Gorbachev had a great opportunity but he was unable to take advantage of it and the reason is the failure of the Marxist legacy which consistently misleads everyone who deals with it(including its critics). One winces at the lost potential of the moment and what might have been possible with the new kind of model we have looked at, viz. The DMNC approach which is neither capitalist nor communist but a new way to look at the whole question could have navigated better the idiocy of the Reagans and Thatchers. The sad part is that the sacrifices to achieve expropriation as the classic challenge to private property got thrown away. It was a mistake to have gotten entangled with Reagan and Thatcher, to put it mildly, and whatever the tragic confusions of Bolshevism the solution was not neoliberalism. A close look at the American behavior here shows that the aim wasn’t even capitalism, but the destruction of Russia at the hands of sheer vultures.
Gorbachev could have invented a new form of socialism beyond the utter stupidity of classic Bolshevism: a form of market socialism, a reset of the muddle of planning, etc… The failure of Bolshevism is taken as the failure of socialism, but neither socialism nor communism were every tried in Russia. Never. The whole phantom of Marxism/Leninism was a bum steer from the beginning. We must grant the distortions caused by the great Civil War, but in the period of Gorbachev that wasn’t a factor. Gorbachev was almost on the right track: but social democracy wasn’t the answer either. The Left derived from Marxism forever goofs at the critical moment, and the opportunity lost in the Gorbachev moment is the last greef goof of Marxist idiocy: the path to a real socialism is tricky but in many ways much simpler than the sterile state capitalism spawned in the era of the Bolsheviks.
Russia would not have become a Communist state without Lenin or ceased to be one without Mikhail Gorbachev. At either end of the 20th century, each man played a decisive role in pushing history in a radically new direction it would not have taken otherwise. The path chosen by Gorbachev after he became Soviet leader in 1985 was in some respects more surprising than what Lenin had done in 1917. The Bolshevik Revolution was driven by a terrible war, while Gorbachev’s attempt to modernise and re-energise the Soviet Union was a voluntary choice.