MOSCOW, JUNE 27 -- The Soviet Communist Party, which now appears likely to open a crucial national congress next week as scheduled, today published a draft platform that includes a subtle distancing from traditional Marxist-Leninist ideology and a limited endorsement of private property.
Despite calls for a postponement among many party members, ideology chief Vadim Medvedev said he expects the 28th Party Congress, which could tell a great deal about the political direction of the country, to open on Monday as scheduled. "The train has already left the station, and we should stick to the original date," he said.
A well-informed party source said President Mikhail Gorbachev and Politburo members Eduard Shevardnadze and Alexander Yakovlev are considering putting off the congress to avoid a barrage of attacks by conservative party members who oppose Gorbachev's perestroika reforms. The conservatives, led by Russian party leader Ivan Polozkov and Politburo member Yegor Ligachev, lashed out at the leadership during a conference of the newly formed Russian branch of the party last week and could dominate the podium at the congress.
The party's policy-making Central Committee will meet Friday in preparation for the congress and will make the final decision on a starting date. Boris Yeltsin, president of the Russian republic, predicted "a great struggle" over the question of postponement. It appears likely that the Central Committee, which is still filled with Old Guard leaders, will resist postponement, especially if Gorbachev does not push hard for it.
Last week's Russian party conference was a bracing experience for Gorbachev, who came under constant fire for "losing Eastern Europe" and straying from ideological orthodoxy. That conference's 2,700 delegates will form a majority at the congress, which will have 4,700 delegates. Other traditionally conservative regions, such as Central Asia, will add to that fundamentalist bloc.
Writing in the weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta, editor Fyodor Burlatsky called the chorus of conservative criticism at the Russian conference both painful and instructive. "The conference taught the intelligentsia a crucial lesson," he wrote. "Moscow and Leningrad are not all of Russia." He said the country's elite often focus on radical-reformist activity in the two biggest cities, neglecting the widespread anxiety in the provinces about whether the reforms are leading to ruin.
Ligachev, who has called on Gorbachev to step down as party leader, will almost certainly speak out on conservative positions at the party gathering, but today he told Radio Moscow he did not think that "anything unpredictable will take place at the congress."
Gorbachev has said he will continue to hold both the Soviet presidency and the top post in the Communist Party, and Medvedev has argued that Gorbachev's prestige is essential to the rebuilding of the party.
A group of reform-radicals within the party called Democratic Platform has attracted growing support among intelligentsia and grass-roots party members but will have only about 125 representatives at the congress. Many Democratic Platform members have threatened to quit the party if the congress does not satisfy their demands for radical reform.
Since the beginning of the year, the party has lost members three to four times as fast as new members have joined. Medvedev said he hopes the party will not split after the congress but added that he expects more resignations. "That's not a tragedy," he said.
The party platform, "Toward a Humane Democratic Socialism," appears intended to embrace some of the ideas of the Democratic Platform wing without alienating the conservatives. Much shorter than a draft published in February, the platform mainly restates Gorbachev's key reforms: establishment of a socialist market economy, the rise of genuinely sovereign Soviet republics and a multi-party political system.
It lays blame for "distortions" in the system on Joseph Stalin's dictatorship of the 1930s, '40s and early '50s but not on Lenin, the founder of the Bolshevik state. "False ideas about socialism as a society based on the state monopoly on property and dictatorship directed by the party-state hierarchy in the name of the proletariat led to the tyranny, lawlessness and the alienation of the people from property and authority," the platform says.
Many party radicals now ascribe the country's present problems not only to Stalin's forced collectivization, purges and social repression, but also to Lenin's establishment of forced labor camps and a lack of democratic institutions. However, a denunciation of Lenin in any form would be certain to infuriate the majority of delegates.
The platform also acknowledges mistakes by the current leadership, including the "unthought-out" anti-alcohol campaign and a "confused" establishment of cooperative ventures.
The party will be one of "socialist choice and a Communist perspective," the platform says -- a formulation that clearly tries to dilute and remove itself from such orthodox principles as the dictatorship of the proletariat and class struggle.
The platform also includes an endorsement of "worked-for private property." Leninist ideology had always barred private property, and the party has avoided the term until now.