The Soviet Literary Gazette has honored me with an attack that is, so experts tell me, remarkably coarse, even considering the source. To its calumny I reply: sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me -- although when a communist says I once was a "run-of-the-mill" professor, he goes beyond what is permissible even in the death-struggle with capitalism.

The attack is worth noting, not just because it contributes to the public stock of harmless pleasure, or because it reminds us of what we cannot be reminded of too often -- the vulgarity of the Soviet mind. It also dramatizes the shocking decline in the caliber of communist invective.

The article, which nominates me for a place in the Soviet "Gallery of Slanderers," says the "military-industrial complex" is not only the hand that feeds me, it is: "The hand that gives him food and drink, strokes him, scratches him behind the ears and takes care of him in every way. It is necessary to lick that hand . . ." It goes on like that, but you get the picture.

"What comes from his pen depends on who gives him the orders, and it is evident from the output who the prompters are. It is a kind of dialectics."

Bingo! When a communist deep-thinker is really ready to get down and boogie, out comes the key concept: dialectics. Don't ask me, or him, what it means, but bear with me, and him.

He says I gave the game away when, last December, just before the full-scale Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, I said, correctly, that some Soviet troops already were engaged in Afghanistan. This, my critic says, was a lie, and a blunder because it betrayed my fear that Soviet troops would enter Afghanistan to forestall the CIA's overthrow of the Afghan government, which, my critics says, I knew was "planned for Dec. 29." To frustrate that overthrow, my critic says, the Soviet Union extended fraternal socialist assistance to the Afghan government. (And murdered the head of it. Perhaps that is applied dialectics.)

My slip, which revealed my guilty knowledge, proves that I am close to, indeed a pawn of, "the Washington faction that is making every effort to foment tension." My critic thinks that faction includes almost everyone, and meets weekly in Katharine Graham's living room.

The "huge editorial-commercial enterprise known as the 'Washington Post Company'" belongs to "Mrs. Boss," who commands "Will's reckless and evil thoughts about the unthinkable.' Furthermore, I am, dialectically speaking, her man in the CIA and the CIA's man in Newsweek.

Actually, I suspect that Newsweek and my newspapers regard me the way Ronald Reagan's staff is coming to regard him -- with the trepidation aroused by randomness. Still, I am chagrined, if not surprised, that my Soviet critic reduces me to the status of an "epiphenomenon." My critic does not use the term -- he seems innocent of any understanding, even of Marxism -- but it is a favorite term of Marxists, denoting something that is a mere reflection of vast impersonal forces. That's why my critic regards me, pretty much the way Marx regarded Louis Napoleon, an appraisal almost as wounding as "run-of-the-mill professor."

To the charge the I am a mere reflection of social forces, I respond: "So's your old man!" In fact, so is everybody, according to Marx. There is a whole academic industry trying to read Marx otherwise, but he said everyone is a mere cork on the currents of History.

Frankly, I am saddened to note the decline of Marxist invective. Marx himself, who probably considered civility a bourgeois affectation, was always unloading on someone as a "sentimental pretty-bourgeois social fantast" and stuff like that.

That's a denunciation with a doctoral degree, full of sociological gravity and the tang of high learning. The Literary Gazette can't rise above saying that I'm a fellow with "a completely soiled soul" (do Marxist now believe in souls?) and "a pathologically evil mind," and one who "knows no limit to his inhuman calculations."

My critic, who probably needs the job, is no doubt unwilling to face the fact that personal abuse makes no sense in the Marxist scheme of things, in which nothing is personal. He knows perfectly well that I, although repulsive, am not to blame.

I am a plaything of, and destined for the ashcan of, History. I am a mere necessity, a by-product of this passing stage in the development of the means of production. Sorry, Mom, but that's dialectics.