MOSCOW, JUNE 29 -- The Communist Party Central Committee cleared the way today for next week's party congress to begin on schedule, and party sources expressed confidence that, despite conservative opposition, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev would keep his post as party leader.
Reformers in the party had been worried that the conservatives had built up momentum at a stormy conference last week of the Russian republic's Communist Party, at which Gorbachev was attacked for his economic policies and accused of "losing Eastern Europe." Accordingly, some reformers felt the 28th Communist Party Congress should be postponed until September. One of them, Russian republic President Boris Yeltsin, had predicted "a great struggle" over the timing of the congress.
But sources said the Central Committee session today, at which a new party platform was adopted, was without any major conflict. Party leaders were said to have decided Wednesday that there was no point in putting off the congress, and the Central Committee did not discuss postponement today, effectively ensuring that the congress will begin Monday.
Nonetheless, party leaders said they expect old-guard conservatives to try to make the party congress a stormy affair.
Alexander Kapto, the deputy head of the Central Committee's ideology department, said the congress, during which 4,683 delegates will plot the party's future course, would open with a three-hour report by Gorbachev and end about 10 working days later with the selection of a new Central Committee and leadership.
Party sources said they were confident that Gorbachev would emerge as the party's leader and also would be able to drop old-guard figures from the Communist leadership.
A senior Western diplomat said that despite a disproportionately large number of conservative delegates at the congress, "I wouldn't rule out Gorbachev getting what he wants in the end. He usually does." The diplomat said the composition of the present Central Committee could change by as much as 80 percent "in Gorbachev's favor."
Older, conservative figures in the top ranks of the leadership, such as Politburo member Vitaly Vorotnikov, are vulnerable, and many reformers hope that Gorbachev will move against Yegor Ligachev, the ruling Politburo's most vocal defender of the party establishment.
However, some of the leading members of Democratic Platform, the radical wing of the Soviet party, said the leadership was preparing to concede too much ideological ground to the conservatives at the congress. "The party is proving itself incapable of reforming itself," said Democratic Platform leader Vladimir Lysenko.
Vyacheslav Shostokovsky, rector of the Higher Party School, said last week's barrage of anti-reform sentiment at the Russian Communist Party Conference caused many members to quit. He said that in Moscow alone, 20,000 Communists handed in their party cards Monday and Tuesday. A Central Committee official said 130,000 nationwide had resigned this year.
Democratic Platform, which claims the support of about 40 percent of the country's Communists, will have only about 125 delegates at the congress. Because of election laws that favor party apparatchiks, many more of the delegates will be regional party secretaries, factory directors, collective farm chairmen and other old-guard figures.
"What we have seen is a U-turn in the party's policies toward the right wing," Shostokovsky said.