A day after Mikhail Gorbachev issued his first major foreign policy statement, the Soviet leader tackled domestic economic problems, calling tonight for a vigorous effort to combat bad management, inertia and "irresponsibility."
The first quarterly report on the Soviet Union's 1985 economic performance showed declines in production and today, in a meeting with agricultural and industrial managers, Gorbachev said the harsh Russian climate was not entirely at fault.
"Of course, one should not disregard the severe winter, but the results of the first quarter were to no small degree affected by poor organization, sometimes complacency, and in some places, irresponsibility," he said.
Gorbachev, backing reforms laid down by the late president Yuri Andropov, urged a renewed drive to restore discipline and accountability to the workplace.
"The important thing now is to overcome the lag, to fulfill everything that has been planned," he said. "For that purpose, it is necessary to work vigorously towards raising the responsibility of personnel for their work and the degree of organization, and improve discipline."
Calling this a "pivotal period" for the Soviet Union, Gorbachev urged a thorough analysis and a realistic evaluation of the country's economic "problems and obstacles."
This year marks the end of the Soviet Union's 11th five-year plan, with the 12th to be adopted this fall. Although the past two years showed a modest boost in economic growth, up from a period of near-stagnation, reports published over the weekend showed slowing growth in most of the economy.
In his acceptance speech March 11, when he replaced the late Konstantin Chernenko as Kremlin chief, Gorbachev said the country was approaching "a decisive turn in switching the national economy onto the tracks of intensive development."
In the Soviet lexicon, "intensification" has meant increasing levels of productivity, making better use of reserves, and turning away from an earlier period when the country could fuel growth with extensive outlays of labor and resources.
Since Gorbachev came to office, Soviet newspapers have carried a steady stream of articles pushing for greater efficiency, better management and better training in factories, farms and the military.
Last week, the Politburo launched a campaign against alcoholism, the scourge of the Soviet workplace and a drain on its economy. The week before, the Politburo called for a struggle against "pretense and irresponsibility."
Today's meeting, reported on television, was attended by a number of the Kremlin's younger leaders, including several proteges of Andropov, such as Yegor Ligachev, party secretary in charge of personnel; Nicolai Ryshkov, party secretary with economic responsibilities; and Vladimir Dolgikh, a candidate member of the Politburo.