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Communist Party Resists Decree Banning It From Workplaces

July 24, 1991

MOSCOW (AP) _ The Communist Party’s ruling Politburo and party leaders in the KGB and the army today demanded that Soviet officials overturn a Russian republic decree banning political activity in the workplace.

On Thursday, the Communist Party’s policy-making body will take up a draft platform backed by Mikhail S. Gorbachev that embraces private property and freedom of religion and denounces the party’s authoritarian past.

Gorbachev has thrown his support behind reformers as he courts Western aid to help switch to a market-oriented system and rebuild a crumbling economy.

The proposed platform the party’s Central Committee will take up seeks to transform the party that long ruled the Soviet Union unchallenged into an advocate of democracy and a mixed economy.

The Russian decree, issued over the weekend by republic President Boris Yeltsin, is designed to oust the Communists from offices they have used to control every government agency, school and factory.

The Politburo today asked the national parliament to order the country’s constitutional oversight committee to overturn the Yeltsin decree, arguing it violates civil rights by limiting the actions of political parties, the official Tass news agency reported.

The parliament’s chairman, Anatoly Lukyanov, referred the issue to the committee later in the day, Russian television news said.

Communist Party leaders in the KGB, armed forces and law enforcement agencies also urged Gorbachev and the Russian and Soviet parliaments to prevent implementation of the decree.

Gorbachev’s stand on the controversy was not clear. He is chairman of the Politburo, which called for the decree to be overturned. But his spokesman, Vitaly Ignatenko, issued a far milder criticism of the order Tuesday.

Ignatenko said the decree, which is to take effect Aug. 6, introduced ″tension and confrontation″ at a time when the country is moving toward agreement on key issues.

Yeltsin said today that the decree, which would force the Communists to organize in residential districts like other political parties, fully complied with the constitution.

″It’s time to stop interfering with our carrying out of reform,″ Yeltsin was quoted as saying by RIA, the Russian government’s information agency. ″Those who interfere must leave.″

Alexei Ilyin, deputy chief of the Russian republic’s Communist Party, accused Yeltsin of moving toward ″dictatorship.″

Tass quoted Novosibirsk party chief Vladimir Shumilov as saying the Yeltsin decree would lead to rapid resignation of party members.

Of 16.3 million Communists nationwide, about half are in Russia and the number already is declining.

The decree applies only in the Russian republic and exempts all Kremlin- controlled agencies, including the KGB, defense and interior ministries, which are considered bastions of opposition to reform.

The Communist Party’s power base has long been the party cells in every workplace. Many of the institutions pay the salaries and office expenses of full-time party workers assigned to them.

For decades, the organizations have been forced to accede to the demands of the party officials on day-to-day government and business decisions.

The Communist Party newspaper Pravda today criticized the newspaper that made public the draft of the Gorbachev-backed platform.

Showing it is still uncomfortable with press freedom, Pravda said Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Independent Newspaper) should have asked party permission before printing the document.

An alternative platform proposed by hard-liners calls for Gorbachev’s ouster and calls for a restoration of party dictatorship, accusing the Soviet president of leading the country back to the evils of capitalism.

The Gorbachev-backed platform says the party ″unconditionally denounces the crimes of Stalinism that resulted in death and damaged fates of millions of whole peoples.″

Nezavismaya Gazeta said the reformist platform can expect support from only about 100 staunch Gorbachev supporters in the 410-member Central Committee.

If it is rejected, the 100 ″will approve it on their own, with all the resulting organizational consequences″ - an apparent reference to a split.

Also today, Gorbachev said his proposed treaty for preserving the union was complete and ready for signing after a 12-hour negotiating session with 10 republic leaders, the official Tass news agency reported. But a key issue on whether the central government has the power to tax still needed to be worked out.

News agencies reported that Armenia, which earlier rejected participation, joined the meeting on the treaty, which shifts considerable power to the republics. An Armenian spokesman said his republic was merely acting as an observer.

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