Page 4, 20th February 1981

20th February 1981
Page 4
Page 4, 20th February 1981 — Narrow view of Eastern Europe
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Narrow view of Eastern Europe

THE 'Background' to the bishops' Appeal for European Unity read out in Church last week and written by Bishop Cormac.Murphy O'Connor starts with the old canard about Eastern Europe being dominated by "atheistic communism".

These countries are socialist in name only, because irreducible minima for socialism are; people running their own lives; the elimination of the state — neither things facilitated by the Stalinist occupation of these countries at the ehd of -World War 2 (sanctioned by the west in advance, as was the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 196a). Nowhere is there any allusion to the problems of Western capitalism — shared to a certain 'degree in the class societies in Eastern Europe — unemployment. inflation, racism, ecological despoliation, plus the uniquely Western virus of fascism, The Church is often forthright in criticising effects of the capitalist system, but isn't it time causes were moved onto?

The bishop treats us to a roll-call of struggles in Eastern Europe over the last 30 years. Fair enough — we should unequivocally support such endeavours. But are, for instance, demands by Polish workers for access to the media, an end to shops for the elite, self-managed trade unions, a shorter working week etc, examples of struggle against "atheistic communism"?

If they are not such struggles what is their significance, a question made all the more pressing when the counterpart of such struggles in Western Europe are condemned as instances of 'Trade Union power'. Such struggles in Eastern Europe. like the (omitted) analogous 'high-points' in Western Europe — May '68 in France, Italy 1969, Portugal 1974-5 — are important, not merely as "dangers to international peace" but as continuing evidence of people's unwillingness to tamely accept class rule. East or West.

We are told that the Church rejects military action — narrow political resolutions to the problem of Europe. Correct, but what I dislike is the narrowing down of the problem to one of "atheistic communism". and "inhuman ideologies" (whatever they might be).

The inadequacies in the Bishop's background statement are not merely incidental, but stem from a profound problem — the role of the postconciliar Church in politics. To say that "only prayer can succeed ultimately" is only partially true. The point is that Christians should link prayer to action for the dissolution of both power-blocs.

Lawrence O'Hara West Derby Liverpool HAVING SAT patiently through the bishops' letter on Central and Eastern Europe this morning, 1 now feel extremely uneasy at the overall stance employed by the hi ererchy.

Twice. during the last ten years I have spent time in Hungary staying with Christians. In that time we met many people from many walks of life who spoke freely to us of their fears, beliefs and aspirations.

The overall impression they gave us was that the West was not really a symbol of spiritual freedom and Christian values to them but rather one of endless material riches. pornographic delights, pop music. and depravity.

One feels. therefore. that we are being rather too smug. Sometimes, despite official religious restrictions, it is easier to be a 'Christian' in Eastern Europe.

Jen Grimes Essex IT GREATLY disheartens me to see the Catholic Church becoming increasingly in step with Western propaganda because it did seem, particularly since the second Vatican Council, that we were developing a powerful, but detached, perspective into thodeep problems created by the two Imperialist powers of East and West.

Quite paradoxically the change of direction seems to have coincided with the election of our present Pope. John Paul IL The Fact that he is Polish led people to hope for new communication. but on the contrary the Church seems to have lined up more and more on the side of Western capitalism.

First there was the much.publicised visit of Lech Walesa to Rome, and now the bishops' statement expressing concern about Soviet domination in Eastern Europe. But what about the Trades Union leaders in this country who seek to oppose an oppressive economic system which. when confronted with its 2.5 million unemployed can only promise more?

What about the domination of our economic and defence policies by the United States? What is this undefined "freedom" which we seek to protect and want to encourage among Eastern Europeans?

Paul G. Coggins Manchester M28




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