The coining of this term seems to swing between Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx and it is hard to find a definitive etymology. Nevertheless, whoever of the two who used the phrase first, the meaning is quite clear.
Lenin used the term to describe communist sympathisers in the West and harboured utter contempt for them. He saw them as traitors to their own society but were nonetheless useful in propagating the somewhat dubious benefits of communism and infecting other countries with totalitarian tripe.
Nowhere is this manifest more clearly than the behaviour of Antifa and BLM who completely fail to understand the underpinnings of their cause and are a re-emergence of the anarchists of the post-war years. In making their violent statements they perfectly illustrate that which they purport to rebel against. In so doing, by spreading subversion they become the useful idiots of left-wing doctrine.
Karl Marx saw useful idiots as people who carried his Marxist ideals into other cultures but today we see the term being increasingly applied to people who believe in weak or useless political ideals—college students who believe that banning guns and defunding police will stop crime or that government control of our daily lives is a good thing. These useful idiots are superficially fighting for ‘good’ causes but have no idea how to do anything other than protest.
Many New Zealanders, in their sycophantic adulation of Ardern, fail to look beneath the glitz and become the useful idiots espousing her communist leanings.
I found this commentary by Yuri Bezmenov (1939 to 1993) singularly telling.
“[T]he useful idiots, the leftists who are idealistically believing in the beauty of the Soviet socialist or Communist or whatever system, when they get disillusioned, they become the worst enemies. That’s why my KGB instructors specifically made the point: never bother with leftists. Forget about these political prostitutes. Aim higher. […] They serve a purpose only at the stage of destabilization of a nation. For example, your leftists in the United States: all these professors and all these beautiful civil rights defenders. They are instrumental in the process of the subversion only to destabilize a nation. When their job is completed, they are not needed any more. They know too much. Some of them, when they get disillusioned, when they see that Marxist-Leninists come to power—obviously they get offended—they think that they will come to power. That will never happen, of course. They will be lined up against the wall and shot.”
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