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Gorbachev Begins 3rd Year; No Turning Back : Soviet Leader Acknowledges Resistance to His Changes; Need to Work Out a Consensus Seen

March 09, 1987|WILLIAM J. EATON | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — Mikhail S. Gorbachev is encountering resistance to his plans for "revolutionary" domestic changes as he starts his third year as Soviet leader.

In the new spirit of openness he has promoted, however, Gorbachev is the first to acknowledge that some Communist Party officials, as well as ordinary workers, remain reluctant to support his program.

But he has also made it clear that there is no turning back from perestroika , or reconstruction of Soviet society, as far as he is concerned.

And, as general secretary of the party with broad powers to impose his will on this nation of 280 million people, he has already affected nearly every phase of life from machine-building to fashions.

A senior Western diplomat said recently that Gorbachev probably has to work out a consensus on new policies with the 10 other members of the ruling Politburo. The new leader clearly has encountered resistance from the 307-member Central Committee of the Communist Party on his plan to introduce two-candidate elections for senior party posts, the diplomat added.

In some respects, Gorbachev's moves have been symbolic, such as the lifting of internal exile for Andrei D. Sakharov, a champion of human rights, to allow him to resume his work as a physicist in Moscow.

Under Gorbachev, restrictions on films, books and artistic works have been removed in an unprecedented way, rallying intellectuals to his support.

Responding to the Kremlin leader's call for glasnost, or openness, Soviet newspapers have blossomed with stories so critical of shortcomings that they once would have been characterized as anti-Soviet slander.

New laws have been drafted to encourage foreign trade through joint ventures with firms from capitalist countries to give Soviet monopolies a taste of competition.

Other legislation will allow individuals to set up small private businesses after May 1 to improve the long-neglected consumer services industry.

When he attained power March 11, 1985, Gorbachev appeared to have more modest ambitions centered on a speedup of the faltering Soviet economy.

Recently, however, he has broadened his goals to include a shake-up of the system for choosing leaders in the all-powerful party, revision of criminal laws and elimination of many traditional taboos in the cultural field.

Era of Whirlwind Change

Compared to the final years of Leonid I. Brezhnev or the brief tenures of the ailing Yuri V. Andropov and Konstantin U. Chernenko, the Gorbachev era has been marked by whirlwind change.

"The difference is tremendous," Andrei Nikolski, a technician for Aeroflot, the Soviet airline, said in a sidewalk interview. "He (Gorbachev) finally got the country stirring in all spheres and it's just what we need."

A World War II veteran who asked to be anonymous gave another view: "People believe him--that's how he differs from other leaders."

'No Speed Is Excessive'

While some of Gorbachev's critics contend that he is moving too fast, this opinion was challenged by Olesya Potravko, a young woman office worker.

"We have been stagnating so badly that no speed is excessive," she told a reporter.

Yet there is resistance to Gorbachev's changes from several different groups, including party and government officials who have comfortable posts that would be jeopardized by proposed changes.

In the same way, workers who earn relatively high salaries regardless of their output also are not enthusiastic about rigorous new quality controls or a new pay system that gears wages to production.

"It is no secret to anyone that many were content and some still remain happy to work in a slipshod manner, with unearned pay, undeserved bonuses, with an undemanding atmosphere, with lack of control and irresponsibility," Gorbachev told leaders of Soviet trade unions last week.

"Even our best cadres have by no means all mastered the fact that a new stage in their work has begun," Gorbachev said during a recent trip to Latvia.

"The hardest years for us will be this year and the next two," he added. "Restructuring is not a cavalry charge but a long-term policy aimed at profound changes, genuinely revolutionary changes in our society," he added.

And Gorbachev acknowledged that the Kremlin was not without fault itself in setting a new course.

'We Have to Move On'

"We are moving along by the trial-and-error method," he said on a visit to Estonia. "All the same, we have to move on."

Despite a new emphasis on giving greater power to workers on the shop floor, Gorbachev has announced unilaterally a major change in working conditions for many of his country's 140 million workers.

To make the best use of existing machinery, he said, factories that have been working a single shift will switch to two or three shifts a day. Night-shift pay will be raised 20%, he said, and workers on the overnight shift will receive an additional 30% or 40% premium.

Also, Gorbachev said, store hours and transportation schedules will have to be changed to accommodate those working evening and overnight hours.

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