Any outsider trying to assess the policy of glasnost , or greater openness, proclaimed by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev is faced with one of those "good news, bad news" situations. There are encouraging signs that the paranoid obsession with keeping everything secret from foreigners is beginning to erode. And the authorities are now willing to tolerate a sometimes startling amount of open dissent. Yet the apparatus of censorship and control remains very much in business.
Twice in the past four weeks the weekly Moscow News has reported the occurrence of strikes--one of them by bus drivers near Moscow, and the other by hundreds of workers at a bus factory in the Urals. Strikes, which are illegal under Soviet law, are known to have occurred before. But in the past the Kremlin has tried to squelch news of the incidents.
Also on the positive side, Soviet television carried a live, uncensored debate between members of the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Soviet. Russian televiewers heard, among other things, a blunt observation by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) that "for most of this century the Soviet Union has been a hell for human rights."
Then there was the meeting at Harvard that brought together senior members of the Kennedy Administration and Soviet participants in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The Americans expected the Soviet visitors to fall into the usual pattern of blaming everything on the United States. The Russians, however, turned out to be surprisingly open and frank in their comments; they even admitted that misjudgments by Moscow contributed to the crisis. Soviet participants at a recent East-West conference in Britain behaved in a similarly open fashion.