FOR more than a week, the halls of the Palace of Congresses have
rung with the ideological salvos of warring Soviet Communists.
Yesterday an angry Mikhail Gorbachev, defiant of his conservative
critics, defended his policies of economic reform, his detente with
the West, and the need for the party to change.
"If some delegates arrived here - and that was obvious at
different meetings and during some speeches - in the hope of turning
the party back to the past conditions of command and orders, they
are deeply mistaken," Gorbachev said in a one-hour morning address.
"The policy of perestroika, which aims to renew our society
within the framework of socialist choice, is not questioned by this
congress," he declared.
Despite the visible hostility that interrupted even this speech,
Gorbachev 's certain re-election as party leader proved again that
he cannot be easily displaced. During Monday's nominations for the
post of party General Secretary, numerous delegates admitted, some
clearly with regret, that there was "no alternative" to his
leadership. As the Congress headed into afternoon session, Gorbachev
faced only token opposition for re-election as party General
Through a combination of intense personal politicking and
skillful manipulation, the Soviet leader has managed to preserve a
fragile center in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).
While the left and right wings of the party are now openly arrayed
against each other, neither is prepared to challenge Gorbachev.
"At this moment, it is a victory of the status quo, of the
inertia of the party machine," comments Andrei Fadin, political
editor of the independent weekly Commersant. Developments so far
provide Gorbachev with a "guarantee against a sharp turn to either
the left or the right," he says.
As the Congress heads to a close, further tests of Gorbachev's
strength are expected. The Congress will approve the rules and
platform of the party and elect its leadership. With Gorbachev's
re-election settled, attention is focused on who will fill a new
post of Deputy General Secretary and on the composition of the new
Central Committee, which runs the party between congresses.
The Gorbachev leadership seems confident, despite the largely
conservative tone from the Congress delegates, that it will win
broad approval for reform policies.
"I can divide those who have taken the floor," Evgeni Primakov, a
member of the Presidential Council, told a small group of reporters.
"Some of them are for the real party as the mechanism of
perestroika. Some others want to go back to the time when the party
was part of the state apparatus. But I don't believe that
historically this second trend has any chance to win."
The official Tass news agency,dismissed much of the right-wing
criticism as "emotional release" and "a lack of political culture. …