The mid-'70s have arrived. Behind what used to he known as the Iron Curtain, names like Cronkite, Ziegler and Archie Bunker have become as familiar to millions of TV viewers as Brezhnev, Gierek and Honecker. Local papers dutifully carrying the party line are losing a newsstand sales race to Stern, Paris Match and other Western periodicals laden with enticing advertisements. East-bloc vacationers swinging through London, Rome and Paris on American Express tours are surprised to find that the greatest evils in the treacherous West are city traffic and the new platform shoes. Why, they demand, can't the Warsaw Pact disband its 94 divisions and beat its 21,000 tanks into new Volkswagens and Citroëns?
As Eastern Europe's jittery politburos see it, that is the West's wicked dream and the Soviet bloc's not improbable nightmare. In Helsinki, where delegates from 34 nations will next month resume talks on an agenda for the long-heralded European Security Conference (TIME, Dec. 4), the Western states have been urging negotiations toward a vastly increased flow of people and ideas across the ideological frontiers that have divided Europe for a quarter-century. But that is not exactly what Moscow was bargaining for when it embarked on its historic accommodation with the West. Thus, while the Communist regimes negotiate new deals on the trade and technology that they need so badly, they are also cranking up a noisy new era of ideological confrontation—one that may force some short-term reappraisals in the West on the depth and meaning of détente.
The note was struck by Leonid Brezhnev shortly after the Nixon summit; with the cold war between the superpowers effectively at an end, the Soviet Party boss in a Moscow speech last June called for a new ideological struggle that would "intensify to become an even sharper form of confrontation between the two societies." In practice, Brezhnev's new offensive is essentially defensive. While they court their new trading partners in the West with unwonted cordiality, the East-bloc regimes are cracking down on their own societies with uncommon force.
The Soviets are leading the way, with a drive on personal freedoms and intellectual life that is fast approaching Stalin-era dimensions. While continuing its running duel with individual dissidents (see following story), Moscow has cut back on all sorts of civil and cultural liberties, and there are fewer showings of Western plays like My Fair Lady. Producers must stage works that celebrate such things as Soviet espionage and the victories of World War II. Mail censorship has been tightened; library privileges are harder to obtain. One new decree prohibits use of a telephone "against state interests." Another, issued by the party committee in Novosibirsk, limits citizens to one trip abroad every ten years.
Other Soviet-bloc states have been digging in against détente in other ways:
EAST GERMANY, which this week will sign a treaty formalizing its relations with West Germany, has taken extraordinary measures to ensure that its contacts with Willy Brandt's regime are as narrow and antiseptic as possible. East German officials and industrial managers need top-level permission even to receive West German visitors; factory hands have been forced to sign pledges that they will not fraternize with Westerners.