WORLD

FIGHTING OFF HASTY CHANGE

GORBACHEV RESISTS THE RADICAL POLITICAL REFORMS THAT CONTINUE TO FLOWER IN EASTERN EUROPE

MARY NEMETH December 25 1989
WORLD

FIGHTING OFF HASTY CHANGE

GORBACHEV RESISTS THE RADICAL POLITICAL REFORMS THAT CONTINUE TO FLOWER IN EASTERN EUROPE

MARY NEMETH December 25 1989

FIGHTING OFF HASTY CHANGE

WORLD

GORBACHEV RESISTS THE RADICAL POLITICAL REFORMS THAT CONTINUE TO FLOWER IN EASTERN EUROPE

Even as Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev allows his Eastern European allies to govern their way, he is clearly intent on governing the Soviet Union his way. Former Soviet satellites East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria continued to sweep away the last vestiges of monopolistic Communist party rule last week. But Gorbachev, the man who made all the changes in Eastern Europe possible, last week refused to consider similar measures in the Soviet Union. At a meeting of the Soviet Congress of People’s Deputies, Gorbachev argued against debating Article 6 of the Soviet constitution, the clause that describes the Communist party as “the leading and guiding force of Soviet society.” And the congress supported that position by a vote of 1,139 to 839. But even Gorbachev had to give ground on the economic front. With perestroika, or restructuring, failing to put food and consumer goods on store shelves, Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov introduced a conservative economic plan that delayed key elements of Gorbachev’s reform program. Even Izvestia, the official govern-

ment daily newspaper, criticized Ryzhkov’s timidity. Declared the newspaper: “Impatience is probably the main feeling influencing the atmosphere in our society.”

In sharp contrast to the Kremlin’s reluctance, Bulgaria’s ruling Communists agreed last week to relinquish their monopoly on power. And in Czechoslovakia, where new Prime Minister Marian Caifa formed a cabinet with a majority of non-Communists, the party

and the opposition Civic Forum movement announced last week that they had agreed to purge the 350-member parliament of oldguard deputies. They also said that, after that action, parliament would elect a new president to replace Gustáv Husák, who resigned under popular pressure. At week’s end, however, it remained unclear whether parliament would approve the deal when it meets this week or instead vote to hold direct presidential elections. And in East Germany, liberal Communist party leader Gregor Gysi struggled to retain

control of the country at the helm of his Communist-dominated coalition government.

Gysi faces a difficult task because of increasingly radical demands by prodemocracy demonstrators. Having achieved many of their demands, protesters at a weekly demonstration in Leipzig last Monday called stridently for reunification. A large section of the 150,000strong crowd chanted “Germany—a single fatherland.” But they were confronted by a rival group that booed and, referring to the prounification protesters, yelled “Nazis out.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Office of National Security announced last week that, in co-operation with opposition groups, East Germany’s once-dreaded security police was closing scores of its offices in small towns. Then, the leadership of East Germany’s sports federation resigned in response to public criticism that top athletes and sports officials enjoyed privileges unavailable to ordinary citizens.

In Bulgaria, a demonstration by thousands of people in the capital, Sofia, led to the latest round of changes. Petar Mladenov, who replaced hard-liner Todor Zhivkov as Communist party leader last month, agreed less than a day after the protest to relinquish the party’s monopoly on power, hold free elections by the end of May and negotiate with opposition groups. He also announced plans to introduce a marketbased economy. The Central Committee then expelled Zhivkov from the party. Analysts said last week that Mladenov was moving quickly in an effort to head off the kind of crises that have engulfed Czechoslovakia and East Germany. Declared a Western diplomat in Sofia: “I think

they realize that their only chance to keep power is to be prepared to give it up.”

In the Soviet Union, however, there have been no mass demonstrations to propel radical change. And for Gorbachev, demands for fundamental political change are clearly secondary to the need to revive the country’s stagnant economy. Faced with food and fuel shortages in what promises to be a desperately cold winter, the Soviets chose to sideline the president’s grand plan of introducing free-market forces and instead reverted to old-style central planning. In his nearly two-hour speech to congress last week, Ryzhkov rejected calls for the sale of unprofitable state enterprises and proposed to delay reforms of the Soviet pricing system, which sets prices for many basic items at artificially low levels. Ryzhkov’s only concession to reformers was to propose increasing the production of consumer goods and services to $122 billion in each of the next five years, from an average of $31 billion annually.

Reformers said that Ryzhkov’s plan, like most of those before it, sets unrealistic production targets without providing incentives to achieve them. Declared Nina Dedeneva, a deputy from Western Siberia: “Our eminent scientists quite often make unrealistic proposals while the state of affairs continues to deteriorate.” Clearly, the Soviets remain unwilling to pursue the radical solutions that they helped to foster in Eastern Europe.

MARY NEMETH

ANTHONY WILSON-SMITH

SUE MASTERMAN

JOHN HOLLAND