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Gorbachev: Socialism Must Have a ‘Human Face’

November 26, 1989 GMT

MOSCOW (AP) _ Mikhail S. Gorbachev displayed solid support Sunday for reform in Eastern Europe by endorsing socialism with a ″human face″ - the slogan used by the Czechoslovak progressives toppled by a Soviet-led invasion in 1968.

In the Czechoslovak capital, Alexander Dubcek, leader of the ill-fated ″Prague Spring″ reforms of 21 years ago, read Gorbachev’s remarks at a rally as proof of the Soviet president’s backing for change.

Two days earlier, the Czechoslovak Communist Party dumped party chief Milos Jakes and some other leaders associated with hard-line policies in an attempt to stem the political crisis that has rocked the country.

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With the East bloc in upheaval, the Soviet Communist Party daily Pravda published a 2 1/2 -page compilation of Gorbachev’s thoughts on the future of socialism and his own program for ″perestroika,″ or reconstruction of the economy and society.

Pravda said the article was a synthesis of recent remarks by Gorbachev.

The Soviet leader’s major theme seemed to be that socialism must modernize - even adopt traits of capitalism if necessary - or risk becoming irrelevant. He offered no quick answers but said the process would take years, ″into the 21st century.″

He also said achievements attained under capitalism, like ″equality of all before the law″ and general prosperity, should not be dismissed because of ideology.

″In the hullabaloo of our constant confrontation with capitalism, we clearly underestimate the importance of much that has been done by humanity over the centuries,″ the Kremlin leader said.

On the need for Soviet reform, Gorbachev said: ″The people are tired of waiting.

″Many words have been spoken about the interests of man, but they have been little reinforced with material resources and genuine deeds. As a result, in becoming a great and mighty power, the country did not create for the masses of the people the conditions of life that are natural for any civilized state.″

″The new face of socialism is its human face, this fully corresponds to the thought of Marx,″ Gorbachev said. ″Because its creation is the chief goal of restructuring, we can with full justification say we are building humanitarian socialism.″

For Communists, the phrase ″socialism with a human face″ is inseparably linked to Dubcek and his ill-fated reform movement. Gorbachev has previously supported economic and social reform in Eastern Europe and pledged the Soviets would not interfere there, but by appropriating Dubcek’s words, he made his point dramatically.

Some in Prague even took Gorbachev’s comments as a public admission that the 1968 intervention, which led to Dubcek’s overthrow, was a mistake. The Soviet Union has not yet renounced the 1968 intervention, as it has the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.

As recently as last year, the Kremlin was vigorously defending the intervention in Czechoslovakia as necessary to block ″anti-socialist forces.″ Soviets also avoided any comparisons between what Dubcek tried to do and perestroika. ″The difference is 20 years,″ Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov once said laconically.

In the Pravda article, Gorbachev sounded a note of alarm about socialism by contrasting its present woes with the adaptibility of capitalism.

Karl Marx was wrong, Gorbachev acknowledged, when he predicted capitalism’s imminent demise.

″Unfortunately, socialism has not been able to occupy the leader’s position in structural reconversion - industrially developed capitalist countries have apppeared in this role,″ Gorbachev said.

He said much of value was created under capitalism - ″not just simple norms of morality and justice, but principles of formal law, i.e. equality of all before the law, laws and liberties of the individual, principles of the production of goods and equivalent exchange based on the law of value.″

Gorbachev defended the 1917 revolution that brought the Communists to power in the former Russian Empire as a ″world-historical breakthrough to the future,″ but said socialism has often been perverted since.

″For the sake of a wrongly understood collectivism, human individuality was ignored, the development of the personality was slowed,″ he said.

He also seemed to defend his reforms from charges they lack a clear blueprint, citing the precedent of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin.

″There is a deep-seated belief that Lenin supposedly had a completed program for the development of socialism in our country. But in fact he had no such completed program,″ he said.