Faced with increasing economic problems and growing ethnic unrest, Soviet society is shifting markedly to the right, the chairman of the Soviet Parliament said Sunday, acknowledging a conservative resurgence after nearly six years of political reforms.
Anatoly I. Lukyanov, chairman of the Congress of People’s Deputies, said that “the demand for order and stability” has become a national priority and that the country’s politics will have to reflect it.
“Should such demands be treated as part of the right-wing movement or as the Congress’ shift to the right?” he said in a television interview. “The Congress only reflects the aspirations existing in society.
“What is significant is that the Congress took a stabilizing position. The Congress undertook a search for certain decisions and ways of strengthening order, cooperation and civic peace in the country.”
Lukyanov, one of President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s closest associates, distinguished between this shift, clear at the Congress when it met last month, and the recent growth of the ultra-right.
“Conservative forces are quite strong,” he said. “We have to fight this conservatism all the time. These are very dangerous forces . . . but we do not see a direct threat of a dictatorship by them at the moment.”
These issues are of considerable controversy after the dramatic resignation last month of Eduard A. Shevardnadze, the Soviet foreign minister and another Gorbachev ally, who told the Congress that the country was sliding toward a dictatorship by “reactionary forces.”
Shevardnadze, who reiterated his position last week in an interview with the newspaper Moscow News, said that these rightist forces, taking advantage of the increasing chaos in the country, were growing in strength, putting great pressure on Gorbachev and could effectively take over.
Lukyanov, apparently assigned the task of refuting Shevardnadze, disagreed with the widespread liberal characterization of the last session of the Congress as having been a setback for the country’s still young democracy as well as for radical reformers.
“I think that any democracy . . . is closely connected with exact and strict order,” Lukyanov said. “Without order, discipline or laws, genuine democracy is impossible. . . .
“The strengthening of discipline and of executive authority is a continuation and persistent development of the country’s democratization. . . . Many deputies spoke of a ‘dictatorship’ as one of the law, discipline and order. I support this position.”
Lukyanov described the Gorbachev leadership as struggling to occupy the center ground in Soviet politics. “Both the conservative and the radical wings are trying to tug us from our stand to their sides,” he said.
For Gorbachev, he continued, this means “to be just one step ahead of the movement forward, but not two steps.”
Although a key figure in the Soviet leadership under Gorbachev, Lukyanov has developed virtually no political personality of his own. Radical reformers view him as deeply conservative, an old-style apparatchik given to ramrodding legislation through the Congress. Conservatives, however, have criticized him as a “disguised leftist,” or radical in Soviet political parlance, who lets them speak but rarely brings their proposals to a vote.
Pressed by the interviewer to define his own position, Lukyanov again declared himself a committed centrist.
Recalling a conversation with Andrei D. Sakharov, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, shortly before his death in December, 1989, Lukyanov said that the human rights campaigner had compared the centrist position to “a tube of toothpaste being pressed by two fingers, one from the right and the other from the left.”
“If these two fingers get together, bloodshed and civil war would become avoidable,” Lukyanov said. “This man of wisdom so deeply understood the importance of the center as the uniting element for other forces in the movement forward.”
The year ahead, Lukyanov said, will be even harder for the Soviet Union than 1990 was, but if the political and economic situation is stabilized quickly, the following years will be easier.