Gorbachev gets support - and a taste of Soviets' deep concerns. SOVIET CONFERENCE
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He called for both ``determination'' and ``circumspection'' in proceeding with reforms. (The Soviet satirical machine did not let this particular paradox lie quietly for long: What he means, a student quipped Saturday, is that ``you have to move determinedly against those who are not circumspect enough.'')Skip to next paragraph
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Ligachev expressed deep unhappiness at the radical press and indignation at the questioning of party officials' privileges. He was concerned that the reassessment of the Soviet Union's totalitarian past would lead to a complete repudiation of Soviet achievements.
Most strikingly, he denied that there were any splits in the Communist Party leadership. Anyone who claimed there were splits, he implied, was bringing pleasure to the country's bourgeois enemies. His claim that the party was not divided over reform seemed manifestly at variance with comments by Central Committee officials that an ``intense political struggle'' is taking place within the party.
Ligachev's speech was nonetheless well-received by party officials inside and outside the conference hall. (This correspondent listened Friday to extracts of the speech on a car radio belonging to a group of security men. They were vocal in their approval.) This leads to the conclusion that Gorbachev needs Ligachev to reassure the party structure that reform is being kept within tolerable limits.
The conference also highlighted a third, lesser strain in Soviet politics: the populism exemplified by Mr. Yeltsin. Although Yeltsin's speech at the conference won him little support from delegates, there was no sign that he had lost any of his popularity on the streets. The day after the meeting, some demonstrators from nonformal groups wore Yeltsin lapel buttons, some carried a banner in his support. And one passerby commented sarcastically on one charge leveled at Yeltsin during the conference: his over-rapid hiring and firing of officials.
``So he made life a misery for the officials,'' said the man, a lathe operator. ``They make life a misery for us all the time.'' Timetable for change
``All power to the soviets!'' shouted demonstrators the weekend before the 19th party conference began. ``But to new soviets, elected by early elections. We can't wait four years till the next general elections: reform will be dead by then.''
The demonstrators, who support reform but are suspicious of the Communist Party bureaucracy, seemed uncannily clairvoyant in their demands. On Friday, the conference outlined changes:
Fall, '88: New elections to Communist Party organizations. By year's end: reorganization of party apparatus.
Fall, '88: New legislation and constitutional amendments reinforcing the power of the soviets (parliaments).
April, '89: Elections for Congress of People's Delegates, new supreme body called for under reforms. This will elect a president (likely Gorbachev) for a maximum of two five-year terms.
Fall,'89: New soviets elected on republican, regional, and local level.