Useful idiot

In political jargon, the term "useful idiot" was used to describe Soviet sympathizers in western countries and the alleged attitude of the Soviet government towards them. The implication was that though the person in question naïvely thought themselves an ally of the Soviets or other Communists, they were actually held in contempt by them, and being cynically used.

The term is now used more broadly to describe someone who is perceived to be manipulated by a political movement, terrorist group, or hostile government, whether or not the group is Communist in nature.

Origins Disputed

The term is attributed to Vladimir Lenin, sometimes in the form "useful idiots of the West", to describe those Western reporters and travelers who would endorse the Soviet Union and its policies in the West. However, no reference to a communist sympathizer or political leftist as a "useful idiot" was made in the USA until 1948, and not until decades later would the phrase use by Lenin be commented on in the west. In 1948, the phrase was used in a "New York Times" article in relation to Italian politics; it was mentioned again in 1961. Critics of the term assert that the expression "useful idiot" has never been discovered in any published document of Lenin's, nor that anyone has claimed to have heard him say it. In the spring of 1987, Grant Harris, senior reference librarian at the Library of Congress, said "We have not been able to identify this phrase interp|"useful idiots of the West" among interp|Lenin's published works." [cite book |last=Boller, Jr. |first=Paul F. |authorlink= |coauthors=George, John |title=They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions |year=1989 |publisher=Oxford University Press |location=New York |isbn=0-19-505541-1 ] .

Related quotes

Edvard Radzinsky offers a similar quotation on p. 209 of his "Stalin". He attributes it to the artist Yuri Annenkov, who claims to have seen some of Lenin's papers, along with his brain, while working at the Lenin Institute, before his emigration to the West in 1924, the same year Lenin died. [ [ Yuri Annenkov ] ] Annenkov's reproduction from memory was published in "Vospominaniya o Lenine" "Novyi Zhurnal" n.65 (New York,1961). Radzinsky conjectures that this is part of a full text of Lenin's Testament, which Lenin deliberately concealed, sending only a partial text to the Party Secretariat.

This English language version was originally published in an edition of "The Lufkin News", King Featurers Syndicate, Inc., 31 July 1962, page 4, and later reproduced in the Freeman Report, 30 Sept. 1973, page 8. [ [ The Communist-Capitalist Alliance ] ]

cquote|"The so-called cultural element of Western Europe and America are incapable of comprehending the present state of affairs and the actual balance of forces; these elements must be regarded as deaf-mutes and treated accordingly...."

"A revolution never develops along a direct line, by continuous expansion, but forms a chain of outbursts and withdrawals, attacks and lulls, during which the revolutionary forces gain strength in preparation for their final victory..."

"We must:""(a) In order to placate the deaf-mutes, proclaim the fictional separation of our government ... from the Comintern, declaring this agency to be an independent political group. The deaf-mutes will believe it.""(b) Express a desire for the immediate resumption of diplomatic relations with capitalist countries on the basis of complete non-interference in their internal affairs. Again, the deaf- mutes will believe it. They will even be delighted and fling wide-open their doors through which the emissaries of the Comintern and Party Intelligence agencies will quickly infiltrate into these countries disguised as our diplomatic, cultural, and trade representatives."

"Capitalists the world over and their governments will, in their desire to win Soviet market, shut their eyes to the above-mentioned activities and thus be turned into blind deaf-mutes. They will furnish credits, which will serve as a means of supporting the Communist parties in their countries, and, by supplying us, will rebuild our war industry, which is essential for our future attacks on our suppliers. In other words, they will be laboring to prepare their own suicide."

From antiquity (as noted in the Code of Hammurabi) until recent times, [ [] Dead link|date=March 2008] the terms "deaf-mute" and "deaf and dumb" were analogous to "idiot." Various versions of what could be inferred in English as "useful idiots" have been used in verbal references about some Americans and others in capitalist societies.

"Useful idiots" would be literally translated from Russian "poleznye idioty". Taking into account possible imprecise translation from Lenin's native Russian into English, other similar quotations exist, such as his assessment of US President Woodrow Wilson in a speech delivered at a meeting of activists of the Moscow Organization of Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (RCPB) on December 6, 1920, first published in 1923 according to the verbatim report in "V.I. Lenin Collected Works", 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966, page 449 (translated from Russian): [ [ Speech at a Meeting of Activists of Moscow R.C.P.(B.) ] ]

John Maynard Keynes's book on the Peace of Versailles, which does deprecate Wilson, is "The Economic Consequences of the Peace.". The quotation can also be interpreted as referring to discord among enemy powers (as Lenin held them to be).

Stalin said "They must be idiots" when his envoy came back from a tour of England during the 1930s depression and said "Your recruiting grounds for party-members will not be in the factories, but in the universities."

Modern usage

In the United States, the term is sometimes used as a pejorative against political liberals, radicals, and others among left-wing politics. The tone implies that the speaker thinks the "useful idiot" is ignorant of the facts to the extent that they end up unwittingly advancing an adverse cause that they might not otherwise support. The term gained increased use after the publication of conservative columnist Mona Charen's 2003 book "Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First". [cite book | last=Charen| first=Mona| title=Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First | publisher= Regnery Publishing | year=2003 | id=ISBN 0-89526-139-1]

The term is also sometimes used by anarchists and other radicals to describe groups and individuals whose ideology is alleged to be excessively deferential to a government or authoritarian political movement.

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the term "useful idiot" has also been used by some commentators to describe individuals said to take a softer line against Islamism and terrorism. For example, Anthony Browne wrote in the United Kingdom newspaper, "The Times": [ [,,1072-1716156,00.html Fundamentally, we're useful idiots - Comment - Times Online ] ]

Similarly, Bruce C. Thornton, a professor of Classics at American University of Cal State Fresno wrote: [ [] ]

ee also

*Bought Priesthood
*Fellow traveller
*Socialist Propaganda League of America
*Agent of influence


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Useful idiot (disambiguation) — Useful idiot may refer to:Entertainment* Useful Idiot , a song by progressive rock band Tool from their 1996 album Ænima * Useful Idiots , a novel by Jan MarkPolitics*Useful idiot, a political term used during the Cold War …   Wikipedia

  • Idiot Utile — L’expression « idiot utile » s’applique à des personnes qui, de bonne intention et de bonne foi, promeuvent aveuglément une politique ou, plus généralement, une idée. Historiquement, le terme désignait habituellement les sympathisants… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • useful fool —    a dupe of the Communists    Lenin s phrase for the shallow thinkers in the West whom the Communists manipulated.    Also as useful idiot:     ... the Judas goats leading what they call the useful fools up the garden path to the knacker s yard… …   How not to say what you mean: A dictionary of euphemisms

  • Idiot utile — Sur les autres projets Wikimedia : « Idiot utile », sur le Wiktionnaire (dictionnaire universel) L’expression « idiot utile » s’applique à des personnes qui, de bonne intention et de bonne foi, promeuvent aveuglément une… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • idiot — noun /ˈɪd.iː.ət,iːdʒɪt/ A common term for a person of low general intelligence. usage note This may be used pejoratively, as an insult. It is a weak insult, however, and between close friends, family members, or lovers, is often completely… …   Wiktionary

  • Idiots utiles — Idiot utile L’expression « idiot utile » s’applique à des personnes qui, de bonne intention et de bonne foi, promeuvent aveuglément une politique ou, plus généralement, une idée. Historiquement, le terme désignait habituellement les… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Ænima — This article is about Tool album. For the Portuguese band, see Aenima. Ænima Studio album by Tool Released …   Wikipedia

  • Idiota útil — En la jerga política, el término idiota útil (ruso: Полезный идиот, transliterado como Polieznyi, Polyeznyi o Poljeznyj idiot) era usado para describir a los simpatizantes de la Unión Soviética en los países occidentales, y la supuesta actitud… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Meghan McCain — McCain at the 2011 Time 100 gala Born Meghan Marguerite McCain October 23, 1984 (1984 10 23) (age 27) …   Wikipedia

  • Denial of the Holodomor — Holodomor topics Historical background Famines in Russia and USSR · Soviet famine of 1932–1933 Soviet government Institutions: All Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) · Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine · …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”