Strikers in the republic of Byelorussia returned to work Friday but hundreds of thousands of striking miners kept up demands for higher wages, more power for the republics and Mikhail S. Gor-bachev's resignation.
Soviet newspapers Friday emphasized that Gorbachev had outmaneuvered his opponents during a dramatic meeting Thursday of the Communist Party leadership. He offered to resign as party chief after sharp criticism from hard-liners, but an overwhelming number of members demanded he retain the post.The showdown exposed the weakness of the party's traditionalist wing and the lack of a serious challenger to Gorbachev within the Communist elite.
It was "a crisis of nerves on all sides," said Alexander A. Pomorov, a regional Communist Party leader from Siberia.
Hard-liners in the party's policymaking Central Committee subjected the Soviet president to more than two hours of withering criticism during the closed-door session of party bosses from across the country.
One after another, 18 delegates took the floor to accuse Gorbachev's perestroika reforms of wreaking havoc in the economy and stripping the party of its authority, the independent news agency Interfax reported.
"I cannot understand, Mikhail Sergeye-vich, how, having started this great, good and responsible work of perestroika, you could have allowed the wheel to slip out of your hands," Russian republic party chief Ivan Polozkov said during the session, the party daily Pravda said Friday.
Finally, Gorbachev declared that he was tired of the endless attacks. In a tactic he has used before, Gorbachev made what one delegate said was a "half-serious" suggestion to quit if the Central Committee wanted it.
After a break, the Central Committee voted 322-13 not to consider Gorbachev's offer to quit.
Gorbachev's position was bolstered Wednesday by a surprise agreement with the heads of nine republics to move quickly toward signing a new Union Treaty to hold the country together.