MOSCOW — Boris N. Yeltsin, the outspoken former protege of Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, suffered the final step of his downfall today when he was ousted from the ruling Politburo.
The policy-making Central Committee made the change after Gorbachev told the party leadership that his efforts to modernize the economy and Soviet society did not constitute a retreat from socialism.
"We are not retreating one step from socialism, Marxism-Leninism, everything which has been won and created by the people," Gorbachev said in a speech reported by the Tass press agency.
"We are striving in the present conditions to revive the Leninist look of the new system, to rid it of the accumulations and deformations, of everything that shackled society and prevented it from realizing the potential of socialism in full measure," he said.
Tass said the Central Committee meeting "freed Comrade B. N. Yeltsin from his duties as a candidate member of the Politburo."
Yeltsin, 57, was brought into the ruling body by Gorbachev in February, 1986, and named Moscow party boss. But he fell from favor last fall when he complained to the Central Committee at its last meeting that an entrenched bureaucracy had stalled Gorbachev's efforts to modernize Soviet society.
Yeltsin earlier had been removed from his party post in the Soviet capital but was given a ministerial job in the government's construction bureaucracy, leaving his political future in doubt.
The move to drive him from power was seen as an indication that the party remains unwilling to tolerate criticism in key areas, despite Gorbachev's program of glasnost, or openness, which has encouraged freer expression of ideas.