This week the Literary Gazette in Moscow carried an article by Stanislav Shatalin, author of the ''500 Days'' economic reform for the Soviet Union; Sergei Alexeev, head of the fledgling Constitutional Court, and me. In it, we call for the creation of a new organization -- ''Social Democracy,'' -- that could develop into a reformist wing of the Communist Party but would also have numerous supporters outside the Communist Party, all forming what might be termed a ''Social Democratic Alliance.''
We see it beginning as a wing of the Communist Party but developing into a large party with a social -- not socialist -- democratic bent.
For 70 years of Soviet history (and more than 30 years of experience in Eastern Europe and China) the model of ''socialist democracy'' has come down to three principles: state property, one-party tyranny or authoritarian rule and the dominance of Marxist-Leninist ideology. We reject this model, which has taken a toll of many millions of human lives and has put our country on the verge of famine. As Gorbachev reiterates again his loyalty to socialism, we only shake our heads in wonder. What socialism has he in mind -- the one that actually existed or the ideal in the mind of various 19th century theoreticians?
By contrast, social democracy guarantees first of all the economic, civil and political rights of the individual, including the right to private property as the basis of political independence and freedom. Our ideas are close to the experience and programs of such countries as Sweden, Austria, the socialist movement in Germany, France, Spain and Great Britain. Democracy is the major factor: it ensures social protection of the least privileged strata, something that is particularly crucial for the political culture of our people.
What does this mean, practically speaking, in terms of the realities of today? We have protested the use of military force in the Baltics; we grieve over the loss of human lives. We think that the attempt to solve complex inter-ethnic problems with tanks and machine guns is a crime and a tragic mistake, an approach that will destroy the union.
We stand for an economic community, a kind of common market -- something all the republics are interested in -- that would lead eventually to a flexible and voluntary union of sovereign republics. We call for a return to the ''500 Days program'' of economic reform and a gradual transition to a market economy.
We are against the Soviet system of power, which has always been based on the principle of one-party rule. We stand for direct election of the country's parliament and the president.
We stand for a consistent foreign policy -- what Gorbachev once called New Thinking: Soviet-American cooperation, the joint efforts of the world community in the Persian Gulf, for example.
Is it possible to initiate such an alternative social democratic movement? It is, particularly when it is supported by people of proven ability who are getting off the sinking ship of perestroika -- people like Eduard Shevardnadze, Alexander Yakovlev, Vadim Bakatin, Nikolai Petrakov and many others.
If Mikhail Gorbachev still contemplates reconstruction of society, he should be interested in strengthening this democratic wing. Otherwise he will become hostage of the reactionary forces, which are now attempting to push the country into dictatorship.
At the recent 28th Party Congress, there was an opportunity to legalize and institutionalize the existing right and left wings of the Communist Party -- or to put it differently, the proponents of Communist ideology and the Social Democrats. Gorbachev was not courageous enough to do it. As a result, the Communist fundamentalists consolidated their position by creating the Communist Party of Russia. I formed a social democratic platform and eventually lost by a margin of only 50 votes, which speaks to the balance of forces in the party. Representatives of the center-democratic trend, as defined by Shevardnadze, subsequently went off in several different directions. They failed to consolidate their ranks either within or outside the party. They also demonstrated that they are not ready to tackle the business of politics.
At the same time the military-industrial extremists went on the offensive. They are particularly concerned by cuts in arms manufacture and the military budget. They are frustrated about the withdrawal of our troops from East European countries and about the reunification of Germany. They have a different view of the Persian Gulf war.
Gorbachev now finds himself in an extremely difficult situation. His popularity in the nation has shrunk, while Boris Yeltsin's grows. Gorbachev is frustrated with democrats whom he brought into politics but who now attack him, at times even demanding his resignation. Public opinion, meanwhile, demands order in the distribution of food, a greater degree of personal safety and the calming of ethnic conflicts.
These are the real and the psychological motivations for the turn toward a Leninist domestic policy. Gorbachev is attempting to stabilize the economy and to suppress ethnic conflicts by force, even by use of the armed forces. Taking into account his propensity for partial and timid solutions, I don't think that he will go far down this road, but events can get out of control. The army has, for the first time in 70 years, become a political power.
If alternative political movements are not consolidated, the situation could evolve into a defeat for democracy. Then the shadow of 1964, the year reactionary forces replaced Khrushchev, could loom over the country and over Gorbachev himself. The writer is a member of the Soviet parliament and an editor of the Literary Gazette.