the Italian Communists against in January.*

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