The Eurocommunist press is trying to suppress an attempt by the Kremlin to revive the Zarodov affair, which did a good deal of damage to the Wester Communist parties two years ago. In August 1975 Konstantin Zarodov, one of the Kremlin's top experts on the international Communist movement, wrote an article in Pravda that was designed to persuade Western Communists to stick to their revolutionary traditions, instead of being lured down the parliamentary road to power.
At that time Georges Marchais, the French Communist leader, tried to laught it all off by claiming that Zarodov's article, which dealth ostensibly with the Russian Revolution of 1905, was of purely historical interest. But other Communist parties, such as Italy's, made it clear that they regarded the essay as an attempt by the Kremlin to interfere in their internal debates. The French Communist Party also was compelled to reject the Zarodov thesis, although it took the party paper Humanite a month to produce its reply.
Last week Pravda published another article by Zarodov with much the same message, but this time it could be even more explosive, for it comes just as the French Communist Party makes final preparations for the parliamentary elections next March. To judge from the article - which, of course, does not mention France by name - the Kremlin appears to believe that the French Communist Party leadership is divided into "Leninists" and "revisionists!" The purpose evidently is to strengthen the hand of the orthodox militants.
Of course, it would be naive to believe that even the "Leninists" in the French Central Committee would take their orders from Pravda. The Kremlin's tactics are more cunning than that. Zarodov stresses in every way possible that the Western parties have the right to determine their own strategy and concedes that a peaceful path to power is possible. But he takes away with left hand what he gives with the right. The "law" derived from the lessons of October shows, he claims, that "socialist revolution cannot win if its participants and supporters fail to master all methods of struggle." He thus makes it clear that the Communists must be ready to resort to violence, although he puts it more circumspectly than in 1975, when he said they must "break" the opposition and "crush" the resistance by force.
But he still insists that the masses must, now as in 1917, "be correctly prepared and organized for decisive struggles with the class enemy" - which means, in effect, that the Communist parties of France and Italy should retain a militant structure and ideology that are incompatible with the pursuit of power by democratic means. Zarodov does not spell this out fully in Pravda, but a 12-page article in Kommunist, the Soviet party's leading ideological journal, supplies the missing pieces of the puzzle.
It refers more directly than Zarodov to the disagreements within the Western Communist movement, for it speaks of the "active discussion" on the question of winning power - whether it is to be done by gradually building a democratic majority or in some other way. It uses Lenin's writings to show that "great historical issues are decided only by force" - though it warns against a vulgar interpretation of Lenin's views. It condemns right-wing opportunists, whom it does not identify, for their "parliamentary cretinism, and their naive belief that the question of power could be resolved just by voting and by parliamentary combinations."
The "Political law of the revolution," Kommunist says, is "to have an overwhelming superiority of power at the decisive moment, at the decisive place" - to control "almost half of the armed forces," for instance. These Leninist requirements, it explains, may "of course" be different in different historical circumstances, but Lenin's analysis, it insists, remains "the classical model" under "any conditions." Kommunist, too, takes away with the left hand what it gives with the right, but the balance of its argument is to show that the parliamentary road to powr is more likely to fail that succeed, and that Western Communists must prepare to use force at the "decisive" moment. Otherwise they will be cheated of the victory that is rightfully theirs.
Kommunist discusses with great verve the subject that caused so much trouble for Zarodov in 1975, when he ridiculed the Eurocommunists' pursuit of an "arithmetical" majority and advised them instead to seek a revolutionary majority, not only by parliamentary but by direct revolutionary action. Zarodov wisely avoided the subject in last week's Pravda article, but Kommunist explains at considerable length why "the will of the majority" cannot be found by voting in elections or by "reckoning up on whose side is the arithmetical majority."
The Kommunist article, which appeared more than a month ago, was obviously designed to bring out into the open the debate on these issues in the Western Communist Parties, and thus to help the "Leninist" factions whose views have been suppressed by the "revisionist" majorities in the Western Politburos. But when no notice was taken, Pravda brought Zarodov into the act in the expectation that his name would once again trigger a debate.
Once again, however, the leading Communist papers in the West have suppressed what must be considered, by their own standards, a most newsworthy political story. But the issue is a real one, and it will not go away just because they shut their eyes.