MOSCOW, SEPT. 27 -- Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev used his newly acquired emergency powers today to decree that state-run enterprises must fulfill their contracts to supply raw materials.
With the Soviet economic system in a state of collapse and the government still debating the details of a planned conversion to a market economy, Gorbachev's order is directed at various enterprises and regions that have threatened to cut off their supply of raw materials if more food is not shipped to them.
The leaders of some Soviet republics, including Russian President Boris Yeltsin, are likely to object to Gorbachev's decree. Russia and nearly all of the other 14 Soviet republics have declared economic sovereignty and have battled the central government over the question of who has the right to control such resources as timber, oil and natural gas.
Gorbachev's decree -- the first since the Soviet legislature voted Monday to give him new executive powers to "stabilize" the Soviet economy -- orders state-run enterprises "to maintain existing industrial links and to implement contractual obligations in delivering raw materials and assembly parts" until the end of 1991.
"The actions of bodies of power and management leading to the disorganization of industrial links between enterprises are considered unacceptable," said the decree, which gave government ministries a month "to restore very important production of medicines, raw materials, building materials, assembly parts and ready-made products, which are badly needed."
Gorbachev also ordered the 15 republics, as well as the central government, to "take resolute measures to supply enterprises with materials, financial and foreign currency needs to restore their normal functioning."
The decree also gave authority to Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov to ensure that the country's railroads and other "life-support systems" are functional. In recent months, nationalist groups in Soviet Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and other republics have interfered with rail service as a means of political protest.
Empty store shelves and expected shortages this winter of potatoes, bread and medicines have caused widespread gloom among the populace. Some regions, such as Komi in northern Siberia, have threatened to hold back their supplies of timber and energy if the situation does not get better.
Parts of the country are expecting a bumper harvest, but farm work is running behind schedule because of shortages of fuel, equipment and manpower. The Ryzhkov government has introduced emergency measures, including the use of soldiers, to save the unharvested crop.
Gorbachev appears to be struggling with the dilemma of trying -- for the short term at least -- to get the most out of the moribund centralized system while setting to motion a program of radical economic reform that is certain to cause rapid bursts of inflation and unemployment and possibly social turmoil.
Gorbachev told the legislature that he will present a final draft of his economic program next month. Yeltsin -- along with many other members of the legislature -- has called on Ryzhkov to resign, declaring that the prime minister's plan for economic reform, which would retain much of the old centralized system, is doomed to failure.
Ryzhkov, for his part, says the more radical, Yeltsin-endorsed program of economist Stansilav Shatalin to convert the economy in 500 days to one responsive to market forces would cause further instability and shatter the union itself.
Gorbachev has endorsed the "500 Day Plan" but said his final draft would combine elements of the two proposals. Yeltsin has said this would be like "trying to mate a hedgehog and a snake."