Gorbachev Ousts Leningrad's Recalcitrant Party Boss

POLITBURO member Yuri Solovyev, one of the most openly skeptical members of the top leadership with regard to reform, has lost his job as Leningrad Communist Party leader. The decision was taken by a meeting of the Leningrad party leadership attended by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev Tuesday. Speaking to Soviet TV after the meeting, Mr. Gorbachev expressed unhappiness with the city leadership's failure to keep pace with political change.

Mr. Solovyev was replaced by an official taken from well down the city's party hierarchy, Boris Gidaspov, and will probably be removed soon from the Politburo.

Solovyev has openly differed with reform-minded leaders in the last few months. In particular he has stressed the need to mobilize the working class to overcome the present economic and political problems. Reform-minded party officials are strongly opposed to the continued emphasis on class principles in Soviet politics. They feel that, especially in a period of deep economic difficulties, such calls could lead to a violent ``neo-Stalinist'' working-class backlash.

At an angry meeting of the Central Committee on April 25, Solovyev called for a Congress of Workers' Deputies to be established, apparently as a conservative counterweight to the official Congress. A number of other speakers at the plenum took the same line. Soon afterward a ``United Workers' Front'' was formed in Leningrad.

Solovyev's actions appeared to be motivated by the humiliating setback that he and other Leningrad officials had suffered in the March 26 elections to the Congress of People's Deputies. Solovyev failed to gain enough votes to be elected in an uncontested race. The Leningrad leadership did not take defeat well, and a number of the officials blamed their problems on the city's lively nonformal political organizations.

In a television interview Tuesday night, however, Mr. Gidaspov stressed that one of his main tasks would be to unify Leningraders of all political viewpoints, including nonformal groups like the Popular Front and the Greens. Solovyev has been at loggerheads with both organizations.

In the same interview Gorbachev repeated his warning that the party was dropping behind the pace of political events, and hinted that party officials who failed to shape up would have to go.

Gorbachev's meetings with Leningrad workers once again underlined the depth of public discontent with the state of the economy. During TV coverage of his visit to the Izhorsky machinery plant, workers could be heard complaining that prices in cooperative shops were ``suffocating'' them. Well-informed sources say plant workers have recently called for the creation of an independent trade union.

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