I'm not Glad about "Glasnost

I'm not Glad about "Glasnost

I liked the old Soviet Union better, before all this foolishness about "glasnost." The Russian word being trumpeted by General Secretary Mikhail S. Gorbachev means "openness, candor and publicity." The energetic leader is using the word like a hammer to pound some life into his country's stagnating, low-tech economy. He is touring free enterprise (of a limited sort), freeing dissidents (a few of them), and asking citizens to openly criticize inefficiency and corruption (dissing the Communist Party is still taboo).

This is all well and good for the Big Red Economic Combine, but how about me? I was fond of the stolid, secretive adversary I had grown to know and mistrust.

What was so appealing about the old Soviet Union — before this go-getter Gorbache took over two years ago, in 1985 — was how distinctively lively it could be. Remember Nikita Khrushchev yanking his shoe off and banging it on the table at the United Nations? He had already declared that his country "would bury us" (we took it all wrong, he didn't mean it literally; it was just a geopolitical trash-talking point).

Still, those were fun times. And who could forget the 1961 Vienna summit when the drab garb worn by Soviet women clashed with the stylish couture of Jacqueline Kennedy? It was fashionable to be proud Americans back then.

Then came the doddering apparatchik period — Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, and Konstantin Chernenko — "leaders" who got winded scrubbing their dentures. Sure, Richard Nixon got chased out of office; Gerald Ford was clumsy; Jimmy Carter was all teeth and no bite; and Ronald Reagan put in an eight-hour week. But our guys still looked good by comparison.

While the Soviet gerontocracy resigned, I started subscribing to "Soviet Life," an English language magazine targeting Americans like me. Trust me, its writers know how to milk a dogma for maximum laughs.

Here's an example: "Women in the Soviet Union have had equal rights with men in all spheres of life since the Socialist Revolution of 1917." Or take their statistics, please! "All drug addicts in the Soviet Union are registered."

I am reading each issue closely of late to see if Mikhail is tampering with this proven comedic formula. He's spoiled the fun almost everywhere else. Take his wife, Raisa. She is poised and sophisticated and toots around foreign capitals armed to the teeth with credit cards. Sadly, my fellow Americans, Mrs. Gorbachev has closed the "First Lady Gap."

If you read Soviet newspaper these days you'll see they are chocked full of letters criticizing this program or that official — even wayward KGB agents are not immune from censure. Why just the other month the General Secretary himself admitted that his policies were meeting with resistance. "Soviet Life" had always insisted that all Socialist decisions were arrived at through "complete unanimity" — as opposed, of course, to partial unanimity.

What's most disturbing about this rapid evolution of our 'friends" to the East is that Mr. Gorbachev is starting to behave like a Western politician, giving different spiels to different audiences. The masses are getting nose-to-the-grindstone pep talks, while the intelligentsia and foreign audiences are thrown the bone of freer expression and a few freed dissidents. The recent release of some regime critics from internal exile, for example, was ballyhooed in media around the world but was barely mentioned in Soviet Union.

I just don't like this new man in the Kremlin. He's young, vital and enthusiastic. He's likely top proffer three disarmament proposals before breakfast. I'm all for the elimination of nuclear weapons by the year 2000, but if Gorbachev has his way some low-level elections in his country will have more than one candidate. That's insane and most definitely unfunny!

For the first time since 1917, Soviet citizens will be able to choose between two (!) individuals, i.e. Comrade Tweedledum and Comrade Tweedledee. What will Mikhail do for an encore — entire the Iowa caucuses?