THERE is much chatter every holiday season about what to get the person who has everything. To some this is a vexing question. But it pales before the conundrum of how to shop for the man who needs everything: Mikhail Gorbachev. Let's try to walk a mile or so in Raisa Gorbachev's Gucci pumps, shall we? The first thing the Soviet leader needs, and badly, is a crackerjack ghost writer. Just read the following excerpt from his 1987 book, ``Toward A Better World'': ``Unable to cope with the acute problems of the declining phase of capitalism's development, the ruling circles of the imperialist countries resort to means and methods that are obviously incapable of saving the society that history has doomed.''
Imagine Gorbachev reading this passage aloud before half a million people in Prague's Wenceslas Square: It would bring the house down, if not the government. Clearly then, a glib PR person should be Raisa's first priority.
A popular present in the West is fancy soap, exotic smelling bars sculpted to look like Elves or Elvis. Raisa would be wise to include soap on her holiday list. The First Couple of the Soviet Union, of course, doesn't need soap in the same way that coal miners in Siberia do. It simply wouldn't do for the leader of the communist bloc to palaver with George Bush or Pope John Paul II exuding the honest air of a hero of socialist labor.
What Gorby needs, and badly, is crates of soap, fleets of supertankers loaded to the gunwales with detergents, entire soap factories to replace his country's aging, inefficient operations. Bars of Irish Spring could be renamed Prague Spring (to save socialist face) and no one would be the wiser. Workers of the Soviet Union, lather up! If they can't - and soon - it won't be long before they get their collective dander up.
While the people wait in long lines for the most basic toiletry, the vanguard will no doubt find some perfume and cologne under their holiday trees. Raisa, who has plastic and will travel quite a bit, probably charged a few bottles of myrrh while in Rome. What better gift could there be for a committed communist spouse than ``Obsession'' (for men) by Calvin Klein. And since all work and no play makes Raisa a dull ideologue, here's hoping she possesses a touch of that renowned Stalinist humor. If she does, she couldn't possibly pass by a display of ``Poison'' by Christian Dior without buying Boris Yeltsin an ounce or two.
Speaking of Uncle Joe, he was reported to have said once, ``You cannot make a revolution with silk gloves.'' Well, what better way for Gorbachev to signal to the West that militant communism is dead than to be seen sporting silk gloves this holiday season. Raisa, we trust, has a pair of Pierre Cardins near the top of her list.
Among the myriad needs of an embattled socialist leader like Gorbachev is something that isn't especially romantic and is awfully difficult to fit under the tree: infrastructure - roads, bridges, rail lines, etc. It is estimated that as much as one-third of Soviet crops rot before they can make it to market. Wouldn't Gorby just jump with joy if he found I-95 or even Route 66 jammed into his stocking this season!
Joke books always make popular gifts, so Raisa is probably poring through the black and white catalog from the glasnost-inspired Ministry of Big Laughs to find one that will tickle Mikhail's fancy. He could probably use a chuckle or two about now. How about the ``Marx and Engels Cookbook,'' subtitled ``The Communist Antipasto''? Or the hilarious ``What Marx and Lenin Forgot to Mention.'' Here's a sampling of Marxist dogma from the book - with what was left out in parenthesis: ``The theory of the communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property ... (as well as the abolition of adequate supplies of soap, meat, boots, cotton underwear, children's shoes, fruit, fresh vegetables, etc.)''
It is probably too much to ask that this will be a happy holiday inside the Kremlin for Mikhail and Raisa, much less for coal miners in Siberia. But if the Marxist maxim, ``To each according to his needs'' means anything anymore, Gorby won't be able to see the holiday tree this month for all the presents piled around it.