Following are excerpts from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's speech today, as provided by the official Soviet news agency Tass and The Associated Press.

On the Abuses of Stalin

The period after Lenin -- that is, the '20s and the '30s -- occupied a special place in the history of the Soviet state. Radical social changes were carried out in some 15 years. . . . Those were years of hard work to the limits of human endurance, of sharp and multifarious struggle. Industrialization, collectivization, the cultural revolution, strengthening of the multinational state, consolidation of the Soviet Union's international positions, new forms of managing the economy and all social affairs -- all this occurred within that period. And all of it had far-reaching consequences. For decades, we have been returning to that time again and again. . . .

To understand the situation of those years, it must be borne in mind that the administrative-command system, which had begun to take shape in the process of industrialization and which had received a fresh impetus during collectivization, had hold on the whole socio-political life of the country. Once established in the economy, it had spread to its superstructure, restricting the development of the democratic potential of socialism and holding back the progress of socialist democracy.

But the aforesaid does not give a full picture of how complex that period was.

What had happened? The time of ideological-political tests of the utmost gravity to the party was actually over. Millions of people had joined enthusiastically in the work of bringing about socialist transformations. The first successes were becoming apparent.

Yet, at that time methods dictated by the period of the struggle with the hostile resistance of the exploiter classes were being mechanically transferred to the period of peaceful socialist construction, when conditions had changed cardinally. An atmosphere of intolerance, hostility and suspicion was created in the country.

As time went on, this political practice gained in scale and was backed up by the erroneous "theory" of an aggravation of the class struggle in the course of socialist construction.

All this had a dire effect on the country's sociopolitical development and produced grim consequences.

Quite obviously, it was the absence of a proper level of democratization in the Soviet society that made possible the personality cult, the violations of legality, the wanton repressive measures of the '30s.

I am putting things bluntly -- those were real crimes stemming from an abuse of power. Many thousands of people inside and outside the party were subjected to wholesale repressive measures. Such, comrades, is the bitter truth.

Serious damage was done to the cause of socialism and to the authority of the party. And we must say this bluntly. This is necessary to assert Lenin's ideal of socialism once and for all.

There is much discussion about the role of Stalin in our history. His was an extremely contradictory personality. To remain faithful to historical truth, we have to see both Stalin's incontestable contribution to the struggle for socialism, to the defense of its gains, the gross political errors and the abuses committed by him and by those around him, for which our people paid a heavy price and which had grave consequences for the life of our society.

It is sometimes said that Stalin did not know of many instances of lawlessness. Documents at our disposal show that this is not so. The guilt of Stalin and his immediate entourage before the party and the people for the wholesale repressive measures and acts of lawlessness is enormous and unforgivable. This is a lesson for all generations.

Contrary to our ideological opponents, the Stalin personality cult was certainly not inevitable. It was alien to the nature of socialism, represented a departure from its fundamental principles and, therefore, has no justification.

At its 20th and 22nd congresses, the party severely condemned the Stalin cult itself and its consequences. We now know that the political accusations and repressive measures against a number of party leaders and statesmen, against many communists and nonparty people, against economic executives and military men, against scientists and cultural personalities were a result of deliberate falsification.

Many accusations were later, especially after the 20th party congress, withdrawn. Thousands of innocent victims were completely exonerated.

But the process of restoring justice was not seen through to the end and was actually suspended in the middle of the '60s. Now, in line with a decision taken by the October 1987 plenary meeting of the Central Committee, we are having to return to this.

The Political Bureau of the Central Committee has set up a commission for comprehensively examining new facts and documents pertaining to these matters and those known previously. Corresponding decisions will be taken on the basis of the commission's findings.

All this will also be reflected in a treatise on the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, whose preparation is to be entrusted to a special commission of the Central Committee. This is something we have to do, the more so since even now there are still attempts to turn away from painful matters in our history, to hush them up, to make believe that nothing special happened.

We cannot agree to this. This would be disregard for the historical truth, disrespect for the memory of those who were innocent victims of lawless and arbitrary actions. Another reason why we cannot agree to this is that a truthful analysis must help us to solve today's problems of democratization, legality, openness, overcoming bureaucracy -- in short, the vital problems of perestroika, or reorganization.

On Perestroika

The economic reform and perestroika in general forcefully advance to the forefront the human being. Social justice requires that we should give more attention to a person's individual abilities and reward morally and materially those who work better and more, setting others an example.

True talents and colorful personalities are society's invaluable assets -- they must be taken care of, and all the necessary conditions must be created for their work and life.

Thirty months have elapsed since the April plenary meeting of the Central Committee. . . . The general conclusion made on this score at the plenary meeting {that} the Central Committee has just held is that we are at a turning point.

The development of agriculture, particularly of animal husbandry, is showing increased stability.

You all know, comrades, how unfavorable the weather was in most regions of our country this year. Nevertheless, we succeeded in harvesting more than 210 million tons of grain. This was the result of strenuous efforts exerted by the people and by the party which encouraged them to work in a new way.

Still, all that is only a beginning. Today, we can say that we are entering a new stage of perestroika, the stage at which all our policies, all our decisions, are taking the shape of practical action, being translated into reality.

I would like to stress that viewed from this angle, the next two or perhaps three years will be particularly complicated, decisive and, in a sense, critical.

In the economic sphere, we must effect far-reaching structural changes, achieve a breakthrough in accelerating scientific and technological progress, largely reorganize the economic mechanism and, thus, take a decisive step in switching the economy to the track of intensive development.

But it would be a mistake to take no notice of a certain increase in the resistance of the conservative forces that see perestroika simply as a threat to their selfish interests and objectives. This resistance can be felt not only at management level but also in work collectives.

Nor can one really doubt that the conservative forces will seize upon any difficulty in a bid to discredit perestroika and provoke dissatisfaction among the people.

Even now, there are those who prefer to keep ticking off the slip-ups instead of getting down to combatting shortcomings and looking for new solutions.

We should learn to spot, expose and neutralize the maneuvers of the opponents of perestroika -- those who act to impede our advance and trip us up, who gloat over our difficulties and setbacks, who try to drag us back into the past.

Nor should we succumb to the pressure of the overly zealous and impatient -- those who refuse to accept the objective logic of perestroika, who voice their disappointment with what they regard as a slow rate of change, who claim that this change does not yield the necessary results fast enough. It should be clear that one cannot leap over essential stages and try to accomplish everything at one go.

Perestroika carries on the revolutionary cause, and today it is absolutely essential to master the skill of exercising revolutionary self-restraint.

This self-restraint does not mean that we should sit back or drift with the current. It implies an ability to assess the situation realistically, not to back down before difficulties, not to panic, not to lose one's head over either success or failure -- an ability to work strenuously and purposefully every day and every hour, to find and apply the best possible solutions in everything.

On Foreign Policy

The main thrust of our foreign policy has remained unchanged. We have every right to describe it as a Leninist policy of peace, mutually beneficial international cooperation and friendship among nations.

It is true that some things could have been tackled better and that we could have been more efficient. Nevertheless, we can say on this memorable occasion that the overall thrust of our policy has remained in concert with the basic course worked out and charted by Lenin -- consonant with the very nature of socialism, with its principled commitment to peace.

This is overwhelmingly instrumental in averting the outbreak of a nuclear war and in preventing imperialism from winning the Cold War.

The October 1986 meeting in Reykjavik ranks among the events which have occurred since the new stage in international affairs began, which deserve to be mentioned on this occasion and which will go down in history.

The Reykjavik meeting gave a practical boost to the new political thinking, enabled it to gain ground in diverse social and political quarters and made international political contacts more fruitful.

It is true that, gauged against the scope of the tasks mankind will have to tackle to ensure its survival, very little has so far been accomplished. But a beginning has been made, and the first signs of change are in evidence.

This is borne out, among other things, by the understanding we have reached with the United States on concluding in the near future an agreement on medium- and short-range missiles.

The conclusion of this agreement is very important in itself: it will, for the first time, eliminate a whole class of nuclear weapons, be the first tangible step along the path of scrapping nuclear arsenals and will show that it is in fact possible to advance in this direction without prejudice to anyone's interests.

However, the question concerning this agreement was largely settled back in Reykjavik, at my second meeting with the U.S. president.

In this critical period, the world expects the third and fourth Soviet-U.S. summits to produce more than merely an official acknowledgment of the decisions agreed upon a year ago and more than merely a continuation of the discussion. The growing danger that weapons may be perfected to a point where they will become uncontrollable is urging us to waste no time.

That is why we will work unremittingly at these meetings for a palpable breakthrough, for concrete results in reducing strategic offensive armaments and barring weapons from outer space -- the key to removing the nuclear threat.

Since an alliance between a socialist country and capitalist states proved possible in the past, when the threat of fascism arose, does this not suggest a lesson for the present, for today's world which faces the threat of nuclear catastrophe and the need to ensure safe nuclear power production and overcome the danger to the environment?

Ever since the war, the U.S. economy has been oriented and dependent on militarism which at first seemed even to stimulate it. But then this senseless and socially useless squandering of resources led to an astronomical national debt and to other problems and maladies.

In the final analysis, it has turned out that super-militarization increasingly aggravates the domestic situation and upsets the economies of other countries.

The recent panic on the New York Stock Exchange and on other stock exchanges across the world -- a panic without precedent in almost 60 years -- is a grave symptom and a grave warning.

As long as there is a danger of war and as long as the drive for social revanchism forms the core of western strategies and militarist programs, we shall continue to do everything necessary to maintain our defense capability at a level ruling out imperialism's military superiority over socialism.

The potential of the party's influence, the party's impact on perestroika, has not yet been fully brought into play.

The preparation for and holding of the 19th national party conference should give a powerful impetus to improving the complicated and intricate work along these lines.

Today, the fate of the great cause of the revolution, of the great Leninist cause, is in our hands. Again, we are blazing the trail.

It is our duty to preserve our inimitable civilization and life on Earth, to help reason win over nuclear insanity and to create all the necessary conditions for the free and all-around development of the individual and the whole of humanity.