Head of Soviet secret police appears cool toward reform. Chebrikov joins Kremlin's No. 2 leader in voicing concerns about Gorbachev changes
One of the Soviet Union's most powerful political institutions - the Soviet secret police or KGB - appears to be less than enthusiastic about Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms. The tone of a recent speech by KGB Chairman Viktor Chebrikov, suggests that he shares many of the views of Yegor Ligachev, the second-ranking Soviet leader. On several occasions this year, Mr. Ligachev has voiced what appear to be reservations at the speed and the extent of change in the country.
Mr. Chebrikov, a member of the Communist Party's ruling Politburo, delivered the speech late last week to a meeting of senior security and police officers and party officials. The meeting commemorated the 110th anniversary of the birth of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka, the KGB's forerunner.
Chebrikov was restrained in his references to the economic and political reforms usually known as perestroika (restructuring). And although some Gorbachev foreign policy advisers, notably Yevgeny Primakov, are stressing the growing interdependence of the socialist and nonsocialist world, Chebrikov emphasized the increased threat from the West.
He warned that Western intelligence services were trying to sow discord among the various national groups of the Soviet Union, and were encouraging dissident activities. He expressed concern that writers, filmmakers, and others in the arts were also being encouraged by the West to adopt negative attitudes.
Chebrikov's warnings about subversion are less surprising than his comments on the broader issues of political and economic change. His apparent lack of enthusiasm for perestroika damages one theory of many Western Soviet-watchers - that the KGB as an institution is a wholehearted supporter of reform. This theory was based on the assumption that Yuri Andropov, KGB chief from 1967 to 1982 and Soviet leader from 1982 to 1984, laid the groundwork for the present changes. Some Soviet reformers, such as economist Vasily Selyunin, contest this view. Andropov, Mr. Selyunin says, aimed to improve economic efficiency by tighter discipline, not by wide-ranging reforms. The speech by Chebrikov - a former deputy to Andropov at the KGB - seems to reinforce this analysis.
In his most enthusiastic-sounding reference to perestroika, Chebrikov referred to the ``growth in attractiveness'' of socialism as a result of the reforms.
But he coupled this with a warning that this new positive image had led Western intelligence to intensify its anti-Soviet activities. And though some Soviet leaders characterize perestroika as a ``revolutionary'' change, Chebrikov described the reforms as simply ``large-scale plans.''
Like Ligachev, Chebrikov stressed the need to combine ``democracy and discipline,'' and to emphasize both the rights and the obligations of the Soviet citizen. The two men also apparently share similar views on two other major by-products of the reforms - the debate on Stalinism and the publication of many long-banned works of literature.
Many reformers view the repudiation of Joseph Stalin's methods as a vital condition for successful reform. Some party leaders, however, seem to fear that an overly radical repudiation of past policies will undermine the legitimacy of the Communist Party. Ligachev, for example, has warned that discussion of the past should not lead to Soviet history being depicted as ``a chain of mistakes and disappointments.''
Chebrikov stressed that many members of the security services had themselves fallen victim to Stalin's purges.
But the KGB chief dated the beginning of Stalin's ``serious mistakes'' at the end of the 1930s. This effectively excludes from debate the collectivization of agriculture (1929-32) - a key chapter in Soviet history which is coming under increasing criticism from radical reformers. Prominent supporters of change like the economist Nikolai Shmelyov and the sociologist Tatyana Zaslavskaya have criticized the brutal methods used during collectivization. (Mr. Shemlyov estimated that 5 million to 7 million peasants were deported.)
Chebrikov, however, chose to stress the seriousness of the threat posed by rich peasants (kulaks) to the revolution. The orthodox interpretation of collectivization is that it destroyed the kulaks as a class.
Turning to the arts, Chebrikov said that Moscow's Western opponents were pushing some writers, filmmakers, and others toward ``demagoguery and nihilism,'' and were encouraging the ``blackening'' of some periods of Soviet history. Ligachev, for his part, has expressed unhappiness at the amount of attention received by works that are now being publishing after decades of suppression.
Western intelligence agencies are trying to slow down political change and take advantage of the new situation, Chebrikov warned. Their influence could be seen in the riots last December in Alma-Ata, demonstrations this summer in Moscow by Tatars demanding a return to their homeland, and recent demonstrations in the Baltic states, he said. Soviet descriptions of the Alma-Ata riots have usually blamed supporters of the now-disgraced Kazakhstan party chief Dinmukhamed Kunayev. Shaun Byrnes, a United States Embassy political officer, was recently accused of inciting the Tatars to demonstrate. And the Soviet news media have accused foreign radio stations of encouraging the Baltic demonstrations.