While the anti-armament movement in Europe is not very unified, according to its own leaders, a loose coordination by national "peace movements" has begun, centering on the strongest pacifist organization in Britain and on the Interchurch Peace Council from the Netherlands. Public opinion polls showing rising discontent with the American military presence in Europe are also bolstering such efforts.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) was founded in Britain in 1958, began to decline in 1961 and has in the past 18 months dramatically increased its dues-paying membership to 30,000, a total that is still rising. CND finances itself through public fund-raising appeals.
Its founder, E. P. Thompson helped start European Nuclear Disarmament to act as a coordinating body and information clearing house for the other national and local groups fighting for the same causes. END publishes its own newsletters and distributes nuclear pacifism books.
The first detailed organizing session of the movements came on Aug. 27, when 15 groups from about 10 countries met in Bonn to schedule the series of autumn demonstrations that have made front-page news around the world in the past month. At a second meeting in Copenhagen on Sept. 5, the Dutch Interchurch group was asked by the others to serve as a coordination center for the continent-wide groups.
"No one wants an international bureaucracy of the peace movement," William Bartels, the Dutch group's international secretary, said in a telephone interview. "But we decided it would be useful to develop a common political strategy and to promote contacts between our groups."
Public opinion polls suggest these groups are making headway. The Observer Sunday newspaper in London reported two weeks ago that a majority of British people think Britain should not allow the United States to maintain nuclear bases in Britain. The Observer said that an even bigger majority of the 1,038 "representative" sample it polled said, however, that Britain should keep its own nuclear deterrent.
And, despite widespread opposition to NATO's 1979 decision to deploy Pershing II and cruise missiles, large majorities of Western Europeans support NATO and favor remaining within the alliance, according to a study in the August/September edition of Public Opinion, the American magazine.
Indicative of the rising sentiment opposing the deployment, the magazine report said that majorities in West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway were not concerned that the Soviet Union would "attack Western Europe within the next five years." Opinion in France and Britain was about evenly divided.
The results from the survey, conducted by Kenneth Adler and Douglas Wertman of the American Enterprise Institute, were based on a variety of polls taken across the continent.
In an April survey, the British public by 50 to 41 percent opposed the scheduled deployment of cruise missiles, a major shift from a September 1980 poll that showed Britons favoring the decision 49 to 43 percent. The British also showed a preference for arms control negotiations by 40 to 31 percent in a March poll.
Yet Britain led the other Western European nations surveyed in its support for NATO, with 70 percent of those polled classifying NATO as "still essential" for Britain's security needs.
In West Germany, where opposition to the missiles is especially vocal, a May survey by the Allensbach Institute found a 39 to 29 percent plurality opposing the deployment and another third undecided.
West Germans support their NATO commitment by 62 to 21 percent, but the number of people opposing NATO membership has risen. Between October 1980 and March 1981, the percentage considering NATO "not essential" rose from 8 to 20 percent.