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Ailing Dutch Pravda Struggling For Survival With AM-Soviet-Unrest, Bjt

January 25, 1990

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ De Waarheid, once the largest newspaper in the Netherlands and the flagship of the Dutch Communist Party, has had enough of the party line.

After half a century of Communist militancy, De Waarheid - ″Truth″ in Dutch - is planning to change its name, convert into a weekly magazine, and sever all ideological ties with the party.

The paper’s turnaround, to take effect before the summer, starkly reflects the fortunes of the Netherlands’ Communist Party, which has all but ceased to exist.

It has been partly inspired by the momentous changes in Eastern Europe, which have ″finally and totally discredited″ Communist parties and their basic beliefs, editor-in-chief Frank Biesboer said Thursday.

In the late 1940s, basking in the glory of the Communists’ wartime resistance against the Netherlands’ Nazi occupiers, De Waarheid boasted a circulation of 300,000, by far the largest in the country.

For Thursday’s eight-page issue, the press run was a scant 7,000, Biesboer said in an interview.

″With such a narrow economic basis, publishing a daily newspaper has become impossible,″ Biesboer said. ″We think a weekly magazine, with sales of about 10,000, is viable.″

His worries are similar to those of the party, which saw a 10.6 percent share of the 1946 popular vote slip to less than 1 percent in 1986, the first time since the war the Communist Party failed to win representation in the Dutch parliament.

The party did not run independently in last year’s general elections, placing its candidates on a Green umbrella list instead.

Party leader Ina Brouwer is a member of parliament for the Green Left faction, and disbanding the Communist Party - or what remains of it - is no longer a taboo issue in the drab corridors of the party’s headquarters that also house De Waarheid’s editorial offices.

″Now that the CPN is in fact non-existent, we need to find a broader market,″ Biesboer said.

Adoption of a new name - it hasn’t been chosen yet - might help.

″It will show that we’re aware of the new era that’s now beginning,″ Biesboer said.

″The paper can point at some brilliant chapters in its history,″ which began on Nov. 23, 1940, on a mimeograph machine in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands.

″It was one of the first resistance papers. It supported the anti- colonialis t struggle in Indonesia. It was a spearhead in the fight against social injustice,″ said Biesboer.

He added, however: ″That’s history, and too many negative things are sticking to the old name.″

Biesboer, who has been editing the paper since 1988, cited the paper’s public image of speaking for ″that small, obscure fringe party″ even though as early as 1968, De Waarheid rejected the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops.

″People ask me all the time when I’ll make my next trip to Moscow,″ Biesboer said. In fact, he said, the paper gained far-reaching editorial independence from the party a decade ago.

That independence caused part of De Waarheid’s decline. Its readership, the great majority of it staunch Communists in the classic Leninist mold, defected in droves, and its circulation tumbled from 25,000 early in the decade to the current dismal figure.

By broadening its ideological base, De Waarheid hopes to attract ″left- wing people interested in social questions, labor issues, the environment, and things like what the demise of the Eastern European Communists means for the left in the West,″ Biesboer said.

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