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Stalin's Mistakes

What if Stalin had had more of the mentality of Gorbachev? Both of them wanted to advance the well-being of the Soviet Union. Both of them believed in Lenin's revolution. Both were intelligent, but Stalin was cruder and had illusions and perhaps delusions that Gorbachev did not have.

Stalin's collectivization program and his hostility to all free enterprise at were also mistakes. One of Stalin's mistakes beginning in 1945 was his belief that capitalism was going to have another crisis in around twenty years and the capitalists would engineer a war against socialism, including the Soviet Union, to preserve itself. Stalin also feared Western ideas contaminating the people of the Soviet Union – different from Gorbachev's belief in a freer flow of ideas. It was Stalin's contradiction: a belief in the coming triumph of his ideas and his fear that these ideas could not succeed if openly challenged.

Stalin perpetuated a hostility toward the West for the sake of Soviet security that contributed to insecurity in the form of a more hostile United States. The Soviet response to Churchill's speech in February 1946 is an example. The Soviet newspaper Pravda referred to Churchill as a "warmonger." Stalin used Churchill's speech to reinforce his claim that conflict with the West was inevitable and adherence to tough and uncompromising anti-capitalism was the correct politicy for the Soviet Union.

A part of this policy was Stalin's failure to give the Poles the freedom that he had agreed to at Yalta. This failure offended the British and others in Europe, including Poles, and President Truman and others in the United States. Stalin it is said wanted a friendly state on the Soviet Union's western border. He must have worried also about the spread of knowledge of his regime's murder of Poles when he was trying to Sovietize that part of Poland that the Soviet Union occupied following Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939.

Stalin died in 1953, and his approach to defending the integrity of Lenin's revolution began to fade with his successors. By the time of Gorbachev it was clear that capitalism was not about to collapse. Gorbachev feared contamination from the West less than did Stalin. Stalin's policies and his approach to the West gained nothing for the Soviet Union that a more relaxed approach would have gained. Gorbachev's policies failed to save the Soviet Union, but at least he didn't mess up the Soviet Union and the world as Stalin had.

Copyright © 2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.