Soviet plan gives less optimistic view of country's economic future
The Soviet Communist Party, after a quarter-century of unfailingly upbeat forecasts of this society's future, has warned that the Soviet Union is badly in need of a major scientific and technical revolution. The party, in its first new program in 25 years, has reversed its promises of a near Utopian society coming into being in the relatively near future.
While still promising the eventual triumph of communism over capitalism, the party is no longer willing to put a timetable on its predictions. Indeed, it has virtually abandoned any commitment to overtaking United States living standards or economic achievements during this century.
Notably, there is a continuing commitment to the kind of top-down central economic planning that has guided this country into its present economic state.
The party does admit past mistakes, though without using the word.
``In the '70s and the early '80s there were certain unfavorable trends and difficulties along with indisputable successes in the country's development,'' the new party program states.
Those years roughly coincide with the reign of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. The party now seems to be conceding what many Western analysts have said all along -- that the Brezhnev years brought on a kind of political somnolence that significantly retarded economic progress here.
In the party program, the difficulties were ascribed to ``failure to assess in due time and proper manner alternations in the economic situation and the need for profound changes in all spheres of life, and failure to properly persist in making such change.''
Implicit in the party program is the accusation that it is ``imperialism'' -- centered in the US, Japan, and Western Europe -- that has held back Soviet progress.
The party acknowledges that the capitalist world still has substantial stamina -- and is exceptionally ``dangerous.'' Still, the party continues to favor the ``peaceful coexistence'' of these two essentially antagonistic systems, claiming that it is willing to resolve conflict through negotiation and arms reduction.
The party continues to claim the inevitability of ``victorious socialist revolution'' worldwide. It says it does not favor the ``export of revolution'' to bring this about, but warns that no ``imperialist'' power can stand in the way of this inevitable worldwide transformation to a communist future.
However, the party program makes it clear that in the meantime, Soviet-style communism is facing a number of economic challenges.
``A sharp turn'' is necessary, the document says, ``toward the intensification of production'' in ``every branch'' of the national economy.
``A new technical reconstruction of the national economy is to be carried out,'' it continues, ``and the material and technical foundation of society thereby transformed.''
The party is vague about the timetable for this ``reconstruction,'' just as it refuses to specify when the idealized state of ``full communism'' -- which the party earlier promised would arrive by about l980 -- might be reached.
But the party program claimed -- citing Vladimir Lenin as its authority -- that unless there was an increase in labor productivity here, accelerated use of scientific and technological advances, and ``radical'' changes in technical facilities and technology, communism would never be reached.
It therefore called for labor productivity to be increased 130 percent to 150 percent in the coming 15 years. At present, Soviet labor productivity is only about 40 percent that of the US.
The program relies upon increased productivity -- as well as the saving of resources through conservation -- for most of the improvement in the nation's economic picture by the year 2000.
It predicts that ``resource saving'' will be the prime source for new supplies of fuel, energy, and raw materials from now until the end of the century.
Western analysts here have voiced skepticism about these goals. These observers say that recent Soviet history does not give rise to optimism that they can be met -- and that even if they are, they do not amount to the sort of fundamental economic reform that may be needed in order to reverse Soviet economic fortunes.
The party, while concentrating on economic matters, also foresees an expansion of its influence in virtually every facet of Soviet society, including the arts, literature, and other forms of cultural expression.
At the same time, the party expresses satisfaction with human rights in the Soviet Union, stressing that ``genuine democracy -- power exercised for the people and by the people -- has been established and is developing.''
At the same time, it demands more stress on ideological indoctrination, so that Soviet citizens are educated to make a stronger commitment to Communism.