Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Mikhail Gorbachev was near the peak of his power when, after more than two years of discussion, he and his team introduced a concrete plan for economic reform (perestroika). The reforms never succeeded, encouraging Gorbachev's critics. An attempted coup failed in 1990, and he resigned in 1991. An excerpt from The Post of June 26, 1987:
By Celestine Bohlen
Washington Post Foreign Service
MOSCOW, June 25 --
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, in a major speech today to the country's leading policy-making body, criticized opponents of reform in the Communist Party and government bureaucracy for lagging behind the "economic, social and spiritual" process in the country and called for drastic changes in the Soviet economy to be carried out by the end of this year.
The 56-year-old head of the Soviet Communist Party, who admitted that his first two years in power had produced only "insignificant" changes, outlined plans for a major reorganization of the Soviet economy that would involve "radical" change in the pricing system, a revamping of the central planning mechanism to grant more responsiblity to managers at the local level and no limits on what workers can earn.
The strongly worded speech, delivered before a regular meeting of the 307-member party Central Committee, marks a new phase in Gorbachev's program of restructuring the Soviet economy as he shifted his reform strategy away from piecemeal change to focus on the transition from an "excessively centralized command system" to one of greater "self-management."
The Soviet leader also singled out the armed forces for its failure to respond to demands for reform and greater efficiency. Alluding to "negative trends" in the country's defense establishment, he noted the lapse in Soviet air defenses that enabled West German teen-ager Mathias Rust to fly unimpeded through 400 miles of Soviet airspace before landing in Moscow's Red Square.
"The imbalance between the growing vigor of the masses and the still surviving bureaucratic manner of activity in most diverse fields and attempts to freeze the renewal drive is one of the manifestations of this real contradiction," Gorbachev said.
"The same is also evidenced by the violation of Soviet air space by the West German sports plane and by its landing in Moscow. This is an unprecedented occurrence from all points of view," he said.
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