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MIKHAIL GORBACHEV A CHANGE By Shannon Rhodes Mikhail Gorbachev one of the giants of the late 20th century inherited a Soviet economy with a sagging rate of industrial and agricultural output He discovered however that once the Soviet Union fell behind there was no easy way to catch up--especially in the age of high technology His first task was to restore confidence This meant sustaining the economic growth that Andropov had begun but which lagged under Chernenko Gorbachev did this by stressing psychological incentives and focusing on the need for improved worker discipline He initiated a crackdown on alcoholism that went far beyond what Andropov had attempted The sale of alcohol was banned before 200 pm and the number of liquor outlets was sharply curtailed This had an immediate impact on industrial growth which recovered rapidly from the decline that began in latter years The emphasis on discipline and the crackdown on drinking was particularly important in increasing the production of petroleum Output had begun to decline in late 1983 By 1985 production for the year was down three percent In an effort to restore production Gorbachev traveled to the main production fields in Western Siberia and insisted on better quality and less vodka He followed up his visit with the wholesale firing of local Party and petroleum industry officials The drop in petroleum output came to a halt and one year later production was up by three percent The visit to Western Siberia involved more than just a crackdown Gorbachev also sought to stress the positive He embarked on visits throughout the country urging people everywhere to work harder warning them that if they did not do their best the country would suffer He became universal appearing in remote regions which had never had a personal visit from a Soviet leader or for that matter a Russian tsar But
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