USSR: today and yesterday

The opinion-page column ``70 years of Soviet power: a balance sheet of achievements and shortcomings,'' Nov. 5, brings to mind Robert Frost's poem ``The Road Not Taken,'' which states: ``Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.'' There were two roads at the time of the Russian Revolution, for America's leaders as well as for the Bolsheviks. Suppose America had followed the road not taken - had not invaded, thus helping the Bolsheviks; had recognized the new regime immediately instead of waiting until 1933; had admitted it to the League of Nations at its beginning; and heeded its pleas for collective security against the Axis powers. Perhaps we might have avoided World War II and the cold war. If we truly thought communism wouldn't work, what did we have to fear?

Had the Soviet Union taken almost any other road than communism, the column asserts, its people would enjoy a better life. Yet in the Soviet Union today no one goes hungry and no one is homeless - only 42 years after the destruction suffered in World War II. Marion Billings Cambridge, Mass.

The ``balance sheet'' evaluation in this column is at best a distortion. The Bolshevik performance is about as balanced as the recent one-day stock plunge in the United States. The Bolsheviks secured their glorious regime despite foreign support for other forces.

They gained power by brutally crushing one of those other forces, the Kerensky government, which was the closest attempt in all of Soviet history to a democracy. David Gallo San Francisco

I found this particular column informative with respect to the pros and cons of the Soviet regime. However, I disagree with some of the fundamental conclusions derived from the historical data. The statement that ``any regime would have provided a better life and more security'' seems presumptuous. To assume that a capitalist economic system, for example, assures a better way of life for its masses when unemployment and inflation are inherent problems is ridiculous. The hallmark of the Soviet economy is its ability to control these two problems.

I welcome the Soviet people's willingness to reconcile themselves with their past failures and strive for future reforms.

Moreover, I hope Mr. Gorbachev is able to rally the needed support in the Central Committee and Politburo to enact his plan of perestroika and glasnost.

I hope the United States will make a similar reconciliation with its history by striving toward greater social and economic equality. Greg Waddoups Centerville, Utah

This column states that ``most of the Kremlin's failures derive from ... suspicion of other political actors and dependency upon force.'' In terms of foreign policy, this is certainly a plausible assessment. I was struck, however, with how well this comment could be applied to the present foreign policy of the United States. Jeanne Hathaway Boylston, Mass.

The article ``A bittersweet celebration for Gorbachev's people,'' Nov. 6, explains how the past 70 years have brought the Soviet Union to a point where reform is a viable alternative to the hard-line ``Stalinist'' policies of the past. The people who were to become the new generation of leaders were beginning to mature during the time that Nikita Khrushchev was revealing the truth about Stalin. They were moving into middle management through the stagnation of Leonid Brezhnev. Now that they are the group in power, they are trying to find answers to the questions previous leaders ignored. Their solution to inertia is incentive; to the black market, a more open market; and to repression, glasnost.

You cannot compare their reforms to a Western model, because today's Soviet leaders are making Soviet solutions to Soviet problems in order to build a Soviet future. Frank Sonntag Salt Lake City

In response to your editorial ``Moving carefully in Moscow,'' Nov. 4: It seems Mr. Gorbachev is walking a tightrope, with every step being crucial. There is a strong concentration by the Soviet government on international affairs, which is causing a neglect of domestic affairs. If Mr. Gorbachev does not put more emphasis on domestic affairs and look for faster reform, neither he nor glasnost may last much longer. Rick Secrist Fruit Heights, Utah

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