What follows is a samizdat transcript of a talk given on May 15 by a prominent Soviet writer named Anatolii Ivanovich Strelyanyi -- prose writer, publicist and member of the editorial board of the literary monthly Novy mir -- to the Komsomol aktiv of Moscow State University. The transcript recently became available to Radio Liberty.

Novy mir is in conflict with its correspondents. Everybody who writes to Novy Mir thinks that he ought to be published, and, if refused, he demands a meeting with the chief editor, calls us bureaucrats, and when he comes into the department wants to speak with nobody lower than the chief.

The complete absence of citizens' rights in past years led to a fall in the level of culture. People try to take everything by storm: buses, stores, jobs, graduate studentships. I have to deal every day with insolence, attempts to frighten me by complaining to higher authorities, threats. People come to the editor's office in order to get important problems solved; they think that they can reach Gorbachev through the magazine. They see the magazine as a relay point. That's what level people's ideas about the press are at; that's the general cultural level.

They write to me: "The forests and beehives are dying, it can't go on like this!" But this is material for the newspapers, not for us. The editor's office is swamped with literary works about important problems. But the public demands explanations of why we don't print this or that. They don't recognize our right to choose our themes ourselves. And we're not obliged to give anybody a report on what our selection criteria are.

You can understand these people: In conditions of non-democracy a person has nowhere to turn. A young fellow recently came running in to see me with seven lines about the deterioration of schools and three hundred signatures and tells me: "Sign!" "Why?," I ask him. "We're going to send it higher up!" he says. I ask a few questions. Turns out he's a fifth-year student in the history department at a teacher's college. That's people's conception of democracy -- thick-headed illiteracy.

Some students from Leningrad also came by recently. Their eyes burning, they shouted about how the hotel {the Hotel Angleterre, where poet Sergei Esenin committed suicide in 1925} is going to be torn down, how 1,000 students are guarding it day and night! I tell them, "So go there, you're more useful there."

Our aim is to assist the working out of a contemporary world view through enlightenment and glasnost. Our motto is "Print what nobody else is printing."

It is impossible to continue living like this. Democracy is needed. A well-known economist sent us a letter. He writes that history will not forgive us if we do not overcome our current condition in a single leap. You can't cross an abyss in two hops. We are standing before an abyss. Lenin made such a leap after Kronstadt, when he introduced NEP {The New Economic Policy}. A revolutionary coup has to be made without looking about; it has to be done the way the Bolsheviks did it then. Gradualness is the greatest danger to perestroika {restructuring}. If we do not overcome gradualness it will bring down both Gorbachev and perestroika.

There are a lot of opponents to perestroika. Take the article "Lukavaya tsifra" {Devious Numbers, an article saying that Soviet statistics can't be trusted} in Novy Mir, No. 2 1987. We don't give a damn what people think of us for having printed this article. We don't write for the bosses. Seventy years of monstrous eyewash, and it still hasn't been put right.

Gorbachev criticized me for this article at a meeting. My friends got worried after this criticism, offered to help me find another job, asked me: "What, haven't they fired you yet?" As you can see, I'm still working and will publish what I consider to be necessary and important.

This is our Russian misfortune -- to look up to the bosses, to try to see whether they like it or not, how they'll react to this or that. But one high-ranking lady called me after the appearance of "Lukavaya tsifra" and asked that the author put together the calculations that enabled him to reach the conclusions he did. The materials were sent higher up.

The press has been dragging itself along for decades, but it still gets respectful treatment, even though everybody knows about the lying. They still keep on hoping, and the editorial offices are swamped with material. As long as the press is not independent, it's senseless to complain about it.

But the press is already doing a lot. At the January plenum, the opponents of perestroika, unable to bring themselves to attack Gorbachev, attacked his pseudonym -- "The Press" -- which now, they say, has abandoned all restraint and paints everything black, lashes out in all directions.

The press cannot act openly on its own. What's happening now is a result of the attitude of the new leadership.

Question from the floor: You think that the press should be independent from party control?

Strelyanyi: Yes. We need a press that is independent of the party bureaucracy and the state apparatus. An independent press is a press that reports on killed and wounded in Afghanistan, gives daily information on radioactivity at Chernobyl, is present at sessions of the Politburo and reports on who said what.

From the floor: That can't be.

Strelyanyi: If we want to eat our own bread, not American bread, then there will be an independent press.

From the floor: Is a law on the press being prepared?

Strelyanyi: I don't know, there's no glasnost.' The successes of perestroika can be seen mainly in the differences between the press today and the press during Brezhnev's time. But they're not very big.

From the floor: Do we have organized crime?

Strelyanyi: There is such a problem. It should be written about . . . . Freedom {svoboda} is not a means. Freedom is the goal itself. Under present conditions, the press is dependent on the party and state bureaucratic apparatus.

From the floor: That's rubbish!

Strelyanyi: See what we're like! An Englishman would say: "Excuse me, but I don't agree with everything you say, I have a different point of view." You fly off the handle right away! But I'm not against disagreements. The fate of perestroika depends on whether we take sides. Whether we stand on different sides of the barricade.

From the floor: What do you think of Afanas'ev's speech? {Academician Afanas'ev, the editor of Pravda -- "Truth"}.

Strelyanyi: He needs constructive truth. {Laughter.}

From the floor: Can the press be completely independent? After all, Lenin spoke of control of the press!

Strelyanyi: Control of the press was necessary in the underground, and that's exactly what Lenin was talking about. But who told you that now? Suslov? If there had been an independent press, then Medvedev, the chief engineer who ten years ago wrote that you shouldn't build a nuclear reactor near Kiev and described the catastrophe . . . . But they didn't let him have his say, they shut him up. And discussion was necessary.

From the floor: If the press starts giving information on the number of casualties in Afghanistan, then the West and the dushmans {Soviet term for Afghan resistance fighters} will make use of it.

Strelyanyi: Everybody in the West knows these numbers! They're hiding them from us, not from the dushmans. Yes, Marx said that freedom of the press is not only a boon, it is also an inconvenience. Everything must be printed. If the press prints information, and somebody doesn't agree with it, let him go to court, and we will defend our point of view in open court. There will be foam. But there will also be a wave. And we need a wave, even if some foam comes along with it.