Party Members Criticized at Conference

Gromyko and Other Veteran Officials Lose Support

MOSCOW--A delegate to the Communist Party conference bluntly criticized President Andrei A. Gromyko and other longtime Kremlin fixtures yesterday, suggesting there is high-level support for removing them from office.

The delegate, Vladimir I. Melnikov, specifically mentioned Gromyko and the others after Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev asked him to name the targets of his criticism.

Gorbachev, in an impassioned speech to the 5000 Communists gathered at the Kremlin, appealed for their support in overhauling Soviet institutions, warning that socialism "will die unless we reform the political system."

He expressed concern there had been misunderstanding about one of his recommendations, that local party leaders serve as chairmen of government councils at all levels. That plan has been been openly criticized by delegates to the conference Gorbachev called to set a future course for the party.

"We do not abandon the role of the ruling party in the country," Gorbachev said. "On the contrary, we want to affirm it," while getting the party out of day-to-day administrative affairs.


Earlier, Melnikov had said: "Those who in the past actively promoted the policy of stagnation may not serve and work on the central party and government bodies now, at the time of perestroika. They should answer for everything and do so personally."

One Communist official said he took the speech as a signal "that it's time for the old guys to retire."

On the third day of the conference, the party's first in 47 years, delegates openly disagreed on the concrete results of Gorbachev's drive for perestroika, or economic and social reconstruction, launched after he took power in March 1985.

But the remarks from Melnikov at the closed-door conclave were the first reported by state-run media that named names and called members of the party leadership on the carpet, including Gromyko, 78, and fellow Politburo member Mikhail S. Solomentsev, 74, who chairs the party's Control Commission.

The speech by the relatively obsure conference delegate was televised during the evening news program "Vremya" which is watched nightly by millions of Soviets not accustomed to hearing their leaders criticized by name.

A delegate's note later read from the dais at the conerence praised Gromyko and won warm applause, but it also noted that he "has fallen behind the times."

Melnikov, the balding, bespectacled party leader in the Russian federation region of Komi, said restructuring of the party's policy-making Central Committee is proceeding too slowly and that Communists and other Soviets want people responsible for stagnation brought to account.

Gorbachev, sitting on the dais, interrupted Melnikov, saying: "Maybe you have some concrete suggestions? We're sitting here and don't know: Is he talking about me, or somebody else?"

"I would refer first of all to Comrade Solomentsev, and to Comrades Gromyko, Afanasyev, Arbatov and others," Melnikov replied. Delegates applauded loudly.