Mikhail Gorbachev offerred a polemical view of America and its economic problems during his five-hour speech on Feb. 25 at the opening of the Soviet party congress. The strident tone may have reflected Gorbachev's effort to rouse the party faithful as much as his systematic analysis of the U.S. The following are excerpts from the speech, as broadcast by Moscow television and reprinted by the U.S. Foreign Broadcast Information Service:
The capitalism of the 1980s, the capitalism of the age of electronics and computer science, computers and robots, is leaving more millions of people, including young and educated people, without jobs. Wealth and power are being increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. Militarism is gorging itself on the arms race to an incredible degree, striving to gain control, little by little, over the political levers of power. It is becoming the ugliest and the most dangerous monster of the 20th century. . . .
The capitalism of today, whose exploitative nature has not changed, is in many ways different from what it was in the early and even in the middle 20th century. Under the influence and in the setting of the scientific and technological revolution, the conflict between the productive forces, which have grown to gigantic proportions, and the private-owner social relations, has become still more acute. Here there is growth of unemployment and deterioration of the entire set of social problems. Militarism, which has spread to all areas, is applied as the most promising means of enlivening the economy. The crisis of political institutions, of the entire spiritual sphere, is growing. Reaction is exercising fierce pressure all along the line -- in home and foreign policy, economy and culture, and the use of the achievements of human genius. The traditional forms of conservatism are giving place to authoritarian tendencies . . . .
Among the first to grow more acute are the contradictions between labor and capital. In the 1960s and 1970s, with the onset of a favorable economic situation, the working class, and the working people generally, managed to secure a certain improvement of their condition. But from the mid-seventies on, the proliferating economic crises and another technological restructuring of production changed the situation and enabled capital to go on the counteroffensive, depriving the working people of a considerable part of their social gains . . . .
The condition of peasants and farmers is deteriorating visibly: some farms are going bankrupt, with their former owners joining the ranks of wage workers, while others become abjectly dependent on large agricultural monopolies and banks. The social stratification is growing deeper and increasingly striking. In the United States, for example, 1 percent of the wealthiest families own riches that exceed by nearly 50 percent the total wealth of 80 percent of all the American families, who make up the lower part of the property pyramid.
Imperialism's ruling circles cannot fail to understand that such a situation is fraught with social explosions and political destabilization. But this is not making their policies more considered. On the contrary, the most irreconcilable reactionary groups of the ruling class have, by and large, taken the upper hand in recent years. The period is marked by an especially massive and brutal offensive of the monopolies on the rights of the working people.