While the Italian and French Communists are driving for governing power, the Spanish Communists are cooperating with King Juan Carlos and Premier Adolfo Suarez in what is seen as a cover to expand their influence and enhance their image at home and abroad.
The Spanish Communist Party's strategy is being kept on track by its leader. Santiago Carrillo who wants to do nothing to damage this relationship. Carrillo and the premier meet intermittently and their most recent encounter last week appeared to have pleased the two pragmatic politicians.
It has been clear for some time that each is using the other for immediate and future political objectives. Carrillo wants to strengthen his influence on government policies. Suarez wants to ensure peace on the labor front.
Each has problems with ideologues within his constituency: Suarez with rightists who believe he has gone too far to the left: Carrillo with orthodox Communists who prefer confrontation to cooperation. Carrillo has been attacked by the Soviet Union for his espousal of Eurocommunism, a nationalistic communism that does not recognize a controlling role for the Kremlin.
The anomalous mutual support has the apparent backing of the United States. The Carter administration's recent warning against Communist influence in Western Europe does not seem to apply to Spain, rather the American attitude seems to be: "How else can Spain be governored?"
Part of this may be explained by the fact that the Spanish party has a long way to go before it reaches the voting power of the italian and French Communists. Suarez hopes to keep it that way.
But Carillo has demonstrated that he is a deft politician and tactician who is taking advantage of all the opportunities offered by the uncertainties of Spain's transition to democracy.
Carrillo's power base has been bolstered by the strong showing of the Communist workers commission in current union elections, Spain's first free labor vote in decades, incomplete returns appear to vindidate his moderate policies and his behin-the-scenes dealing with Suarez.
Carrillo keeps repeating his view that the left cannot make a grab for power -- or expect to rule even if it has the votes -- after a long right-wing dictatorship. His formula for Spanish Communists is patience and waiting to be called to form part of a coalition government with Suarez in the event of a national emergency sparked by an economic crisis.
In the meantime, he is trying to enlarge the party while it is protected by the king and the premier against the right, which dominated Spain under Franco for decades. The relationship helps to remove the fear of communism fostered during the Franco era.
The party got less than 10 per cent of the vote in last June's parliamentary elections.
'The small vote was a disappointment," said a Communist deputy. "We had expected more because of the large turnout at party rallies. We don't know whether many people who do so at the last minute because of residual subliminal fear of prosecution."
Carrillo's credibility has been enhanced by his feud with the Soviet Union over Eurocommunism and his independence from Moscow, by his trip last year to the United States. and by the continuing middle-level contacts between the U.S. embassy here and the party.
The final touch in Carrillo's campaign to entrench the party in Spain's political life is the new "democratic" charter that he will present to the Communist convention next month.
On the surface it is an "anti-Stalinist" document that would drop "Leninism" from the party's decins, give members freedom to criticize party policies, remove doctrinal restraints from artists and writers and provide for free and open elections of the central committee.
But the by-laws also contain built-in controls that protect the power of the general secretary and the central committee. Still it is a novel departure bound to appeal in a country emerging from a dictatorship and fascinated by a vague concept called democracy.