It was hard to tell the Soviets from the Americans without a scorecard this week as squabbling grew louder over spending huge amounts on a Soviet space shuttle project while other needs go begging.

The Communist Party newspaper Pravda said Monday, without giving details of the debate, that some scientists involved in the project joined consumers upset by food and clothing shortages in questioning the value of the program.In the years before scientists here revealed their own shuttle program, they assailed the U.S. project as too costly and of questionable use. Many Soviet scientists said they could gain the same goals with more standard, single-use rockets.

Pravda said in a full-page article devoted to the development and testing of the Soviet shuttle that a "major rethinking and a fierce clash of ideas, concepts and proposals are under way" even within the space shuttle program.

The Soviets successfully launched the space shuttle Buran (Snowstorm) on Nov. 15 on an unmanned three-hour, 20-minute test flight.

"Tons, speed, heights, automation and etc.," wrote A. Rudenko, a Pravda reader from the Moldavian capital of Kishinev, on Buran. "But where are the expenditures, the billions of rubles of the national means?

"Where is the mutual connection with the people's well-being? How many years has Buran delayed fulfillment of the food program, the output of good-quality shoes, clothes and the improvement of medical care for Soviet citizens?" he asked.

Pravda said that only a small part of the Soviet shuttle's program has been fulfilled, and the Buran has yet to prove that it can perform useful work in orbit.

The newspaper said that the reaction of Soviet citizens to the 1961 launch of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was much more positive than the reaction to the space shuttle program, even though people were poorer then.