Andropov marshals a show of unity
Yuri Andropov is firmly in charge here. And he means business. These are the twin messages Mr. Andropov - with an assist from his main former rival for the Kremlin leadership - has sought to convey in a Moscow meeting of his nation's top officials, academics, party organizers, and bureaucrats.
His audience was the more than 450 members of the Communist Party Central Committee, which, Tuesday and Wednesday, held the first of its regular biannual sessions to be organized under Mr. Andropov.
The group's main role in recent years has been as a sounding board, or conveyer belt, for decisions made in the party Politburo and the Central Committee's small inner Secretariat.
Getting his dual message across to the next echelon of the party elite is key to Mr. Andropov's chances of making stick his campaign for tightened discipline and efficiency in the nation's strained economy, and to any bid to begin unraveling the tangled Soviet bureaucracy.
It will be particularly important for any later attempt to make deeper policy changes in the way the Soviet economy is planned and run.
Mr. Andropov, closing the committee session, called for speedier screening of options for such policy shifts. But, as in other major speeches since he succeeded the late Leonid Brezhnev seven months ago, he gave no precise idea how far he felt such changes should go.
And he repeated, in effect, that the first task was to get the present system working better and ensure that bureaucratic inertia and corner-cutting would not block any change decided upon.
Other moves in recent decades to reform Moscow's planning setup have faltered. So have various bids to combat corruption, or untangle the bureaucracy.
The relatively limited scope of Politburo and Secretariat personnel shifts announced at the Central Committee session suggests Mr. Andropov is holding to his early avoidance of any full-scale overhaul at the top.
And while the Soviet parliament is expected to fill the vacant, ceremonial state presidency soon, a remark by Mr. Andropov in his Wednesday speech on the need to separate functions of ''party and state'' implied he would not follow Mr. Brezhnev's lead and take on both top posts.
Senior officials have maintained the approach is a matter of Andropov's style - ''a preference for constant, gradual, and serious'' change, and a distaste for the time-consuming ''frills'' of state.
But foreign diplomats argue the new party chief may simply lack the political power at this stage to shuffle the leadership deck radically.
Even a few senior Soviets imply they sense a possible danger that Mr. Andropov's steady-as-she-goes approach could wrongly be read by the bureaucracy as signaling a lack of resolve, or of full control.
Mr. Andropov seemed intent on countering this impression at the Central Committee session:
An assist came from fellow Politburo member Konstantin Chernenko, long a protege of the late Mr. Brezhnev and once prime contender to succeed him.
Mr. Chernenko dominated the meeting's first day with a major speech on propaganda and culture. He implied even tougher official control on the country's already cowed cultural establishment, a public shift that began in the year before Mr. Brezhnev's death.
The precise effect Mr. Chernenko's call for a fervent revival of ''socialist realism'' will have on specific artists and their work remains to be seen.
Yet his added message was this: Yuri Andropov is the top man, and I'm not complaining.
The longtime Brezhnev aide omitted any mention of the late leader in a 43 -page text. He did mention Mr. Andropov in several places, all positively. He echoed the new party chief's stress on discipline and efficiency.
Mr. Chernenko added near the end:
''The Politburo and Secretariat are working efficiently, concertedly, in an atmosphere of high principledness and full and genuine unity. Every condition has been created at their meetings for free discussion and evaluation of questions of domestic and foreign policy and for a comradely exchange of opinion.''
The meeting, meanwhile, expelled two members for corruption - an apparent bid to back Andropov's stated contention that ''discipline'' must apply to people high and low.
And Andropov's speech included his most explicit suggestion yet that increased efficiency may necessarily mean an assault on the bureaucracy:
''I am convinced that the staffs of many institutions and organizations can be considerably reduced without any harm to their work.''
The few personnel changes did fill the vacant chair of the party's ''control committee.'' The post went to the present party leader of the Russian Republic, Mikhail Solomentsev. The open question: Will the control group, relatively polite in recent years, take on new teeth as part of the recent anticorruption drive?
The one new man added to the Politburo - as a ''candidate,'' or nonvoting member - was Vitaly Vorotnikov. Former envoy to Cuba, he was recalled last summer to replace a regional party chief sacked for corruption: one of the two men expelled from the Central Committee Wednesday.
The other shift brings Leningrad party chief Grigory Romanov, already a Politburo member, to Moscow to join the Secretariat as well. This makes him - along with Messrs. Andropov, Chernenko, and younger agricultural expert Mikhail Gorbachev - a member of the topmost elite, with seats on both ruling party bodies.
A key to the overall picture will be what exact role he plays on the Secretariat, whose slots are generally more policy-specific than Politburo ones.