Gorbachev heaps scorn upon conservative critics Soviet president tilts toward radicals

June 21, 1991|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,Moscow Bureau of The Sun

MOSCOW — &TC MOSCOW -- President Mikhail S. Gorbachev denounced hard-line opponents of economic reform yesterday and signaled that he will resist conservative pressure and insist on radical moves toward a market economy.

The remarks were the strongest blast against reactionary Communists heard in many months from Mr. Gorbachev, who for the past year has reserved nearly all of his public scorn for democratic radicals.

The statement contributed to the growing perception here that he is staking his fortunes on radical republican leaders, newly elected Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin chief among them.

"Now that resolute transformations are gaining momentum, all who are against them are mobilizing, including in the parliament," Mr. Gorbachev told visiting Jacques Delors, president of the European Community, according to the Tass news agency.

"Conservative forces are in the lead, with so-called hurrah-patriots among them, people who are unable to see things as they are, who view everything happening in the country now as the path to perdition, a slide-back to capitalist slavery," Mr. Gorbachev said.

"But the path we have embarked on is the one that opens the road to the future. It is necessary to see and clearly understand this and to act with determination," he said.

Mr. Gorbachev's remarks were a response to a spasm of criticism in the Supreme Soviet Monday and Tuesday from deputies who said he had reduced a proud superpower to a disintegrating country begging handouts from the West.

Several conservative deputies called for part of Mr. Gorbachev's powers to be transferred to Prime Minister Valentin S. Pavlov, who is seeking expanded authority.

While the political situation is not entirely clear, Mr. Pavlov appears to be testing the waters for a serious challenge to Mr. Gorbachev, who appointed him just six months ago.

Mr. Pavlov acknowledged that he did not discuss his demand for greater powers with Mr. Gorbachev before taking it to the parliament, unquestionably a deliberate slight. Sergei S. Alexeyev, a prominent jurist who is close to Mr. Gorbachev, appeared on television to declare Mr. Pavlov's demand unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gorbachev reacted with cautious approval to the reform plan worked out by radical Soviet economist Grigory Yavlinsky together with a team from Harvard University. By contrast, Mr. Pavlov scoffed at the plan as unrealistic.

A similar situation developed last fall, and then, as now, Mr. Gorbachev urged the authors of the radical and moderate reform plans to unite their efforts. But if his accustomed centrism then leaned toward the moderates, this time it is leaning toward the radicals.

Mr. Gorbachev told Mr. Delors that the old economic system had been nearly dismantled but that the new system was not yet in place. "It will not do to linger in the transitional phase," he said, warning that popular patience had limits.

"People are aware of the need to take resolute steps. Society is ripe, but it can burn out," he said, according to Tass. "It is now necessary to meet people's expectations halfway."

Mr. Gorbachev said that "hopes for an easy and smooth process are an illusion" and asserted that "no other country in the world has performed such a turn" in its economic system.

For his part, Mr. Delors said he had told Mr. Gorbachev and other officials to expect "no miracles" when the Soviet president attends a meeting of the G-7 leading industrial nations in London next month.

He said institutional economic reform in the Soviet Union was critical for the efficient use of any aid. He also said that a clearer distribution of powers and functions had to be worked out between the central government and the republics.

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