Moscow's second-ranking leader, Yegor Ligachev, has denied reports of any splits in the Soviet leadership, rejected the idea of growing resistance to reform, and criticized those inside and outside the country who were alleging either of these. The speech, delivered in the city of Togliatti on Saturday, seems intended to further dispel any doubts about Mr. Ligachev's own position. While Ligachev is the object of intense criticism by pro-reform intellectuals, he apparently retains a firm power base inside the party bureaucracy. This was underlined last Friday at a meeting of the Moscow Communist Party Committee called to discuss candidates for the coming party conference. Ligachev was elected a delegate to the conference with only 4 of the more than 150 votes cast against him.
The speech follows the statements last Wednesday by Communist Party chief Mikhail Gorbachev emphasizing that Ligachev would not be resigning. Around the same time, a senior official told the Monitor that Ligachev was still chairing sessions of the highly important Central Committee Secretariat.
In his speech in Togliatti, Ligachev offered an original ideological interpretation of the actions of those who say resistance to reform is growing. He drew a parallel between these people - unnamed, but mostly radical intellectuals - and supporters of Joseph Stalin in the 1930s. He recalled the theory underpinning the murderous purges - that class struggle would intensify when the building of socialism picked up momentum.
In the opening address of the meeting of the Moscow City Communist Party Committee, Politburo member Lev Zaikov noted that a number of ``ardent champions of perestroika [restructuring]'' had not been chosen as delegates. Radical reformers alleged that the party bureaucracy was trying to pack the conference. Only three were included in the final list. Those excluded were political playwright Mikhail Shatrov, sociologist Tatyana Zaslavskaya, and economist Nikolai Shmelyov.
The one big victory for radicals was the inclusion of historian Yuri Afanasyev, whose rejection as a candidate had led to widespread protests from students and academics. But the report of the meeting noted that Mr. Afanasyev was elected after close questioning and only by a majority - a clear indication that votes were cast against him. Another outspoken supporter of the radical position, Vitali Korotich of the weekly magazine Ogonek, was turned down in Moscow but elected in the Ukraine.
And Boris Yeltsin, who was reportedly proposed as a delegate for Moscow, did not figure in the final list. Instead he was reportedly elected as a delegate from Karelia.
The delegates include civilian and military candidates of clear conservative views.