Gorbachev Sees People, Tells of 'Sly Ones'

Times Staff Writer

Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, on a meet-the-people trip to the industrial city of Kuibyshev, disclosed Monday that laws will be enacted to crack down on speculators and black market operators he referred to as "a few sly ones."

In a street corner chat with a group of citizens, Gorbachev listed better housing as one of his top priorities.

"How is life in Kuibyshev?" he was shown asking in a report broadcast on the main evening television news program.

"Fine," a woman replied.

Another woman put in, "No worse than anywhere else."

'A Right Answer'

"That's a right answer," Gorbachev said. "When people say everything is all right, then I begin to have doubts. It never happens that everything is fine."

There are a lot of good things in the Soviet Union, he said, "but we don't have enough of the good things to go around."

There have been widespread complaints about the perpetual housing shortage, and Gorbachev addressed this problem directly.

"The first order of the day," he said, "is to solve the housing problem--housing, food and the quality of goods."

The TV report showed applauding crowds, standing three or four deep on a street corner, greeting Gorbachev as he arrived in Kuibyshev, a Volga River city with a population of 1.3 million. Gorbachev's wife, Raisa, accompanied him, and she appeared several times in the televised report. She was not identified by name, however.

Politician's Style

With a friendly smile and the down-to-earth style of a campaigning American politician, Gorbachev said that workers' productivity was related to the quality of their living conditions. Therefore, he said, it makes sense to provide good housing and adequate food and services so that workers will be in the mood to do a good job.

"You probably feel the change that's taking place," Gorbachev said.

Gorbachev said that conditions were tough last year but that they have improved in 1986, thanks to hard work. "We can't achieve anything if people are not in a mood to work," he said.

The Soviet Union has based its hopes for faster economic growth in the next five years mainly on increased labor productivity.

Gorbachev said the Soviet Union should set an example for the world, and he indicated that the government will take steps to discourage speculation, black market operations and the theft of state property.

"We have a few sly ones who want to live beyond their means," he said. "We know who they are, and you do too. We've already discussed this at the Politburo (of the Communist Party). This is the first time I have told you secrets like this, but soon laws on this unearned income will be made public. We'll put things in order."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World