Eurocommunism and the Soviet Union

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rule of its Communist Party, a great deal of evidence on the relations between the CPSU and world communist movement has come to light. One of the more interesting comes from an archivist for the foreign branch of the KGB, Vasili Mitrokhin, who copied thousands of documents over a 12 year period and came to the West (courtesy of British intelligence) in 1992. . His material is the basis for a book by himself and British academic Christopher Andrew, The Mitrokhin Archive (Allen Lane, The Penguin Press).

The emergence of Eurocommunism led to elaborate KGB plans to discredit some of its leaders, such as the Italian Enrico Berlinguer and the Spanish communist Santiago Carillo.

Berlinguer, who became PCI general secretary in 1972, launched the notion of a 'historic compromise' between the PCI, the Socialists and the Christian Democrats in 1973 after the Chile coup. In 1975, a KGB informer on the PCI central committee accused Berlinguer of a 'cowardly rejection of Leninism' and urged the CPSU to strongly criticise the PCI. This would spit the party, but this was necessary, said the informer.

In June 1976 during the election campaign in which the PCI received 34% of votes, Berlinguer issued a statement that Italy should remain in NATO. Shortly after, KGB chairman, Andropov ordered a plan of disinformation which would claim Berlinguer owned land in Sardinia and had been involved in dubious building contracts worth billions of lira. The plan does not seem to have been implemented.

A more secret conflict between the PCI leadership and the CPSU concerned the kidnapping and assassination of Aldo Moro, the president of the Christian Democrats in early 1978. The leaders of the PCI, were deeply concerned about the support by the Czechoslovak StB [security and intelligence service] for the Italian Red Brigades which had carried out the kidnapping. During this period the Soviet ambassador to Rome sided with the PCI and criticised the Czechs.

The major break with the CPSU occurred after the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. In 1982 Berlinguer declared that the October revolution had 'exhausted its propulsive force'. Until this period, Soviet subsidies continued to go to the PCI. In 1972 it was over US$5m, in 1976, it was US$6.5m.. From the early 1980s subsidies were channelled to the pro-Soviet wing led by Cossutta, partly to finance the pro-Soviet newspaper Paese Sera.

The other bete noir for the CPSU was the Spanish Communist Party and its leader Santiago Carrillo. Carrilo took the PCE on a 'Eurocommunist' path froim the 1970s. As in Italy the KGB operated through a pro-Soviet informer on the PCE central committee, Ignacio Gallego. In 1977, Gallego forwarded galley proofs of Carrillo's forthcoming book 'Eurocommunism and the State' as well as a draft declaration to be made by the PCE, PCI and French CP. Gallego also informed the KGB that a left wing newspaper Pueblo was intending to send a reporter to Moscow to interview dissidents, an action which seems to have led to the denial of a visa to the reporter.

After the June 1977 election in which the PCE won a disappointing 9 per cent, the CPSU International Department drafted an attack on Carrillo's 'revisionism' and arranged for its publication under the signatures of three PCE members. Throughout this time Gallego received about US$30,000 per year from the KGB. In 1984 the Russians financed a break away party by Gallego. The PCE itself lost much of its support and merged with two other left groups in 1986 to form the United Left..

The case the French CP and its leader George Marchais is different again. Marchais's criticism of the Soviet Union was limited and brief. The 1976 French party congress rejected 'dictatorship of the proletariat' and criticised what they called 'limitations on democracy' in the Soviet Union. In this period a KGB report notes that the French authorities had obtained documentary evidence that Marchais had lied about his war record. Marchais had said that he was forced to go to Germany to work in the Messerschmitt factory and had escaped back to France in 1943. The French authorities (according to the KGB) had a document which showed that he had signed a voluntary work contract for the Germans. It is not clear (probably unlikely) that the KGB helped bring this information to light in 1977 when a former member of the French CP Politburo published a document showing Marchais had signed on voluntarily. (In 1980, L'Express published a document indicating that he had stayed in Germany until 1944.) By this time the PCF was back in the pro-Soviet camp, supporting the invasion of Afghanistan and praising the banning of Solidarity in Poland. As with the PCI and PCE, the KGB used an informer on the central committee, Gaston Plissonnier.

In 1987 Marchais sent a begging letter to Gorbachev and requesting 10 million francs (US$1.6m) for help in the 1988 elections. This was agreed by the Soviet Politburo. However, Gorbachev himself was well known for his interest and respect for the Italian CP in the period before 1991.