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Kremlin Conservatives Criticize Party Reforms : Pravda Article Questions Moves for 'Democracy' in Veiled Attack on Ousted Moscow City Chief

November 17, 1987|WILLIAM J. EATON | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — Kremlin conservatives, riding high after the ouster of Boris N. Yeltsin as the Communist Party chief of Moscow, voiced demands Monday for greater party control over elections to leading posts in factories and public organizations.

A half-page article in Pravda, the party's most authoritative newspaper, raised the question of whether "party democracy" is diluting the idea of "party discipline." It said that many workers are taking time off from their jobs to go to Moscow and complain about shortcomings in the name of perestroika , the catchword for the reform program of Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Analysts said the hard-line Pravda article was an indirect attack on Yeltsin, who was dismissed last week as leader of the Moscow party.

Name Not on List

Yeltsin apparently also has been removed as a non-voting member of the ruling Politburo. Significantly, his name did not appear in a list of all other Politburo members who signed an obituary for Pyatras Grishkyavichus, first secretary of the Lithuanian Communist Party, who died Saturday at the age of 63.

Meanwhile, the Austria Press Agency reported that the editor of the Soviet government newspaper Izvestia said that Yeltsin has been hospitalized.

The Associated Press said that the Austrian agency quoted the editor, Ivan D. Laptiev, as telling reporters in Innsbruck that Yeltsin's health had suffered during the recent political upheavals in Moscow and that he was resting at an unidentified hospital.

Laptiev alluded to what he called Western media reports that Yeltsin had suffered a heart attack and said this was not true, the Austrian agency's report said.

Laptiev was quoted as saying that Yeltsin went from the hospital to last week's Moscow Communist Party meeting that decided on his dismissal and then returned to the hospital.

A Western diplomat, who asked that his name not be used, said that conservatives in the Kremlin leadership demanded Yeltsin's dismissal after he accused Politburo member Yegor K. Ligachev of slowing the pace of reform during an Oct. 21 speech at a plenum of the party's Central Committee.

Gorbachev, who reportedly was annoyed when Yeltsin offered his resignation at the plenum, later led the attack against his one-time protege, who was widely seen as one of the leading advocates of change.

The decision, together with publication in Pravda of a series of attacks on Yeltsin by his co-workers, has stirred hot debate among Muscovites along liberal-conservative lines.

In this context, the Pravda article could be read as a condemnation of Yeltsin and the populist measures that he advocated, such as closing of special stores for the party elite that carry luxury and other items often not available to the general public.

At times, however, the article seemed to challenge some of the views held by Gorbachev himself on the way to achieve improvement in economic and social life.

While Gorbachev has been proclaiming "more democracy, more socialism" as his watchword, Pravda said the recently approved system of electing work supervisors--from foremen to factory chiefs--had major drawbacks.

"For some, this form of democracy has become a game, the euphoria of public meetings," the article said.

It was even more critical of the party's loss of influence over the outcome of elections, in contrast to the past when party leaders had the final say on who would fill these positions.

"The Communist Party . . . is a ruling party, and its role is affirmed by the constitution," Pravda said. "That is why the party committees . . . by right express openly their opinion of candidates."

In a clear reference to the charges that Yeltsin was guided primarily by his own ambitions, the newspaper article said:

"Yes, it's necessary to respect other people's opinions. But let's not be guided by those who cleverly manipulate public opinion and attempt to act in their own narrow and selfish interests."

Emphasis on Discipline

In its emphasis on discipline compared to democracy, the article said discipline means "unavoidable subordination by everyone to the established order and procedures."

Pravda's account pictured the Soviet economy as rather chaotic, asserting:

"Managers from all sides are complaining about disrupted plans of production. . . . In many places, people just drop their tools, disappear from farms and clinics, abandon their shop counters and flee to Moscow to signal about 'shortcomings' in their collectives and to 'seek justice.' They are contributing to perestroika. "

The article said that workers in Britain could be fired from their jobs for being five minutes late.

"Too severe? Well, maybe," the article said. "But this method might be useful in our struggle for order."

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