The clock is ticking for Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
Nothing seems to be going well for the Soviet president any more. The "black beret" paratroopers' bloody crackdown in the Baltic republics has been messy, but it has failed to restore communist rule in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. It has managed to destroy Mr. Gorbachev's carefully cultivated public image, however. The once-acclaimed Nobel Peace Prize laureate now is being scorned as the "gravedigger of perestroika." Meanwhile, many sectors of Soviet economy are at a standstill as materials do not get delivered, electric power is sporadic and absenteeism of workers is growing. Mr. Gorbachev, after having jettisoned many of his long-time advisers, now is being abandoned by the reformist rank and file. "Resign! Resign!" a crowd of 100,000 shouted Sunday outside the Kremlin.
The whole Soviet Union seems to be in the process of dividing into two camps. In one camp are Mr. Gorbachev and the forces whose extralegal influence he tried to curtail during nearly six years of reforms -- the KGB, the military, the stodgy communist bureaucracy. The other camp is coalescing around Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin. It includes many of perestroika's erstwhile cheerleaders, who now seem aghast at Mr. Gorbachev's actions and his alliance with reactionaries.