As with Afghanistan, the crisis in Poland has become a test for Western Europe's communist parties. And as with Afghanistan, they have predictably reacted according to their varied and in some cases totally divergent relations with Moscow.
Foremost among the so-called ''Eurocommunist'' parties are the ''big three'' from France, Italy, and Spain.
Once again, the French Communist Party (PCF) has dragged its feet in criticizing Soviet-inspired tactics. The Italian and Spanish parties on the other hand, have reasserted their independence from Moscow by strongly condemning the military takeover in Poland.
In the immediate aftermath of the Polish martial law crackdown, the PCF leadership remained poignantly silent. The party refused to condemn the military takeover and the repression of human rights. It also refused to participate in the numerous mass demonstrations in France organized by other political groups and trade unions against martial law now ruling Poland.
L'Humanite, the party daily, carried a front-page picture of Muhammed Ali's boxing defeat when the state of emergency was announced and made only limited reference to Poland on page nine. But when French public pressure began to mount , the party felt obliged to state its position.
Maintaining that it would not take any action that might prejudice the internal affairs of Poland or encourage external intervention, party leader George Marchais said: ''We have no wish to pour oil on fire.''
But this unwillingness to adopt a firm stand has provoked considerable criticism in France not only among left- and right-wing organizations but also among dissident members of the Communist Party.
A French Communist member of the European Parliament, Emmanuel Maffre-Bauge has threatened to resign over the party's failure to adopt a more critical position.
Because of the official party attitude, continued Communist participation in the French Socialist-dominated Cabinet is in question. The party is also threatened with a split between hard-liners and moderates.
The most vehement reaction of the ''Eurocommunist'' parties has come from the Italian Communist Party (PCI). A staunch critic of almost every Moscow-inspired dictatorial measure since 1977, ranging from Sakharov to Afghanistan, the PCI has pointedly asserted its independence of the Soviet Union by loudly supporting the Solidarity movement and democratic rights in Poland.
''A period has ended,'' announced Enrico Berlinguer, the PCI leader. ''The propulsive forces which instigated the (1917 Soviet) October Revolution have become exhausted just as the capacity to renew has become exhausted in Eastern European societies.''
The PCI said that the origins of the Polish crisis lie in the inability of the Polish Communist Party to run both the economy and the country. ''It is this which resulted in the rupture between the government and the working class,'' he said.
The Spanish Communist Party (PCE) has taken a similarly unambiguous position. So have the Belgian, Swedish, and Dutch Communist parties.
Somewhat less forthright, the Communist Party of Great Britain, condemned martial law and called for the immediate release of detained Solidarity union leaders and a return to civilian rule. It conceded that some of Solidarity's recent statements had been provocative, but said this could not justify ''the attack on the democratic rights of Polish people.''
The Stalinist Portuguese Party reaffirmed its links with Soviet policy by approving Poland's martial law measures against ''antisocial and antisocialist groups.''