FACED with a clear economic and political choice, Mikhail
Gorbachev and the Soviet parliament yesterday decided not to decide.
The Soviet parliament, at Mr. Gorbachev's urging, voted not to
choose between two clearly opposed plans for a transition to a
market economy. Instead, it kicked the problem back to a committee
that is to try, once again, to combine the two programs into a
unified plan. The decision effectively postpones the hoped-for start
of market reform by at least a month, until the beginning of
Gorbachev's latest attempt to find grounds for compromise came
after his prime minister, Nikolai Ryzhkov, called on the parliament
to reject the more radical plan in favor of his gradualist approach.
Mr. Ryzhkov and his allies had threatened to step down if the
radical plan, which Gorbachev had earlier said he backed, was
Faced with political conflict, Gorbachev blinked. But in doing
so, he has only opened the door to a much larger conflict with Boris
Yeltsin, the head of the Russian parliament.
Gorbachev and Mr. Yeltsin had allied to oversee the group that
produced the radical 500-day plan to create a market economy. The
Russian parliament has already approved the radical plan and called
for the resignation of Ryzhkov's government.
Gorbachev's delaying tactics were criticized from both sides.
Radical Leningrad Mayor Anatoly Sobchak repeatedly took the floor to
try to pass the 500-day plan. After the vote was taken, Deputy Prime
Minister Leonid Abalkin, the economist who drew up the rival
government plan, also claimed to be unhappy with the result.
"Honestly, I'm not satisfied, because it amounts to marking
time," he told reporters in the hall of the parliament. "Sooner or
later we have to act."
However, Mr. Abalkin also clearly felt relieved that the movement
toward approval of the radical plan, which was gaining momentum, was
halted for now.
"Today we won a chance to compromise," he said. "The bridges
weren't burned yet."
The Soviet parliament has debated the economic plans for the past
two weeks. Aside from the Ryzhkov government program and the 500-day
plan, there was a "presidential" version, which attempted to find
common ground. But even that version essentially backed the more
radical plan and Gorbachev's advisers repeatedly told the parliament
that there were no grounds for compromise between the two
Gorbachev, speaking to the parliament yesterday, rejected that
"We can get out of the crisis if we cast away all political
calculation and proceed from the reality of our economy," he said.
"Only then shall we arrive at a unified plan of reform."
After the parliament voted quickly in the morning to support this
idea, several attempts were made to reverse the vote. …