SOFIA, BULGARIA, JULY 23 -- The Socialist-controlled government today issued a decree ordering "organs of social order" to take immediate action against "civil disobedience and occupational strikes" in this country.

Law enforcement authorities, however, failed to heed the order, even as opponents of the government continued to pitch more tents in a "City of Truth" protest camp in central Sofia.

Police inaction was a telling signal of an accelerating breakdown of government leadership and authority in this Balkan nation.

The Socialist Party, which is what the Communists who have ruled this country for more than four decades now call themselves, won free elections in Bulgaria last month. The victory was an exception in the string of East European elections this year that generally brought anti-Communist groups to power.

But since their victory, the Socialists have admitted they cannot lead Bulgaria without the cooperation and expertise of the main opposition group. That movement, the Union of Democratic Forces, defiantly is refusing to cooperate.

Its members, instead, advised Western governments not to give aid and debt relief to a government they say is run by the "same old Communists." Many opposition leaders spend a good deal of time singing, making speeches and preaching nonviolence in the City of Truth.

In recent weeks, the government has seemed helpless in the face of protest demonstrations. These protests -- for reasons including fear of ethnic Turks and resentment of former Communists -- have closed factories, blocked roads and created what the Socialist leadership describes as "instability and increasing tension."

Western diplomats agree that Bulgaria, unlike countries such as Hungary and Poland, has done little to reform its wobbly, debt-crippled economy. They say it still is controlled from the top, in a classically inefficient Communist command style.

Today's decree appeared to be directed primarily at the two-week-old City of Truth. About 1,200 opponents of the government have pitched 165 tents there and taken up what they say is permanent residence. It is located next to the Central Committee building of the Socialist Party.

Tonight, thousands of Bulgarians milled around the camp, listening to anti-Communist speeches and protest music from the '60s.

Instead of enforcing the new decree against "occupational strikes," several score of unarmed police stood guard around the tents and watched impassively as a loud but peaceful crowd taped posters saying, "The Party House Must Be Given to the People" to the stone walls of the mammoth Central Committee building.

"After the decree today, we want everyone in the government to quit," said Kolu Savov, a poet and organizer of the tent city. He said protesters would not leave until the demand was met.

Taxi drivers joined the protest this afternoon. They parked their cars in the City of Truth in reaction to a government decision to double the price of gasoline. Bulgaria has received petroleum from the Soviet Union at subsidized prices for decades. But 10 days ago, deliveries were cut back sharply. With limited hard-currency reserves, the country now faces a severe fuel shortage.

Events in Sofia today showed not only a government adrift, but highlighted a fundamental division in Bulgarian society. The split pits the urban, the young and the well educated against rural, elderly and working-class people.

Unlike most of Eastern Europe, the 1940s Communist movement had wide support in Bulgaria. The Soviet Union was not seen as a hated occupier, nor was Marxism-Leninism universally decried as a phony rationale for foreign dominance.

The devotion of some Bulgarians to the Communist past was put on tearful display this afternoon at the ceremonial burial of Georgi Dimitrov, the country's first postwar Communist leader. An estimated 250,000 marched through city streets to attend the ceremony.

For 42 years, Dimitrov was Bulgaria's officially designated hero. His embalmed body was on public display in a white marble mausoleum in central Sofia. Stalin lent the Bulgarians the official embalmer who preserved the corpse of Lenin.

Residents of the tent city, however, demanded that the corpse of Dimitrov, a symbol of old-style communism, be removed from display.

The embattled Socialist leadership gave in to the demand last week. Authorities slipped the body out of the crypt in the middle of the night and cremated it. As a justification, Socialist Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov said in an interview that "treating his corpse in such an oriental manner was something we should leave behind."

At the funeral today, mourners queued for hours in the hot sun to lay flowers near the urn containing Dimitrov's ashes. Most of them were white-haired and frail. Many said they were shamed by the government's stealthy behavior toward Dimitrov's remains.

When one young man began to criticize Dimitrov at the ceremony, he was kicked and beaten by several elderly male mourners.

"I think this decision {to cremate the corpse} was made because of pressure from the streets. I am deeply convinced that it was a mistake. It was done by people who have nothing in common with Dimitrov, nothing in common with Bulgaria," said Boyan Spasov Simeonov, 61, who described himself as a "worker" and member of the Socialist Party.

Another mourner, a woman in her fifties who did not want to give her name, said, "It is a very ugly thing what they did to the body. Bulgarians are weeping. The whole world is laughing at us."

Gen. Dobri Dhurov, the minister of defense and a longtime Communist powerbroker here, last week invited all legislators, including the opposition, to attend the funeral. Few did, and several complained about the invitation.

"I can definitely say members of parliament from the Union of Democratic Forces won't attend," said Petar Kornadjiev, an MP for the UDF. "I might add that we find it very unusual that someone dressed in a military uniform would invite us. It is the Socialists' business. I can assure you that Dimitrov's position in history will be reassessed."