VILNIUS, Soviet Union — President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, adopting a brusque, sometimes-threatening tone, warned Lithuanian farmers and factory workers Friday that if they achieved the independence they sought, their republic would soon be financially bankrupt.
Justas Poleckis, the ideology chief for the Lithuanian Communist Party and a leader of the nationalist movement, said he hopes Lithuanians will be patient in pushing for independence, for the sake of Gorbachev himself.
"The conservative forces have formed an alliance against Gorbachev," he told an interviewer, "and this is a decisive year. The appearance of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union was a miracle. We must use this chance, not spoil it. We must help Gorbachev and not the conservatives."
Gorbachev came to the Lithuanian republic on Thursday in an effort to persuade the Lithuanian Communist Party to compromise on its Dec. 20 decision to split with the Soviet party.
The decision, which Lithuanian Communists said was not reversible and was needed to enable their party to win popular support in elections scheduled for next month, prompted Gorbachev to call an emergency session of the Central Committee.
Top Soviet leaders were deeply divided on how to respond to the Lithuanian move, and Gorbachev is believed to have faced sharp criticism from conservatives. His critics argue that by emphasizing reform in the Soviet Union, Gorbachev has failed to maintain authority, creating the potential for a breakup of the Soviet Communist Party.
The Central Committee is to take up the issue again after Gorbachev and other Central Committee members touring Lithuania return to Moscow.
"Comrades, we are talking in very practical terms," Gorbachev told collective farmers Friday outside Siauliai, a town 120 miles northwest of Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. "If you have an independent Communist Party, that means the decisions for the whole of the Soviet Union will be made in Moscow, and your party leaders, sitting here in Vilnius, will only read about it in the newspaper."
For the second day in a row, most of Gorbachev's time was spent in debate, not of the party's call for independence, but of the people's call for independence of the republic.
Nationalist leaders say independence is the goal for most Lithuanians, who account for about 80% of the republic's 3.6 million people. Pro-independence demonstrations took place in Vilnius Wednesday and again Thursday.
"Do you realize how economically interdependent each republic is?" Gorbachev asked the farmers gathered around him. "What would you do without this relationship? You could not survive. Do you realize, for example, that 100% of your fuel comes from Russia?"
"Yes," a man in the crowd countered, "and at an exorbitant price, too."
Gorbachev responded angrily that Lithuanians pay less than half the world-market price for the fuel they get from Russia.
"See, your people simply do not know what they are talking about," he said. "We shall explain everything to them, and then we shall see what their decision will be."
In a speech to factory workers in Siauliai, Gorbachev said that those who are calling for independence are simply playing a game.
"We don't need a confrontation," he said. "That is dangerous for both sides. Let us have a dialogue, let us discuss things, acknowledging equal rights for everybody and acknowledging the fact that the Lithuanian people must feel that their roots are in this land."
Ideology chief Poleckis, who is one of the four top Communists in the republic, said Lithuanians must remember that "before Gorbachev, we could never have talked in this open way about freedom."
"He deserves acknowledgement from our people for what he has done," Poleckis went on. "A lot of people think independence is restoration of the state that existed 50 years ago. But that is not possible. The world has changed.
"Nevertheless, Lithuania must stay in the Soviet Union because it is the choice of Lithuanians. I think Gorbachev is trying to make it attractive to us, so that will be our choice."
Lithuania was an independent state between World War I and World War II. It was occupied by Soviet troops and finally absorbed into the Soviet Union in August, 1940.
Poleckis said he expects Gorbachev and the Lithuanian Communist leaders to try today to agree on one of several compromise proposals suggested by the Soviet leader last week in Moscow.
Most likely, he said, is a transition period of about six months before the Lithuanian Party becomes independent. In the interim, Gorbachev would try to push through reforms giving all the republics more freedom.
As Gorbachev took his campaign for unity to the countryside, some nationalist leaders in Vilnius criticized his promise, made Thursday, of a new law that would clarify the process of separation from the Soviet Union. The right to secede has long been included in the Soviet constitution but has never been tested.