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These days, with the Soviet Union promoting "perestroika" and "glasnost," I wonder whether the Communist Party has abandoned its fabled master plan for world revolution.

I say "fabled" because the Reds' supposed principles for conquest are summarized on a widely circulated list, under the title "The Communist Rules for Revolution."The set of 10 rules - which was "captured in Dusseldorf in 1919 by the Allied forces," according to a note that prefaces the list - is often distributed by ultraconservative organizations.

The rules attribute the decline of morals and values in the United States to the commies' master plan. The list begins:

"1. Corrupt the young, get them away from religion. Get them interested in sex. Make them superficial. Destroy their ruggedness."

Now, does that sound like hippies or doesn't it?

"9. By specious argument cause the breakdown of the old moral virtues, honesty, sobriety, continence, faith in the pledged word, ruggedness."

If you're rugged, you're right - or so suggests the far right, anyway.

Another sign of the Reds' subversive aims is rule No. 6: "Always preach true democracy, but seize power as fast and as ruthlessly as possible."

Rule No. 10 threatens a right that is dear to conservatives, the right to bear arms: "Cause the registration of all firearms on some pretext, with a view to confiscating them and leaving the population helpless."

It's easy enough to match each rule from the list to some imagined form of creeping socialism in American life.

Take Rule No. 2, for example. "Get control of all means of publicity." Remember the right-wing charges of a "liberal bias" in the media, and some conservatives' efforts to depose Dan Rather and wrest CBS away from the domination of liberal news managers?

Rule No. 5 reminds me of the mudslinging during the presidential campaign. "Destroy the people's faith in their natural leaders by holding the latter up to contempt, ridicule and obloquy."

About this one, columnist Bob Greene wrote: "I always wanted to meet a communist who was carrying the list around, so I could ask him what `obloquy' means."

Why do such a small percentage of eligible Americans vote? It must be because Red Rule No. 3 is working so well: "Get people's minds off their government by focusing their attention on athletics, sexy books and plays, and other trivialities."

The other rules have to do with dividing people into hostile groups, encouraging government extravagance, and fomenting "unnecessary" strikes in vital industries. What we have lost, the list suggests, is a world without dissent, budget deficits, inflation and labor unrest.

I just can't remember any such Golden Age.

A few years ago Greene, after receiving dozens of copies of the Communist Rules for Revolution over a period of years from his readers, checked it out with specialists in Russian history, politics and economics at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.

These experts agreed that no such rules had been captured from the communists in Dusseldorf or anyplace else. They called the list "a total fraud," "an obvious fabrication" and "an implausible concoction of American fears and phobias," among other things.

The list usually ends with a warning: "Take time to think - seriously - of all the above. Then draw your own conclusions. Frightening how far we have permitted them - even helped them - to progress, isn't it?"

As an English professor, I've been wondering if there might be an 11th revolutionary rule, the effects of which are being felt in our nation's college English departments. Something like this:

"Replace the love and appreciation of Great Books with the sterile scrutiny of mere `texts,' chosen by committee, so as to offend no one."

Could it be a communist plot that is rewriting the teaching of literature?

(C) 1988 United Feature Syndicate Inc.